On the Thirteenth Day of Christmas, Harvey House, Raton, New Mexico, 1887

In the Middle Grade Fiction Cybils nominee, When Molly Was a Harvey Girl by Frances M. Wood, a train is stuck in Raton Pass in ten foot snow drifts, and the staff at Harvey House in Raton provides refuge and comfort for the stranded passengers.

“I have sandwiches,” Molly told Annis. Gaston was sending out more substantial food. The townspeople ate too, as much as the passengers. Still, Gaston provided. “Pineapple,” Molly announced. This was a special treat, holiday fare. “Roast beef and crab salad.” The buffet was turning into Christmas dinner. Molly was now bringing out platters of ham, turkey, asparagus, pickled onions, salted almonds, roasted buttered yams, winter squash, applesauce.

“We need more coffee,” said Sissy. “I’ll fetch it, Molly.”

So many people, and yet the Harvey House provided. Colleen and Jeanette swirled through the crowd, carrying plates to the injured. Miss Lambert sent Molly back to the kitchen yet again. “The babies need milk,” Molly shouted above Gaston’s din. Susana grabbed her shawl and was gone.

Sometime during that long, long evening, a tree appeared in the dining room. Coal miners and railroaders and even some passengers carved trinkets for hanging. . . . What next? Molly wondered.

What next was Gaston. For hours he had been performing miracles. Now he hleft the kitchen as if on parade, wearing a clean hat and apron. The baker, breakfast cook, and two assistant day cooks walked ever-so-carefully behind him., carrying a huge tray. The tray bore a cake large enough for a wedding, but decorated for Christmas with garlands of bright red icing over white. The only way to achieve such red was by mixing in dried cocks’ combs. “He must have used them all,” Molly breathed.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about 13 year old Molly’s adventures as a Harvey Girl waitress in Raton, New Mexico. Because Molly and her older sister Colleeen are orphans with no money left after the expenses of their father’s long illness, Molly pretends to be eighteen so that both girls can get jobs at Harvey House, a chain of restaurants along the railroad line from Topeka, Kansas to San Bernardino, California. Colleen and Molly travel from their home in Illinois to wild western New Mexico where Molly learns to work hard, and where she grows up among the railroaders and business people of the Wild West.

Good story.

Today’s Gifts:
A song: Hark the Herald Angels Sing

A booklist: Historical Fiction for Young Ladies, Part 1
Historical Fiction for Young Ladies, Part 2

A birthday: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, b.1918.

A poem: A Child of the Snows by Gilbert Chesterton

There is heard a hymn when the panes are dim,
And never before or again,
When the nights are strong with a darkness long,
And the dark is alive with rain.

Never we know but in sleet and in snow,
The place where the great fires are,
That the midst of the earth is a raging mirth
And the heart of the earth a star.

And at night we win to the ancient inn
Where the child in the frost is furled,
We follow the feet where all souls meet
At the inn at the end of the world.

The gods lie dead where the leaves lie red,
For the flame of the sun is flown,
The gods lie cold where the leaves lie gold,
And a Child comes forth alone.

One thought on “On the Thirteenth Day of Christmas, Harvey House, Raton, New Mexico, 1887

  1. Pingback: Semicolon’s Twelve Best Middle Grade Fiction Books of 2010 » Semicolon

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