Monday, April 13, 2015
Diary of a Waitress ~ historical fiction
by Carolyn Meyer
348 pages; ages 10-14
Calkin's Creek, 2015
Katherine Amelia Evans, aka "Kitty", graduates from Leavenworth High School in the spring of 1926. She is sixteen-going-on-seventeen and already knows what courses she plans to register for when she heads to college in the fall.
Until Daddy tells her that business isn't going well, and they won't be able to send both her and her older brother. Instead, she can work at the shoe store for a couple years... until things improve.
Kitty has other ideas. She intends to be a journalist. And she'll do anything other than sell shoes. So when she sees an ad for young women to work as waitresses in the Harvey Eating Houses along the Sante Fe Railroad, she decides to apply. Even though the ad expressly says applicants must be at least 18 years old. Even though she has never been a waitress before. Even though it means going somewhere strange and living with rules. Lots of rules (no makeup; no jewelry; black shoes that must be kept polished).
Being a Harvey Girl, it turns out, is hard work. The restaurants are at the train stations, and have both a formal dining room (jackets required) and informal lunch counters. Harvey girls must set the dining rooms up perfectly, with silver service just so, and serve the meals on a schedule so that when the trains come in for a water fill-up, they can feed the passengers and get them back on board in time for the scheduled departure. They must do this even when the customers are cranky and ill-tempered. And they must always have a smile and remain unruffled.
Once trained, Kitty is sent off for a five-month tour-of-duty in a small town in New Mexico. Her job includes room and meals - though she'll eat once the paying customers have been served. She chronicles her adventures in her journal, honing her journalistic instincts and preserving memories to share with her family when she returns home.
What I like about this book is that every so often there's a photo from the archives. I also like the author's note about how this story came to be, and which of the people in the story are real, and which characters are invented. For history buffs there is a bibliography and a list of photo credits.
I'd write more, but I hear that whistle blowing, and that means I've got three minutes to check that the napkins are folded crisply, and the water chilled, before the train chuffs in....
Today is Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and we're hanging out with other MMGM bloggers over at Shannon Messenger's blog. Hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by publisher.