Were you one of the lucky people who attended the Kearny County Historical Society’s 59th Annual Meeting? If not, you missed a wonderful meal, interesting speaker and a perfect opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones! The event took place April 8 at the Veterans Memorial Building in Lakin. Guests were treated to a delicious meal followed up with a short business meeting, election of board members, a short program on Harvey Girls, student recognition and presentation of door prizes. Kansas State University Professor Dr. Michaeline Chance-Reay was our guest speaker. Her presentation was brought to us courtesy of the Kansas Humanities Council. It was a very enjoyable evening for all!
Sixty years ago this week, Kansas and several other states were crippled by a blizzard that closed highways, derailed trains, took out power and phones lines and left many persons virtually cut off from the outside world. We have been running ’57 Blizzard stories and pictures taken in Kearny County every day this week on our facebook page. We hope you will go check it out: https://www.facebook.com/kearnycountymuseum/
Kearny County Historical Society will host “The Harvey Girls,” a presentation and discussion by Michaeline Chance-Reay on Saturday, April 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the Veteran’s Memorial Building in Lakin, Ks. Members of the community are invited to attend the free program. Reservations are required by 4 p.m. on April 3 and may be made by calling the Kearny County Museum at 355-7448.
Dr. Chance-Reay’s presentation is made possible by the Kansas Humanities Council and is in conjunction with the KCHS’s 59th Annual Meeting. In addition to the program, other items on the evening’s agenda include a meal, short business meeting and election of board members. The event is open to the public, but only members of the Kearny County Historical Society may vote.
The Harvey House chain of restaurants got its start in Topeka when Fred Harvey opened a lunchroom for passengers on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad line. Preferring the term “Harvey Girl” to waitress, Harvey recruited single women to work at his restaurants which gradually sprang up all the way to California and Texas.
Michaeline Chance-Reay teaches courses in Women’s Studies and Education at Kansas State University. Her current research focuses on the Harvey Girls and the historic sites on the K-State campus, especially those related to women. “Women in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who wanted jobs or careers outside of the home had few choices,” said Chance-Reay, “but the Harvey Company offered unique opportunities. It was demanding work but also offered a decent salary in a protected environment, in addition to travel and adventure.” She will explore the job duties and working conditions of Harvey Girls in her presentation.
“The Harvey Girls” is part of the Kansas Humanities Council’s Kansas Stories Speakers Bureau, featuring presentations and discussions that examine our shared human experience – our innovations, culture, heritage and conflicts. The Kansas Humanities Council conducts and supports community-based programs, serves as a financial resource through an active grant-making program, and encourages Kansans to engage in the civic and cultural life of their communities. For more information about the Humanities Council, visit them online at www.kansashumanities.org.
And remember to get those annual meeting reservations in by April 3!
Ah ….. research. It can be quite interesting and enlightening. But, it can also be confusing. I have spent a great deal of time as of late researching Fred Harvey and trying to find information regarding the dining hall/hotel that was located at Lakin from around 1876 to 1880. I have perused microfilm, online articles and databases, Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Annual Reports, newspapers, and books written about Harvey. I have come to the conclusion that no two publications completely agree on the matter. This is very difficult to fathom for a person who doesn’t like living in the “gray” zone. I’m very much like my late grandfather in that respect. He saw everything in black and white; there was one right way to do something and it was to be done the right way the first time around. I want to know the absolute truth, and I shudder at the thought that I could be repeating inaccuracies.
But, the truth is, history holds many discrepancies and inaccuracies. Why? Rarely do individuals remember an event exactly the same. Local historians relied on the “memories” of those who lived here because there were few records and no local newspapers to document happenings in Lakin’s first six years. The result? Stories that are similar but never exactly alike. When these stories are shared and re-written, each writer puts their own spin on the events. Each time the story changes hands, it changes just a little bit.
I am new to this museum gig, and I’m sure that those who have been involved with it much longer than I came to those conclusions early on in their research. While I will continue to dig for documentation and pray to the spirits of Lakin’s founding fathers for guidance, I somehow must learn to strike a balance. There will be some mysteries that I can never solve; perhaps I need to research how to accept that fact. Like it or not, I am now officially a resident of “the gray zone.”
Julie Grubbs McCombs, Kearny County Museum Director