Harvey Girl, Elizabeth Alice Garnas

Gerlach Brothers Road Ranch & Store

Elizabeth Alice Garnas was born in Austria in 1909. Her father was a coal miner working for a German company that sent him to work in the Gibson, New Mexico mines. In 1911, Alice’s family joined him in New Mexico, but soon after were forced to leave Gibson when her father lost his arm in a mining accident. Alice attended a few years of high school in Albuquerque before being told it was time to leave school and find work to help support the family.

At the age of seventeen, Alice went to work as a maid in Albuquerque. The woman of the house was a former Harvey Girl who suggested Alice go downtown to the Alvarado, The Harvey House, to talk with the supervisor about becoming a Harvey Girl. Alice knew nothing about Harvey, but she wanted a better job. After an interview and application placed at the Alvarado offices, Alice was offered a job in Vaughn, on the eastern plains of New Mexico.

Vaughn was a railroad terminal and division piont, and most of the people living in the community were railroad people. There were also cowboys and ranchers in town each day on horseback and on wagons. It was 1926 when Alice arrived, and although it was dusty, isolated, and small, Alice loved Vaughn and her new life as a Harvey Girl.

Local ranchers were regulars at the Harvey House lunch counter, especially as the cooking skills of the German chef and baker gained a wide reputation. The prices were reasonable, and even in the middle of the hot New Mexico summer there was homemade ice cream. There was no competition for service, food, or price for hundreds of miles.

Charles Lindbergh inadvertently found himself at the Vaughn Harvey House in 1926. He was forced to land his plane on the desert near town because of engine failure. With his mechanic, he waited several days for parts and assistance in the hotel across the street from the Harvey House, taking all his meals in the Harvey House Dining Room. “The town just went plum crazy,” Alice remembered.

Alice’s father died and she returned to Albuquerque to help settle family affairs. As soon as her obligations at home were completed, she returned to the Alvarado and asked for another job. Alice was sent down south to Belen, New Mexico, where she became reacquainted with a railroadman she had know before in Vaughn. They married in 1929.