Harvey Girl, Elizabeth Hazelwood

Gerlach Brothers Road Ranch & Store

Elizabeth Hazelwood was a first generation American when she was brought by her parents to Oklahoma in a covered wagon in 1899. She was two years old and her father, a Russian immigrant, had come with his family from South Dakota to try farming farther south. He moved the family on to Texas from Oklahoma, hearing “it was rich down there”, but found, like thousands of others, that this was mostly false advertising.

The family farmed outside Canadian, Texas but it was a terrible struggle, and soon the four girls and one boy had all moved into town to find work. Elizabeth married when she was eighteen and had two children before she was widowed ten years later. She was supporting her family as a cafe waitress in Canadian when she heard there was a better job at the Harvey House.

There were few Harvey Girls sent in from other Harvey Houses to the small lunch and dining room in Canadian. Many local married women were hired to work in the 1920’s and 1930’s, and they were allowed to maintain their own homes. Single women were still required to live in the Harvey House Girl dormitory.

For a widow with small children, the job offered security and a much needed extended family. Elizabeth’s daughter, Sis, remembers her visits to the Harvey House every day after school when she and her brother waited for their mother to leave work.

Elizabeth remembers worrying about her small children because of the proximity of the Harvey House to the railroad tracks, and the busy rush when a train came in. She claims she never took a vacation, and she doesn’t remember travel passes being offered to the local Harvey Girls. “It was just a good clean job for a woman. It was very strenuous, but a clean woman, a woman who didn’t smoke, curse, or drink, could get a good job if she could keep up with the work.