November 17 2015

A Conversation About The Fred Harvey Company’s Later Years

La Fonda recently had the privilege of hosting the cornerstone event for this year’s Fred Harvey Weekend, a sold-out benefit dinner for the New Mexico Museum of History.  New York Times best-selling author Stephen Fried interviewed one of the members of the Harvey family, Daggett Harvey, Jr. about his memories of the company in its later years and his time as a company executive.

Daggett Harvey, Jr. and Stephen Fried

Daggett Harvey, Jr. and Stephen Fried

As most “Fred Heads” know, the New Mexico Museum is home to the only permanent museum exhibition about the Fred Harvey Company. The exhibition focuses on the rise of the company as a family business and its lasting legacy on tourism and hospitality in the American West. This year’s dinner was programmed to focus on the post-war Fred Harvey Company and as Stephen Fried said himself during his introduction of Daggett, to discuss what happened after the company’s “golden years”.

Stephen Fried, Jenny Kimball, Carol Anglin, Rebecca Hammer, Steve Wimmer, Nancy Helman

Stephen Fried, Jenny Kimball, Carol Anglin, Rebecca Hammer, Steve Wimmer, Nancy Helman

I really enjoyed having dinner with Daggett and getting to know him better over the entire Fred Harvey weekend. He is debonair, smart and a delightful conversationalist. I could definitely see the Harvey charm in him.  Daggett and I had the privilege of bestowing the first, and to date, only Harvey service pin (a sterling silver replica of the original pin currently in the museum’s collection) given in more than 50 years to La Fonda’s own Steve Wimmer for his 26 years of service.  If you want to know about the history of La Fonda, the Fred Harvey Company, Mary Jane Colter or any other fascinating tidbit about Santa Fe and New Mexico history, Steve is the man to go to. He has always gone above and beyond just providing restaurant and attraction information for our guests. He has the stories and the local color that make their stay here truly memorable and special.

The conversation between Stephen Fried and Daggett Harvey, Jr. ranged from Daggett’s earliest memories of growing up in the company to his time as personnel director in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Dagget Harvey, Jr. and Stephen Fried.

Dagget Harvey, Jr. and Stephen Fried.

The discussion ranged from his love for New Mexico gained in part from a trip to La Fonda when his father first joined the company:

“Seeing a sky I’d never seen. Pueblos I’d never thought of. Seeing the brilliance of this country New Mexico, how magnificent it was and to wonder about it. And La Fonda, my heart is here.”

to his involvement in negotiating union contracts for the company across the country including here in New Mexico:

“Gussy Hoolihan she was something out of a movie. She represented her people. She could be trusted. She represented the people at La Fonda . She was 60 years older than me but she was one of the finest people in the the union movement. She would inspire anyone today.”

to his recollections of Mary Jane Colter:

“I remember only that my father and brothers were slightly afraid of her. What a powerhouse. She would frighten the United Nations.”

Daggett’s deep appreciation for New Mexico was a beautiful thing to witness as evidenced when he said this, “New Mexico, more than its powerful neighbor to the east and its glamorous neighbor to the west, has a sense of memory going back to the 16th century. That doesn’t happen much in Arizona, but in this town – this is the birthplace of memory, and the memory is the progenitor of the future.”   The perfect cap to a perfect dinner at La Fonda.

You can watch the entire interview here:

 

La Fonda, the Harveys, Stephen Fried and Meredith Davidson of the New Mexico History Museum are already in the process of planning next year’s Harvey event here in Santa Fe, so be prepared for another fascinating, sold-out event next fall!

 

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