Posts in History

Steam Powered Ice Cream

February 25th, 2016 Posted by History, Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Steam Powered Ice Cream”
calvin lamb by josie musico lubbock aj

Calvin Lamb, being interviewed by the Lubbock AJ recently. Photo by Josie Musico.

By Rosa Walston Latimer

One Harvey House memory that former Harvey employees and customers always seemed to share with gusto was the delicious homemade ice cream that was available every day in any Harvey House. The frozen creamy delight was made fresh daily and an individual bowl of the flavor of the day would usually only set you back fifteen or twenty cents. Often a bowl of ice cream was one of several dessert choices at the end of your seventy-five-cent dinner that also included soup, choice of entrée, two vegetables, salad, bread, and a drink.

Many Harvey Houses used the “hand-crank” method of making ice cream, but that was not the case at the Slaton Harvey House. Slatonite Calvin Lamb, who was hired in 1941 as a busboy at the local Harvey House, provided this first-hand description of the inner “workings” of the popular restaurant for the book, Harvey Houses of Texas: Historic Hospitality from the Gulf Coast to the Panhandle (The History Press, 2014).

“I was in high school and worked during the summer, on weekends and occasionally at night. Busboy responsibilities were different, depending on the time of day. I washed dishes, cleaned the floor and did whatever they asked me to do. The restaurant was open twenty-four hours a day. I remember one time when the night cook wanted to go on vacation, and they had me fill in. I mostly fed the train crews, and they weren’t very particular. That was probably a good thing.”

Calvin explained that a truck from the nearby round house would deliver coal down a coal shoot into the Harvey House basement. “I had to bring the coal up to the kitchen to fuel the stove. Most people don’t know we cooked with coal.” And most people don’t know that a small steam-powered engine was used to crank the ice cream made fresh daily. This was another of Lamb’s duties. The steam was piped from the round house and also heated the Harvey House.

“Another job I had was to meet the 7:00 morning train,” Lamb said. “I had to wear a white coat and stand out on the platform beside the tracks beating on a gong and yelling, ‘Breakfast is being served inside.”

After high school, Calvin worked for the Santa Fe on the line gang and then joined the Navy. He returned to work for the Santa Fe again in the train department, where he remained for forty-one years. He retired in 1987 as a conductor.

Calvin is currently a resident at the Library of Legacies assisted living facility in Idalou.

Each Fred Harvey eating house made its own ice cream until the mid-1920s when ice cream plants began operations at the Harvey dairies in Temple, TX, Newton, KS, and Las Vegas, NM. Even though the Fred Harvey company made efficient use of the railroad to deliver fresh food to Harvey Houses, most patrons no longer enjoyed the delicious texture and taste that only fresh, homemade ice cream could provide. Because of the history Calvin Lamb has shared, we know that locally-made, fresh ice cream continued to be a popular item on the menu at the Slaton Harvey House until the restaurant closed in 1942.

From the Texas Plains Trail

May 26th, 2015 Posted by History, Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “From the Texas Plains Trail”

The unique nature of the Harvey House of Slaton allows it show up in places we’d never expect. Here’s an example from TexasPlainsTrail.com. We are reposting it for you to see, but the original article can be found here.


Photo by Rick Vanderpool

Photo by Rick Vanderpool

During the heyday of the passenger railway system, train travel afforded a certain level of luxury and elegance now lost in today’s fast and furious modes of transportation. The comfort of rail travel, with its down-filled sleepers, white-linen dining cars, and drowsy, rhythmic staccato of steel wheels on tracks, made for pleasant and relaxing travel while surrounded by the creature comforts reminiscent of a fine hotel. But the train wasn’t the only purveyor of railroad luxury.

The Slaton Harvey House, a landmark Santa Fe railroad depot built in 1912 and located in the Plains Trail Region community of Slaton, offers an example of the services that once accompanied railroad travel. The Harvey House, part of a chain created by Scottish immigrant Fred Harvey in 1876, provided fine dining to passengers preparing to travel on the Santa Fe line, serviced courtesy of a bevy of hostesses known as the Harvey Girls. The two-story Mission Revival structure features concrete walls a foot thick and a parapet decorated with Santa Fe Railway symbols.

Today, the Slaton Harvey House has been restored to its former status as host to travelers, providing bed and breakfast service and archive to artifacts and memorabilia of the Slaton railroad heritage.