Watch the Cup, Please

Fred Harvey Meals

When Fred Harvey set out to give railroad travelers a decent meal—something long lacking as the west developed—he had a big job on his hands. As trains pulled into the hotels and restaurants he established, his crew had from twenty to thirty minutes to feed sixty to one hundred people. Yikes! To accomplish that, the Harvey Houses had a streamlined system to be certain everyone got their dinners in time. When patrons sat, the first question was which beverage they preferred, and then, as if by magic, another waitress came by and delivered their drinks. It was all in the cups! The Harvey Girl who took the drink order assured they’d get the proper beverage by how she positioned the cups. A cup upright in the saucer meant coffee. Cup upside down in the saucer meant hot tea. A cup upside down, tilted against the saucer meant iced tea. A cup upside down, away form the saucer meant milk. Ingenuous. And it worked!

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