Fred Harvey stood in the El Vaquero dining room and cast a stern glare on those who had gathered.

    The dozen or so visitors sitting in a loose semi-circle, with their cowboy hats, tennis shoes and T-shirts, were in clear violation of his jackets-required rule.


Fred Harvey stood in the El Vaquero dining room and cast a stern glare on those who had gathered.
    The dozen or so visitors sitting in a loose semi-circle, with their cowboy hats, tennis shoes and T-shirts, were in clear violation of his jackets-required rule.
    But Harvey would pay them no never mind. There was a story to be told.
    It was a story that Harvey knew well, as it was his own.
    And as Derek Jensen stood in the middle of the Santa Fe Depot, standing as Harvey may have once stood in his own dining room, he told of Harvey's desire to rid the dining world of sub-par food and miserable customer service.
    Harvey ran his houses with an iron fist. Strict dress codes were enforced, and customers came first. And in the end, Harvey would bring just a little bit more class to the West.
    "I perfected the surprise visit long before Sam Walton ever did," Jensen-as-Harvey said.
    Jensen was part of the Depot Theater Guild's recent set of tours, which takes visitors around the train-depot-turned-theater.
    Joining Jensen was Cindy Thomson, another Depot Theater regular, as one of the titular Harvey Girls — the eponymous wait staff which tended to the Harvey Houses which had popped up across the West.
    The Harvey Girls were between the ages of 18 and 30, well-mannered, attractive and smart, according to one ad. And if one of these young women  became a Harvey Girl, it promised wages up to $17.50 a month.
    "I had opportunities I never would have had had I stayed on my parents' farm," Thomson said.
    The tours, which the guild is hosting through Saturday, have already attracted a number of visitors since they began Tuesday.
    "We see a big spike in the morning and afternoon," Thomson said. "The lunch time tends to slow down."
    She said 55 people came through between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday and by the time the duo had finished their 2:30 p.m. presentation Wednesday, another 33 had seen a piece of Dodge City's history.
    After Jensen and Thomson had wrapped up their living history talks, the small group of visitors stood up and made their way toward a tour guide.

Reach Mark Vierthaler at (620) 408-9908 or e-mail him at mark.vierthaler@dodgeglobe.com.