For most of the years I worked on my Fred Harvey biography, I wondered when I would get the chance to visit Waynoka, OK. I felt like I had been there, since I had so many emails with the indefatigable Sandie Olson–who runs the Waynoka Historical Society there and has almost single-handedly put this hamlet on the Harvey/Santa Fe map.

From our correspondence, I realized that her organization has amassed the single best collection of Harvey Girl pictures in the country (including the one we used on the back cover, many inside the book, and some I add for my lecture). But it wasn’t until I actually came and visited Waynoka that I realized what an amazing museum they had created on the second floor of the perfectly preserved Santa Fe station there.

It is, I think, the best Fred Harvey museum in the country.

They may not have quite as much stuff as the delightfully crammed Fred history room at Grand Canyon’s Bright Angel Lodge. But the displays are much more ambitious, professional and thoughtful–the humanities-friendly state of Oklahoma gave them a nice grant to do this all right–than any others I’ve seen so far. So I’m ready to pronounce that anyone interested in Fred Harvey tourism now needs to include Waynoka on their itinerary–even though it’s hours away from the next Harvey heritage site in any direction, and its website is still a little hard to decipher.

I had a wonderful time in Waynoka. I spoke at the museum to a warm and receptive crowd, and also had some great food. I can still taste the fresh cinnamon roll I had at 6:30 am at Miller’s Cafe–the town’s quintessential breakfast spot–and also had good Mexican food at El Charro (which is in the old Harvey restaurant space in the station) and pizza at Little Sahara Pizza & Wings.

But the non-Fred highlight of the trip did leave a sandy taste in my mouth–literally. Waynoka is the home of Little Sahara State Park, whose dunes are one of the nation’s sand sports meccas. And I got a dune buggy ride from the family that runs the premiere dune buggy and ATV shop in town, the Stewarts.

While I was visiting the area, Sandie also helped arrange for me to give a talk in nearby Alva at Northwestern Oklahoma State University library, where Dr. Kay Decker was my host, and I met a lot of friendly, engaged faculty members. The talk was great fun and, the next morning, they sent me to the area’s best breakfast place, which is located in the local bowling alley. There I bumped into a gentleman who had been at my talk in Waynoka. He bought me breakfast, he and his pals told me great stories of the area, and then they gave me much better directions than my GPS did for getting back to Oklahoma City. (“Just drive straight down this road, 70 miles–there’s only two stop signs.”)

All in all it was a great visit to Oklahoma (which, it turns out, is nothing like the place I heard about in my high school production of the musical–didn’t see one surrey, fringed or otherwise) and I can’t wait to go back with Black Bart. Thanks again Sandie (pictured below).

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2 Responses to “My Harvey Pilgrimage to Waynoka, OK!”

  1. > It is, I think, the best Fred Harvey museum in the country.

    Yes, a “must see” gem. Very impressive. And it’s not just the upstairs museum, it’s also the ability to eat in a real Harvey Dining Room that still looks like a Harvey Dining Room, and to walk along the brick platform and enjoy the neat architecture, while pretending to be waiting for your train. It’s a total Harvey experience.

    Don’t know if you were able to get to Guthrie, just north of Oklahoma City along the interstate. Great depot there, which has a restaurant in the old Harvey Lunch Room. No nice Harvey museum, though. If you missed, put it on your list of places to take Black Bart.

    October 26th, 2010 | 8:28 am
  2. I did not make it to Guthrie, sadly. I’ll put it on my ever-growing list of places to take Black Bart

    October 27th, 2010 | 3:42 am

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