Meet Charlotte - A Fred Harvey Waitress

Charlotte Solberg was one of the first waitresses I interviewed for Counter Culture. I found her working in the dusty town of Seligman, Arizona on Route 66.

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"I was born and raised in Seligman.  I’m Mexican. My mother was born here too. I started washing dishes when I was 10. They put a crate on the floor for me to stand on. My first waitressing job was at 13.  It was just a little old restaurant, called the H&J. I was really shy then. I didn’t want to be around all those railroad guys.

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I worked at the [Grand Canyon] Caverns, when old [Route] 66 was popular for Fred Harvey in the late '60’s. I was 21 years old. Me and my sisters Fern and Josie were all Fred Harvey Girls and we had to wear the uniforms. They were black dresses with white pinafores. Oh I hated them things! We had to wear dresses, we couldn’t wear pants. If you had long hair you had to wear your hair in nets. You couldn’t chew gum, and there was no smoking either. You had to be real neat and you had wear a starched uniform everyday. Everyday.

 Fred Harvey's Grand Canyon Restaurant, Route 66 in the 1960's.

Fred Harvey's Grand Canyon Restaurant, Route 66 in the 1960's.

A lot of people say waitressing is stressful and if people give them a hard time, they can’t take it. I’ve gone through a lot of bad experiences but I’ve also had people send me gifts. One day this guy came in from Los Angeles, he was really nice. He was wearing a religious metal and I said, “Oh your metal’s so pretty.” And few days later he sent me a little gold metal in the mail.

 Copper Cart - Seligman, Arizona

Copper Cart - Seligman, Arizona

Some people from Taiwan came in The Copper Cart. They asked for a plate and poured out what looked like strips of squash and tomatoes. It looked so good. I asked them what they were eating and they said “Would you like a taste?” I said “Sure.” After I tasted it, I said, "That is so good.” When they left they asked for my address and I never thought anymore about it. Well like a few months later I get this box in the mail and it was from Taiwan. I still have some at home. They sent me packages of different types of vegetables with the hot sauce that they use. It took about 3 months for that package to get here. It passed inspection and everything. Amazing."

 Charlotte (in white) and sister Fern (in red)  - Yes, that is their real hair.

Charlotte (in white) and sister Fern (in red)  - Yes, that is their real hair.