Almont North Dakota

1906     Centennial     2006


A Kaleidoscope of Events, Happenings and Activities During My Early Years In Almont.

By John Burton Nelson

“My Favorite Story” is not so much a story as it is a kaleidoscope of events, happenings and activities during my very early years in Almont. Memory – or lack thereof - leaves some gaps, but a bit of imagination fills in others. Bear with me.



We lived right across the street from the hardware store – Nelson Templeton Imp. Co. - and right next door to the Hoovestals. Gordon Templeton was, and still is, a 'Best Friend' and we spent a lot of time together while growing up. (He used to claim that in the name of the store he was the 'Company' and I was the 'Imp'.) He was with me the day we rode our bikes up to the depot to watch the train come in. I, in my haste to get up on the platform in time, parked – or dropped – my bike right behind the wheels of the dray truck, a solid rubber tired, chain drive monster operated by 'Punch' Timpe, I believe. You know the results. The front wheel of my bike got run over! My dad did his best to straighten the wheel but without proper tools or replacement parts it had a distinctive wobble from then on!

My dad was an avid sportsman and among other things, tried to get golfing started in Almont by laying out a nine hole course in the hills south of town. The first tee was in the corner of the pasture across the road from what was called the Hyde Farm, and the so-called 'green' was on top of the hill toward Lover's Cliff. From there the course wandered through the pasture, with one par 3 requiring a long hit all the way across a rather deep valley. Unfortunately the course wasn't active very long, but the one he helped lay out in New Salem is still being used.

This same area was put to use for another sport in the winter – skiing. The hills were short but some were dare-devilishly steep and often required a sudden stop or turn at the bottom to stay out of a barb-wire fence! On occasion Vernon Knutson even built a ski jump over there to add a few more thrills.

In town, where there are no hills, our winter sliding was mostly done on the creek banks. They were steep and due to the normal wind in North Dakota usually well drifted on the west side. The drifted snow made it difficult to use sleds however, as the runners would cut too deep so most of the sliding was done on large cardboard sheets or metal signs salvaged from wherever available.

Another form of winter recreation (severely frowned upon now-days), was being pulled behind a car through the streets of town on a toboggan! The best part was the wide swing when going around a sharp corner. No traffic to worry about but we did hit a couple of fence posts on those turns! Some hardier souls even rode their skis that way, but more often would be pulled by a saddle horse.

I remember when electricity first came to town in the late 20's. The basic wiring for our house – and most others I suppose – was a ceiling drop cord with an unshaded bulb in the middle of every room. No wall outlets. My mother's first appliance was a waffle iron and I can still see it on the kitchen table with it's cord running up to a double outlet at the ceiling light.

In the mid- 30's, when we were still living on the farm with Uncle Harry and Grandma Jacobsen, he heard that Otto Feland was selling his car, a 1919 Dodge touring sedan that had been sitting idle in his barn for ten years or so, and Harry decided we should have it.
(Up to this point all of our travels from the farm had been by horsepower – the original kind!) The old car sported a folding top, 36 inch wooden wheels with split steel rims and a three speed transmission in the normal “H” pattern, but upside-down. (First gear was where reverse was in all other cars). With its low gearing and high clearance that car would go anywhere – almost the fore-runner of today's ATV! (I have to admit though that Warren Becklund made some great ATV's and SUV's out of Model T's. They would go anywhere!) The major weakness of this car was the wooden wheels and steel rims. If you let the tire pressure get too low and tried to pull a heavy load the rims often would slip around the wheel, effectively mangling the valve stem of the inner tube. By default I was the selected – and only - driver and used it until I went away to Jamestown College, at which time Harry sold it to Fred Reetz who converted it into a pick-up truck.

When the town of Almont decided to establish a park on the other side of the creek at the end of Main Street and built a swinging bridge as access to it, the Boy Scout troop decided their contribution would be a home-made totem pole. Steve Weibke volunteered to donate a big cottonwood log. All that had to be done was get it from their place down on the Heart River and bring it up to Almont. A tractor was considered, but I offered to try in with the old Dodge mentioned above! It was winter with the roads snow-packed most of the way so we decided to drag it – and we did, all the eight or ten miles to Almont! It took the scouts all the rest of the school year to finish it, but that totem did get installed in the park and stood for many years – perhaps until the flood took it?

I'm sure I was not the only high school student who, come springtime with all the windows open, would watch the Northern Pacific trains come rolling down the valley, (until 1947), and dream about being an engineer on one of those big steam locomotives – until you felt Miss Feland's eyes burning into the back of you neck!

Our entertainment those days was pretty much home-grown, but the exception I remember best was those few years in the 30's when the merchants sponsored free street movies on Saturday nights during the summer – talkies too! The town started filling up early in the afternoons but I imagine a lot of them were there just for the movies. Spending money was hard to come by in those days! (I note there is one scheduled for Labor Day this year!)

I had my first experience on a motorcycle as a very young boy when Kenneth Sharff rode his Indian into town. I don't think it was a new one and possibly it could have been a surplus item from WW1, but I remember him stopping at the hardware store and all the guys gathering around. It seems that all you had to know was how to ride a bike and Kenneth would turn you loose on it, 'cause he even gave me a turn. I made it all the way around town!

Well, these are just some of the memories that flash by when I think of my early days in my home town. Every one of these little vignettes could be expanded and perhaps you, the reader, has already done so. I am sure each one of you has many more memories of your early life in that great little town of Almont!!

John Burton Nelson (When you have been known by both your first and middle name – in different parts of the country – you need to use both of them.)