I am more than excited to visit Almont, North Dakota (population 135) and stay at the Sunflower Inn on the 30th and 31st of May, 2018.
The Sunflower Inn, built in 1906, became the Merchants’ Hotel in the 1920’s when it was operated by my grandmother, Tomine Teodine (Dena) Ramsland Bateman. Yes, she was Norwegian. Grandpa, James Robert Bateman, ran the pool hall and livery stable across the street. The hotel plays a prominent role in the novel I wrote about my father’s early years.
In The Road To LaReta, it was in the hotel where my father, Webster Warren Bateman, got into trouble with his mother to the extent that he and his brother, Ray, were told to leave. Leave they did. They joined the circus to make money and see the world—or at least South Dakota and Minnesota. It didn’t turn out quite as they had hoped; they couldn’t wait to get back to Almont and the Merchants Hotel.
According to the current owner, Keith Pitman, the hotel has changed very little from when it was first built. Electricity and plumbing have been added to both floors and all the bedrooms have ceiling fans. There is a fully equipped kitchen and laundry. However, the six bedrooms upstairs share one bath. The “Owner’s Suite” on the first floor has its own bath.
Keith said, “You may want to see the place before you decide to stay there. It’s ‘hunter-friendly’ at the moment. We hope to make it a three-season bed and breakfast someday.” Keith is very hospitable and indicated he would serve breakfast and lunch at the hotel, but that I’ll be eating dinner at the Muddy Creek Saloon, the only place in Almont to eat. And I may be the only person staying at the hotel when I’m there.
All of this intrigues me. I asked to stay in one of the front upstairs bedrooms. This was where my dad and his brother shared a room. Perhaps I’ll feel the ghosts of ages past. Two of his sisters shared a room and a third brother spent time with his grandparents because grandma also had boarders. The school professor was one of those who paid rent. That was a chapter unto itself. He was the original “Nutty Professor.”
I’ll begin my 2,392-mile round-trip solo adventure toward the end of May and visit friends and relatives along the way. I’ve had a couple people volunteer to go with me, but this is one trip I want to do alone. In addition to Almont, I’m planning to spend a couple days in Dunn Center (population 173). This is where my father married his first wife, Dorothy. She was born near there and is buried in the Dunn Center Cemetery. I sent my book to the local historical society and museum and while visiting their website, found they have a writers’ group. I contacted them and have been invited to visit the group on the 4th of June. I’m looking forward to it. If it hadn’t been for my writers’ group, which has disbanded, I could not have finished my novel.
I am planning to take photos and to do some blogging along the way. Retracing some of my father’s footsteps and particularly being able to stay in my grandmother’s hotel, has me brimming with happiness and anticipation. Almont, ND, here I come!