Posted 5/24/16 (Tue)
By Sydney Glasoe Caraballo
One hundred years ago, the Great Northern Railroad expanded westward from Wildrose, and the towns of Alamo, Appam and Corinth were founded along its new tracks.
The three towns will share and celebrate their centennial July 1-3.
The Centennial Committee estimates that nearly 500 former and present residents will attend the weekend celebration.
Elaine Esterby, the committee chair, says this celebration is special. Many on the committee – like Esterby – also volunteered during the 75th Jubilee celebration for Alamo.
Valerie Bleken, also a committee member and Alamo resident, echoes that the 100-year survival needs to be honored.
“This may be the last celebration we have,” she says. “We need to do the centennial.”
Former Alamo high school graduates and teachers surround Esterby and Bleken, who are attending a seniors’ meal at the Senior Citizens Center that was once the fire hall. Several men – lifelong area residents and farmers – play a game of pinocle across the room.
While the women play a card game of pounce, Emil Bleken, Levern Herland, Melford Johnson and Oliver Sovik halt their card game to reminisce about the once flourishing community.
Alamo, which had dwindled to 57 residents by the 2010 Census, has benefited from the recent oil boom with a population increase to nearly 100 residents, according to Esterby. But businesses have not returned.
The four men, who all graduated from Alamo between 1944 and 1964, recall when Alamo had a school known for athletic prowess in basketball and musical talent, along with a busy main street.
The Stockman Motors dealership was first located in Alamo before its move to Williston. It was the first Ford dealership in the state, according to Johnson.
Alamo also once boasted a bank, hotels, grocery stores, hardware stores, blacksmith shop, barbershop, doctor and dentist offices, bars, pool hall, grain elevator, lumberyard and airport.
Alamo, when it was founded, also benefited from the relocation of a pre-existing community. The residents of Cottonwood (founded in 1904) were already living along the northern bank of Cottonwood Lake when a Texan surveyor hired by the railroad visited them. He agreed to name the new town on the tracks Alamo, which means Cottonwood in Spanish. Cottonwood residents moved homes and businesses west to the new location of Alamo.
Johnson, who graduated in 1944, remembers when there were no roads outside of town and snow made the fields impassible. Groceries were dropped in gunnysacks via airplane during deep snow winters. He attended country school for eight years, the only one in his class. He didn’t know what basketball was until he started attending Alamo High School.
He does recall playing fox and geese where children would create mazes in the snow and play tag within those boundaries, as well as a lot of baseball.
“I can’t remember winning any games,” he chuckles. “But I can’t remember losing any either.”
Johnson only spoke Norwegian when he entered school and he jokes that he taught his teacher Norwegian while she taught him English, but she was the only one who got paid for teaching.
Herland recalls that it took him an hour to get to school each morning. He traveled the four miles to school by sleigh and horses. High school activities included basketball, and when asked what else he and friends did for fun, he says, “I can say we drove around a lot.”
Sovik adds that neighbors spent many winter evenings rotating social hosting duties. “We’d visit the neighbors for happy hour,” he says of three to four-room houses filled with guests of 30 or more. “Kids would crowd in the corner and play cards.”
Bleken, who attended school at Appam until it closed in 1959, says he was able to ride a bus versus a horse to school.
He and his current card-playing partners meet every Tuesday and sometimes play until seven in the evening.
They look forward to the celebration when Alamo will be once again crowded with old friends, former residents and social activities.
“We’ll get to see people we haven’t seen in a long time,” says Sovik. “We’ll be here to observe 100 years, and that Alamo is still here.”
Esterby says registration will begin at noon on Friday, July 1, at the Senior Citizens Center in Alamo with a social of coffee and goodies and Jump N Fun inflatables at the Calvary Lutheran parking lot.
A chicken barbeque sponsored by Scott Wisdahl will begin at 5 p.m. with a street dance to follow at 8:30 p.m. The band Whiskey Rebellion will perform at the dance, and the fire hall will host a beer gardens operated by the Bypass Lounge of Crosby.
Saturday activities include a free hamburger and hotdog lunch in the park sponsored by NCC, along with Jeff Nelson Karaoke, a kiddie parade, traditional parade, car show and social.
That evening the city of Alamo and Alamo firefighters will host a beef barbecue followed by another street dance where the band, Balderdash, will play. A fireworks display will also launch at 10:30 p.m. by the airport landing strip on the south end of town.
Festivities will conclude Sunday after a 10:30 a.m. church service at Calvary Lutheran Church and a picnic lunch sponsored by the church and catered by Diane Meckle.
Esterby says venders are also welcome and can call Illenia Phipps at 701-609-9860.
People interested in parade entries should call Kim Sorenson at 701-629-1180. Volunteers are still needed and welcome and should contact Val Bleken at 701-528-3802.