Hazen, ND: Good Place for car Trouble

Foss, Steve. "Years of Fear, Secrets." Grand Forks Herald, 30 January 2000, sec. 1C & 6C.

Dear Shirley,
You probably never heard of Hazen, N.D. It’s a town our niece Karen and her husband Andrew will never forget.

You see, they were hung up there Aug. 2 when they were on their way to Grand Forks to see me. They were heading back home to Vermont from the Black Hills when their `88 Dodge minivan sputtered. Andrew called and said, “We think it’s the alternator.”

Well, the Lewis and Clark RV Park was full. But Betty Syck, who runs it with her husband, Tony, said, “Car trouble, huh? Well, we’ll make room for you.” Then she made sure they were settled for the night and she came and told them there might be a storm warning. She wanted to make sure they knew in an emergency which church to go to for shelter. “As a matter of fact,” she said, “I’ll come and get you.”

The storm passed, and Andrew spent the next day hanging around Mel Roth Oil Company. Karen met Sue Lee who runs the food section of Tesoro Station. And Sue drove Karen over to the library. There Karen met Val Albrecht, the head librarian, who offered her a cup of coffee. Then Karen checked her e-mail on one computer available to the public. And she met Jo, a friend of the librarian, who loaned Karen a sewing kit so she could take care of a little mending job. They visited in the library about canning vegetables.

By then, our niece was feeling right at home in Hazen. She said she had never met such friendly people.

Andrew was pleased with the work James Heth did at Mel Roth Oil. And as you will remember, Andrew knows his motors, Shirley. The problem indeed was an alternator and the first one they sent out from Bismarck was the wrong model. So it was afternoon before the right part got to Hazen. By then, Heth was thanking Andrew for his patience.

Since Andrew works for the Vermont Life magazine, he takes special notice of places and people. Instead of the delay there being a big boring time, it was a pleasant day.

Hazen is a town of 2,500 in Mercer County. It’s on State Highway 200 and about 70 miles from Bismarck. It’s 15 miles from Lake Sakakawea. It has a power plant and coal mines. And Mayor Lonny Adler is pretty proud of the town. When I called him this week, he was telling me they just finished redoing their streets and water plant. And now they are building a new sewage lagoon. Much of what gets done around that town is because of volunteer work by people. They built the campground and they built a pocket park downtown. Many of the people around Hazen are of German descent with farming backgrounds.

Hazen is trying to keep people who work in town living there instead of moving into Bismarck. And Mayor Alder says people like the small town life they found in Hazen.

People zip by the little towns like Hazen all of the time on summer travels. Sometimes being waylaid in one of them can turn into the highlight of a trip.

Love, from your sister Marilyn thumping watermelons in the markets of the Red River Valley of the North.

P.S. We should all get off the beaten path from time to time and explore the world around us.

Reprinted with permission of the Grand Forks Harald.

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