After 44 Years, the Guest Finally Becomes the Host

"After 44 Years, the Guest Finally Becomes the Host." Hazen Star, 26 August 2004, 18 & 32.

Wilbert Adolf, left, and his German guest, Sigfried Richter, read the German Bible at the Mercer County Museum

A host is always in need of guests. Friends visit friends, often taking turns as the host. It's what friends do.

Being the host is something that Wilbert Adolf, a former Beulah/Hazen resident, has always wanted to do for his good friends, Sigfried and Edith Richter.

After all, Adolf has been a guest of the Richters numerous times since they met in 1960, but reciprocating the favor just hasn't worked out.

It's not that Adolf hasn't invited the Richters to his home because he has, every year for the past 44 years, in fact.

And, it's not because the Richters haven't wanted Adolf to be their host because they have.

The problem is that the Richters live in Germany. Plus, they don't speak English - not one word, although they do understand just a few words. So they have never ventured to America on their own.

But this past Juy, after 44 years as a guest, Adolf was finally able to return the hospitality he so often has enjoyed with the Richters, when he talked them into a visit.

Adolf spent a month in Germany earlier this summer. Over the years, the friendly little village of Plankstadt in southern Germany where the Richters live has been Adolf's second home.

So Adolf is happy to finally show his first home, North Dakota, to these good friends. This year when Adolf once again extended an invitation to America, Edith and Sigfried decided that if they could travel to America on the same flight home with Adodlf, they would do so.

This way they would be traveling with someone who could translate for them on at least one leg of their long journey. Luck was with the Richters. There were two open seats, all the way to North Dakota. Plans were made and the Richters began packing for a month as Adolf's guests. Adolf was excited.

"I've invited them for 44 years and now I'm happy to show them where I live and grew up," Adolf said.

The Richters spent the month of July traveling with Adolf as he proudly showed them the places he loves in North Dakota. High spots of the tour were Fort Lincoln and the Slant Village, the Knife River Indian Village, the Peace Gardens, the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the Epping Museum and of course, Mercer County, where Adolf lived most of his life.

While in Beulah, the Richters also toured the Mercer County Museum, a place where Adolf was quite active before moving to Bismarck upon his retirement.

Adolf, along with Hilda Backfish, a Mercer County Historical Society director, toured with the Richters, both acting as a translators.

The Richters, Sigfried a retired machinists/welder and Edith, a retired seamstress, were interested in seeing the America they had heard so much of from Adolf: the wide open spaces, golden crops growing in the fields, lush gardens, shopping and American restaurants.

Edith Richter, left, from Germany, enjoyed visiting in her native language with museum hostess Hilda Backfish

Adolf said his friends were "astonished at all the German speaking people and German names" in North Dakota. They were quite interested to learn tht there is a strong Germans from Russian, heritage and all of the related items in the Mercer County Museum, including the German Bibles and handwork items like the Kloppelin on display - a form that was used to make lace.

The Richters also noted many differences between Germany and America. They couldn't believe all of the large, wide open land with so few people. Germany is only twice the size of North Dakota, but has about 87 million people.

"Everything (in North Dakota) is new and interesting. I can't belive all the open spaces, few cars and no traffic. But so many fourwheel drive trucks," Sigfried commented.

Adolf said the Richters also wondered where all the different people came from and how they got to America.

They were also surprised at the friendliness of people in the state, no matter where they were.

Other differences Sigfried commented on were with young people. "Sigfried was amazed that young people here have to wait until 21 to buy liquor because in Germany they can buy it at age 14," Adolf translated.

Plus, cigarette machines are on every corner in Germany for any age, not restricted like in America.

In addition, the Richters were surprised at how inexpensive things like Coca-Cola were in America and couldn't believe that every time they sat down in a restaurant a free glass of water was served.

Wilbert Adolf, center, was pleased to share Mercer County history with longtime friends from Germany, Sigfried and Edith Richter

"When they drink pop or coffee in Germany, they have to pay for every refill. That's why kids drink beer there, it's cheaper," Adolf said.

While in America, Adolf has taken the Richters to many American restaurants where they were surprised at how inexpensive the American restaurants were compared to Germany. They were also impressed with the good service and how clean the restaurants are.

"The steaks are good and the fresh salads, vegetables, all wonderful," Sigfried said. "But you find nothing like German bread here, good dark, heavy crusted bread like rye and wheat. And we do eat a lot of sauerkraut in Germany."

The month in America flew by quickly for the old friends, just as the years have. Adolf was just a young man when he met the Richters on his very first trip to Germany.

That year he rented a one-room apartment in a building where Edith's aunt also lived. The Richters were just a young married couple of four years and soon became fast friends with the young American who spoke "Americanized German."

This year the Richters celebrate 48 years as man and wife with three grown children who also grew up knowing Adolf.

And after 44 years, these three friends are no longer just friends - they've
become family.

Reprinted with permission of the Hazen Star.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller