Kathleen Summers, born just two and a half months before me, was my very best friend when I was growing up. She lived at the Hyland Hotel, a small hotel in Monticello that had nine rooms to rent. The foundation and first floor of the two-story craftsman-style house were of local sandstone from South Creek near the Abajo Mountains. This warm welcoming home and hotel was also a community gathering place.
Kathleen and her family lived on the main level, and guests at the hotel rented rooms that were on the top floor. In a way, it was like the modern Bed & Breakfast, except that breakfast did not come with the room. She lived just two blocks from school an it was an easy walk. Then I would wait for Dad to pick me up as my mother did not learn to drive until much later.
Kathleen’s father was the bishop of my LDS congregation and a cattleman who ran herds in Utah and Colorado. He was a short man who was a little bow-legged because he had ridden horses for so long. Kathleen’s mother, Beth, was the sweetest woman in the world. Whenever I was at her house, she made me feel like I was at my own home. She often would bake us a treat. I just loved going to Kathleen’s because it was my second home.
The old sandstone hotel was built in 1918. It had a three-inch ridge circling it where we kids could hang on and slow-edge our way around it. If you could manage it without falling, you got a great big victory shout from the kids––plus your pride shot up by 100 percent.
There was no hospital at the time in Monticello, so a visiting doctor would come to the hotel to see patients in the front office. I am told that there were tonsillectomies performed in the hotel, but I have no first-hand knowledge of that.
As you face the house, the right side of the house is the office where guests would check-in. The office had beautiful dark beams that went across the ceiling as well as recessed windows with padded seats. Often after school, we would remove the pads and play school. When the pads were gone it made it easy for us to use the wooden seats to write and create our school work that was assigned by our friend who was the teacher. We took turns being the teacher and pupil. We always had such fun but would clear out when guests came in to register.
As we grew older Kathleen and I became the maids. We would have to clean the guest rooms upstairs before we could play. I learned how to make a proper bed and to fold the corners of the sheet to create a “hospital corner.”
We would pile up the dirty sheets by the laundry chute. After the beds were changed, we would run into the hall, open the chute and stuff the dirty sheets down it. Once they were all stuffed down, we would then jump down the chute push open the door, and jump out of the closet into the bedroom. We then puffed the sheets back up to create a soft landing, closed the closet, and ran back upstairs to do it again. We never got tired of jumping down the chute.
I was about 10 when I was in Kathleen’s living room one day and she proceeded to tell me there was not a Santa Clause. It was something I did not want to hear or to believe.
I remember one time watching Kathleen’s family make homemade root beer. They sealed it up and put it under Kathleen’s parent’s bed. I was told that in the middle of the night that some of the bottles began to explode, waking up everyone in the house and spraying the underside of the bed with homemade root beer.
Every Sunday after the kids in town had gone to homeroom church and had eaten lunch we’d gather on the hotel lawn. There must have been 15 to 20 of us every week there to play red rover, kick the can, and hide-and-seek hour after hour. About an hour before the evening meeting, we all rushed home, changed out of our play clothes, and we would go back to church.
I will never forget the fun that I had at the Hyland Hotel. Kathleen and I have remained friends and call each other on our birthdays––and have continued to do so far for nearly 60 years.