Poof Tardiff: 1949 VII

Hello fellow Berlinites. Berlin and Gorham fire fighters battled a forest fire which had burned through an area on Enman Hill for more than 24 hours.

The fire started on Tuesday, August 23, in the mid-afternoon and was fought by at least 40 men until 10 pm on that same day. It was believed to have been started by people who were picking berries above the Cascade reservoir. The wind got hold of the flames and carried the fire toward Berlin and Gorham. A trench was dug around to keep it from spreading beyond control.

After the men had brought this fire in check above ground, they found that it began burning underground. The firefighters who fought this fire all day Wednesday, had to turn the sod to stamp out the underground fire. They also had to break a small dam to get the necessary water down to the fire. Firemen were led by Forest Fire Warden and Berlin Chief O.B. Bergquist.

A sad accident took place in Berlin, when two-year-old Paul Demers drowned at Upper Church Street on Wednesday, August 31, 1949. Paul and his twin brother Andre were playing at the edge of a swimming hole which was located in a field about one hundred feet from the paved portion of Upper Church Street. When the mother noticed that Andre was alone, she became alarmed, as the twins were always together.

Mrs. Demers hurried to the nearby swimming hole attracting neighbors with her yells. Mr. Edward Roy pulled the boy from the water and along with other neighbors tried in vain to revive the young lad.

Meantime, the fire department and an ambulance arrived at the scene a few minutes later and a respirator was used. Two doctors, Dr. L. P. Beaudoin and Dr. Paul Dumontier also aided in the effort to save the boy's life, but the young fellow had been in the water too long.

This swimming hole was said to have been dug out by Mr. Frank Demers years before 1949 to provide a source of spring water and when it proved to be inadequate, it was used as a swimming hole. It is always a great family tragedy to lose a young child like that.

Headlines in an early September paper stated that Notre Dame High School reported a record registration. Berlin's parochial school “On the Hill” reported its largest enrollment since its foundation in 1941. There were four hundred boys and girls that signed up at the office of the new headmaster Sister M. St. Priscilla.

With a Masters degree from Boston College and a doctorate in the art of oratory from the Staley College of the spoken word, Brookline, Massachusetts, Sister Priscilla, for the past eight years was a professor of English journalism in this and the speech arts at Revere College in Nashua, New Hampshire.

The following week it was noted in the headlines that about 3,443 boys and girls had enrolled in Berlin's schools. The opening enrollment for Berlin's parochial schools was 2,358 and for the public schools, it was 1,085.

One of the most interesting events of the 1949-1950 school year was the opening of the new St. Patrick's School on Blanchard Street. Visitors and students declared it to be one of the best looking and most completely equipped schools in all all of New England back then. At this time we had 11 schools in Berlin. They were: Notre Dame, Berlin High, Berlin Junior High, St. Regis Academy, St. Patrick, Angel Guardian, St. Joseph's, St. Benedict's, Brown, Marston and Bartlett.

The North Country and Berlin were saddened on September 19, 1949, with the death of Mr. James E. Laffin who was 70 years of age. Mr. Laffin was the oldest active employee in the point of service for the Brown Company. His death occurred Monday morning at his home in Shelburne, New Hampshire.

Mr. Laffin was a chief scaler with our beloved Brown Company and joined this organization as an employee in 1896, before Berlin became a city with a Mayor and Council.

During his first few years working for the then Berlin Mills Company, Laffin did all types work in the Kennebago, Maine area, where he gained the experience and knowledge in a career that he was to follow the rest of his life.

In 1900, he became clerk in the Kennebago District and the next year took over the duties of clerk of accounts, supplies and equipment at the Brown Farm in the Magalloway, Maine. Remember that all the wood that was cut back then was sent down the brooks, rivers, across lakes and finally to the Androscoggin River to the mills of Berlin. Some of this wood made a journey of almost 100 miles.

Laffin later served the company in the Redington District of Maine, where they maintained a storehouse for long log operations at the Madrid sawmill.

During the years 1908 to 1910, when the company was operating in Cambridge Town, New Hampshire, Mr. Laffin clerked at the storehouse and on the Umbagog Lake Drive. During the building of the Millsfield, New Hampshire railroad, he handled all of the orders and deliveries of supplies for the construction of this logging railway and for the logging jobs in the area.

For five years, beginning in 1912, Mr. Laffin was in charge of accounting for the ordering of supplies for the Fitzgerald Land and Lumber Company, a subsidiary of the Berlin Mills Company with offices in Island Pond, Vermont. In 1917 he became superintendent of the company's Vermont operations.

The following year he was named as an instructor and auditor for woods clerks, but in 1919 returned to logging operations as superintendent of the Little Magalloway River and Aziscoos Lake District.

In 1924-25, when the company maintained few woods operations, Mr. Laffin was one of a group of woods department people who went to New York to work in advertising and sales programs to promote the sale of the Nibroc paper towel.

Mr. Laffin returned to the woods in 1925 to supervise experiments in the coloring of wood in living trees. During these experiments, he invented a method of impregnating the circulatory system of the tree with color.

In 1927, Mr. Laffin accepted the position of chief scaler. During his service as chief scaler, Mr. Laffin wrote “Instructions”to Scalers”, which became a field manual for scalers in the Northeast.

Mr. Laffin had no children and was survived only by his wife Mary Ann. He is buried in the Calvary Cemetery in Berlin. I am sure this man could have related an abundance of early login history stories in this area.

I will continue with the year 1949 in my next writing.

Poof Tardiff writes a weekly for The Berlin Daily Sun. Questions or comments email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Also join the many fans of “Once upon a Berlin Time”is on Facebook and guess at the posted weekly mystery pictures.

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Laffin James EJames E. Laffin

Dumontier Dr. PaulDr. Paul Dumontier

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