Hello fellow Berlinites. How many people can remember the tragedies, events and history that took place in the city of Berlin 39 years ago? What about some of the businesses that were here then and are now gone? Can you remember them? Sometimes we forget what happened last week. I will try to refresh your memory about some of the things that took place in 1978 in my next selection of stories.
What about a business called Bob's Tire? It was run and operated in 1978 by a man named Bob Bourassa, a 33-year-old dedicated business man. He spent from 12 to 18 hours in his shop at least six days a week.
Not only did Bob do an admiral job serving his customers, he had quality products to go on every vehicle that entered his shop at 177 Glen Ave. Bob did balancing, alignments and shock absorbers himself, while Mike Fortier and Everett Rasys did the brake work, tire changing and exhaust systems.
Bob's Tire was located between Sanels and Cross Machine, tucked back a bit from the road. I do not remember when this place closed its business.
In the middle of January, one of Berlin's older buildings, built in the early 1890s was leveled by a J & M company crane. Most people referred to it as the Buber Block. It was originally built as a business called Gilbert and Parent and had many businesses thereafter. It stood next to the old Princess Theater, going up Main Street.
Public transportation was about to become a reality in the Berlin-Gorham area after many years. The North Country Transit System sponsored by by Tri-County Community Action Program, which was on Willard Street, was scheduled to begin operating in February of 1978.
Two 20-passenger buses would travel fixed routes in Berlin and Gorham, providing area residents with inexpensive, safe, comfortable and warm rides to local destinations. Fare for the Berlin area rides would be 50 cents, with the Berlin-Gorham route costing 75 cents.
The new buses were white with orange stripes on the side and had large vista windows that slid open to give the passengers a clear view of the passing countryside.
Plans for the bus service had been developing since June of 1977 and were created by the North Country Council and CAP. It was funded by $75,000 of phase 1 funds from the US Department of Transportation. The routes were developed with help from the Berlin Community Development Office and the Housing Assistance Center.
The system would operate with three primary routes and buses would run from 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. One bus would operate between Berlin and Gorham, making stops at the shopping centers, Cascade and Western Avenue.
Another route was a loop around Berlin that included the East Side and western sections of the city near the avenues, Hillside Avenue and the Androscoggin Valley Hospital area. The third route would travel north from Berlin to White Mountains Community college and nursing homes along with Liberty Gardens (Brookside Park today).
After all the problems in the past had been worked out, today's (2017) North Country Transit System still operates efficiently after 39 years.
In the beginning of February, Mr. Leo G. Ouellett was the first to announce this candidacy for mayor of Berlin. Ouellett who lived at 257 Willard St., made this known publicly in a press release dated February 1, 1978. He was seeking the office of Mayor held by Laurier Lamontagne, who had announced that he would not seek reelection.
In an interview with the local news media, Ouellett said that he planned to stress harmony in the government theme during his campaign. As mayor, he hoped assume a leadership role and give a sense of direction to the often divided City Council. Plus, he hope to involve more people in city government.
Candidate Quellett said that he believed the mayor and council form of government could work most effectively if the city's political leadership acted as a board of directors, cooperating with and directing the city's professional management.
In keeping with his harmony and government theme, Ouellett said that he hoped to run a campaign free of personal dickering and mudslinging. He said that he would announce his stance on the issues as the campaign developed.
Mr. Ouellett saw himself as a new man in politics, but he had a long history of participation in city government. He was chairman of the Berlin Planning Board, helped organize the zoning board of appeals and was also the vice chairman of the Industrial Development and Park Authority. Ouellett stepped aside as chairman of the planning board when he ran for mayor and declared a political conflict of interest during his next monthly meeting of the board.
He was a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard and had been the battalion commander of Battery A based at the Berlin Armory since February of 1967. He joined the National Guard as a lieutenant in April of 1950.
Leo Ouellett also had experience as a downtown businessman, as he owned and operated the Simon Davis Smart Shop on Main Street in partnership with his wife Jane. He had also been the treasurer of the Berlin Merchants Committee and a director at the North Country Bank.
Although Ouellett was born in Lebanon, N.H., he came to Berlin with his family at an early age. Here, Leo attended St. Regis Academy, St. Joseph Juniorete in Tyngsboro, Mass., and then he graduated from Berlin High School with all those great skiers in 1942.
He entered U.S. Army Air Corps in November of 1942 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant at the age of 19. He was then an Air Force reserve officer from the end of the World War II until 1950. Leo attended Butler University in Indiana and graduated from the Boston Businesses Institute in 1948, where he majored in business administration, real estate, accounting and business law. His educational background also included military training schools and civil service schools.
Leo was a member of the VFW, the American Legion and the Eagles club. He was also certainly qualified to take on the business of running the city of Berlin.
I will continue with the year 1978 in my next writing.