1979 III

Hello fellow Berlinites. Since the closing of Converse took place in early March of 1979, many new jobs were promised for Berlin. On April 23, 1979, a New Hampshire company was going to make a final announcement about its intention to purchase the city’s industrial building on the East Milan Road.

According to Industrial Development Director Roland Sherman, negotiations with the company had been very positive and he hoped the firm’s upcoming announcement would be acceptable to the city. It was said that this company (?) would initially provide jobs for 75 Berlin residents with a planned expansion of up to 125 jobs within three years. This company was examining plans to hire and retrain former Converse workers.

Another promise was announced by Gov. Hugh Gallen and Sen. John Durkin. They said that the Nike Shoe Company, a manufacturer of athletic shoes, was proceeding with exploratory plans to develop plant facilities in Berlin. This decision to set up operations in Berlin meant the creation of 250 jobs within the period of one year. Sadly, this company did not make it to the city and the promise of these jobs fell through.

The three-story house that was owned by Richard Ramsay Jr. on Church St. was destroyed by fire on Monday morning April 16, 1979. Fire chief Norman Lacroix said that as soon as the fire trucks reached the intersection of High and Main Streets. firemen could see flames in the dark sky. The deputy immediately put out a call for all off-duty and fire department personnel on the home alert system.

It was a long story, with the fire department saving the house of next-door neighbor Vivian Isaacson. As for the Ramsays, they were grateful to be alive. They were also thankful for the many people who gave them food, clothing and other items.

Hundreds of people attended the fete for Lawrence Dwyer on Sunday, May 20, 1979, at the Town and Country Motor Inn in Shelburne. It was standing room only, as friends, family and colleagues gathered to pay tribute to this outgoing superintendent of schools, who retired at the end of the school year in 1979, after 27 years of service, 19 of them at this top post.

Educators and friends from all over New Hampshire and the United States spoke in praise of Dwyer’s concern for the children of Berlin over his years in the school system, from a podium in front of a large painted sign created by art teacher Bob Hughes that read, “Lawrence Dwyer SUPER Superintendent of Schools.”

N.H. Commissioner of Education called Dwyer a tiger in terms of education for the children of Berlin and a man of integrity, a professional, a gentleman and a gentle man, who proved that nice guys do finish first.

The main speaker of the evening was my high school principal Richard Bradley, who was the first principal of Berlin High School to serve under Dwyer in 1960. I also was a teacher under Lawrence Dwyer for seven years, and he was one of the nicest bosses one could ever have.

A sad accident took place on the Success Road when a man identified as Emile Jutras by state police, was found burned to death in a car. Sam Garneau, who discovered the body, was driving by at about 8:50 a..m. on Friday, May 11, 1979, when he spotted smoke and flames from behind a burned car. He stopped to investigate the fire. He approached the vehicle and looked inside for something with which to put the fire out and found a fishing tackle box. He filled this with water from a nearby puddle and managed to extinguish the remaining flames.

Afterward, he placed the fishing tackle box on the back seat and noticed the body of Jutras in the front. He drove back to Berlin and reported the incident to the Berlin Police Department, who came to the scene. The cause of death was undetermined at this time.

The restaurant on Hillside Avenue next to the Notre Dame arena has had many names. It was originally called Leclerc’s, then Julie’s, the Monaco, and in 1979, it was called on the Toi Shan, owned and operated by Kathy and Stu Goldman. Does this ring a bell?

In April of 1979, the Goldmans added on to their restaurant, catering to functions such as weddings, retirement, special business meetings and other group gatherings. They had a room called the “Dragon’s Lair” at the Toi Shan restaurant which was capable of serving up to 80 people.

This special room was outfitted with the latest in catering equipment and had a separate entrance, a full music system and a dance floor. It was fully air-conditioned and offered 158 different Chinese and American dishes.

How many people can remember dining out in the Dragon’s Lair at the Toi Shan Restaurant? It sure seems like it was so many years ago. Today, that same place still operates as a restaurant, serving Chinese food. It is now (2017) called the Ming House.

Finally, in celebration of Mother’s Day, which was on May 13, 1979, the newspaper did a tribute to a fine Berlin mother. This honor was for Beatrice Labonte, who lived at the far end of Church Street with her husband Joseph.

Mrs. Labonte said that she loved children and raised eight of them, but it wasn’t an easy task. On Mondays and Thursdays, while her kids were growing up, she washed clothes in an old-fashioned wringer machine. On Tuesdays she ironed and on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays she also sewed, mended and knitted her children’s clothes, and on Saturdays she baked.

She said that her kids used to always love honey dipped doughnuts, homemade bread, whoopie pies and cookies, all of which Mrs. Labonte baked from scratch.

This mother of the year also enjoyed all kinds of handiwork. She made wedding gowns, confirmation dresses and most of her own clothes. Mrs. Labonte was certainly a very talented mom and worth all of this honor. My wife Ann was her hairdresser for over 15 years and tells me that Mrs. Labonte is still with us today (2017) in an assisted living facility near her daughter Janet in Concord, and on April 14, 2018, she will be 100 years old. What a great mom she must have been to all of her children.

I will continue with a history of Berlin in 1979 in my next writing.

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