By George Bald
On my first visit to Berlin in 1998, as commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development, I met with various city officials as well as the head of Crown Vantage (they owned the paper mill and the pulp mill). Every conversation began with people telling me how life was in the past.
They discussed how the mill contributed to charity events, supported the Little League and how many people worked at the mill. As a large part of the city's economy, the mills defined life in Berlin. As the mills reduced the workforce, the refrain was "What can the state do to help us?" If they weren’t looking to the past, they were looking externally for the solutions.
However, the focus slowly began to change. Municipal leaders and city officials began to look to the future. Strong planning efforts were undertaken, gathering public input as well as professional research to develop a new plan for the city.
There were more discussions of finding solutions for Berlin from Berlin. The city also developed a plan to attract new businesses, not tied to paper making. It encourages the development of the ATV Park at Jericho in cooperation with the N.H. Division of Parks and Recreation. City officials played a key role in getting the wood-fired power plant located in Berlin. They changed from a negative attitude to a positive one.
Mayor Grenier called me often to discuss ways that he could build his city. I reminded him that a slow spiral downward for a community usually happens over many years. Reversing that trend also takes many years and requires great patience and tenacity. The mayor and his team have shown both in their efforts to get Berlin growing again.
I was prompted to write this after reading that a Canadian company was expanding in Berlin. It reminded me of the great cooperation between the Division of Economic Development and the city. Beno Lamontangne at the state Division of Economic Development works hard to bring companies to look at Berlin because Berlin works hard to make itself attractive to prospective businesses.
I realize there is still a long way to go. As a student of cities and towns, I can tell you the job is NEVER done. Every day, officials and citizens have to have a dogged determination to make their communities better. I commend Mayor Grenier, his team and the citizens of Berlin for their commitment to the city.
Lastly, I want to share a quote I read very early in my career in government that is a good guide to building community. “The politician looks to the next election, while the statesman, looks to the future!" Best wishes to the City of Berlin for more success.
George Bald is the former commissioner of the N.H. Department of Resources and Economic Development.
Hello fellow Berlinites. During April of 1978, plans had begun for this city's one hundred and fiftieth birthday. Berlin was incorporated during the summer of 1829.
Mr. Leo Spencer of Converse, Granite State Division and Bee Rousseau, City of Berlin tax collector, had been appointed co-chairmen of the 1979 Sesquicentennial Celebration. These two men were named to the posts at a meeting of the Berlin Chamber of Commerce community affairs committee.
Tentative plans called for activities to be scheduled for each month of the year in 1979. Several members of the 1976 Bicentennial Committee were appointed to the Sesquicentennial Committee to help with ideas.
The suggested schedule included a winter carnival in February, a sportsman's and crafts exposition at the arena; a musical night in June, possibly in conjunction with a summer carnival, a parade and fireworks, modified pitch softball tournament and a 12 mile road race in August. Also, an Oktoberfest and in November a broom-ball tournament.
There were also other ideas that included the sale of commemorative coins; log rolling competition, wood cutting contest, fiddlers contest, marksmanship contest, street dancing, square dancing and an essay contest.
The chamber would also become involved with the Franco-American Days festival, which was set for 15-18 May, 1978. How many of these activities were undertaken during this grand celebration? We will find that out when I write about the year 1979.
More businesses were closing in Berlin during the month of June. This time it was Morrison's Professional Cleaners, which had been a prominent business in town for 65 years. Owner Sid Goldenberg announced that the business located at 5 Glen Avenue would cease operations on the 29th of June. He planned on devoting all of his energy to his real estate interest. Goldenberg was a member of Strachan Realty.
Looking back, Goldenberg said that he had enjoyed a fine career serving the public through his business. He liked the constant contact with customers that allowed him to have close rapport with the community. He attributed part of the company's long-term success to his past and present employers. The company once employed fourteen people.
This company was founded by Morris J. Morrison, who operated the business Prior World War I. After serving in this war Morrison came home and reopened the business. His son Irving and son-in-law Sid joined him after they served in World War II.
When the elder Morrison retired in 1959, Irving and Goldenberg ran the business together until September of 1972. Irving then went to Concord and became a production manager at Concord Cleaners. Goldenberg remained as owner-manager of Morrison Cleaners.
Last week I wrote about the fire that destroyed Norm's Trading Post on Glen Avenue and did not know whether it had been rebuilt or not. Well, the answer to that was yes.
February 27, 1978 was a date that Norm and Anita Martel would like to have forgotten. It was the day that two fires destroyed their home and business and they lost just about everything that they had, but they wanted to rebuild. It was going to bigger and better that ever before.
The new structure, was in the same location as the old Trading Post, but the store space would be increased more than 50 per cent and there would be an attractive four room apartment upstairs for the Martel family.
The owners planned to add more inventory to the store also. Besides the groceries, hunting and fishing gear, novelties, guns and ammunition they sold previously. They added clothing, customized T-shirts and self service gas.
Norm and Anita hoped to be back business sometime in early June of 1978. Construction of the building started on May 1, 1978 and progressed rapidly. They credited Roland Cotnoir and Rosaire Cloutier for helping them get back on their feet.
After the fire, Norm did not want to re-build, he wanted to wash his hands of the business and try opening a campground. Anita wanted to stick with the business and so it was the business.
The Martels were very excited for their new start, after seeing the new building develop. Norm quit his job at the Brown Company in order to devote all of his time to the new enterprise. So, after such a destructive fire, the Martels were ready to go.
During the same week as the story about the rebuilding of Norm's Trading Post was in the news, came an article about plans for a bridge that would connect Glen Avenue with Berlin's East Side. This would eventually become the James Cleveland Bridge.
Preliminary plans for a new Androscoggin bridge south of downtown Berlin were unveiled during a public hearing at the end of June.
City planners and a consulting engineering firm, Carrol E. Taylor Associates of Auburn, Maine had picked two possible sites. The planning board and City Council, after listening to comments from the public picked one of the sites for further study. Another public hearing that was scheduled for June 22, 1978 would show the sites that were under consideration on more time.
1.) Public Service of New Hampshire land, just downstream from the Smith-Hydroelectric station. Two spans would be needed to cross over both branches of the river.
2.) This would be the site of Norm's Trading Post (which was almost rebuilt). One span would be used to cross the river at this point.
The idea of a new bridge south of the downtown district had been bounced around the City Hall for many years. The latest design evolved out of a city wide transportation plan prepared by the community development department in 1975 and Mayor Laurier Lamontagne said that he had backed an idea like this back in the 1950s.
This proposed bridge would be the first link in the planned East Side arterial. Jeff Taylor said that the major advantage of a the southern crossing was that trucks headed for the paper mill, would not have to drive up Main Street. This arterial would also provide easier access to the Maynsboro Industrial Park.
Planning board members originally picked the Public Service (Eversource) alternative, which I said would have to cross two sections of the Androscoggin River just above the old Kelley's Auto Supply, but the Assistant Planner recommended the Norm's Trading Post site, saying that it would take traffic off a substandard section of Glen Avenue. That was before the burned out Trading Post was rebuilt.
The northern bridge would cost 2.3 million dollars and the southern span would cost 2.25 million dollars. These were the estimates for the construction only. The northern span would have a view looking right up the “Great Pitch” and probably come out the lower end of the park that now exists. I am sure the prices inflated once work was started.
I will continue with the year 1978 in my next writing.
By Michael York
While some people think that children don’t develop reading skills until they start school, research shows that reading, singing and playing with children can impact their brain development and help provide them with the pre-reading skills they need before they enter the classroom. Instilling a love of reading in children from the very beginning is one of the most important things that an adult can do for a child.
But trying to do this without help from an expert can seem daunting. Luckily, in New Hampshire, we have literacy experts all over the state — right at our public libraries.
New Hampshire public libraries are wonderful resources that help children develop a love of reading and strengthen the literacy skills that they’ll need to succeed. The children’s sections of our libraries have books for young readers of all ages and interests. Visit and you’ll find classic picture books you remember from when you learned to read, like “Where the Wild Things Are,” right up through newer classics like “Pete the Cat” — often alongside colorful artwork, puppets or other activities that help children become involved in storytelling in a very personal, meaningful way.
Librarians strive to help parents nurture their children’s early literacy skills through a variety of age-appropriate programs, including baby lapsits for their youngest patrons and story times for toddlers and preschoolers. Parents and kids learn songs, finger plays and nursery rhymes that they can use at home between visits to the library.
A new program in New Hampshire, “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten,” makes it a goal for children to have had 1,000 stories read to them before they start school, helping them be better prepared for formal reading instruction. Thousands of children across the state have already signed up and, although the program is only a year old, dozens have already completed the challenge.
As children grow and their skills develop, libraries have early readers, chapter books, series fiction, nonfiction titles, magazines and audiobooks to hold their interest. There are also children’s DVDs and music CDs — a world of choices that engage children, helping them strengthen their reading skills and expand their worlds.
Public libraries have literacy activities for school-aged children as well, helping them strengthen their skills as readers and users of information resources. Throughout the school year, most New Hampshire libraries feature a variety of programs for youth, including book discussion groups, LEGO clubs, drop-in crafts, gaming tournaments and other special events that tie in with reading.
None of this ends with the close of the school year. Each summer, libraries around the state have special summer reading programs that encourage children to read recreationally, helping prevent what has become known as the “summer slide” in reading skills. This past year’s theme focused on sports and saw libraries holding reading marathons, karate and fencing demonstrations, children’s yoga, juggling performances, hula hooping, mini golf, storytelling and more. This year’s theme is “Build a Better World”; be on the lookout for everything from “Touch a Truck” events to environmental programs to community awareness projects at your public library.
Whether your children attend public or private school, are home-schooled or won’t be in school for a few years, you can find resources at your public library that will help them develop the literacy skills they need to be become better readers. Be sure to check out your community’s library today — and remember to take your kids with you when you go.
Michael York is the acting commissioner of the NH Department of Cultural Resources
Hello fellow Berlinites. How many people can remember the store that once stood just before the Cleveland Bridge, on the way out of Berlin? It was there before the bridge was built, but a fire destroyed it during a Monday morning in late February of 1978.
It was called Norm's Trading Post, and before this, it was Romeo and Grace's. There were two fires that destroyed this Berlin business. Firefighting efforts during the second fire were hampered by three hydrants that were either damaged or frozen. During the first critical assault on the second fire, firefighters lost time laying out useless long hose lines to hydrants near Cross Machine Shop and on Watson Street, according to Fire Chief Norman Lacroix.
This all started with the buzzing of a smoke detector that roused owner Norm Martel from his sleep when a fire broke out in his kitchen area, which was in the front of his sporting goods and variety store. Out in front of this was his Sunoco gas pumps, so he evacuated his wife and two sons, from the apartment that had recently been added to the store.
Mr. Martel broke down the door to the kitchen and saw smoke in the corner near a rubbish container, but there were no flames. About this time, a passing motorist on Glen Avenue spotted smoke and called the fire department. Three trucks were dispatched to the scene at 3 a.m. according to the fire records.
Chief Lacroix said that the fire fighters immediately tried to hook up to a hydrant near Sanels Auto Parts store, but were unable. They were able to contain the fire using 1,000 gallons of water from the tanker and pumper.
Now, after the firefighters cut through some floors, the fire was considered to be completely out by 5 a.m. This is what the chief reported, so, engine No. 5 remained on standby until 5:40 a.m. to ensure the fire was completely out.
Martel boarded up the fire-damaged section of the structure before going to the fire station to thank the firefighters for their efforts and took a coffee break with them. When the owner returned to the store at 6 a.m., he saw more smoke and flames at the rear of structure. Three more engines, a ladder truck and tanker were dispatched to the scene. Off duty firefighters were also called by their homeowner radios.
The firefighters were unable to draw water from any of the three nearby hydrants so, two pumpers each carrying 500 gallons relayed water to the tanker. Firefighters had to use the available water sparingly. Even though 7,000 gallons of water were poured onto the flames, high snowbanks prevented firefighters from moving a pumper truck close enough to the river to draw water from that source. Firefighters then cut through the roof, to get more access to the fire. Others used portable air packs to fight the fire from inside.
By 7:30 a.m. the fire was again under control and the store itself was blackened and gutted throughout the interior. Martel had insurance, but not enough to cover all all the loss. It was a tough day for new store owner Norman Martel. I do not believe he rebuilt, and then the Cleveland Bridge was built using his land.
In the beginning of March, 1978, the Notre Dame Arena was put on the market. Arena manager E. F. Guay announced to the news media that they were going to try and sell the arena as an arena, in hopes that the buyer would continue to use the facility as a rink for skating enthusiasts and area hockey programs. He said that the current owners would only sell to other interests as a last resort. The asking price was not disclosed.
Guay said there were many reasons for the decision to sell. He said the owners had talked with some parties about the arena, but nothing had been definite. He also said that they were under no time frame to sell, as long as they had it, the arena would not close. The Notre Dame Arena is still with us in 2017.
The Berlin High School gymnasium was transformed into a large capacity party place on April 12, 1978, when the famous Irish Rovers appeared in concert there. Proceeds went to Berlin High School scholarships and to the Androscoggin Valley Hospital building fund. In February of 1976, this group had played to a packed house of 1,700 fans.
Audience involvement was the key to the Irish Rovers outstanding success in live concert appearances. In 1978, the group performed more than 100 concert dates each year.
During the 1978 March local election, voters elected Leo Ouellett as Mayor of Berlin. In an easy victory Ouellett defeated former council member Donald Borschers and a third candidate Raymond Blais.
While the election brought about only minor changes in the city council with Richard Payeur replacing Councilman Duquette and Mayor-elect Ouellett replacing Mayor Laurier Lamontagne. City hall observers suggested that the changes would be dramatic.
Mr. Ouellett, who also served as commander of the National Guard in Northern New Hampshire, was a strong leader who had smoothly and skillfully run the local planning board during the 1970s. The city of Berlin was now waiting to see how he would do as their top leader.
On the sports scene, two local lads had completed a fine season in Division I hockey with the University of New Hampshire Wildcats. The UNH team had concluded its 1977-1978 season in the beginning of March, when they lost the first round playoff game to powerful Boston University in overtime 6 to 5.
After a rough start which saw UNH drop several one goal decisions, the Wildcats had a very successful second half of the season. In Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference play, they concluded with a 14-11 record and an overall mark of 19-12. In the Eastern Collegiate playoffs, the Wildcats were seated in the eighth and final spot.
One of the main reasons for the club's success was the high scoring first line, which included Berlin's Frankie Roy and Johnny Normand. The former centered the unit which had Normand at left wing and Ralph Cox on right wing.
It was Roy's third year in a Wildcat uniform and his best one to date. Frankie had 22 goals and assisted on 36 others. His 58 points put him among the top 10 scorers in the ECAC. In three campaigns he had recorded 129 points (55-74) and was 18th on the UNH all-time scoring list.
Johnny Normand was responsible for total 31 points (17-14), which was a significant improvement over his initial season when he scored four times and collected five assist.
There were only four graduates in the year 1978, with the promise of an excellent year in 1978- 1979, they were touted to be the ECAC champions in 1979. I do not know if they accomplished that, but the city of Berlin was surely proud of their young college stars and their fans knew the route to UNH very well.
I will continue with the year 1978 in my next writing.