NH’s Libraries: Fun and vibrant, with something for everyone

By Michael York

If you still think that libraries are old-fashioned places where people speak in whispers and the lights are kept low, then you really need to stop by your community’s library and see how things have changed.

New Hampshire’s public libraries are dynamic, energetic places with activities for people from all walks of life. Check out your library’s calendar of events and you’re bound to find something that will interest you or someone that you care about: a Bone Builders fitness program for seniors, a children’s art workshop series, technology tutorials, movie nights, mah jong sessions, knitting clubs ... the list goes on and on.

A 2012 study by the Institute of Museum and Library Services ranked New Hampshire first among the nation’s libraries for the number of programs offered per capita. Library activities start with the very youngest patrons, when toddlers and their caregivers stop by for regular story times and learn finger plays and nursery rhymes they can enjoy together at home. Early readers may have the opportunity to practice their reading skills with "reading dogs" who are specially trained to be patient listeners. Teens can find poetry slams, murder mystery nights and the chance to make crafts in a safe atmosphere. "MakerPlay" sessions, where young patrons can use toys and games that help them learn coding, construction and other skills, are also popular.

There are plenty of ways for adults to branch out and expand their library experiences, too. Book groups, of course, remain a popular way to enjoy reading as part of a community experience. Many libraries partner with other organizations for programs, inviting speakers to discuss a wide range of topics of interest in their communities, such as caring for an aging parent, discovering New Hampshire’s natural treasures and making homes more energy efficient. Some libraries highlight their cookbook collections by holding cupcake wars and soup swaps, and others will organize seed exchanges in the spring. In any given week, programs happen across the state covering just about any topic you can imagine, in fun and engaging ways.

In some New Hampshire communities, the public library has the best — and sometimes the only — free access to computers and the internet, making it possible for patrons to apply for jobs, complete online government forms, find up-to-date online health resources and more. Nearly 90 percent of New Hampshire public libraries offer computer skills training as well, playing a crucial role in bridging the digital divide and changing people’s lives.

Even if you can’t attend a specific program, when you visit your public library to check out books, magazines or other materials, you can often take a little break and renew yourself by working on a jigsaw puzzle, playing checkers on an oversized board or even doing some coloring — no matter what how old you are. There truly are activities for everyone.

So stop by your public library the next time you’re in the neighborhood to see what’s happening. No matter what your age or interests, they’ll be something to keep you coming back.

Michael York is acting commissioner of the N.H. Department of Cultural Resources. April 9-15 is National Library Week.

Poof Tardiff: Young Berlin

Hello fellow Berlinites. At one time, when the movie “The Masked Menace” was filmed in Berlin 90 years ago, I thought that I could find this film in the archives, because it had many moving scenes of the “Paper City.” I tried forever to find this film and came up short. Its leading star was silent film great Jean Arthur, along with Laura Alberth, Gus De Weil, Agnes Dome, John Hamilton, Thomas Holding, Larry Kent and more. Many scenes were done near the old Brown Company barn beyond Kelley's sawmill.

What I was really looking for was moving scenes of this area, because Pathe' films was given free reign by the Brown company, Boston and Maine Railroad and the Union Waterpower Company and invited them to go as far as they wanted in filming scenes at their mills, shutes, spillways, flumes etc. The also took moving pictures of downtown Berlin and some of its top citizens.

Pathe' also said they were able to obtain some magnificent shots of the picturesque White Mountains. As well, their great pictures of Berlin and this vicinity would be a boost to this section of New England on the screens of thousands of theaters throughout America, so they filmed local scenes along with their movie.

To see motion pictures of Berlin, its streets, local celebrities in the surrounding area that was filmed almost 90 years ago would thrill me to no end. Supposedly, it was shown at the Princess Theater when it was completed.

Well, the closest that I can get to knowing what Berlin looked like in its earlier days, was in letters, pictures and stories by citizens years ago that had written in the local papers and that was earlier than the 1920s.

One old-timer in 1949, described to his best ability what Berlin looked like back in 1895. He said this city's sidewalks back then were crude affairs. Some places one plank was used, some two, some three and some none at all. The Dead River, where it ran under Main Street was covered loosely with planks that jumped up and down when a horse or something heavy crossed. On the right side of Main Street going up, were the wooden planks; on the other side there were none at all.

Labnon's was owned by Stahl and Clarke and what was known as the Buber Block, was the Parent Block. Next to it was a place called McHugh's drugstore. Going up Main Street where the post office (Badger Realty today) used to be was the grand Clement Block. On Mason Street in back of Fournier's furniture store (old Joliette Snowshoe Club) was a hotel called the Central House. It stood back from the road and burned to the ground in the early 1900s. All that area is just vacant land today.

Back on Main Street where today's Supreme Pizza operates was the Dean place, where Ben Dean shot his wife and was then sentenced to 11 years in prison. He was pardoned after serving less than half of his sentence. From the Dean place to beyond today's library, there was nothing. Above the library and on the same side just before the railroad tracks where Hair Improvements now stands, was what was called the Berlin Fire Station, so called back then.

Now, this old-timer took us on to the East Side in 1895 and he said there were only five buildings on that side back then. On Champlain Street there were three houses and there were the homes of T. P. Burgess general manager of the Burgess Mill and Superintendent George Burgess on mill property. Later, the George Burgess home was used for a girls club, but nothing stands there today (2017).

The chief of police back then was a man by the name of John T. Youngcliss who saw a lot of action while he was in this position and the Fire Chief was George Kent. The captain of the Hook and Ladder truck at the Berlin Fire station was named John Gullison. The writer said that the fire department had strong horses back that.

Where the Brown Company offices once stood (new Court House today), the road was being cut through solid rock and was then known as the “Narrows.” The first paper mill in Berlin was the Forest Fibre Company located where the Tube Mill once stood. All they used was dry poplar. After this, the Glen Number 1 Mill was built and later the Burgess Mill.

On Mechanic Street, where Blais and Aubin once stood, was a place called the Whitney Opera House and across the street was Music Hall. The VFW in 1949 on Mechanic Street was the police station or the “Lock Up” in the late 1890s and Berlin High was on top of School Street where the old Notre Dame use to be.

This writer considered our principal street back then as Glen Avenue. All the homes for the mill executives and their offices were located there in the 1890s. After one left Green Square and headed for Jericho, they were practically out of town said the old timer. The writer also reiterated that the happiest years of his life were spent in early Berlin.

Another letter that came to the newspaper in 1949, after some old pictures were posted was that of John Q. Farrington who was born in Maine in 1867 and lived in Berlin at 1253 Main St. at this time. Mr. Farrington talked about the first time that he ever came to Berlin back in 1876, when he was about 9 years old. He was living in Gorham then, a place that was bigger than Berlin in these early years. One of his neighbors, a Mrs. Evans, wanted to come to Berlin to see her aunt, a lady named Mrs. Johnson.

Mrs. Evans had hired a team from Mr. John Peabody and the next morning, soon after breakfast they started for Berlin. As John could remember, they did not have any whip and the horses were well aware of it, so, they did not trot at all. On her way, Mrs. Evans stopped and John got out and cut a switch. “It really helped,” he said.

After they went down Tinker Hill (into Cascade Village that was not there yet), they came to a house that was owned by Albert Gerrish and another house owned by Dexter Blodgett. These places would be in the river today across from Vintage Junkie. The dam at the Cascade Mill covered all this up in the early 1900s.

The next place they came to was Berlin. The only mill that existed in 1876 was the sawmill were Heritage Park is today, with nothing but the river to view on the way out.

As they entered today's Green Square, there were two roads, one left to Jericho and the other went towards Milan. They took the road to Milan (Main Street today) and as the young lad could remember, there were only five buildings on the east side of the street, all the way up to Berlin Mills and the sawmill. He noted that there was also a railroad crossing and not much more on the other side of the street before then.

On their way through, they stopped at the old Berlin Mills Store (Brown Company store) where Mrs. Evans got out and bought some items. They continued on until they reached the Sam Paine Bridge and crossed over to the East River Road where their trip ended two miles further toward Milan. They must have been close to today's “Le Chalet.” A day and night were spent there before the return trip back to Gorham. It certainly must have looked different back then. I wish there were more pictures.

Poof Tardiff writes a weekly column 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 friends of “Once upon a Berlin Time” on Facebook and guess at the posted weekly mystery pictures.

Paine BridgePaine Bridge

High and Pleasant St 1870sHigh and Pleasant Street 1870s

Glen Avenue 1897Glen Avenue 1897

Gilbert Parent BlockGilbert Parent Block

It's beginning to look like Congress at the NH State House

New Hampshire lawmakers always said “we are different, we’re not like Washington,” but these days the New Hampshire Legislature looks more and more like Congress.
Two decades ago, there was a difference as Republicans and Democrats worked together for the good of the state to address Public Service’s bankruptcy, the Supreme Court’s Claremont education decision and a reeling economy in the late 80s and early 90s.
And to be fair, over the last few years, both parties worked together to expand Medicaid to the working poor and to fight the opioid addiction crisis, but far too often Republicans won’t even capitalize the D at the beginning of Democrat much less say Democratic, while Democratic lawmakers see no need to seek GOP sponsors for their legislation, because it really is just a political statement for the next election.
In Washington last week, after seven years of trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republicans failed to garner enough votes to do away with current law and replace it with a plan that a majority of Americans found unacceptable because it would have meant 24 million fewer people with health insurance and skyrocketing costs for older Americans.
In the process, President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan managed to empower about three dozen far-right House conservatives who believe they will now set the agenda for the remainder of the current two-year term.
To pass the package, Trump and Ryan turned to the US House Freedom Caucus to find the votes needed to pass their plan. The 30 to 35 caucus members — the most conservative House members — vote as a block and need a more than supermajority to support any piece of legislation.
The caucus vehemently opposed the plan.
Trump and Ryan proposed changes to sway the caucus but that caused a growing number of centrist Republicans to oppose it and the speaker Ryan had to pull the bill facing certain defeat.
The move to the right also would have doomed the bill in the Senate and creates a dicy situation for other key components of Trump’s and the Republicans’ agenda going forward.
A few arch conservatives in the US House now believe they control the Republican agenda in Washington and Trump or Ryan both attacked the caucus for undermining the GOP agenda which is finally within reach after eight years.
A similar situation is happening in New Hampshire with the state’s two-year budget package scheduled for a House vote next week.
The House Finance Committee had barely approved its $11.9 billion proposal on a 16-9 vote when the NH House Freedom Caucus released a statement to the press saying it would not support the plan.
“What we are seeing is massive growth of government just because the revenues will be higher,” said caucus member Rep. Len Turcotte, R-Barrington. “Our government would better serve our businesses and taxpayers by easing the tax burden on them, instead of going on a shopping spree.”
What could be wrong with a budget that does not increase taxes or fees or create new taxes or fees, a Republican’s ideal for some time?
The budget the first Republican Governor in 12 years — Chris Sununu — proposed spent $12.2 billion, which the House Finance Committee trimmed by roughly $300 million, but that is not nearly enough for the most conservative House members and organizations.
The Coalition of NH Taxpayers said in a press release the budget proposal was more than $700 million higher than the current two-year plan.
The coalition’s chairman Ed Naile accused House budget writers of making phony cuts to programs that have to be funded by federal law with federal money.
“Having spent years fighting massive increases in spending, I’m shocked and outraged,” he said, “that I can’t even turn my attention away for a minute to work on voter fraud, without the same tax and spend politicians taking over the State House and spending us into oblivion.”
However, the question in the State House always is “Have you got the votes?” Are there enough members of the Freedom Caucus and otherwise disgruntled GOP representatives to kill the budget package, House Bill 1 and House Bill 2?
With a 222-174 partisan split, the House Republican leadership does not have a lot of padding to cushion a fall with little or no support from House Democrats, meaning a couple dozen Republicans can sink the budget.
Even some members of the House Finance Committee expressed doubts House Speaker Shawn Jasper’s team has the vote to pass the current plan.
Jasper was in the same situation two years ago when the House voted on the current budget package.
If you are Jasper there are several options: You can roll the dice hoping to cobble together enough votes to squeak through, have amendments ready to make significant cuts to bring the Freedom caucus on board or offer yet more amendments to entice enough Democrats to support the package?
Two years ago, Jasper turned to the conservatives to pass the budget, and is likely to do the same again although Democrats probably could be persuaded with an additional $50 million to $75 million instead of making several hundred million dollars in cuts needed to bring conservatives on board.
Despite all the hand-wringing being done now through the weekend on the State House’s third floor, it is good to remember passing the House’s version of the budget is but one step in the process.
Once the Senate begins work on the two-year spending plan budget writers will have more refined revenue estimates. Businesses pay a large portion of their tax liability as do individuals owing interest and dividends tax in March and April giving Senate Finance and Ways and Means committee members a clearer revenue picture for the coming two years.
If business taxes continue to be as strong as they have been, the Senate will have tens of millions of dollars in additional money to work with, but there is a different atmosphere this year.
Although the number of Senate Republicans has remained the same, each of the last two elections has made the caucus more conservative so the Senate may not be the savior it has been for social service and public education advocates.
Budgets and issues like the Affordable Care Act have a way of highlighting the divisions in the Republican Party that make governing difficult even when you control both houses and the executive branch here and in Washington.
The question for the GOP house, senate and executive branch leaders is whether a small group of the most conservative members will control the party’s agenda in New Hampshire and in Washington when it is not the will of a majority of the country or New Hampshire.
If that small group controls the agenda, the next election could be very interesting indeed.
Garry Rayno can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
(InDepthNH.org co-publishes Garry Rayno’s Distant Dome partnering with Manchester InkLink)

How the Republicans Sold Your Privacy to Internet Providers

By Tom Wheeler
Special to the New York Times

On Tuesday afternoon, while most people were focused on the latest news from the House Intelligence Committee, the House quietly voted to undo rules that keep internet service providers — the companies like Comcast, Verizon and Charter that you pay for online access — from selling your personal information.
The Senate already approved the bill, on a party-line vote, last week, which means that in the coming days President Donald Trump will be able to sign legislation that will strike a significant blow against online privacy protection.
The bill not only gives cable companies and wireless providers free rein to do what they like with your browsing history, shopping habits, your location and other information gleaned from your online activity, but it would also prevent the Federal Communications Commission from ever again establishing similar consumer privacy protections.
The bill is an effort by the F.C.C.’s new Republican majority and congressional Republicans to overturn a simple but vitally important concept — namely that the information that goes over a network belongs to you as the consumer, not to the network hired to carry it. It’s an old idea: For decades, in both Republican and Democratic administrations, federal rules have protected the privacy of the information in a telephone call. In 2016, the F.C.C., which I led as chairman under President Barack Obama, extended those same protections to the internet.
To my Democratic colleagues and me, the digital tracks that a consumer leaves when using a network are the property of that consumer. They contain private information about personal preferences, health problems and financial matters. Our Republican colleagues on the commission argued the data should be available for the network to sell. The commission vote was 3-2 in favor of consumers.
Reversing those protections is a dream for cable and telephone companies, which want to capitalize on the value of such personal information. I understand that network executives want to produce the highest return for shareholders by selling consumers’ information. The problem is they are selling something that doesn’t belong to them.
Here’s one perverse result of this action. When you make a voice call on your smartphone, the information is protected: Your phone company can’t sell the fact that you are calling car dealerships to others who want to sell you a car. But if the same device and the same network are used to contact car dealers through the internet, that information — the same information, in fact — can be captured and sold by the network. To add insult to injury, you pay the network a monthly fee for the privilege of having your information sold to the highest bidder.
This bill isn’t the only gift to the industry. The Trump F.C.C. recently voted to stay requirements that internet service providers must take “reasonable measures” to protect confidential information they hold on their customers, such as Social Security numbers and credit card information. This is not a hypothetical risk — in 2015 AT&T was fined $25 million for shoddy practices that allowed employees to steal and sell the private information of 280,000 customers.
Among the many calamities engendered by the circus atmosphere of this White House is the diversion of public attention away from many other activities undertaken by the Republican-controlled government. Nobody seemed to notice when the Trump F.C.C. dropped the requirement about networks protecting information because we were all riveted by the Russian hacking of the election and the attempted repeal of Obamacare.
There’s a lot of hypocrisy at play here: The man who has raged endlessly at the alleged surveillance of the communications of his aides (and potentially himself) will most likely soon gladly sign a bill that allows unrestrained sale of the personal information of any American using the internet.
Apparently, the Trump administration and its allies in Congress value privacy for themselves over the privacy of the Americans who put them in office. What is good business for powerful cable and phone companies is just tough luck for the rest of us.

(Tom Wheeler was the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission from 2013 to 2017.)

Poof Tardiff: 1949 XI

Hello fellow Berlinites. This year had so much news and history that I had to refresh my self on the Roman Numerals that I use after the number ten. This I owe to my grammar school teachers of the mid 1950s. I solved it and this will be my last story about the year 1949 in Berlin. I also found other material in this year that I will share with my readers in later stories. Much local history was printed back then and I tried to save what I thought would be of interest.

In a response to the editorial that blasted our local Chamber of Commerce, Alf Halvorson had an answer. He felt that this reply should be in fairness to the many people who had so generously and willingly given their time and effort in the great endeavor of trying to interest new industries to locate in our beloved city of Berlin.

The burden which most chambers must undertake has never rested on the shoulders of one person. The accomplishments which had been made up to this date, could never have been realized if it were not for the splendid cooperation and interest of the members of the Chamber of Commerce, Berlin Industrial Realty Company, Brown Company, Ware Knitters Incorporated, Granite State Rubber Company, City Council and Public Service.

The list of people trying to sell our city to other manufacturers was long and it would take up quite a few lines in this story. When there was evidence that progress was being made, often the road proved long and rocky. As we still know to this date in 2017, industries are not banging on the doors of Pinkham Notch to come and establish themselves here.

The editorial criticized every “bite” that the Chamber got and there were two ways to look at it. If the efforts were not made known, the community had the opinion that everything was at a standstill and nothing was being done to get business here. When we did announce the interest of the company and for some reason, it didn't come here, the people became discouraged.

Halvorson, who was the president of the Chamber of Commerce in 1949, wanted to thank everyone in any way who had helped in trying to influence new businesses to locate in our city. Sadly, the drum beats on to this day.

Many people who lived near the Dead River can remember the filth that ran through it years ago. Well, in December of 1949, Mayor Paul Toussaint reported to the City Council at a meeting that the federal government had appropriated $96,000 to be loaned to New Hampshire communities to clean up their waterways. Although it still took many more years, this river which once received much of Berlin's sewerage, was finally cleaned up.

Lawrence F. Whittemore, the one-time president of the Brown Company, left his job as president of the New Haven Railroad in December of 1949 to become the president of Berlin's mills and the Brown Corporation in LaTuque, Quebec.

In assuming the presidency of the two companies, Whittemore took active direction over one of the largest pulp and paper manufacturing concerns in the Northeast, with holdings of approximately 3,500,000 acres of timber land in the United States and Canada. The mills in Berlin, Gorham and LaTuque, produced the greatest variety of pulp of any company and were also the leader in the industrial paper field.

Whittemore had been actively associated with the Brown Company since 1935, when he became a member of the stockholders committee after the company had reorganized, later becoming a director. Mr. Whittemore knew the paper industry fairly well, as he was associated with lumbering operations in Northern New England for many years. He was generally recognized as an expert in forest management and its byproduct manufacturing field.

This former president of the Brown Company also had a lot to do with the University of New Hampshire, as the Whittemore Center is named after him.

The news in this city's local newspapers on October 27, 1949, was that major repairs were needed for the Mason Street Bridges. The original bridges were built to accommodate the people that used the Boston and Maine Railroad in 1892 -1893 and Berlin's East Side as it grew after these dates. I am sure that it was repaired or rebuilt at some time before the year 1949 came along.

The members of Berlin's City Council considered the possibility of rebuilding the Mason Street Bridges, so that they would be capable of handling vehicles weighing over 15 tons. In the meantime, the repairs necessary to raise the bridges from a load capacity of 10 tons to that of 15 tons had been referred to the finance committee and the city engineer.

The Council carried on a lengthy discussion covering the present condition of bridges, how much the bigger wood trucks weighed and other such matters. It was even suggested by a councilman that a new bridge be built to relieve the heavier loads and to handle excess traffic to the East Side.

The city engineer Paul Anderson explained that although the bridges were only built to carry up to 12 tons, they were good bridges. His opinion was that it would be less expensive to rebuild the bridges to handle heavy loads than it would be to build an entirely new bridge. The councilman responded that rebuilding the present bridges would not take care of the excess traffic.

Councilmen Fortier wanted to to raise the load capacity up to 25 tons and the discussion boiled down to primary and secondary points. The former point was that unless the bridges were repaired immediately, they would not even be able to carry the fire engines safely across, as the engines in 1949 weighed over 10 tons. The latter point was that the rebuilding job that would bring the load capacity to 25 tons would cost a good deal of money and require considerable planning, according to City Engineer Anderson.

Now, the finance committee, the City Engineer and the City Council had to be in on this together or there would have be two separate jobs. In the meantime, loads over 10 tons would have to use the Berlin Mills Bridge (Walking Bridge today), unless they got special permits from Mr. Anderson. When such permits were issued, traffic on the bridge was stopped while a truck passed over it.

Anderson said the posted load capacity for the Berlin Mills Bridge was 30 tons, but that it could only take 20 tons safely. He was preparing to bring the official load down to 20 tons for that bridge. I do not know when the Mason Street Bridges were repaired back then, but two other bridges were built in Berlin since this time and the Mason Street Bridges were completely repaired.

Poof Tardiff writes a weekly column 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” on Facebook and guess at the weekly posted to mystery pictures.

Whittemore LawrenceLawrence Whittemore

Original Mason St. Bridge 1Original Mason St. Bridge

Mason St. Bridge 1950Mason St. Bridge 1950

Berlin Mills BridgeBerlin Mills Bridge