11-16 Poof's column - 1979 II

1979 II

Hello fellow Berlinites. Continuing with my history of Berlin 38 years ago, a headline in the local paper from February 1979 stated that “Revitalization was the key to Berlin’s future.” There was even an architect’s view of Main Street and Bickford Lane showing the revitalized improvements. This all changed though, as a huge fire in the 1990s had its own revitalization plan.

One of Berlin’s most comprehensive improvement plans was presented to the city by the community development department. This plan, which was known as the Downtown Improvement Program, was shown to the City Council on Monday night, Feb. 12, 1979. It was a 60-page report that was given to each council member having had details in word and a drawing about a five-year program that would renew Berlin’s downtown area. The overall goal was to return this city to its former prominence as the retail and service center of the North Country.

This design was divided into four major sections. The report began with the initial identification of Berlin’s problems, progressed to a discussion of the solution and then a final implementation strategy.

Here were the final goals of this program 38 years ago: 1. To provide an attractive retail shopping alternative to area malls and shopping centers. 2. To attract new activities to occupy vacant and underused space. 3. To reestablish this area as a center for downtown residents, visiting shoppers and pedestrians. 4. To unify the architectural appearance of buildings through structural and visual betterment. 5. To stress pedestrian accessibility to stores and related downtown activity areas. 6. To improve traffic flow and develop parking facilities. 7. To create and maintain community-wide involvement and financial support in the revitalization effort.

There were a lot more improvements that were suggested, starting with an imaginary drive up Glen Avenue and onto Main Street, to include a 60-room hotel and more. I guess that some things just didn’t evolve.

Two Boston area ice climbers, David Shoemaker and Paul Flanagan, lost their lives while climbing in Huntington Ravine some time on Friday, Feb. 16, 1979. Rated as very good climbers by the U.S. District Forest Ranger Rick Goodrich, the two men had chosen the severe weather conditions common to Mount Washington as a challenge to their mountaineering skills. They had climbed together for five years, had made numerous ascents in the Mount Washington area and considered the assent of Huntington Ravine as another objective to add to their list of climbing accomplishments. Sadly, it was their last climb. The demise of these two climbers brought the total of Huntington Ravine deaths to 12 from 1959 to 1979.

On Friday, March 2, 1979, at 11:45 a.m., the Granite State division of Converse became a memory after all production operations came to a halt. For the last time, 19 employees who had stayed on to complete packaging of the final shipment of Converse shoes, put on their coats, walked the distance to the time-clock, punched out and left the building.

None of them looked back, as they walked toward the Granite State parking lot. They knew that they would not be returning to work the following Monday, or on any other Monday. They also knew, but did not welcome the reality of that fact at this time.

In April of 1979, a brand new bank was scheduled to be built on Pleasant Street. It was going to be the new home for the Berlin Cooperative Bank. Contract for this new Berlin bank had been signed, sealed and delivered by April 4. Construction of the two-story building was planned to begin right away. This financial institution would replace the old one that stood at 29 Main St., just a short distance before the old Wilson Pharmacy (Office Products), as one came up Main Street. This area is consumed by the Northway Bank today (2017).

Design for the southern half of the 400×200-foot lot, bordered by Cole, York and Pleasant Streets, this brick building would provide the bank’s present staff with an additional 6,000 square feet of space. This modern building, which was designed and eventually built by Richards and Sons Incorporated, offered easy access and President Gerald Martel explained that the construction company had designed two drive-up windows with room for a possible third one in an accessible area.

Also, the plans for the building included a larger area for those who wanted to transact their business inside, ample parking was made available on the northern and southern sides of the structure.

This building was designed in a Colonial Federalist style. Inside, the first floor would provide space for eight teller windows, the bookkeeping department, some offices, a security vault and additional safety deposit boxes.

Upstairs, spacious offices, a lounge area and kitchen circled the balcony overlooking the ground floor, which gave a high-ceiling effect. The two floors were connected by a curving staircase and an elevator. Large doors handsomely designed in glass and wood opened onto Pleasant Street.

The outside grounds of this new bank were to be landscaped with bushes, trees and grass. A skating rink, was also going to be put in place during the winter months. This attractive building would cost $800,000 and be built by late November 1979.

Today (2017), this same building houses Coos County Family Health Services. I do not remember how long it was a bank, but I am sure someone does. So many things change during the course of several years.

During February, City Hall declared Berlin a disaster area in an attempt to enlist state aid in remedying the loss of water to over 85 Berlin properties. The City Council requested state assistance and surplus equipment to be used in thawing out the lines and restoring water supply to these properties. I don’t seem to remember this cold snap, probably because I didn’t lose my water, but those that did probably have a vivid memory of it.

I will continue with a history of Berlin 38 years ago in my next writing.

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 previously posted mystery pictures.

Huntington RavineHuntington Ravine

 GS Rubber 1958GS Rubber 1958

Coop BankCoop Bank

Downtown 1Downtown 1

Robert Chapman: As a local developer, I support Les Otten and Balsams project

By Robert Chapman

I have known Les Otten since I was 9 years old, growing up in Bethel, Maine. At the time, Les was just at the beginning of his ski resort career, one which would span over four decades. He was eager and enthusiastic and saw a real opportunity at Sunday River to make it a premier New England ski resort. He saw something that others did not and had the gumption to make it happen. With Les’ unique vision to expand the Sunday River ski area, he was introduced to my family as he needed to acquire additional land as part of the expansion plan.

He purchased this land from my father, Raymond (Rugged) Chapman. I was a boy but I remember Les well and the professional relationship, and ultimately friendship, that he and my father formed. I watched him, firsthand as a little boy, see something special at Sunday River, and despite naysayers at the time, find a way to make it happen. And boy, did he.

The similarities between Les and myself are many; we both took on large-scale development efforts in the North Country around the same time with a primary goal in mind — to return much needed jobs to the community. Simply put, these efforts are not for the faint of heart — they are big, complicated, time-consuming (often far more than originally thought) and require significant investment to advance. Both Les and I are at a stage in our lives where we did not need to take on another project, especially ones that will take multiple years and require millions of dollars of our own personal investment, in order to give them a fighting chance to become a reality. But we both saw real opportunities with our respective developments, and ones that will bring good jobs to the North Country and hopefully provide a meaningful future to the communities’ residents and workforce.

Too often I had read negative news articles or heard from naysayers that, “the Balsams is taking too long” or “that it’s not going to happen.”

What a welcome this demonstrates to a man who did not need to do this, but took it on because it was the right thing to do! I am proud to stand behind what Les and his dedicated team are trying to do by revamping the former Balsams with the hope that its rebirth will put it on the map once again for thousands of families to visit and enjoy, all while providing good job opportunities to local residents.

In 2011, the North Country was fortunate to have two local businessmen step up to try and save the Balsams; Dan Dagesse and Dan Hebert. Both North Country natives, they bought the property and spent the next few years trying to find a way to reopen it, for the same reason that Les is now developing the Resort — to bring jobs back to the North Country. Despite the challenges, they hung in, and were introduced to Les in 2013, as they knew if the Balsams had a chance in re-opening, they needed someone with the right experience. Sometimes, it’s not about dollars and cents, but doing what’s right, doing something good, and these three men in their own ways have demonstrated this with their commitment to the Balsams and the region.

As the Balsams continues to advance its very challenging development, we need to acknowledge the efforts to date. The hard-work and expense that has gone into trying to develop something special and lasting for the region. I am proud to support Les and the Balsams project, and the incredible impact it will have on our beloved North Country. I ask you all to recognize the tremendous work that has gone into this development over the years, by many folks, locally and across the state. And I ask you to support Les and his team as he continues to bring this incredible project to life. No, it has not been easy, but we need to support each other and the North Country.

(Robert Chapman is the owner of Chapman Scrap Metal Recycling  and Lead Developer of the Groveton mill property.)


Once Upon a Berlin Time - 1979

Once upon a Berlin Time Poof Tardiff


Hello fellow Berlinites. How the time passes so quickly is amazing. For those who graduated in the year 1979, you are all now about 56 years old and probably can’t remember much of what took place in this time period. With a little research, I will refresh many memories with some of the highlights.

A skiing accident on Wildcat Mountain claimed the life of 17-year-old David Beers. The news of his accident came out in a Jan. 3 local paper and said that the accident had taken place on Dec. 26, 1978.

Beers loss control on the final curve of the Pole Cat Trail, skied out over an embankment and hit headfirst a large rock that was well off the course. It took the search and rescue team about 12 hours to find the young man.

Norman Rheaume of Berlin found the body of Beers. He said that during their second sweep, the rescue was concentrated on the easy slopes, because friends of Beers said that he was a novice skier. The rescuers then spent more time combing the woods along the edges of the easier trails figuring that Beers might have veered off into the woods.

As they were finishing their search at about 3 a.m., on the final curve of the Pole Cat Trail, the brightness from one of their flashlights reflected off Beers’ ski poles. They quickly went to the spot and found the young skier passed away and covered with snow.

At this point in time, Wildcat Mountain was 22 years old, and this was the first fatality that had taken place on its slopes. Today, after 60 years of operation, this great local ski area is still going strong. Sadly, these accidents do occur occasionally.

In the beginning of January 1979, Sen. Laurier Lamontagne, the great fighter for this North Country area, was appointed Senate whip. Lamontagne was also chairman of the Rules and Resolutions Committee, vice chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, a member of the Transportation Committee and chairman for the Council on Aging. Our great state senator was always looking for ways to help the Northern District of New Hampshire and always knew that this area needed better roads to prosper. A section of Route 16 locally is dedicated to this great state senator and former mayor of the city of Berlin.

The headlines in the middle of January 1979 were very bleak for the city of Berlin. It was announced that all operations at the Granite State Division of Converse Rubber Company would cease by March. News of this plant closing came early on Friday, Jan. 19, in an announcement the company made to its employees. The shutdown would put 400 area residents out of work.

According to this statement, the action was taken after the most thorough and painstaking investigation of the alternatives to the company. There were many reactions to the news that Converse was closing and all were very depressing. Most people were not ready to move out of town, but there were no jobs around here for 400 unemployed sneaker manufacturers.

Gov. Hugh Gallen indicated his support for Berlin and his willingness to do all that he could to improve this city’s dire situation. He planned to attend the annual Chamber of Commerce meeting at the New Hampshire Technical College (White Mountains Community College today), in demonstration of his personal concern for Berlin’s future. The governor also said that he would contact the congressional delegation for help and would work with Berlin in upgrading route 110.

Sadly, many families packed up and left Berlin to find jobs in other places. Some people did struggle and stay in their hometown, but Converse was not saved and finally closed its doors. The foundation of this great sneaker factory still sits today on Jericho Road where 1,100 people once made a living here in this city.

During the beginning of January, our famous Mount Jasper was mentioned as a site for archaeological excavation. Because the cave on this mountain is the only prehistoric site of its kind in the entire Northeast and because no archaeology had been carried out in New Hampshire North of the White Mountains, archaeologist Richard Gramly of Harvard University’s Peabody Museum had been busy convincing funding agencies that an intensive excavation of the cave and related sites in the valley below Mount Jasper should be conducted.

Mr. Gramly had conducted earlier minor excavations at Mount Jasper in 1975 and discovered definite proof that prehistoric Indians had mined rhyolite at the cave. He also unearthed a prehistoric worksite near the Dead River where he found 250 finished tools made of different types of stone alien to the area surrounding Berlin. At the time, Gramly suggested that this demonstrated that prehistoric Indians (Native Americans today) who mined the cave, came from distant areas.

Studies that were completed in the past months of 1978, confirmed his belief. They had shown that the stone that was used in the manufacture of these tools came from different places in Maine and Vermont.

Gramly wrote an article for an archaeological journal, explaining the results of his findings to date and saying he hoped that the publication of this piece would help earn him the additional financial support he needed for the project here in Berlin. He had already enlisted a substantial portion of the necessary funding.

Once he got the total financial backing, Gramly presented it to the city manager and city council with a detailed outline of the project’s objectives. He did not want to go in front of them before he had everything worked out and could assure the city that this project would be carried out in the best interests of this municipality and the prehistoric site.

Since the city held the title to the mountain, Gramly had to gain the support of the city council before he could begin excavating. On his visit to New Hampshire on Friday, Jan. 5, 1979, Gramly enlisted the help of a historical society in the southern part of the state and won from the Brown Company the assurance that it would provide some of the materials for this project.

At this point, Gramly was fairly confident that the excavations would become a reality. Only a few more obstacles needed to be overcome. These excavations were done later in 1979 and yielded many artifacts, which may be viewed at the public library here in Berlin. These artifacts are over 7,000 years old. Imagine what it looked like here back then.
I will continue with the year 1979 in my next writing.

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 previously posted weekly mystery


Sen. Maggie Hassan: Get health coverage: How to take advantage of open enrollment

By Sen. Maggie Hassan

There is understandably some confusion about where things stand with the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Despite what you may have heard about what has been happening in Washington, the Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land, and with open enrollment for plans covering 2018 now underway, I want to make sure that everyone has the information and resources they need to get health coverage. For a guide on what you need to know to take advantage of open enrollment, you can also visit my website at Hassan.Senate.Gov/Get-Covered.

From Nov. 1 through Dec. 15, Granite Staters have an opportunity to shop and sign up for a plan on the health insurance marketplace at HealthCare.gov. Coverage obtained on the Health Insurance Marketplace during open enrollment will be effective Jan. 1, 2018.

This open enrollment period is also an important time for people who already have health insurance plans in the marketplace to see what other plans are available, to shop around and see if other plans offer more savings than their current one does. Insurance prices can change, so it pays to shop around.

Granite Staters should also know that financial help may be available to help purchase coverage — in past years, the majority of people purchasing private coverage on New Hampshire’s individual market qualified for financial help to lower their monthly premium costs.

Every citizen deserves quality, affordable health insurance coverage to help live healthy and productive lives. Access to health care is critical to the freedom, dignity and well-being of our citizens; and it also contributes to a productive workforce and a thriving economy. All across New Hampshire, I have heard stories of families who saved hundreds of dollars a month, individuals who were able to get affordable coverage despite what was previously considered a pre-existing condition and entrepreneurs who were able to take the risk of starting up a business because of the coverage they got through HealthCare.gov.

That is why I have fought so hard to protect health care coverage for Granite Staters, as some of my colleagues attempted to pass Trumpcare legislation that would have stripped coverage away and led to higher health care costs for worse care.

It is also why I am speaking out as open enrollment begins to ensure that all Granite Staters take advantage of this opportunity to sign up for a health care plan.

Despite the Trump Administration’s continued efforts to sabotage our nation’s health care system, the health insurance marketplace is open for business. This is a critical time to educate our friends and neighbors about the options that are available to them on HealthCare.gov.

This administration’s sabotage attempts include slashing the Affordable Care Act’s outreach and advertising budgets ahead of open enrollment — outreach and advertising that provide key information and resources for those who need to sign up for care.

Unfortunately, the Administration’s efforts to sabotage health insurance markets have resulted in significantly increased premiums for the people who don’t qualify for subsidies. I’ve cosponsored bipartisan legislation that would help undo President Trump’s damage and stabilize the health insurance market and prices. The legislation also includes a special provision that would make it easier for New Hampshire to take its own steps to address health insurance costs. Because it is cosponsored by 12 Democrats and 12 Republicans, it is clear that this legislation has the votes to pass, and we need Republican leadership to bring it up for a vote.

The Trump Administration’s sabotage makes it obvious that it doesn’t want people to know that they can enroll for coverage, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, people can still get covered, and financial assistance is available for many on the health insurance marketplace. The administration must end this sabotage and we all should continue to work together on efforts to lower costs and build on and improve the Affordable Care Act. That’s exactly what I am focused on as a member of the Senate health committee.

I will continue working to lower health care costs to ensure that health care is truly available and affordable to all of our people, and encourage citizens in New Hampshire and across the country to sign up for the care that they need to help their families thrive.

The open enrollment period is a critical time for the health and well-being of our citizens, and for the productivity of our state and country. I encourage Granite Staters to take advantage of this opportunity and receive the benefits that come with affordable health care.


Ron Marquis: Reggie loses a basketball game

Back in 1966, I was a young man who worked in the woods. I came home on a Friday evening in early June after a week (Monday through Friday) at a lumber camp. After supper, my brother asked me to go down to Brown School and play some basketball with him. I was very tired but I said yes. 

We walked down the 8th Street hill and went to the outdoor basketball court at Brown School playground. No one was using the court, so Reggie suggested we play a half-court one-on-one game. He said the first one to score 100 points would be the winner. Each basket was worth 2 points. The game started when he got the ball at mid-court after he won a coin flip. If he got a basket or I got a rebound, I would have to dribble out beyond the foul line and attack from there. Usually, I would just take long shots that, back then, were still only worth two points. He could either do that or drive to the hoop. 

After nearly two hours of intense competition, I finally prevailed by a score of 100 to 96. However, I must mention two factors that had a major influence on the outcome of the game. The first one was that when he was in the act of shooting, I fouled him on numerous occasions. If there had been a referee, I would have fouled out long before I got to the 100 points. The second factor was that he was only in the eighth. grade. I was bigger and stronger. It was now 9 p.m. and getting dark. As we were walking home, he told me that he hated the feeling of losing. I told him that was the reason why he was so competitive. I also told him that he would probably go on to become a good basketball player at Berlin HIgh. 

Well, my prediction turned out to be only partially accurate because he became much more than a good basketball player. During the next four years, he scored 1,433 points and set the Berlin High School career scoring record that would last for the next 40 years. They're both gone now but he'll always remain in my heart! 


(Ron Marquis lives in Gorham.)