By Ithaca Bound
April has always been a special month to me. Yes, it is the month in which I was born, but that is only a minor part of why I consider it special. April is National Poetry Month. For me, that makes it very special. Yes, yes, I know. That makes me something of an oddball. Well, I've been something of an oddball all my life, so nothing new there.
From the time I was a young lad in grade school, though, poetry has spoken to the deepest depths of who I am and how I try to live my life. Where this love of poetry came from, I do not know. It was not a part of my family life, as far as I can recall. No one in my immediate or extended family was a reader or writer of poetry, if memory serves me. But from the time I heard or read my first poem, I knew that I had taken an "immortal wound," as the poet Robert Frost would put it, a wound from which, as he predicted, I have never recovered.
The pen name under which I write these weekly articles for this newspaper was inspired by the reading of a poem. "Ithaca," a poem by the Greek poet C. P. Cavafy (1863-1933), is a poem about the meaning of the journey of life. In particular, it is about the value of the journey in and of itself, as opposed to the actual arrival at our final destination, which, of course, is death. The translation from the Greek that I like best is the 1961 translation by Rae Dalven, and that is the one that I have committed to memory.
On its website, the Academy of American Poets has listed as one activity for National Poetry Month to set aside an April day for carrying a poem in your pocket. Finding a poem that speaks deeply to who we are and carrying it around with us to remind us from time to time of who we are is not a bad idea. My own favorite poetry is carried in my head. I have called on it many a time.
One of the well-worn books in my library is titled "Songs for the Open Road." It is a collection of "Poems of Travel & Adventure" compiled and edited by The American Poetry and Literacy Project. I bought it while on a trip to Washington, D.C. years ago, and it has gone on every journey I have made since then. My copy is a Dover Thrift Edition, published by Dover Publications, Inc. Many a handwritten addition or comment has been added to it over the years.
Of course, I have tried my own hand at writing poetry. While I would hardly compare my efforts to the great pieces of poetry that inspired it, there are a few pieces of which I think I can be justly proud. Allow me to share a few of those with you. Perhaps you will be inspired to write your own, if you have not done so yet.
On Viewing Mount Washington
"Dwelling place of the Great Spirit"/ bathed in the Sun's radiance/
Under a sky of soft blue hue,/ on this magnificent morning,/
Your mountain's majesty reminds us/ that some things are Eternal,/
That changing Time and Fashion/ do not change Eternal Truths./
Help us to so understand,/ and so to live.
A particular favorite of mine is one In "A Song for the Soul." It is how I feel about the art of song. What follows is the first verse only.
Sing me a song that is rich in its tune,/ with words of fine poetry.
None of those songs that cheapen and demean,/ sing none of those songs for me
One of my poems that I am sometimes asked to read aloud is "In A Wayside Chapel," written when I worked over at Heritage New Hampshire. Here is the first and last verse:
A few moments alone in the quiet of this place,
A few moments of rest before the hurrying pace
Of a world too busy to slow its hurtling haste,
And pause for reflection, a few moments of grace.
A few moments alone in the quiet of this place,
And then to arise, having received the grace
To re-enter the world at a slower pace,
And a worthier goal toward which to set my face.
Lest you think that every poem I write is serious in tone, here is a bit of verse that is not. It's called "Magic Elixer."
Magic elixir, cup of java,/ cup of Joe, I gotta have a
Coffee black, not diluted,
No sugar, please, no milk or cream
Add those in and I will scream,
"Coffee black! and unpolluted.
Last Updated on Monday, 31 March 2014 12:58
Once upon a Berlin Time
Hello fellow Berlinites. What does Berlin's history have in store for us from 100 years ago? There were certainly a lot of things going on in the "Paper City" back then and I will try to touch on some of them.
It was announced in the headlines of the local paper in early January of 1914 that the police commission had taken prompt action in the matter of making coasting (sliding) possible by designating Hillside Avenue as a proper and legal place for this sport.
Hillside, starting at Prospect Street (middle of hill) and the Grand Trunk Railway (just beyond today's Ming House) would be safeguarded by the police between the hours of four and nine pm daily. On Saturdays, the street would be open for coasters from 1 to 6 in the afternoon and 7 to 9 in the evening.
These hours would be sufficient to meet the requirements of the citizens of coasting age and this avenue set apart for the purpose was by all odds the best in the city.
The police commission and the patrolmen, who were employed in making Hillside Avenue safer for all sorts of sports for the young, were wholeheartedly thanked by our local citizens. Not many cars, if any, were out and about during these days 100 years ago.
Coasting must have been great during this year, because the following week the headlines read: "Berlin at 30 below zero". Yes, the first couple of weeks in 1914 had a prolonged period of intense cold and all previous records had been broken.
The nearest government station in Portland, Maine, said that Tuesday, January 13, 1914 was by long odds the coldest day since the establishment of the Weather Bureau in this city, with the temperature below zero all day.
For Berlin, it was 30° below zero without let up for several days. Along with this intense cold, the wind was very discomforting. There was a gale reported at ninety miles per hour. That was a high wind for this area.
Many shipping problems were reported on the East Coast as the ports of Boston and Portland were almost closed by ice and becoming impassable with ships. That is what is happening to the Great Lakes today (2014).
1914 was giving an excellent initiation of a cold and stormy old-fashioned winter. 100 years later, we are certainly having another taste of "Old Man Winter" and it doesn't want to let up.
By the end of January 1914, Berlin was finally appointed a postmaster. His name was Patrick J. Smythe. Smythe was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to succeed Mr. Bean, with the official news being sent by a telegram from Senator Hollis on January 28, 1914.
The selection of Mr. Smythe to replace Mr. Bean was a front page story and gave a synopsis of the new postmaster's life.
He was born in Ireland in 1857, came to New Brunswick in 1862 where he was educated and worked for a short time, before coming to Berlin and this country. Upon coming to this city, Smythe worked at the Glen Manufacturing Company and became foreman of the boiler rooms.
He also entered the social and economic life of Berlin, taking an active interest in local politics. In 1902 he was elected to the legislature as a representative from Ward 1. In 1907, he was elected city clerk, a position which he held for quite some time.
In the contest for the postmastership, Mr. Smythe had the solid backing of the local and international labor unions.
At this time, the Postal Savings Bank was established and the inauguration of Parcel Post took place. This added materially to the arduous duties of this city's newest postmaster. It sounded like the postmaster back then had a real tough job, but the men who performed these duties were equal to the task.
There were a couple of railroad accidents that took place in early February 1914, with one being fatal. I do not know why this took place, but Emil St. Hilaire of Maple Street met a serious accident.
He had been the host of a number of friends from Lewiston, Maine and in his speeding of the going a guests, he accompanied them to the railway station and entered the car. As he was saying his goodbyes, the train started and before Emil could realize it; they were going down the tracks, gaining considerable speed. So to avoid being carried out of town, Mr. St. Hilaire jumped from the moving train. When he did this, his overshoes caught in the step and he lost his balance.
When he landed, he struck his head and was found unconscious when picked up. When taken to the hospital, it was thought that St. Hilaire was dead, but in time recovered from injuries he should have never received.
Another railway accident took place at the Grand Trunk intersection with Hillside Avenue, when a man named Jim Paul, who was walking up the tracks, was struck by the night express. Paul was instantly killed in what was called a horrible sight to see.
Finally, on the lighter side of the winter 100 years ago, some 40 members of the recently organized club of stenographers an office employees gathered in Post Office Square on Saturday evening February, 21, at 7 p.m.. Why did they get together? They were going for a sleigh ride to Milan.
A large hayrack was ready to convey them to their destination and back. The floor of the sleigh had been covered with hay and a large number of blankets and robes were on hand to make the party comfortable.
Nearly everyone in the party was fitted with heavy fur coats, moccasins, etc. and the night was ideal for the trip, fun and merriment that were to be had.
On arriving at Milan, the party went to the Odd Fellows Hall, which had been made warm and comfortable. Their heavy wraps were removed and those desiring to dance were given the opportunity by Mr. John Pulsifer on the piano and Mr. Paquette on the violin.
At 11:30 p.m., the party went to the dining hall were a number of Milan ladies prepared a hot supper that consisted of oyster stew, donuts, coffee, and other items.
After the meal, a business meeting was held by this group. When their meeting adjourned, preparations were made for the trip back home, the evening having passed way too quickly.
Every minute of the trip home was enjoyed by all with the singing of favorite songs and plans being made for another good time. What a great way to spend a Saturday evening and enjoy the outdoors.
I will continue with the history of 1914 with my next story.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 March 2014 11:54
By Ithaca Bound
For someone whose only interest in sports is largely limited to baseball, the Boston Red Sox opening day game with the Baltimore Orioles, in Baltimore, next Monday, has been a long time in coming. Having a number of other interests to occupy my time and energy has made the wait much easier, of course; but still, it will be a most satisfying day when the first serious pitch of the defending World Series Champions' 2014 season is finally thrown.
No longer the surprise of the baseball world, the Boston Red Sox will be at the top of every team's To Beat list. Every series they play will almost surely find them facing the opposing team's best pitchers and a lineup of the best hitters on the other team's roster, especially so when they face the other teams in their division.
While much of last year's winning team is still in tact, three players who were instrumental to last year's success are no longer with the team. Such change is all but inevitable these days, of course, but not all change is for the better. And with opening day now less than a week away, Red Sox fans do have some cause for concern.
To no one's surprise, Jacoby Ellsbury went where the money was and signed an outrageously overpriced contract with the New York Yankees. One of baseball's finest leadoff hitters and a far ranging Gold Glove center fielder, the aloof and often injured Ellsbury may be sorely missed.
At the moment, former All-Star Grady Sizemore would seem to be on track to replace him. He is having a remarkable spring training for a man who, because of serious injuries, has not been able to play the game in over two years. The baseball season is 162 games long, not including any potential playoff games. How will Sizemore's body hold up to such a demanding grind? How many games will he be able to play?
Jackie Bradley, Jr., the Red Sox other center field option, has yet to show that he can hit major league pitching on a consistent basis. His fielding is not an issue, but that bat surely has to be of concern. Will he ever figure out what adjustments he needs to make to be an everyday player in the big leagues?
While there has been a change in the man who will be sending out signals to the pitcher from behind the plate, there would seem to be little concern over this change. The new man certainly has the credentials for Red Sox fans to be reasonably comfortable with that change. And with one of the best backup catchers in all of baseball sitting on their bench, barring injury, the team looks well set in that important position.
It's hard to imagine that the Red Sox pitchers are truly happy about the very critical position of shortstop. While young Xander Bogaerts looks to be at least adequate at that position, he is not yet the equal of (perhaps still waiting in the wings) Stephen Drew. Last season, Red Sox pitchers could be assured that anything hit Drew's way would be an almost sure out. Will the same be true of Bogaerts?
Nor have the last couple of weeks been kind to the young man's batting average, which has taken a nosedive. He, unlike Bradley, Jr., has shown an ability in the past to make quick adjustments, however. For now, then, Xander Bogaerts is the Red Sox opening day shortstop. With the still very iffy play of Will Middlebrooks at third base, however, the team's pitchers can't be too comfortable when balls are hit to the left side of the infield.
Catcher, center field, and shortstop are three of the most important positions on any baseball team. Although catching defense was of some concern last year, the up the middle positions were quite well-manned for the team's run to glory. Only catching seems certain as this year's spring training comes to an end.
Ready or not, here come the Red Sox.
Last Updated on Monday, 24 March 2014 13:25
Once upon a Berlin Time
By: Poof Tardiff
Hello fellow Berlinites. As I continue with the story of how lively the city of Berlin was back in 1904, it must be remembered that from today's Heritage Park down to Cascade, there were mills of some sort that gave employment to hundreds of Berlin's citizens, with the Cascade Mill being the newest of the paper mills and coming on line during the year that we are discussing.
As I ended last week, it was said the nearest source and most amount of labor came from Canada. This class of workers entered readily into the life of the town and made good citizens. They looked happy and worked with cheerfulness, finding life worth living in their adopted country.
They were also less inclined to look on the dark side of things than the native New Englanders. Their domestic life was in the main serene and they took an active interest in public and church affairs. A handsome brick church (St. Anne's) was now nearing completion through their efforts. The picture that shows this new church back then also had Father Louis Laplante, Pastor on the left and Father Louis Brodeur, Curator on the right.
The younger generation among them was bright and quick to learn. They attended parochial school until fourteen years of age and after this, under a wise and liberal policy, they were taught good English and the principles of government under which they lived. At the age of 14 they then entered the public schools.
In 1904, the Mayor of Berlin (John B. Gilbert) was of French Canadian descent. He was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, was well educated, shrewd and patriotically proud of his office. The city solicitor was French as well as the majority of the city Council. Four out of five members of the police force and several members of the Fire Department were all of the same strain. All were efficient and competent public servants.
French was heard as much on the streets in Berlin as English if not more in 1904. All the children spoke French and English with apparently equal ease and in their play they would change rapidly from one language to the other, as the occasion demanded.
One of the best things about Berlin was its general tone of optimism. The writer had made this remark to Mr. W. A. Boothby who was the city clerk at this time.
"There was no reason why the people here should not be cheerful", said Mr. Boothby. "They were prosperous and Berlin didn't know what hard times were anymore. When other places were pinching because there mills were shut down, or running on half-time, our mills were operating at full time. What is more, the workers were at it day and night, giving double, when three shifts were at work. This was triple the employment afforded by ordinary mills and factories".
"The citizens of Berlin realized that the mills were doing a great deal for them and were satisfied with the progress being made". One can only imagine what this was doing for the local economy and downtown district.
"They had confidence in the corporations that had been built up in town and that was a good sign that everyone was on a sound basis".
"Most people believed in local investments and in banking their money instead of letting it go west or to Wall Street, to be put into wildcat speculation. For myself, I would rather have had the 5% bonds of our local mills than other security I knew. They were as good as gold. The majority of the people here felt the same way that I did about investments". This must have certainly helped the local mills prosper.
Mr. Boothby went on to give some facts about the growth of Berlin as he saw it.
This city had his birth as a modern town in 1878, twenty-six years previous to 1904. That is when a mill for modern manufacturing of chemical wood pulp was being built here. This mill was on the west side and below the great sawmill, which was now doing a great business. The new mill was built by HH Furbish who was always considered the father of modern Berlin.
Another pulp mill was erected by Furbish and 1880 and the village that sprung up around it was known as Fibreville. This started the boom that was now (1904) bearing fruit in Berlin.
In 1883, the attention of New York capitalists was attracted to this town. With its fine waterpower and its nearness to the forest, another pulp and paper mill was being built in 1885. It was the great Glen Manufacturing Company, which was sold to the International Paper Company in 1898.
The earliest mills gave way to others until now Berlin had, besides an extensive sawmill, too large paper mills. Under construction at this same time and almost ready to start operations was another paper mill which was to be among the largest in this country by 1904.
All of these mills used spruce as their raw material and the forests north of Berlin and into Maine had a great abundance of this product.
About 3,000 people were employed by the largest corporation in Berlin at its mills and in the woods about 3,000 more earned good wages.
There was paid to the people of this city each year about $3,500,000 in wages. It may not sound like much, but in those days that meant that Berlinites were making a good living.
There were very few women and minors who were employed in the local mills, with a larger part of the wage earners being heads of families.
The Androscoggin River, for which Berlin secured its power comes out of the Rangeley Lakes and beyond in Maine and forms an elbow in the state of New Hampshire flowing back into Maine several miles below Berlin. On this elbow, at and below Berlin is one of the finest sources of waterpower in New England. The river here is winding and rocky with a sharp fall amounting over 200 feet in six miles.
The character of the riverbed in the fall made employment of the water for power an easy job. The existing mills of Berlin used about 20,000 horsepower. In the new mill (Cascade) being just about finished and below the town there would be employed about 11,000 horsepower, in a fall of 94 feet.
This new mill, that was situated at the Cascade, so-called, in addition to the power there, would employ from a fall four miles below, transmitted electricity. The new mill had a capacity of 140 tons of paper a day and gave steady employment to 400 men.
It was no wonder why Berlin was considered such a lively town, as good jobs were easy to find and people were doing a great business here. Buildings were being built downtown at a very fast pace and they were filled as soon as they were completed. I just wish that I could've witnessed this "boom".
Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 12:09
Written by Barbara Tetreault
The ABC's of Municipal Snow Fighting and Winter Roadway Maintenance
By Michael P. Perreault
We have had several snowstorms over this past winter. With last week's storm and heavy snowfall, March certainly came in like a lion. In addition to the snow, the thermometer has forgotten what warm is. Let's face it; everyone is getting tired of winter at this point! Residents are frustrated with shoveling, mailboxes getting hit, snow being pushed into driveways by the plow after being cleaned, slippery sidewalks, and limited parking due to snow banks. Municipal and state plow drivers are tired also, after working 16-32 hour shifts, coming home to tend to their own shoveling, ice, mailboxes. And then there are their spouses, who are also exhausted from doing everything solo, such as dealing with children who are acting out, because they are missing their dads or moms who work for local communities or the state keeping roadways safe.
Although it may not always look like it, there are Standard Operating Procedures for the way local communities handle winter roadway maintenance. While procedures are standard, the timing and nature of storm events are not. This accounts for much of the apparent variability in snow fighting practices. The City of Berlin maintains its streets with 7 loaders and one grader, a salt truck set up w/ plow with wing, two sidewalk tractors, a Kubota tractor and a couple of pickup plow trucks This equipment services 120 lane miles of roadway. In addition, designated sidewalks, and municipal parking lots and facilities are attended to. Berlin's primary "snow fighters" are comprised of nine Public Works crew members, four collection system members and eight solid waste crew members. Functions, like solid waste collection and responding to sewer calls, must be attended to in all types of weather. This affects the available resources for snow fighting.
The NH Department of Transportation (NHDOT) maintains State roads such as Route 16, Route 110 and East Milan Road up to the Urban Compact or town line. Berlin Public Works crews plow all municipal roads and designated sidewalks. Private roads and driveways are maintained by property owners. All of these efforts comprise our unified snow fighting effort. Sometimes we push now back and forth at each other but ultimately we all get the job done.
Every community will have a slightly different mix of personnel and equipment based on the particular town or city's individual needs. Berlin's has established nine large plow route assignments. We attempt to follow these as consistently as possible. Of course, with Mother Nature involved, it is not always possible. Each route takes approximately 4 hours from start to finish depending on visibility, traffic density and the intensity of the storm. For example, if it is snowing at a rate of 1.5 inches per hour, the beginning of a plow operator's route will have 6" of snow on it by the time the operator completes her route and starts all over.
As already mentioned, each storm is different. The roadway treatment is customized based on the type of snow and/or ice we are experiencing. Berlin uses salt and sand to treat its roads. Salt is less effective in very cold temperatures. It is not of much value when temperatures are in the teens or single digits. We have had plenty of those temperatures this year. You will notice that as the days get longer and we experience more sun, the roads tend to clear much faster.
There is a significant difference between the winter treatment of a municipal road in comparison to a state road. The NHDOT has a "bare roads policy" which realistically is not always possible, but the state does an excellent job at pursuing this goal. The reason for the "bare roads" policy by NHDOT is the high speed and volume of travel on state roads. To achieve "bare roads", the NHDOT route time is much shorter than the City's route time of 4 hours and the State must use significantly more salt than that used by local communities. It is for these reasons that State roads are typically clearer than most municipal roads statewide during and immediately following a storm.
Occasionally, storms in New Hampshire last for 20 or more hours. They can wax and wane but they keep on giving. Public works crews will be out plowing for this duration. In Berlin, our Public Works staff comes in late the night following a storm to clear plowed snow from downtown parking spaces, sidewalks, and roadway edges. This is to help the City downtown return to business as soon as possible. Subsequently the areas in and around truck routes, schools, churches and funeral homes are cleared. Barring another storm in the meantime, crews then move to residential areas of the City to pick up snow.
In closing, snow removal is top priority for the Public Works departments across New Hampshire. In Berlin, we strive to provide the best service and safest conditions possible with the resources at hand. At this point in the winter, it is understandable that patience is wearing thin, especially when we've had this much snow and extremely low temperatures! There is light at the end of the tunnel. Spring will soon be here. In the meantime, Public Works personnel will do their best to continue to keep up with the storms Mother Nature throws our way. We appreciate the patience and cooperation from residents and passers through and we are honored to be here to service you.
(Michael Perreault is the City of Berlin's Public Works Director)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 12:22