Poof Tardiff: 1976 VII

Hello fellow Berlinites. During the grand celebration of this country's bicentennial in July of 1976, the cornerstone of our City Hall was taken out and replaced. When this first cornerstone was installed in 1913, the year that our City Hall was built, Mr. Elmer Blackburn was walking along Main Street, when he noticed the crowd around the new City Hall building. Curiosity drew this 10 year old to all of the excitement to find its cause and become a part of it.

There, in the middle of all of the pile of onlookers was Mayor Daniel J. Daley. Into a tinderbox, fitted inside a cornerstone, engraved with the year 1913, Elmer watch the mayor and friends pack up a Berlin Reporter, some coins, including a shiny half dollar and lots of other items.

Then, a mason fit the cornerstone into its niche at the base of the City Hall. The mayor applied the finishing touches of the cement molding around the crease where the stones met with the trowel and the proceeding ended.

The day was sunny and cool late in the fall and people around the newly built foundations seem to be proud of what was taking place. There were also anxious to see the building finished later on.

Mr. Blackburn said that he heard the mayor say that people would take out this cornerstone and view its contents in later years, but it did not mean much to him back then. Blackburn worked with his dad selling vegetables off a cart throughout town back then. In 1976 Mr. Blackburn was an office worker at Morin Oil on Pleasant Street and on August 25, 1976 watched a new cornerstone being re-installed.

Elmer lived in Berlin all of his life and never had the urge to leave. The span of 63 years between the two cornerstone installations drifted by Blackburn unnoticed.”Time just passes on”, he said.

He remembers the days when he and his father used horse-drawn carts to market fresh cabbage, bananas and other fruits and vegetables. Elmer also drove his father's taxis (first taxi business in town) and ran himself ragged cranking those things. In 1930, Mr. Blackburn went to work in the oil business and never left. One thing that he would always remember was the installation of the two cornerstones.

In 1930, two New Yorkers decided to leave the the large metropolis with all of its crowds and come to the small northern New Hampshire city of Berlin. They bought the old Sam Lewis clothing store at 57 Main Street and started the Ben Evans Men and Boys clothing store. After running this business for over 46 years, the Evans retired on July 1, 1976. Their only son Jack who was 54 by then took over the management of the business.

The elder Evans first heard of Berlin, New Hampshire from family that had settled here. It was Mr. Sam Evans, his brother. Sam Evans opened Evans Department Store which was eventually run by Ben's nephew Channing Evans in 1976.

Although they were very hopeful about their new business, 1930 was just in time for the great depression. Mrs. Evans said that it hit them hard, as the going was tough in the beginning and they were barely making it.

Mr. Evans remembers the first day that they had opened for business in August 1930. An explosion in the Burgess Mill had just killed three men and not long after this, President Hoover closed all the banks. These were bad omens for a new business.

In 1934 business started perking up and then the big boom came at the end of World War II, when all the veterans came back home. The Evans got their dealership for Levis soon after they opened this store and then became one of the largest selection spots for sweaters.

Year after year the Evans returned to New York City to go to shows and do some buying. At the same time, they would visit their son Jack, who was in college there. After the business started to prosper and Jack returned to Berlin, the Evans were able to start taking time off and start wintering in Florida. By July 1976, with no business to look after, Mrs. Evans was cooking and gardening. They worked hard to make a living and were proud of what they did here in Berlin.

The fall of 1976 brought a centennial celebration for the Holy Family Church in Gorham. On Sunday, October 3, four hundred parishioners attended a thanksgiving mass and 140 people participated in an afternoon dinner.

The special guest for this event was the most Reverend Odore J. Gendron, D. D. Bishop of Manchester. Bishop Gendron was also the key note speaker at this dinner and he congratulated the parish along with Father Bosa a for their work in establishing such a fine church.

The church's beginnings could be traced to the year 1859, when Father O'Neill from Lancaster opened a mission in Gorham and located on the present (1976) site of Holy Family Church. In 1876, Bishop James A. Healy of Portland, established the parish mission here. At that time, all of New Hampshire was part of the Portland, Maine Diocese.

The first full time pastor was Father Maurice Charland. In 1895, Father J. E. Emerson became pastor and the construction of a new church had taken place. Five years later, fire destroyed this first church building and soon after, Emerson and his parishioners built another one.

Father Bosa stated that Father Emerson was the only past pastor of the church who was buried at the Holy Family Cemetery in Gorham up to 1976. For 73 years, this church built by Emerson served the parish until structural decline facilitated another church that Father Bosa and the parishioners dedicated as the fourth Holy Family Church on October 28, 1973.

How many people remember the swine flu immunization? People were getting sick and claimed that it was the awful shot that caused their illness.

No facts existed in New Hampshire to reflect adversely upon the credibility of the swine flu immunization program in this state. Accordingly, neither the Division of Public Health Services, or the Northern New Hampshire Medical Society recommended any deviation from the planned vaccine distribution and administration effort. So, the shots went on.

I will continue with the year 1976 and the history of Berlin in my next writing.

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 Berlin Time” on Facebook and guess at the weekly mystery picture.

Replacement cannisterReplacement canister

Evans Mr. and Mrs. BenMr. and Mrs. Ben Evans

Bosa FatherFather Bosa

Blackburn ElmerElmer Blackburn

Ithaca Bound: Fifty-three

Fifty-Three. This coming Sunday, June 5, will mark number fifty-three. That is how long my wife, Barrie, and I have been married. A long time by today’s standards, it seems. We hope for many more to come.
We had been dating for less than a year when I asked her. It was the man who was like a father to me who encouraged me to do so. My own father seldom played a role in my life - by choice he was seldom around. Herb Gildersleeve, who sang in the same church choir as I did, more or less took over. Driving home from a rehearsal one night, he said to me, “You know, that woman you’ve been dating strikes me as being a woman who would make a good wife. I wouldn’t wait too much longer in asking her to marry you, if I were you.”
I didn’t wait too much longer. As usual, Herb’s advice was right on the money. Fifty-three years is proof or that.
Our wedding was a memorable one. Both Barrie and I were members of the East Liberty Presbyterian Church, where we both sang in the choir. Built in a modified Gothic style by the wealthy Mellon family of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, (and referred to by some as the Mellon family’s fire escape), the church was also home to a much admired music program. The Sunday morning choir alone boasted fifty members, and only the finest of sacred music was heard in its chancel.
Donald D. Kettring, who was the church’s Minister of Music, directed the choir and played the organ superbly, donated his services to our wedding as his wedding gift to Barrie and me, as did Dr. Charles P. Robshaw. who was the church’s head minister. A fellow choir member also donated his services as the evening's soloist.
We chose as our wedding song Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “The Call,” from his “Five Mystical Songs,’ set to the poetry of George Herbert (1593-1633). Williams ((1872-1958) was one of England’s greatest composers, and his music has inspired much of my later life.
I recall the richness of our wedding ceremony to this day. A few years ago, a writing challenge inspired this remembrance of the occasion: “Vision in white walks down the aisle./ I stand expectant at its end.\ Ceremony now over,/ we exchange a quiet smile,/ Turn, lock arms, retrace the aisle.”
Together, we replaced ourselves with two fine young sons, each of whom, in his own way, has given us reason to be proud. To paraphrase some words of a song that I often use in my programs, “have two fine young sons to take my place. I’ll leave those sons in my heaven on earth, with the Lord’s good grace.”
May we all be able to say much the same.

Ithaca Bound writes a weekly column for The Berlin Daily Sun. Ithaca Bound is the pen name of Dick Conway. His email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Encourage Children to Choose Their Own Summer Reads

Summer is a magical season for kids – a time when they finally get to make many of their own decisions - except when it comes to reading. This summer millions of children will be slogging through a school-assigned reading list. And that may not be such a good thing.

Educators have long been aware of the ‘summer slide,’ when many children, especially those from low-income families, experience a disturbing decline in their reading skills.

Though summer reading lists are intended to prevent the summer slide, a three-year study by the U.S. Department of Education underscores the power of letting children decide what they want to read.

Researchers tracked the reading habits and test scores of more than 1,300 low-income children. They learned that children who selected several new books of their choice from 600 diverse titles at a spring book fair experienced the same positive impacts as if they had attended summer school that year.

That finding is no surprise to the Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF). For 18 years our organization has helped more than 180,000 disadvantaged children select new books to keep that match their unique interests – and get them excited about reading.

CLiF serves children in low-income housing developments, homeless shelters, and rural communities. We work with refugee and migrant children, children of prison inmates, and many other at-risk groups across New Hampshire and Vermont. We arrange fun, stimulating author visits, writing workshops, and storytelling activities given by skilled professionals who can inspire young readers and writers.

CLiF’s Summer Readers program is aimed directly at preventing the summer slide. Rural towns, schools, camps, and libraries across New Hampshire and Vermont can apply to receive a dynamic presentation by a professional New Hampshire or Vermont storyteller. After the presentation, children can browse through scores of titles and select new books to enjoy and keep.

Many of the children CLiF serves are not avid readers, and they don’t think books are ‘cool.’ Some don’t even have a single book of their own at home. But after a CLiF Summer Readers event, virtually every child rushes up to select the books that call to them. We bring books that match every interest and reading level, so even struggling readers can find what they need. Choices range from Goosebumps to Dracula, Junie B. Jones to The Secret Garden, NASCAR to Ghandi, and Magic Tree House to The Wizard of Oz.

How do the events work? In the struggling town of Berlin, New Hampshire, almost 100 children and their families attended a CLiF presentation in a municipal playground. The audience gathered on the grass and I began to talk with the children about the power of literacy and the joys of reading. I had encircled myself with a sea of beautiful new books, and made a point of highlighting dozens of favorite volumes.

“Who’s into adventure books?” I asked. “Have you guys read this one? It’s an awesome tale about...”

Together we read Sylvester and the Magic Pebble – with plenty of audience participation. Then eyes grew wide as each child was invited to select a couple of new books to keep from hundreds of titles.

Minutes after the Berlin presentation kids were scattered under trees or sprawled on the grass, transported by the timeless magic of the written word. More than a few parents stood by, smiling and shaking their heads in wonder.

Empowering kids to choose their own summer reads doesn’t mean we should ignore the classics. We should encourage kids to fall into The Hobbit, Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Stuart Little, and we should keep an eye towards ensuring kids’ book choices are developmentally appropriate.

But don’t be dismayed if you discover your child sprawled on the couch reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the biography of the latest teen idol, or Calvin and Hobbes. It all helps. When you encourage children to choose their own summer reads, you’ll be amazed how far they can go.

Duncan McDougall is Executive Director of the Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF), a non-profit organization based in Waterbury Center, Vermont (www.clifonline.org).

Senator Kelly Ayotte: Remembering our fallen heroes on Memorial Day

Memorial Day is full of big moments. Parades, flags, speeches, and ceremonies remind us of the brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live in freedom and peace. Each year, I look forward to joining with my fellow New Hampshire residents to pay tribute to these heroes. But Memorial Day is also a day of small moments and of quiet reflections that are just as important. This year, I want to encourage you to pause in your day and remember those who gave their lives in service to our great nation.

Memorial Day is a day for all ages. We mark the loss of our first American citizens as well as those brave servicemen and women whose loss is still painfully fresh for their families and loved ones. From the oldest veteran to the days-old infant, communities across the country gather to recognize that the perseverance of our nation through the ages has had a cost. And it is part of our sacred obligation to remember that cost. When we send our servicemembers to war, the very least we owe to them is that we will keep them in our hearts and minds. And when those men and women don’t make it home, we owe it to them and to their families not only to remember their sacrifice, but to ensure it is never forgotten.

Memorial Day is a day for somber reflection. That’s why, amid the noises of parades and celebrations today, silence is just as important. It is the quiet of family members standing by a headstone, laying flowers and straightening a small American flag, an insignia of the resting place of their heroic father, son, daughter, or mother. It is the pause in conversation when those longing for the presence of a fallen hero know that words are unable to express their grief.

Memorial Day is an opportunity. While we observe Memorial Day, let’s pause to reflect on the liberties and privileges we hold as citizens of this great nation. Our liberty and ability to live freely is continually preserved by those who have bravely served and sacrificed so much. We must never forget that our freedom is not free. And there are still those who are unaccounted for – we must do everything in our power to bring them home and bring their families closure and peace.

Memorial Day is a day of commitment. Let’s also take today as an opportunity to recommit ourselves to delivering care to our veterans, which they rightly earned and deserve. When our servicemen and women make it home, their service should be honored and appreciated. Veterans should never have to jump through hoops to receive timely and efficient care, and I will not rest until this problem is fixed.

Memorial Day is a day to remember. We cannot forget the men and women of our armed forces who are still serving their country and defending our freedoms. Although today is a day to remember those who we have lost in the defense of our nation, so many still serve. We pray for their safety in the face of danger, and count the days until they return home.

Whether it is in a moment that is big or small, public or private, loud or quiet, I encourage you on this day to find time to say what must be said of our heroes who are currently serving abroad and those we have lost—we will forever remember you and be grateful for all you have given for your fellow Americans.

Kelly Ayotte, a Republican from Nashua, represents New Hampshire in the United States Senate.

Poof Tardiff: 1976 VI

Hello fellow Berlinites. The talk about town in the beginning of July 1976, was the fear that the city of Berlin could lose its second largest industry, the Converse Rubber Company. All of this worrying was due to high absenteeism, It was so serious that Union Local 75 issued a letter asking union members to help save the plant.

John O'Neill blamed cheaper priced footwear produced in the Far East, were labor costs were a fraction of what they were here in the USA. As we all know, the fight was eventually lost and Converse moved out of town because of other reasons, to include the ones just mentioned.

Yes, before it was Food Trend or Irving, the store on the corner of Pleasant and Green Street was called Dairy Queen. By 1976, the Pleasant Street store had come under new management and reopened for business, after two years of closed doors and empty tables. The new manager was Clara Cantor of Young's Trail Park in Milan. She was going to lease the building for one year and go from there.

After cleaning up the establishment, Miss Cantor said that her customers would soon have choices of fish sandwiches, hot dogs, super and regular chili dogs, a steak sandwich, three different sized hamburgers, french fries and onion rings. For dessert, there would be all sorts of ice cream delicacies. This new Dairy Queen would employ twelve part-time workers and eight full-time employees. Sadly, this business did not last too long.

Construction of Berlin's new Androscoggin Valley Hospital started its first phase on Tuesday morning August 10, 1976. This city's newest hospital was scheduled to be finished 22 months later, as officials signed a waiver construction contract on Wednesday, August 4, 1976.

President Richard Greene said the waiver to start work before the formal closing was necessary because HUD regulations normally did not allow work to commence until the formal closing on the loan for construction had been completed. The primary contractor for this $6,199,000 construction project was Salter Corporation of Augusta, Maine.

Longtime Berlin dentist Doctor Edgar Johnson retired after 37 years of practice here in town. He stopped working on September 1, 1976. Johnson's teenage years in this city revolved around sports football, baseball, basketball and track. It wasn't until he graduated from Berlin High School in 1933 and entered the University of Maryland that he began to grasp that his career would not consist of tackling, swinging, throwing and running, but of drilling and filling.

After graduating in 1939, Dr. Johnson started his practice upstairs from the Wilson pharmacy (Office Products in 1976). Like many other young professionals at this time, Dr. Johnson was consumed by the Second World War and served with the Marine Corps for three years.

When he came back to Berlin, the doctor set up his practice and 53 High St. and four years before his retirement, moved to 135 High St. It was here in Berlin that he raised his family and practiced his livelihood as a dentist and many of his former patients were grateful for this.

The final segment of this story is dedicated to a great band that once existed in this area. The name of the group was “Oak”, but when they played at clubs and concert halls in the mid-1970s, they brought with them palm trees for decorations on the set. This rock group with three Berlin boys in it during 1976 (Randy Labnon, Rick Pinette, Brad Atwood) came so close to the big time that they could taste it.

They were a very famous local group that was going to cut a record and in the midst of negotiating a contract back then, their manager Brad Atwood said that Oak was hopefully headed for the big time and a step up in the income bracket.

This group consisted of five musicians back in 1976 each with a unique ability. Randy Labnon played the flute and saxophone, sharing the lead spot with another Berlin band member Richard Pinette. Rick played the keyboard and wrote most of this group's songs. Brad Atwood was the drummer and manager. From Portland, Maine came Carl Corsen. He was the lead guitarist and stage personality. The last member was Bruce Noell of Falmouth, Maine, who played bass guitar. This group of young musicians had been together for six years and had quite a large following by 1976.

During the end of July 1976, Oak wowed their audience when they performed at the Notre Dame Arena. The local people just love the concert that they put on.

So, with the encouragement of many, this group migrated to New York in search of bigger and better things. They cut a demonstration tape and knocked on the doors of 15 record companies. They showed great interest and wanted to produce more songs, but they needed the right company

Then, they went to California, where the music industry was based. They thought the competition would kill them, but they were really loved out there. It was here that they were offered two record contracts, but they wanted bigger companies.

Brad said that there was very little money in making records, as the company made most of the cash. After selling a six dollar album the group made nine cents a record and with five members to pay, it was difficult. Atwood reiterated that the money to be made was after a big hit. Then the group could up their price for concerts and command more money for performances.

Making records was also a difficult project, and required long hard days doing the song over and over again day after day. Concert playing could also wear out the musicians, as it took a lot out of them. The continuous traveling from one place to another could also be tiring on each band member, causing unneeded arguments.

Audiences generally felt that rock musicians along with the glamorous lifestyles were drug abusers and drinkers. Brad Atwood said that he was straight as a new cut board and always busy to an inhuman extent.

Trying to get gigs through his booking agents was also something that kept the bandleader busy. In August of 1976, the band had been booked until November and of course, they were dreaming of the single cut that would put them over the top.

As great as they were, this local group finally had to disband and find other ways to make a living in the world of stiff music competition. I personally know that Randy Labnon is still around and works for the Town and Country Motor Inn. Rick Pinette has passed away and was a minister at the time. I do not know what has become of the other musicians, but some one must know. They must all be in their 60's by now.

I will continue with the year 1976 in my next writing.

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 and the weekly mystery pictures.


Johnson Doctor EdgarDoctor Edgar Johnson

Cantor ClaraClara Cantor

AVH 1Androscoggin Valley Hospital