The Need for Transparency

By Garry Rayno
Distant Dome

Public officials and other notables never learn: It is not the crime, but the cover-up that will get you every time.
From Nixon’s Watergate to Martha Stewart’s insider trading, the cover-up brought them down, not a third-rate burglary or the actual stock trade prior to a major corporate announcement.
While not on as big of a stage, the Croydon school board is dancing on a very fine line by refusing to release the names of those who contributed to the board’s legal defense fund.
The courts ruled against the board’s use of tax money to send a handful of their students to a private school, including its chair’s two children and her nephew. The town’s school teaches kindergarten through fourth grade, and the town contracts with the Newport School District to provide education for fifth through twelfth grades.
By sending students to private schools, the school board is establishing a school voucher program, something defeated by state lawmakers numerous times.
To fight the state attorney general’s ruling that prohibits the use of tax dollars to send students to private schools, the board established a legal fund and sought donations. To date, the board has refused to release the names of people who contributed to the fund, citing a law that does not apply to a legal fund for a public entity and the privacy rights of the contributors.
Newly appointed Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut didn’t disclose that he contributed to the fund when he was nominated to the post earlier this year by Gov. Chris Sununu, although he sponsored legislation last year supporting Croydon and backed the board’s cause as a gubernatorial candidate.
He publicly said he contributed earlier this week after Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, D-Concord, asked him directly if he had.
With the blessing of Sununu, lawmakers are soon likely to approve allowing communities without schools of their own to send students to private and religious schools and the issue will be mute.
But that does not address the question of who contributed to the legal fund.
The issue is accountability and the public’s right-to-know who is influencing decisions made by public officials.
Finding out who pulls the strings of influence of lawmakers is becoming more and more difficult with the advent of “advocacy groups” that do not have to publicly name their contributors.
Political candidates and their political action committees do have to release the names of contributors.
Education or advocacy groups are forbidden from contributing or actively working for or against candidates, but many push the limits to the breaking point and often have a political counterpart for the direct contributions.
For example, Americans For Prosperity fought Medicaid expansion in New Hampshire and continues to oppose its reauthorization. While the group did not endorse any candidates, it worked very hard to defeat the Republican state senators and House members who supported the Affordable Care Act program.
Americans For Prosperity has continually pushed business tax reductions, the repeal of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), and right-to-work legislation, but does not disclose who its donors are although most of the organization’s money comes from the Koch brothers.
Another group, Cornerstone Action, actively worked to defeat last year’s bill outlawing conversion therapy to change a teenager’s sexual orientation. The group opposes Common Core, and advocates for school vouchers, pro-choice legislation, parental rights, religious freedom and limited government.
As part of its advocacy, it taps into national groups whose members are more than willing to send emails and make phone calls for their positions.
The group organized an email and phone effort against the transgender rights bill that caught the attention of Republican House Speaker Shawn Jasper, who worked successfully to defeat the bill after the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee voted 15-2 to approve the bill before the House vote.
Several House members noted most of the emails opposing the bill were from out-of-state residents and not their constituents.
The advocacy groups are not only on the right side of the political spectrum, but are also on the left.
One such group, Granite State Progress, advocates on many issues before New Hampshire lawmakers, from raising the minimum wage to opposing repealing the need for a concealed weapons permit.
Another group, NH Freedom to Marry, helped push through same-sex marriage several years ago and continues to monitor attempts to change the law.
Neither group has to disclose its donors.
The problem is transparency.
Who is influencing Granite State legislators, executive councilors, or even the governor in crafting policy and laws for New Hampshire?
Groups like the Business and Industry Association have members so you know who they represent, as you do with NEA-NH and other labor unions or groups representing auto dealers and restaurant owners.
A national group, the Marijuana Policy Project, has fought for years to at least decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis, with an eye to eventually legalizing its use.
Public opinion polls show legalizing marijuana is supported by a majority of state residents, yet the attempts to reduce the penalty for possession to the equivalent of a parking ticket has failed to either pass the Senate or the governor’s desk.
Why? Because the NH police chiefs association has opposed it and worked hard to convince lawmakers of its position.
In the past, liquor brokers had a great deal of influence with lawmakers as did the race tracks and railroads.
There used to be the university mafia that advocated for UNH and the other public, higher-education institutions.
And there used to be the influence of the Union Leader, Concord Monitor, Foster’s Daily Democrat, Nashua Telegraph and WMUR, but no longer.
People lament the influence of money in the political system, particularly at the national level, but small states like New Hampshire are not immune from the massive amounts of money now being spent on elections and influencing policy, laws and regulations.
Small states like New Hampshire are very susceptible to outside money as well as the legions of volunteers the advocacy groups attract to knock on doors, make phone calls and man booths at events.
Several years ago, the state Senate tried to make advocacy groups who were mailing negative brochures against candidates disclose their donors.
The subcommittee gave up trying to make any meaningful change after many months of work, having found it difficult to legally separate the American Cancer Society or Easter Seals from those dumping thousands of dollars of last-minute attack pieces against a candidate.
This session, three Republican senators — Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, and Sens. Sharon Carson and Dan Innis — have introduced Senate Bill 33, which will modify the definition of “political advocacy organization” to include any group that spends over $5,000 and refers to a clearly identified candidate or candidates.
The Senate Election Law and Internal Affairs Committee voted 3-2 to recommend killing SB33, but the Senate voted 14-9 to pass it with five Republicans joining nine Democrats to send the bill to the House, which has yet to act on it.
This is “Sunshine Week,” when news organizations try to shed some light on information that government tries to keep from the public.
If SB33 passes the House, maybe a little “sunshine” will illuminate some of the dark money flowing into the state to influence elections.
More work needs to be done to shed light on the money used to affect policy and laws in New Hampshire, because that requires a change at the federal level and that is not going to happen any time soon.
(Garry Rayno’s Distant Dome will explore a broader perspective on State House – and state – happenings. Over his three-decade career Rayno has closely covered the NH State House for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Foster’s Daily Democrat. His column is sponsored by Manchester Ink Link and InDepthNH.org.

Poof Tardiff: 1949 IX

Hello fellow Berlinites. After all the hoopla that we had a couple of weeks ago about the refurbished Nansen Ski Jump, the Olympic star Sarah Hendrickson and her historic jump, a great story about jumping was printed in an October paper of 1949.

The city of Berlin was awarded a top ski event for January 21-22, 1950. It was the National Combined Championship in both jumping and cross-country, which was awarded to the Nansen Ski Club. This championship meet was the most outstanding combined event awarded by the National Ski Association to any club at this time.

The jumping and skiing would be held at the great 80 meter ski jump on the Berlin-Milan Road and arrangements were made so that skiers from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Canada and the United States would compete in this event The Nansen Ski Club had already begun work on the big hill to make it as smooth as possible and dug out the bottom in order to enable the jumpers to reach their maximum distance on the hill.

Also, the club had laid out the cross-country course in 1947 that was about 12 miles in length. This course ran from the big jump towards Milan, over Milan Hill, towards, Copperville, around Cates Hill and back to the place of origin. This course had been carefully measured in order to meet the specifications governing cross-country skiing in the entire world. The path was one third uphill, one third downhill and one third on flat land.

According to the previous runners in the past two winters, the Berlin track was recognized as one of the best laid out courses in the United States. By October of 1949, the Nansen Ski Club was already working hard on this championship event, in hopes of making it the most interesting meet in the East in 1950. The club felt that this could be accomplished in view of the fact that the field of competitors would be so large.

During a Sunday afternoon October 16, 1949, the Birdie Tebbetts All-Star baseball game was played here at the Memorial Field and it was a huge success from a spectator standpoint, but not monetarily. The weather was ideal and the big leaguers put on a great show, as did the local players.

The major-league baseball players acted as professionals both on and off the field while they were in town. There were a credit to the game of baseball, as our Berlin youngsters were impressed and their idols did not let them down.

“The Bowladrome opens eight modern bowling alleys on Glen Avenue”. This was the headline in Berlin's business news on October 13, 1949. “For a bang-up time try the new C+S Bowladrome”, which opened on October 12, 1949. This building was a two-year project, built by Alfred “Chubby” Willette and Gerard “Sam” Morin, with the help of relatives during off-duty hours, evenings and Saturdays.

It was a completely new modern building with a rustic knotty pine interior. The structure was air-conditioned for summer and also heated for winter comfort.. The building which was 105 feet long and 45 feet wide was well lighted with overhead florescent fixtures. There was also a well-equipped refreshment bar where ice cream and soft drinks were served. Also, ample parking space was available for afternoon and evening bowling.

Mr. Willette who was popularly called “Chubby” and Mr. Morin named “Sam”, were both veterans of World War II. Mr. Willette served with the Navy Seabees and Mr. Morin with the US Army Infantry. Following honorable separations from the Armed Forces “Chubby” went to work for Lavigne's Red Wing express and Sam for the Brown Company.

This great bowling establishment on Glen Avenue went down in a mass of flames on March 26, 1974 and was in the same location as today's (2017) Verizon Cellular on Glen Avenue. It was under different ownership by then.

The local police station, which was on Mason Street in 1949, was making the headlines in the late September 1949, when the Police Commission wanted an addition added. After Councilman Laurier Lamontagne had voiced strong objections against the city spending money toward any addition to the police station during this year, the council voted to refer the matter to the Finance Committee.

The communication from the Police Commission to the Council read as follows: “Owing to the inadequate and unsanitary condition of space for our Meter Men and great need for more locker room for police officers, storage room and rooms for the attorneys who have had no available room to interview their clients at court time, we are herewith submitting for your consideration and approval, a set of plans for a proposed addition to our present headquarters”.

After a motion to refer the matter to the Finance Committee, Councilman Lamontagne stood up and began speaking against making the addition this year. After a brief discussion with Mayor Toussaint, the councilman had apparently realized that the matter was only being referred to the Finance Committee and agreed to hold off his comments until this committee had reported.

In his brief statement, Councilman Lamontagne explained that the Meter Department needed additional space. He said that he was in favor of this addition, but the city could not afford it until 1949.

Earlier in the meeting, the Council had heard a recommendation from the Police Commission in connection with a proposal to enlarge the police station, to install parking meters. It read: “We respectfully suggest that the parking area adjacent to the Police Headquarters be put in the proper shape and that parking meters be installed. This would eliminate any all day parking and others who used this much needed space for storage”. Parking meters seemed to be the answer to parking problems back then.

There was also more urgency about our Police Headquarters that was brought up by Councilman Leo Leblanc. As a member of the Health Committee, he explained the unsanitary basement quarters in which the parking meter crew worked. He said that if he were the Health Officer, this place would have been condemned right away.

The Health Officer was asked his opinion after checking out the situation and said that certainly the quarters downstairs in the Police Station were certainly unsanitary and the locker rooms were too crowded.

The general impression by the Health officer and the Councilmen was that although the Police Department was unsanitary, the citizens of Berlin had not yet reached the moral level which would not require a Police Department, neither had the city's financial state taken on enough weight to stand the shock of even thinking about building a new Police Station. That building was formally the Cole School, built in the late 1800s and is a parking lot today next to the Citizen's Bank.

I will continue with the history of the year 1949 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 at the posted weekly mystery pictures.

Tebbetts BirdieBirdie Tebbetts

Police Headquaters Mason StPolice Headquarters Mason St

Nansen Ski JumpNansen Ski Jump

Lamontagne LaurierLaurier Lamontagne

Distant Dome by Gary Rayno


With new administrations in Concord and in Washington D.C., a long-running Broadway musical comes to mind — Promises, Promises — a play about power and lust.
Voters have to wonder whether promises made during the heat of the campaign will be kept as the long, complicated legislative process unfolds.
But in Concord, perhaps, the more appropriate question is: “What promises made by past legislatures and governors will be broken by this legislature and governor?”
Promises made by past legislatures may be and often are changed by future legislatures leaving a trail of tears for anyone — public employees; cities, towns, school districts and their taxpayers; service providers, and state contractors — who believes they have a permanent deal with lawmakers.
For example, state employees were promised free healthcare when they retired if they served the state for more than 10 years as retired State Police Major Ernie Loomis likes to remind lawmakers.
Around the turn of the century with state finances hurting, lawmakers doubled the service time to 20 years for free healthcare.
Slipping revenues later meant retirees under 65 years old had to pay a portion of their health premium which is now close to 20 percent.
Co-pays and deductibles were added, but the state continued to pay “Medi-gap” insurance for retirees over 65 years old at least until the latest budget proposal was unveiled.

When new Gov. Chris Sununu presented his proposed budget last month, retirees over 65 years old will be expected to pay half of what he called a $12 million shortfall in the account.
The current two-year budget did not fully fund the cost of older retirees’ healthcare resulting in the shortfall.
The next two-year spending plan is not finalized and changes may be made.
More broken promises
Another trail of promises broken in the proposed budget involves the state’s hospitals and the Medicaid Enhancement Tax.
The tax was instituted in the early 1990s to use federal money to balance a state budget several hundred million in deficit.
The state taxes hospitals for services they provide, and uses the money to match federal Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) funds intended to help health facilities that provide a significant amount of free or what is called uncompensated care.
After the federal match, the state returns the money to the hospitals. New Hampshire literally reaped billions of federal dollars over the years from what was known as Mediscam.
With many states using the scheme, the federal government clamped down and required the money going back to hospitals to actually reflect the uncompensated care they provided so it was not necessarily revenue neutral as some hospitals receive less than they gave and others more.
But when budget resources tightened in 2011, lawmakers kept most of the money for other purposes and the hospitals successfully sued claiming the tax was unconstitutional. Rehabilitation centers also sued successfully.

Former Gov. Maggie Hassan’s office negotiated a settlement that guaranteed smaller hospitals would receive at least 75 percent of their uncompensated care and larger hospitals 50 percent. Any left over money had to be used for healthcare services for the poor.
With the agreement, hospitals agreed to drop their constitutional challenges and to continue to pay the tax.
According to the settlement, hospitals are projected to pay taxes of approximately $236 million in fiscal year 2018 and $243 million in fiscal year 2019.
The DSH payments were expected to be at the cap established in the settlement of $241 million per year.
However, Sununu’s budget allocates $166 million for each to the next two fiscal years, and Steve Ahnen, president of the NH Hospital Association said that potentially puts the state in violation of the settlement agreement.
“We will work with the governor and lawmakers as the budget moves forward to address these concerns and the significant risks to the state and patient care of not budgeting in compliance with the settlement agreement,” Ahnen said in a statement.
Translated: “If you don’t live up to the agreement, we’ll be back in court where you lost twice.”
Speaking to lawmakers after he presented his budget, Sununu said there is disagreement over the amount of uncompensated care the hospitals provide.
This will be interesting to watch as the budget progresses.
Cities, towns on their own
Cities and towns, however, do not have the court system as a back stop when the state breaks its promises to them.
The state — until about a decade ago — used to pay 35 percent of the state retirement system contributions for municipal, school and county workers. The state agreed to contribute to grow the system to make it more robust and stable.
However, when state revenues plunged into the nether regions during the financial crisis brought on by bad mortgages that nearly tanked the country’s and the world’s economy, lawmakers first cut back its contribution and then eliminated it, saving the state tens of millions of dollars by shifting the burden to local property taxpayers.
During the same financial crisis, the state also eliminated revenue sharing with cities and towns.

When the state overhauled its tax system under former Gov. Walter Peterson in the 1960s, the stock and trade tax that benefited local communities was eliminated. As part of the bargain, communities were to receive $25 million in revenue sharing money including 40 percent of the rooms and meals proceeds.
Over time, the $25 million never increased and the percentage of rooms and meals revenue dwindled until the 1990s when former Sen. John King of Manchester shepherded a bill through the legislature to begin restoring the municipal share of the tax.
The restoration stopped in the financial crisis about a decade ago and then revenue sharing was eliminated.
Cities and towns also have not always received the state’s share for water and sewer projects.
Under the Clean Water Act, the federal government used to pay 75 percent of water and sewer project costs, but that was eliminated under former President Ronald Reagan and instead states were given grants to establish revolving loan funds, but states still have to pay their share of the costs.
Federal programs that pay to repair damages from disasters such as the Alstead flood or the tornado that ripped a path from Deerfield to Freedom, require a state and local match.
‘Used to pay’
The state used to pay the local share but once again has been slow to reimburse communities as it has for two flood control projects. Massachusetts, which is the chief beneficiary of the projects, is supposed to reimburse communities for lost property taxes on the land taken for the projects. Massachusetts seldom pays but New Hampshire used to cover what towns were owed, but stopped doing that until recently.
The legislature has also reneged on promises to school districts. The state settled a lawsuit over education funding brought by Laconia and agreed to pay more for schools under the Augenblick formula, but never fully funded it.
The state once paid a percentage of school building and rehabilitation costs ranging from 50 to 75 percent depending on the number of communities in the school district.
That program was suspended during the last financial crisis, but reinstated recently. But — you guessed it — without adequate funding to add more than one or two new small projects a year.
And the state has not increased funding for the formula put in place due to the Claremont education lawsuit for a decade while the disparities between rich and poor districts and the educational opportunities they can provide their students grows.
Remember while lawmakers are balancing the state budget, all these broken promises to cities, towns and school districts raise local property taxes.
Cities, towns and school districts are not the only ones to feel the pain of broken promises, those who receive state help are affected too.
When the Laconia State School closed, the state set up area agencies to ensure the developmentally disabled would continue to receive services in their communities. Much like the state’s decentralization of its mental health system when the old New Hampshire Hospital campus was closed, the localized programs received awards and were models for other states.
However funding levels slipped over time and a waiting list for developmentally disabled services grew as those turning 21 years old moved from the local school district’s responsibility to the state’s and continues today. Sununu proposes adding millions of dollars to eliminate the wait.
Mental health morass
Inadequacies in the state’s mental health system prompted clients and the federal government to successfully sue. Not only did the state fail to provide adequate mental health services at the local and state level, but many seriously impaired have had to wait in hospital emergency rooms for an opening at the state hospital, the suit claimed.
An overseer tracks the state’s progress to improve its mental health system. Progress is being made, but not at the speed envisioned in the agreement.
Lawmakers will determine how much additional money goes into the system and that can keep yet another promise from fruition.

Poof Tardiff: 1949 VII

Hello fellow Berlinites. Berlin and Gorham fire fighters battled a forest fire which had burned through an area on Enman Hill for more than 24 hours.

The fire started on Tuesday, August 23, in the mid-afternoon and was fought by at least 40 men until 10 pm on that same day. It was believed to have been started by people who were picking berries above the Cascade reservoir. The wind got hold of the flames and carried the fire toward Berlin and Gorham. A trench was dug around to keep it from spreading beyond control.

After the men had brought this fire in check above ground, they found that it began burning underground. The firefighters who fought this fire all day Wednesday, had to turn the sod to stamp out the underground fire. They also had to break a small dam to get the necessary water down to the fire. Firemen were led by Forest Fire Warden and Berlin Chief O.B. Bergquist.

A sad accident took place in Berlin, when two-year-old Paul Demers drowned at Upper Church Street on Wednesday, August 31, 1949. Paul and his twin brother Andre were playing at the edge of a swimming hole which was located in a field about one hundred feet from the paved portion of Upper Church Street. When the mother noticed that Andre was alone, she became alarmed, as the twins were always together.

Mrs. Demers hurried to the nearby swimming hole attracting neighbors with her yells. Mr. Edward Roy pulled the boy from the water and along with other neighbors tried in vain to revive the young lad.

Meantime, the fire department and an ambulance arrived at the scene a few minutes later and a respirator was used. Two doctors, Dr. L. P. Beaudoin and Dr. Paul Dumontier also aided in the effort to save the boy's life, but the young fellow had been in the water too long.

This swimming hole was said to have been dug out by Mr. Frank Demers years before 1949 to provide a source of spring water and when it proved to be inadequate, it was used as a swimming hole. It is always a great family tragedy to lose a young child like that.

Headlines in an early September paper stated that Notre Dame High School reported a record registration. Berlin's parochial school “On the Hill” reported its largest enrollment since its foundation in 1941. There were four hundred boys and girls that signed up at the office of the new headmaster Sister M. St. Priscilla.

With a Masters degree from Boston College and a doctorate in the art of oratory from the Staley College of the spoken word, Brookline, Massachusetts, Sister Priscilla, for the past eight years was a professor of English journalism in this and the speech arts at Revere College in Nashua, New Hampshire.

The following week it was noted in the headlines that about 3,443 boys and girls had enrolled in Berlin's schools. The opening enrollment for Berlin's parochial schools was 2,358 and for the public schools, it was 1,085.

One of the most interesting events of the 1949-1950 school year was the opening of the new St. Patrick's School on Blanchard Street. Visitors and students declared it to be one of the best looking and most completely equipped schools in all all of New England back then. At this time we had 11 schools in Berlin. They were: Notre Dame, Berlin High, Berlin Junior High, St. Regis Academy, St. Patrick, Angel Guardian, St. Joseph's, St. Benedict's, Brown, Marston and Bartlett.

The North Country and Berlin were saddened on September 19, 1949, with the death of Mr. James E. Laffin who was 70 years of age. Mr. Laffin was the oldest active employee in the point of service for the Brown Company. His death occurred Monday morning at his home in Shelburne, New Hampshire.

Mr. Laffin was a chief scaler with our beloved Brown Company and joined this organization as an employee in 1896, before Berlin became a city with a Mayor and Council.

During his first few years working for the then Berlin Mills Company, Laffin did all types work in the Kennebago, Maine area, where he gained the experience and knowledge in a career that he was to follow the rest of his life.

In 1900, he became clerk in the Kennebago District and the next year took over the duties of clerk of accounts, supplies and equipment at the Brown Farm in the Magalloway, Maine. Remember that all the wood that was cut back then was sent down the brooks, rivers, across lakes and finally to the Androscoggin River to the mills of Berlin. Some of this wood made a journey of almost 100 miles.

Laffin later served the company in the Redington District of Maine, where they maintained a storehouse for long log operations at the Madrid sawmill.

During the years 1908 to 1910, when the company was operating in Cambridge Town, New Hampshire, Mr. Laffin clerked at the storehouse and on the Umbagog Lake Drive. During the building of the Millsfield, New Hampshire railroad, he handled all of the orders and deliveries of supplies for the construction of this logging railway and for the logging jobs in the area.

For five years, beginning in 1912, Mr. Laffin was in charge of accounting for the ordering of supplies for the Fitzgerald Land and Lumber Company, a subsidiary of the Berlin Mills Company with offices in Island Pond, Vermont. In 1917 he became superintendent of the company's Vermont operations.

The following year he was named as an instructor and auditor for woods clerks, but in 1919 returned to logging operations as superintendent of the Little Magalloway River and Aziscoos Lake District.

In 1924-25, when the company maintained few woods operations, Mr. Laffin was one of a group of woods department people who went to New York to work in advertising and sales programs to promote the sale of the Nibroc paper towel.

Mr. Laffin returned to the woods in 1925 to supervise experiments in the coloring of wood in living trees. During these experiments, he invented a method of impregnating the circulatory system of the tree with color.

In 1927, Mr. Laffin accepted the position of chief scaler. During his service as chief scaler, Mr. Laffin wrote “Instructions”to Scalers”, which became a field manual for scalers in the Northeast.

Mr. Laffin had no children and was survived only by his wife Mary Ann. He is buried in the Calvary Cemetery in Berlin. I am sure this man could have related an abundance of early login history stories in this area.

I will continue with the year 1949 in my next writing.

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

Notre DameNotre Dame

Laffin James EJames E. Laffin

Dumontier Dr. PaulDr. Paul Dumontier

Chief OB Bergquist 1Chief OB Bergquist

 

Poof Tardiff: 1949 VII

Hello fellow Berlinites. It was announced on July 7, 1949, that the newly built Memorial Field at the end of Willow Street would officially open on August 14, 1949, the anniversary of VJ Day (Victory in Japan). The featured guest would be Senator Styles Bridges of New Hampshire.

The preliminary plans for the opening of Berlin's newest field were made at a meeting in the Mayor's office at City Hall on Friday, July 1, with the plans being completed at a meeting that took place two weeks later on July 15.

Aside from the talk by Bridges, the tentative plans included a parade during the afternoon, call to colors and planes maneuvering over the field during a part of the ceremony. The parade would begin at Berlin Mills, march down Pleasant Street, over Green Street, Second Avenue, Hillside Avenue and Willow Street to the field.

The Memorial Field would be dedicated to the Berlin men who lost their lives in the two World Wars. The event itself would not include any baseball game or others sports, those could be played at night.

At the dedication on August 14, 1949, a stone memorial was placed, with a plaque that read “ Memorial Field. This field is dedicated by the people of Berlin in memory of those who made the supreme sacrifice in defense of their country”.

This great dedication took place on August 14 with all of the events that were scheduled. The dedication and great parade was witnessed by thousands local citizens. I am sure that we still have a lot of citizens who remember this outstanding event.

Another headline about the Memorial Field stated that “Progress was being made on the Memorial Field house”. This would be the building which stands in the right-field corner of the field. Good progress was reported on the volunteer field house project. It was expected that the outside of this building would be practically completed by the end of July.

The directors of the Berlin Clubs Athletic Association, sponsors of the project, had received excellent cooperation and made a statement that read as follows: “Greatest credit goes to the workers who are giving their time to erect this building. The officials of local 75 AFL are to be congratulated for their success in organizing the various crews”.

Also, local merchants were cooperating by providing material at the lowest possible prices. In addition, the Brown Company, who provided the basic building, also helped in obtaining materials.

The Parks Commission and the Public Works Department provided valuable assistance also. The truck used to move the basic building sections from the Burgess Mill yard to the Memorial Field was provided at no cost by Lavigne's Red Wing express.

The directors of the Berlin Clubs Athletic Association also wanted to thank those who had helped in any way. Now that the completion of this field house was no longer a matter of speculation, it was hoped that everyone would continue the good work and that more people would take this opportunity to render service to the community.

Of course, this building still operates at the Memorial Field, but I think we almost lost it to a fire some years ago. Does anyone remember this fire or did I dream about?

A September 1, 1949 headline in the local paper said: “Labnon Twins set out on road to Broadway”. Yes, Berlin's twin entertainers took their first big step to fame and fortune on September 5, when they began doing shows in a Lewiston, Maine nightclub.

They were entertaining for the love of making people laugh and tap their toes, but this time they were doing it for money. Their nightclub skits were first of a high-hat, cane and gloves routine. Their many Berlin fans new it as the “Al Jolson Act”.

Ray and Bob Labnon were booked for two weeks at this Lewiston nightclub. If at any time they proved they were ready for this type of entertainment, they would automatically be booked in other nightclubs.

If, however, either of these boys or their audiences did not feel that they were yet ready to sink their roots into the entertainment world, they could take advantage of one of the several college scholarships offered to them for their basketball skills.

The tall tuneful twins were twenty years old in 1949 and they had their hearts set on show business ever since they were twelve years old. Through the years, as people knew back then, they sang and danced purely for the the enjoyment of making people happy. “As long as they smiled, we were happy”,said the twins.

They graduated from St. Pat's and then Berlin High School in 1948, then attended New Hampton Prep School for boys. While there, college scouts were attracted by the manner in which they could handle a basketball and offered them scholarships.

Then, along came word of a big amateur contest that was to be held in Franklin, New Hampshire. Among some of the prizes, Columbia Studios was offering auditions before highly classified talent scouts.

The Labnon Twins entered, won, auditioned, were liked and received a booking. The talent scouts suggested that a dance routine should be added to their present act to better enable them to break into show business. The twins accepted the suggestion and started working out a new routine.

Bob and Ray issued a statement which read: “We certainly are very much grateful for the way the people of Berlin have encouraged us. The many wonderful comments have inspired us to stay with it. If luck does remain with us, we certainly will never forget the wonderful people in the city of Berlin”.

I do not know how many years the”Short Twins” entertainment but Bob is still with us and if anyone sits down and talks with him, it is possible that they could get “The Rest of the Story”.

I will continue with the interesting year of 1949 in Berlin with 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 friends of “Once upon a Berlin Time” on Facebook and guess at the posted weekly mystery pictures.

Memorial FieldMemorial Field

Labnon RayRay Labnon

Labnon BobBob Labnon

Bridges Senator StylesSenator Styles Bridges