Last week's column ended with a comment on Valentine's Day and a promise that more on February's abundance of special days would follow. Well, a promise made is a promise to be kept, if at all possible. What follows is the promise kept.
As noted in last week's article, Valentine's Day will probably include little more than dinner out at one of the many fine restaurants in the area for my wife and me. We have larger plans for the end of the month, and there will be more on that in another couple of weeks.
Monday, the 16th of February is President's Day. Unless Congress has changed it recently, the day is still officially considered Washington's Birthday, as far as I know. But for some reason or other, it would seem that we are suppose to consider all our presidents, instead of just the one. Of course, in the popular mind and in some depictions, only the heads of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are represented.
What the day really is about, as far as I can see, is which automobile manufacturer can offer the best deals on their "hot, hot" lineup of cars. Everything is "hot, hot" these days, from bikini-clad babes on the covers of glossy magazines to the sleek-bodied chassis of cars whose drivers can thumb their noses at posted speed limits with little fear of hearing sirens and seeing flashing blue lights through their rearview mirrors. "Hot! Hot! Hot!"
Tuesday, the 17th of the month is Mardi Gras, which means Fat Tuesday. That means "Have your fill of fun, folks, because the time of sacrifice follows on its heels." How much that really means to many of us these days is, as you surely know, a matter of some debate. Sacrifice is not a word we Americans like to hear. Heaven help the politician -or anyone, for that matter - who utters it.
Thursday, the 19th of February, brings us Chinese New Year, a colorful time of celebration featuring some of the most fantastical costumes one is ever likely to see. This year is the year of the lamb, or goat, or ram, take your pick. Every site I visited listed all three. The Chinese zodiac certainly has its share of interesting animal signs. Since the zodiac sign for my birthday, which is in April, is the lamb, it looks as though this is going to be my year!
The 19th of February is also the day that Thomas Edison patented the phonograph in 1878. Hmmm. Not sure what to say about that. Think I'll heed the words of the proverb that says "Silence is golden."
The 19th was also the day that saw "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" debut on television, back in 1968. While Fred Rogers' wonderful program could get a bit too sweet at times, it offered some sound thoughts on how to truly live one's life that ought to be part of everyone's daily doings. Children were not his only audience.
One of history's most useful inventions came on the 20th of February 1870,when Charles Forster, of Massachusetts, began to market his mass produced single use toothpicks. While some form of the toothpick had been around for centuries, Forster came up with the idea of mass producing them while on a visit to Brazil, where he saw the locals using slivers of wood for the purpose. A marketer par excellence, Forster thought he saw his opportunity to make a fortune. Have you ever said to yourself, "Now why didn't I think of that?"
In a society that demands instant gratification, Edwin Land was only a little bit ahead of his time when he issued his Polaroid camera on the 21st of February in 1947. An instant camera invented by one Samuel Shlafrock, in 1923, while workable, was evidently too complex to be commercially successful. And instant gratification in picture taking had to wait another 24 years to become a reality.
Oh, and it seems that yesterday, the 9th of February, the day this article was written, was Clean Out Your Computer Day. Since mine was running slower than I do these days, I set to work doing just that immediately after sending this article in.
More on February next week.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 13:58
An idea is rapidly gaining force around the country, finding support across the political spectrum. Red states Arkansas, Alaska, South Dakota, and Nebraska voted last November to join bright blue cities like San Francisco and Oakland in its support. Pres. Obama and Mitt Romney have both expressed support and Gov. Hassan added it to her agenda at last week's inaugural. Liberal icon Ralph Nader and the Pied Piper of the right, Grover Norquist, have even teamed up to advocate for this measure. All these forces aligning can mean only one of two things: the netherworld has, indeed, frozen over or a good idea transcends political ideology. While our weather might suggest the former, it's actually a good idea that's shifting the political winds: The idea is that American workers deserve a raise and that increasing their wage can achieve many of the shared concerns of both Republicans and Democrats.
After watching the legislature during my four years away, I didn't suffer any illusions about the challenges facing my most important piece of legislation this session, a House Bill to create a livable wage for our New Hampshire workers including those who make tips. This bill will raise wages to $14.25 over a three-year period and set the tipped minimum wage to the same level over a four-year period. Every year thereafter, if this legislation passes, the wage rate would increase according to the Consumer Price Index. This will take thousands of workers out of poverty and save tens of millions of dollars in public services.
Although states have voted directly to raise the minimum wage from its paltry $7.25 ($2.13 for tipped workers) and support for an increase enjoys the support of over 70% New Hampshire voters, there has been a deep political divide over this topic, stalling attempts at the federal level for more than six years while Speaker O'Brien completely eliminated the New Hampshire minimum wage during the 2011-2012 session.
Consider for a moment, why the creation of a livable wage can bridge the divide between the parties. Both sides want to create jobs. Both want to move folks out of poverty. Both want a robust economy with opportunities for all. In fact, many of the goals of Republicans and Democrats are the same. The divide is in how to get there.
This isn't pandering. It is rational economic policy, well supported by numerous studies and concrete results from states that have raised their minimum wage. Every business owner worth his/her salt knows the simple formula to expanding business and to hiring new employees: more customers must have the ability and willingness to buy your product or service. Setting aside whether you have something to sell what folks want, the ability of a consumer to buy your product is in large part determined by his or her financial resources. This is why three out of five small business owners support a livable wage.
Let's face it; nobody can actually live on the $7.25 federal minimum wage. Even worse is the $2.13 minimum wage that employers of workers who make $30 or more a month in tips are allowed to pay their employees. There are 27,000 tipped workers in New Hampshire comprising ten percent of our workforce, working in six of the ten lowest paid occupations in our state. These workers are disproportionately women, one third are single moms. Tipped workers are twice as likely to fall below the poverty line, in fact the median wage of combined tips and hourly wages for tipped workers in New Hampshire is $8.00 per hour. These workers are also three times more likely to require public services such as food stamps, housing assistance, and fuel assistance, for example than workers who make a more livable wage.
The economic arguments of opponents of these measures have largely been debunked. Aren't most people earning minimum wage teenagers doing their first job? Seventy-two percent are no longer in their teens and fully 36% are 30 or older. Fourteen percent of minimum wage earners are parents and 59% are women. Twenty-one thousand children in New Hampshire have a parent who would get a raise if the minimum wage were increased.
There are no compelling economic reasons for failing to set a state floor of livable wages. It has not been academic studies, but facts on the ground in states that have raised their minimum wage that proves this. Most recently, economists at Goldman Sachs, hardly a liberal think tank, reviewed the data on thirteen states whose minimum wage was increased in 2013. That they found was that in states where the minimum wage increased there was faster employment growth than in those whose minimum wage remained depressed. It makes simple economic sense – more people with more money in their pockets means more customers for more goods and services, most notably at the local level where we need it most.
For more information on how to help pass this important legislation, please contact your senator and representatives a www.gencourt.state.nh.us
About Jackie Cilley: Born in Berlin, New Hampshire, Jackie Cilley was raised with four siblings in a third-floor walk-up tenement before graduating from Berlin High School. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees from UNH and has served as an adjunct professor at the Whittemore School of Business and Economics since matriculating from there in 1985. In 2004 she ran for a seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives and won, serving one term in the House before being elected twice to the New Hampshire Senate, representing the 6th District from 2006 - 2010. In 2012, she ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination for Governor, losing to Gov. Hassan. She was re-elected to the New Hampshire House in 2014 where she serves on the Committee on Executive Departments and Administration. Rep. Cilley was recently named by veteran NH political reporter John DiStaso as one of the "'Most wanted' NH Democrats for the 2016 presidential campaign.
Last Updated on Saturday, 07 February 2015 00:17
Once upon a Berlin Time
Hello fellow Berlinites. I will now finish with my short history of the year 1946.
During the end of October, the new "Our Lady of the Mountains" school for girls in Gorham announced that their first open house would take place during the beginning of November. 114 young girls from Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York, were now pursuing courses of study here. Among them were over 20 girls from Berlin. Courses covered were at the elementary and high school levels.
In the end of October, a testimonial commemorating the magnificent achievement of the "L'Ange Guardian Credit Union" (Service Credit Union 2015), which in 1946 reached its million dollar mark, was held. It took place at the Hotel Costello with Ernest R. D'Amours, New Hampshire's Attorney General as the guest speaker and Joseph Dumont as toastmaster. Reverend Bissonette and Reverend Leclerc represented the Guardian Angel parish as Father Bousquet, pastor since 1921, was unable to attend because of illness.
This bank was founded in 1929 by Father Bousquet in the interest of the wage earner and the small businessman. Under his leadership, it progressed in leaps and bounds. The credit union was organized to develop habits of thrift, by making small, regular savings; to provide from the savings a source of credit for the members and to educate the membership in financial matters. This credit union, which is on Berlin's East Side, achieved all of these aims.
The success of this enterprise was due largely to the generosity of its officers and the board of directors, who had served for 16 years without compensation. In 1946 the officers were: Reverend O. F. Bousquet, honorary president, Joseph Dumont, president and Thomas Bellefeuille, treasurer. The Angel Guardian Credit Union has been serving the citizens of Berlin for almost 86 years.
The Berlin House, which stood on Exchange Street for over 70 years and burned down in August of 1961, was saved through quick intervention of the Berlin Fire Department in November of 1946.
After someone threw a cigarette into a wastepaper basket in the cocktail lounge of this local hotel before closing time, a fire erupted which could have easily destroyed this building. It was because of the efficient and prompt work of the Berlin firemen in mid- November 1946 that the structure was saved.
The original alarm came in at 11:26 PM, when the building was full of people. The fire had spread from the lounge to the petition between the first and second floor to the third floor. It was at this point that the fire produced some great heroes besides the local firemen. Somebody awakened the guests and locked doors were broken into. With this 110 people were brought to safety.
Sgt. John Davis of the local Army recruiting station donned a gas mask and rushed through the heavy smoke to the third floor where he found a man lying unconscious on the bedroom floor, overtaken by smoke. Davis dragged him out to safety where he was revived.
A 15-month-old boy was brought to safety by way of the second floor fire escape and onto the ground by a human ladder. This human ladder was formed by police and firemen stepping on each other's shoulders and completing a 10 foot gap between the fire escape and the ground. Several other guests were also rescued in this manner.
Fear struck the guests who had stepped out onto the second floor fire scrape, but order was set in by Miss Adrienne Morin. Morin was a local teacher who had the presence of mind to stop the guests from jumping off the fire escape to the ground. She advised them to wait for help, as they were in no immediate danger and the frightened guests complied. Soon the firemen and police officers came to their rescue. Several more people became heroes, as they aroused more people and guided them down to the safety of the lobby.
The all out signal was sounded at 1:26 am, but the firemen remained there on duty all night. With out a lot of heroes, this fire could have been a real tragedy for the city of Berlin. 15 years later, this city's once famous hotel succumbed to flames.
During the last month of December 1946, Berlin was still being plagued by robberies and thieves, when Charles Doyle, a watchman at the Cascade Mill gate was assaulted. Doyle was hit in the head with a club on Thursday night December 19, 1946, as he attempted to stop two men in a red pickup truck from going into the mill yard. Mr. Doyle was admitted to the St. Louis Hospital for his injuries.
One of the two men was caught and arrested on a charge of aggravated assault. This Manchester man was bound over to the spring term of Supreme Court and released on bail. The second person had yet to be caught.
By the end of December, the newspaper headlines reported that robberies in the area were the work of a small gang. "Berlin, a comparatively peaceful city of a short time ago seemed to have become a rendezvous for roughnecks and its citizens were showing more and more concern, as the number of breaks in homes, commercial and business establishments had increased".
The list of robberies and break-ins were numerous from local residences, stores, garages, to people walking out on the street. Police Chief Walter Hynes expressed the belief that the gang was operating with a car, because of the ground covered. He asked the cooperation of all citizens to report any suspicious characters to the police without delay. Maybe I will find out more of this story when I probe into the history of 1947.
On the lighter side, the Brown Bulletin reported that the famous surnames of Smiths and the Jones had to take a back seat at our local paper company as the top last names. This was also true for the Browns. The up and coming family names in 1946 that had topped the ranks of most widely used ones across the nation were outnumbered on the Brown Company front.
Compared to the Roys, they didn't stand a chance. They also had to take a backseat to the Croteaus, the Gagnes, the Coutures and the Bilodeaus. The Cotes, the Roberges, the Landrys and the Bouchards, also surpassed these famous surnames.
What chance would the Joneses' vote of two have against the 48 Roys, or the Browns three votes with that of the 29 Croteaus. That is the way employees of the Brown Company lined up with regard to surnames back then.
If one browsed through a list of employees of the Brown Company in 1946, what name appeared most often? The Roys of course, as they far outdistanced all the other names. As mentioned there were 48 of them, along with the 29 Croteaus that worked there.
There were 10 other names that appeared at least 20 times, they were Gagne, 26; Bilodeau, 24; Cote, 23; Roberge, 23; Landry, 22; Bouchard, 21; Johnson, 21; and Morin, 21. If your name was Belanger or Bergeron, Dube or Oleson, you had plenty of company. There were 18 of each of these names that worked for the paper company in Berlin.
Back then, the clans of Arsenault and Dion had 17, while Boucher, Gagnon and Montminy had 16, with Coulombe, Fortier and Provencher being represented by 15.
At the "Lucky 13" mark were the Baillargeons, while there was an even dozen of Andersons, Hamels, Hansons, Morneaus, Ouellettes and Parents.
What about the Smiths, well they were ahead of the Joneses and the Browns, but they fell behind the Alberts, Gauthiers, Lamontagnes, Lapointes, Leclercs, Rousseaus, Routhiers and Therrians. These last names had 11 each and the Smiths at 10 and were tied by the Bedards, Christiansons, Fourniers, Lamberts, Lemieuxs, Pelchats and Therriaults. This was almost 70 years ago when Berlin's population was about 20,000. How times and names have changed since then.
Last Updated on Thursday, 05 February 2015 13:42
It has been a few months since my last report as things have been somewhat quiet. The state of our city is financially sound. The present members of the Berlin City Council, pretty much volunteers who receive only a $750 annual stipend, have their collective ears to the community. To a person, they work for the city with open minds and no hidden political agendas, and work for the best interests of ALL. I bring this up because of the 8-1 council vote in favor of applying for federal Homeland Security grant money for a emergency response vehicle for the Berlin Police Department. It has taken nearly three decades, but today's Berlin Police Department is as highly respected a department locally as I can ever remember. The three commissioners, Gerry Nault, Tony Urban and Steve Griffin, along with Chief Pete Morency and his upper management team know the community and also know the imminent dangers we face. This is NOT the old Berlin of the 1970s and 80s. We are sadly reading far too many times lately the obituaries of young people who have died of unnatural causes. The tasks of the Berlin PD are daunting and the pressures of performing their jobs in this law enforcement agency that has not faced an expensive lawsuit in over 15 years - a testament to the rigorous training and the fact that today, the Berlin police commission is hiring officers of high moral and ethical backgrounds.
This issue of the emergency response vehicle, or BearCat, is as overblown as the NE Patriots "Deflategate". First of all, this vehicle won't be an additional vehicle in the BPD's fleet. It is replacing a very old converted-over bread van that is actually costing us good money to keep on the road and is much more dangerous to our responding officers. Honestly, how many times have any of you seen this van? Twice or three times...maybe? The training and tactics of the Emergency Response Team are already in place. Law enforcement personnel from Berlin, Gorham and the Coos County Sheriff's Department make up the fist responders in a crisis situation, anywhere in Coos County. Much like a fire, an emergency situation is measured in minutes. The notion that somehow the National Guard can be mobilized on a moment's notice to meet an immediate life and death emergency, as suggested by some folks, in this multiple deployment atmosphere, is unrealistic. The Citizens Oversight Committee (COC) has already met to lay ground rules on its acquisition, should we be successful in the grant. First of all, there are two versions of this vehicle. One, is the advanced tactical model, with all the offensive firepower that can be built. The City Council would not have supported that version. The second version, or the "medivac" model, has zero offensive capabilities. It will be equipped with internal stretchers, oxygen equipment and first aid supplies. It will not contain the items that a reasonable person would find threatening in any way. The vehicle will be painted black. The COC has taken its responsibilities very seriously. There will be future meetings on how this vehicle will be used, its maintenance schedule and annual costs, and deployment records.
It is quite sad that the letters of Mr. Eric Catman are so off-base. It is quite obvious that he will be running for mayor this fall and Berlin should more than welcome his challenge. We all should read the minutes of the January 19 minutes that he references. They can be found on www.berlinnh.gov. Nowhere do I make any statements that disparage any citizen or group of citizens. Mr. Catman, who certainly appears to have very anti-goverment views at all levels, is trying to "fix" problems that don't currently exist. Mr. Catman has run for office many times here in Berlin and elsewhere in the country, and has been extremely unsuccessful each and every time. He spews of corruption but never points out a single incident.
I'm not perfect, but my heart and soul are with my home city, Berlin. Our city council has much to be proud of in the last five years, but there still is much to be done. Look around, we are in much better shape today than when we took our initial oaths of office. We have kept a steady tax rate, have made some very tough and unpopular decisions, but have made new infrastructure investments without blowing holes in our finances. I have prided myself in knowing the intricate financial map of Berlin, because I pay taxes. Because I was born and raised here, I have many family members who still live and own homes in Berlin. They are elderly, on small social security pensions, but pay their property taxes on time every time. Those are the types of people who built Berlin and are shouldering the challenges of huge employment losses we've faced in our manufacturing sector. I'm very proud of my background and the work that the Berlin City Council has done in the last five years. This year, we will begin rebuilding Main Street from The White Mountains Community Collage all the way to Good Shepard Church. It will be project that will cost in excess of $3 million dollars, but the recent tax revenues from utility properties will more than cover the cost of this work. With the able bodied leadership of City Manager Jim Wheeler, we are finally able to map our a very successful new course for Berlin. In Berlin, government works very well.
Last Updated on Monday, 02 February 2015 23:34
For a month having only twenty-eight days, February has certainly made the most of her modest allotment of time.
Yesterday, as surely everyone knows, that furry little weather forecaster from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the groundhog known as Phil, had his brief time in the limelight. Phil's record as a weather forecaster has not been too great over the years. (I'll refrain from making comparisons with the pros.) Regardless of what his shadowy presence may foresee on the 2nd of February, Spring is always still six weeks away. Sorry about that, Phil, but enjoy being the center of attention for a short while and having all the fuss made over you. You'll be back in your hole underground soon enough, which is probably where you'd rather be anyway. Some of us thoroughly understand. "Far from the madding crowd." Got it!
Ironically, the men and women who make their living forecasting weather have their day just three days after Phil has his. Yep, Thursday, February 5, is Weatherman's Day. Or, to be more politically correct, Weatherperson's Day. (At least, I don't think that there is a separate Weatherman's Day.) Unlike Phil, however, professional weather forecasters haven't any hole in the ground to retreat to when they are wrong. (At least, I don't think they do. I'll have to check that out.)
One of the most popular board games ever created first went on sale in stores on the 6th of February in 1935. Many a pleasant hour was spent by millions of us over the years playing Monopoly, I'm sure. I know it was a popular pastime in the house where I grew up. Parker Brothers made a fortune out of that game.
If you are an avid reader, as so many of us are, two of the most beloved authors of all time were born on the 7th of February. Charles Dickens, whose "A Christmas Carol" is second only to the Nativity story itself in popularity at Christmastime, was born on that date in 1809. "Little House on the Prairie" authoress Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in 1867.
The Boy Scouts were founded on the 8th of February back in 1910. Our older son, Erik, gained much of his identity through his participation in the Boy Scouts. When we were living in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, he was a member of that town's very active troop. He earned his Eagle Scout and then his Order of the Arrow. He was a counselor at the major Boy Scout camp in the area.
For a time, I was also active in his troop, serving as its president. During my tenure, the group's scoutmaster and I were able to organize a trip to West Point for the troop, where we were able to camp over night, watch the mustering of the various cadet classes and attend the Army and Boston College football game.
Oh, and before I forget, we're not quite done with weather yet. In addition to Groundhog Day on the 2nd and Weatherman's Day on the 5th, the National Weather Service was founded on the 9th of February in 1870. Northern New Hampshire-born Thaddeus Lowe played a role in the Service's becoming a reality.
Abraham Lincoln, the man often considered to be America's greatest president, was born on February 12, 1809. For many years, Lincoln's birthday was celebrated as an event in and of itself. Now it is lumped together into something called President's Day, although that day is still officially listed as Washington's Birthday, in honor of the nation's first president, George Washington.
The 14th of the month is, of course, Valentine's Day. I suppose Valentine's Day is the 'biggie' of the month for most of us. Normally, it would be for Barrie and me, also. But this year is different. More on that in another column.
Well, as you can see, we're only halfway through this event filled month. More on that next week.
Last Updated on Monday, 02 February 2015 23:33