Hello fellow Berlinites. The year 1974 saw a name change for our old St. Louis Hospital, but it would be a few more years before we actually had a new building. A new sign was placed in front of the old hospital on Main Street showing the new name as being Androscoggin Valley Hospital. The sign was made by Floriam Bourassa, a Brown Company worker, being placed between the St. Regis Academy and the old hospital.
Plans were being made to celebrate Randolph's 150th year of existence which took place in 1824. Townspeople considered this many years of history enough to celebrate, so a sesquicentennial celebration was being scheduled for Saturday, August 3, 1974. A medal was designed and produced for sale to mark this event. I will write of this celebration as I come across it in the old newspapers. How many people still have their medals?
A boating accident claimed the life of a young Berlin girl in May of 1974 and caused Chief Conservation Officer Arthur Muise great concern. Worried about the bunch of canoeing accidents of the recent days in the North Country, one of which took the life of 16 year-old Linda Guerard in the Mollidgewock area, where the waters of the Androscoggin River were thirty-eight degrees, issued a warning.
He said that life preservers were made to be worn and not stashed under a seat. Muise also said that most of the seventeen people involved in the accidents on the weekend of May 11 and 12 were not wearing life preservers, including the young Berlin girl who lost her life. These accidents still happen today for the same reasons that officer Muse explained over forty years ago.
In May of 1974, a public hearing was held on a proposal that eventually resulted in more than a $1.2 million project. This project scheme would first rebuild the dam on the Androscoggin River just below Pontook Reservoir, build a road across the river using the dam as a base and develop a camping area to include an estimated 20 campsites, beach, picnic tables, boat launches and more.
After many months of wrangling and other major problems, the Pontook Dam did finally get built. Needless to say, some compromises had to take place, as today (2015) there is no road across the dam. A campsite area was not built, but a great parking lot and boat access did become a reality. Also there was no beach built like there is up at Jericho Lake Park.
Many canoers, kayakers and tubing enthusiasts do use this area as a starting point to go down the river and many also use the boat launch to travel up into the waters of Pontook. With something this huge, concessions must always take place and in this case they did.
The Berlin Police Department was making headway in the technology field, when they received a new piece of equipment which helped put them one more step ahead of fighting crime in the end of May 1974. It was called a telecopier; this machine electronically sent and received photographs, fingerprints, charts and documents over a telephone line. It would be similar to today's fax machines. Back in 1974, this almost sounded like science fiction, but it was now here in the "Paper City". This device went into operation on June 3 of the year of which I am writing.
If the police wanted to get pictures of a convict who had escaped from the state prison in Concord, they would call Concord police, who also had a telecopier and put their phones into the respective machines. This was another step forward in communications said former Assistant Marshall Carl Giordono, who is seen in the accompanying picture with the new piece of equipment. Before this gadget came into existence, it would take a few days to get all the information and pictures needed. With a telecopier, it took just a short time.
This machine came to the BPD by way of the Federal Crime Commission funds and was here on a one-year trial basis. Things have certainly changed in forty-one years and with the new technologies that our police officers have, information gets to them almost instantly.
Our huge paper mills of the Brown Company in this city were certainly the reason for our existence, but in 1974, their struggle to keep operating hit another of many bumps in the road and many people just didn't see the problem arising.
The Brown Company, who had just embarked on a $12 million program to combat water pollution (which we certainly needed) in Berlin and Gorham at its mills, was encountering some opposition to the plans.
It seems like a Cascade resident was upset because the pollution control construction took away a playground in the area and a petition was signed by some residents to save this part. This $12 million program had been just started as part of a $28 million project by the Brown Company to clean up the air and water in the area. This meant that separate treatment facilities would be planned, one in Berlin on the east side of the river and one in Gorham at Cascade Flats.
Construction of the new sewer lines and lagoons was scheduled to start in the summer of 1974 with a permit given by the Environmental Protection Agency. This was conditional on meeting a time schedule for completion of the treatment facilities, so time was of the essence.
The schedule had called for part one of the program to start by May 31, 1974 and required the system to be operational in mid-1975. So, as one could see, even though the Brown Company was trying to keep up with the requirements of the EPA, local problems would arise with many of their pollution undertakings. All of this came at a cost for a company that was struggling in a city that was trying to clean up, keep its mills and remain in existence. .
How nice it would've been for the Brown Company to slowly clean up their act and the employees to keep their jobs in the paper mills. This was not going to happen though, as they sold their mills to James River six years later and by 2006 all the mills in Berlin were no longer operational.
I will continue with the year 1974 in my next story.