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Ithaca Bound: Appropriate Remarks

Tomorrow, 19 November, marks the 151st anniversary of one of the most significant events in American history. No, it wasn't the day of some tide-turning battle in which tens of thousands would take part and thousands would be killed, wounded, or in someway scarred mentally or physically for the rest of their lives. The battle had taken place five months earlier.
Rather, tomorrow is the anniversary of a day of solemn ceremony memorializing the fallen of one of the bloodiest battles in American history. By now, surely, you know of what I write. It was on the 19 of November 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln, after listening to the two-hour oration delivered by the day's principal speaker, quietly rose to deliver the few "appropriate remarks" he had been asked to make on the occasion.
His "appropriate remarks" were few, indeed. But in the little over two minutes that he spoke, he spoke words that have been long remembered long after the words of the two-hour oration delivered by the day's famed speaker have been forgotten. For it was Lincoln's few well-chosen words that got right to the heart of the day's meaning. His address to the gathering on the Gettysburg battlefield and ultimately to the entire nation was - and is - a clarion call ringing through the ages reminding us of what this country was meant to be and what it still awaits full fruition in being.
When I was young lad attending grade school, memorizing certain pieces of literature was part of the learning of the day. Among those pieces was the address given by Lincoln on that Thursday, 19 November in 1863. Whether such memorization is still required in school, I do not know. (If such memorization is not required any longer, it should be, in my opinion.) I do know that to this day I can still recite Lincoln's words from memory. Surely, many of you can also. If not in their entirety, at least in part.
Some years ago, I was part of a group of Civil War history buffs that took a five-day tour of Civil War battlefields that included Harper's Ferry, Antietam, and Gettysburg. Led by a historian who knowledge of those battlefields was extraordinary, the tour was one of the most memorable of the long life I have been allowed to live. His insights brought each of these historic places vividly alive - a "You are there!" moment.
I remember walking with him across the wheat field at Gettysburg, where some 14,000 Confederate soldiers emerged from the woods on the afternoon of the 3 of July 1863, and began their ill-fated charge across almost a mile of open field toward the Union position on Cemetery Ridge. I remember hearing the booming of the cannons and the whizzing of the musketry as the shot and shell sought out their human targets. The cries of the wounded and the dying rang in my ears.
On our last day in Gettysburg, we all stood not far from where Abraham Lincoln delivered his few appropriate remarks, the major theme of which concerned his reminding us all that this country was founded on the principle of human equality. His few remarks were thus far more than appropriate on the 19 of November 1863. They remain so to this day.
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. .

Last Updated on Monday, 17 November 2014 15:34

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The New Standard

Recent news has suggested a need for a new standard in post-secondary education. There is one, and it's closer to home than you think.
Issues surrounding post-secondary education have recently appeared in the news; the rising tuition costs and the subsequent student loan debt have prompted colleges and universities to devise plans to retain students. One institution has even partnered with a big corporation to create a free education for employees, and the President has initiated a number of plans to help student loan borrowers manage the tremendous amount of debt they have accrued. Regardless of the headline, the news seems to revolve around the same issue in higher education: the exorbitant tuition rates.
A recent letter to the editor suggested the need to develop a lower cost, alternative education plan. As a former high school English teacher, I heard the same requests in the hallways and from parents. My family discusses how much we wish we didn't accrue so much student loan debt regularly. The same issue keeps appearing - whether it is in the news, a public forum, in the hallways of our schools, or around our kitchen tables: it doesn't have to be this way, and there has to be a solution.
They're right: affording a college education doesn't have to be such a roadblock, and there certainly is a solution, however, this solution needs to become standard. And the standard should be to first attend a community college before attending a larger university or college. This new standard needs to be addressed by parents, grandparents, teachers, guidance counselors, peers, and politicians.
If you are involved in the decision making of a young adult's future, don't rule out the option of first attending a community college. This option allows for students to test the waters, to see what is available, and to receive a degree. Most traditional students will then transfer to a four year institution to receive their bachelor's degree. At which point, they are more mature both personally and educationally, as well as learning to be fiscally responsible having saved thousands of dollars.
Community colleges were once seen as merely a vocational institute that prepared individuals for jobs in the trades. Today, they are far from that. Community colleges offer a wide range of academic options; whether it is in the trades, humanities, sciences or technology, a variety of programs beyond the technical approach are available. These institutions also recognize the desire and appeal of receiving a four-year degree, and partner with larger institutions to make transferring easy and seamless.

From my experience, the standard in post-secondary education has always been to rush right off to a 4-year college upon high school graduation. My mother did while my father was serving our country. My sister followed suit and studied at an in-state university. Then came my senior year; while my twin brother was feverishly flying through applications, I, on the other hand, was feverishly trying to find a way to tell my parents that I had not yet even looked at one option. In the end, I followed suit: I applied and attended college, because that was the standard, and I was told I didn't have any other options.
I used to hear from my former students that they weren't quite sure if they were ready to go to college, and I told them they probably weren't. What 18-year old is ready to take out enormous loans, live away from their parents and make decisions on their own regarding their education, their social lives and their independence? Many of my students shared that they had to go: their parents, much like mine, didn't want them to stop furthering their education. Many students wanted to go only because of the freedom college presents to teenagers. I also heard on a few occasions that school personnel were pushing students into four year institutions rather than attending trade school or community college.
The biggest concern however, is the stigma placed on students choosing to go to a community college by both their peers and school of record. For some reason, making a financially responsible decision has been branded as the last resort. Students fear the image of attending a community college and not a big name college with a big price tag. School administrators also like the image of their senior's attending big name schools. What teenagers and administrators don't care to think about is the enormous amount of debt young people can accumulate by making these choices. These are the exact reasons why the standard needs to change, and that standard needs to be that one starts their education at a community college. Eileen Collins, George Lucas, Amy Tan, Jim Lehrer and Steve Jobs, among many other successful and inspiring people, all began at a community college.
Today's college-bound students have a variety of options that won't force them to step off the stage at graduation and step into an enormous amount of debt. In fact, many community colleges are lowering their tuition rate while big name universities are increasing it. White Mountains Community College, along with its sister schools in the Community College System of New Hampshire just lowered its tuition by 5 percent. The mission of community colleges throughout our nation is to provide a quality education at an affordable price. And "quality" is not to be taken lightly. Many community college professors have their PhD's. Countless have worked directly in the field in which they are instructing, providing real world, hands-on experience to our future industry leaders. Which is not to say that those teaching at four year establishments are not equally as well versed in their studies, but more so, that most have been just that: a professor, having spent little time using their discipline, and thus lacking first-hand knowledge of their field. Today's college bound students have grown up with technology, have acclimated to the changes in student centered, differentiated instruction, and have gotten their hands dirty in learning. They need to be able to do the same when continuing their education, and community colleges pride themselves on not only the classroom experience, but lab and field work.
While the desire to live away from home can be a teenager's priority, the idea of buying a home, supporting a family and helping to get our economy back on track should trump the independence. Otherwise, what will they be working for once they receive their degree? Surely, a hefty student loan bill will not provide the satisfaction that a family, home ownership, financial freedom and a strong career can. After all, success depends on you, not your Alma Mater.

Kristen Miller learned the hard way about financial responsibility at 18 and through multiple adventures and transfers in college, accrued an enormous amount of student loan debt. While she doesn't regret her decisions, as they have formed who she is today, she wishes to share with communities that there are multiple options for students seeking a college education. She is an admissions counselor at White Mountains Community College, was a former high school English teacher, and lives in North Conway with her husband, daughter, and dog. In her spare time, you can find her gardening, skiing, or spending time with her family.


Last Updated on Monday, 17 November 2014 15:30

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The Brown Company Band

Once upon a Berlin Time

Hello fellow Berlinites. I noticed in the local newspapers recently that a group of musicians who call themselves "The Berlin Jazz Band" were going to give a performance locally at the arts center here in town.

This reminded me of Berlin's earlier days when most of our musicians were also papermakers. The newest band that now plays in the area has been in existence for about 27 years and has had many great North Country musicians playing in it, who decided to get together and entertained our local citizens while playing mostly music of another era.

I wrote a story many years ago, talking about the "Paper City Musicians" who entertained the people of this area and beyond in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

It all that started when a group of Scandinavians with musical talent, who worked at the Berlin Mills Company, got together and formed a band called the "Normana Band" in 1892. A man named Gus Anderson organized this group which played mostly "oom-pah" music.

Shortly after 1900, another band composed of Berlin Mills Company employees was formed. At this time, the Sulphite Mill had been built and the Cascade Mill was just about ready to go online.

At this time, the town of Berlin had doubled in population and was now a city. This new group was known as the "Oleson City Band" and again consisted mostly of talented Scandinavian musicians. They were also an "oom-pah" band and probably had some members the Normana group.

By 1917, another group with drums and horns developed in town and named themselves after one of Berlin's mills. They were called the Burgess Band. I do not have the names of these men, so it is hard to say what most of their nationality was. I also don't know if some might have played for the two previous bands mentioned, but as we shall see, some Burgess Band members also played for the next one to come into existence and that was the "Brown Company Band".

I found an article in the 1947 Brown Bulletin which was printed every week in the old Berlin Reporters only and cannot be retrieved online. It said that the older employees of the Brown Company may have felt a touch of nostalgia at a recent salaried personnel outing in Shelburne, New Hampshire, when Mr. George Stevens took the baton in hand to lead a band that was playing there.

It brought back memories of 30 years previous when Mr. Stevens stepped out before another band, the original Brown Company Band, to lead it in its first public performance.

When one traces the history of the Brown Company Band, one also traces the personal history of Mr. Stevens, for it was this man together with John Lavoie, who organized the orchestra and directed it for many years.

Stevens was interviewed in the living room of his large home in Gorham during later years and related story after story of the band and its members of yesteryear. Names came to the foreground in 1947 that were familiar at this time, but others were recalled only by the older people of the company. Some of these men who played an important role in this band were: Fred Rahmanof, Paul Grenier, Stan Blankenship, Jesse Tellington and Paul Brown.

These musicians were first known as the Burgess Band and had their beginnings because of Mr. Stevens and John Lavoie, the latter being a dryer foreman. It seems that they both loved music, so they got together one day and figured that there must be others throughout the mill that could and would like to play. With this, they found some musicians and organized a band. This was during the year 1917.

The original band had about twenty three pieces and many of the men owned their own instruments. Some of the larger instruments, like the bass drum and some horns were rented. Their first public appearance was in connection with one of Berlin's famous minstrel shows and they drew wide acclaim.

They didn't have any uniforms, so they got some whitecaps and middie suits, which certainly made them look a little different. Mr. Stevens credited Fred Rahmanof, then the superintendent of the Burgess Mill, with being an important cog in the band's organization. He is the one that got uniforms for the whole band.

By 1928 the band was reorganized and called the Brown Company Band by Mr. Paul Brown manager of the Berlin Mills Company at this time. They were equipped with new uniforms and they bought a bass drum, snare drum, alto horns and baritone horns.

During the course of time, the band also went into the restaurant business. They had a small eatery set up in the mill and every penny they made went for uniforms, instruments and music.

Another man who was a great friend of the band was Mr. Blankenship. He was the superintendent of Burgess Mill in 1930. Some of the men who were prominent in this band and its organization were still working at the Burgess Mill in the late 1940s. They were Paul Grenier, manager of the band and Patsy Gagliuso, who was well-known in the local music circles for many years.

Throughout the entire history of the band in its early days, the man that stood out though was Mr. Stevens, even after his retirement in 1940.

The furthest thing from Stevens mind when he was young was a musical career, as he wanted to be a railroad man like most of his family members. One day he was introduced to the cello and thought it was a violin and started to play the strings. He became an ardent student of the cello and before long, became an accomplished musician. Stevens played with the First Corps Cadet Band and the Boston Festival Orchestra for a number of years. He also played in the theaters in Boston with some of the leading musicians and great actors of the early 1900's, before giving it all up in 1913 and returning to Gorham because of an illness in his family.

Evidently this group disbanded in the early 1940's, but in March of 1952 a collection of Brown Company employees got together at the Community Club to form a new Brown Company Band and by the following year they had a potential musical force of fifty people that made up a band second to none in the North Country.

By the summer of 1953, this group was giving concerts in Berlin and Gorham and they were a hit with all of their audiences and they were still going strong by the late 1950's.

The picture of the newest band, along with their names was taken in 1953. The picture of the old band was taken in 1930 at a concert in Dolly Copp with George Stevens standing at the far right. I do not know when the Brown Company Band ceased to play their great music. Maybe a reader knows this answer. As for now we still have the Berlin Jazz Band to entertain us with their great concerts.

Poof Tardiff writes a weekly column for the Berlin Daily Sun. Questions or comments e-mail 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 weekly mystery picture.

Rahmanop-Fred-1Fred Rahmanop

Brown-Company-Band-1953Brown Company Band 1953

Brown-Company-Band-1930Brown Company Band 1930


Last Updated on Thursday, 13 November 2014 15:05

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Ithaca Bound: Armistice Day

In this country, the day is officially called Veterans' Day. Considering the reason why the day was originally celebrated in the first place, though, Armistice Day it will always remain in my thinking. To my mind, the distinction is important.
Over the years, a good many books on the origins of the First World War, the war itself, and the aftermath of that war have come into and now more and more out of my personal library. When the guns finally fell silent on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, it was fervently hoped by most all that had survived that the war to end all wars, as it was then being called, would be just that. Surely, the carnage of that war - nine million soldiers killed, twenty-one million more wounded, and five million civilians also killed, as well as untold destruction of homes, farms, and factories - would motivate the leaders of the allied nations that had finally worn down the German ability to continue the war to do everything in their power to seek a peace treaty that would truly end all war.
But such a peace treaty was not to be. Vindictiveness, especially on the part of France and England, who admittedly had borne the brunt of the German-led onslaught, was to rule the proceedings. The German-led delegation, who had let themselves believe that the terms of the treaty would be based on American President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points for Peace, were instead stunned by the uncompromising demeaning demands being placed upon them. Rather than bringing an end to all war, the resulting treaty all but guaranteed that another would soon follow. And within two decades another did follow, and this war would wreak even more carnage than the first.
Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed at the end of World War Two, and while those of the axis nations who were considered war criminals were put to death or sentenced to lengthy terms in prison, constructive efforts to democratize the conquered countries played a far more prominent role in the war's aftermath. 
It was General George C. Marshall, the man who played such a prominent role in those constructive efforts that followed World War Two, proving himself both military leader and far-sighted statesman, who reminded us that: "If man does find the solution to world peace, it will be the most revolutionary reversal of his record we have ever known."
That "revolutionary reversal of his record" still awaits resolution. A world without war is still an unfulfilled dream for most of us. After thousands of years of death and destruction, this Armistice Day finds a world still unable to settle its differences without recourse to war. As had been said by many over the years, all war, whenever and wherever it is fought, is the ultimate expression of that continuing failure.
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. .

Last Updated on Monday, 10 November 2014 23:08

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Ken Norton: I still start my day with Ray!

Although this week marks the one year anniversary of Executive Councilor Ray Burton's death, today started much like every other day of the past twenty five or so years. After my shower I gave a few quick pulls on my blue unbreakable "Vote For Raymond S. Burton" comb and I was on my way. Oh to be sure twenty five years ago I had a lot more hair, it wasn't grey, and the comb may have been red or black but it was one of Ray's.

I don't recall where I first met Ray, but I remember he handed me a comb, pulled a 3x5 card out of his shirt pocket and wrote down my name and town. The next time I saw him he remembered my name. Now I don't care what folks say about Ray having a knack for names. Whatever talent he had for it, it also must have taken a fair amount of effort and concentration. And is there a better way to communicate to someone that they are important than remembering their name? Back then, I didn't hold any position of importance and there was no real reason to remember my name except I lived in his district and that was good enough for Ray.

My town, Tilton, is at the absolute southern end of Ray's district. I always loved seeing him hold up the entire state highway map, tuck one fold up from the bottom and proudly say "that's my district!" I was relieved every time redistricting was over and we were still with Ray. I might live in central NH, but my heart is in the North Country! It was comforting to know when I called Ray he would promptly return my calls, try to help when asked, or listen and discuss an issue even when we disagreed. Not all other elected officials over the years were as reliable or courteous.

When my bride first ran for Belknap County Attorney, we transformed our old Volvo 122 into a campaign vehicle and I went to DMV to get an Antique plate. When told my first choice "VOTE" was available, I said to the clerk "I can't believe Ray Burton doesn't have it." Ray couldn't believe it either, when we showed up at the first Old Home day parade of campaign season he exclaimed, "Where did you ever get that plate?" I always felt a little bad about it, given his love of antique cars and always being three votes behind.

Ray enjoyed all forms of transportation. His airplane tour of the regional airports and his annual train ride were legendary. As the longstanding Chairman of the Governor's Advisory Commission on Intermodal Transportation, Ray also championed alternative transportation and the now flourishing network of pedestrian and recreational trails throughout our state.

Between the nearly seven terms my wife served as County Attorney, and my work in mental health and serving on nonprofit boards, I came into increasing contact with Ray. He was everywhere, at public hearings and community or civic events in his district, and at the State House. He was often accompanied by yet another wide eyed and wet behind the ears intern – getting a real life education.

But it wasn't just the interns that learned from Ray, he taught me a lot and many others too. These were valuable lessons about politics, people and life. Ray could work a room like no other, and he treated everyone equally from the perennial presidential candidates that flocked to our state to the plumber down the street. Ray defined what it means to be a public servant. If Ray had a bad day he never showed it, he was always upbeat and moving forward. Even when one of Ray's aides was involved in a scandal and other elected officials called on Ray to resign, he apologized but stayed the course. And while his constituents voted out many who had called for his resignation, we did re-elect Ray. He had done way too much good to be defined by one lapse of judgment which stemmed from believing in the good of people. Ray loved people and we loved him back.

So tomorrow I will again start my day with Ray, and as his comb slides through my thinning hair and over my brain, I'll make a conscious choice and aspire to be positive, to enjoy and respect everyone equally, to promote civil discourse and to be a servant leader.
Ken Norton is the Executive Director of NAMI NH, The NH Chapter of the National Alliance On Mental Illness


Last Updated on Thursday, 06 November 2014 16:46

Hits: 1417

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