Hello fellow Berlinites. Yes, it might seem like just yesterday, but it has been over 40 years since we celebrated the arrival of the year 1976.
It was announced in the first newspaper of this year that Grant's Department Store on Main Street would close its doors after being in Berlin for 44 years. The last day of sales at the Berlin Grant's store was on Saturday, January 27, 1976. This store took up part of the old Albert Theater back then.
The local manager of Grant's, Mr. Lucariello was notified of the closing several days in advance. He said this and 133 more stores would close as they had become unprofitable. The Berlin Grant's, which opened in 1931, was one of these stores that wasn't making it.
Also, during the first week of January 1976, it was announced that Mike Roy, who had been involved in ice rink management and sports for over 15 years was appointed to the position of general manager of the OMNI International Ice Arena. The announcement was made by the general manager of this mega-structure that had just been built in downtown Atlanta.
Mr. Roy's new responsibilities included managing this ice arena and coordinating all the activities involved in the operation and maintenance of the rink facility, personnel, food and beverage concessions and all the other ice arena functions. That sounded like a huge task.
Roy was born in Sherbrooke, Québec and raised in Berlin, New Hampshire. He participated in hockey through grammar school, high school and college. He also continued to play and coach high school hockey after college graduation, along with instructing hockey school and power skating classes. I believe that Mr. Roy moved on to other vocations since managing this rank, but I do not know what he does today (2016).
Snowmobiling got a boost in New Hampshire's North Country when “Snowmobile Czar” Paul Doherty explained about the new 80 mile groomed trail system than that would be the longest course in New England.
After years of riding on trails full of moguls, dips and bumps that took a long time to get from point A to point B, it would now be possible in 1976 to hop on a snowmobile and zip along groomed trails all the way from Berlin to Stewartstown. This series of groomed trails was known back then as the “Androscoggin Trail”. Today (2016) these trails have route numbers that match maps.
Doherty, had been a snowmobile enthusiast since the first machines were introduced in New Hampshire during 1959. By 1973, the Bureau of Off Highway Vehicles, a division of the State Department of Resources and Economic Development, was established and Mr. Doherty became its first boss.
Snowmobiling became a popular sport by the mid-1960s and legislation requiring registration (almost $100 today 2016) was passed in 1967. When people began paying to ride their snowmobiles, they became aggravated at the few benefits they had, after paying to register them.
After being appointed as the head of this Bureau, Mr. Doherty and a 12 man staff used 45% of the money to develop a trail system. By the beginning of 1976, the Department of Off Highway Vehicles was maintaining 450 miles of trails with groomers in constant use.
Times have certainly changed since 1976, as a person on a sled can go from one end of this state to another as long as the snow conditions permit. Thank you Mr. Doherty, as I and many other older riders remember the original trails very well.
On Sunday, January 25 at 10 am, there was a special service to formally recognize a new church in the Berlin-Gorham area. It was called the White Mountains Assembly of God, which met in Berlin at the Liberty Gardens apartment hall. The pastor for this church was the Reverend Robert Durham, a native of Dallas, Texas. Durham had pastored in Connecticut and in Lancaster.
The new church was one of over 9,000 Assemblies of God in the country with more than 4,500,000 members by 1976. This assembly had regular services on Sunday mornings at this aforementioned hall, with Bible classes taking place after.
On Wednesday nights at 7:30, the church met for cottage prayer in various parishioners homes. The Assembly of God, eventually built their own church on the Berlin-Gorham Road and is still operating today (2016).
Today's White Mountain Community College in Berlin has been now in operation for 50 years. Back in 1976, there was a headline that said: “College celebrates 10th year”.
The New Hampshire Vocational Technical College, as it was called back then, was planning several big events throughout this year and February 13th would be the beginning.
NHVTC director Mr. Edward “Chic” Oleson said that a banquet would be held on this day mentioned. So, on this special Friday, faculty, staff advisory, committee members and Concord officials who had been working with the college for the past 10 years were honored.
About 120 people came to the banquet to celebrate this college's achievements. It was a great day for this school which celebrated its birthday and the climax of National Vocational Education Week. Our local college is doing very well after fifty years of serving up education to thousands of area citizens.
Yes, we still had a winter carnival taking place in Berlin back then. During this year (1976) it was on the weekend of February 27-29. All of the events were planned around the annual ski jumping meet, that the Nansen Ski Club had been sponsoring since the early 1920's.
Starting on Friday night the 27th, the famous Tommy Dorsey Orchestra performed at Berlin's traditional winter carnival ball in the Senior High gym.
Ski jumpers would be registering early Saturday morning at the Travelers Motel on Pleasant Street and trials would start at 10 am sharp. People would be able to view the trial jumps of these men. At the same time a citizen's cross-country ski race took place near the Nansen Ski Jump.
Other events included a skate and skateless race in the Cole Street urban renewal area, which had all kinds of room. Also, free snowmobile rides were given by the local snowmobile club.
Saturday also had a great broom ball tournament, a scouting Klondike Derby, sawing and axing techniques by the Berlin High Forestry Class and sculpturing with chainsaws. I don't believe there is any more forestry class is there?
Saturday evening brought the famous Irish Rovers to perform at the Berlin High gym, along with other events which led to Sunday's championship ski jumping. Those days are long gone and missed by Berlin's older citizens.
I will continue with the year 1976 in my next writing.
W.T. Grants Co
Rev. Robert Durham