Poof Tardiff: More Logging History II

Hello fellow Berlinites. I have written at lot of stories and given many talks about the loggers of this area, who made their living supporting our huge paper and sawmills of the past. Many of these men lived and raised their families here in Berlin, while they made their living in the woods or on the lakes and rivers of our rugged North Country.

We still have many here who work in the woods operating huge wood trucks today in order to supply the sawmills, bio masses and some paper companies that still exist today. What use to take thousands of men years ago, only takes a handful today to do the same job and the equipment they use now is unimaginable compared to the years of the past

Here are two stories of logging related to the past some time during the late 1940s. One is of the progress that was being made by loggers to modernize the way they work and the other is about the drive of logs to the mills in Berlin.

In the late 1940s, the Brown Company Woods Department was culminating a long series of tests about the various types of mechanical equipment adaptable to a modern pulpwood operation. This took place at an area called Stag Hollow camp in Jefferson, New Hampshire. They used an assortment of equipment and made this operation as mechanized as it could have been possible to achieve back then.

Power saws, both gasoline and electrical, portable slashers, sawmill (circular sawmill units set up in the woods), tractors and trailing two wheel sulkies with arches (for hauling logs to the slasher saws), high lead power skidders (for dragging tree length logs by cable from the woods to a logging road), bulldozers and trucks, were all use in producing 10,000 cords of mixed pulpwood.

After witnessing and being given the opportunity to try the electric and gasoline chainsaws, which were being demonstrated by the North East Pulpwood Research Center, many woodsmen were impressed.

They were impressed by the ease of operation and evident possibilities of the mechanical saw and the drastic change that could come about with these methods of production. Six yarding crews were engaged in cutting and four of these crews were introduced to power saws. All of the other equipment was introduced to include felling, limbing, skidding, hauling and sawing of the trees into four foot length.

So one could see that our modern Brown Company was gearing up to go with the changes that were starting to take place in wood productivity. Almost 70 years has passed since then and I can't imagine what the older woodsman thought of these new ways to harvest wood products. Today, chainsaws are almost obsolete. A machine called a forwarder is doing some of the work of skidders and a tree harvester takes the trees down instead of a chainsaw. Times have certainly changed.

In 1947, more than 6,000,000 logs were floated down the river into the city of Berlin and they were all counted. Before these logs came to this city, the 16 foot logs that created the original river drivers, were brought to our huge sawmill. Now, it was the pulpwood drives of which we wrote about before, that came charging down the Androscoggin River to our mills.

Not far above the Berlin Mills Bridge (Walking Bridge today 2016), on the river was situated an area called the Pine Island Boom. This was the site that the pulpwood sticks got handled before they moved down to the storage piles and the barker plants of the Brown Company.

There were two important jobs that took place in this spot that the people were not able to notice because the area was hidden from the highway by trees along the riverbank. In the center of the river was pier like arrangement that looked like the piers at a summer camp for youngsters. It was open at both ends and had a series of openings along each side. The logs that came down the river floated between two parallel lengths of logs and boards and beneath the crosswalks.

Men, armed with long pick poles, stood on the crosswalks and kept their eyes out for logs from which the bark was peeled by action of water and other logs. These so-called river peeled sticks were pulled out through one of the openings to float down one channel to the woodpile at the east end of the bridge. The boom piers that are still out on the river today were utilized for this purpose.

The other wood floated on through the “sorting gap”, as it was called, to the barker plant which was just north of the Onco plant. As the wood floated through the gap, it was counted log by log. Three men called “counters” were posted at the lower end of this area and were armed with little machines which added one each time they were punched. It was said that they very accurately counted the logs that floated through.

The reason for keeping count of the logs was to check on how many of them made it down river. Far up river, the pulpwood was cut and piled in readiness for the spring drive months before. In doing so, an account was made of sample cords of wood. From these samples, the Woods Department officials got an average of the number of sticks in each cord of wood.

Thus, knowing just about how much wood was put into the river and lakes along with knowing how much came into Berlin, they knew just how much they lost. The loss, they said was mostly due to sinkage. Any wood caught along the banks was always picked up by “rearing crews”.

The question of sinkage was then discussed. Was there any particular type of wood that seemed to sink quicker than others? James Laffin, chief scaler for the Brown Company said that no special category seemed to drop down quicker than others. All kinds were found sunk and it did not matter the type or whether they had many knots or none at all?

All the wood that was recovered after going underwater was trucked down to the mill. They could not dry it out then try to float it down again. It would not go far no matter how much they tried and it always sunk again.

There was an important storage area above Milan called the “Milan Sorting Gap”and it held back 30,000 cords of wood. The Milan area was considered a safe place during times of flood. The reason being was that the piers in this area were built so that there was little danger of pulpwood getting away because of high water.

It was because of this that the logs were stored there and then they were floated down river to the Mills as needed. They went from Potter Boom to Sanborn Boom and then to Pine Island. Potter and Sanborn booms were named because they were near the old homesteads of pioneer families by that name. It took from 9 to 18 hours for the logs to move from Milan to Berlin depending on the wind and stream conditions.

Turning back to the number of logs moving downriver, Mr. Laffin said that in 1947 there were about 90,000 cords. If you had about 70 sticks to a cord, it brought the total to 6,300,000 sticks that were sent to the mills from areas bordering the Androscoggin River, Umbagog Lake, the Richardson Lakes, Mooselookmeguntic Lake and the Kennabago waters of Western Maine. This was not counting the hundreds of cords brought in by truck and rail and dumped into the Androscoggin River just above the mills. Certainly, it took a lot of wood and manpower to operate our large paper company back then.

Poof Tardiff writes a weekly column for The Berlin Daily Sun. Questions or comments email me 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 that weekly mystery pictures that are posted.

Pulwood drivePulwood drive

Old chansawsOld chainsaws

Logs on RiverLogs on River

Laffin JamesJames Laffin

Ithaca Bound: Taking undeserved heat

National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been taking a good deal of undeserved criticism lately because off his refusal to stand during the playing of the nation’s national anthem. The reason the criticism is undeserved is because he is entirely within his rights as a thinking, caring American to do so. The first of the first ten amendments to our nation’s constitution, the Bill of Rights, guarantees our right to freedom of speech. Colin Kaepernick was exercising that right when he refused to stand because of what he rightly believes to be a continuing injustice to those of color in our country.
Certainly, there has been advances made in improving race relationships. But there is still a long way to go in this country. And recent comments and actions being considered on the political scene suggest that there are those who would set such racial progress back decades, given the opportunity. Being a man of color, Colin Kaepernick has every right to be concerned, and every right to speak out.
The famed Jewish author Elie Wiesel, a survivor of the Nazi holocaust, reminds us that “To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all.” Colin Kaepernick chose hot to remain silent and indifferent. He should not be unjustly criticized for doing so.
Such criticism is largely emotion fueled, not the result of thoughtful consideration. Sadly, that is how most of us respond to issues. But acting solely on emotion is a highly dangerous way to react. Emotions can cause us to take actions that we soon regret.
In school and in church, we are taught to think and carefully consider before taking any action. At least, that was so when I was attending school and church. I hope that it still is. Any other way can lead us to disaster.
That is why it is so important for us to consider the candidates for public office in this November’s elections. What does each candidate stand for? Are they concerned with civil and human rights? In what direction are they wanting to tale their city, state, or country? What is their vision for the future? Do he or she even have a vision? Is he or she willing to listen to and consider alternatives? How do they respond to those who disagree?
Does he or she stand with the words of English writer Evelyn Beatrice Hall:”I may mot agree with what you have to say, but I shall defend to my death your right to say it.”?
We have codified that right in our nation’s constitution. Let us never forget that.

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..

Poof Tardiff: Business in 1941 II

Hello fellow Berlinites. I would like to continue with some more of the great businesses that once operated in this city about 75 years ago.

It was a far cry from managing a shoe store in New York City to operating a lady's shop in Berlin, but this gap was the one bridged by Louis Naboshek, who came here from the “Big Apple” in 1924. His very first store was located in the Cote building and chiefly devoted to millinery and novelties, then he moved to 119 Main St. In 1939, a second fashion floor was opened and proved to be a very successful department for Mr. Naboshek. This particular department specialized in coats, dresses and bridal outfits and was very popular with those would like to shop in privacy.

Mr. Naboshek passed on during early 1941, but his wife, at the insistence of her customers and friends, carried on the business which she and her husband so successfully conducted for many years.

Another Berlin business conducted by a woman in 1941 was the Rioux Funeral Parlors, which Mrs. Roux and her husband Arthur started in 1926. They came here from Littleton and were well known in Berlin and vicinity for the thorough and sympathetic service which they always rendered. The Riouxs were the first to offer ambulance service in Berlin and this feature was still carried on with great care and efficiency seventy-five years ago.

Mrs. Rioux was a native of this city and a graduate of St. Regis Academy. She was associated with her husband who passed away in 1938 for several years as a lady attendant. One of the outstanding features of the Rioux service was a homelike chapel in the parlors which, accommodated approximately 100 people. They also had a small smoking room and kitchenette which were available for wakes and other family gatherings.

At one time the Rioux Funeral Parlors stood at 95 Hillside Avenue, but they also had rooms at 511 Main Street which was just before Cambridge Street. They're great detail in conducting services had long made Rioux's appreciated by those who bereaved, as no effort was spared to make the service rendered as complete and sympathetic as possible.

The business was called Curtis Hardware and they had a record of 58 years of service in Berlin by 1941. This concern was started by the Gerrish family who first opened their store on Post Office Square in 1882. Six years later the Gerrish family built the present (1941) Wagner block so-called and moved into it the same year. In 1906, A. M. Curtis, father of J. Clare Curtis, purchased the Gerrish property and business. From that time on, the business was managed and directed by J. Clare Curtis.

In the year 1913, the J. Clare Curtis store turned exclusively to hardware and disposed of its other stocks. In 1927 Curtis Hardware became wholesale agents for many large houses and in 1941 was one of this city's most outstanding establishments.

By 1941 they had eight full-time employees in this store. J. Adelard Bouchard and Ira E. Larocque entered the employ of this store when they were still in school and soon became full-time employees. By 1941, they enjoyed the partisan interests they had with Mr. Curtis for many years.

During the summer of 1940 when the F. W. Woolworth Company enlarged its store in the Wagner Block and the building was completely repaired, the Curtis store also remodeled their front so that they had the most unusual and attractive entrance with odd shaped windows giving maximum display advantage on Main Street

How many people remember the once famous Endicott Johnson shoe store that stood on the corner of Main and Mason streets? Probably no huge factory and chain system treated its workers any better then this company out of New York.

In its several factory towns of Endicott, Binghamton, Johnson City and Oswego, New York, were the modern mills and factories of this great firm. Besides their productivity, the company also provided unlimited recreational facilities for all of its help. Among these were swimming pools, baseball fields, auditoriums, clubhouses, parks, tennis courts and dance pavilions.

Recreation was not the only phase of the lives of the workers which was considered by the employers, as the company provided modern and complete hospitals and clinics for the workers and their families. Labor problems were met and dealt with fairly and agreements satisfactory to both sides, were reached. Harmony between the employee and employees was a keyword for the success of this great shoe industry. I must say that they sounded like a fine company for which to work.

Our local store was originally located in the Sheridan Block and in August of 1940 was the first business to move into the corner of the new Morin Block. The old block had burned down in November of 1939 and was done being rebuilt.

The new manager, Mr. Paul Comtois was one of the youngest store managers in this city. He was only 26 and had been a manager for this company for several years.

This new store in 1941 had the latest in modern fixtures and equipment. Customers of the Endicott Johnson stores benefited from the advantages offered by mass production which their far-flung network of stores made possible. Paul Comtois eventually raised his family in Berlin and remained here for the rest of his life.

Finally, when Luther Buber, early Berlin contractor, bought the business of William Lamoine in 1902 and started his woodworking mill, he founded one of Berlin strongest institutions.

The Luther Buber Son's Company was formed in 1912 when Willard, Harry and Lawrence entered the business. Luther died in 1916, but the boys and their mother continued to operate the business.

Slowly, Willard began acquiring more shares in the company until he became the sole owner, having gained all of the interest in this company by 1939. With his retail business, Mr. Buber operated the only sawmill on the East Milan Road (started in 1934). It was here that he finished large quantities of native stock to be brought to his city warehouse. The mill operated with 16 men during the winter months.

In 1941, there were eight full-time employees that worked at the offices, warehouses and shops at the Union Street yards of this company. During 1933, his company bought out the Brown Company retail lumber business and had been the leader in North Country building supplies since then. Union Street is also where Caron Building Center is located today (2016).

Poof Tardiff writes a weekly column for The Berlin Daily Sun. Question 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 weekly mystery pictures.

Rioux Parlor Hillside AvenueRioux Parlor Hillside Avenue

Endicott JohnsonEndicott Johnson

Curtis J. ClareClare J. Curtis

Bouchard J. AdelardAdelard J. Bouchard

Ithaca Bound: Fewer and fewer

This past weekend, the town of Milan, where my wife and I live, celebrated its annual Old Home Days event.

My wife and I participated to the extent that we attend the ham and bean supper at the village school on Friday evening and the pancake breakfast held on the local airport grounds on Sunday morning. None of the other events of the weekend held much appeal for us, although I am sure they were well attended by others.

Milan is one of the few communities in our state that still holds an annual Old Home Days celebration. When the event began in 1897, there were at least 100 communities that participated. And the idea of holding such an event quickly spread to other states in our country.

But times change, and the amount of time and effort that goes into the planning and carrying out of such an event finds fewer and fewer volunteers willing to commit to that time and effort. And the number of other activities available to us these days means we tend to spend less and less time in the place where we live.

In 1897, of course, the ability to go here and there at any time we pleased was not readily available. There was a greater sense of community and neighborhood, and bonding with one another was commonplace. Even so, then governor of New Hampshire Frank W. Rollins (1860-1915) saw the population of his state dwindling and many of its farms being abandoned.

Determined to bring some of those people back home, Rollins came up with the idea of creating an Old Home Week event designed to draw people back to the state of their birth and, perhaps, decide to return permanently and reclaim some of those abandoned farms. His idea met with considerable success. About 100 cities and towns participated that first year, and around 10,000 visitors returned home.

Encouraged by the success of that first Old Home Week, Rollins worked with his secretary of agriculture to make it an annual event. Although only a one-term governor, Rollins served as president of the Old Home Week Association for many years.

Frank Rollins did not stop there, however. He was president of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, and promoted tourism by advocating for better roads. He served as president of the Good Roads League.

Always an ardent advocate for New Hampshire, Rollins, who was an accomplished writer, wrote “The Tourist’s Guide-Book to the State of New Hampshire,” an annual that first appeared in 1902.

The natural beauty of our state draws thousands to it each year. We have Frank W. Rollins to think for much of that.

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..

Stop demonizing working poor, expand opportunity for all

Stop demonizing working poor, expand opportunity for all.

by Jeff Woodburn

Poverty runs through the North Country like a river, washing away our good jobs, hard-earned wealth, most of our young people, and for some, any sense of hope. As a teacher, news reporter and now as our State Senator, I have seen it first-hand and consider it our most persistent problem, but ironically poverty is hardly mentioned in the public square.

That’s why I recently hosted -- in the midst of a campaign season of red hot rhetoric -- a full day tour and conversation with on-the-ground service providers, and, most importantly, meeting with low-income seniors and families who are struggling to get by.

As a former civics teacher, I believe everyone deserves representation and voice in our democracy, and that is especially true for those left out or left behind. As a Christian, I am guided by the dozens of passages in the Bible about helping the poor, including to "... not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother." (Deuteronomy 15:7). Our brothers and sisters living in poverty deserve to be listened to and advocated for.

We learned a lot on our tour and our roundtable discussion. We met with Head Start workers at Tri-County Cap and learned about the need to close the opportunity gap by expanding early learning and making child care more affordable. We listened to stories about the devastating impact of the Bill O'Brien era cuts to child care and Head Start. We met with low-income tenants at Brookside Apartments and heard about the importance of affordable/workforce housing & the low-income energy efficiency program helping with energy bills. We visited the domestic and sexual violence shelter at Coos County Family Health, where over 80 percent of their clients are low-income. We heard about the safety they provide and dozens of people and children seeking safety they had to turn away due to lack of funding. Most of all, we learned that people don't ask for much; they just want a fighting shot and an ability to provide their children with opportunity.

Most of Coos County’s low-income people work. I often say, North Country residents work twice as hard for half as much as their southern counterparts. The median family income in Coos County is $42,000 compared to $66,500 for the state. In fact, North Country workers make on average $500 less per week than the average NH worker, and that in rural North Country the costs of housing and child care far outstrips the family budget. It's tougher and tougher for working families to make ends meet.

These statistics are staggering, but the individual stories of the daily grind of low-income workers are poignant -- limited and expensive child care options, split shifts, lack of public transportation, seasonal employment, and few if any benefits like paid sick days or family or medical leave. There is a constant struggle just to stay afloat, let alone get ahead and stay ahead. There is constant stress and worry.

But, there are obstacles in our path. My Republican opponents are united in their indifference to smart investments and policies that grow our economy while ensuring that no one is left out or left behind. Their sole and singular focus is more of the same: Tax cuts for business owners. After the last two years of tax cuts for business owners, and with New Hampshire ranked 7th best in the country in overall business taxes, my opponents want to triple down on trickle down. That doesn't work for the working poor, or the middle class or for a region that disproportionately benefits from public sector spending.

It is time to stop demonizing our working poor and focus instead on expanding opportunity for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected few.

(Jeff Woodburn, of Whitefield, is the North Country's Senator and is the Minority Leader of the NH Senate.)