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Poof - Winter sports history II

  Hello fellow Berlinites. As these early winter sports contests continued to grow in the early 1920s, distances in jumps began to get longer and local cross-country runners began shining.

            After the local meets in 1922, there came a succession of outside victories, Oakerlund won the cross-country run in Montréal. In Stowe, Vermont, Anderson and Sverre Knudson took first and second prizes. Anderson’s jump was 74 feet, 3 inches.

            In the Québec Ski Jumping Championship at Montréal, “Bing” Anderson was first with the best jump of 97 feet. Michelson was second and Oakerlund won the cross country race. All were local skiing stars now showing the rest of the world what Berlin’s Nansen Ski Club had developed.

            At the Adirondack Amateur International Ski Competition on the Mt. Pisgah course at Saranac Lake, New York, Anderson and Michelson repeated in first and second places respectively. The best jump was 84 feet. Sverre Knudson broke the record at the country club jump in Woodstock, Vermont flying one hundred nine feet and ten inches.

            Then at Brattleboro, Vermont, Anderson established a new Eastern record with a jump of 150 feet on the Overrocker slide. Dewey Couture, Sverre Knudson and Emmons Dahl helped to bring home the club cup given by DW Overrocker.

            By the time Anderson competed in Ottawa, his long schedule obliged him to be content with third place. It is worth noting, as mentioned in my first story, Anderson Michelson, and Couture were still teenagers at this time.

            As we progressed to the year 1923, the record for the Berlin slide established in 1922 by Bing Anderson with a jump of 111 1/2 feet was not disturbed.

            This young jumper remained the stellar jumper in the East and added new laurels to his wreath, when he took second place at Revelstoke, British Columbia. It was here that he jumped 172 feet from an unfamiliar slide.

            In the Berlin event, Anderson was first over Frank McKinnon and Rolf Munson of Montréal along with 40 other contestants. Under sticky snow conditions, this 20-year-old local ski jumping sensation became the Eastern champion. His best jump of 151 feet did not equal the leap of the previous year, which was 159 feet under perfect weather conditions. The record for this hill was passed on to Norman Berger, who jumped 160 feet.

            1923 was also the first year of the Mt. Washington Ski Race from the Halfway House on Mt. Washington to Berlin. First and second place went to Rolf Munson and Peter McKinnon. Berlin's great ski runner, Bob Reid came in third.

Second string men also gathered points at the Berlin Carnival and were invariably first at other carnivals throughout New England. Dewey Couture, still a teenager and Herman Oleson captured fourth and sixth places respectively in the Berlin jump. Herman Oleson won first place with a 74 foot jump at a North Conway event. Erling Anderson and Dewey Couture captured first and third places respectively in the jump at Portland, Maine. The best jump of 84 feet was performed by young Couture.

In 1924, Bob Reid reaped the fruits of previous work and became the national cross-country champion. At Chicago, “Bing” made a jump of 150 feet, but fell on the second attempt injuring his knee. Reid won the cup offered by Secretary of War Weeks in the Mt. Washington marathon, became the national champion at Brattleboro, Vermont and took the 25 mile race at Lake Placid, New York. What a great athlete he must have been.

Locally, Erling Anderson became the champion in the jumping and Jorge Johansen picked up second place at several cross-country events. In Brattleboro, “Bing” took ninth place and was given a golden wing ski medal for the longest standing jump which was a distance of 175 feet.

In 1925, Erling Anderson won this year's jumping contest; Bob Reid was out of the running because of an injury, but eventually won second prize in Bellows Falls, Vermont.

Ingvald “Bing” Anderson was second in the class “A” jumping at the Eastern Amateur Ski meet in Brattleboro and had the longest standing jump of 190 feet, which had set the hill record.

While jumping in Rumford, Maine, Anderson took first prize with the longest standing jump. He then went to Lake Placid and took fourth place and then second place in Québec.

The Berlin and Nansen Ski Club boys were really on a roll in this year. In class “B” events at Brattleboro, Dewey Couture took first prize in the longest standing jump. At Berlin and Rumford Dewey took third place and in Montpelier he was number one.

In outside competitions Erling Anderson was first at Bellows Falls, Vermont, with the longest standing jump, second at Brattleboro and Lake Placid class “B” and third in Québec. During this year the skiers from the “Paper City” amassed many trophies. The accompanying picture shows the ones that were handed out during one Eastern championship here in Berlin and many were won by our talented young local skiers.

Hundreds of these cups must have been accrued by these young super athletes while competing in their prime days and the Berlin citizens must have shined with pride when viewing them.

The activities of the young Berlin skiers and Nansen Ski Club members had a healthy influence upon the development of intercollegiate sport in the East. Youths who grew up in Berlin during this era proved to be effective missionaries in converting the colleges to an interest in the sport of skiing.

Gustavus Paulson was one of the pioneers at Dartmouth and Gunner Michelson took the sport to the University of New Hampshire in Durham. He was the intercollegiate champion three times and by 1926 was the Vice President of the Intercollegiate Winter Sports Union.

Gordon Brown organized skiing at Williams College and became President of the Intercollegiate Winter Sports Union. Under his leadership, Williams won the Dartmouth Winter Carnival for the first time in 15 years.

Berlin’s Carroll Gerrish initiated skiing at Norwich University and at the Brattleboro Intercollegiate Ski Jumping event in 1925; three of five places, first, third and fourth went to the Berlin boys.

The Intercollegiate Winter Sports Union was composed of nine colleges back then: Dartmouth, McGill, Williams, New Hampshire, Norwich, Bates, University of Montréal, Loyola and Ottawa. Of these, five were on American soil and the Nansen Ski Club had a direct influence in the foundation of ski sports in all of them.

As you can see, the young local skiers, woman included had a lot to do with the development of this sport in New Hampshire and the United States back then and we as Berlinites can brag about and take pride in this part of our history.

Questions 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 face book and guess at the weekly mystery picture.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 January 2014 18:38

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State of the City Address

I first want to welcome you to Berlin's Inauguration Ceremony of 2014. Serving in any capacity in municipal government today is both challenging and rewarding. In the past two years, Berlin and the surrounding communities have been tested in many areas. First of all, the business climate in the paper industry continues to be very challenging. The industry is still right sizing and mills are struggling to enter into different markets with grade mixes that allow for positive cash flow. Locally, Gorham Paper and Tissue continues to face difficult markets and winter energy prices that is straining the competitive edge that was developed only two years ago. GPT remains the largest private manufacturing employer here in the Androscoggin Valley and their continued success is of the utmost importance to the rebirth of our area. All of us in government must do everything in our control to address the energy issues that are exerting enormous pressure to their continued viability. I am in contact almost daily with DRED officials who are committed to making this mill a long term employer here into the future.

Money for continued city operations remains very difficult to raise. When I ran for Mayor four years ago, I pledged to Berlin's voters that I would be a fiscally responsible mayor. Our tax rate here in Berlin is very stable, with increases that have averaged about 45 cents per year since you elected me as your mayor and the dedicated members of our present City Council. Because of significantly lower property values than are found statewide, Berlin's tax rate must be firmly in control to attract outside investment here. My pledge for the next two years is to continue the very focused and disciplined spending environment that has been a priority of this City Council. Having made my commitment to be frugal with public money, I still very much support the efforts to beautify the downtown business district and make it a favorable place to attract and do business. Main Street is the heartbeat of our community, it needs attention and participation from everyone, stakeholders and residents alike. It took a number of years for some of the properties to appear aged, but if we can fix one building or attract one new business this year, it will demonstrate to the outside world that Berlin is very much willing to do its own heavy lifting.
There have been quite a few bright spots in Berlin as well! The City Council hired Jim Wheeler to be Berlin's ninth City Manager on June 1st. Jim brings to the job an enormous wealth of managerial experience, a keen sense of Berlin's internal operational structure, limitless energy and a low key but focused approach to his new job. I've known Jim Wheeler professionally for 15 years and I most admire his uncompromising integrity and loyalty to his hometown. It is supremely gratifying for me to know that Berlin's promising future is in the hands of such skilled leadership. The Federal Bureau of Prisons operations continue to ramp up to full occupancy. In the last 100 days, dozens of Berlin area people have been hired to take full time positions. Because of age restrictions, these folks are mostly made up of young people who can stay in Berlin/Gorham now instead of leaving. More needs to be done to keep folks in Berlin, but just maybe we're stemming the tide of the mass exodus of our best and brightest young people. Burgess Biopower, despite a difficult startup, is nearly ready to start commercial production. There are nearly 40 full time employees on payroll and will be a multi-million dollar annual purchaser of goods, services and raw materials here in Coos County. From the time the project was purchased from the original developer, the folks of Cate Street Capital have been excellent corporate citizens here in Berlin. Together, partnering with the City of Berlin, Cate Street Capital will playa major role in the re-development of Berlin's employment and tax base.
I will ask the Berlin City Council to take an active role in supporting the Northern Pass project. Yes, there is stiff opposition to the project, not unlike what Berlin witnessed with Burgess Biopower and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The developers of Northern Pass, in my view, got miserably failing grades for how they introduced the project to the affected communities and their continued resistance to engaging the public for solutions. Make no mistake, however, the power is needed to wean ourselves off of power produced by natural gas. The tax benefits and the hundreds of jobs that the construction will create will be a huge boon to all of Coos County. Our support of NP, however, should be conditional to the developer taking real measurable steps to help mitigate sensitive viewshed issues. An honest dialogue among all stakeholders is what is needed if this project has a chance of surviving an ugly, lengthy and expensive court challenge. The stakes are very high, both immediate and long term.
Finally, I want to take a moment to thank each and every Berlin municipal employee in all departments for what you do, day in and day out. Your efforts do not go unnoticed, from working in poor weather, fighting fires in subzero temperatures, keeping our streets safe, helping a child through tough school assignments on personal time, to being a lifeline to our housebound elderly residents. You make Berlin proud, and for that, "Thank you for a job well done".
Paul Grenier, Mayor

Last Updated on Monday, 20 January 2014 18:01

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The Inequality Problem

David Brooks

Suddenly the whole world is talking about income inequality. But, as this debate goes on, it is beginning to look as though the thing is being misconceived. The income inequality debate is confusing matters more than clarifying them, and it is leading us off in unhelpful directions.

In the first place, to frame the issue as income inequality is to lump together different issues that are not especially related. What we call “inequality” is caused by two different constellations of problems.

At the top end, there is the growing wealth of the top 5 percent of workers. This is linked to things like perverse compensation schemes on Wall Street, assortative mating (highly educated people are more likely to marry each other and pass down their advantages to their children) and the superstar effect (in an Internet economy, a few superstars in each industry can reap global gains while the average performers cannot).

At the bottom end, there is a growing class of people stuck on the margins, generation after generation. This is caused by high dropout rates, the disappearance of low-skill jobs, breakdown in family structures and so on.

If you have a primitive zero-sum mentality then you assume growing affluence for the rich must somehow be causing the immobility of the poor, but, in reality, the two sets of problems are different, and it does no good to lump them together and call them “inequality.”

Second, it leads to ineffective policy responses. If you think the problem is “income inequality,” then the natural response is to increase incomes at the bottom, by raising the minimum wage.

But raising the minimum wage may not be an effective way to help those least well-off. Joseph J. Sabia of San Diego State University and Richard V. Burkhauser of Cornell looked at the effects of increases in the minimum wage between 2003 and 2007. Consistent with some other studies, they find no evidence that such raises had any effect on the poverty rates.

That’s because raises in the minimum wage are not targeted at the right people. Only 11 percent of the workers affected by such an increase come from poor households. Nearly two-thirds of such workers are the second or third earners living in households at twice the poverty line or above.

The primary problem for the poor is not that they are getting paid too little for the hours they work. It is that they are not working full time or at all. Raising the minimum wage is popular politics; it is not effective policy.

Third, the income inequality frame contributes to our tendency to simplify complex cultural, social, behavioral and economic problems into strictly economic problems.

Low income is the outcome of these interrelated problems, but it is not the problem. To say it is the problem is to confuse cause and effect. To say it is the problem is to give yourself a pass from exploring the complex and morally fraught social and cultural roots of the problem. It is to give yourself permission to ignore the parts that are uncomfortable to talk about but that are really the inescapable core of the thing.

Fourth, the income inequality frame needlessly polarizes the debate. There is a growing consensus that government should be doing more to help increase social mobility for the less affluent. Even conservative Republicans are signing on to this. The income inequality language introduces a class conflict element to this discussion.

Democrats often see low wages as both a human capital problem and a problem caused by unequal economic power. Republicans are more likely to see them just as a human capital problem. If we’re going to pass bipartisan legislation, we’re going to have to start with the human capital piece, where there is some agreement, not the class conflict piece, where there is none.

Some on the left have always tried to introduce a more class-conscious style of politics. These efforts never pan out. America has always done better, liberals have always done better, when we are all focused on opportunity and mobility, not inequality, on individual and family aspiration, not class-consciousness.

If we’re going to mobilize a policy revolution, we should focus on the real concrete issues: bad schools, no jobs for young men, broken families, neighborhoods without mediating institutions. We should not be focusing on a secondary issue and a statistical byproduct.



Last Updated on Friday, 17 January 2014 15:44

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Winter sports history

   Hello fellow Berlintes. As we enter the middle of January in our North Country, the long cold days can bring much hardship to people. Imagine how it must have been over 100 years ago in this city, when the days were short, the nights were long and it was probably much colder.

            Advertisements that I have found for Berlin’s early winter sports and carnivals, showed that most citizens were kept busy either as competitors or spectators. A great history of these sports was written up in an old pamphlet during this city’s winter carnivals that were held in back of what is today’s 10th, 11th and 12th Streets. The history was put together by people who lived during the beginning years of skiing back in Berlin. I would like to share some of these olden times of skiing, its effects on local citizens and the rest of this country’s ski enthusiasts back then with my readers.

            Although to Concord belongs the honor of the organization of the first snowshoe club in New Hampshire, the Scandinavian Village of Berlin Mills deserves the credit for developing the initial interest of ski sports in the Granite State, if not in the United States.

            Skis were in general use in Norway long before the Christian era, when the Old Norse sagas represented Uller, God of winter, as walking over hill and dale on skis with curved toes.

            Skiing as a sport began in the Norwegian Village of Telemark, which had given its name to a characteristic glide. From there it spread rapidly over the entire peninsula. Local contest gradually developed until finally there was a great international ski tournament. This event was held annually in February at Holmenkellan near Christiana, now Oslo.

            This “Norwegian Derby” was divided into two parts; the first was devoted to jumping contest and the other to long-distance racing. There were two important prizes called the Queens Cup and the Kings Cup.

            From this background skiing contest in the town of Berlin got its start, when a lad named Olaf “Spike” Oleson came here in the year 1884. This man did more than any other single individual to arouse and maintain the interest of skiing in Berlin. By the time he was 60 years old, he was still competing in these games. The use of skis got started here about 1854 with the arrival of the first Scandinavians, but the contests started about thirty years later with Oleson.

            The organization of the Montréal Ski Club in 1903 and the Québec Ski Club in 1905 tended to unite the hitherto more or less sporadic sports of the Norwegian Village at Berlin Mills. After holding at least two annual competitions, the Nansen ski club adopted a constitution and by laws in 1907. Records in the Norwegian language were preserved from April 24th of that year. The first official title of the club was Skiklubben Fridjof Nansen, named after the intrepid explorer who used skis on the first trip across Greenland.

            Membership to this club was originally opened to only Scandinavians of good character residing in Coos County. Noteworthy among the traditional prizes was the one given by the ladies of Berlin Mills which was an imitation of the Queen's Cup of the Holmenkelen Derby.

            Another custom that dates back to the beginning contests in Berlin was a display of both the Norwegian and American flags at every competition. In the early years, the local contestants practiced tirelessly with the hope of going to places like Montréal in 1910.

            In 1910, Adolph Oleson, who later became the president of the Portland Ski Club and Olaf Oleson, the oldest active jumper in the club in 1926, wore the blue and white at Montréal. It was here that Adolph saw John Rudd make his famous somersault jump. Two weeks later, when he returned for the Canadian championships he did the same thing equally as well, also thrilling the local spectators as he learned.

            During the winter of 1912, Skiklubbin sent five men from Berlin to Montréal to compete. They were: Emmons Dahl, Oscar Erickson, Albert Hanson, Adolph Oleson and Olaf Oleson. Adolph Oleson also went to Ottawa.

           In 1912, membership in this club was now opened to men of other nationalities. This was the first official act calculated to arouse interest in ski jumping outside of the local Scandinavian circles.

            By 1922 this official act bore fruit, when Dewey Couture, a 16-year-old, took his place among the top jumpers of the club and again in 1924 when Robert Reid won the ski marathon from the Halfway House on Mt. Washington to Berlin, a distance of 20 miles.

            During 1913, the same men as in 1912, with the exception of Albert Hanson went to Montréal, while in 1914, the club sent Albert Hanson, Thorleif Christianson, Oscar Erickson and Olaf Oleson to Montréal. In 1915 Albert Hanson and Thorleif Hanson went to Ottawa. Because of World War I, there was nothing in Montréal from 1915 to 1919 and during this time the club's name was called the Fridjof Nansen Athletic Club.

            In 1921, the Nansen Ski Club built a new jump upon its traditional mount called Paines Hill in Berlin. It was also on this hill that local and national jumping star Ingvald “Bing” Anderson jumped 81 feet, but because of falls contented himself with third place. It was Wendell Murray who became the champion of the local contest in this year.

            A man named Gunner Michelson, who by 1926 was a top intercollegiate jumper, won the boys contest and Helmer Oakerland was first and long distance ski run during 1921.

            For Gorham, the second Winter Carnival had the steepest jump in New England, upon which Albert Hanson regained his position as champion with a jump of 91 feet. “Bing”Anderson took second prize beating two Dartmouth jumpers.

            The first string team went to Montréal, where gunner Michelson, a 16-year-old, received a special prize. Then, at Lake Placid, Michelson topped the entire field in the international tournament, winning the Beck trophy and setting the Eastern record with jumps of 110, 110 and 118 feet in perfect form. Along with this, a second string team captured prizes at Laconia, where Levi Paulson demonstrated the Rudd jump (somersault). This was also the year (1921) that ski-jouring made its first appearance in Berlin as a winter sport.

            In 1922, the club aimed to build the biggest ski jump in the East. It was designed by C.N. Johnson and built by Olaf Oleson on Paines Hill after the plans of the one at Steamboat Springs Colorado.

            A constant effort was always made to get more height on the jump incline and increase the length of the jumps, but the records remained around 111 feet.

I will continue with more of Berlin's great winter sports history that took place in this city's skiing heydays.

The picture of the three young Berlin superstar skiers in 1921 are from left to right: Gunnar Michelson 19, Dewey Couture 16, and Ingvald “Bing” Anderson 19.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 January 2014 18:00

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Enemies of the Poor



Suddenly it’s O.K., even mandatory, for politicians with national ambitions to talk about helping the poor. This is easy for Democrats, who can go back to being the party of F.D.R. and L.B.J. It’s much more difficult for Republicans, who are having a hard time shaking their reputation for reverse Robin-Hoodism, for being the party that takes from the poor and gives to the rich.

And the reason that reputation is so hard to shake is that it’s justified. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that right now Republicans are doing all they can to hurt the poor, and they would have inflicted vast additional harm if they had won the 2012 election. Moreover, G.O.P. harshness toward the less fortunate isn’t just a matter of spite (although that’s part of it); it’s deeply rooted in the party’s ideology, which is why recent speeches by leading Republicans declaring that they do too care about the poor have been almost completely devoid of policy specifics.

Let’s start with the recent Republican track record.

The most important current policy development in America is the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, a k a Obamacare. Most Republican-controlled states are, however, refusing to implement a key part of the act, the expansion of Medicaid, thereby denying health coverage to almost five million low-income Americans. And the amazing thing is that they’re going to great lengths to block aid to the poor even though letting the aid through would cost almost nothing; nearly all the costs of Medicaid expansion would be paid by Washington.

Meanwhile, those Republican-controlled states are slashing unemployment benefits, education financing and more. As I said, it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that the G.O.P. is hurting the poor as much as it can.

What would Republicans have done if they had won the White House in 2012? Much more of the same. Bear in mind that every budget the G.O.P. has offered since it took over the House in 2010 involves savage cuts in Medicaid, food stamps and other antipoverty programs.

Still, can’t Republicans change their approach? The answer, I’m sorry to say, is almost surely no.

First of all, they’re deeply committed to the view that efforts to aid the poor are actually perpetuating poverty, by reducing incentives to work. And to be fair, this view isn’t completely wrong.

True, it’s total nonsense when applied to unemployment insurance. The notion that unemployment is high because we’re “paying people not to work” is a fallacy (no matter how desperate you make the unemployed, their desperation does nothing to create more jobs) wrapped in a falsehood (very few people are choosing to remain unemployed and keep collecting benefit checks).

But our patchwork, uncoordinated system of antipoverty programs does have the effect of penalizing efforts by lower-income households to improve their position: the more they earn, the fewer benefits they can collect. In effect, these households face very high marginal tax rates. A large fraction, in some cases 80 cents or more, of each additional dollar they earn is clawed back by the government.

The question is what we could do to reduce these high effective tax rates. We could simply slash benefits; this would reduce the disincentive to work, but only by intensifying the misery of the poor. And the poor would become less productive as well as more miserable; it’s hard to take advantage of a low marginal tax rate when you’re suffering from poor nutrition and inadequate health care.

Alternatively, we could reduce the rate at which benefits phase out. In fact, one of the unheralded virtues of Obamacare is that it does just that. That is, it doesn’t just improve the lot of the poor; it improves their incentives, because the subsidies families receive for health care fade out gradually with higher income, instead of simply disappearing for anyone too affluent to receive Medicaid. But improving incentives this way means spending more, not less, on the safety net, and taxes on the affluent have to rise to pay for that spending. And it’s hard to imagine any leading Republican being willing to go down that road — or surviving the inevitable primary challenge if he did.

The point is that a party committed to small government and low taxes on the rich is, more or less necessarily, a party committed to hurting, not helping, the poor.

Will this ever change? Well, Republicans weren’t always like this. In fact, all of our major antipoverty programs — Medicaid, food stamps, the earned-income tax credit — used to have bipartisan support. And maybe someday moderation will return to the G.O.P.

For now, however, Republicans are in a deep sense enemies of America’s poor. And that will remain true no matter how hard the likes of Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio try to convince us otherwise.


Last Updated on Monday, 13 January 2014 18:54

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