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Locals look back on Berlin Wall opening PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt   

Erik and Michelle Vieselmeyer, Brad Gerk chiseled off pieces of wall 25 years ago

With chips of the Berlin Wall in their possession and a scrapbook of memories from when they obtained those chips 25 years ago, Erik and Michelle Vieselmeyer and Brad Gerk vividly recall their trip to the wall a month after it opened in 1989.

Gerk, Erik Vieselmeyer and Michelle Cirbo (now Vieselmeyer) were halfway through their senior year of college, completing their bachelor’s degrees through Colorado State University at Wye College in Wye, England, near London.

Utilizing their Eurail passes during their Christmas holiday break, they traveled by train in Europe.

It was a monumental time in the world as the Berlin Wall was opened Nov. 9, 1989, unifying a city that had been divided for 28 years.

What began as a fence in 1961, the Berlin Wall evolved to include an inner wall, a 300-foot No-Man’s Land, soldiers patroling with dogs, anti-vehicle trenches, electric fences, massive light systems, watchtowers and minefields.

With a clear directive that perhaps they shouldn’t go into Berlin during their holiday travels, the trio was torn. They laughed about it last week, noting that Erik was the reluctant one. But after visiting some of his relatives, the Kurt Vieselmeyer family in Oldendorf, W. Germany, he too was convinced it was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up.

Michelle (Cirbo) Vieselmeyer chisels a souvenir from the Berlin Wall shortly after it was opened in 1989.

They caught a train into Berlin. On the train, soldiers with machine guns kept asking for their passes, and they tried to show them their Eurail passes, not realizing that they weren’t valid in Berlin nor in East Germany.

There was a language barrier that made the communication difficult. A bilingual lady on the train explained to the soldiers that the young Americans didn’t realize they needed a different pass into Berlin. At that point, that’s where the train was going.

She convinced the soldiers to just give the trio a fine and let them stay on the train.

They got off the train on the west side of Berlin, which was in West Germany and walked to such historic places as the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie.

A few openings along the Berlin Wall, called checkpoints, were used by officials with special permission to cross the border. The most famous, Checkpoint Charlie, was on the border between East and West Berlin.

Reflecting on their youth at the time, Gerk said he’s not sure they fully realized the significance of the wall being opened and soon to be torn down. “I’m not sure we knew what it really meant at the time,” he added.

Their decision to go into Berlin was pushed by the knowledge that the wall was coming down and they needed to go see it. It was a historic moment.

Gerk said now they almost regret not going on into East Germany, dangerous as it felt at the time.

Some American youth who did venture into East Germany told the trio about their experience. They said the East German side of the wall was super clean, but with no color. It was all concrete, asphalt and gray.

The train trip alone gave the college students a great perspective of the contrast between the freedom in West Germany and the communistic control in East Germany. They could see over the wall into East Germany and the contrasting venue.

Erik Vieselmeyer, pictured at left, wields the chisel as Brad Gerk looks on at the Berlin Wall in 1989 when the HHS graduates were seniors in college studying at Wye College in England and traveling and touring during their holiday break.

It was much more depressed in East Germany, with all apartment buildings looking alike, as part of central planning where nothing stood out as being different.

Gerk said the vehicles in West Germany were high-end BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes, while in East Germany, they could see tiny little square box cars.

A few soldiers were still walking on top of the wall to try to keep people away, Michelle noted.

However, they borrowed a chisel and were able to chip off pieces of the wall for a piece of history in the making.

Reading the Holyoke Enterprise’s Nov. 13 info piece on the Berlin Wall brought back memories for the Vieselmeyers and Gerk. They had to laugh when they read that people who chipped parts of the wall away for souvenirs were known as “wall woodpeckers.”

Official demolition of the Berlin Wall started June 13, 1990, eight months after it was opened.

On the return trip out of Berlin, the Holyoke threesome saw families leaving East Germany by the droves, headed to the land of recognized freedom in West Germany.

Recording their experience in detail in a scrapbook, Michelle noted that they took the night train out of Berlin to Munich, Germany.

A scrapbook of their 1989 holiday travel in Europe, as well as their commemorative chips of the Berlin Wall which they chiseled off themselves, were brought out recently as Erik and Michelle Vieselmeyer and Brad Gerk, pictured from left, recalled their time in Europe several weeks after the opening of the Berlin Wall Nov. 9, 1989.  

—Enterprise photo

“It just happened to be the last day for East Germans to cross the border and get 30 free Deutsche Marks,” she chronicled in the narrative.

With the Berlin Wall known as the barrier to freedom for 28 years, its opening became a symbol of freedom worldwide.

Erik said the 25 years since the opening of the wall has given them a perspective of the historical event that they didn’t grasp in 1989.

He sincerely gives credit where it’s due — to the American veterans who set the stage for the ending of the Cold War and the symbolic boundary between democracy and communism.

What would life be like here without that monumental key to freedom in 1989? “What our vets have done for us is so important,” Erik added.

Holyoke Enterprise November 27, 2014

Country Christmas activities set for Mon. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Holyoke Enterprise   

“An All-American Christmas” is this year’s theme for the Holyoke Country Christmas Monday, Dec. 1, sponsored by the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce.

“Frozen” is the free kids’ movie that will be shown at the Peerless Theatre at 4 p.m. Immediately following the movie, Santa and Mrs. Claus will distribute candy bags provided by the Holyoke Volunteer Fire Department.

After the movie around 6 p.m., the Clauses will lead kids to the stoplight corner to turn on the Christmas lights downtown.

That will lead up to the 17th annual Parade of Lights at 6:30 p.m. on Interocean Avenue.

The VFD will be serving a freewill donation soup supper at the Vets Hall from 5-8 p.m. with donations to benefit the July 4th fireworks.

Santa’s village will also be set up at the Vets Hall with Enchanted Moments Art & Photography taking photos of visitors with Santa and Mrs. Claus from 4:30-5:30 p.m. and 7-8:30 p.m. The Jolly Dozen FCE Club will be holding a candy-guessing game there from 5-7 p.m.

Hospice of the Plains will present its Tree of Lights fundraiser display at the Vets Hall. The tree will be displaying ornaments of people who have received, are battling or have succumbed to terminal diagnoses. People can “adopt” a person on an ornament for a donation of any amount.

The tree will be on display at Storybrooke, Ink until it is moved to the Vets Hall for Country Christmas. To include someone on an ornament, contact Andrea Calhoon at 307-631-7823.

From 4-8 p.m., the Prairie Winds Art Center of Colorado, 443 S. Interocean Ave., will be open to serve hot chocolate and cookies and provide artist demonstrations, local musical entertainment and gift ideas.

The Phillips County Museum, 109 S. Campbell Ave., will also be open from 4-8 p.m. and serving hot cider and cookies with Phillips County history books available.

Kids’ keepsake ornaments, which were made at the Nov. 22 Kids’ Holiday activity, will be on display on a Christmas tree at Sullivan’s Appliance & Air.

Holyoke Lions Club will be serving hot cider at the mini park, the Early Childhood Council, LPS is sponsoring its free Select-a-Book table in front of the Flower Garden, and Phillips County Family Education Services is serving hot chocolate and burritos in front of Don Francisco Mexican store.

Home-based businesses will be set up in two locations — the Peerless Theatre and Viaero Wireless. Christmas cookies and beverages will also be served at Viaero.

Many Holyoke businesses will be open late for Country Christmas activities as it serves as a kickoff for the holiday season in Holyoke.

Holyoke Enterprise November 27, 2014

School looks to have more revenue than expected PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt   

Preliminary information shows that Holyoke School District Re-1J has a little more revenue than planned when the preliminary budget was prepared in June.

At the Nov. 18 board meeting, Superintendent Bret Miles noted the school board has a few budget choices to make for the adoption of the 2014-15 budget at the Dec. 11 meeting.

The budget adopted in June assumed the district would be adding about $60,000 to the ending fund balance, and it did grow $61,265. Miles pointed out that this money was spent in July on employee bonuses, which the board decided to give because of the growth in fund balance.

Additionally, the June budget included using $60,000 of reserve to move the June 30, 2015, ending fund balance to just over $1.2 million.

With some changes between June and December, there are some budget choices to make. There are some increased costs that need to be accounted for, but after that, the fund balance could be reduced.

However, Miles explained that if it is still the intent to use the $60,000 from the reserve as revenue in this year, other district goals can be met.

By leaving the $60,000 of fund balance in the budget, the district can cover the increased payroll cost of $26,906 which came from personnel adjustments in the hiring of new teachers with more advanced degrees than the teachers that left the district.

Additionally, $7,398 can be added to the athletic budget, which is also payroll-related.

Thirdly, technology support could be added if the $60,000 remains in the budget. Miles said this would be a good time to add a second employee in the technology department, using some additional moneys, as well as the already budgeted tech secretary moneys.

Lastly, Miles said capital projects could be increased by $23,214.

In recommending that the $60,000 be used from the reserve as revenue, Miles said the district is already off to a good start with an increase with the governor’s proposed budget. He said most believe it is likely to get a little better.

Holyoke’s final October count also came in at 584.5 funded full-time equivalent, which is up a couple from the preliminary report in October and from what was used for budgeting.

In a full demographic report at last week’s meeting, Miles said demographics are very stable, with little change in the last two years.

Statistics report that 52 percent of the student population is white, 46 percent Hispanic and 2 percent other.

English Language Learners account for 24 percent of the student population districtwide. This includes 86 students or 26 percent at the elementary school and 58 students for 21 percent at the JR/SR high.

In the final demographic statistic, Miles noted that 47 percent of the districtwide student population is eligible for free or reduced meals. This includes 54 percent of the elementary students and 40 percent of the JR/SR high.


Adjustments made on Innovation District application

Updates on the latest drafts of the district’s Innovation District application were reviewed at last week’s board meeting, with some clarifications made.

Miles pointed out that while the district seeks a waiver from the provision of law from SB 191 requiring test scores to be included in teacher evaluation, it is not waiving the provision of law covering probationary status.

A legal opinion clarified that the district would still have the right to move a teacher from non-probationary status back to probationary status with two consecutive ineffective ratings.

The board approved the engagement for legal services with the Colorado Association of School Boards during the Innovation District application process.

Miles is scheduled to meet with the attorney in mid-December for what they hope will be a final draft.

Miles is candidate for BOCES executive director

BOCES board representative Jon King said the main topic for the BOCES board has been the replacement of executive director Tim Sanger, who announced in September that he will retire at the end of his current contract, June 30, 2015.

Miles was interviewed by the BOCES board executive committee Nov. 5, and King said they would be recommending Miles for the position for a full board vote at the Nov. 24 BOCES board meeting.

The BOCES board meeting on Nov. 24 will be followed by a retreat which will include full boards from the BOCES districts.

In reviewing the Holyoke board retreat topics for Monday, Dec. 1, it was noted that discussion on a superintendent search will be a priority if Miles is approved for the BOCES position.

Additional retreat topics will include updates to Destination 2016, review of teacher evaluation instrument, staff recognition and follow-up from the Nov. 24 BOCES retreat on the topics of graduation requirements and assessments.

In preparation for the Nov. 24 retreat, Holyoke board members continued discussion on concerns about graduation requirements and additional assessments proposed by the state.


Other business

In other business at the Nov. 18 meeting, the school board:

—noted December board meetings will include a board retreat Monday, Dec. 1, at 5:30 p.m. in the board meeting room and a regular meeting Thursday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. The Dec. 2 and Dec. 16 meetings will be canceled.

—enjoyed a report by Principles of Business class students Kayla Marshall and Morgan Philips on their “Big Squeeze” project. They cited the impact of government regulations, technology and cultural issues on how businesses operate. They compared and contrasted the effects on local businesses as well as a larger business like Cabela’s.

—heard a fall sports report from athletic director Sandra Rahe.

—approved changes on final reading for policies on promotion and retention, health and family life/sex education, teaching about controversial issues, grading/assessment systems, and preparation for postsecondary and workforce success.

—gave first-reading approval to repeal several policies that are no longer needed or have been combined with other policies.

Holyoke Enterprise November 27, 2014

Council reviews budget PDF Print E-mail
Written by Isaac Kreider   

A budget of $8,442,409 for 2015 was accepted by the Holyoke City Council at the Tuesday, Nov. 18, meeting.

A final reading and passage will take place at the Tuesday, Dec. 2, council meeting.

Annual appropriations were also approved. The majority of the 2015 budget will be set aside for the general fund at $4,284,620 and the utility fund at $3,540,576.

Other fund appropriations are as follows:

Sale of Heginbotham Land$617
Equipment Replacement$422,336
Library Land$500

Cemetery Perpetual Care

Fire Pension$17,175
Massman Memorial$51


Cemetery White/Leeper Memorial $41
Conservation Trust$79,488
LeBlanc Estate $2,495
Capital Reserve$93,500
Spindler Library $0


Swim team practice time discussed further

Holyoke High School swim team coaches Alyson Brinkema and Adria Colver were in attendance at last week’s meeting to note a confusion regarding the HHS swim team’s pool time extension.

After some discussion, the council voted to schedule a meeting between the recreation committee and all concerned parties to further discuss the matter.

At the Nov. 4 meeting, the council had reviewed the team’s request to extend its practice end time from 5:15 to 5:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Pool manager Karla Pargas had voiced her concern that extending the swim team’s practice time to 5:30 p.m. would further interfere with lap swimming and private lessons which begin at 5 p.m. Councilmembers had voted to leave the team’s practice time as it was.

“It is critical that we have the 4-5:30 time slot for practicing,” Brinkema said. “We are a small team compared to a lot of the other teams we face. Our girls are really dedicated, but we can’t compete if we have less time to practice.”

Colver noted that the swim team has around $3,000 invested in equipment at the pool and always handles its own equipment for practices.

“We love the program, and it seems to be growing,” Colver said.


Wine tasting ordinance moving forward

A wine tasting ordinance drafted by City Attorney Al Wall was presented at the Nov. 18 meeting and was approved by the council on first reading. It amends title 5 of the Holyoke Municipal Code and authorizes retail liquor stores and liquor licensed drugstores in Holyoke to conduct tastings of malt, vinous or spirituous liquors.

The ordinance can be found in the legal section of this week’s Enterprise and is set for final reading and passage at the Dec. 2 council meeting.


Four percent electric rate increase proposed

New electric rates have been proposed for usage in 2015 and will result in an approximate increase of four percent for residential and commercial customers of the City of Holyoke.

The City Council will hold a public hearing Jan. 6 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers to discuss the proposed changes. All customers have the right to review the data supporting this change, and documents are available at the city municipal building.

This rate change will permit the City of Holyoke to offset rate increases for its wholesale energy and power requirement purchases and is the minimum necessary to preserve the financial integrity of the city’s electrical system.

The full proposal can be found in the legal section of this week’s Enterprise.


Officials report

City Superintendent Mark Brown reported two water main breaks since the last meeting. One was at the intersection of Kunkel Street and Sherman Avenue. The other was along East Gordon Street. Both breaks were handled promptly.

He also noted that a zone pump on the boiler at the Heginbotham Library failed, leaving the upstairs area without heat. A new pump had been received Tuesday, and Brown said he planned for it to be installed within the next few days.

Police Chief Doug Bergstrom informed the council that the last of the trailer homes behind the Cedar Inn was scheduled to be removed soon to proceed with the clearing of that city block.

Bergstrom also reported that Officer Dan Coontz has been doing really well and will be moving into phase two of his training with the Holyoke Police Department. According to Bergstrom, this will involve him having more solo patrol time and responding to more calls, along with other duties, to help further progress him into the system.


Other business

In other business Nov. 18, the council:

—accepted the recommendation from the Holyoke Planning Commission to zone the First Baptist Church of Holyoke as RE — one- or two-family residence.

—approved a wage increase for lifeguard Lori McWilliams since she has earned her water safety instructor certification, and approved the hire of Josh Woodhouse as a lifeguard, starting at the same rate since he has already obtained his WSI certification.

—approved holiday bonuses for full-time employees.

—approved the provision of $175 as prize money for the annual Christmas lighting/decorating contest.

—renewed the liquor license for Kwik Stop.


Holyoke Enterprise November 27, 2014