The History of Blackout Podcast's Berlin
I grew up in New Hampshire. Southern New Hampshire, not the “North Country” as the surrounding area is referred to in Blackout. I have never been to Berlin, the town in which Simon and his family reside. My grandmother was from Berlin, and the only anecdote that I know about it is that it was a paper mill town that pumped so much chemicals into the river that the entire town smelled like sulphur at all times. But 100 years ago, Berlin was flourishing.
Known as the “Town That Trees Built” Berlin attracted French Canadians and European settlers to the city. At the height of its population in 1930, Berlin was the 4th largest city in New Hampshire. But a few short years later during the Great Depression, the mills began to close start a period of rapid economic decline forcing many out of work. The paper and pulp industry continued to diminish, and an area that was once a cultural melting pot with its own symphony and railroad line was transformed into the setting that we hear described in Blackout.
Now, the population is less than half the size it once was, and the former railroad lines have been converted to ATV trails. The last mill was closed in 2006. Many of the current residents are employed by a correctional facility, and a prison, that I assume will play a larger role in upcoming episodes of Blackout. Coupled with the impact of the opioid epidemic, which has a heightened presence in New Hampshire, the hopelessness of some of the characters in Blackout is realistic, even if their accents are exaggerated.
However, juxtaposed with the current economic situation, is the ever-present natural beauty that is found in this area of the North Country. While lesser known than its skiable surrounding destinations, Jericho State Park offers an abundance of outdoor activities such as camping, swimming and snowmobiling. Jericho Mountain, also known locally as Black Mountain, is the location of the state’s first wind farm and five turbines can be seen erected at the summit.
With its complex past and isolated location, Berlin provides a very unique setting for Blackout to take place. I’m interested to hear what becomes of the town in the upcoming episodes, although we already know that Simon heads south at some point. I do hope that the town will see an increase in tourism this summer, as Blackout’s followers now have an awareness of the area.