The Ballad of Berton Braley

June 4, 2014
 

The Ballad of Berton Braley

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June 4, 2014 by Triangle Credit Union

This past April, we played a fun Mad Libs™ style game with our Facebook fans. Check out the video below and read about its fascinating connection to history.

As we are celebrating our 75th Anniversary, I have been digging into Triangle’s rich history, a good part of which is shared. Triangle was formed in 1939 as the credit union of Nashua Corporation, then the Nashua Gummed and Coated Paper Company, for the benefit of its factory and office workers. The Nashua Gummed and Coated Paper Company, which dates back to 1848, began by making cardboard and glazed paper. Interestingly, Nashua natives used to lovingly refer to Nashua Corp as the “Card Shop,” as during those early years it made playing cards for the “forty-niners” of the California Gold Rush! By the turn of the 20th century, Nashua Corp expanded to packaging and tape and employed thousands of Nashuans as it became internationally renowned. The company, which still exists today, though in smaller form as a subsidiary of Cenevo Inc, left an indelible mark on the city of Nashua. Reflecting on its history at the time of the acquisition, the Telegraph wrote, “Nashua Corp has grown up with the city, transforming and reinventing itself along the way.” This growth, of both the company and the city, strikingly reveals itself in our archive of company newsletters.

These newsletters, in their faded sepia tones, are poignant reflectors of the mores of the times and I feel compelled to share them in any way I can. As I was thumbing through a collection from the 1950s I came upon a series of fun jingles called “Budgetary Ballads.” Accompanied with cute cartoons and titles like “Judge it by the Budget,” the jingles carry the post-war spirit and optimism of the American worker rising into the middle class. To preserve and perhaps even breathe new life into the jingles, I decided to ask our Facebook fans to help us update them.

So, this past April, we played a Mad Libs™ style game. I omitted key nouns and verbs from one of the original jingles, and our Facebook fans submitted their own budget related words. True to Mad Libs™, they did so without ever seeing the jingle. The game was a great success, and anticipation built to the reveal of our completed song. However, along the way I hit a snag; a very interesting snag.

I had noticed that in the original ballad, credit was given to Berton Braley. When I first saw the name, I assumed it was someone from Nashua Corp. Throughout the newsletters there are cartoons, writings, and photos credited, usually, to individuals listed as working for the art department. It turns out, a Google search later, that Mr. Braley was, in fact, a prolific published poet from Wisconsin. He wrote thousands of poems up to his death in 1966, often commissioned for magazines like Coal Age and American Machinist. It is quite possible then, that his work was commissioned by Nashua Corp for the company newsletters. Though there is little of Berton Braley out there, a short Wikipedia entry, and a published “Best of,” there is a Cyber Museum dedicated to preserving his legacy. There they list all of his known works, but to my surprise there is no mention of his “Budgetary Ballads!” I reached out to the Cyber Museum a few weeks back to alert them of our find. I hope to hear back so that we can make an arrangement to submit the poems to for their rightful place in the museum.

In the meantime, with full respect to the immense talents of Mr. Braley, I wrote an original ballad in his style. I still used the words our fans submitted and the video above is what we came up with.

 

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