Written by Edna Liggin
Published October 27, 1988
This second installment of the history of the town of Bernice is an attempt to compile a memory bank of persons now living in or near to Bernice. What can be remembered are clues to this Bernice history.
Imagine Lonnie Gray as a small boy making his first trip to Bernice and paying a nickel for his first ice-cream cone. “It was heaped up, too” says Mr. Gray. The only thing was, he didn’t know he was supposed to eat the cone?
Bob Mitcham, who had a store where had been the earlier establishment of Selig & McDonald, also sold a bowl of chili for fifteen cents, and ice shavings with flavors on them. What an enticement for a small boy to come to town!
Most businesses in the early days were on the street facing the railroad and depot. When a young man named C. T. Salley opened a business in 1916 on the corner opposite the depot, it is the beginning of what the name Salley was to mean to the town of Bernice. It is not surprising that many memories still exist of this Salley Cafe and Meat Market.
Ten years later the four sons of C. T. Salley entered the family business, and not many years later, the Salley Wholesale Grocer Company. The time was to come when the business spread out to Shreveport and Monroe, and to gross $10,000,000 a year with 26 big trucks.
The mother of the four Salley brothers, Ada Farrar Salley, is remembered as working in the cafe at times, just to get “out”. Many recall the bowls of chili that could be bought, also for fifteen cents.
Home-made ice cream, in hand turned freezers became popular in these early days. Three-hundred pound blocks of ice came in on the train, and was retailed by C. T. Salley, and delivered to houses. A number of people recalled wrapping the 100 lbs of ice and keeping it on the hearthstone.
There are many memories of G. E. Lindsey. He was one of the earliest residents of Bernice. Although he once operated a cotton gin, he made a prediction long ago that has surprisingly come true. He said that cotton would decline, and that cattle and timber would predominate in the Bernice area.
G. E. Lindsey lived long years to become one of the oldest and best beloved citizens. He survived a million dollar mercantile business wipe out. He served 32 years on the Union Parish Police Jury, 22 of these as president.
Miriam Harris remembers that the Lindsey store had a balcony for women’s made-to-wear clothing and also a millinery shop. The clothes and hats came by train from St. Louis, Mo.
The name Lindsey lives on today in the building that is known as the Lindsey Hotel. It was first managed by Lila Rivers.
Once the Adcock family lived across the street from this hotel. “There were seven of us” declared a daughter, Mabel Adcock Smith, now living in Smackover, Arkansas. “And we all took turns at the switchboard of the telephone company.” The name Adcock lives on in the memory of older Bernice folks because of the pictures Mr. Adcock made. What home does not cherish one of his family pictures?
The early Bernice Telephone Company was located in the E. B. Robinson building and someone has remembered that Eula O’Bannon worked in the first office. Lucille Porter remembers it being on the first floor and as she and Velma Gray walked to school they were fascinated watching the switchboard. She remembers the Adcock family at work in the office, especially Mabel. They were then Lucille Gresham and Velma Booles, and had a rather long walk to school at Bernice. Frances Booles Matthews remembers the switchboard.
The E. B. Robinson building, it is remembered as being on a corner, a block from the depot, and was two stories. On the second floor were the offices of Doctors Colvin, Garland and Glover, and the Red Cross office, Home Economics class, and the meeting place of the Eastern Star Ladies. It was also the Masonic Building.
Miriam Harris tells us there was once a wooden Masonic Hall where later was the Henry Odom home. Daisy Garland taught school on the first floor.
Who is Miriam Harris, now resident at Pinecrest Manor? She was the daughter of Captain Will Robinson, riverboat pilot, and brother to E. B. Robinson, She attended the two story brick school and graduated from Bernice High School in 1917. The Robinsons, along with Joseph and W. R. Heard, were among those who came from Shiloh to establish businesses in the new town of Bernice. Bernice was a new frontier for Shiloh.
Miriam remembers two hardware stores in early Bernice. One owned by John Cook on a corner, the C. J. Morton’s up the street facing the depot. She also remembers a Mr. Autry having a livery stable in the same area, back toward where later stood Booles garage. Buggies and horses could be hired, easily accessible to passengers getting off the train who needed these.
Mrs. Harris names from memory three homes presently in Bernice, still lived in by descendants of the family. There are Lolita Minter living in the home built by her father, Bob Cook; Mrs. R. A. Autrey, daughter-in-law of Ab Autrey, and the Y. S. Fuller home lived in by Mary Moore. She names homes still in Bernice as symbolizing the early times in Bernice as the homes of the Dr. Colvin, Dr. Laurence and the Lindsey Hotel.
What was fun in the second and third decade of Bernice? Elese Dendy Fitzgerald recalls that her father, Larkin Dendy, built an open-top silent movie theater where now is the Louisiana Power and Light Company, across from the depot, using bricks made at Pisgah. Mrs. Fitzgerald recalls as a small child watching these bricks being made. Larkin Dendy had a brick store, general merchandise, in Bernice. He once had a tent bank where later was the Methodist Church.
Miriam Harris says that for youth activities, they walked the tram full of cured lumber and at times rode the “dummy” to the end of the line, where today is Corney Lake, and had a picnic. If nothing else, boys and girls met the two passenger trains each day, and watched the drummers get off, and get rooms at nearby Heard Hotel. Papers and mail came in on these trains.
Once, she recalls, there was a big celebration, probably the Fourth, with many animals brought in from the country and cooked in pits in the park. A barber and carpenter named Galloway led a band for the festive occasion. In 1927 Guy McDonald became the first band director for Bernice High School.
Groups of youth from Bernice and nearby churches would ride the train in what was called “Excursions”. Many times these were Sunday School classes. The Rock Island railroad was later to make an extension to serve Salley Grocer Company.
What other memories of the trains? Ruth Glover’s mother Rosa Bennett told her she remembered scrap iron being loaded on the train. Bertha Fomby remembers her father, John B. Tabor, drove cattle to Bernice, to be loaded on the train and shipped to the market.
An item sent down on the train that was most unusual was an engagement ring, sent from Kelton Thaxton, young pharmacist in training in Little Rock, Arkansas, to Clarice Russ at Ruston. This is a cherished memory of their daughter, Madalyn Reeves. They married in the early 1920’s with Mr. Thaxton a druggist for many years in Miller Drug Company and Mrs. Thaxton to retire from Bernice Elementary School after 42 years of teaching.
This drug store was recently torn down, but the safe was saved and is now in the back of the Harlow Drug Store. It is a heavy, large safe, with big rollers, and came from Buffalo, New York. Without doubt it came into Bernice on the train.
Some memories include the children, who picked up scrap iron and sold to Frank Booles, that they might have money to go to the movies. At school they picked up lunch scraps for Daisy Garland to feed her chickens. What did they do at recess: They hunted four-leaf clovers and played jacks.
Frank Booles had a part in the memories of these years. He moved his family from out Weldon way and lived in what is now known as the Melton house and established a business where now is the Salley Grocery complex. He did blacksmith work until people owned enough cars for him to do garage work. His daughter, Velma Gray, remembers they did not like to live in town, so it was back to the nearby country. Later, Mr. Booles had a business about a block west of the depot.
Included in Velma Gray’s memories of the time she lived in Bernice are of carrying water from the house behind them and that her grandfather, Bob Booles, lived with them, and that her father did blacksmith work for William Thaxton. The Thaxton Shop was in the vicinity of the later Whiteside Store. Madalyn Reeves remembers her early childhood in this area.
J. C. Barrett remembers many fine stores in Bernice at one time and especially does he remember the Lindsey Mercantile Company with its system of money for purchases going up on a cord to the balcony for change made by a clerk there. Madalyn Reeves remembers what a big store it was, occupying several of the Grafton buildings on Highway 167, around the corner from the Lindsey Hotel. Minnie Baldwin remembers that Mattie Porter, sister of G. E. Lindsey worked there for many years. Other employees were Tom Newton, bookkeeper, Willie Lee Thompson and Leonard Brooks.
G. E. Lindsey is remembered as having a saw mill, east of the railroad track, just back of the well-remembered Heard Hotel site. At one time, Lomas Gin was in this area.
The first lighting system came in the town from the Bernice Mill Company sold to Louisiana Power and Light Company in 1937. Ark-La Gas Company extended its lines to Bernice in 1927. Highway 167 was paved in 1931.
(to be continued)