Bernice Residents Remember Prosperous Days

Written by Edna Liggin

Published March 16, 1989

Bernice Home of Adcock

Minnie McCuller Baldwin has other Bernice memories aside from the post office. She attended Bernice High School the same time as Bernice Lowery Bolt, for whom the town was named. She remembers her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Allen Lowery, and later, Mrs. Lowery a widow, marrying J. D. Cook. After the school years, Mrs. Baldwin saw Bernice Bolt from time to time as she visited Bernice from Kilgore, Texas. She died in 1988.

She has memories of the R. W. Patterson store, the Heard store, then the office of Homer Miller, side by side on Main Street. She recalls that at some of these stores, a person could buy anything they wanted.

From time to time there emerges a legendary figure in the 1930 history of Bernice town, and Susy Cole is one of these. His parents, the John Coles, lived where now stands the Hageman house, and John Cole was said to have had a store. Persons living today remember Suzy as meeting every train that arrived on schedule at Bernice, and that he delivered papers.

The train continues to be in the memory, such as Madge Burns recalling that once a VBS principal, at the First Baptist Church of Bernice, she took her students on a train ride to Junction City, with parents picking them up to bring them home. Ruth Glover remembers students riding the train to return to classes at Louisiana Tech.

Many people perhaps remember an old landmark of early Bernice destroyed November 19, 1939 by fire. This was the two story house in the northeast part of town. At the time it was occupied by Daniel Dudley and wife, but still owned by George James. George James, originally from Ohio, came to Bernice in 1901, and bought the Kirkland Mill, so it can really be said that he helped to “build” the town of Bernice. He left in 1924 and eventually went into the hotel business in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

There’s pictures of a group of boys sitting on a fence in front of the Laurence home, back in the 1920’s when Highway 167 was only a dirt street named Cherry Street. These boys had baseball on their mind and one of them was young Wick Laurence. The playing of baseball was to flourish in the 1930’s and the Bernice Big Six was to become famous in North Louisiana. The Big Eight was to follow in a later decade.

Dr. Wick Laurence remembers that there seemed to have always been a baseball team at Bernice. In 1932 he was captain of the Tech Baseball Team, feeling like an old pro. Standing out in Dr. Laurence’s memory is a father-son playing – Jim and Buck Hollis. He also remembers players Martin Porter, Tamp Tucker, Sydney Pratt, Homer Miller, Frank and Lonnie Gray, Barham Sterling, M. C. Still, Sport Grafton, Lefty Albritton, Joe Leonard Green.

Where did they play, we asked? It seems everywhere. In Waldo, Strong and Camden for a few places in Arkansas. Then Farmerville, Dubach and Hodge. Once they caught the train and went to Winnfield to play. This was the game in which five home runs were hit! Dr. Laurence remembers that once in a game with Homer, Tamp Tucker hit a home run with the final score 1-0.

Lonnie Gray thinks his memory is right when he says they played in every community that had a team. He recalls that when the games were at Bernice, they played on a field near where is the present gym. As Lonnie was a farmer, he said they played more often when the crops were laid by. Lonnie reckons that the Bernice player that went the highest was Seebe Booles, who played for the Cleveland Indians. Lonnie and his brother, Frank Gray, were pitchers. He remembers players such as James and Fred Glover, Jim Hollis, John Caldwell, Stanford Tucker, Young Burns, Sydney Pratt and Martin Porter.

Rufus Smith was on the scene in baseball playing in the thirties. His remembrance is of M. C. Still pitching in high school, with these on the team–Curtis Green, John Porter, Barham Sterling (first base), and Max Akin. Rufus Smith remembers these as excellent athletes. Others who were baseball stars to him were George Grafton, Wick Laurence and Chick Burns. He hasn’t forgotten Mark Price as high school principal.

It was the golden era in sports in a small town. Young an old enjoyed the games and supported the Bernice team. Cotton was king, two gins were running, the trains were running. What more did Bernice need?

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