Bernice Historical Society
Bernice Dots #14
By Cathy Buckley
In 1924 another Bernice hotel, the Lindsey Hotel, was sold by Mrs. Lila Rives. Rives was the mother of G.E. Lindsey and in January sold the hotel to her son. It was stated she had accumulated enough money from the running of the hotel to be comfortable for the rest of her life. G.E. Lindsey took over the running of the hotel in February and his mother kept a suite of rooms at the hotel and stated her desire to spend most of her time with her daughter Mrs. J.T. Porter of Bernice and Mrs. Arthur Scott of Winnfield.
That same month G.E. Lindsey invited several Bernice men to his mercantile for a meeting to devise plans for the upkeep of roads leading into Bernice. A committee was selected to draft rules, regulations and specifications. On the committee were Doctors C.C. Colvin, E.O. Glover and D.B. Garland along with C.L, Mabry and J.P. Isom.
Their plan for the upkeep of roads was to assess each business and professional in town $2 per month and individual residents, $1 a month. This money would be used to employ a man to drag the roads at least twice a week and keep all the deep ruts and holes filled in. Due to the enormous amount of heavy traffic hauling lumber, gas and oil it was said that the roads into town were impassable during the rainy season. The men gave the name “Good Roads Club” to their group and worked to bring state and federal highways through town.
December business was especially good in 1924 but the sales were mostly of necessities. It was said the sale of fireworks was the smallest in the history of the town and only an occasional firecracker was heard with Christmas Day being very quiet with only a few people being on the streets at any one time.
Another tornado struck north of town in the spring of 1925. Several homes were destroyed, some of which were of recent construction. One home was blown completely away, leaving the floor intact on the foundation and the only piece of furniture left in the home was the bed in which the couple was sleeping.
In July the Bank of Bernice began work on their new building which was built on the lot next to the old bank. The bank was advertised to be modern and up to date in every way and was being built at a cost of $10,000.
In October the Times reported Bernice in the midst of a prosperity wave with 4 new buildings under construction. J.E. Buckley was building a store and residence on the south side of the depot; Lindsey Mercantile was in a remodeling project and 2 other residences were under construction.
A good cotton crop that year had led to a fuel famine when the local farmers had experienced what had been a banner year for cotton. Farmers were busy harvesting cotton and neglected the cutting of the winter supply of wood. Coal was in short supply and problems with rails north of town made it impossible to get any in.
For several years G.C. Black had owned and operated the Royal Theatre in Bernice. In early 1925 he sold the theatre, player piano, projecting machine and other equipment to J.L. Caldwell whose family would own and run the theatre for many years with the exception of a period after the war when it was owned and operated by the Butterfield family.
The year 1925 ended with the addition of three more stores on the north side of town facing Louisiana Avenue. All the buildings had stucco fronts with block metal sides and back. The town council was making plans to build a cement jail as soon as a contract could be made with a carpenter.
January of 1926 started with another destructive fire. This time the newly acquired Royal Theatre went up in flames when a large building owned by G.E. Lindsey burned before the town could muster their bucket brigade. There was a shoe shop in the rear of the building owned by Mr. Lee and the nearby garage owned by B.L. St John was saved.
For many years the electricity for the town of Bernice had been provided by the power plant at the Louisell Lumber company. There were times when there would no electricity at night or only for certain times during the day. In June of 1926 Arkansas Power and Light purchased the plant, disconnected all customers and reconnected the town to their transmission lines. For the first time Bernice now could enjoy 24 hour electric service.
By the end of the year Caldwell had his theatre up and going and was running shows six nights a week. He also purchased the theatre at Dubach and was providing movie entertainments there as well.
The year 1927 began with the addition of two new businesses in Bernice. G.C. Hicks leased the store under the Masonic Temple and his wife who had been a teacher at Bernice High resigned her position at the school to run the store.
The Lindsey Mercantile was leased by two locals and a line of general merchandise would be sold to local customers.
The Shreveport Times again ran a very flattering article about the town of Bernice in late October 1927. The title of this piece was CALL BERNICE GARDEN SPOT-THRIVING TOWN NORTH OF RUSTON BOAST MANY PRETTY HOMES AND ACTIVE CITY – Bernice has more than 1000 inhabitants and is on the Rock Island railway, 20 miles north of Ruston and is also on the Pershing highway. It is one of the garden spots of Louisiana.
One of its features is the many beautiful homes. They are the pride of the people. More than a dozen new homes have been built during the last year. Bernice has 5 general merchandise stores and they are: R.W. Patterson, G.C. Black, M.A. Talbot, R.C. Grafton and Graves and Graves. Also Fuller Smith owns a men’s ready-to-wear; Pollock and Green own a millinery; Bernice Hardware and Furniture, J.T. Porter manager; Variety Shop, Mrs. Still, manager; Coly Goss, grocer; Caldwell picture show; C.T. Salley Meat Market; McGee Meat Market and ten gas stations.
The Bernice Journal is a splendid weekly paper published by J.C. Phillips. The Lindsey Gin Company runs day and night through the ginning season. The large cotton sheds and warehouses protect all cotton from damage and are a big drawing card to surrounding territory.
The Louisiana Light and Power Company is a new concern here. It has just completed remodeling all lines and putting in many new ones. It is preparing to erect a large power plant in the very near future. “
Three pictures were labeled as BERNICE BUILDINGS REFLECT CITY GROWTH- these were both school buildings and the newly constructed bank.
In 1927 Bernice High School published their first school yearbook called The Blazer. The town of Bernice ran an ad in the book proclaiming Bernice, Town on the Pershing Highway with a progressive citizenship, good churches and an excellent high school. Town officials were Mayor J.M. Talbot with the town council composed of C.C. Colvin, M.W. Laurence, L.T. Porter, J.L. Caldwell and S.R. Green. Readers were encouraged to “make Bernice your home.” The Blazer was short lived and it would be 1948 before the second addition was published and our own Bobbie Dale Strickland Smith was the editor !
A LITTLE EXTRA TIDBIT: The story of The Pershing Highway (Hwy 167/63) – after WWI the need was seen for a way of shipping across country rather than relying strictly on the railroads. A group of men led by General Pershing were commissioned to come up with a system of roads which became known as the National Highway System. One of these was Hwy 167 which eventually made its way south through Bernice; the road had is origin in Wisconsin. All along the path of the road booster groups were formed to help in the planning. The highway was completed through Bernice in mid 1920’s but only as a dirt and gravel road. In 1930 the concreting of the road began.
********************************************************************************************* Cathy Buckley is a native of Union Parish and lifelong citizen of Shiloh. She served as Principal of Spearsville High School for many years until her retirement. Cathy is now the director of the Bernice Depot Museum and a active member of the Bernice Historical Society.