Bernice Historical Society
Bernice Dots #15
By Cathy Buckley
The 1920’s Come to an End
With the coming of a national highway through Bernice the town decided to spruce up one block of the business section. In 1928 the town council met with the main street property owners and decided to pave one block of the main street that connected with the Pershing Highway. Additional highway improvements would follow in 1929 when Governor Huey P. Long would implement public works projects to alleviate the financial burdens of the depression. This led to the graveling of Hwy 2 from Bernice to Farmerville and from Bernice to Lisbon.
Long was a visitor to Bernice in late 1927 when a crowd of over 600 packed the school auditorium to hear his campaign speech for Governor. He was introduced by E.B. Robinson of Bernice who was a candidate for the State Senate. Robinson had come to Bernice when the town of Shiloh burned in 1899 and built a large two story building in town which housed his mercantile and other offices.
Long was loudly applauded by the audience in Bernice for his campaign promises of free textbooks and other “good” things he could accomplish for the state. But the loudest applause and a standing ovation was given when Long gave a glass of water to a crying baby, which led to another baby crying for water and another glass from Long and finally so many babies were crying for water that Long took a full pitcher of water and a glass and told the crowd to pass it around. Long was able to finish his speech and was met with a thunderous ovation at its completion.
Both Long and Robinson won in 1928 and in a 1929 attempt by Long’s enemies to remove him from office, Robinson would be one of 17 senators who signed a pledge not to vote to remove Long from office, thus putting an end to this attempt to remove him from office.
By the end of 1927 the farmers around Bernice were enjoying prosperity. Cotton, sweet potatoes and watermelon crops were bountiful. The poultry, hog and cattle industries were successful as well. The prosperity of the area farmers led to the prosperity of the business section of Bernice.
In 1929 the Royal Theatre installed their first “talking machine” and offered two talking movies a week.
The local paper ran ads from the business section of Bernice: The Toggery, B.L. St. John Motor Company, The Fashion Shoppe, Talbot’s, J.F. Smith-Tailor, Model Variety Store, G.C. Hicks, Bernice Department Store, Miller’s Service Station #1 and #2, Bernice Hardware and Furniture, G.E. Lindsey, Pollock’s Mercantile, Union Motor Company (Ford), Patterson’s Mercantile, R.T. Henry Store, Copeland’s Market, Clarence Saunders Store, Nomey’s, Welch-Platt Motor Company(Chevrolet), Beard’s Shoe Shop, Jesse Banks Market, Thaxton Blacksmith and Woodwork, Knighten’s, Reagan Garage, Hammock Pan-Am Station, Salley’s Cafe, W.R. Heard, Lomax Gin, C.R. McGee, Booles’Garage, Pinkham Shoe Shop .
In February of 1929 Miller Filling Station #1 burned to the ground from a fire from an oil heater. The only employee on site at the time was the 12 year old son of the manager, J.A. Ferguson.
In March the first Boy Scout Troop was organized in Bernice with Guy McDonald as Scout Master with a troop committee of Rev. L.P. Moreland, L.H. Pratt, John Caldwell, N.L. Moncrief and G.C. Black.
Things would change in Bernice after the stock market crash of October 1929 when farm prices would drop to an unheard of low with cotton bringing less than five cents a pound. Many stores advertised they would no longer deliver or sell on credit and a few would go out of business while others would now open on Sunday in an effort to make more money.
Still things were not as desperate in Bernice where the only crime worthy of mention in the last part of the year was “Sweet Tooth Robbery in Bernice” when thieves broke into the student store at the school stealing all the candy and fruit and ransacking every room in the school.
********************************************************************************************* 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.