Bernice Historical Society
Bernice Dots #16
By Cathy Buckley
1930’s Part One
The year 1930 began with the good news that the town population had grown since the last census of 1920 and the town now sported a population of 975 people; a fact Mayor Talbot attributed to the town not being dependent upon any passing industry.
The Bernice String Band was active in and out of town and often played for family celebrations. Those playing in the band were Storkey Lindsey on guitar; Henry Owen on violin; Mrs. J. J. Goss on violin; Max Miller on drums; Son Jones on bass violin and J. D. Heard on piano.
The railroad was still running north and south and Tri-State Motor Company ran a bus from El Dorado to Ruston, making three stops in Bernice each day. Flooding in the spring of 1930 put 4 miles of railroad track underwater and pedestrians were sent in front of the train to detect washouts in three to four feet of water.
In June the town held a celebration on Main Street to welcome the arrival of natural gas to the town. At 8 pm on a Friday night a large crowd came out to witness the lighting of a large natural gas torch at the top of a 45 foot tall pipe in the middle of town. The transition from the old wood stove to the modern gas range would now begin.
The Bernice paper gave us bits and pieces of what was going on around town: Salley’s Café offered a 50 cent chicken dinner on Mother’s Day; Bernice Hardware got out of the undertaker business and sold all their supplies to Kilpatrick who was qualified to embalm and had a hearse; I. C. Nomey ran a “short crop” sale with an ad that declared “the year has taught us how to get more for our money”; readers of the paper were encouraged to “Buy At Home”; most stores ran ads that declared “Don’t Ask for Credit” or “will not charge anything to anybody who cannot pay their bill every Monday”.
Efforts to keep the town clean and pleasing in appearance were made by Mayor Talbot who in May declared a “Clean Up and Paint Up” day in the interest of the health and appearance of the town. Every citizen was asked to rid their premises of weeds and unsightly refuse and either burn the rubbish or place in a convenient place so that the town truck could pick it up for disposal.
The biggest push to beautify Bernice came from Mrs. G. E. Lindsey who was the head of the town civic improvement and better homes and gardens movement. In early 1931 she had a truck load of crepe myrtles brought into town and planted along the sides of the highways running north and south and through the main street of town. Others were set out around the churches, at the town park, school and along the railroad from the Baptist Church to the club house.
The Bernice Journal made the comment “if every lady in town will cooperate with Mrs. Lindsey in beautifying her yard, the town will be one of the prettiest and cleanest little town in North Louisiana.” Each lady was encouraged to plant a shrub or tree in her front yard and a fruit three in the garden or back yard.
Mrs. Lindsey was the daughter of J. R. Fuller and Mary Isabella Heard Fuller of Shiloh and was married to G. E. Lindsey, prominent business leader in Bernice and parish police jury president. It was said of Mrs. Lindsey that she was “involved in every movement to advance the cause of culture, education and growth of Bernice”. She organized the Bernice Civic Club and was instrumental in using horticulture to improve the appearance of the town.
In spite of the economic problems the country was facing, things in Bernice still were looking good. In the spring of 1931 it was reported by the Shreveport Times that 5 houses were under construction in Bernice (C. E. Miller, C. R. McGee, Coburn Platt, Robert Driggers and D. A. Pollock).
In early December there was another destructive fire in a building owned by E. B. Robinson. The fire began inside the Liggin Drug Store about 4:30 in the morning and the two story building which housed this and several other businesses was completely destroyed. The town had only a bucket brigade to fight the fire and called in the Ruston Fire Department to keep the fire from spreading to adjacent buildings.
December of 1931 ended with another flood. The town was completely cut off on all sides due to the results of a 36 hour downpour. The rails north and south of town and bridges were washed out, parts of the Pershing Highway and Bernice – Farmerville highway were under water. The only contact the town had with those out of town was by telephone. Farmers brought their families and livestock into town by boat declaring their homes under water. An older resident of the area living near Bayou Cornie declared the flood to have broken a record set in 1882.
********************************************************************************************* 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.