Bernice Historical Society
Bernice Dots #20
By Cathy Buckley
In January of 1938 construction began on a new high school building for the Bernice area; “brick veneer and modern in every aspect.” The school was located on the site of the old baseball field so construction included a new baseball field complete with a wall around the field and a new grandstand
The Shreveport Times in March gave notice that the Bernice police chief Ed Hollis had seized three slot machines in a raid in town. It was noted that slot machines had been known to exist previously but had been removed when law enforcement requested it but this time the machines had not been removed quickly enough and 3 race horse machines and several smaller ones had been seized.
Carpenters were busy in the rebuilding of Shiloh Baptist Church which had its dedication in April followed in May by Open House at the new school.
1939 began with a new dial telephone system in town, a new post office and a newly developed waterworks system. 1939 also marked the 100th birthday of Union Parish and the 40th birthday of Bernice. The Farmerville Gazette ran extensive articles on each section of the parish with a headline for our town of “Bernice Keeps Pace With times During the Past 25 Years”; it was Mrs. C.J. Morton who wrote the “1939 History of Bernice”. She ended her history with these lines: “Bernice has grown from a small settlement in the Big Woods to a thriving little town of more than 1200 inhabitants. Much civic improvement has accomplished its growth and too much credit cannot be given to its pioneer merchants and citizens. From a business standpoint, for a town of its size, it is second to none in the state and we know with the installation of a modern water system it will continue its steady substantial and consistent growth.”
The local Bernice News Journal ran a supplement to their regular weekly paper in which businesses about town purchased advertisements. One such ad was from Frank’s Barber Shop; “At this 40th Anniversary we are glad to be a part of the progressive element of our fair town. We believe in the future of Bernice”.
“Uncle” Tom Phillips, the oldest business man in Bernice celebrated his 88th birthday in mid September. Phillips was born in Alabama in 1851 and moved with his family to Vienna in 1858. In 1881 the family moved in the area that would one day become Bernice. Phillips’ business was a small frame building on Main Street decorated with multiple signs advertising everything from Carter’s Little Liver Pills to the latest show at the theater. Inside were jars filled with seeds and Uncle Tom supplied the area with plants and seeds both winter and summer. He watched Bernice grow from its infancy and could tell some stories about those early years in town because he had lived here for the entire forty years of the life of the town.
One of his favorite tales was about one of the early settlers in Bernice. The old pioneer came up and told his wife as she was making breakfast that it was time to move on because he had heard a rooster crowing so it was getting way too crowded for his taste and it was time to pack up and get moving.
In September the Shreveport Times ran an article entitled “Union Parish School Children on Strike”. The children stated they were on strike because their favorite bus driver, John Gresham, had been fired and replaced by the son of the current school board member. Further investigation in the matter stated that Gresham’s bus did not have a steel body and when his contract ran out his route was consolidated into a route in which the bus had a steel body. Also it was stated that both routes involved only 40 students but kudos to the kids for standing up for Mr. Gresham when they thought he had been fired.
The 1930’s ended in Bernice with Mayor Talbot declaring that business had been as good as or better than before the Depression and hoping that the year ahead would bring good things for Bernice.
********************************************************************************************* 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.