Bernice Historical Society
Bernice Dots #27
(There was no #26)
By Cathy Buckley
Excerpts from Ark-La-Tex in Review in 1952
Busy Bernice, high in Louisiana’s piney hills likes to think of itself as a low tax rate, pay-as-you-go town. Last year when the beautiful new First Baptist Church was completed at a cost of about $130,000, it was paid for by the time the last pew was installed. Even newer is the $45,000 Methodist church, whose building debt is only $10,000.
Last year the city council moved the town’s inadequate water supply to new deep water well outside the city limits. Soon the town was selling so much water that the increased revenues enabled the council to reduce local taxes by 3 mills.
Although Bernice is dominated by two principal industries – the Salley Grocer Company and the Lindsey Lumber Company – it is known as a “good business town” and its merchants draw trade from Lincoln, Claiborne and Union parishes.
The story of the Salley family’s wholesale grocery business had been told before. It still is marvel of the rewards which can be achieved by enterprise and hard work. C.T. Salley opened a retail meat market and café on a street corner here near the Rock Island railroad tracks.
About ten years later the elder of four Salley sons stepped into the business. Shortly afterward the wholesale house was opened. The first year’s business grossed less than $300,000. Last year the firm’s sales were more than $10,000,000 from five branches. It is directed almost entirely by the four sons and has a fleet of 65 big trailer trucks hauling foods into three states. The fleet has been called the finest operation of its kind in America.
The Bernice operation headed by Van Salley employs 100 persons in the warehouse and motor shops.
Bernice’s oldest citizen and probably its best-beloved is G.E. Lindsey, Sr. he saw a mercantile fortune of nearly $1 million wiped out 20 years ago. Now he operates a sawmill which employs from 100 to 250 persons and has an annual income in gross sales of approximately $1 million.
Lindsey and his son Donald operated 7 cotton warehouses in Bernice but when the market changed from cotton to cattle and timber several of these were turned into lumber storage.
A second sawmill, the Bernice Hardwood Company is operated by E.W. Hageman and employs about 75 persons.
Bernice is proud of its volunteer fire department headed by Donald Lindsey, its Big Eight league championship baseball team, its high school basketball team which won the recent two state tournament held in Junction City and the wonderful fishing at Corney Lake, 10 miles northwest.
The town has a new clinic, built by Dr. C.C. Colvin and Dr. W.C. Reeves in 1950. Its high school and elementary school headed by Milton Hall have more than 500 students. The weekly Bernice News Journal is edited by Guy White. Mayor Taft Burns heads the city government.
Bernice is a good place to live and enjoy life. Its citizens are friendly and anxious to welcome newcomers to the community. It is a town of good churches (Baptist, Methodist and Church of Christ), an active Lions Club and a Civic Club with a large clubhouse for the use of its citizens.
Wonderful opportunities in and near Bernice await industries seeking new plant sites. The excellent climatic conditions afford a year round production schedule. There is an ample supply of labor for new enterprises. Timber and cotton supply the principal sources of income in the area. In recent years cattle raising and dairying have become increasingly important as new sources of income.
Note: The following Bernice businesses sponsored the article (Bank of Bernice, Green Chevrolet, Salley Grocer Co., Jitney Jungle, Lindsey Lumber, Martin’s General Merchandise, Hugh’s Market, Miller Drug, Colvin Goodyear and Service Station, Bernice Hardwood, Platt’s Department Store, Colvin Equipment, Whiteside Grocery, Western Auto, Bernice Laundry and Cleaners, Hicks Store, Lindsey Farm Implement.). It would be 1963 before The Times ran another salute to 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.