Bernice Historical Society
Bernice Dots #30
By Cathy Buckley
In April of 1957 an organization was formed in Bernice that is still alive and well 61 years later. The Bernice Garden Club was formed in the home of Mrs. W.C. Reeves with 49 ladies present. The first motto of the club was “Gracious Living Through Beautiful Flowers” and a scrapbook kept for all 61 years documents the efforts of the club to stimulate an interest and love for gardening.
In October of that year the club held their first Fall Flower Show with over 225 people in attendance and the names of the winners might be recognized by many: Mrs. L.P. Whiteside, Mrs. Van Salley, Mrs. W.R. Lynn, Mrs. Clyde C. Colvin, Mrs. G.E. Lindsey and Junior Winner, Mrs. Mildred Ann Tanner. It is nice to know that this organization unlike many formed in Bernice still exists today. The next time you travel through main street notice the beautiful flowers and thank the Bernice Garden Club. At their last meeting the club voted to work with the town on making improvements at the Bernice Clubhouse. Anyone wishing to make contributions to this project can contact Barbara Yarbrough, Garden Club Treasurer.
Another group called the “Bernice Citizens Council” met in town during the 1950’s. The group sported a membership of 419 in 1956 but by 1958 the membership had declined to 125 members. Many improvements in town were made by organizations such as these when the citizens got together and saw what needed to be done to help out and then got together and figured out a way to do it.
I like to think that the Bernice Garden Club, The Bernice Service Club, BIDCO and the Bernice Historical Society are following in the footsteps of those clubs that tried to make a difference in the town. If you are not a member of at least one of these clubs you need to be. You can contact Danielle at the Bernice Banner or the Bernice Town Hall for information.
In 1960 a disaster struck the Bernice Elementary when a fire broke out which resulted in total destruction of the school along with the school gymnasium. The school lost all books, supplies and equipment and classes were moved into the high school building and into local churches. The building had been constructed in 1937 and officials stated that faulty wiring seemed to be the cause of the blaze. Fire trucks from Dubach, Ruston and Farmerville worked with the Bernice fire department to keep the fire from spreading to the high school building immediately adjacent to the elementary.
In 1961 the Bernice telephone system converted to all numbers and the 285 prefix was added to all existing numbers. Party lines were still in existence and many listeners kept in touch with local gossip through the method of simply picking up every time you heard the phone ring. I personally might have been involved with this technique throughout my high school years. It was a great form of entertainment.
The arrival of Lake D’arbonne in 1963 brought many to believe that industry and tourism would pick up in Bernice. The Shreveport Times ran an article entitled, “New Lake D’Arbonne to Aid Bernice Economy”. At the time of the article the Bank of Bernice was praised for withstanding all economic depressions; the two saw mills operating in Bernice were still reaping a profitable business and the Lindsey Warehouse system was storing over 10 million bushels of grain.
The biggest employers in town were Salley Wholesale with 43 employees; Lindsey Bonded Warehouses with 46 to 150 employees, dependent upon the season; Reed Sawmill with 59 employees and Bernice Wood Company with 70-100 employees.
The paper stated that more firms were expected to locate in Bernice after the completion of the lake with its 159 miles of shoreline. Mayor at the time was Taft Burns with town council consisting of E.F. Hollis, Dr. Wick Laurence, Jr., Clifton McIntosh, Van Salley and Clyde C. Colvin.
The article ended by noting that “The town receives a whopping boost in every undertaking by a host of civic and fraternal organizations, including the Lions Club, Civic Club, Garden Club, Bernice PTA, Bernice Band Boosters, Bernice Athletic Club and Boy and Girl Scout troops.”
Many of us still think, “Those were the days” in Bernice and remember with fondness our growing up years in Bernice. I can still hear Mrs. Donald Lindsey, our Girl Scout troop leader telling all of us girls to holler at the top of our lungs GIRL SCOUTS HERE !
********************************************************************************************* 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.