Education in Bernice

Bernice Historical Society

People and Places

Education In Bernice

In 1947, after 18 years as the principal of Bernice High School, Mark Price resigned to take over as principal at Winnsboro High School.  When Price left he took two BHS teachers with him; his wife and his daughter-in-law. Price was replaced by Milton Hall who would remain at BHS for six years. Hall had previously been principal at Benton High School.

It was in 1948 that Bernice High published their 2nd yearbook.  The first published in 1927 had been a huge success and had been christened “The Blazer”.  This edition of the Blazer was dedicated to those BHS graduates who lost their lives fighting in World War II. 

The editor was Bobbie Dale Strickland (Smith); Charles Lamar Hollis was Business Editor and Charles Edward Ward was the Business Manager. The School Board member at this time was Mrs. G.C. Hicks who had been on the faculty in 1927 when the first yearbook was published.

The next year the Blazer was dedicated to those coaches who had led Bernice teams to district and state titles in 1931, 1938-1941 and special mention was given to Coach John L. Caldwell who led the baseball team to the 1948 Class B championship.  Helen Rose Crow (Reeves) was commended for leading the girl’s basketball team to first place in the league. 

Music was a large part of the activity of the school and in 1950 station KWKH radio out of Shreveport came to Bernice so that our students could compete in their weekly talent program. The weekly Shreveport Times talent show was broadcast from Bernice High at 8:30 one April night over KWKH.  Competing on the program were high school contestants, one of whom would be selected on the basis of audience applause to compete with winners from other high schools in the quarter final program to be held in the KWKH studios on May 9.  Among the contestants at Bernice will be three piano soloists, Helen Hollis, 17, Ruthie Dean Glover 17 and Betty Tucker, 17.  Ellen Middleton, 15, will sing “Over the Rainbow”.  A female group composed of Patricia Lee, Edna Smith, Shirley Farrar, Delores Tucker, Edna Goodrum and Peggy Glover will sing “HO-LA-LI”.  Judges on the applause meter will be Mrs. G.C. Black, Mrs. M.A. Porter and Mrs. G.B. Cagle.

The girl’s glee club of Bernice High opened the program with “When Love is Kind” and closed the program with “The Orchestra Song”.

1950 was also the year that the first graduates attended 12 grades in order to obtain a diploma.

School plays were an important part of the school and the community and several were held each year to raise money for additional equipment needed by the school.  All plays were usually standing room only and were attended by the entire community and sponsored by town businesses.

Baseball played by the school and the Bernice Big Eight baseball teams provided another source of community entertainment and involvement.  With the death of Ben Carroll last week I was reminded of how the two teams were able to help each other.  Players like Ben Carroll and Lefty Smith were brought to Bernice and given jobs on the faculty of the school “if” they agreed to play with the Bernice Lions semi-pro team.   In 1952 the story was told by Jainie Smith (wife of Lefty Smith) that Mr. Miller the president of the Bernice Big Eight team came to see her and handed her a 1952 silver dollar.  He then proceeded to tell her that she and her husband would move to Bernice and would be given a house to live in and positions at the school.  She was to be librarian and English teacher, sponsor the yearbook and answer calls in the library and screen them for principal, John Caldwell.  Lefty would join the coaching staff with Ben Carroll and coach the girl’s basketball and softball. And that is exactly what they did!

It was in 1952 that John L. Caldwell became principal of Bernice High.  He had been on the faculty for several years as a coach and had led his teams to victory at the district and state level.  He was a veteran of World War II and was active in civic and church activities. He also was President of the Lions Club and chairman of the boy’s recreation activities within the town.

Bernice had not competed in football on the state level since 1940 but under the influence of Principal Caldwell the school again fielded a team in the 1955 season.  George Grafton was hired as coach and the school applied to the LHSAA and once again entered state completion in Class 1B.

Also in 1955 the Union Parish School Board approved expansion of the Bernice school with new Junior and Senior high school wings, auditorium and cafeteria for $196,300.

In March of 1959 tragedy struck the school with the death of Principal Caldwell.

Funeral Rites for John Caldwell, Jr. Held Yesterday

Caldwell Junior, 37 year old Principal of Bernice High School were held at 3 pm yesterday at the First Methodist Church in Bernice.  Mr. Caldwell was fatally stricken with a heart attack after working a ball game at the school Tuesday afternoon.  He was taking the gate receipts from the game to his office when he became ill and fell to the ground.  A little girl saw him fall and told others coming from the game.  Friends said Caldwell had no previous heart condition they knew of but he complained of pain in the chest prior to attending the game.

The faculty of the school passed a resolution in his honor which was adopted by the Union Parish Teachers Association in memoriam.  Caldwell was praised as a “loyal, earnest and effective teacher and leader who gave willingly and unselfishly of his time and energy to the upbuilding of the schools he served.”

James Fletcher, a four year veteran of the school faculty was appointed as principal to serve until the end of the 1959 school term.

At the start of the next school year Bernice High had a new football field. The field was dedicated in September 1959 prior to the start of the football season.  Morale was said to be very high in the Bear camp as the boys won their first game of the season on the road against Arcadia. In preparation for their first home game and the dedication of the field Coaches Emmons and Pearson worked the team especially hard in order to make a good showing against Norphlet High School, one of the toughest teams in the area.  Games such as this were not only highlights of the school but of the community.  Homecoming events were celebrated by the entire community with parades, pep rallies and an overall “coming together” of the area to promote BHS.  The football programs of that era were especially accurate: “Let’s All Go Out to the Football Games and SUPPORT OUR TEAM”. That was one of the things that helped hold the community together.

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.


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