An Expensive Folly

The Gazette
May 31, 1905

When it was first proposed to replace the school building at Bernice with a $10,000 brick structure we were disposed to treat the matter as a joke, as we were inclined to view it as the emanation of some ambitious citizen, with more patriotism than judgment, as a school building of this kind would be entirely out of place and far beyond the needs and requirements of a village of the limitations and pretensions of Bernice. Satisfied that when the time for action arrived the business instincts and good judgment of the thinking element of the community, who invariably have to “pay the freight,” would decline to saddle themselves with the burden of taxation necessary to construct an maintain a public institution of the cost and extent of the one in question. As this large sum could be much better applied in educating the children of the community in a less imposing structure than expended in ornamenting the aforesaid village and pandering to the inordinate vanity of its ambitious citizens. The voters of the state assuming this position in the last general election, by voting down a proposition (embodied in a constitutional amendment) which contemplated the laying out a large fund in building fancy school houses over the state. And in our comments at the time we assumed a doubtful tone, but without malice, envy or disrespect, for what boots it to us if these good people elect to build a brown stone front on every vacant lot of their progressive little town so long as they meet the bills and foot up the expense of any public extravagance they may see fit to indulge in.

However, our old friend of the “cyclopedia cognomen,” who wields a very erratic pencil for the Bernice Herald, seems to have had his feelings ruffled by our treading on his special preserve (notwithstanding we will wager that we put two papers weekly to his one in this self-same district) and forthwith proceeds to gird up his loins and trot out his stink pot, as he prepares to go forth to “do battle with the wind mills,” by charging our town and community with responsibility for the presence of a $50,000 courthouse and a $10,000 jail in the parish, and representing it as the abode of a blood sucking legal fraternity and official harpies, who devote their time and talent that they may prosper and grow far upon the crime and vice that is incident thereto. For if that is not his purpose, what are we to infer from the tortuous paragraph that follows:

“How expensive and chimerical it is to build a $10,000 school house out on dry land in the other end of the county! But to build a $50,000 court house and $10,000 jail probably, in a swamp, hold court half the time, fee officers and lawyers and punish criminals, after the fact, indicates wisdom of Solomon and the Magi!”

“How it costs to make good intelligent citizens — but it pays to produce a condition of poverty and crime then punish for what could not be avoided!”

Now it is evident from the reading of the above that this recent importation from “Injeana” has a head modeled on the architectural plan of an inverted piece of pie, else a familiarity with our institutions would teach him that the courthouse and jail are public property, decided upon and constructed by the people at large; the cost and design a matter of parish pride and public progress, and located by law at the parish site, circumstances for which the good people of this community are no more responsible that they are for the location of the state penitentiary at Baton Rouge. And in drawing his invidious comparison between the courthouse and the school house as a matter of public utility, he entirely loses sight of the fact that one is just as essential as the other to the welfare of society, just so long as men are born ignorant and vicious, as in the absence of the restraining tendency of the one the other would soon lose its developing influence in the face of unbridled vice and wickedness. Verily this man is either a fool or a knave, or else a harmless type of anarchist, to scoff as he does at necessary public institutions, and reflect on public officials in the discharge of their essential duties, and who represent the choice of the intelligence and worth of our entire parish, and by which they were elevated to their present positions. In which they represent law, order and all that is good and desirable in their essential departments of local government. The very positions they hold a proof of their worth and trust as men and citizens, and with all as clever and as courteous a set of public officials as if has ever been our good fortune to meet and affiliate with in a public capacity.

As to the pseudo correspondent, without even the apology of a “cyclopedia cognomen,” we wish to say life is too short and our editorial duties too pressing to permit us to wast our time in fishing up on our pencil a sameless thing; and while he rolls the term “sleepy hollow” under his tongue with the gusto of a school boy, and boasts of a magic city and its aggregation of cheap brick structures (which are very essential under existing conditions) so far as he is concerned it is very probable that he does not amount to thirty cents in the aggregated wealth of his community, and in a show down would not contribute a son to the heavy taxation he would so freely saddle upon the people of his district, but likely to come in for a share of any benefits to accrue. Such doughty champions usually of this class, ever ready to rush out to defend other men’s opportunities and success as “ours,” and like the discarded potato cast incidentally adrift with the apples on the bosom of the stream, ready upon every opportunity to rise up and exclaim: “How we apples do float!”

But candidly, while it is no affair of ours, only in so far as we may be permitted to take and interest in the welfare and progress of every portion of our common parish, the erection of a $10,000 brick school structure at Bernice is about as sensible as a reproduction of the Czar’s Winter Palace at Farmerville, and when we say Bernice we speak advisedly; as it would be strictly advisedly; as it would be strictly for the town and of precious little benefit or utility to the country embraced in the district, and as such will be at least 20 years ahead of its surroundings, if ever, the town lines up its proportions. A structure of half this price, and even less, more in harmony with the situation, besides having the virtue of leaving this no inconsiderate sum, (to be extracted by taxation) in the pockets of the people, and if necessary to be spent for educational purposes, to be devoted to education proper and not tied up in a structure all out of proportion to the needs and requirements of its patrons, albeit, it would look big as the crowning glory of our ambitious sister town. And while we may be mistaken, nevertheless, when the votes are counted, many of the hard-headed farmers of the section, in view of former experience with town institutions, will be found voting in line with the opinions of the editor of the Gazette. We had no disposition to be drawn into this matter, but if nothing else will do our confrere of the Herald we will go deeper into its merits and public significance.


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