O.C. Bernard and his wife in their first new car, a 1907 REO, in front of their studio at 609 E. San Antonio St. (Photo: O.C. Bernard/El Paso Times Blumenthal Photo Collection.)
A Tuesday, July 19, 1955, El Paso Herald-Post article by Mary Margaret Davis said:
Oscar C. Bernard, photographer, inventor and musician, is enjoying life at 94.
His bulging scrapbook records life in El Paso for more than half a century. A garage workshop is filled with automatic stereopticans patented in 1913 by Mr. Bernard. The machine flashes a series of pictures to a cabinet screen like television.
Met 2 beautiful sisters, married 1
He came to El Paso in 1900 after a varied life during which he toured the country playing with the Queen’s Royal Brass Band of Hawaii and the Dodge City Cowboy Band, and spent a year in Mexico working as a photographer.
“My brother was working for the railroad in El Paso,” Mr. Bernard said, “so I came to visit him and stayed to open a photographic studio.
“We lived just across the hall in a rooming house from two very beautiful girls. They were sisters who were dressmakers. I courted one and married her in 1902. She is the former Catherine Shoptaugh, the most beautiful girl I ever photographed.”
The couple operated a studio at 609 East San Antonio street until 1935, when they retired.
Sound-picture machine, rapid coin changer
“I was in the business to make money to put into my inventions,” he said. “I really had something there with that sound-picture machine. My rapid coin changer was a good thing, too.”
The sound-picture machine was built into a console cabinet. It has a screen 30 by 20 inches on the front. A rotating wheel of glass slides was geared to drop the slides down in front of a bright light while appropriate music played.
“If the music is ‘Silver Threads Among the Gold,’ a picture comes on of an aged couple,” he said. “Thus the combination appealed to both sight and sound. It starts and stops automatically, regulated by means of a synchronizer.”
The photo accompanying the Tuesday, July 11, 1961, front page El Paso Herald-Post story about O.C. Bernard. (Photo: El Paso Herald-Post)
Coin machine good for cold hands
A cashier drops change into the top of The Rapid Coin and the customer lifts the lower part of the gadget with the palm of his hand. The money drops into the hand.
“That’s especially good if you happen to be wearing gloves,” Mr. Bernard said. “It would be good in cold countries, too, where it is difficult to pick up change from a smooth surface when your hands are cold. It eliminates the necessity of groping about for change.”
He also invented a machine which cast a picture on a screen outside his house or business to advertise his studio.
Could no longer read sheet music
He is the only surviving member of the famous McGinty Band of El Paso, Mr. Bernard believes. He played a cornet.
“I don’t play anymore,” he said. “I can’t see to read music,” “I don’t make pictures any more, either.”
His lack of vision is his only infirmity, and even with his lack of sight, he is able to go Downtown frequently and do shopping and marketing at the Fort Boulevard shopping center near his home.
He has two sisters, Mrs. Laura B. Smith and Miss Mary Bernard, both of Dallas.
Mrs. Bernard is active in the Pioneer Circle of Women’s Society of Christian Service of Fort Boulevard Methodist Church and the Women’s Division of the Chamber of Commerce.
Her brother is John R. Shoptaugh, a professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and her sister is Mrs. Grace Wylie of Gordin, Mo.
The couple have no children.
Surprise birthday party
On Mr. Bernard’s 94th birthday July 14, two neighbors, Mrs. Buford Forbes and Mrs. Ralph Hotter, planned a surprise party. They invited all the residents of the 3100 block of Porter avenue and more than 30 persons called during the evening. The minister of the Bernards’ church, the Rev. Lloyd Peters, and Mrs. Peters attended. Many brought presents and there was homemade cake and homemade ice cream for all.
“Be sure and write about the party,” Mr. Bernard said. “Our neighbors are wonderful to us. We couldn’t get along without them.”
General opinion of the neighbors is that the 3100 block of Porter avenue would be a pretty dull place without the Bernards.
On Tuesday, July 11, 1961, a front page El Paso Herald-Post story said Bernard planned to celebrate his 100th birthday Friday. It said he and his 87-year-old wife were living in retirement at the Valley Community Hospital, 6375 Alameda Ave.
Trish Long is the El Paso Times’ librarian and spends her time in the morgue, where the newspaper keeps its old clippings and photos. She may be reached at 546-6179 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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