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Barb's Hamburgers and So Much More (February 2017)

Barb's Hamburgers and So Much More

By Deborah Burkett

Born in Port Arthur, Texas, on September 4, 1936, Barbara "Barb" White Click is known for her hamburgers but this quiet, unassuming woman is so much more.

If you think independent, small-town businesses are a thing of the past, think again. Barb runs just such an establishment called Barb's Too, on the corner of State Hwy 69 and 84 in Rusk.

Stop in and you're likely to sit next to county political and businesses leaders as well as good ole country boys and girls. Barb is always seated at her desk in the back room. "I never leave my place if I'm open for business, "she explained.

Work has always been a big part of her life and she comes by it naturally. Barb's parents, Macon George White and Vivian Loflin met in Louisiana while they were working in a CCC Camp during the Great Depression. They married and later Barb would be their only child. Barb's mother was part Choctaw from Mississippi and her father part Cherokee from the Carolinas.

Barb recalled her very first job, "I packed shrimp in Port Arthur…I was 16 years old and made $20 a week…then I got married right out of high school and moved to Oregon and lived there till I was about 35 years old…my two youngest children were born there…I have 4 girls and 4 boys."

After a move to East Texas, Barb's husband died and she remarried. In Alto she opened a restaurant called Clicks. When I asked how she got in the burger business her quick reply was, "God sent me burgers." Seeing the puzzled look on my face she elaborated, "I needed to take care of my family. I asked God to give me a way to make a living...A man in Alto asked me, why don't you make hamburgers, I said I would if I could make them taste like burgers in the old days….When I was a kid, burgers were 6 for a dollar."

Barb explained she likes to set goals for herself, so her goal in Alto was to make and sell 100 hamburgers a day. She was located next to the Dairy Queen and wanted to compete well and boy did she ever! In Alto, for a long time it was just her working the businesses, then she hired a 72 year old waitress-"one of the best ever..." Barb noted with a smile.

From Alto, Barb moved her business to Rusk, was located where the Mexican food place is now. I didn't have waitresses, because when you came in you got a number. But I did have 6 or 7 people cooking for me. I had 99 cent hamburgers on Tuesdays and Fridays-also served country style ribs and fish on Fridays. I'd sell 100 pounds of ribs and 150 pounds of fish a week. "I just about killed myself-working so hard." She said.

In 1997, Barb realized she could make just as much on the weekends in Hallsville-"I had the concession stand at the dragstrip…did that about 7 years. Next I opened Burger Junction in Joaquin and ran it for 6 years, from 2004-2010, 'till oil played out "I fed a lot of oil field workers who came across the state line from Louisiana…I have people from those days drive to Rusk to eat my burgers."

That would be a reoccurring theme-people traveling long distances to eat Barb's food and to connect with a person who felt like family. Occasionally Barb is visited by adults who tell her they remember her burgers from their teenage years from long ago and confess she make an impact on their lives.

So you see Barb is more than just burgers; she's family. According to Barb that's how she felt returning to Rusk in 2010, "I love it here-love the hills-it was like old home week. People welcomed me-initially I rented the restaurant at the motel on Hwy 69 for a while, been here on this corner since 2013-open five days a week."

Like any business person worth their salt, Barb admitted she's always had the urge to work and still has goals she wants to accomplish. "I want to continue doing what I'm doing-want to make sure the burgers are still good-I get fresh hamburger meat delivered everyday…I looked for years to find the best steaks and I found them…want to have a varied menu and want to be with my customers."

And right now I'm one of those many customers who just ordered a cheeseburger and fries.

Barb in her 20s.

Barb and Deborah Burkett, 2016.