“Don’t worry about anything but getting those tiles scraped off the floor!” my dad told me. Ah my dad. Sam Young, new owner of the Busy Bee Cafe, telling me, his thirteen year old son to get to work. He did not want me to pay attention to the naysayers who would stop by every few minutes to check on the progress of trying to get this little trolley car restaurant open. My dad had a lot of work to do and he did not care that the tile that I was trying to scrape up was actually never going to be “scraped up”. It was more a case of being hammered, chiseled, ground, slivered out in little curls of a mixture of tar, prolly some asbestos fibers, and what I believe was a precursor to the adhesive used to attach the heat shield tiles to the Space Shuttle. At least he ensured that I had the proper tools, what with a wobbly headed claw hammer and a yellow handled Proto flat-blade screwdriver. Mr. Proto would have been so proud to see his screwdriver in action.
The Busy Bee Cafe re-opened a few weeks later, with no fanfare, no Grand opening, and no tile on the floor. My dad simply went about the business of making the very best burgers and fries that he knew how to make. My dad gave all credit in his hamburger making ability to Harmon Dobson, the man who was responsible for Whataburger. My dad went to work for Mr. Dobson at a Whataburger in Corpus Christi in the early 60’s.
I really didn’t understand the impact that the Busy Bee had on Hugo, Oklahoma until much later in life. I did understand that my mom and dad stayed busy taking care of business and all, but I didn’t see the social impact. From Mr. Eddleman, a local businessman coming in every morning to get a half-cup of coffee to all of the people who worked there, it was a gathering place for friends and family. There was a man that everyone called Shotgun that would come by often. He worked for the circus and was prone to drinking too much at times. I remember when Shotgun came by and wanted to talk to my dad. I overheard him telling my dad that he had just got out of jail and didn’t have any money and was hungry. My dad came back in and told me to start a fresh pot of coffee and he fixed this man a Samburger with everything on it. I then saw my dad slide some cash over to the man as he wolfed down his burger and gulped the scalding coffee. I sidled up to my dad and said something to the effect of why would he give cash to this man knowing that he would probably just take the money and go drinking with it and my dad looked me in the eyes and told me that it was not his job to judge someone, and that for all he knew, that man was really Jesus Christ, testing my dad. I felt ashamed and have to say, that lesson was a profound awakening in my life and I’ve never forgotten it.
When I think of the Busy Bee, a flood of memories come over me. I start thinking of the people who worked there as well as those friends of mine that ate there often. Sam Mayfield, Clay Parkhill, Bart Cleveland, Tommy Cleveland, Lynn Morris, Hub Caldwell, Jeff Landreth, Stan Self, Stacy Risenhoover, Patty Boling, Diane Buchanan, Dana McMillan, Susie Gray, Jackie Cooley, Annette Tollet, Debbie Napier, Kenny Rawls, Debbie Rawls, Gina Glenn, Emily Houchen, the entire Montgomery family, the entire Goldfeder family and on and on. I couldn’t even skip school because the teachers ate there too.
I left Hugo in the Mid eighties and came back to visit my parents and the Busy Bee often because I had a restaurant of my own in Atoka, and our warehouse was in Hugo. I sold out in 1998 and got involved in the car business. It seems that the longer that I was in the car business, the farther apart my visits to the Busy Bee were. I would still go to Hugo to see my mom and dad but usually on Sunday when the Bee was closed.
My dad died 3 years ago April 18th after a tough battle with lung cancer. Then my mom died only a year ago as well. I haven’t been able to go by the Busy Bee since my dad died. I had heard from some people that the Busy Bee building had been closed and a new Busy Bee opened at the Frisco Train depot. I sure wish these guys the best and know that they too can make a name for themselves.
47 degrees this morning, heated grips percolating, taking the bite out of the air. I crossed the Red River into Oklahoma. Not sure where I’m going but I’m thinking maybe Clayton, or the Talimena Drive. I exit at Durant and find myself riding east on highway 70. Bokchito, Blue, Boswell, Soper. I’ll probably turn north just this side of Hugo to go to Antlers. As I cruised along, I was a little surprised to find myself coming into Hugo. Hmm, guess I missed the turn? Turned right on Broadway and parked under the awning of the Busy Bee. I sat there for a few minutes, listening to my bike ticking off its cool down notes. Got off my bike and walked around a bit. Painted different from how I remember it. Smaller than I remember, if that’s even possible. The old warehouse behind the Bee has been torn down. I walked back to the alley and gazed north. It was this very alley that I rode my first motorcycle, a Yamaha 125. I didn’t have a license so all I could do was ride up and down the alley, fouling at least one spark plug a day. At the end of the alley, behind the Security First National bank is where I saw my first Porsche 911 Targa. I wasn’t sure what it was but I knew it was cool and exotic. I remember telling my dad about it and we walked down the alley to admire it.
I fired my BMW up and rode east out of Hugo, then turned north toward Rattan. I love this part of Oklahoma. I’m glad that in 1973, circumstances put my family in Hugo, Oklahoma, in the Busy Bee Cafe. I’m so thankful for all of the people who worked there as well as all of the customers over the years. I’m so glad that I missed my turn this morning. I needed that.