Private William E. “Bubba” Clark returned home from W.W.II., picked up his bride, Helena, and their two year old baby from grandma’s house and thought, “What now?”. Bubba had grown up in a farming family in Cope, South Carolina and had always assumed he would be a “Gentleman Farmer”. However, during the war years, much had changed. His father, Winfield, had become ill, had sold most of his land, and had retired as an invalid. A natural born entrepreneur, Bubba knew that he would never be content with a “regular” job. Not having actually “finished” the University of South Carolina, (where he played rather than studied!) further narrowed his options.
Old-timers say that Bubba was able to “see the future around the corner”. He and his father formed Clark Realty and prior to World War II, they bought commercial property in Santee. At that time, before I-95, Highway 301 was the most traveled route from New York to Florida. Thinking that folks — families in particular– would travel more, they felt highway property was a sound investment.
Over much objection from Helena, who was not a country girl, Bubba decided to “temporarily” seek his fortune in Santee, South Carolina. The town was a crossroads consisting of three stores, a bus station, and a post office surrounded by farmland. To Helena, it seemed impossibly “country” and made her small hometown of Barnwell, SC seem “metropolitan”. “At least”, she used to say, “we had a country club, churches and a downtown!”
But Bubba assured her, “It’s just temporary until something better comes along”. As a mess sergeant in the Army, he thought they could make money by opening a restaurant. So, in 1946, the old bus station became Clark’s Restaurant. Then in 1971, with the opening on I-95, the present Clark’s Restaurant was constructed in its current location. Bubba, always the businessman, served breakfast in the old Clark’s and lunch in the new! Except for Christmas Day each year, the restaurant has been in constant operation since 1946!
Over the years, Bubba got involved in other businesses. However, somehow along the way, the restaurant business got in his blood. For the rest of his life, you could almost always find him upstairs in his office. “Temporarily”, 60 years later, Clark’s is still in the family. It is owned by Patricia and Bill Clark and managed by the Clark Boys- Winfield, Edward, and Kitty Collier. What is more important, perhaps, is the fact that it is still overseen and constantly critiqued by Helena, who finally got used to living in the country.