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An Interesting Neighbor

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There’s been one constant in Sharon Barton’s working life and that is connecting with people.

It was central to her short-lived career as a beautician, a longer stint in retail sales and a 40-year career in banking.

A Purcell native, Sharon graduated from Purcell High School in 1971.

She opted for beauty school over college and spent two years working for Nancy Woods who had a shop between Purcell and Maysville.

She liked the work and the people, but soon realized that she needed a more stable income.

“If you got a perm back then, the high end was $25,” she said.

So she became a sales clerk at J&B Clothing, a  western wear store on Main Street.

The late 1970s into early 1980s was the heyday for western wear. Denim and diamonds was a fashion trend, even among city dwellers.

“I loved retail and loved visiting with the customers,” she said.

She did that until 1981 when she took a job at McClain Bank.

Forty years later, she is the one-woman human resources department for the main bank drive-through bank in Purcell, as well as branches in Norman and Noble. The bank closed a Lexington branch in 2017.

Because of the pandemic, keeping a full staff at the bank and its branches is challenging.

“It’s hard for us to find good help,” she said. “COVID has put a strain on us. We’ve had people who had to quarantine.”

Keeping every station covered has been “complicated” at times, she said, adding the bank is fortunate in that it hasn’t had to let anyone go because of COVID. Nor has it been forced to cut anyone’s pay.

“We are very blessed,” she said.

Her first job at the bank was in bookkeeping.

“We would file the checks each day,” she recalled.

Once a month, the bookkeepers would pull the checks from each customer’s file, count them and make sure the count matched the statement.

Customers received their cancelled checks with the monthly statement.

“It’s different now,” she said. “We don’t even see the checks now. Back in the day, there were three or four working in bookkeeping. Now everything is automated.”

In her years on the job, Sharon has worn multiple hats.

“I’ve been a teller and been a loan assistant,” she said.

Working human resources, her responsibilities include payroll for the bank’s 55 employees, hiring and “all the things that come with the government.”

Sharon loves country music and has been a devoted George Strait junkie going on 40 years.

The first time she saw him in person was 1982 when he played a club outside Wayne.

And she’s caught him in concert at least once a year ever since then.

“Carla Brakefield and I travel around and get to see him when we can,” she said.

Travel is the operative word.

Among the numerous concerts over the years, the pair have gone to Las Vegas, Kansas, Tulsa, Louisiana and Texas simply to see George Strait perform.

Sharon said she was a tomboy growing up. She has two brothers and a sister and was always the one accompanying her father on jobs outside town.

They rode horses and worked cattle together.

It instilled in her a love of farms and livestock that she’s passed to her children and grandchildren.

“When the kids were growing up, they showed animals. The grand kids are in that now,” she said.

Sharon is divorced. Her daughter, Trina VanSchuyber, works for Ramjack in Ada. Son Tracey Barton is employed by Bio-Tech, an oil field service company.

When she’s not attending or planning to attend the latest George Strait concert, Sharon enjoys all things western.

“I go to rodeos,” she said, “and anything western like that.”

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