Bud’s Bar: A history between the tracks
If you’ve lived in Douglas County more than a few years and haven’t been to Bud’s Bar in Sedalia, you ain’t nobody. Whoa! Let me be more sensitive. You’ve simply failed to seize a legendary opportunity: Bud’s world-renowned hamburgers, great folks, a colorful backstory and all the Wildcat Lore that flows within it.
Sedalia is a whistlestop place, wedged between railroad tracks. Full of good people and a place that “ain’t growed out much.” There are 200 residents today, many still real cowboys.
A saloon belongs there, a place to open one’s soul. Bud’s Bar met that need early on. Restless founder Calixte Alcuid “Bud” Hebert experienced much in his life: polio as a child, the Pearl Harbor attack as a civilian and much more as newspaper reporter. He first bartended in the Cottage Café in 1947. After a neighborhood brawl over noise, he bought Herman’s Garage, Bud’s current digs.
The conversion was dramatic; locals milled the knotty pine wood, with all changes coming via friends using hand tools. A 1930s bar from the Trumble Inn in Deckers was relocated. The town was ready for it.
Bud was many things, including extremely intelligent. He began the business with a limited menu. Hamburgers were 50 cents, beers a quarter. The atmosphere was “anything goes;” like Chet Hier, who rode his horse inside the bar more than once, or Bud’s patrons who caught a black bear and tied him up at the front door.
There were traditions too: an annual turkey shoot, Santa’s visit on Christmas Eve, and an annual pony express race. Bud was fair and decent, often refereeing bar disputes. So much so, he became a county judge. That transition, along with his wife’s death, caused him to sell to his second-in-charge, Therman Thompson.
Therman was a homegrown roustabout. Having served on a Navy destroyer and worked in Dupont’s Louviers dynamite factory, Therman knew he wanted more, much more. Bud’s Bar became his palette.
Therman had a heart of gold, vividly proving it in 1965. Mere months after buying the bar, the Plum Creek flood overwhelmed Sedalia. Numerous locals were homeless or stranded in mud on the wrong side of the creek. Therman let them bunk in his place – never mind that cots and sleeping bags overwhelmed his tables and bar.
But Therman was a partier too, maybe even a bit crazy. There was no end to the wacky costumes he wore and the atmosphere he stoked with them. A practical joker, he encouraged the unusual. He sponsored baseball games, pig roasts and a local senior center. An avid fisherman, he spun tall tales. His were lollapaloozas. He never took himself seriously, getting as good as he gave. Pranks were non-stop. Therman also knew how to choose and treat employees, many so loyal that they spent decades with him. Some still remain. Ask Nancy…
Subsequent owners Mike Steerman and now Garo Chalian (since 2020) have not messed with success. Why would they? Bud’s Burgers and “no damn fries” is the brand. Limited menu notwithstanding, customers jam the place daily. As if more atmosphere is needed, Chet Hier, Billy Moore and friends hold “court” there twice daily. A juke box song is free. As to atmosphere, well, get between the tracks and see for yourself.
Author’s note: Most information extracted from Chet Hier’s book, “I Shouldn’t Say This,” on sale at Bud’s Bar. It’s a hoot!
By Joe Gschwendtner; photo from Chet Hier’s book, “I Shouldn’t Say This”