I have written before about some the places that have disappeared from the Sedalia landscape since I was a boy; places that make up mine and people of my generation’s memories; places like the mom and pop restaurants that were everywhere in my youth, and the movie theaters where we spent our Saturdays riding the range with our cowboy heroes.
Also among the many things that have disappeared since I was a boy is the old Sedalia Country Club golf course that was on South 65 Highway, just past the railroad underpass. There are now restaurants, banks, and fast-food places, and a convenience store where it used to be. All signs of the beautiful golf course are gone, even the little shallow branch us caddies used to wade in to retrieve golf balls to sell back to the golfers is filled with rip-rap. I can't drive by there without thinking of the stately old club house that was there before the tornado on May 5, 1977, blew it away. It was beautiful and reminded me of those southern mansions you see in the movies.I caddied at the golf course and was paid a whopping 90 cents a round, which wasn't bad wages for a 13-year-old boy in the early ‘50s. I also managed to learn some things about life and politics along the way from the men for whom I caddied. That was especially true when I caddied for one of the men that made up what the caddies called the “Big Four.”
They were, we were told, the four richest men in Sedalia at the time. They were John Jo McGraff, Mr. Clooney (never knew his first name), Sonny Stafford and Big John Van Dyne. I caddied for Sonny Stafford, the owner of Lamy’s Overall Factory that was here in Sedalia.
The first time I caddied for Mr. Stafford was a real challenge for both of us since I just barely weighed as much as his golf bag. It was quite a struggle for me to drag that much weight around the course and after that first time Mr. Stafford got me a pull cart, probably so he could finish with everyone else. Caddying for the big four was the best job at the club because they paid $4 for 18 holes, plus a good tip when they won.
I learned more about cigars, four-letter words, and presidential politics that summer than most 13-year-olds are supposed to know at that tender age. It was an election year with Adlai Stevenson running against Dwight Eisenhower, and the big four were divided as to their preference of candidates.
I felt privileged that I was allowed to overhear secrets I was sure only they were privy to, and I was sure at that time that these were the smartest men on earth. I repeated their risqué' stories and bawdy one-liners to my young friends who were equally impressed, and I still use some of their colorful and off-color phrases today when I want to appear more sophisticated than I really am.
Their playful criticism of each others’ politics and other things helped me understand that grown men could disagree vigorously and still remain friends.
Those days and those men are gone, but they are not forgotten. I think of them and that old clubhouse every time I drive by that site, and I always will no matter what they build there.