Walter Goodman Says He’s Lived The Good Life

Walter Goodman, of Pittsboro, has always lived by a few simple rules – treat people the way you want to be treated, work hard and don’t be careless with your money.

“My daddy always said it’s not what you make, it’s what you do with it,” Goodman said. “I always put my money away. I don’t believe in spending money on nothing.”
Goodman’s philosophy comes from his upbringing. He was born in the Mississippi Delta, but his family moved to Missouri when he was young, and he finished high school there.
“After high school I wanted to go travel, see the world, so that’s what I did,” Goodman said.
Walter_GoodmanThrough the early 1950s Goodman went from state to state, finding odd jobs along the way.
“I worked in a canning factory in Michigan making apple juice,” Goodman said. “Most of the other places, I went I worked in the fields. I was basically a migrant worker.”
Goodman’s travels took him to Arizona, California, Michigan, Florida and Oklahoma to name a few.
His younger brother accompanied him on the first adventure to Michigan, but no farther.
“He decided after that it wasn’t the life for him,” Goodman said. “So I went the rest of the way by myself. It was a great experience.”
After more than two years of life on the road, Goodman decided it was time to go to college. He went to school in Salisbury, North Carolina, earning a degree in history education in 1958. It was then he received a call from his uncle, A.D. Goodman, principal of North Calhoun High School in Bruce.
“He asked me if I wanted to come go to work for him,” Goodman said. “I had only been to Bruce once before on a visit in 1946. I had no idea I’d end up around here.”
It seemed like the best idea at the time, so Goodman made the move to Calhoun County and began a teaching career that would last 36 years.
He soon met his wife Jessie, a native of Coffeeville. They were married in 1959. She taught school for 31 years and was very active in the community prior to her passing two years ago.
“I liked it here right away,” Goodman said. “I knew I had made the right decision when I met my wife.”
They had five children – Sharon, Ronnie, Karen, Rosalind and Stephanie.
Shortly after getting married, Goodman bought some land in Pittsboro from Tommy Hallum. It was solid woods at the time, but Goodman had the vision of a home for his family.
“I borrowed an axe and began chopping down trees,” Goodman said. “I’d come over every evening after school and do some clearing.”
“The axe was all I had,” Goodman said. “But I was a lot younger then. I could handle it.”
The axe wasn’t all Goodman had to borrow in those early years.
“I had $31 in my pocket when I came to Bruce,” Goodman said. “I started teaching in July, but I only had a North Carolina license. I had to wait on my Mississippi license to get paid, and it didn’t come until November.”
Goodman said he would charge his gas at Ronald Clark’s station and charge groceries at Hulett Sprat-lin’s.
“People were very good to me,” Goodman said. “I always admired Mr. Spratlin. He knew I didn’t have any money at the time, but he gave me the credit until I did.”
He finally got the land cleared and called on Supervisor John Warner to grade it off for him.
“You could get your supervisor to do that back then,” Goodman said. “Times were different.”
When he did start receiving a paycheck, he was paid $190 a month for 10 months.
“It wasn’t a lot of money, but you just learned how to make it work,” Goodman said.
He began teaching seventh and eighth grade history.
“Archie Talford and my neighbor Hazel Hearvy were two of my first students,” Goodman said.
“She always tells me I was the devil then and a devil now,” Goodman said with a grin. “I?tell them they make me feel old to see them today.”
Goodman was among the North Calhoun teachers that joined the staff at Bruce after integration.
“I didn’t have any problems with integration,” Goodman said. “Bruce really wasn’t a problem place.”
“The students were all very respectful. Things just fell into place.”
Goodman said he bumps into his former students almost every day.
“The young ladies will give me a hug, and the boys will shake my hand,” Goodman said. “I guess they’re not young ladies anymore, but they’ll always be young to me.”
Goodman said he can’t remember all of his former students’ names, but it’s easier to recall the really good ones and the “devils.”
“I remember Harold Ward, Sid Haire and Richard Thacker,” Goodman said. “They would sit in the back of the room chewing tobacco. The bottom of my wastebasket would rot out from them spitting in it. They’re the same boys now they were back then. They were nice young’uns.”
Goodman said it was important to him to treat his students the way he wanted to be treated.
“I enjoyed being with my students and the faculty,” Goodman said. “I always got along with everybody. That was important to me.”
Goodman retired from teaching in 1994, but continues to drive a school bus. This year marks his 53rd year on the county’s payroll.
“I started driving the bus 40 years ago when John Burt asked me to,” Goodman said. “I wasn’t all that excited about it at first, but I’m still driving.”
“I don’t have to drive anymore, but I just enjoy it. It gives me something to do,” Goodman said. “I do enjoy being around the kids. I don’t say a lot when I’m driving because I learn so much just listening to the kids.”
When he’s not driving the bus, Goodman is most often tending to his cows, visiting friends or working in one of his three gardens.
“There’s always something to do,” Goodman said.
When asked what he’s most proud of, he quickly answered his five children and eight grandchildren.
“I’m very proud of my children,” Goodman said. “They all finished college. They’re fine people.”