By Laura Brown
Triplicate staff writer
For 39 years, Lou Goodgame has been a prominent figure in the lives of several generations of students who attended Redwood School.
He retires this week, a few years earlier than he had wanted to, in order to ensure that younger teachers keep their jobs rather than lose them to state budget cuts.
"I'll miss it some, but there's other things I'll do. The future is in the younger ones," said Goodgame.
Some remember Goodgame for his strict method of discipline. Gumchewers were assigned the duty of scraping gum from under the desks with a putty knife until they had a canful of cement-like wads.
Others can remember plowing the fields as "rockhounds," collecting pails of rocks from the school field, then weighing them in until the assigned poundage was reached.
But all remember him as a man with a natural ability for retelling history.
"His stories ¬ó they just come to life as if he was there. He tells stories so well," said former student Kelly Motola, now a secretary at Redwood School where her daughter is a fifth-grade student. "I have so many fond memories. If there was an icon for Redwood, it would be Mr. Goodgame.
Goodgame first started at Redwood in 1964 before the district was unified. The school was in a district all its own. The only opening at the time was for an upper-division math teacher.
"It was the year they went into modern math, and it was chaos," Goodgame recalled.
Soon enough, his first love, history, became available, and life was good again.
A World War II veteran, Goodgame used many of his own experiences to portray history as a tangible thing to kids over the years.
He said it is the young people he will miss most when he leaves his post.
Over the years, Goodgame has watched as the school lost some attendance after Crescent Elk Middle School was first created, then blossomed again when the prison was built and correctional officers and their families settled in Fort Dick.
One of his favorite memories of his career was the involvement of teachers, students and parents in raising $170,000 to build a new gymnasium. The school organized carnivals, marathons and spaghetti and crab feeds. The gym was named in Goodgame's honor.
"It was hard work, but people got together," said Goodgame.
Paige Swan, former teacher at Mountain School and now vice principal at Crescent Elk, remembers when his team would play flag football against Goodgame's. "He basically invented flag football in Del Norte County. He wrote the rule book. I never did beat him in a game. He's a master," said Swan.
So does retirement now mean that Goodgame can slow down?
He still plans to fill in as substitute once in a while and will continue to stay on as treasurer of PTA meetings.
He will continue to volunteer as chaplain at Pelican Bay State Prison, and he will still spend every summer in Northeastern Oregon as camp host at Wallowa Lake in Hell's Canyon National Recreation Area.
"I'll probably get back to writing," he said.
Goodgame has one book published already, entitled, "Delightful Discipline."
His upbringing was strict, both at school and at home, and the discipline continued during his time in the military. Goodgame said he has always brought those same rigid guidelines to the classroom, and he thinks kids respect him for it.
"It seems like over the years, there's been a more liberal movement. When I went to school, it was strict. There's a place for tough love. If you have respect, you learn."
Goodgame set his rules in writing: If you have a question, raise your hand; take comprehensive notes; finish reading assignments; listen to lessons; cheaters don't get any breaks.
"I'm death on cheating," he says.
On Monday, the community is invited to wish Goodgame well on his retirement. A barbecue is planned for 5:30 p.m. at Redwood School.
"I suspect there's going to be kind of a roast involved. Some of my buddies will get back at me," laughed Goodgame. "My philosophy is all good things come to an end so we can start new good things. It's been a great time here at Redwood."