The Life and Times of Michael C. McGoodwin
Parents, Ancestors, and Origins

Parents were invented to make children happy by giving them something to ignore.
(attributed to Ogden Nash)

Jim and Tina McGoodwin in the 1930s (photo probably J. R. Wait)
Jim and Tina in the 1930s

My Father, Jim McGoodwin (1916 – 1980)

McGoodwin Coat of Arms (photo of drawing owned by Bill and Dorothy McGoodwin)
"Coat of Arms"

James Virgil "Jim" McGoodwin was born in spring 1916 and grew up in Texas, Kentucky, and Ohio.  His ancestors were said to be Scots Irish. (These were also known as the Scotch Irish or Ulster Scots, mainly Presbyterians from Scotland who migrated to Ulster or Northern Ireland and eventually on to America.)  His lineage has been traced back to a Daniel McGoodwin (1763 – 1839), who emigrated to North Carolina from County Derry, Ireland, in 1769, served in the American Revolution (1778 – 1782), and was a colonel in the Kentucky Militia in the War of 1812. 

A heraldic device obtained from Jim's brother Bill was said to be the McGoodwin coat of arms.  It has the motto "De bon volore" (note 1).

His Parents, Brother, and Other Ancestors and Kin: Jim's father William Ewing McGoodwin, Jr. (1890 – 1956), known to me and my original family as "Daddy Mac", was an affectionate man with a heart of gold and apparently a hot temper.  (He died when I was 12, so I had little chance to really get to know him, but I remember he enjoyed taking us kids to the excellent San Antonio Zoo when he came to town.)  He married my paternal grandmother Catherine Gomperts (1899 – 1965, whom we knew as "MaMaw") in January 1915 when he was 25 and she was only 15 1/2.  I have sometimes mused at the remarkably young age at which she married, and note that nowadays the marriage laws of only 7 or so states allow a 15 year old to marry, and then only with parental and/or judicial approval.  MaMaw gave birth to my father in April 1916 at the age of 16, and had her other son William Sterett McGoodwin, Sr. (1917 – 1997, my father's brother) at 18.  Jim's parents divorced when he was about 13.  MaMaw had no higher education, lived out her life mostly in Houston and Sealy Texas, and was a warm, loving, and caring relative to me and my brothers.  After divorcing William Jr., she eventually married Robert E. "Bob" Sellingsloh in 1934, but had no further children. 

My paternal grandfather William Jr. married his second wife Edna ?Sanders in c. 1935, and they had children Elizabeth (born c. 1949) and Edward (c. 1951).  (She also had a son Douglas, born in 1929, from an earlier marriage.)

My father's brother William Sterett McGoodwin, Sr. married Dorothy Holman in 1918, with whom they had children William Sterett McGoodwin, Jr. (born 1938), Thomas Holman McGoodwin (born 1943), Patrick Lee "Scooter" McGoodwin (born 1954), and Robert Ayres McGoodwin (born 1957).

Jim's paternal grandfather William Ewing McGoodwin, Sr. (1870 – 1929) was married to Jim's paternal grandmother Elizabeth Beauchamp (1872 – 1958). After their divorce, Elizabeth married Sterett Cuthbertson in 1913.  He was a kind, nurturing, and much-beloved man, born c. 1883, an owner of a large store like his father, and eventually a literate  banker who instilled in Jim his own love of books and history.  We called him "Daddy Sterett", and my middle name derives from him. We called Elizabeth "Mother Sterett".

James V. McGoodwin in 1928 at about 11
Jim McGoodwin in 1928 at about 11 years old
James V. McGoodwin at 30
Jim at about 30

Formal Education and Career Trajectory: Jim chose to move with his mother after she separated from her husband William, and moved in 1929 to Houston Texas to be near her own parents (Charles A. and Matilda A. W. Gomperts).  Jim was in middle school at the time of the move.  Jim acquired excellent debating skills at Houston's San Jacinto High School (attended 1930 – 1934) and demonstrated developing leadership potential, serving as president of the student council and of the senior class.  He attended Western Kentucky College (now Western Kentucky University) in Bowling Green for one year (1934 – 1935).  He then returned to the University of Texas in Austin in 1935.  After his second year of college (1935 – 1936, his first year at the University of Texas), he attended a year of law school also at the University of Texas (1936 – 1937).  Regrettably (at least from my mother's perspective), he decided against pursuing the study of law further, and instead resumed and completed an undergraduate major in economics, graduating in 1939 with a BA degree in economics from the University of Texas.  He had continued to excel in debate during his college years.

His limited financial circumstances during those depression years forced him to take on some rough jobs.  He drove a truck in the oil fields near Houston, worked on a dam construction project in Kentucky, worked on the docks at the Houston Ship Channel (as a hostler on a magnetic loader, loading scrap steel), and tarred roofs.  At the docks, he was physically threatened by the dock workers because he was non-union and was resented because he had a higher educational background and career aspirations.  He tried his hand at graduate studies in economics, working toward a master's degree, but stopped after about 6 months.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, war was declared between Japan and the U.S., and he tried to get a Naval commission.  However, he was classified as 4F (medically unfit for duty) because of his severe chronic allergies, and was rejected from service in the military (note 2).

He worked for a while in 1938 for the incumbent Chairman of the Railroad Commission, C. V. Terrell, writing speeches for his re-election bid (during which time Jim contemplated a life in politics).  He went on to work in his early career on a flood control project in 1940 with Roy Hofheinz, worked at the Houston Chamber of Commerce (doing "Industrial Research" under Bill Blanton and Charles J. Crampton in 1940 – 1941), and taught night adult education classes in economics and finance for the American Institute of Banking and for the Southern Pacific Railroad (1940).  He also worked for the Humble Oil and Refining Co. (the future Exxon) as a "Natural Resource Economist" (1941 – 1945), under founder and President Harry Weiss and under chief economist and future Humble Oil Treasurer, Richard J. Gonzalez, Ph.D.  On the recommendation of Charles J. Crampton in 1944, he was appointed to be southwest Regional Manager for the Committee for Economic Development or C.E.D.  (This was the 11th Federal Reserve District, which at least in 2011 includes Texas and parts of Louisiana and New Mexico).  According to my mother, this was patriotic work, a committee created in 1942 under Jesse H. Jones, President Franklin Roosevelt's Secretary of Commerce, and aimed at increasing private employment and economic development following the war.  Jim took a leave of absence from Humble Oil to do this work (1944 – c. 1945), traveling to New York, Washington D.C., and Chicago, as well as to the other states of the 11th district.  He set up a local committee in each major community, met with Congressman (and future president) Lyndon Baines Johnson, quite likely met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, along with the heads of several major U.S. companies (e.g., of General Motors, Westinghouse, General Foods, Ford, and Studebaker), and with William Benton (publisher of the Encyclopedia Britannica), journalist James Reston, educator and philosopher Mortimer Adler, and other famous professors such as the Dean of Harvard Business School during this time.  This work for Jim came to an end with the end of the war, due to its potential competition with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a non-governmental organization.

After a brief return stint at Humble Oil, Jim was contacted in 1945 by Hughes Tool Company with a promising job.  He was invited to the house of Noah Dietrich, a CPA from California, who was initially the Executive VP and later the President of Hughes Tool.  Jim became Noah Dietrich's executive assistant—a choice felt by my mother in retrospect to have been a great mistake.  Jim went as an alternate delegate of Hughes Tool to meet with President Harry Truman to discuss labor vs. industry issues, in order to thwart strikes now threatening the post-war period.  Although Jim was intended only to be an alternate to Noah Dietrich, in case Dietrich failed to attend, he nevertheless made comments to Truman regarding what the country needed, comments which Truman commended.  He stayed several weeks in Washington and spoke with Howard Hughes.  Jim also met Hughes twice in California—by this time, Hughes was already becoming very eccentric.  The economics operation of Hughes Tool Company was suddenly discontinued in 1946: Noah Dietrich was moving to California, and Jim was fired, apparently as a result of corporate politics and the opposition by labor lawyers to Jim's participation on the side of business as he tried to help avert a strike.  These labor lawyers wanted to have the economics department abolished. 

Charles J. Crampton, who at that time was VP and general manager of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, then offered Jim a position as industrial director of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, which he accepted in February 1947.  (My mother Tina sold their Houston home and joined him in San Antonio in April 1947—I was 3 years old.)  In the spring 1948, Jim was named assistant general manager for the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, and six months later, in fall 1948, he replaced Mr. Crampton as the VP and General Manager of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.  He had become a very public figure in the business world of San Antonio, frequently appearing in the newspaper and in many business forums.  As the leader of the business community, Jim was named as the coordinator of a campaign to eradicate polio (organizing the military and lay public efforts, etc.)  His activities included developing clean water supplies in the slum areas, reducing the number of pit privies, as well as organizing DDT spraying.  He was also responsible for the reopening of the charity hospital, the Robert B. Green Hospital, in c. 1948.  He was very civic minded about his work and had the forceful personality needed for the job.  He was described in a newspaper account of 1949, at the age of 33, as "the youngest general manager of a metropolitan chamber of commerce in the U.S."  He was voted the "Outstanding Young Man of 1949" in 1950 by the Junior Chamber of Commerce (a national organization also known as the Jaycees).  This honor was based on: his service as chief administrative officer of the Chamber of Commerce; his efforts to restore full-scale operation of the Robert B. Green Hospital; the expansion of urban expressways that he fostered; the improvements in air transport and general city cleanup that he promoted; and San Antonio commercial development, etc.  Another newspaper article stated that he had gotten the Foreign Trade Zone approved and the Livestock Exposition started.  His business-oriented social life included entertaining distinguished guests at our home: San Antonio's Mayor Jack White, and various visiting dignitaries and celebrities including Duncan Reynaldo (who played "The Cisco Kid" in film and on TV) and Leo Carillo, who played his sidekick "Pancho" (note 3).

In 1951, Jim resigned from the Chamber of Commerce to work for the oilman, rancher, innovator, adventurer, and philanthropist Thomas Baker Slick, Jr.  Tom Slick had founded several organizations, including the Slick Foundation; the Southwest Research Institute; the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research (now the Texas Biomedical Research Institute); the Institute for Inventive Research (under Harold Vagtborg); and the Southwest Endowment Corporation (for which Jim served as President).  Jim's role with Slick's organizations was described in Jim's resumé as "general investment investigations involving new products, new companies, and new processes".  During this time period, Jim met many interesting inventors and scientists, some of them rather eccentric.  These included the inventor of a dubious cure-all elixir called "Activite", as well as Dr. Gerald Wendt (a physicist involved with the atom bomb and finding peacetime uses of nuclear energy), Dr. Trevor Clark (a scientist), Dr. Nicholas Worthenson (who did research on baboons at the Southwest Foundation for Biological Research), and  Dr. Paul Keesee (a veterinarian in charge of the Essar ranch).  The Essar Ranch was one of the principle locations where research was done on developing the hardy Brangus cattle breed, and was the location of the Southwest Research Institute—it was also a favorite site for dove hunting for Jim and my brother Russ.  Tom Slick had profound and dominant impacts on the lives of my father and his family, some good and some not always pleasing to Tina.  He was, according to my mother, charming, interested in esthetics, idealistic, a dreamer, and socially a delightful man.  He had received his money from his wildcatter father, who got rich in the Spindletop and other Texas oil booms, but Tom tried to put this money to constructive uses: his various scientific and technological organizations, his campaign for world peace, his expeditions in search of the Abominable Snowman (Yeti), Bigfoot, and other cryptozoological creatures, etc.  Tom had us over for lavish dinners every Thanksgiving and on other holidays—he and his wife Polly, an operatic soprano, were perfect hosts and led glamorous lives.  They were generous to us, for example giving us a toy poodle we named Polly.  Tina and Jim made several flights in Tom's private plane to Miami and sailed from there on his private sailboat, the Harpoon, and also attended Broadway shows with him while in New York on business.

When Disneyland was under development in 1954 – 1955, Jim went to California to work with the colorful C. V. "Woody" Wood, Jr.  Wood was owner of Marco Engineering, Inc. of Los Angeles, but became Vice President and General Manager of Disneyland.  Wood is credited with choosing the site and being instrumental in the practical aspects of launching Disneyland as an operational business.  (However, he had a falling out with Walt Disney in c. 1956 and apparently was erased from official Disneyland history.)  Jim founded his own firm, Economic Research & Development Consultants, in about 1957, which according to his resume was "engaged primarily in economic and development work on recreational enterprises such as Disneyland."  His work brought him into frequent contact with Walt Disney and many other highly creative people, as well as with B-actor and television personality Ronald Reagan (the last of four present or future U.S. presidents with whom Jim is thought to have met during his business career).

In 1956, Jim attended the prestigious Aspen Executive Seminar at the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, which was directed by its co-founder, the philosopher and educator Dr. Mortimer J. Adler (whom he had met during his CED years).  The seminar was also attended by other notables such as Paul G. Hoffman (founder and first chairman of the CED.)  The wives of attendees and us kids could sit admiringly in an overhead gallery and listen to the discussion (in those days there were no female participants).  Tina recalls Jim debating the question whether Socrates had violated the Greek Law and should have been found guilty—Jim argued yes, because he had gone against the State.  He acquired Adler's 1940 book How to Read a Book then, and later other of Adler's worksI recall the expansive and elevated environment in which Jim learned more about the "Great Ideas" of Western thought (which of course were Eurocentric back then).  We were all proud and deeply impressed at this enlightened experience taking place in such a beautiful Colorado setting, away from the daily pressures of business—it was probably one of the high points in his life.

Jim McGoodwin at Magic Mountain in Denver (publicity photo) 1959
Jim McGoodwin at Magic Mountain in Denver (publicity photo) 1959

With Jim's flair for bringing businessmen and investors together in order to facilitate creative development deals, he continued to work on other widely scattered theme parks that had varying levels of success, including:

• Magic Mountain (in Golden CO, open 1959 – 1960 [reopened 1971 as Heritage Square], serving as general manager and again working with C. V. Wood, as well as with Wally Oakes (architect), Charles "Bud" Dillner (wrangler with horses and livestock), George Friden (engineer), George Nicolopoulos (initially a food concessionaire), and Allen Lefferdink (a financier who soon declared bankruptcy and eventually went to prison for fraud)
• Freedomland (in the northeast Bronx NY, open 1960 – 1964, a park that is fondly remembered by many who were able to visit it)
• Six Flags Over Texas (in Arlington TX, open 1961 – )
• Lafitte's Alley (in Galveston TX, c. 1963, may have never opened)
• Legend City (in Phoenix-Tempe AZ, open 1963 – 1983)
• Pirates World (in Dania Beach FL near Fort Lauderdale, open 1967 – 1975)

He also worked on various other business development projects, in this capacity traveling to Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Victoria British Columbia.  I recall being with him in Cañon City Colorado, where he was involved in "[uranium] mining and milling situations"—there we met with an inventor of an ore extraction machine who did not want me peering too closely into its interior, and who showed us a large drum of bright yellow carnotite ("yellowcake") uranium ore.

Jim also served as a consultant to the Aspen Institute, as well as Chairman of the Board of the Robert B. Green City-County Charity Hospital in San Antonio for three years.  I recall going to the ER there with my father and seeing a man who had been knifed standing while bleeding at the check-in desk.  The conditions were crowded, and the need for further improvements was apparent.

After Tom Slick's untimely death in a private plane crash in Montana in 1962, Jim apparently lost his affiliation with the Slick organizations and found it harder to find well-compensated work.  He turned to working on various franchises such as Orange Julius and Kolaches as well as other development projects in Phoenix, Galveston, Houston, and elsewhere.  After some years working out of Houston (including with associates Don West, Bill Bell, Alex Head, etc.), he moved back to San Antonio in 1970, where he joined up with business associates George and Barbara Condos and William T. "Bill" Rhame, working primarily on real estate developments, and providing business consulting for a major client, Jim Folkes.

He seemed to enjoy fewer business successes in his final years, and became somewhat despondent as his available resources diminished.  In November 1979, he was extremely pleased to reunite with my mother in an attractive condominium that my wife and I purchased to facilitate this reunion.  Unfortunately, he died soon thereafter of sudden apparently cardiac death, in January 1980 at the age of 63.  It was on my birthday, and I am grateful that he called and spoke to me briefly by phone early in the morning before I went to work, apparently already experiencing chest pains but characteristically saying nothing about it to alert me about his concern.  Recognizing his love of the Texas Hill Country, his ashes were scattered on the Guadalupe River near San Antonio.


Here is my own assessment of my father, interspersed with observations compiled from his and/or my mother's oral recollections:

Charisma: Jim was a gifted public speaker, a handsome virile outgoing man who radiated charisma, self-confidence, genuine warmth, and charm in his public roles.  He would quickly learn new names and faces and was very good at putting people at their ease and understanding their issues.  (In fact, we were sometimes dismayed when he would seem to parrot back what a person had just said, as if their words were his own.)  His skills lay in oratory and his ability to persuade and bring people together to make a deal, not in the mastery of complex scientific facts or minutiae.  Underlying his facade of supreme self-confidence was a core of concealed insecurity—his success depended on his persuasiveness and charm, and in his later years, these skills inevitably declined, not unlike Willy Loman's.

Ambition and Restlessness:  He was totally consumed with pursuing his business career, in part to overcome the insecurity of his childhood and to provide for his family.  He could never really relax at this task or feel that he had attained his goals, because the goal posts seemed to be constantly shifting.  He was not a joiner of organizations unless they had a business purpose.  Like many hard-driving men, he had few truly close or intimate friends (though many business associates remembered him very fondly).  He found it hard to fully trust anyone (I would add that this, unfortunately, was often for good reason)—yet he found himself forced over and over again to pin his hopes on the cooperation of individuals.  His deeper emotions were always under tight control and rarely expressed fully—he virtually never complained or expressed self-pity, even when he experienced profound rejection, and always tried to present an upbeat  facade.  Jim had grown up with few luxuries and had little family stability as a child.  He had been forced at an early age to fend for himself in a struggle for survival and success.  Probably as a result, he often seemed to operate at a visceral survival level and was on guard rather than being relaxed.  He tended to neglect his relatives beyond his wife, sons, and their families, especially in later years, perhaps because his relationships with some of them had not always been satisfying ones, perhaps also because of his ambivalence about his humble roots.  He was ambitious especially in the first half or so of his adult years, and liked to be on as large a stage as possible.  But he was restless, seemed to prefer to be on the go rather than being tied down, and passed up several opportunities (such as an offer to be the head of a San Antonio brewery) that would have allowed him to settle down to a comfortable if more mundane existence.  His withdrawal from law school after one full year, for reasons that have never been clear to me, marked a turning point according to my mother wherein he gave up an important chance to have a professional degree that would probably have provided him real economic benefit and greater security.

Attitudes and Core Beliefs: Jim was a very public figure during his Chamber of Commerce days, and was civic minded and egalitarian in outlook (though he certainly would not have wanted to return to his own humble origins).  To my knowledge, he always voted Republican, but he often defended the needs of the "common man".  He was socially liberal by the standards of the day, and was generous in spirit and words to minorities including blacks (certainly compared to some of the other persons and attitudes I encountered growing up in San Antonio).  He spoke out for principles of justice and democracy, though perhaps not always with complete consistency.  He professed a belief in God and heaven, though as far as I recall he had little use for organized religion.  He admired and in many respects had the same values and skills as the young Abraham Lincoln.  He was a bit of an idealist on some matters—for example, he had been exposed to many well-regarded researchers, had been pleased at my interest in science and medicine, and wished I had gone into medical research or academics rather than engaging in the sometimes messy business of private-practice medicine.  

Interests: Aside possibly from hunting in his earlier years in San Antonio (see below), he had virtually no avocations, hobbies, mechanical skills, or athletic interests.  At least during the last third or so of his life, he rarely held a tool in his hands or performed anything like manual labor.  His two great interests in life were his work and his family.  In the years that I have memory of, he rarely pursued any recognizably leisure-oriented activity, except perhaps occasionally watching a football game on TV, or taking a drive in the lovely Texas Hill Country (a favorite Sunday outing for him and his family).  His love for Texan spicy foods such as barbecue and Mexican food (cabrito, chili, tamales, tacos, menudo) was almost legendary, and certainly one of his greatest pleasures.  Favoring meats and heavier more robust foods, he regarded carbohydrates mostly as "empty calories" (thereby anticipating the currently fashionable low-carbohydrate diets).  His favorite restaurants in San Antonio (and mine too) included El Mirador and Mi Tierra, and in earlier years La Paloma and La Fonda.  My father was less sophisticated than my mother when it came to music.  He had played and took lessons on the C melody saxophone when he was about 11, but he was not musically gifted and eventually gave this up, taking up no other musical instrument.  (The C melody or C tenor saxophone was a novel instrument that apparently died out around 1930 in favor of the lower-pitched tenor saxophone in B-flat.  It was once popular and of practical value because one could play along with the melody of piano or vocal sheet music without transposition.)  In the years I knew him, he liked our band performances and some of the more manly and robust Russian orchestral works—for example, pieces by Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov with plenty of brass—but did not go out of his way to play or listen to music.  He loved history, and as an adult had a nice library of books by or about heroic men such as Churchill and Lincoln (whom he idolized), as well as other important historical figures, politicians, orators, and philosophers.  (I was disappointed to see the overt expression of this idealistic interest decline as his years advanced and his work drained more out of him.)  Even in his later years, he remained an avid mostly late-at-night reader (trying to cope with his long-standing insomnia)—primarily of mysteries by Ellery Queen, Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming, John Le Carré, and probably many other paperback authors.

Generosity and Money Matters: Despite his career as an economist, he was inattentive to his own finances, and even when money was flowing freely in, he was never able to save effectively for the future or for his own retirement.  He was generous to a fault with his money, not just with friends and high-rolling business acquaintances, but especially when it came to providing healthcare and other important needs for his wife and children.  For example, he spent money that he did not really have to advance his son's educations and social success.  He incurred a large debt after he generously but unwisely co-signed a note for a relative of a business acquaintance, and the man defaulted.  In order to repay this loan, he was forced on short notice to sell our family home for its equity in 1963.

One of my favorite recollections about his warm generosity to me is that, when I was in elementary and junior high school, I loved to buy books at a local neighborhood bookstore, The Little House of Books, and he told me that he would buy for me any book I wanted.  Such an offer would be impossibly unrealistic today, but I appreciated the freedom that it granted me to choose, and occasionally took him up on the offer.  I did not abuse the privilege, and in any event, the books I was buying were much cheaper in those days, 35 cents to a dollar or two.  When I was in college in about 1963 or 1964, he bought me a new car, a Chevrolet Corvair, which greatly aided me but which he probably could not really afford.  (I can partly rationalize this by the money I was saving him by attending tuition-free Rice University.)

Sports, Habits, and Other Lifestyle Choices: He had been athletic in his teens.  In the summer of 1929, attending Greenbrier Military academy in Bowling Green Kentucky, he took boxing lessons after getting whipped in some adolescent encounter.  (Jim always seemed to me to be something of a scrappy fighter within, capable and willing to defend himself physically if he were forced to, but fortunately he did not have to do so during his adult years as far as I know.)  He was rather short in stature, his adult height being about 5 feet 6 inches.  In middle school, prior to his parent's separation, he is said to have done championship tennis and track and was fairly good at swimming and canoeing, and he played football during his freshman year of high school.  (I recall that in about 1961, my brother Russ and I played Jim once at tennis, and I was impressed at his surprisingly strong serves and volleys.)  His athletics however seem to have come mostly to an end by mid high school with the increasing disruption of his family life, his growing interest in speech and debate, his increasingly rebellious behavior and discipline problems at school, and the necessity for him to work to make ends meet in the summers.  After running away from home at 16, he went to live with his high school speech teacher J. P. Barber, who was very influential in his life at the time, and who apparently advised him to give up football.  In his later years, Jim was unathletic, and was rarely to be seen dressed in anything other than a coat and tie, navy slacks, and dress shoes—in short, executive business attire that promoted the image he preferred, but was the antithesis of an athletic life style.  The Texas heat and his sinus allergies probably also contributed to his later aversion to active athletic participation.

I do not recall how truly committed to hunting he was in the 1950s, though it was certainly an almost compulsory part of male culture in San Antonio Anglo society back then.  Russ recalls that Jim mainly enjoyed hunting for the opportunity it provided to get outdoors with friends.  His experiences with this sport were mostly hunting Texas Hill Country white-tailed deer (which he began hunting in about 1951), the fast flying white winged dove, and a few duck hunts.  But as I recall, like Peter Matthiessen's quest for the snow leopard, he held the pursuit of the wily and elusive wild turkey as his ultimate but quite possibly never realized goal.  Russ joined Jim in hunting and became a great enthusiast.  In Jim's mid adult years, he still prided himself on his excellent eagle-eyed vision, a desirable skill for a hunter, and he was clearly shaken and distressed after he had a macular hemorrhage in 1973 during a dental procedure and permanently lost most of the central vision in his right eye.  Russ also recalls going fishing with my father on occasion, though I don't believe I ever did (other than the Gulf of Mexico mackerel outing I recount elsewhere).  Russ states, "What I remember was being a little guy with a rod and reel, hitting it hard all day, hour after hour, with unflagging zeal, while he stayed in the car, in the shade, reading the paper, listening to the radio, whatever.  But when suddenly the fish started biting and I and other anglers nearby were suddenly catching them, he'd get out of the car with his rig and catch virtually as many as anybody else...  I bet if we asked him whether he was using heightened marine-ecological knowledge [of the tides] or just being pragmatic he'd claim the former, whether that was really the case or not!  That was part of what made him so fun to be around." 

He loved to eat (I have mentioned his preferences above), and was somewhat overweight and hypertensive during the latter third or so of his life—this was probably also a result of his very sedentary behavior.  His business lifestyle and culture seemed unhealthy to me as they involved long days without exercise that often continued as evening meetings with cocktails.  (I would add that the use of cocktails and alcohol for entertaining seemed to be an integral and excessive part of much of San Antonio society in that era, not just of the business culture. Perhaps this helped to influence my own desire as an adult to minimize the use of alcohol as a form of entertainment.)  He enjoyed scotch, less frequently beer, and probably occasionally overdid it somewhat.  I don't know if he was an alcoholic by the modern definition, but he probably exceeded at times the current rather stringent recommended maximum consumption for men (three ounces of distilled spirits daily).  There were only one or two occasions when I personally saw him somewhat intoxicated, he generally held his liquor well as they say, his use of alcohol did not seem to impair his work (in fact it was virtually a job requirement), and as far as I know he had no DUIs.  However, the use of alcohol by him and his business circles was one of the issues in which he was in conflict with my mother.  He had also smoked as a young adult, but to his credit gave this up cold turkey soon after his father died of lung cancer in 1956.  According to my mother, he was not always faithful and strayed on occasion, a source of great conflict before and during their marriage.  We have come to associate aspects of this behavior with at least 13 US presidents—including Kennedy, Clinton, Franklin Roosevelt, etc.—but I'm just not the right person to discuss or evaluate it in my own father.


Jim McGoodwin with Mike, Becky, and grandchildren 1975
Jim and Tina McGoodwin with Mike, Becky, Wendy, and Christie 1975

I loved my father unconditionally, preferred not to focus on judging or criticizing him for his failings, and wished that I could have enjoyed his company more, not just while I was growing up but also in my later years when I had children of my own to share with him.  (In fact, he responded very warmly to his first grandchildren, and sadly had no chance to know the additional grandchildren who came along more than 10 years after his death.)  He always responded warmly to me, gave me good Irish hugs, and treated me with love and respect and generosity—in fact, I have no recollections of any unkindness, intentional or otherwise, that he deliberately directed at me.  I always enjoyed the rare times I got to spend with him one-on-one, such as when I went solo with him on some of his business trips out of state.  I wish he had not died so young—his death was a very great loss to me, keenly felt even to this day.  He was a flawed husband as well as an imperfect father, and his final years were disappointing to himself and to his family.  But he had the potential makings of greatness, and as the Bard said, "He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again." 


My Mother, Tina McGoodwin (1917 – 2009)

Tina Wait as a junior in high school in the 1930s
Tina Wait as a junior in high school in the 1930s
 (damaged photo)
Tina McGoodwin August 1991
Tina McGoodwin
August 1991

Parthenia N. Wait McGoodwin, who was born in 1917 as the fifth of five children, traced her lineage to Pennsylvania Dutch, English, German, and other Northern European ancestors.  She grew up in New Jersey, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Texas.

Parents, Siblings, and Other Ancestors: Her father, John Russell Wait, Sr. (1882 – 1970) was known to her as Neila, but his grandchildren knew him as "JeeBee" or "GeeBee" (note 7).  He was educated as a mechanical engineer and was the son of a railway engineer, John Vary Wait (1858 – 1939).  JeeBee was a stern, righteous, and domineering man who was unable to express affection according to my mother and his son Jack.  He was, in the late 1920s, president of the Indian Motorcycle Co., but went on to rise up through several positions at marine ports, eventually becoming Director of the Port of Houston (note 4).  He took pride in his development of that facility and in his fight against special interests and corruption.  He lived out his retirement years in landlocked Kerrville Texas, calling his home "Anchordown" (he had a huge red anchor planted in the front yard), and died in 1970 at the age of 88. Tina's mother, Kathryn I. Rutherford Wait (1887 – 1959), seemed for the most part to stand in his shadow and made little impression on me. (She died of diabetic complications when I was only 15, and had not been close to our family, but my mother tells me she was very artistic, had a lovely singing voice, and, as was apparently typical for her times, never went to college.)  Tina's siblings were:
(1) John Russell "Russ" Wait, Jr.  (1910 – 1966).  He studied architecture originally, but worked instead as a pipeline engineer after being unable to find employment in architecture.  He was a kind man who disliked pipeline engineering and eventually became a fine professional banjo player.  He was married to Margaret Richardson, with whom he had a daughter also named Margaret.  He died in 1966, shortly before Becky and I married. (See also Note 8)
(2) Kathryn R. Wait (1911 – 1998).  She was married to William Ehlers (1906 – 1997), with whom she bore a daughter, Katheryn Lucy c. 1936.
(3) Harold Vary "Jack" Wait  (1912 – 2001).  He was a mechanical engineer who worked and consulted for oil companies especially in the Texas and Louisiana coastal areas.  He enjoyed a long marriage to Aline A. W. Wait (1915 – 2000), and had children Harold Vary Wait, Jr., John Thomas Wait, and Aline Ann Wait.
(4) Jennie E. Wait (1914 – 1977).  She was married to Joseph McSpadden, and they had daughter Dana born c. 1946.

All of these siblings are now regrettably deceased.  A year or so after the death of his wife in 1959, my grandfather JeeBee married his former secretary, Edith Hanner.  (See also note 5 regarding other relatives.)

Education, Career, Marriage, Children, and Travels: Tina attended San Jacinto High School in Houston, where she met her future husband Jim.  She graduated in 1934, had what it took to get into and attend Rice Institute (now Rice University).  However, after only a year there, she transferred to the University of Texas to be closer to Jim.  She majored in English, did quite well in college, and graduated in 1938.  She entered the teaching profession in Houston, teaching English at the junior high and high school level including at San Jacinto High School, and later in several elementary schools.  She married Jim in 1939 (despite the disapproval of her parents), and had her first son James Russell "Russ" McGoodwin in December 1941, soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Her second son Michael Cuthbert "Mike" McGoodwin appeared on the scene in January 1944, and her third son Scott Duncan McGoodwin in May 1950.  As the mother of young children, she devoted herself to child rearing and parenting full-time, putting aside teaching until she resumed part-time substitute teaching in 1956.  She became Vice President of the PTA in about 1953, was on the board of the St. Luke's Episcopal Church, and served with the Art League and the Women's Symphony Committee, helping to arrange school programs for the symphony on pieces of music such as Hansel and Gretel, etc.  She stayed active with these volunteer roles for a number of years.  During the 1950s and early 1960s, she wrestled with depression and anxiety relating to her marriage, finally largely overcoming them with the help of, or in some cases in spite of, counseling and various other concerted therapies.  The abrupt sale of our family home in 1963 (as the result of a large debt incurred by my father's unwisely co-signing a note) was a great disappointment to her and probably a turning point in their marriage.  She divorced my father in 1967, largely out of a desire for greater financial stability in addition to other issues, but she maintained amicable relations with him, and to their credit they continued to see each other and to be present together at virtually all subsequent family occasions.

She resumed full-time teaching in 1960 at Alamo Heights High School, and her subsequent teaching assignments at various facilities included English courses, teaching the deaf, and teaching the Minimally Brain Injured.  She worked on courses aimed at earning a master's degree at the University of Houston and subsequently at Trinity University in San Antonio, and she was awarded her Masters in Education from Trinity University in August 1970.  This allowed her to begin teaching at night in the Alamo Community College District, specifically at San Antonio College, and St. Philips College beginning in 1970, while continuing her day job teaching the Minimally Brain Injured.  She also served as the director at the School for Pregnant Girls in 1971 – 1973.  In 1973, Tina accepted an offer to teach reading full-time during the day at St. Philips College.  (St. Philips is one of the Alamo Community Colleges and is described on their website as a "historically black college and Hispanic serving institution".)  I visited her class there once in the 70s (and also visited some of her other teaching venues on other occasions), and was very pleased to see how well she connected with her students and how much she was truly revered by them.  Her growing self-confidence, freedom, economic stability, and longstanding intellectual interests allowed her for the first time to engage in intrepid international travel.  She went to Europe in 1974: London, Greece and the Aegean, Crete, Ephesus, Istanbul, Italy, and Paris.  Cruising in the Aegean and Mediterranean indulged her lifelong passion for the sea.  In Athens, she had to flee hastily on a ship sailing from Piraeus when war broke out between the Greeks and the Turks.  She made additional Europe trips in 1981 (to the British Isles) and 1983 (to France and London), and toured in Japan in 1988.  In 1977, she became chairman of the reading department at St. Philips College, a position which she held until her retirement from there in 1985.  She then took up teaching in a private clinic for learning disabilities, which she did until her full retirement from teaching in about 1990.  She reunited with Jim in November 1979, as mentioned above, in their newly purchased condominium, but unfortunately this would be short-lived, as he died only two months later in 1980. 

Tina with Milo Jordan in November 1995
Tina with Milo Jordan in November 1995

Second Marriage (1990 – 2000): Tina met Milo A. "Mike" Jordan in 1990 on a plane returning from Alaska that stopped in Seattle.  Thanks to my mother's outgoing nature, they struck up a conversation, and later took steps to get to know each other better.  They were married in August 1992 and lived in San Antonio until his death in 2000.  Milo had grown up on a farm, had served in the Coast Guard and had attained the rank of Captain.  He was an amiable pragmatic man who knew how to get along, a skill he honed in crowded shipboard conditions.  He died June 9, 2000 after eight years of marriage to Tina, a great loss to her and to her sons, as well as to his own children from his first marriage (Michael, Theola ["Teddy"], and Kevin, see note 6).

Tina's final resting site Guadalupe River
April 2012

Final Years (2000 – 2009):  After Milo's death, Tina was again living on her own.  She soon moved in 2000 to the Inn at Los Patios, located in a scenic area of San Antonio along Salado Creek, a locale that we had long enjoyed visiting.  She moved to Denver in 2002 after experiencing a rapid decline in her vision with central blindness from macular degeneration, cardiac problems necessitating a pacer, hip and knee problems requiring prostheses, and gradual impairment of her cognitive capabilities from a slowly progressive dementia.  She chose Colorado over Seattle probably because there were more sons and four young grandchildren in Colorado, it was closer to Texas, and it had a sunnier climate than Seattle.  She lived out her final years in Denver at a fine retirement facility, Parkplace (adjacent to Cherry Creek), evolving from independent living to assisted living and finally to substantial nursing assistance.  Although she was spunky up to the end in August 2009, the years and piling on of infirmities of advanced age finally caught up with her.  Until her final year or two, however, she could still carry on a good discussion about Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson if given the chance, and was always able to recite appropriate quotations.  Her admiring staff in Denver remarked how, up to the very end, she would correct their grammar in the warmest tradition of the caring English teacher she had always been.  In keeping with her expressed wishes, her ashes were scattered on a scenic stretch of the Guadalupe River near San Antonio (photo by Becky Silver).

Achievements:  Throughout her life, she applied her high intelligence to pursue where possible her major interests in family, literature, art (which flourished in San Antonio), music, and travel.  When I asked her in 1998 to sum up what she felt were her best and proudest achievements in life, she listed the following: 


My mother strongly influenced the person I became, and I seemed to take after her more than my father.  Her passion for classical music inspired my own great love of music, and her pleasure and appreciation for Shakespeare and other great authors inspired my enjoyment of English and world literature.  She was a natural and highly dedicated educator who always played the role of teacher and who shared a mutual affection, love, admiration, and respect with her students—presumably this contributed to Russ's career choice and my own interest in teaching and in academia.  Although she was not particularly scientifically inclined, she certainly encouraged my interest in intellectual matters in general, and the family of engineers that she came from surely contributed to my interest in the technical and scientific world.  She had an intrepid spirit, and my own family enjoyed the courage and adventuresomeness she displayed when coming to visit us in Alaska and in Seattle while her health lasted.  She loved the art world and always had new discoveries to show off to us in the San Antonio area when we visited in Texas.  She was a loving grandmother to our children, an appreciative and very supportive mother-in-law, and a caring mother, and we all miss her.


(1) McGoodwin coat of arms and motto "De bon volore": I found the motto "De bon volore" and a description of the coat of arms depicted in the entry for "Goodwin" on page 410 of the 1884 book, The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, by Bernard Burke.  According to a Latin-speaking acquaintance, this motto probably means "of good will", but is not standard Latin.  A motto "De bon vouloir", which is presumably French meaning "of goodwill", is listed in p. 1165 of the index of this same Burke's General Armory under the entry "Goodwin", but "De bon volore" does not appear in the index.  In the Tuscan Italian of Dante's Purgatorio XVIII, the phrase is spelled "buon volere".  The shield depicted in the photo is accurately described as "a lion rampant [i.e., reared up on its hind legs] between 3 fleurs-de-lis counterchanged [i.e., with colors interchanged]".  I cannot be certain how authentic this armorial bearing is for the McGoodwins, as Burke does not list an entry under "McGoodwin".

(2) Wartime service of Jim's brother: Jim's brother William Sterett McGoodwin, Sr. served with valor in the Navy as an officer on a Fletcher class destroyer, the USS Clarence K. Bronson (DD-668).  The flag that flew over this ship during WWII is proudly displayed over the fireplace in the home of one of William's sons.  An undated post-war newspaper article with photo of Bill, sent to me by his wife Dorothy, states: “Lieut. William S. McGoodwin has served as damage control officer on the destroyer USS Clarence K. Bronson in the Southwest Pacific since October 1944, and is now with the occupational forces in Tokyo Bay..."

(3) The Cisco Kid and Pancho:  These fictional characters traveled the old west like the Lone Ranger, righting wrongs and fighting injustice, while apparently never killing anyone.  Scott's middle name derived from the name of the actor playing the Cisco Kid.

(4) Tina's father's J. Russell Wait, Sr. as Houston Port Director:  J. R. Wait, Sr. was a formidable director of the Port of Houston from 1931 to November 1947, thus during the Depression years and WWII.  I quote here selected passages from The Port of Houston: A History, by historian Marilyn McAdams Sibley, 1968, U Texas Press [with some abbreviations introduced].  "Recognizing the demanding nature of the position, the commissioners felt fortunate in securing the service of J. Russell Wait, a man with an engineering degree from Lehigh University and practical experience as director of the ports of Charleston and Beaumont."  It was said of him: "Not even his enemies will say anything detrimental to [?of] him...  One frank acquaintance ... informed the commissioners that Wait feared no interest, served none, and finished the job for the public 'even when wrong'...  Wait brought to the job a high ideal of public service.  He conceived of the Port as a business in which the taxpayers were the stockholders, the commissioners the directors, and himself the manager...  He had a portrait of Sam Houston painted [with his own funds] ... that represented the composite taxpayer of Harris County, ... [defending] Sam Houston against all who seemed to infringe on the old hero's rights.  This meant that on occasion Wait did battle with capital, labor, industry, shippers, railroads, rival ports, the Houston Taxpayer's Association, city fathers, the Houston Pilots' Association, Gov. Miriam A. Ferguson's husband, the US Engineers, the US Navy, and the US Army.  Although he sometimes fought singlehanded, no one ever suggested that any of his battles were unevenly matched...   All considered him a worthy opponent and he won nationwide respect for his port management..."  This history recounts violent battles at the Port with striking workers, which led to 14 deaths.  To better police the waterfront, he enlisted the help of Texas Ranger Frank Hamer.  Despite his troubles with labor, he was pleased with the appointment of a commissioner who represented labor, William Walcott Strong, and he formed a warm and effective relationship with him.
    Tina's father left behind an interesting work recounting a pre-World War II trip to Japan, a diary or journal he called Observations Made On A Trip To Japan.  It was published probably in 1939 by the Japan Foreign Trade Federation sometime after the trip ended May 15, 1939, therefore well after the Nanking Massacre of December 1937 and the USS Panay incident also in 1937, but presumably before Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941 (which of course led to America's immediate entry into WWII with war against Japan).  He recorded these observations during an extensive tour that began March 11, 1939.  He was treated royally as an honored guest of the Japanese in his capacity as Director of the Port of Houston.  He speaks with an engineer's great admiration about Japanese sites, achievements, and culture.  His potential concerns about Japan's intentions are quite muted, perhaps because his hosts were going to publish his book, but he did observe when returning by ship back to Hawaii (p. 203-4): "As we passed south of the Navy Base, Pearl Island we were reminded of a notice that no pictures are to be taken of Pearl Island, nor sketches, nor surveying...  I was forced to look across the intervening sea of some three miles and wonder how long it would take to destroy the place if a couple of fast airplanes flew over dropping their messages.  I recalled a book I read in 1909, The Valor of Ignorance by Brig. General Homer Lea...  He described vividly the Japaneses swoop on Seattle and Los Angeles with troops, cutting the [Panama] Canal with all our fleet on the East side, and eventually capturing all the West Coast as a Japanese country...  That book worried me a lot and I believed all of it, because I believed the man who wrote it was honest and ... above suspicion of propaganda...  The thought came to me as I looked over the beautiful mountain ridge that is Oahu that it is probably a fine naval outpost, and is crowded with army boys now, and to justify the endless millions [spent] we need a scare hanging over those hills.  I don't feel that way over the Philippines because they are in Japan's back yard.  I think Japan feels about the way we would feel if Cuba was a Japanese colony and army base...  Well, such war scare thoughts were brief and for that I'm thankful..."  I wonder, should he have been more suspicious by mid-1939 about Japan's intentions, and should he have expressed these more forcefully?

(5) Other interesting relatives of my mother: Two persons related to my mother that I wish I had met are (1) my mother's father's brother Dr. Harold Nathan Wait (born c. 1880), who was a radiologist in Garfield Park Hospital in Chicago (the only relatively close older kin who was a physician as far as I know), and (2) his son John V. Wait, PhD (1932 – 2003), who earned his PhD apparently in electrical engineering, helped run the Computer Engineering Research Laboratory at the University of Arizona, coauthored several electrical engineering textbooks, is said to have been an accomplished musician, and continued to teach for 11 years despite disabling multiple sclerosis. 

(6) Captain Milo Alonzo "Mike" Jordan: Tina's second husband, Milo, was born in Minnesota in 1917. His family did “mixed farming”: dairy cattle, sheep, horses, hogs, laying hens, plus corn, oats, wheat, barley, rye, and alfalfa—it was very demanding work on a farm that was incompletely mechanized.  After graduation from high school, he enrolled in the Annandale Teacher Training Department and received a temporary teaching certificate in 1935, teaching until he enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1941 and began a nautical life.  His first duty assignment was at the Cape Disappointment Lifeboat Station at Ilwaco, WA, where he served  for 14 months.  He then went to New Caledonia (Australia) on the President Polk troop transport, then served beginning in 1942 on the ship Hunter Liggett.  It was an amphibious assault vessel carrying landing barges and manned by U.S. Coast Guard personnel.   He was on this ship until early 1943 as a coxswain (i.e., an enlisted man).  They went to Guadalcanal, transporting troops from there to New Zealand, then to New Caledonia to take on troops to carry back to Guadalcanal, then to Fiji, American Samoa, the Philippines, Guam, Okinawa, Saipan, and Japan.  He was then assigned to the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut for 4 months to receive officer training, coursework which included sailing aboard a four-masted square-rigger sailing ship called the Danmark.   This ship belonged to Denmark but had been stranded in the U.S. when WWII broke out for fear of confiscation by the Germans.  (It was contracted temporarily to the U.S. Coast Guard for training purposes in exchange for utilization of their officers.)   He graduated and was commissioned in 1944 as an ensign.  Afterwards, he went to a Merchant Marine Hearing Unit in New York for 9 months to serve as an investigator of crew members who had gone AWOL, etc.  In December 1944, he joined the ship Theenim, serving as a commissary officer. They cruised off the Atlantic coast and then went to Hawaii through the Panama Canal and on to the Philippines, to prepare for the invasion of Okinawa, arriving there in April 1945.  They were there for 16 days and received 48 enemy air raids and several close calls though no direct hits.   They then went on to Saipan for about 4 months and on to Japan. Upon returning to Portland, OR for ship repairs, Milo met his future first wife Theola (Teddy).  They then sailed to Oakland, CA and on to the Philippines, the New Hebrides, and Guam. He was in Guam at the time of the Japanese surrender. He and Theola were married in 1946 in Sea Level, NC.  Milo was reassigned to Seattle, WA, where he reverted to chief petty officer status in the USCG.  He was assigned to a river tender in Astoria, OR called the Rose.  He was put in charge of the Columbia River Light Ship in 1948 for 14 months, and also served on a buoy tender called the Ivy, on the Pawpaw for about 6 weeks, on the Mallow, and the Unalaga.  Milo and Teddy had first son Michael in 1951 and daughter Theola "Teddy" in 1952.  In 1954 he served on the steamship Aleutian and on a buoy tender, the Citrus, as its executive officer in Ketchikan, AK, for about 1 year.   In 1955, he was assigned to the Kimball (a search and rescue vessel) in Ketchikan, AK, his first ship command as Commanding Officer.  He then went to the Astoria Coast Guard base in 1957, serving 3 years as commanding officer.  Their younger son Kevin was born in 1960.  He went on to serve for 3 years (1960 – 3) as executive officer on the weather ship Chataqua based in Honolulu.   He attained the rank of Captain in 1972, and retired from the Coast Guard in 1974 at after 30 years of service.  He worked as director of the H. E. Evans Maritime Institute in Chauvin, LA to certify barge operators, etc. until 1975 when he fully retired.  He and Teddy lived in Slidell, LA.  He went to college at Southeast Louisiana, graduating in December 1980 with a BA degree in business education with a minor in marketing, but did not have the opportunity to put this new degree to work in any formal position.  Teddy died in 1984.  Milo remarried, and was divorced in 1989.  He continued to live in retirement in Slidell until moving to San Antonio in 1992 when he married his third wife, my mother Tina.

(7) Nicknames Neila, Nelly, JeeBee and GeeBee: Tina's nickname for her father (Neila or Neila Gray) related to her own middle name Nell, which in turn derived from the folk-like 19th century song composed in 1856 by Benjamin Hanby, Darling Nelly Gray.  In this tragic pre-Civil War antislavery song, a Kentucky slave mourns his beloved, who has been sold down South to Georgia (where the slave’s life was regarded as even more horrific).  In one version of the lyrics, he concludes, "Oh, my darling Nellie Gray, up in heaven, so they say / And they'll never take you from me, anymore / Oh I'm coming, coming, coming, as the angels clear the way / So farewell to the old Kentucky shore."   According to Tina's brother Jack, her father's other family nickname "JeeBee" or "GeeBee" was conferred on him by JeeBee's granddaughter Dana, though it is probably also connected to the Boyd Atkins song, Heebie Jeebies, made popular by Louie Armstrong's well-known 1926 recording.  What are the heebie jeebies?  The term, possibly first appearing in a 1923 Barney Google cartoon by Billy DeBeck, originally indicated a feeling of uncomfortable nervous anxiety, apprehension, the jitters, or "the willies".  Armstrong's version of the lyrics suggests a compulsive restlessness by including the words, "Say, come on, now, and do that dance, / They call the heebie jeebies dance, / Sweet mama! / Papa's got to do the heebie jeebies dance! "

(8) John Russell Wait, Jr. Helps on Selecting a Banjo: Russ Wait Jr. [JRW] was a great banjo player as noted above.  He lovingly took time to help guide my brother Russ [JRM] in his selection of a banjo, as JRM describes: "I especially like Russ's banjo solo that kicks off 'The World is Waiting for the Sunrise,' which, I think, was also his signature tune... I still have the banjo Russ [JRW] helped me pick out in 1964 at what was then the biggest music store in downtown Houston—Harris Music, I think—although I haven't played it in a while, sticking instead to guitar.   When Russ and I visited that store I had my sights set on a long-neck Seeger model 5-string Vega banjo, which had an inlaid mother of pearl five-pointed star in the head piece—and was the most expensive 5 string banjo at that time. It was the banjo that Pete Seeger played, as well as the choice of Dave Guard with The Kingston Trio...  Russ [JRW], of course, played a 4-string tenor banjo plectrum style (i.e., with a flat pick) and he joked with me about my wanting to play a 5-string banjo (played with fingers and/or finger picks) instead...  The store had a very big selection of banjos and we looked at and plunked on more than a half dozen.   After trying all of interest, Russ asked me which one I liked the best and I said I still wanted the Seeger-model Vega.   Why did I still want that one, he asked.   Because it is the best one, I said, the one all the pros play.   And which one sounded the best, he gently asked.   Well, the Gibson long neck, I replied, which was about two-thirds the price of the Vega.   And why do you want to play a banjo, he asked.   And then I realized what he was driving at and bought the Gibson, making a down payment and walking out with it with 6 future monthly installment payments pay...  And to this day I still like it better, and think it plays better and sounds better, than any of the banjos I occasionally try out in music stores."