"We want our kids to amount to something,” Minnie Goodman, a rancher's wife, told her neighbor one day in 1926. “Here in Salmon [Idaho] there are not many opportunities. If our kids go to the local high school, they may get involved with smoking and drinking and wild parties like so many of the kids here. I want Mildred, William, Florence, Charlotte and Charles to make a mark in the world. I just don’t know what to do.”
“Have you heard of Gem State Academy?” her neighbor asked.
"No! Tell me about it,” Minnie replied.
That was the beginning of an exciting and arduous journey for the Goodman family. At first the academy's costs—tuition, board and room—seemed overwhelming to John Goodman. Ranching was good business in those days, but they had not planned for this. However, as he compared the costs with the benefits, he determined to make it work. Their children deserved the best—they would find a way!
For Minnie, there were many hours at the old treadle sewing machine to get the children outfitted for their nine-month stay away from home. Then they loaded the old Model T Ford and said goodbye. Each child, in succession, made that 12-hour drive to Caldwell, Idaho—to a new school, to a bigger "family,” to a new way of life.
Separation was perhaps the hardest thing of all. The telephone was not yet in common use. It was still a half-century before e-mail would be invented, and driving between Salmon and Caldwell was out of the question when the dairy herd needed milking twice a day. So, the U.S. Postal Service was all they had to sustain those tender family ties during the nine long months. The students experienced intense homesickness while the parents endured never-ending concern and loneliness, especially when Thanksgiving and Christmas came.
The Goodmans were not church-goers. In today’s culture, we would label them “seekers,” for they eagerly read Signs of the Times, which the neighbor sent to them. Florence, the middle child and now age 86, recalls hearing the story of Jesus’ betrayal and death for the very first time in Bible class. “When Professor Boynton described those final scenes in Jesus life,” she says, “I could not hold back the tears. I wanted to give my life to Someone who would go through all that for me.”
Florence wrote home to her parents saying that she wanted to be baptized. Her older siblings had already met Jesus at Gem State and had been baptized, so they were not surprised when they received Florence’s letter. Their response was simply, “Do what your conscience tells you to do.” Near the end of her freshman year, Florence was baptized.
It was hard for the new Christian young people to live the Christian life at home. There was no Adventist church in Salmon at the time, and the family did not keep the Sabbath. There were no Friday vespers, Sabbath School or church, and no Saturday night parties with other Christians. It was 24 hours alone with their Bibles, but at least John and Minnie respected their children’s decisions and did not require them to work.
A few years earlier there had been a thriving Adventist church in Salmon. But when Nellie Albertson, the helpful neighbor, had to move back to California for health reasons, the meetings ceased and the church doors were locked.
As the older Goodman children became young adults, they began to fill the leadership void. They pleaded with conference leaders to send a minister to Salmon. Finally in 1935, 10 years after the church doors had closed, Fred Wagner came and held a series of meetings. After the meetings, the Salmon Church was reorganized with 29 members.
The following year, a church school was begun in Salmon, which continues to the present day. For nearly 68 years a “flame” has burned brightly in Salmon, partly as a result of the spark ignited in the hearts of five young people who attended Gem State Adventist Academy.
Around 1953, approximately 10 years after the Goodmans' youngest child finished at Gem State, John and Minnie Goodman attended evangelistic meetings. At the close of the meetings, when the evangelist asked if they would like to be baptized, John responded, “We thought you’d never ask!”
All five children have remained faithful to their commitment to Jesus. With the support of Christian schools, they have passed their values to the next generation…and the next.
Now, nearly seven decades later, the Goodman family is still a positive force in the world. Several grandchildren have chosen to serve in the Adventist educational system. Others provide healthcare services in their communities. All freely share their special gifts and love for Jesus in their neighborhoods and workplaces.
It all began with a choice—a choice that caused loneliness, family disruption and financial challenges. But from the eternal view, that choice made all the difference.