Still feelin’ ‘Goode’ after 110 years

Still feelin’ ‘Goode’ after 110 yearsBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

Montessori schools, the launch of the Lusitania, New Zealand, color photography and Rudyard Kipling’s Nobel Prize for Literature all turn 110 this year — as does longtime resident Opal Goode.

On Saturday, Goode will reach “supercentenarian” status along with only six other Americans according to the Gerontology Research Group.

As I arrived at High Desert Haven to interview this local treasure, I had to say I was sorry for not bringing a birthday present.

“Well I’m sorry too!” she retorted slyly — clearly having held her edge all these years.

“I think I’m being punished for something,” joked Opal when asked what she attributed her extraordinary longevity to. But she said she honestly chalked it up to “hard work and clean living.”

“Hard work never killed anybody, as long as you get enough rest and eat right,” she said, like any good grandmother would.

Opal lived on her own, “paddling her own canoe,” until she was 105. It’s been only the last few years that she’s lived at High Desert Haven, where you’d never believe she was the senior resident.

“I get to sit here and listen to all sorts of wonderful stories,” said fellow resident and friend Marylou.

Goode was born in 1907 in Native American territory that would later become a state called Oklahoma. Her family travelled via covered wagon to Texas when she was an infant, but back to Oklahoma after a few years. Opal remembers growing up “on a country road, in between towns,” where her father worked in the oil fields.

“I remember the first Model T cars,” said Opal. “And I remember playing out in the yard and seeing a woman driving a car for the first time. I was so excited I ran in the house to tell my mama! It wasn’t until four or five years later that I saw a car that wasn’t black. You didn’t even think about them being a different color.”

Opal is also a rarity in that she’s one of the few who remembers World War I.

“I remember when it ended and the whole country went crazy,” she said. The then-11-year-old Goode wanted to go “into” town to see all of the celebrating, but her father thought the excitement to be too much for such a young girl.

“I was valedictorian of my senior class in high school. May 13, 1926,” she said, rubbing her class ring. “The runner up was a young man and I told the teacher ‘there must be a mistake.’ But they ran the grades again and mine were the highest of all four years.”

Opal married Henry Goode and moved between Bakersfield and back to Oklahoma before settling here in 1945, where her husband spent the last few months of World War II working at China Lake. She worked at Ridgecrest’s first bank, the Bank of America that opened in 1946 on the base.

“I was mopping my kitchen floor when my neighbor came and told me I needed to go fill out an application because they needed help,” said Opal. “I told them I was too busy but agreed to work there until Christmas. And after 25 years, I finally retired.”

Since her retirement in 1970, Opal has been enjoying spending time with her family and her many friends in Ridgecrest. Saturday she and her girlfriends plan to head up to Ewings restaurant in Kernville to officially celebrate her birthday.

“Don’t put off doing the things that you want to do,” where Opal’s only parting words of wisdom. "Do ’em now while you’re young enough to enjoy it. And you have to work hard if you want to be able to do the things you enjoy.”

Pictured: Opal Goode, pictured with daughter Cheryl and husband Bruce Bernhardi, during a visit leading up to her 110th birthday party. -- Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2017-06-02