Valley News – One Life: George H. Goodhue Jr.
LEBANON – Before there was a series of fast food franchises and big box stores, when Route 12A in western Lebanon was still a road through cornfields, there had George’s Country Store.
Built in the 1970s and operated by its namesake, George Goodhue Jr., the store had a rustic pine plank exterior that resembled an Old West saloon.
Player, card shark and serial entrepreneur, Goodhue went on to develop Glen Road Plaza – one of the region’s premier shopping malls – aptly claiming, in his daughter’s words, to be “the one of the founding fathers ”of the Route. 12A trade corridor in western Lebanon.
“If this were to make any money, he would,” said daughter Fawn Rand, of Tilton, NH.
George Goodhue Jr., who grew up in Lebanon and graduated in 1956 from Lebanon High School, died on May 21 at Genesis HealthCare in Lebanon, where he was taken following a fall in his home in Quail. Hollow, in western Lebanon.
Goodhue, who was 83, had been in poor health for several years.
By all accounts, Goodhue made money in a succession of business ventures. But, as a die-hard player who rarely missed a bet – Goodhue once boasted of beating Kenny Rogers at cards in Las Vegas – he also lost money in overworking himself and in business ventures that did not succeed.
Financial ups and downs were just part of the race in the days of western Lebanon’s “wheel merchants”, said his son, George Goodhue III, of Dover, NH.
It was a time when developers took over old farms as the Upper Valley shopping center migrated to northern Lebanon from Claremont.
“He was a character in a part of town that is now forgotten,” George Goodhue III said of his father.
Although he has traveled to Europe and enjoyed frequenting casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, Goodhue has spent most of his life in Lebanon. His father, George “Frenchy” Goodhue, worked for 30 years at the former Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. factory in Windsor before becoming a barber in Lebanon.
After a stint in the military, Goodhue worked as a logger chopping down trees in northern New Hampshire – family tradition says he learned to shave with an ax – and as a driver and serviceman for Canteen Vending Services in the Massachusetts.
Returning to the Upper Valley in 1975, Goodhue purchased a property on Route 12A where the Lebanon Pet and Aquarium Center is now located and built George’s Country Store, known for its custom-ordered grinders, which were a lunchtime favorite. , and floor-to-ceiling cases of beer.
And long before the lottery became a staple of convenience stores, Goodhue liked to run his own game of chance when customers approached the cashier with a six-pack or a case.
“Do you want to go for this?” Double or nothing! ”Goodhue would bet the customer, according to family and friends.
“If they won, he would give it to them. If they lost, they paid double, ”recalls Darren Carter, owner of the towing company Midnight Recovery Auto Services in western Lebanon and who knew Goodhue as a teenager when his mother lived with him in a house in the United States. location now occupied by Glen Road Plaza.
Goodhue added plots adjacent to the store and ran a Chinese restaurant, named The Pagoda, where the cooks lived above the restaurant.
When the general store closed, he opened a gun store named The Gungslinger in the same location. He nicknamed the group of buildings “Pine Plaza”.
“They turned the beer cooler into gun cases,” recalls Tim Henderson of Wilder, a contractor who helped build Glen Road Plaza.
Goodhue’s father lived in a house on the corner of Route 12A and Glen Road and Goodhue built commercial offices and stores around the house in what became Glen Road Plaza.
Goodhue had a simple business philosophy, according to Henderson.
“It was all you can make a quick buck on,” Henderson said.
This included the criminal activity of others. In the late 1980s, Goodhue opened a surety agency in an office in Glen Road Plaza.
“George and my mother would go to jails and make deals with criminals to get them out,” said Carter, who said he was sometimes sent to help get picky clients who skipped bail.
George Goodhue III said generosity was one of his father’s enduring qualities. He recalled a man who suffered from a disfiguring facial disease but who had remarkable talent as an artist. His father hired the man to paint a four-panel mural of the four seasons outside one of the buildings in Glen Road Plaza, where they can still be seen today.
“You could be a complete wreck on the street and my dad would give you a job on his construction crew,” said George Goodhue III. “He would give anyone a second and a third hit.”
In the 1990s, Goodhue went to “auctioneer school” and obtained his auctioneer license. He opened Goodhue Auction Services in Enfield, operating in the basement of one of the buildings at the Enfield Shaker Museum, and scoured the Upper Valley estates for furniture and other items for auction.
“There was a hot dog steamer. He loved steamed hot dogs. When he was doing an auction, he always had one of those hot dogs in his hand, ”Carter recalls.
There were frequent trips for all-night poker games to Foxwoods, Connecticut, as well as trips to Spain and Germany. Rand said he had already won $ 100,000 at a game in Las Vegas.
“He was a risk taker,” she said.
The risk-taking sometimes extended to his physical safety, relatives said.
Goodhue had a drummer, whom he named “The Four Aces,” whom he piloted in collision derbies at the Enfield Fair, said George Goodhue III.
“They were driving and smashing cars and the last one with his engine running won,” said Rand, who recalls his dad finishing second in a competition. He had parked the car in front of George’s Country Store so that people could see it as they passed on Route 12A.
He turned his love of gambling into a business opportunity when he signed on to become a “junket representative” for Donald Trump’s casinos in Atlantic City.
“He would round people up, put them on a plane at the Lebanon airport, and fly them to Atlantic City and play for the weekend,” Carter said.
But Goodhue was not in tune with popular culture.
“Dad would get all these tickets to the Trump people concerts. I remember he came home once home with a ticket for Elton John (and said, ‘Who is that?’, “Recalls his son.
Goodhue was not afraid of a little subterfuge to bypass Lebanon’s zoning authorities if he thought the situation warranted it, said George Goodhue III.
His son remembers when the city told him he had to replace the Glen Road Plaza plantings because the bushes were dead and the leaves had all turned brown.
“He said, ‘I’m not going out and buying new plants. So he told me to go to the store and buy some green paint and spray paint on the green brown leaves, ”said George Goodhue III.
“’Do it at 3 am, and make sure there are no cars around,” the son recalled, advising his father.
“For a good year and a half people didn’t realize these plants were all dead and just spray painted,” said George Goodhue III.
In 1993, when the real estate market entered a recession and tenants fell behind on rent, Goodhue was unable to keep up with his $ 1.3 million mortgage and property taxes. Glen Road Plaza was auctioned for $ 825,000.
“It was hard for him,” said his son George Goodhue III.
Years later, Goodhue asked not to walk past Glen Road Plaza because the memory was too painful.
“He was moved about it,” his son said.
In 1999, Goodhue moved into an apartment in Quail Hollow and was among the first residents of the retirement community. It was there, in the letterbox room, six and a half years ago, that he met Arlene Caouette, who herself had recently moved to Quail Hollow.
After the first date, Caouette said she fell in love. They quickly moved into adjacent units.
“He was the most interesting man I have ever met. I have been married twice before and he outdid them both,” said Caouette, who calls Goodhue “the love of my life.” .
She admired his hands-on approach to a life filled with experiences.
“He was really good to me and a big one for telling me ‘If you don’t wanna do it, don’t do it. Don’t make someone else happy. Caouettee.
“George was involved in just about everything,” marvels Caouette. “We would start talking about something and he was like, ‘Oh, I did that.’ “
Following a stroke three years ago, Caouette said, Goodhue became weaker and more difficult to understand when speaking. She became his guardian until she couldn’t do it again after her fall.
George Goodhue’s life was one of big wins and big losses, but he had no regrets, according to his friends and family.
Goodhue “made a lot of money and he lost a lot of money,” Carter said. “But I think he had a great time in between.”
It looks like his dad, said Fawn Rand.
“My dad always told me, ‘When I die, don’t be upset because I did whatever I wanted,’” she said.
Contact John Lippman at [email protected]