Barbara and Jim Goodmon have many happy memories of Grandfather Mountain.
One that stands out the most is their honeymoon some 50 years ago. They drove from Memphis, Tenn., to stay at Hound Ears Club near Boone, as they celebrated the beginning of their married life together.
Over the years, they would make the long drive to the mountains from Raleigh on two-lane roads as often as they could. Their friendship with Grandfather Mountain founder Hugh Morton grew through adventures great and small, which he shared with them and their children.
“Mr. Morton, we have young children, and I’m in here with a bear!”
That fond memory was of a time when Barbara was feeding Grandfather’s late mascot, Mildred the bear, and they laughed about it for many years. Their children loved the Mile High Swinging Bridge (although Barbara admits to being terrified when she would cross it), seeing the animals and family time together at Grandfather.
“Mr. Morton was a very important part of our time up here, and he was also important in what he did for North Carolina,” Barbara said. “The things that he believed in, we believed in. And those are the things Jim’s grandfather, A.J. Fletcher, believed in.”
For the past 10 years, the Goodmons have had a house near Grandfather, and now a new generation — their grandchildren — loves being on the mountain. Their 10-year-old grandson, Michael, is an avid volunteer at Grandfather, and the first thing he asks for when he arrives at their home is his Grandfather Mountain T-shirt.
Barbara and Jim see tons more potential for educational experiences for children like Michael. They envision seasonal programs and camps. The new Conservation Campus is an important part of that vision, and they wanted to help create it so that children from many generations to come will have great opportunities to learn about science and the environment, experience the thrill of seeing the animals and traverse the swinging bridge—and have fun while doing it.
“We want that for all the kids, for them to have that kind of close contact with nature, animals, the staff who are unbelievable,” Barbara said. “There’s no other experience like it.”