Formal dance weekends, like last weekend, in Blacksburg mean for most people fun and relaxation; but for Chief Jack L. Goodwin and the four man Blacksburg Police Force, they mean double duty and added headaches.
But the popular Blacksburg "chief" takes this in stride without altering his "be-friendly-but-firm" philosophy of law enforcement.
When asked whether his 250 pound frame was an advantage or a handicap to one upholding the strong arm of the law, the good natured Goodwin smiled and said, "Oh, it has its advantages especially when you are handling a recalcitrant who insists on resisting arrest. I just herd him in the direction of the Town Hall and lean against him ever so gently. And somehow he gets my message."
Goodwin, who started out to be an undertaker before drifting into police work, was born in Phoebus, Va. But he has lived most of his life in Salem, where he was a police officer for seven years before coming to Blacksburg in November, 1954.
In Salem, Jack headed the Life Saving Crew for five years, and he calls this humanitarian work the most rewarding experience he has ever had.
Goodwin says that police work has its own kind of rewards. "You like to help them stay out of trouble."
Regarding the disagreeable side of police work, the Blacksburg officer asserts that it's not arresting people as many may think. "It's when you have to tell the next of kin that a loved one has been seriously injured or killed in an accident. Also it's pretty tough going to parents to tell them that their son or daughter is in trouble with the law. At first," Goodwin relates, "the parents won't believe you and will insist, 'our child would never do a thing like that."
When asked about the cause for the increasing juvenile delinquency, Jack replied, "It's the result of the stepped up tempo of living we are all a part of." The Blacksburg officer has three children of his own, including two boys; and, believe it or not, the Goodwin boys don't play "cops and robbers."
Since Goodwin came to town over two years ago, the amount of loitering on Blacksburg streets by teenagers has been sharply reduced. But it's surprising to note that, according to Goodwin, the most common form of juvenile delinquency in Blacksburg is shoplifting.
As to the danger connected with his job as a law enforcer, the "Chief" had this to say: "I've never worried about what someone might do to me while on duty. In fact, I don't regard my work as anymore dangerous than that of say an electrician or bus driver. All jobs involve a calculated risk, and when a person becomes too concerned over that risk, whether he's a police officer or something else, he might as well 'turn in his badge.'"
This good Goodwin philosophy reminds one of Rosevelt's "All we have to fear is fear itself."
When asked what he had succeeded in doing since becoming Blacksburg's first Chief of police, the jovial Jack laughed and said, "Well, I've succeeded in making a lot of enemies." But when pressed for a more realistic answer, Goodwin modestly admitted having had a hand in the following:
The organization of the first schoolboy patrol in Blacksburg.
The installing of blinker lights on Main Street in front of the high school.
The installing of radio communication service between the Blacksburg Police and other Montgomery County Police.
The securing of two police cars for Blacksburg,
The securing of radar equipment from the state.
The obtaining of higher salaries for policemen in Blacksburg as well as shorter working hours and new uniforms.
The establishing of the rank of police sergeant in Blacksburg (now held by Sergeant Floyd Gillespie who wears his badge with a great deal of pride.)
The procuring of a number of foolproof (well, almost) parking meters. (Incidentally, the town's monthly "take" from its 187 parking meters averages $650).
The installing of four penalty boxes on downtown streets for the connivance of parking violators.
The things that Goodwin wants most to do now is to convert Blacksburg's antiquated traffic lights into the newer and more convenient "cross walk" lights. These would be installed at points where Main Street intersects Roanoke and Jackson streets, and College Avenue. And when Blacksburg becomes larger, Goodwin says that he would like to start a police-sponsored athletic league for boys.
Although Goodwin rose to the rank of first sergeant during his four year stint in the Air Corps, his hobby is guns, not airplanes. "Just like to tinker with them," Jack commented almost sheepishly.
Goodwin has the respect of his four man police force, which consists of Sergeant Floyd Gillespie, and Patrolmen T. W. Roseberry, W. K. Dulaney, and F. D. Roach --- all of whom have attended the State Police School in Richmond. The "Chief" swears by "his boys in blue" just as they do by him. In fact, it sounds like the original mutual admiration society when you ask one what he thinks of the other.
The "Chief's office in the Town Hall is as neat as a Dutch kitchen --- undoubtedly reflecting the influence of Mrs. Goodwin. On the bulletin board are the pictures of the FBI's 10 most wanted criminals; on a shelf are big fat volumes of the Code of Virginia state license plates dating all the way back to 1924; and by Goodwin's desk is a short-wave radio that repeatedly barks orders from the Montgomery County Police Headquarters to patrol cars and vice versa.
Goodwin reached into his desk and pulled out an autographed picture of Lily Pons and one of Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong. Jack had served as Miss Pons' police escort when she was in Blacksburg this fall for a concert.
Goodwin likes to tell this one on himself. It happened in the wings of Burruss Hall at the recent jazz concert given by Louis Armstrong and His All Stars.
"Satchmo spotted me," explained Goodwin, "and yelled 'Come here, Fat Boy. I'se got de stuff for you. Don'tcha wanna lose some weight like ole Satch? I lost 100 pounds drinkin' this here "SwisCris" elixir. Man it's magic --- just melts the fat away.'"
Goodwin said that he thanked the Negro entertainer but didn't bother to investigate Satchmo's sure fire formula for becoming a thin man.
Goodwin confesses that he has had his 250 pounds with him for over 16 years and sees no reason for parting with it, now that "it's become a part of me," as he says almost with pride.
It could just be that Jack doesn't want to risk his acknowledged efficiency as an arresting officer by going on any new fangled reducing diet. After all when you have 250 pounds and the law on your side, you can throw your weight around with a good deal of authority. And Jack Goodwin does, too. Just ask one of those recalcitrants he has leaned against.