By: Linnea Stephens
Sitting in an exotic wallpaper-lined room filled with mustard-colored carpet and delicately worn, blue-flower-printed furniture, Ava Good’s emotions somersault in her stomach. The untouched white snow outside the house reflects into Ava’s warm hazel eyes as they light up when reminiscing over her chromatic childhood. The chilled air outside the Goods’ family farm is a sharp contrast to the warm living room filled with the smell of musty, old papers of Ava Good’s parents, the only remnants of their lives she can look to other than her own memories.
A Simple Start
Two hours north of Columbus on an 80-acre farm, Paul Good’s childhood began with hardship and adversity. During the 1920s agricultural depression, Paul’s father lost value in his prized polled shorthorn heifers and began working in the beet fields with his two children, Byron, 6, and Paul, 4.
“I have never seen my father cry until he mentioned topping beets with Hungarian immigrants…you always hear about how hard the Great Depression was, but this was worse, especially on our family,” said Ava.
Consequently, Paul’s love for agriculture spurred from hardship into hard work. Striving to become a student at The Ohio State University just like his older brother Byron, sacrifice and dedication paved the way for Good to become a Buckeye. During high school, Paul drove a school bus, trapped animals and worked on the family farm, which consisted of polled shorthorns, Chester white hogs, Oxford sheep, poultry and grain that was planted by two draft horses.
After being accepted to Ohio State, Paul could not afford to live on campus when moving to the big city of Columbus.
“My father would stay in the hog barns at Ohio State. This allowed him to live for free while going to school,” said Ava.
Paul was sold on the idea of getting involved on campus when he arrived in Columbus in 1935. He exercised his knowledge of the agricultural industry by joining the livestock judging team in 1937 and the meat judging team in 1938. Exercising outside the classroom was a priority as well, so Paul joined the wrestling team and became runner-up for the Big Ten wrestling meet during his college career.
A True Love Affair
During his time as a Buckeye, Paul’s high-school sweetheart and future wife, Alice, was attending Bowling Green State University, majoring in education.
“My mother would hitchhike down to Columbus from Bowling Green just to see my dad and she would stay in the hog barn with him,” said Ava.
After graduation, Paul and his wife moved to New Hampshire, Ohio, where Paul managed a Berkshire hog farm. However, he always aspired to become an auctioneer. Although Paul had a full-time job, he was barely making enough money to support his family and they were on the verge of going hungry.
“My parents were newlyweds and had a baby, but they were starving to death. My mother’s sister came to visit with her husband and when it came time to have dinner, they each only had one hot dog; that’s all my parents could afford to eat at that time,” Ava recalled.
Paul and Alice moved back home so he could attend Reppart’s Auction School in Decatur, Indiana, but the young family continued to struggle.
“My parents would have to bounce from house to house, living with a different family member just to have somewhere to stay. It was hard on my parents,” said Ava.
Nevertheless, Paul’s love for Alice and the auction industry never faded.
Ava Good holding photos of her parents, Paul and Alice Good over top the suitcase her mother would hitchhike with when visiting Paul.
“My mother never got the credit she deserved for supporting my father and raising us while Paul was out on business,” said Ava. Furthermore, no obstacle—or person—could get between Alice and Paul’s desire for each other.
“My parents were united, they never let anyone get in between them and believe me, I tried!” said Ava.
Fast Talking and First Appearances
After auction school, Paul’s career as an auctioneer and an agriculturist took off. He worked as a ringman, an individual who calls out bids for the auctioneer, and record keeper for the Drover’s Journal in Chicago, Illinois. Paul struggled to get any microphone time considering he had little experience bid calling outside of auction school. Fortunately, Paul got his lucky break, grabbed the microphone and never let go.
“But then everyone gets a lucky break. The auctioneer got sick, which meant my dad got to cry a hog sale. From there he got to work at the stock yards in Chicago during World War II because he was supplying beef to the war effort,” said Ava.
Time with the microphone was all Paul needed to launch his career as an auctioneer specializing in pedigreed livestock. Traveling throughout the Midwest with Drover’s Journal allowed Good to build a reputation that reached paramount heights. Becoming one of the most sought-after purebred auctioneers in the business allowed Paul to perform auctions for J. C. Penny, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Sen. Albert Gore.
Coming home to his own farm and family was always the number one priority for Paul, especially during hay baling season. Alice Good would host a feast for her husband, children and all the farmhands who baled hay during the hot summer months.
“My mother would fill us up with so much homemade food. Mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade pies, jams, butter, bread, chicken…ugh,” said Ava, with an eyeroll and a hand on her stomach. “It was nirvana. It was beautiful, absolute paradise.”
Ava Good holding a photo of her father Paul unloading a purebred Suffolk ram with his son Art Good.
Paul Good’s career abruptly ended when he underwent open heart surgery in 1978 at the Cleveland Clinic. Paul left the surgery in a coma that lasted 8 weeks and, when his wife Alice woke him, they discovered he was paralyzed. Alice worked with him daily, as did his daughter Ava, who cared for him after her mother’s passing 11 years later.
“He told me at the end of his life, ‘If you are so lucky to live as long as I have, you are going to find out if you are treated kindly how dear every day becomes, and you are just going to want another one,’” said Ava. Paul Good passed away in 2005.
The Voice that Lives On
During the spring of 2003, a young agriculture student from Van Wert, Ohio attended The Ohio State University. His name was Peter Gehres. During his time at Ohio State, Gehres decided to attend the Ohio Auction School on a “fluke.” Post college graduation, Gehres decided to pursue a full-time career in the auction industry.
Although Gehres was gaining auction experience, he relied heavily on his wife’s income as a nurse as he struggled to become a full-time auctioneer. Eventually, Gehres got his lucky break by winning the National Auctioneers Association championship in 2015, propelling him to work for auto auction companies like Barrett-Jackson. Mike Brandley, Gehres’ mentor and instructor at the Ohio Auction School, knew the potential Peter had as an auctioneer.
“He was born to be an auctioneer. He quickly became immersed in not only the ‘fast-talking’ chant but was eager to learn everything he could about all aspects of our business,” said Brandley.
Although Gehres was from Van Wert, Ohio, he had never heard of Paul Good until he entered the auction industry. After researching Good’s legacy, Gehres inducted him in to the Ohio Auctioneer’s Association Hall of Fame in 2019. The voice that went quiet in 2005 was reignited by a man from the same small town who picked up a microphone.
“Good exemplified the tried and true method for anyone who wants to be successful in the agricultural industry. Being successful does not come by just knowing all the aspects within the industry, it is about experiencing hard work, struggle and grit and taking that knowledge with you every day in your life,” said Gehres.
Paul Good exercising his bid calling at an auction.