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Coalwood & Homer Hickam, Jr.

Uploaded by The Arrow on Dec 03, 2003

Homer Hickam, Jr. had a dream too big for his small coalmining town of West Virginia, however, with the collective will of he and close friends, he fulfilled his dream.

Coalwood is located in the southern most tip of West Virginia in McDowell County. It was a coalmining town founded by George Lafayette Carter in the early 1900’s. Carter built the model town of his time, “… if a man was willing to come to Coalwood and offer his complete and utter loyalty to the coal company, he would receive in return a sensible paycheck, a sturdy house resistant to the weather, the services of a doctor and a dentist at little or no cost, and a preacher who could be counted on to give a reasonably uncomplicated sermon.” (Sky of Stone, 2) The town was basically the company, everything from the dirt under your feet to the gritty coal dust in the air was owned by the company. Everyone’s wallets and purses were a mix of U.S. currency and company currency, called scrip, which was used in the company store, or, the “Big Store”. Carter also set up schools so the children of coalminers could “…aspire to greatness.” A newspaper article from 1926 sums up the town pretty well; “Mr. Carter owns lock, stock, and barrel the model town of Coalwood—houses, stores, churches, police, clergy, and medical services—all that makes up the life of a miner. It is a town of remarkable contrast to the surrounding villages where squalor and poverty are the world. With houses painted and surrounded by flower gardens and lawns, Coalwood looks more like an Alpine Village than the begrimed coal towns of most of America.” (Sky of Stone, 2)

That was then, since 1985 up until a few years ago, Coalwood was barely a town at all. There were no traces of a mine ever being there, the original town buildings were all boarded up, and all of the company shops were closed down. That all changed after Homer Hickam, Jr., the son of a former Coalwood mine superintendent, wrote Rocket Boys, which went on to become an award winning movie, renamed October Sky. The book was about himself and his friends building rockets in Coalwood, and Homer’s dream of one day working with Dr. Wernher Van Braun at Cape Canaveral. Because of the popularity the movie brought, Coalwood became a tourist attraction. “Forty year’s after...

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Uploaded by:   The Arrow

Date:   12/03/2003

Category:   Biographies

Length:   8 pages (1,749 words)

Views:   3163

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