October Sky Festival
Beckley, West Virginia
October 2-5, 2014
This is the "original" October Sky Festival and usually features personal visits by Homer Hickam and some of the other Rocket Boys. In the early years, the Festival was held in Coalwood, but it has since moved to Beckley.
For details, please see:
October Sky Festival
Oliver Springs, Tennessee
Saturday, October 17, 2015
Oliver Springs is the filming location of many of the scenes from the movie Rocket Boys. You won't meet Homer and the other Rocket Boys here, but you'll see a lot of the places you recognize from the movie!
For details, please see:
McDowell County Coal and Rail
by Jay Chatman
Book Description: Coal was discovered in McDowell County, located in the Billion Dollar Coalfield of southern West Virginia, in 1748, but it was not explored or mined until the early 1800s. Mill Creek Coal & Coke Company shipped the first railroad car of coal in March 1883 via the Norfolk & Western Railway. By the early 1900s, hundreds of mining companies dotted the county’s landscape. The coal from McDowell County fueled the nation’s home heating and steelmaking businesses and both world wars. As the coal industry developed, the local population grew; by 1950, the county had grown from a few hundred people to more than 100,000. The postcard images in this book show early coal mining and how it progressed throughout the years.
Author Bio: Jay Chatman, a lifelong resident of McDowell County, was born at home in a coal company house owned by the Lake Superior Coal Company in Superior, West Virginia. He is the current McDowell County Historical Society president, Kimball Rotary Club president, and a US Navy veteran. This book features a portion of Chatman’s 40-year collection of coal and railroad artifacts.
Order from: Arcadia Publishing, Amazon or BN.
Note: Coalwood references on pages 43 and 74
Olga references on pages 77, 78 and 104
Caretta references on page 76
The Letter by
(Above) Watch Steve Date's film The Letter. Homer Hickam describes the film this way: "A beautiful story of love and family from my hometown, Coalwood, West Virginia." Also, here is Steve Date's sequel video entitled The Other Letter: http://youtu.be/i123FyONmPE Once you've watched those two videos, you may want to explore Casey Gauntt's website: http://www.WriteMeSomethingBeautiful.com.
This is the West Virginia 150th-anniversary-of-statehood stamp. The photo was taken by Roger Spencer, a lifelong West Virginia native, in October 2008. It shows a hazy sunrise scene of mountains in Pocahontas County. (Click photo to enlarge.)
Did you know that one of the most famous quilts in the world contains a "Rocket Boys" block? It does! The Space Quilt by Sue Nickels and Pat Holly is part of the permanent collection of the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky. Please click here to read more about this award-winning quilt.
Oral Histories From The 1970s
Gathered By Garret Mathews
"Folks Are Talking" is a double CD that includes 28 oral histories of folks Garret Mathews interviewed as a young feature writer on the Bluefield, W. Va., Daily Telegraph between 1974 and 1979. The mountainous circulation area includes Mercer, McDowell, Wyoming, Monroe and Raleigh counties in West Virginia and Tazewell, Buchanan, Bland, Wythe, Russell and Giles counties in Virginia. It’s rural America. No community in the two-state area has more than 20,000 residents. Some places visited for this collection – Bandy, Rhodell, Jenkinjon. [Note from webmaster: This is a fascinating history of the area around Coalwood in the 1970s. If this were a movie, I would rate it PG due to the content of a few of the stories. You may order the CDs online at www.folksaretalking.com. ]
Coalwood, West Virginia
GPS Coordinates: 37.38744, -81.65172
You might enjoy the story of the MIT students who mounted a camera in an ice chest, attached it to a weather balloon, and launched the entire thing into near space. The entire cost of the project was under US$150.00, and the balloon made it to an altitude of 93,000 feet [28,346 meters] before it popped. The balloon, ice chest and camera made it safely back to earth, and the MIT students now have some amazing photos (like the one above)! http://space.1337arts.com/
Chasinggreen.org is a consumer-resource site dedicated to spreading the word that ordinary people can positively impact our world by doing simple and easy things in their everyday lives. The site has tons of useful information. For example, there are articles on dozens of ways you can reuse 2-liter plastic bottles, old telephone books, and, even, empty toilet paper rolls! Please visit the web site at: www.chasinggreen.org.
An old Olga Coal (Carter Coal Company) advertising brochure found on eBay.
Please click here to read.
A Flaming Rock!
This is a very interesting DVD produced by some folks in McDowell County. (We purchased a copy at the 2007 October Sky Festival.) The DVD is full of vintage photos and motion pictures from the area. We particularly enjoyed one of the bonus features that showed the different kinds of mining equipment Joy manufactures. To order a copy, click here.
Dan Traveling Videos
Watch new video on the town of Pocahontas, Virginia.
Click here to see video.
See new video on Bramwell, West Virginia.
Click here to see video.
See the video on the 2007 October Sky Festival in Coalwood.
Click here to see video,
David Goad's and Alex Schust's book
Coalwood: A History of the West Virginia Mining Communities of Coalwood, Caretta and Six
is now shipping! The book contains 400 pages of history, stories and photos. To see excerpts, and to order a copy, please see David Goad's web site: www.coalwoodmemories.com.
Paying Tribute to Coalwood, West Virginia
There are fan sites for movie stars and rock stars. As far as we know, this is the first fan site for a town!
June 2006: Baxter and Shelby Trail sent us some great photos they took in Petros, Tennessee, in 1998 during the filming of October Sky. Please click here to see their photos.
David Goad writes: "Here's a neat picture of Clinton Caton standing at the big drill press in the machine shop at Coalwood. Some of Homer's rocket parts were made by Clinton on this press." Photo courtesy of the David Goad Collection.
Photo courtesy of the R. Tim Gilley collection;
Tim attributes it to the David Goad collection.
Can anybody date this photo? If so, please contact us. Thanks!
Coalwood, West Virginia, is a very special place. All of us have different ideas and perceptions of Coalwood depending on our backgrounds:
The people who live in Coalwood today.
The people who lived and worked in Coalwood.
The people who know Coalwood through the book Rocket Boys.
The people who know Coalwood through the movie October Sky.
Teachers who have planned lessons around Coalwood.
Students who have learned about Coalwood in their classrooms.
The people who have visited Coalwood as tourists.
Fred Schwendel has graciously provided us with five wonderful photos of some of the filming locations for the movie October Sky. Please click here to see them all.
We know several people who have been looking for copies of Barbara Hilemon's book
The Making of Rocket Boys / October Sky
As Seen Through the Eyes of the Movie Extras
After months of searching, we finally located Barbara, and she still has copies of the book for sale! Click here for details.
This site's webmasters are certainly not experts on Coalwood. We just thought that Coalwood needed a web site where people around the country and the world can see Coalwood and share their own thoughts.
We welcome all the fans of Coalwood, West Virginia, to share photographs, stories and memories with us. Not only does this include Coalwood itself, it also includes photos, stories and memories of the filming of October Sky in east Tennessee.
Coalwood has made a positive difference in all of our lives. We hope, with your contributions, this web site will be able to capture some of these feelings.
Our Favorite Links!
Homer Hickam's Web Site
David Goad's Web Site
Steve Date's Web Site
Rafe Esquith's Web Site
Ron Clark's Web Site
"I have been amazed at the people from around the world that have been touched by Coalwood and Homer's books. I see people come to Coalwood, and what we took for granted, the people who visit just can't get enough. And all the attention that has come from the books and movie only prove that Coalwood was, and is, a special place with special people. Some day, Coalwood will be no more than a few houses with a new generation of people, but I believe that the Coalwood way of life -- what it was and what it is -- will be passed on as long as people like yourselves and myself put the web sites together and keep the history alive for future generations. Like Homer and the people of Coalwood say Coalwood Forever."
Most of the pictures on this web site are
Simply click on a picture to enlarge it.
Miscellaneous Facts About Coalwood, West Virginia
Coalwood: in an unincorporated town.
Coalwood is located in McDowell County, West Virginia.
Time Zone: Eastern Time Zone (U.S.A.)
Coalwood's Population (1990 Census): 900.
Coalwood's Population (2000 Census): Not counted separately.
Elevation: 1,450 feet
Telephone Country Code: 1
Telephone Area Code 304
Telephone Exchange: 297
Thus a Coalwood phone number would look like: 1-304-297-xxxx.
McDowell County's Population (1990 Census): 35,233
McDowell County's Population (2000 Census): 27,329
McDowell County's Population (2010 Census): 22,113
McDowell County's Land Area: 535 sq. mi.
This site was born October 4, 2005.
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