Chet writes ...
Janet and I feel that we were guests of Coalwood... just like everyone
else that were there of course. We were welcomed by some of the people of
Coalwood within minutes of getting into town on Friday. We parked our
truck camper for the night beside the fire department after checking with
the fire chief.
There was a light rain falling but I decided to walk around the almost
empty town and take pictures of the church which is the most prominent
building, of the houses ,and the abandoned company buildings. I was
surprised at how nice the town is in comparison with most of the mining
towns that I've seen. Everything you could wish for had been provided to
the miners and their families. Then I remembered that if I'd worked there
I wouldn't have a place to live if I retired. I wouldn't have owned my
house or property. If I'd died , been injured, or left my job for any
reason I wouldn't have had equity in my house or the right to live there.
The club house was a lot bigger that I'd imagined. I met two very
interesting men that were also braving the weather to experience a little
of the town, Walt Terry and Steve Date. The three of us shared information
about ourselves as we stood in the street, in the rain, and in the cold...
in the magical little town of Coalwood.
Walt Terry is an author and retired engineer from Huntsville, Alabama.
Note: I found and purchased a copy of Walt's wonderful story "The
Bottomless Well" that was included in "The Best American Short Stories
1966" at Amazon.com. There were 20 authors featured that year... among
them was William Faulkner. Walt and his wife Sue are the parents of Linda
Terry Hickam and father and mother in-laws to Homer Hickam.
Walt Terry (Photo by Chet Thornton)
Steve Date is a Minnesota teacher that was in Coalwood for the second
straight year. He works with a group of special teachers that's goal is to
give extra encouragement to high school age girls. They use the Rocket Boy
experiences as teaching tools. He did a lot of filming. Steve is
also trying to make a documentary film about Coalwood. He has done
interviews with many residents (and former residents). He hopes to put
something together that honors these people and the history of their town.
Steve Date is the man with glasses and
camera. He is wearing a grey poncho.
(Photo by Chet Thornton.)
I'm retired from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. My wife Janet and I travel
most of the year in our truck camper. We enjoy everything from Space
Museums to Presidential Libraries, civil war battlefields to National
Parks, state capitals to court houses, deserts to forests, mountains to
beaches, water falls to windmills... obviously we enjoy everything. As we
travel we buy books, read them and donate them to the library in the next
town because they are to heavy to haul when we are on the road for months
at a time. Note... we never give away Homer Hickam books.
Janet and I acquired a neighbor at the Coalwood fire station before
darkness fell ... a Doctor and his wife from Panama City, Florida in their
motorhome . He told me that his father was the Olga Company Doctor in the
early 1940s and he had gone to school in Coalwood. We didn't visit much,
it was too cold and rainy.
The doctor from Panama City has a white
hat and beard;
his wife has the black hat.
(Photo by Chet Thornton.)
After a quiet, cold night we woke to more rain. Many of the guests and
townspeople arrived early on Saturday with great expectations for their
day. We were amazed at the number of people that came from all over the
country to experience the Rocket Boy story and location. They weren't
disappointed! Everyone ignored the less than perfect weather and enjoyed