Rocket Boys (October Sky)
Visit the sites made famous by the novel Rocket Boys by Homer H. Hickam.
Cape Coalwood located in Coalwood, West Virginia, was the launch site for a group of teenagers made famous by the book Rocket Boys and later the movie October Sky. At this site, Homer Hickam Jr. and his friends tested their rockets and used the date they collected to improve their rocket building abilities. Originally this location was used as a slack dump for the various coal companies in the area before Homer Hickam Sr. allowed the boys to build their launch pad.
Coalwood is an unincorporated community in McDowell County, West Virginia. For many years it was a thriving coal company town. At its peak Coalwood had a population of 2,000 and produced two million tons of coal per year. Mining operations in Coalwood reached its climax in the 1960s and finally shut down production in 1986. The town is famous as the setting of the best-selling memoir Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam and the movie October Sky based on the book. For several years the community hosted an annual October Sky Festival.
Homer Hickam, known for his 1998 book "October Sky" (originally titled "Rocket Boys") is from Coalwood, WV. Long before being cast into the spotlight with the release of the movie “October Sky”, Homer “Sonny” Hickam and his friends in the Big Creek Missile Agency were famous in their small West Virginia town for building rockets. This early fame culminated in Sonny winning the National Science Fair. Homer Hickam would continue living his dream as an Aerospace Engineer for NASA. His legacy is significant not only for West Virginia but for NASA as well.
The Carter Coal Company Store was built in Caretta, WV in 1912 just after the company was established. The originally T-Shaped building had a couple additions during its use as a company store and was considerably large for its time period. Despite the additions as time passed, the building still retains most of its original architectural features that were common for Carter Coal Company Stores and is a relic of days past where families were essentially forced to shop at Coal Company owned businesses.
Built in 1931, Big Creek High School is located in War, WV and was in operation from 1932 to 2010. The school has been primarily known because NASA engineer and author Homer Hickam went there. The school is featured in October Sky, the movie adaptation of Hickam's book entitled Rocket Boys, a memoir in which Hickam writes about growing up as the son of a coal miner in Appalachia.The McDowell County community discussed preserving the historic building in order to use it perhaps as a museum, but unfortunately, it was decided due to the building's extreme deterioration that the school would be demolished and the land used for the Southside k-8 school's playground and park. Before it could be torn down, it caught fire and was destroyed in July 2015.