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October Sky Festival
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Rocket Boys
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 October Sky
   Filming Locations & Info:
   Oliver Springs
      Walking/Driving Tour Map
      2010 Oliver Springs Festival
   Petros TN 1
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   About the Filming
   Press Kit
   Fred Schwendel
   The Making of October Sky
   Filming in Oak Ridge Area
   Filming in Petros
   Coalwood Cookbook
   The Clear Fork Series
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   Old Mines Are Dangerous
   Getting the Coal Out
   Pocahontas Exhibition Mine
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Visiting Coalwood
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Contact Us


This web site in maintained by Charlie Myers and Leonard Berry of NMT Web Designs, LLC in Portland, Tennessee.



If you have comments, corrections, etc., please contact Charlie by e-mail.  We also invite you to submit photographs, stories and links about Coalwood and the surrounding area that you think others might enjoy.   We will be happy to give you credit for all of your submissions!


About Leonard

Leonard was born in the 1940s in Yuba City, California.  He has bachelors and masters degrees in biology.  Over the years, Leonard has worked in medical research labs in San Francisco, California, and Nashville, Tennessee.  Following 18 years as a medical researcher at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Leonard retired.

Leonard lives in Portland, Tennessee.


About Charlie

I was born in 1951 in Orlando, Florida, simply because that was the nearest hospital to where my parents lived.  I grew up in the small town of Rockledge, Florida, in Brevard County.  For those of you not familiar with Brevard County, the county holds a more famous geographical spot: Cape Canaveral.

My family had been in the citrus business in the area since just after the Civil War.  We had hundreds of acres of orange groves on Merritt Island (across the Indian River and north from Rockledge) and a citrus packing house in Rockledge.

The space race changed all that.  Brevard County grew from being a small, agricultural community to being (more or less) a metropolis today.  All of our orange groves on Merritt Island were taken over (eminent domain) by the federal government and are now inside the fences of the Kennedy Space Center.  As a matter of fact, the KSC visitor center is surrounded by an orange grove which my aunt used to own.

It was interesting growing up in these times.  I stood on the banks of the Indian River and watched every manned space shot from Freedom 7 to Apollo 11.  (In the 1950s, we got to see quite a few rockets explode in the sky.  This was quite spectacular at night!) 

In 1969, I ventured off to the big city of Atlanta to attend Georgia Tech (my father's alma mater - he was a Mechanical Engineer).  In 1972, I graduated with an Industrial Engineering degree and worked all over the country until the 1990s when I retired.

In 2004, I was on a trip to Las Vegas and decided to take a 14-hour bus trip to the Grand Canyon, a place I had never seen.  As it turns out, the bus had TV sets in it, and one of the movies the driver showed was October Sky.  I had never heard of the movie, but I loved it.

When I returned home, I bought the movie, found out it was based on a book, bought the book, bought the sequels and read them all several times.

In 2005, we decided to set up a web site to honor Coalwood, and that's why you are reading this. 

We hope you enjoy the web site, and we hope you'll contribute your own Coalwood materials and thoughts so we can share them with everyone throughout the world that loves Coalwood. 

There are a surprising number of people, like me, who have been genuinely touched by reading and watching about Coalwood and the people of Coalwood.

Charlie lives in Dallas, Texas.


Strange Coincidences
In case you haven't noticed there are a bunch of strange coincidence in all of this!  There are actually a few more ...
Homer Charlie
Industrial Engineer Industrial Engineer
Interested in rockets in West Virginia. Grew up near Cape Canaveral.
One brother named Jim One brother named Jim
No sisters. No sisters.
Homer worked for NASA at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Brother Jim works for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center.
  The driver on the bus to the Grand Canyon had planned to show a different movie.  The tape had broken the night before, so he brought October Sky from his personal collection at home.
  There were two buses from the same company going to the Grand Canyon that day.  The one I ended up on was the only one to show October Sky.
  Jake Gyllenhaal (who plays Homer in the movie October Sky) and I have the same birthday, December 19.  (Jake is, however, a lot of years younger.)
Linda Hickam tells us, "Naomi is still a good friend of Homer's.  We met on set [of October Sky] - they argue politics by email almost daily!" In the 1980s, I wrote a letter to Naomi Foner, the screenwriter of the movie Running on Empty.  (A great script!)  This is the first and only letter I've written to a screenwriter.  Ms. Foner actually wrote back, and I still have that letter.  The coincidence?  Naomi Foner is Jake Gyllenhaal's mother.


Another Strange Coincidence for Charlie
In April 2009, I read Rafe Esquith's book Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire.  Rafe is an amazing fifth grade teacher at the Hobart Boulevard Elementary School, an inner-city school in Los Angeles, California.  Rafe and his class have also been featured in a Point of View documentary that aired on PBS.  This is Rafe's web site: www.hobartshakespeareans.org

I was so impressed with Rafe's book that I mailed him a thank-you letter and a few books and DVDs for his classroom's lending library.  The DVD's were the six volume set of The Films of Charles and Ray Eames [if you teach math or science, you should see these!] and, of course, several copies of October Sky.

I knew the box had been delivered by the Postal Service, but I was surprised to get an e-mail from Rafe shortly after that.  Here is part of the e-mail:

Dear Charlie--

You HAVE to hear what happened yesterday in my class.

We've just finished our science fair -- the kids did some work with physics and simple machines. Our next unit, beginning next week, is on rocketry.

Yesterday morning I told them all about Rocket Boys and Homer. I told them how we would be watching the film next week and all about the history of both the book and film. Last week, there was a break-in at the school and some of our films, including October Sky, were stolen.

Two hours later your box arrived. I am NOT joking. The kids were in shock. I have been teaching 27 years and I have never seen anything like it.

You, quite simply, are an angel on our shoulders. Thanks for the incredibly thoughtful gift. I always try to make the kids realize that despite their sometimes awful surroundings, there are millions of amazing people in the world ready to help them make their lives extraordinary. You, sir, made that point brilliantly yesterday with your fantastic gift.

Your fan,



In addition, there are a few Tennessee connections we'd like to point out.  Please see below.



Tennessee Connections

In the book Rocket Boys, Homer mentions that the only radio station they could pick up at night in Coalwood, West Virginia, was from Gallatin, Tennessee.  (In reality, the station was WLAC in Nashville.  However, since the programs were mainly sponsored by Randy's Record Shop in Gallatin, the Coalwood kids assumed the broadcast was coming from Gallatin.)  Gallatin is nine miles south of Portland.  It is the county seat of Sumner County, and Portland is in Sumner County.

[Jerry Hatmaker, author of The Coalwood Misfits, sent us this comment: "Another station we could get in Coalwood was the Big One, WLW out of Cincinnati. Most Coalwood folks were Red Leg (Reds) fans. It was a 50,000 watt station, but before 1939 it pumped out 500,000 watts. Sometimes, though, we did have to go to the top of a mountain to hear it."]

The entire movie October Sky was filmed in East Tennessee.  It was simply too difficult to get all of the trucks and equipment into position in Coalwood, West Virginia.  (Too many twisty roads!)  It turns out that parts of east Tennessee have similar geography as southern West Virginia.  The studio was able to find all of the filming locations they needed within just a few miles of I-40 outside of Knoxville.  In addition, the area had easy access to hotels, restaurants, airports, catering, and other services a film crew needs.  We have actual shots of a few locations where the movie was filmed on our October Sky page.

WV 16, as it passes through Coalwood, is named Tennessee Avenue.  The Hickam house was on Tennessee Avenue.


Final Thought

"This whole Rocket Boys / October Sky phenomena has been a miracle, and I'm convinced it's a miracle for some reason, and I'm not absolutely sure what the reason is, but it may very well be to bring back this part of the country again because this part of the country has a lot of values that the whole country needs -- of family and honor and tradition and education.

"If Coalwood comes back, and it's because of something that we, the Rocket Boys, can do, and that the film October Sky has done for us, then I just say that's part of the same miracle."


Homer Hickam
Aiming High: The Story of the Rocket Boys
October Sky Special Edition DVD
© Universal Pictures


We agree 100%, and we hope our web site will help in keeping the Coalwood Way in the minds and hearts of everyone in the world.

Charlie Myers
Leonard Berry