Blair Mountain, West VirginiaWhile West Virginia is the but of many jokes, I just wanted to take a few moments of your time to point some things out about the people here. I mean the history of this state, and why it is so pathetic to see it in this state of being, along with the people who live here. This might offend, but I am going to share the good, bad, and ugly of it.
I am going to start with a list, people born here in this state.
Lou Holtz - Coach for the Jets, William and Mary, Notre Dame, etc.
Jeff Hostetler - QB for the Giants, Skins, Raiders
Jason Kincaid - TNA Wrestling
John Kruk - Phillies and White Sox
Randy Moss - WR Vikings, Pats, others
Jamie Noble - WCW/WWE
Nick Saban - University of Alabama, Miami Dolphins, etc.
Heath Slater - WWE
Rod Thorn - Bullets, Sonics, Pistons
Jerry West - Lakers
Joyce Dewitt - Threes Company
John McBride - Pilot STS-41-G
John Nash - Nobel Peace Prize, movie about his life A Beautiful Mind
Brad Dourif - Actor
Jennifer Garner - Actress
Steve Harvey - Comedian / Host / Actor
Don Knotts - Actor
Stonewall Jackson - General (Virginia at the time)
Chuck Yeager - Pilot
Bob Denver - While he was not born in the Mountain State, he called it his adopted home. (Story will follow).
This is just the short list of people who hail from West Virginia. I am sure that you know many of these people. Heath Slater hails from Pineville, Bob Denver was pinched for weed in Princeton, and well said it was Mary Ann who mailed it to him, but didn't rat her out in court.
Alright, here are the nuts and bolts of this people. If you reside in any of the land acquired by the United States from the Louisiana Purchase, you have what is now known as West Virginia to thank for that. How else do you think the government raised 3 million gold coins? The backs of the miners and coal companies here. At one time the town of Bramwell was considered one of the wealthiest in the nation, with its bank being a central hub, and is considered to be one of the wealthiest in the nation to that point. Stories of the janitor moving money from the bank to the train depot via wheelbarrow, can still be heard. It also hosted the most millionaires per capita than any other town at that time, upwards of 13 where known to have lived there at one time.
Who here likes The Andy Griffith show? Yeah, some of the elements you laughed about in that show are based on a small town here called Maybeury. A town drunk did, according to local lore, ride a cow into town, where he did lock himself up in the town jail. Keep in mind that Don Knotts was from this state, and elements for shows were taken from every source available. Remember the movie A Beautiful Mind, John Nash was born in Princeton, and spent most of his early years battling his illness in this state. Bob Denver, the goofy man who played Giligan, called Princeton his home, and while he died in North Carolina, he spent many years of his life here. Lorene Greene of Bonanza had a home in Bluefield, as I recall some of the property was in West Virginia. While Bluefield is a boarder town, half in West Virginia, half in Virginia, it is all in how the boarder is drawn and surveyed.
That is a fairly impressive thing to look at when you think about it, lots of good things came from this place. But, in a testament to greed and corruption, the bad surely follows. As mentioned in a previous entry, miners sick of horrendous treatment picked up arms in the single largest insurrection since the Civil War. People sold their souls to the company store, they demanded more, so they fought. Little changed from their efforts. The companies in turn raped the land, broke the people, kicked them while they were down. Coal was king, into the 50's the men went into those holes, drug out more coal than anyone else in the world. McDowell County boomed from their labors, but these people didn't see it, they got the shit end of the stick. Kennedy came through Welch, McDowell County, West Virginia in 1960, before he was elected as President of the United States. What did the man see, starving children, people living in poverty flocking to see the soon to be leader of the free world. So appalled he was by this site in the United States it influenced his social policy throughout his limited time in office, just as it did for Johnson, and others who followed him into that position.
Now, did you know that Welch was the home of the first WW1 memorial (1923)? How about being the first to have an African American Woman appointed as in the state House (1928)? How about being the first to have a parking garage (1941)? All firsts in the United States.
Now, did you know that the state of West Virginia was also the home for the first family to receive modern food stamps opposed to the ration stamps used in WWII. The first family to receive federally funded food stamps hailed from Welch (1961).
But wouldn't you know, West Virginia was on the rise still. The First Bank of Keystone, located in McDowell County. In 1992 it was estimated to be worth 1.1 Billion US dollars. One problem, it was all pushing paper, that wealth evaporated, leaving most people broken financially. They we in the sub-prime market before it was cool, and legal. Another first for this Nation, and West Virginia was a head of the game.
Now what do you see today? People living in poverty, abused by employers, people trying desperately to hold onto the past, while the future bears down on them like a speeding locomotive. Coal is in decline, and like other places there was no diversification (see Detroit). It started in the mid 80's, with the US Steel shut down, and it only got worse. Coal has never recovered from that massive downturn, it got better, but the damage was done. Followed by multiple tragedies, and losses of life in the mines, the removal of mountain tops for more coal, people we pushed further, while still trying to hold onto the past.
Now, here we stand. I have seen coal running in the creeks. Seen people who haul water to their homes so they can bath and cook. The wells they once had sunk into a coal mine, or gas well. People living in poverty and pointing the finger at this group or that group, but never towards the people who raped the land, used their bodies up, spit both out. Coal was a means to an end, a way to make money. And now, coal is dieing, and people want to point blame, but it is society that is to blame. Can you blame society? They want to move forward into new ways, not maintain the old ones. We all must realize that this planet is the only one we have, its not like we get a mulligan. There are no do overs when it comes to our home.