The Rocket Boy Defends The Clock Boy
Posted on 09.18.15 by Danny Glover @ 7:35 pm

Homer Hickam, the enlightened redneck from Coalwood, W.Va., who rose to rocketry and writing fame, knows exactly how 14-year-old Texan Ahmed Mohammed feels. Both were falsely accused of mischief during their scientific adventures, Hickam for allegedly starting a forest fire with an errant rocket launch and Mohammed for presumably perpetrating a bomb hoax in his school.

Hickam empathized with Mohammed in a blog post that recalled not only Hickam’s own arrest but also some of the run-ins that other brainiacs have had with authoritarian school bureaucrats and police officers:

We boys of Coalwood, West Virginia, had a very similar situation to what Ahmed is now facing. We were summarily commanded to appear at our high school principal’s office to be yelled at by the police for allegedly starting a forest fire with our amateur rockets. We were entirely innocent but that didn’t much matter.

Although we weren’t handcuffed, we were surely told in no uncertain terms that a “bomb squad” would not be allowed at school. This occurred nearly sixty years ago! The intolerance by some school authorities toward bright kids has never really stopped but, during recent years, has been exaggerated by the adoption of zero-tolerance rules.

The other examples of nonconformist geniuses being suspended for their creative pursuits included a boy who made a cardboard mockup of a rocket from a potato chip canister and a girl on the honor roll whose science experiment produced a puff of smoke on school grounds.

Hickam gave the latter student and her twin sister scholarships to Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., and now he is offering the same thing to Mohammed. “Space Camp is one place where really bright kids can blossom. … I’m there often enough to see how youngsters, often picked on at school for being too bright, thrive when they find themselves with other students just like them.”


Filed under: Aviation and Education and News & Politics and People and West Virginia
Comments: 1 Comment

Fill ‘Er Up With W.Va. Pepperoni Rolls, Sheetz
Posted on 07.27.15 by Danny Glover @ 8:47 pm

I’m totally jumping on the bandwagon of angry West Virginians rolling virtually toward Sheetz’s corporate headquarters in Pennsylvania. The cause: Mountain State pride in pepperoni rolls.

The outcry started Friday, when Rogers and Mazza’s Italian Bakery in Clarksburg, W.Va., announced on its Facebook page that Sheetz abruptly canceled the company’s contract to provide pepperoni rolls for 117 stores in West Virginia and other states. Worse, they lost the contract to a company outside West Virginia, the birthplace of the pepperoni roll.

“I would suggest and appreciate everyone writing this company with their displeasure on their decision,” Rogers and Mazza’s urged its fans — and they did.

Those complaints prompted the Charleston Gazette-Mail to run a story today. It caught my attention on Facebook, and here’s what I have to say to Sheetz after reading it:

If you don’t give your contract for pepperoni rolls to Rogers and Mazza’s or some other West Virginia company, I will give my business to anyone but Sheetz.

I live in Virginia, where your stores don’t even sell pepperoni rolls, and I prefer mine freshly made anyway. But I do regularly buy gas, soda and snacks at Sheetz, and I will symbolically stand with my enlightened redneck family across the border on this issue. If you’re going to sell pepperoni rolls, especially in your West Virginia stores, they had better be made in the Mountain State.

Pepperoni rolls were invented in my home state, and since 2013, they have been the official state food. Bizarre Foods traveled country roads to West Virginia, not some other pretender state, to do a story on our delicacy.

Perhaps you didn’t know that history before. Now you do. Correct this great injustice.

UPDATE, July 30: Sheetz has caved to the pressure applied by West Virginia’s angry rednecks. Here’s what the company said in announcing that its Mountain State stores will sell West Virginia-made pepperoni rolls: “Our customers told us loud and clear that it is important to them to have those rolls provided and baked by a West Virginia company. I couldn’t be happier to have that feedback and we are committed to executing upon it.”

UPDATE, Aug. 17: Rogers and Mazza’s paid the price for biting the hand that fed it a contract for pepperoni rolls for years — the bakery lost the contract to another West Virginia-based competitor, Home Industry Bakery. “The company went through a thorough evaluation of West Virginia vendors and selected the best partner to supply all 49 stores in the state,” Sheetz announced.

Thank you, Rogers and Mazza’s for exposing a potential injustice at the hands of Sheetz. You took a hit to your pocketbook for West Virginia pride, and I, for one, appreciate it.


Filed under: Business and Food and Media and Social Media and West Virginia
Comments: None

A W.Va. Redneck’s Journey To Enlightenment
Posted on 07.12.15 by Danny Glover @ 5:12 pm

Kaitlen Whitt is about as enlightened as they come from an intellectual perspective. She has a degree in English and taught the language in Bulgaria while on a prestigious Fulbright scholarship. She has traveled to more than 40 countries. She has contributed to the Traveling 219 multimedia project and Allegheny Mountain Radio. And she makes and sells jewelry.

But Whitt hasn’t always been proud of her redneck roots in West Virginia. By her own admission, she saw it as “a dumping ground full of uncultured, uneducated, unfriendly, and uncouth people” and wanted to “rise above a home that I understood as a prison.”

Thankfully, her success at escaping the state and packing a lifetime of adventures into a few short years has given her fresh perspective. Whether she realizes it yet or not, Whitt’s journey to true enlightenment helped her see that being redneck isn’t so bad after all.

Here’s an excerpt from her “love letter to West Virginia” documenting that journey:

The moment I was outside of West Virginia or in a group of people who were not Appalachian, I was transformed into an oddity. People would tell me how cute my accent was and ask me to say the same word over and over. One of my Bulgarian students asked if people in West Virginia were cannibals like in “Wrong Turn.” A man who was chatting me up in a bus station in Bucharest asked me where I was from and when I told him, he said, “Oh, you mean where everybody marries their cousin?”

People would use the word “redneck” as an umbrella term to imply either ignorance or bigotry and then turn to me and say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t mean you.” Once a concierge in Sweden even commented on how impressive it was that I still had all my teeth considering I was from, “the American South.”

I had known that these stereotypes were out there, but I had always assumed that people outside of West Virginia understood that they were exaggerated. Everything that Irene had said about being proud to be from Appalachia, from West Virginia, flooded back, and I began to see my heritage as more of an identity than a secret burden. So I took off my mask and stopped justifying myself as an exception from the stereotypical West Virginian, and instead, I just understood myself as someone who was from West Virginia.

I’ve always been proud to be from West Virginia, and the stereotypes about it simply reinforce my love of it. In that sense I don’t get why Whitt once seemed to resent her roots. But she is now an eloquent spokeswoman for the place we both consider home. I’m glad to have her in the enlightened redneck fold.


Filed under: Entertainment and Hatin' On Rednecks and Media and People and Redneck Humor and Rednecks and West Virginia
Comments: 1 Comment

Better Bang For The Buck In West Virginia
Posted on 07.09.15 by Danny Glover @ 5:34 pm

If you have $100, you can buy $97.09 worth of goods in Virginia, according to a new analysis and map of government data by the Tax Foundation. Cross the border into West Virginia (known as the Best Virginia to those of us who are from there) and you’ll get $16 more value for your $100 investment.

That is why our family likes to shop when we visit the Mountain State.


Filed under: Culture and Government and News & Politics and West Virginia
Comments: None

The Scoop On The INNformer
Posted on 07.07.15 by Danny Glover @ 9:52 pm

A Washington Post video about a fledgling newspaper that is produced in a historic West Virginia hotel helped the reporter on that story win a national award last month.

Lee Powell traveled to The Wells Inn in Sistersville, W.Va., last year to get the scoop on The INNformer, dubbing it a “bi-monthly miracle” in an era when newspapers are dying. Powell included the companion 4 1/2-minute video report in a a package of three stories that he submitted for an Edward R. Murrow Award for online writing. Powell won the award on June 24.

I’ve had my eye on The INNformer for nearly two years now, ever since media writer Jim Romenesko started mocking hotel/newspaper owner Charles Winslow over his quirky job ads. The free paper is published just a few miles from my hometown, and my parents get it delivered to their house. I skim the back issues when we visit and now have a stack of them at our home hundreds of miles away. I also check the paper’s Facebook page periodically.

Reading the paper as an experienced editor and reporter, I haven’t been impressed with the journalistic quality of The INNformer. Grammatical errors and typos are common — one issue was printed without standard masthead details like the date — and the writing can be bland. The paper also has missed multiple opportunities to tell compelling stories.

I can think of two from my hometown, which is part of the paper’s circulation area. The first story had great feature potential. When former Paden City High School band director Ed Hood died last summer, alumni and current band members paid tribute to him at a memorial service. It was a great news hook for exploring Hood’s legacy in building “The Biggest Little Band in the Land.”

The second, a shooting that left a man dead in Paden City, happened a month ago. That is big news in a small town, but the coverage overall has been sparse and confusing. It’s the perfect opening for an upstart newspaper to fill the void. Yet The INNformer dedicated only four superficial paragraphs to the shooting several days after it happened.

All that said, as a small-town boy who grew up reading daily and weekly newspapers in the Ohio Valley, I still appreciate the work The INNformer is doing. It’s the part-time passion of a local businessman who cares enough about his community to produce a paper that is likely more hassle than it’s worth in terms of revenue.

The newspaper is quaint, like the hotel where it is created. And although the journalism is sometimes lacking, it is improving. It’s also welcomed by readers who aren’t as critical (for better or worse) as seasoned journalists like me. “It’s something everybody looks forward to,” one reader told the Post.

Given enough time, dedication and desire, Winslow could become the next Adam Kelly of West Virginia journalism. Kelly, the “country editor” who owned and ran the Tyler Star News, was a fixture in Sistersville, Paden City and other small towns when I was young. The big shoes he left behind haven’t been filled since.

Winslow could be the one to step into them. “I actually enjoy this,” he told Powell. “That sounds kind of stupid but — my paper, I handle it from start to finish.”


Filed under: Grammar and Media and News & Politics and People and Video and West Virginia
Comments: None

Homebodies In The Rust And Bible Belts
Posted on 03.09.15 by Danny Glover @ 6:48 pm

Last fall, The New York Times published some interesting data in an interactive map that shows how U.S. residents migrate by state. I just discovered it in my Facebook feed today and was most curious about the data from my home state of West Virginia.

According to the graphic, 70 percent of people who lived in the Mountain State in 2012 were born there, down from 81 percent in 1950 and 1900. I know that many more West Virginians, including myself, move away for work these days than used to be the case, but I was surprised to see that the state has an increasing percentage of people from other places.

Only a few states have a greater percentage of homebodies than West Virginia — Louisiana at 79 percent, Michigan at 77 percent, Ohio at 75 percent, Pennsylvania at 74 percent, Mississippi and Wisconsin at 72 percent each, and Iowa at 71 percent. Like West Virginia, Alabama is at 70 percent.

The takeaway is that people in the Rust Belt and Bible Belt love to stay close to home.


Filed under: Culture and Media and Religion and West Virginia
Comments: None

Hawkish On Squirrels
Posted on 01.17.15 by Danny Glover @ 10:07 am

Squirrels are rats with furry tails. Embrace that perspective and you won’t be like the West Virginia lawmaker who went into a rage when witnessing this scene, as reported by MetroNews:

It’s an awesome photo that captures a moment rarely seen in nature.


Filed under: Photography and West Virginia and Wildlife
Comments: 1 Comment

A Newspaper Box For A Newspaperman
Posted on 01.10.15 by Danny Glover @ 1:13 pm

Ever since our local newspaper closed two years ago, I’ve been obsessed with owning a newspaper vending machine or two. I’d like to turn one into a lamp and end table for our living room and use the second to store copies of historical editions of newspapers.

This week I finally found one newspaper box for a good deal on eBay. I’ll have to travel to Indiana at some point in the next few weeks to get it, but with gas as cheap as it is these days, now is a good time to invest in a 10-hour road trip.

The box I bought, which actually has a newspaper from 1989 in it, was once used to sell copies of the Post-Tribune, a regional publication in northwest Indiana. That was during the heyday of newspapers when single copies fat with advertising sold for a mere 25 cents.

My fascination with these soon-to-be relics of the newspaper era is driven by my own past in the news business. I landed my first job at The Tampa Tribune in 1987 and worked at the Dominion Post in Morgantown, W.Va., my last two years of college and for a few months afterward. I also did an internship at the Charleston Daily Mail in West Virginia and later did freelance work for two now-defunct newspapers in the Washington, D.C., era.

I’d really love to have a box from a publication where I worked or where I’ve lived, but any newspaper vending machine will whet my nostalgic appetite. Here’s hoping I find at least one more for my personal collection and perhaps more that I can turn into lamps and end tables for other news junkies.


Filed under: History and Media and West Virginia
Comments: None

Redneck Teeth For Sale
Posted on 11.22.14 by Danny Glover @ 6:48 pm

This ad from an 1852 issue of the Wheeling newspaper certainly doesn’t help refute a familiar redneck stereotype about West Virginians.

It’s my first find from the online archive of old newspapers available at the Library of Congress. I foresee many hours of historical reading in my future.


Filed under: History and Media and Redneck Humor and Rednecks and West Virginia
Comments: None

How To Lead Drunken College Students
Posted on 11.21.14 by Danny Glover @ 3:40 pm

West Virginia University has an excellent leader in E. Gordon Gee. He’s currently only on tap to fill the job for a couple of years, but he’s showing himself to be just the kind of administrator the university needs in a challenging time.

I was skeptical earlier this year of WVU’s decision to bring him back to a job he held early in his career. It seemed like WVU was looking backward instead of forward. Gee also has a history of running his mouth in ways that reflect poorly on him and the schools he has led.

But Gee has won me over. He still has the fun-loving character of a young man, as evidenced by his tweet when ESPN’s College Game Day visited Morgantown, W.Va., in October.

Yet he has exercised the kind of wisdom that only comes with age — and perhaps from having learned from his own mistakes. Gee understands that, in the words of King Solomon, there is “a time to tear apart and a time to sew together, a time to be silent and a time to speak.”

His statement today, issued after a WVU student’s recent death in an alcohol-related incident at a fraternity, is an excellent example. I like this message in particular:
(more…)


Filed under: Education and News & Politics and People and West Virginia
Comments: None

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