Monday, April 30, 2018
CNN's Anthony Bourdain visits West Virginia. especially the coal town Welch
On Sunday, April 29, 2018, Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” visited West Virginia, specifically Welch in the southern part of the state, McDowell county. This is not "almost heaven" anywhere. This was a longer (75 minute) episode.
Greg Morabito on Easter summarized many of the scenes, especially the homecooked food without recipes, here.
Welch was a boomtown in the 1940s (called “Little New York”, 600 miles away), as the picture shows. Today it has fewer than 2000 people.
The broadcast makes the point that even a slight recovery in coal jobs does make a real economic difference to the lives of many people. That is one reason so many supported Trump. However, mountaintop removal mining has removed many underground mining jobs, which were always very dangerous.
I believe I visited Welch in 1991, after visiting the underground mine attraction in nearby Beckley (and also Bluefield). In 1972, I went on a weekend trip where I met a previous roommate from KU. I believe that on that weekend I drove through Logan, to the north of Welch but similar. I made that visit the subject of the short story “Expedition” in my DADT III book.
In my planned novel “Angel’s Brother”, as backstory, the character Frankie is supposed to have been born around 1960 in a coal family and moved out to his own life, before being recruited into “intelligence”, so to speak.
In the movie “October Sky” (1999) inventor Home Hickum comes from a coal family which pressures him to drop out of school and work in the mines when his dad is sick (from black lung). This film got shown to a high school physics class when I worked as a substitute teacher in 2005.