Monday, January 18, 2021


I've discovered a treasure trove of videos on You Tube about McDowell County, West Virginia. I watched 7 or 8 of them before feeling tears I didn't know I was crying on my cheeks.

If you are from there, you say MACK-Dowell.

If you aren't, you say Mc-Dowell.

I grew up there decades ago. It was a very different place then than it is now.

When I was a child, the population of the far flung county was 100,000 or so and coal was king. My father and his brothers were among a few of the men who didn't work in the mines. My father did, before WW II, but after he served he didn't go back. Uncle Russell ran a grocery store and a dry goods store (that's what we called 'department stores' in Anawalt). Uncle Del owned an Esso station, before it became Exxon. Uncle Sid lived 30 miles away and was an insurance agent. My dad ran a bar after the war until he had to draw a gun on a friend who was drunk. Then he worked for Uncle Russell, then drove a dry cleaning truck, then was the only insurance agent in town.

Anawalt had a population of 500 or so, with about 40% black and two Italian families.

I just looked Anawalt up on Wikipedia and found out the 2019 estimated census was 179.

Which almost matches the county's drop from 100,000 when I was a kid to about 27,000 today.

Coal is no longer King. Mines that are still open, not many, have machines to do the work of 100 men.

The county of my birth and life until I went to college is a shadow of it's former self.

I have such joyous memories but if I went back to visit I would be devastated. 

I'll hang on to the memories and not go visit.




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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.