Perhaps one of the best, most motivating movies of the past 30 years.
|The character of Leon Bolden (far right, played by actor Randy Stripling) is the black genius who flew with the Tuskegee Airmen in the movie October Sky. Only problem: he never existed. It was a white guy, Bill Bolt, who helped the Rocket Boys...|
The Rocket Boys.
White boys in 1957, influenced by the Russians launching Sputnik, decide to take up rocketry.
Schools across the country show the movie as part of their curriculum. Homer Hickam's official site even has a study guide to help teachers educate their students on the rocket boys exploits.
But as in many Hollywood "true stories" (think Dolphin Tale), something is incredibly rotten in Denmark when it comes to the inclusion of a black scientific genius in the city of Coalwood, West Virginia.
A black scientific genius, who also flew with the Tuskegee Airmen - the "Red Tails" - in World War II.
The characters name in October Sky is Leon Bolden. He serves as not only moral support, but technical support as well to the white boys of Coalwood, West Virginia. In fact, here's one of this lines (notice the subtle slip of the "Red Tails" experience into the dialogue:
[a mine worker, formerly one of the Tuskegee Airmen, almost gets hit when he watches Homer launch a rocket]
Leon Bolden: Homer, I flew with the Red Tails in World War II. And seein' that rocket come at me... it almost took me back there.Only problem: there was no black guy in Coalwood, West Virginia, who also flew with the Tuskegee Airmen" in World War II, and provided the scientific genius to get the Rocket Boys experiments off the ground...
|The real man behind helping the Rocket Boys from Coalwood, West Virginia get their experiments into the air...|
There was a white man named Bill Bolt though... [Banking On Memories in Coalwood, W.Va, Tricities.com, 11-30-2008]:
Bill Bolt doesn’t fashion any more nozzles to fuel the dreams of the Rocket Boys.
But he does fashion himself, almost daily, as an informal tour guide for Coalwood. Bolt greets any and all camera-clicking cruisers, orbiting through the wilds of West Virginia and landing here, reaching for the remnants of a proud people, the words of a teacher and the dreams of boys.
“You wouldn’t believe the visitors we get,” said Bolt, a retired machine shop foreman. “And we still have a lot of people.”
Travelers to Coalwood, W.Va., yearn for the nostalgia of the 1950s, when Coalwood’s “Rocket Boys” dared to dream beyond the dark and deadly challenges of working in a coal mine.
These “Rocket Boys” – six teenagers who built and launched model rockets – included Homer H. “Sonny” Hickam Jr., a retired NASA engineer who wrote a best selling memoir called “Rocket Boys” and, by 1999, adapted the book into a big-screen movie, “October Sky.”
“Before ‘October Sky’ came out, we didn’t have nothing,” said 90-year-old Coalwood resident Red Carroll. “That movie has put us on the map.”
In the late 1990s, Hickam won major attention for writing “The Big Creek Missile Agency,” a 2,000-word article for Smithsonian Air and Space magazine. Detailing the adventures of his rocket-launching buddies at Big Creek High School, this piece received so much response that Hickam was inspired to write the “Rocket Boys” book, published in 1998.
Using a poetic license, Hickam combined a few characters and used different names for others.
Next came Hollywood, and the movie “October Sky” changed Coalwood even more.
“The movie is about 90 percent true,” Bolt figured.
There’s a character based on Bolt, but it doesn’t look much like him: Actor Randy Stripling, an African-American, portrays a machinist named “Leon Bolden.”
Such a switch did not fit reality in Coalwood , Red Carroll said. “There were no black men working in the machine shop.”No black people in Coalwood, but through the magic of celluloid you get the numinous negro.
A magical, technologically and morally superior negro.
Who flew with the Tuskegee Airmen.
Who could only exist via the magic of Hollywood.
Thus, the movie October Sky helps show a new generation of "Americans" that only through the contributions of "Red Tails" could white boys from Coalwood, West Virginia find the scientific means to put rockets into the air.