School closure

John Hale / WVPB

School is, or soon will be, back in session, so we wanted to take another listen to an episode we originally aired in May, about the devastating effects a school closure can have on a community.

Basketball was a big deal for the small town of Northfork, in McDowell County, West Virginia. The high school team won the state championship eight years in a row.

“Little old ladies who wouldn’t know a football from a basketball became big fans because it brought positive notoriety and attention to the community,” Northfork alumni Gary Dove recalled.

The 1981 Northfork Blue Demons after winning their 8th state championship title.
Courtesy of Patricia Boyd

Coal was king in McDowell County in the 1960s and 70s. At one point, it was one of the richest counties in the country due to coal production. There were more than 53 communities that either had their own mines or housed miners who worked in the area. Because the coal mines attracted workers from all over the country, even the world, there was a pretty diverse group of people in McDowell.