By Lisa Shrewsberry
No, it’s not the year of the sasquatch. 2013 is the sesquicentennial year for the Mountain State — meaning grand old West Virginia is celebrating her 150th. Who better to write about her finer and more interesting points than one of her biggest fans?
Meet Beckley native Danny Pettry II, a man well-acquainted with the negative stereotypes of West Virginia and one equally determined to do his part in educating against them.
Pettry has written and self-published “150 Wonderful Things You Should Know About West Virginia: A Celebration of West Virginia’s 150th Anniversary.” He constructed the book to be read by any age or generation needing an at-the-ready primer on the 35th State’s appeal, from historical to fun or even mythical.
The worst problem he encountered in writing it? Narrowing down the many attributes and facts to just 150.
“I had a West Virginia history class in eighth grade, and I really enjoyed it,” Pettry admits. “That was the first time I learned anything about West Virginia history and since then I’ve always been interested in it.”
Designed to be a keepsake or used for the classroom, the book includes an online quiz teachers can employ with their interactive smart board technology. Or just in case there’s ever a West Virginia category on “Jeopardy,” 150 Wonderful Things offers compact pearls of knowledge for anyone, student or not, like why West Virginia broke away from Virginia, which U.S. president’s mother was born in what would become Mineral County, W.Va., where and what the Pumpkin House is and what films have been shot in West Virginia, among many more.
“I work with kids and have used this with our children and teenagers,” explains the recreational therapist/author, proud to point a new generation, and the older ones as well, toward the many tales the state has to tell.
Pettry’s book is currently available on Amazon.com for $22 and has its own Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WestVirginiaFunFacts.
About the author: Danny Pettry II earned his degree in park resources and leisure services with an emphasis in therapeutic recreation from Marshall University in 2002. He works as a recreational therapist at River Park Hospital in Huntington.
15 Wild, Wonderful things to know about West Virginia’s 150 years
adapted from Pettry’s book
1 - What were some other potential names for the state?
Allegheny, Augusta, Columbia, Kanawha, New Virginia, Vandalia, Western Virginia.
2 - Who proclaimed West Virginia as a state?
3 - What is the state insect?
4 - What is the state fruit?
The Golden Delicious apple
5 - Where was coal discovered?
Boone County, West Virginia
Coal was first discovered by John Peter Salley in 1742 in the land area currently known as Boone County.
6 - What did The Saturday Evening Post refer to as “the turnpike that goes nowhere”?
I-77 Princeton to Charleston.
In the early days, this interstate did not connect to other roads or interstates. There was little traffic. This road was also known as the “death trap.” People from out-of-state were not prepared for a two-lane road along mountainous curves without a divider. T-shirts were sold that proclaimed: “I Survived the West Virginia Turnpike.” Over the years, the road has been improved to include four lanes and dividers.
7- What is the Green Bank telescope?
The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope is a radio telescope in Green Bank used by astronomers to study far distances from the moon to edges of the universe.
8 - What is the Mothman?
A legendary creature reported to be seen in the Point Pleasant area and associated with the collapse of the Silver Bridge.
9 - Where was America’s first spa?
Berkeley Springs, W.Va. The town was called “Bath” in the 1740s. It has five spas and facilities today offering various health treatments.
10 - Who is Jack Canfield?
A motivational speaker/author who grew up in Wheeling, most famously known for being the co-creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series.
11- What famous restaurants were founded in West Virginia?
Several, including Tudor’s Biscuit World, Gino’s Pizza and Shoney’s Restaurant (founded in 1947 in Charleston)
12- Who is Mary Lou Retton?
Mary Lou Retton was born in Fairmont. She won an all-around gold medal in the 1984 Olympics.
13- Who is Georgeann Wells?
A famous basketball player, best-known for being the first woman to register a dunk in an official NCAA intercollegiate basketball game, which she did with a regulation-size (men’s basketball) in 1984. She played for West Virginia University. The dunk occurred during a game against the University of Charleston.
14 - Who is considered the “Father of West Virginia”?
Francis Harrison Pierpont, who strongly advocated against Virginia’s succession from the union during the Civil War and for the creation of a new state, which became West Virginia.
15 - Who was the only person from West Virginia to run on a national ticket for the U.S. Presidency?
John William Davis (the Democrat Party nominee for president during the 1924 election against incumbent President Calvin Coolidge).