October Sky

by Homer Hickam

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In October Sky, what happened to each of the rocket boys after graduation? Describe each situation.

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In the epilogue of his memoir, Homer describes what happened to his friends after high school. Amazingly, all four of the rocket boys went on to attend university, something incredibly rare for people of Coalwood at the time.

O'Dell joined the Air Force in 1960. After four years of service, he went to college and then became a farmer and an employee of a West Virginia insurance company. Roy Lee became a banker after attending school at Concord College and the University of Maryland. He also has a degree from the American Institute of Banking. Quintin continued his scientific pursuits by obtaining a degree in chemistry from Marshall College. After college, he moved to Texas to work in the oil extraction industry. Sherman went on to attend West Virginia Tech. He became a computer systems analysts as well as an accomplished amateur golfer and softball player. Sadly, Sherman died of a heart attack at age 34.

Homer, would go on to become one of NASA's premier rocket scientists. After high school, he attended Virginia Tech. After graduating he served as an officer in the Army and did a tour in Vietnam. After his discharge from the military, Homer worked for as a civilian contractor to the military in missile design. In 1981, NASA hired Homer to work in aerospace engineering. He worked with NASA until his retirement in 1998 designing spacecraft and training astronauts. Of course, in addition to his scientific career, Homer became a well-respected author of several works, including his famous memoir Rocket Boys.

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One of the most powerful elements present in the ending of the memoir is how it showed the post- "Rocket Boys" life of each.  All of them had gone to college and wound up doing something that was outside the traditional path of boys from Coalwood.  We learn early on that some few chosen ones from Coalwood go to college or university on  football scholarship, while the vast majority go and work in the mine.  The Rocket Boys forged a different path with college educations and some type of professional job afterwards.  Insurance salesman, business owners, or Homer joining NASA and training astronauts all reveal paths that were taken where dreams were pursued and education being a vital part of this process.

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