The 2005 minicon in Fairmont and Mannington, WV was the expected mix of fascinating, wonderful, weird and disappointing.

Sadly, the plans to visit the coal lab at WVU fell through, but many attendees got to visit the WVU campus, wander through Morgantown’s downtown, drive around a bit, get a sense of where many of the university refugees were “from.” As well, we had a great session with the director of the mapping project in the WVU geography department.

The next day, a locally guided tour. We stood outside the coal mine, went into the Baptist church, and sat for a long bit with a UMW official. He’s an ex-coal miner and gave us a fascinating talk.

Similarly, the walk through of the middle school was as interesting as the exterior of the building promised.

Saturday, visits to the Methodist church, the Catholic church, and the Bower’s mansion completed our tours for this trip. Being among the first guests to the Bower’s house since the deaths of the family members was amazing.

Meanwhile, evenings were filled with the usual mixture of chatting, sitting in smoke filled rooms, presentations, and generally having a good time with a mix of smart, interesting people.

Please check out Iver Cooper’s superior 2005 minicon photo album on

A dichotomy has, however, developed among the long term fans of the series. The “old Mannington hands” really feel that three trips through a small town probably uses up the touring possibilities.

The new folks, who have not yet visited the Round Barn Museum, walked into the cafe in the front of the theater, walked under the refugee center gym, nor seen the photos of Julie’s grandmother, feel a real need to visit.

We’re not sure how to deal with this next year. But consultations have begun about the possibility of a group tour to Germany to visit Jena and Magdeburg. No one seemed bored with that idea.

— Rick Boatright / Paula Goodlett