Oral History

Lucille Nolen Interview

Interviewee: Lucille Nolen
Interviewer: Rachel Woolery
Floyd County

Various oral history recording media and period resources.

  • 73-minute mp3 audio
  • mp4 digital video
  • 31-page transcript
  • candid and period photos
  • catalog record
  • two student short films: “Soldier’s Wife,” “Hardworking Couple”
  • WWII DVD “Front Porch to Front Lines”

Lucille Thomas Nolen discusses family life and her work at the J. Freezer and Son shirt factory, Floyd, while her husband served in North Africa and Sicily during WWII. Edward Isaac Nolen (1919-1998), U.S. Army, fought in military combat, was wounded, and because of his injury, became a chauffeur for the unit’s officers.  Mrs. Nolen’s daughter, Judy Nolen Hylton, adds insights. For Lucille Nolen, World War II meant long periods of not hearing from her husband. He was drafted into the Army, June 1942, serving in North Africa when their first child was born. After waiting six months for word from him, Lucille contacted the local Red Cross representative who told of Edd’s injury in Sicily. Lucille explains how wartime ration books worked, trading booklets full of stamps for provisions, “food was scarce on account of that war, I imagine. And sugar, sugar and gas seemed like was the worst things.”  An accomplished seamstress, Lucille sewed her own clothes and, with her mother watching the baby, she went to work at the local garment factory, sewing men’s shirts.  She recounts walking the half mile to catch a ten-cent ride in a farm truck, the bed outfitted with seats and a canvas cover. The same truck sometimes hauled cattle while they were at the factory.  She relates stories about Edd and his brother Lewis at the sawmill, about mail service during the war, and why she never could ask Edd about his war experiences.

sewing factory, Model A, churn, Red Cross, butter printer, parkway, Sunday School, shrapnel, horse, sled, ration books, stamps, coveralls, snow, sawmill, accident, berries, canning, jams, jellies, logging, CC Camps
Bio Sketch

Lucille Thomas Nolen (1922-2017), the daughter of Claude and Alma Thomas, lived in the Mount Ruffner area of Floyd County near the Blue Ridge Parkway. As a child she walked to New Haven Baptist Church where she became a lifelong member. Lucille worked as a seamstress for thirty-eight years in the local shirt factory, J. Freezer and Son, later Skyline. She married Edward Isaac Nolen [Edd] in 1942, the year of his being drafted into the U.S. Army during WWII.  The Nolens had four children and Edd pursued work in a local sawmill with his brother Lewis. Edd’s father, Amos Cabel [Cab] Nolen owned the Nolen Mill on Pine Creek.  A gifted seamstress and quilter, Lucille often shared her gift of sewing to help out family and friends. In the summer she enjoyed gardening, cooking, and canning, especially jams and jellies from local berries. Her beloved apple pie was a family tradition, a recipe handed down by her mother.


The WWII-era interview series was directed by the Floyd Story Center at the Old Church Gallery, where the complete archives are held. The project was guided by a collaborative community-university-public school partnership with Radford University Sociology and Anthropology professor Dr. Melinda Bollar Wagner. Lucille Nolen’s WWII-era interview was conducted by members of the Roots with Wings project at Floyd County High School. The nine-year WWII series, 2007-2015, was compiled into a DVD set and biographical booklet with thirty-eight student films. Lucille’s family story can also be found here, as compiled by Randall A. Wells in his Floydiana series. Generations will be enriched by the recordings of all who shared their memories. Thank you all.