By: Jack Jolley
(1880 (?) – 1963)
My grandfather was Oscar M. Nolen, who was the proud and respected gate watchman at Pepperell Mill for 35 years.
I never really knew how well respected he was until he died on a cold, sunny day in December, 1963. He
was in good health before he died.
I remember the day because it was shortly after President
Kennedy was killed. The wake was held at my Aunt Lexie Carroll’s home in Pepperell and customarily,
his body was laid out at the home. Hundreds of people came to pay their last respects. There
were so many cars in the procession to the cemetery that I couldn’t see the end of the line. I felt
proud to be his grandson.
Oscar and my grandmother, Nancy Zane (Zanie) Butler,
came to Opelika in the late 1920’s by way of Roanoke, AL and Millageville, Ga. No records exist,
but it’s suspected that he began working at the mill in the early 30’s, and was Supervisor of the auxiliary police
force for the mill during WWII. Over the years he became the permanent Gate Watchman and greeted everyone
as they entered the mill. I remember sitting on his lap in the gate house, and be would brag on me being
his grandson to everyone. Of course he did this with all of his grand children.
Oscar and Zanie had 8 children, 6 girls and 2 boys.
The girls were, Lexie, my mother Annie, Vena, Brooxie, Vera, and Avris.
Oscar wore a white shirt and tie
most of the time. The family story is that he slept with his shirt and tie on so that he didn’t have
to waste time in the morning getting dressed.
Oscar loved being around people and arguing about politics.
His favorite activities were playing dominoes with his friends in the shack behind the barbershop, and going fishing.
He also loved farming and spent a lot of his time at his son Albert’s farm in Salem.
To this day,
all of the grandchildren still talk about Oscar and what he and my grandmother meant to us.
I want to thank Jane Worthington
for giving me the opportunity to share our family memories and pictures with you. Like you, Pepperell was
a special place for me, and I’m grateful for the 8 years that I lived there. I pull out my 1950 Dragon
from time to time and wonder what happened to all those great kids that I went to school with.
Front: Grandma Nolen, Oscar
L to R..Lexie,
Annie, Vena, Brooxie, Vera, Avris
The two boys on the left are Albert and Alvin (Buck). The others are Oscar's brothers with Oscar
on the right of the picture. All worked in the mill at some point in their lives. Buck
fought in WWII as a medical corpsman and was killed in the Philippines in May of 1945. The American Legion Hall in
Pepperell (Nolen, Smith, Kirkland American Legion Hall) was named after Alvin.