Nancy Faulk Loethen

Nancy Faulk Loethen was born in Chadbourn, North Carolina. She and her five older siblings were raised by her mother and grandparents, who lived on a farm. She experienced the war through listening to the radio and reading the letters of neighbors whose sons served in the military. 

In this interview, conducted by her grandson Zachary, Nancy recalls participating in town blackouts and hearing bomber planes fly out of nearby Fort Bragg. As a thirteen-year-old when the war ended, Nancy remembers rejoicing after hearing President Roosevelt’s victory speech on the radio. She also remembers growing up on a farm and balancing work and school attendance.

Working on the Farm

We worked very hard on the farm, we worked from the time the sun come up until it went down every day. And then after the sun went down, after we’d eaten, we’d go out in the garden and pick vegetables that we were gonna have to cook the next day out of the garden, like peas and green beans and butter beans and tomatoes and things like that. We had to prepare the beans and get them ready to cook the next day that night, because we didn’t have time on a working day to do it. We always called [it] dinner in the middle of the day because that’s when we ate our big meal and then in the evening we had leftovers from what we had at dinner.

During the time that tobacco was in, and the strawberry fields were in, I’d have to get up early in the morning. My aunt and uncle raised strawberries for a living. They had a huge strawberry farm, and I would have to go pick quarts of strawberries until the field was picked, and then I would come home and get washed up and had to walk to school after that. Of course, I was only in school half a day, but I made very good grades in school ‘cause my grandmother through the school system was able to let me do that. The same thing happened with tobacco, that I only got to go to school half a day.

The End of War

I was nine when the war started, and we didn’t have a radio, or we didn’t have any communication at all, but the family that we worked for had a son that was the same age that I was at the time; in fact, we were classmates in school. They had a radio and they’d bring it out to the barn where we were working, or out to the field if they had electricity. We would hear what was going on in the war.

I remember so much they day that the war ended. All of us farm workers and everybody got together and was screaming and hollerin’ and blessing God for taking care of our country and our soldiers, and getting this thing over with. I can still hear Roosevelt on the radio today. I can still hear him declaring [V-E] Day, that the war was over. And it was such a happy time for everyone that lived in the United States. Not only us, but for everyone, that none of our young men were being sent over and being shot and killed anymore, and that our country was being taken care of.

Blackouts in Chadbourn

During the time of the war I remember a time, it was two nights, that they had blackouts. And everybody, no one in the whole town, could have no lights on whatsoever regardless to what kind you had at night, because we lived very close to Fort Bragg Army Base, something had happened in the war, I don’t remember exactly what, that required everybody to have their lights off.

I remember I was so scared as a child, my sisters and I were so scared, ‘cause we didn’t know what was gonna happen; we didn’t know if we were gonna be bombed, or what was gonna happen. We just huddled together because our whole family was so frightened because we did not know what to expect, whether we were gonna be killed, or whether the Japanese were gonna come over and bomb us or what.

We had kerosene lights, but every light had to be turned off – flashlights, no kind of lights. All streetlights were off, of course we lived out in the country and we had no street lights out there, but in the city all the street lights had to be turned off. Everyone had to have lights off. That was a very scary time, when you went outside and saw your neighbors, and of course in the country it’s so dark anyway because there’s no street lights or anything out there.

Sunday Baths

We had no running water, and so we had well water, and then later on we had a pump. You would pump the water in a three-bushel tub, galvanized tub, and you’d set it out in the sun all day, for the sun to warm it in order get in to take a bath, because we didn’t have bathrooms or running water. And that’s what we used to take our baths at night in. Whoever was in the family had their own tub, and they would fill ‘em and let the sun heat the water, and then it’d be nice and hot by the time the day ended for us to get our baths. And we were so dirty when we’d come in from working on the farm.

Every Sunday my grandfather would put a huge watermelon in a bucket and drop it real deep down into that water, that well, and the in afternoon on Sunday afternoon, our aunts, which was my grandmother’s daughters, two of them would come over and we’d get on the shady side of the house and we’d cut that watermelon. It was like a little Sunday social while they were visiting their mom on a Sunday afternoon.

A Tornado Strikes

We had a tornado hit us. We had a front porch all the way across the house, and it got under the roof and lifted the whole roof off the house. Back then, having no basements in North Carolina, all your electrical things were in – by that time we had electricity – where you had your fuse box and all was inside the house. And the lightening hit that electric box, and it splintered all the molding in the living room where the box was at, all inside the house. We were all just so afraid, because I was still very, very young, you know fourteen, fifteen years old, and that was a frightening thing.

But the joyous thing was that on Monday, our house was the only one hit, and neighbors, some people we did not even know that knew that our roof had come off our house – of course the roofing company was there with the materials on Monday morning right away–men, women both, women came and brought food, and the men all came to help my grandpa get a roof back on the house. And that roof was back on that house by the end of the day.

And I can remember my grandmother sending me a couple times into town that day – which I had to walk, it was almost a mile in – to go in to get something from the grocery store that she needed for this food. We put longboards out on sawhorses in the back yard and the food was set up there. The food that the wives brought, of the men that was working on top of the house, was food galore of anything you can think to eat. That roof was back on that house by the end of the day. I just would give anything if our world today was like it was back then. People looked after each other and cared for each other.