Joel Vaughan Publishes Book About His Hometown of Fries, Virginia, on the Banks of the New River

Posted by Monica Hoel
Joel Vaughan has just published a book about a little town in Virginia that is the source of one of Southwest Virginia’s most popular jokes. Fries, Virginia, is pronounced “freeze” – but the joke is, “It’s freeze in the winter and fries in the summer.”

Joel grew up in Fries, and his book tells the fascinating history of the town, but it’s also about his family. He says it was easy to recall all the family stories because he had heard them so many times growing up. “I was reared in close proximity to my grandparents and aunts and uncles. It’s a ‘walking distance town’ so our whole family all lived close by. I always had someone to take care of me.” Joel says he didn’t mind that everyone in the family knew all his business – because in such a small town, everyone knows your business anyway!

Fries got its start as a company town for a cotton mill that built a dam and took advantage of the power of the New River. It was a company town, and even as the industry waned, the town reflected the corporation’s influences. In fact, the investments and facilities provided by the cotton mill led to one of Joel’s college activities; he played on the tennis team at Emory & Henry, and Fries actually had premier athletics facilities thanks to the mill.

Even though the stories were very familiar to Joel, he was surprised to find that they could still evoke emotion in him as he put the tales to paper. “I have so much appreciation for how hard my parents (and extended family) worked to take care of all of us, to send me to college, and to serve our country as members of the Greatest Generation. It makes me emotional to think about all that.”

Joel lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and is the Chief of Staff for Focus on the Family. After graduating from Emory & Henry he got involved in politics, and that led him to meet Don Hodel, who was United States Secretary of Energy and Secretary of the Interior during the Reagan administration. When Focus on the Family’s founder, Dr. James Dobson, retired Hodel took over the reins and asked Joel to join him. In addition to political involvement, Joel had also been very active in prison ministry and completed a master’s in theology from Regent University.

Joel has now been with Focus on the Family for 18 years and he only has one regret: he really misses Virginia. But he married a woman from Denver and their two children were born there so Colorado is home for the long-term.

You can get a copy of Joel’s book, Memories of a Generation: Along the New River in Virginia, for $14.99, including shipping. Anyone who wishes to order a copy can mail a personal check to Joel Vaughan c/o A Marketing Services, 4435 Sagamore Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80920. You can also enjoy a conversation with Joel in the WEHC Archives (interviews are in alphabetical order): https://archive.org/details/OntheDuckPondWall

  • Joel Vaughan
    Emory & Henry Class of 1983

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