Few people understand the beauty and the struggle of life in Johnson County with the depth and objectivity Angie Gambill can convey her feelings toward her mountain home. Born Angela Adams, Angie has deep roots in Johnson County and an unfaltering pride in the aspects that inspire her to continue to call Johnson County home.
Angies parents, the late Mamie Adalee (Crowder) Adams and the late Smith Johile Adams made their home in Johnson County. The pair knew each other growing up, as most families in Johnson County did and at the ambitious and wide-eyed ages of 21 and 22, the pair were married. They eloped with two other couples Mamas brother and her cousin and their fiancés. If I remember correctly, Mamas brother, my Uncle Orville (Crowder), found a letter from Daddy to Mama talking about it. He told her if she didnt let him and my Aunt Maude (Greer) go along and get married too, that he would tell Grandma and Grandpa what they were up to. Im not sure how her cousin, Wilma (Warren) and her beau, Nat Tester, ended up with them. All three couples got married in the same ceremony, said Angie.
Mr. and Mrs. Adams chose to make their home in Johnson County and the pair are an iconic representation of all it means to be Appalachian. Angie grew up surrounded by an extensive extended family and gained wisdom through the lessons of her mother who embodied strength at every turn and her father who instilled within her a great love of the land she calls home. One of my favorite childhood memories is stepping off the school bus on a hot August afternoon to find Daddy waiting for me, fishing gear stashed in the back of our old pickup truck, a brown bag stuffed with Vienna sausages and crackers on the seat up front, and a twinkle in his eye that told me I wouldnt have to worry about homework that evening. One of the first lessons I learned from him was that education didnt stop at the doors of the school. Mama, were gonna go see if the bluegills are bitin, I yelled through the screen door as I flung my books across the back porch toward the kitchen and ran to the truck, Angie wrote in a published dedication to her father. When recalling her mother, Angie writes, First to mind is my mothers unwavering faith in God and her unfaltering commitment to instill that faith in us. She knew that God has no grandchildren, and that her Christianity could not sustain us. We must ultimately discover and claim our own relationships with Christ. Some of my earliest memories are of Mama carrying me to the little country church just down the road from Grandmas house. On my knees in that cinder block building, I gave my heart to Jesus, with Mama at my side. I didnt know then how she searched and prayed for a place to worship that would teach her children more about Gods love and grace, and less of the wrath and condemnation that had terrified her as a child. I dont want my kids to be afraid of God. I want more for them than fire insurance. I can still hear those words echo through the years.
Growing up in Johnson County was a blast, according to Angie. Nobody had a lot of money but that didnt matter. For there was adventure waiting around every corner. I loved the sense of community growing up here. I dont think I assigned any word to the feeling of belonging, but thats really what it was community, said Angie. Parents didnt worry about their kids like we have to now. Everybody looked out for everybody else. We rode bicycles, romped through the woods, climbed trees, caught crawdads in the creek and played in the hayloft never with a thought of anything happening worse than a skinned knee, she said. Afternoons were filled with little country stores and Grape Nehis. Angie went on to recall her visits to Ellis and Marie McGlamerys country store, We didnt have much money, but when I had a couple quarters burning a hole in my pocket, I would head over to McGlamerys to buy candy and a Grape Nehi. Lots of times I would pick up drink bottles by the roadside and take them to the store to trade for candy. Then you paid a deposit for the glass bottle and when you took it back, the store would give you the money back or subtract it from what you were buying. Mr. and Mrs. McGlamery were always so good to us kids. I would have loved going even without the candy.
Though both of Angies parents have passed away, their lessons of love, community, faith and an appreciation for the simpler things in life live on. Today, Angie Gambill is a married mother of three and grandmother of three. Her husband, Gary, pastors the church she grew up in. Our church was and is our family, said Angie. Our love for God is the center of our lives, and we have tried to raise our children in that love, she said.
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