• Charla H.

Guest Post: Growing Up Appalachia Proud on Island Creek


Growing up on Island Creek in Pikeville, KY, my sister and I had the best childhood ever. No, seriously, it was almost magical. For one, we were raised in a house that spanned generations and held an enormous amount of history. My paternal grandmother, Emilee Compton Justice, was born in this house, was married in the front room of this house, and later passed away in this same house. My father, James Charles Justice, was raised next door in an apartment that my great-grandfather Georgie Compton built for my Mamow Emilee and my Papow James Justice Jr. after they were married. After my father and my mother Anita Hampton Justice were married, they moved into the house I grew up in (mentioned above) to help take care of my great grandmother, Lillie Leedy Compton.


As I mentioned, our childhood was awesome. Our Mamow and Papow Justice lived right next door, and for the first seven years of my life, owned and operated Compton's Grocery (a business started by my great-grandpa Georgie). My earliest memories include this store. I vividly remember all the customers coming into the store and my grandparents’ generosity. My Mamow always seemed to have a definite business sense about her. My Papow was a Deputy Sherriff. Next door, to the right of my Mamow and Papow's house, lived Ethelene Bray and her boys Chris, Eric, and Dusty. Down the road lived Barb and Juanita Phillips, cousins of my Mamow’s. Next to them was my great uncle JB, and next to him was his daughter Anntionette and her sons, Bobby, Corey, and Kolby. To the left of the house I grew up in was my great-grandparents’ barn, that as kids we would spend much of our summer days exploring. (Fun Fact: A few years later the barn was torn down, and John Paul and Lois Hamilton moved in - they would later become my in-laws.)


Back to the point of my awesome childhood: As you can see from above I was surrounded by family. My childhood growing up days in Appalachia centered around playing with the neighborhood kids, especially our cousins, Bobby and Corey, and later Kolby, in Barb's bottom across the street, going to church with Mamow (which was just up the road at Island Creek Old Regular Baptist), after church Sunday dinners hosted by my Granny Lillie, lots of evenings spent on the front porch, family members (my Mamow's sister and brothers and their families, visiting for Thanksgiving and Christmas every year), a particular Christmas in my memory stands out, where our great uncle Roger dressed up as Santa, and catching lightning bugs and playing badminton with Daddy until it was too dark to see. In short, looking back on all of these memories (there are way too many to name here, but all are exceptional and substantial), all of these events, all of these people, shaped me and my sister into the people we are today. People who are loving, people who are compassionate, people who know the meaning of working hard for what you have and never taking anything for granted.


My sister and I eventually grew up and moved away from Island Creek. We each now have our own lives and our own homes, but never once have we forgotten where we came from. My sister is a successful school readiness coach and resides with her husband and two daughters in Berea, Kentucky. My husband, Tom Hamilton (who is the son of John Paul and Lois Hamilton who were mentioned above, and now share a driveway with my parents), and I reside in Allen Park, Michigan, with our 90 pound bulldog Sheldon, and own and operate three community newspapers. No matter how far we may go in our lives, Island Creek will always be home. There is not a day that goes by that we are not thankful for our childhood growing up in Appalachia. My parents still live in that house we grew up in and each time we visit we are flooded with memories, and thankful for all of the times (good and bad) spent there. These memories will live in our hearts forever. I know without a doubt that all of the people, and places, and circumstances we encountered helped shape us into the people we are today. As my mom always said, "Treat others the way you want to be treated." Growing up in Appalachia, in Pikeville, KY, on Island Creek, was a blessing....one I will treasure forever.


Guest post by Charla H.

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