SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. — For over three decades, Buddy and Edye Gale Houser have worked at Dollywood together. Now, their sights are set on retirement.
Before visitors enter the theme park in Sevier County, the Housers are some of the first smiling faces you will see. It's been that way for 32 years.
Dollywood was only 5 years old when they started working there.
"We were only going to work a couple of years," Edye Gale said. "But it didn't turn out that way."
The high school sweethearts said their vows 50 years ago.
"It just feels like we just got married the other day," Edye Gale said. "You know, the key is if he lets me have my way, everything's cool."
In heart, hiring and humor, they've never been far apart. They never run out of things to talk about, and can always find a way to make each other laugh.
Edye Gale works in ticketing.
"I've been in the front gate ticket area my whole 32 years," Edye Gale said. "In fact, I had no desire to move anywhere else in the park because this was such a good team."
Buddy works at the turnstiles. He spent the first part of his Dollywood employment in the accounting office. Despite working feet away from each other, they hardly see each other at work.
"We might see each other in passing," Buddy said. "It's no big deal."
This isn't the first time they've shared a career either. They are both retired teachers.
Buddy spent 30 years at Seymour High School. He was a math teacher who taught algebra and geometry. He also taught a Bible history class.
Edye Gale taught at Gatlinburg-Pittman for 30 years. She taught mainly business subjects: economics, business law, general business, computer and keyboarding. She even taught sociology and psychology at one time.
"I told him I said, 'I feel like I've been working 62 years because 30 years at the schoolhouse, 32 here,' and he said, 'But you can't add them together,' and I said, 'Hide and watch me,'" Edye Gale said.
They started working at the theme park in the summers to pay off their house, but over 30 years later the Dolly bug bit along the way. They've even gotten to meet the queen herself.
"Oh yes, Dolly is wonderful," Edye Gale said. "In fact, she went to high school with my brother and my brother had a couple of dates with her. But, he said it took too much gas to go back to the mountains and get her. Gas was 26 cents a gallon at the time."
There's a formula to mixing work and personal relationships.
"Well, the secret is that we both love the Lord," Buddy said.
They both attend Valley Grove Baptist Church. Buddy is a deacon and Edye Gale sings in the choir.
"You have to listen to each other," Edye Gale said. "You can't talk at people or talk at each other. You have to actually have a conversation."
Their time at the theme park is coming to a close soon. They plan to retire on July 30, 2022. After dozens of years of welcoming guests through the gates, they're excited to experience the other side.
"I plan on getting that retiree pass, and I'll be here as a guest," Edye Gale said.
They will never forget the memories made and the relationships forged.
"This has been a fun place to work, and if it had not been we probably wouldn't have stayed," Buddy said.
For a couple more months, they'll still be the friendly faces you first see.
The couple will forever leave their mark on the park too. Dollywood created signs with the couple's names on them.
Buddy and Edye Gale Houser's signs at Dollywood
Those signs will be mounted and hidden somewhere in the park, so make sure to try and find them when you're there!