Stamps, pen and paper, funny quips, warm fuzzies, and the occasional light jab all came together in over 400 letters written from 1948 to 1956 between Ray Hinson and Anna Claire Guice.
It was the summer of 1948 down at the old schoolhouse camp in Clermont Harbor, Mississippi when Ray saw Anna Claire and her sister Carol Lee for the first time. (She said he was staring at her.)
Ray lived in Lakeshore, a community a few miles down the beach road. Anna Claire’s mother and step-father had just purchased the old schoolhouse in Clermont Harbor to use as a summer beach house. The girls and their mom would stay all summer while their step-father would come to the camp after work on the weekends from Baton Rouge.
At first Anna Claire didn’t pay Ray any mind. At least she didn’t show it. She was almost 15 and he was 17. But as the summer progressed they became good friends. When the summer was over, they went back to their regular lives of high school for her, and junior college for him. They kept in touch by letter throughout the year and when summer came again, they picked up their relationship where they left off. During each school year she dated other guys in Baton Rouge and he dated other girls at college in Poplarville, MS, all the while keeping in touch by letter throughout the year.
But one year while she attended Louisiana State University, she met and dated a fellow who asked for her hand in marriage . He offered her a ring, but she said no, that God had other plans for her.
The next summer Ray and Anna Claire’s relationship warmed up considerably. But Ray entered the army for three years and was stationed in Germany. He and Anna Claire continued as they always had…keeping in touch by letter. When Ray was given leave to go home one Christmas, he brought with him an engagement ring wrapped in tissue that was slipped onto his dog tag chain for safe-keeping. When he proposed, she said yes. (Anna Claire said that with everyone else she dated, she always compared them to Ray.)
After he returned from his service in the Army he began LSU and she began planning a wedding. They married on August 17, 1956 at North Highlands Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, LA. This union brought forth four children — two daughters and two sons, who in turn gave them fourteen grand-children and five great-grandchildren. Nearly every member of their family spent many summer days on the beach in Clermont Harbor and more memories were made at the same old schoolhouse camp where Ray and Anna Claire met. (The camp had been dubbed by their children as the “Choo-Choo Train House” because it was so near the railroad tracks).
The courtship and fifty-three year marriage of Ray and Anna Claire was unique and blessed. And as always, until their last Christmas together in 2009, their gifts to each other were still signed “Ick” and “Jez.”
Ray and Anna Claire are my parents.