Rufus and Mariam McClure

Rufus and Mariam McClure
Their particular love story can be traced back to a piano teacher and the Bolles School. In fact, Bolles had factored into Mariam’s life long before she met Rufus McClure, seven years her senior, who was an English teacher there.

By Laura Jane Pittman
Resident Community News

Mariam and RufusMariam Akra McClure can trace her roots all the way back to when her father and three brothers came to Jacksonville from Lebanon. Orphaned and fleeing the country after WWI in hopes of a better economic situation, the Akra brothers – TK, Meshall, Philip and Louis – went into business together in the 1930s to grow what became a series of successful department stores.

Their particular love story can be traced back to a piano teacher and the Bolles School. In fact, Bolles had factored into Mariam’s life long before she met Rufus McClure, seven years her senior, who was an English teacher there.

Their particular love story can be traced back to a piano teacher and the Bolles School. In fact, Bolles had factored into Mariam’s life long before she met Rufus McClure, seven years her senior, who was an English teacher there.

“My uncle TK started the business with a horse and buggy, selling things out of the back of it,” said Mariam, whose family had a house on Gary Street, then Alexandria Place. Her uncle’s 1913 house on Home Street, near Reddi Arts, is one of the few original houses still there. “When I was growing up, there were three locations – the original at 8th and Main streets, one in 5 Points in Riverside and one on Miami Road in the Southside.”

Mariam’s father Philip ran the Miami Road store, which eventually moved to St. Nicholas where Mudville Grille is located. Akra Brothers sold shoes, yards of cloth and clothes, among other things.

“Women used to make so many clothes back then that we did a big business selling yards of fabric,” said Mariam. “We also sold Buster Brown shoes, and I can remember that the company sent someone really small dressed up like Buster Brown to one of the grand openings of one of the stores.”

Miriam grew up around the stores, but only worked there a little, she said. One of her fondest jobs was working as a volunteer backstage at the San Marco Little Theatre
(now Theatre Jacksonville).

“I worked backstage painting sets, and the director was wonderful to work with,” she remembered. “One time I got to dress up in costume and introduce a play by saying the prologue of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was a lot of fun.”

After graduating from St. Paul’s Catholic School in Jacksonville and from Webber College in South Florida, Miriam worked for a short time in Atlanta. But her instincts told her she should move back to Jacksonville. And she is grateful to those instincts, because without them, she would never have met her husband.

Mariam’s father Philip ran the Miami Road store, which eventually moved to St. Nicholas where Mudville Grille is located today.

Mariam’s father Philip ran the Miami Road store, which eventually moved to St. Nicholas where Mudville Grille is located today.

Their particular love story can be traced back to a piano teacher and the Bolles School. In fact, Bolles had factored into Mariam’s life long before she met Rufus McClure, seven years her senior, who was an English teacher there.

“When I look back, I have always been connected to Bolles. Dr. Schnauss delivered me at St. Vincent’s – his sons went to Bolles. The nurse who helped deliver me was the mother of one of Rufus’s students at Bolles,” she recalled. “I also used to go to dances there when I was 14 or 15.”

Long story short, Rufus and Mariam met while she was on a double date at a soiree. She remembered the red vest that he wore. After a whirlwind year courtship, the two got engaged at The Temple, a beautifully decorated studio (and site of many concerts, soirees and get-togethers) located at Bolles, which was run by her former piano teacher James G. Roy. Growing up, Miriam had taken lessons from Roy at Grace Chapel across the street from Bolles, which today is San Jose Episcopal Church.
“At evening soirees, we would listen to music and have food and drink. There was a lounge where Calico Corners is today, and that is where I met Rufus,” said Mariam. “Rufus borrowed The Temple and took me there to propose.”

Bolles has continued to play a huge role in their lives. Rufus handed all three of their children their Bolles diplomas when they graduated. And he continued to teach English there until his retirement in 2000, influencing decades of high school students.

And why are Rufus and Mariam still happily married?

“We got married on Friday, January 6, 1956, the Feast of the Epiphany, and went to Nassau on our honeymoon. On Sunday, we went looking for a church to go to mass,” recalled Mariam with a smile. “For some reason, the priest had the whole congregation stand up and renew their vows. So we got married on a Friday and renewed our vows on that Sunday. And that’s why we have been married for 58 years.”

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