George & Eleanor Carswell

There are many benefits to a long married life and, for George and Eleanor Carswell, one benefit is being compatibly in tune with each other after 63 years of marriage.

The deep affection and respect between the two, married in 1952 at Riverside Baptist Church, is evident. Their memories are of a beautiful day, a perfect service by Pastor James Stewart and a joyful reception at Timuquana Country Club. Since then, their marriage has the elements of an old-fashioned love story.

60th Anniversary Portrait, 2012

60th Anniversary Portrait, 2012

“It’s having many interests…activities in common and doing them together. We both love music. Some of our favorite things have been singing together in church choir for years, which we still do, and traveling to Atlanta to see opera performances by the Metropolitan Opera. We like to work on our home, stay active and busy doing things – together,” Eleanor said.

 

George Carswell and Eleanor Lanford first became friends singing in the choir and participating in the youth group at Riverside Baptist Church. Eleanor recalled George as the handsome young man who played trumpet for services and always on Easter Sunday.

“When we were young we were lucky to have a mentor who encouraged us to do and see many things and to explore our interests…that mentor was C. Edward Bryan, our longtime friend,” Eleanor said. Bryan was the Riverside Baptist Church choir director/organist from 1942 until his death in 1977.

The lifelong romance began in 1948 when George, a student at Jacksonville University in Riverside, finally asked Eleanor, a slim girl with a lovely smile, then a Lee High junior, for a date. Their first date was a Lee High School basketball game; although they don’t remember where they had dinner, they do remember that date as the beginning of an enduring love that grew from long friendship.

Carswell family, 1975: Eleanor, George, Lee, back: Tom and Kathy

Eleanor, 83, moved to Jacksonville in 1934 from Georgia when she was two years old after her father, Thomas Alvin Lanford was transferred here for his job with the Federal Reserve Bank, where he worked for 49 years. Her mother was Patricia (Garwood) Lanford, and Eleanor’s only sibling was the late Barbara Patricia (Lanford) Bowers, who passed away in 2009.


The Lanford family lived in two apartments, San Juline overlooking Memorial Park and an apartment at 2055 Herschel Street, and a home at 1467 Avondale Avenue before buying their last home on Van Wert Avenue in 1954.

Eleanor attended West Riverside Elementary, John Gorrie Junior High School and was a 1950 Lee High School graduate. She was among the first class of freshman students to attend the new Jacksonville University campus in Arlington. Eleanor finished the last semester of her sophomore year at the University of Florida before the couple married in fall 1952.

Meanwhile, George, 84, was also originally from Georgia. He moved with his parents, George Franklin Carswell, Sr. and Katherine Louise (Williams) Carswell, to an Ingleside Avenue home when he was in elementary school. He attended West Riverside Elementary and John Gorrie Junior High School two years ahead of Eleanor.

College years, 1950-1951

College years, 1950-1951

George started work for the Federal Reserve Bank downtown at age 17 immediately after graduating from Lee High School in 1948. He completed many intensive law and graduate banking courses, was a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, attended JU two years, then transferred to UF where he graduated with a degree in business administration in 1952.

Upon graduation, George went to work for the civil service in security screening. He then worked for Prudential Insurance until 1960 when he was called to active military duty, stationed in Ft. Meade, Maryland.

After his military duty ended, George returned to Prudential, before taking a job in accounting with Independent Life Insurance until his 1997 retirement.

While her youngest son was still in elementary school, Eleanor served as a substitute teacher at Ortega Elementary during the late 1960s and early 1970s. She especially remembers Principal Velva Scheibel who insisted on daily music and art education along with academics.

“One year she coordinated a student performance of the opera Madame Butterfly…they made scenery, costumes, sang simple songs and had speaking parts. The children loved it, there was a photo in the Florida Times-Union and people still remember that performance,” Eleanor said.

The couple’s first homes were Avondale apartments until 1957, after which they bought a new home on Brookridge Road where they raised three children and lived until 1983.

Two of the Carswell children now live in Atlanta: daughter Katherine Patricia Milligan and husband Rodney have two children; son Thomas Franklin Carswell and wife Brenda (Hankins) and their two children. Lee Edward Carswell and his wife Debora (Morgan) of Orlando also have two children.

1955, with daughter Kathy

1955, with daughter Kathy

One Sunday afternoon in 1983 the couple were leisurely driving through Avondale when they spotted a For Sale sign in a yard near her parents’ home on Van Wert Street. They bought the 1924 two-story brick home and moved to 1820 Van Wert.

A great loss to Eleanor was the 2009 death of her dear friend, Margaret Alice “Peggy” (Miller) Young. Eleanor and Peggy were best friends and classmates from second grade through college at JU. Like the Carswells, Peggy and her late husband Rev. George Dibrell Young, Jr. were longtime sweethearts, married 57 years.

“I miss Peggy, we had such a special friendship. I lived on Avondale Avenue when she lived on Tivoli Street growing up. We rode bikes everywhere and swam together at the Good Shepherd Pool. We’d leave early and be gone all day by ourselves. We had the freedom to explore, be independent and do activities on our own….which is unheard of for children today. That is very sad to me.  On Saturdays we’d each get $1 to spend. We rode the bus for five cents downtown to the Florida Theatre, to watch a five-cent movie or the children’s matinee movies. We loved to sing along with the children’s songs and follow the bouncing ball on the movie screen. The organ would rise up out of the floor and Jimmy Knight would play organ music.  Afterwards we went next door to a photography booth where we sat inside and it cost 15 cents for a photo. We ate at the Krystal’s, then wandered in the dime store to buy something small like lipstick. Our very last stop was always the Donut Machine in Cohen’s, where we got two donuts for 10 cents. They had delicious homemade candy for sale, too,” she said.

The Carswells have been members of Riverside Presbyterian church and its choir for 33 years. Eleanor plays bridge, knits and sews. There have been several beloved Carswell dogs; their current canine is a Chinese Crested long-haired shelter dog, Ming Tu, who seems to have no idea she is a dog.

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
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