Hannah Lou Southwell McGowan

Hannah Lou Southwell McGowan
McGowan family, 2015; front: Gabriella, Mary, Hannah Lou, Anne Marie; back: Marco, Austin, Matthew, Marisa, Michael

Few people can say they met their soulmate in third grade, but Hannah Lou Southwell did when she and Charles “Charlie” McGowan became classmates at Southside Grammar School.

From ceremony to reception, 1952

From ceremony to reception, 1952

Hannah Lou and her parents, Charles Theodore and Hazel (Walker) Southwell, moved to Granada and the home they built at 1011 Alhambra Drive South in the early 1930s. At that time, Paul Edmund and Florence (Jenkins) McGowan and their children, Robert “Bob,” Charles “Charlie” and Betty Ann also moved to Alhambra Drive North, just two blocks from the Southwell family.

“Charlie and I rode bikes together and played all the time because we lived so close to each other,” she said.

Charlie and Hannah Lou loved music and, after starting piano lessons at age five, Charlie became well-known as a pianist and accompanist. He and Hannah Lou both studied piano with Pierce Draughon and with Mrs. Kingsbury, who taught at South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church.

After graduating from Southside Grammar School, Hannah Lou and Charlies attended duPont Middle School. Hannah Lou recalls how they enjoyed the student orchestra. Mrs. Irene McDaniel, their red-haired music teacher, had also been Charlie’s second grade teacher at Southside Grammar School.

“She formed a small student orchestra. Charlie played piano and I played flute. He also played for church, at school and even at the companies where he worked. He performed his senior piano recital at Friday Musicale in 1947,” Hannah Lou said. “Mrs. McDaniel gave us tickets to attend the symphony and concerts by famous classical musicians and popular singers brought to Jacksonville by the Civic Music Association, like Itzhak Perlman and Marilyn Horne.”

During high school, Charlie had a part-time evening and weekend job playing piano and selling sheet music at the Cohen Brothers Department Store. Later, Charlie served as president of the Civic Music Association.

Charlie, Hannah Lou, Mark, Paul McGowan

Charlie, Hannah Lou, Mark, Paul McGowan

Hannah Lou had many hobbies. She learned from a friend to sew all her own clothes. She was an avid photographer from the moment her maternal grandfather, Henry Walker, gave her his old black box camera he had used since the turn of the century. She took photos of her friends and Girl Scouts, developing the photos in a darkroom at home. At Landon she was the official Landonian yearbook photographer and Charlie was co-editor his senior year.

Hannah Lou was also a Landon Lionette and vice president of her senior class; she said she still stays in contact with her Landon High School friends. Charlie was school and class pianist and a cheerleader his senior year.

After graduating from Landon High School in 1947, their relationship was tested when Charlie’s father moved the family to New York in a job transfer.

“We found out they were moving the day after our graduation. It was devastating,” she said. “Charlie moved with his family to Scarsdale, New York. When I visited his family, his father bought us Broadway show tickets. We got to see ‘Annie Get Your Gun,’ starring Ethel Merman and ‘South Pacific,’ starring Mary Martin.”

Charlie attended college at Franklin Marshall University in Pennsylvania and graduated with a sociology degree in 1951. Hannah Lou graduated from Mary Washington University in Virginia with her degree in dramatic arts and speech.

Hannah Lou returned to her family’s Granada home after college and worked for Delta Airlines from 1951 to 1953. Charlie also returned to Jacksonville and he and Hannah Lou were married June 28, 1952 at South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church by Pastor Stephen T. Harvin. Her bridal gown was purchased from Purcell’s, located downtown next to Hemming Plaza at the Northeast corner of Laura and Monroe Streets. Their reception was held at the Southwells’ Granada home and Hannah Lou worried that it would be too hot, with no air conditioning.

Hannah Lou married into a fishing family, as she describes the McGowans, and many days were spent fishing and crabbing off Charlie’s parents’ dock on the river. Charlie’s parents took the entire family on vacation every summer to Kings Bay Lodge at Crystal River on the Gulf, a wonderful family tradition they enjoyed for years.

Charlie McGowan and Hannah Lou Southwell, college years

Charlie McGowan and Hannah Lou Southwell, college years

“I wasn’t good at fishing but Charlie always brought home buckets of crabs and there was a time when I thought I’d die if I saw another bucket of those crabs. Now, I’d love to see Charlie bringing a bucket of them!” she said.

Their first home was at 1738 Flagler Avenue in San Marco. At that time, Charlie worked for Southern Bell for one year before he was drafted into the U.S. Army and assigned to Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina. After his discharge in 1954 they returned to Jacksonville and Charlie’s position at Southern Bell. They purchased a home in Lakewood, but Charlie was transferred to Orlando in 1955.

They resided in Orlando until 1958 when another transfer returned them to Jacksonville and they purchased a home in San Jose. Now the parents of two young sons, the couple settled into family life. Their sons, Paul Theodore “Ted” and Mark attended Kings Trail Elementary and are Bolles graduates. Hannah Lou recalls days of volunteering as classroom mother, attending PTA meetings, garden and bridge clubs, and raising their sons.

In 1966 Charlie and Hannah Lou designed and built their home on San Viscaya Drive, on a lot given to them by Charlie’s father, who had purchased the riverfront property in 1950. They chose J.C. McLaughlin, Jr. as their builder.

“We chose McLaughlin because he had constructed nice homes on Rustic Lane, the next street south of San Viscaya,” Hannah Lou said.

The couple grew roses, orchids and had a greenhouse. They planted lemon and pink seedless grapefruit trees that yielded delicious fruit. They also had several citrus trees from the original orange grove, until the last one died recently, Hannah Lou said.

    Charlie worked until 1987 when he took early retirement at age 57 rather than be transferred back to Orlando. He was AT&T District Manager when he retired from his 36-year career. At that time, the couple were caring for both of their elderly mothers and an aunt. Charlie went to work as a travel agent for Shamrock Travel, owned by friends and located in Lakewood. This job led to many trips within the United States and abroad.

The couple spent years traveling to visit family and friends, to the North Carolina mountains and many European countries and enjoyed several cruises. Hannah Lou smiled as she described how Charlie would groan when anyone mentioned a travel location because she would always say, “I’ve been there” and describe the trip.

A year after the Southwells celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2002, Charlie passed away.

Now Hannah Lou, 87, stays active and engaged with her friends, neighbors, church and community. She walked religiously two or three miles every day for the past 18 years with her next door neighbor, Patricia “Pat” Boney, who recently passed away. She attends a weekly Tai Chi class and several lunch groups. A 70-year member of South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church, Hannah Lou volunteers with eight other senior ladies (average age 82), to staff the church kitchen for vacation Bible school every summer.

This month, Hannah Lou will celebrate 50 years living in her San Jose area home and, if she had a wish, it would be that Charlie could celebrate with her, too.

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

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