Carlyn Bloodsworth was 10 years old when she met Lou Smith, who was 13, at a Friday night dance at a youth center in Pensacola, Fla.
“I thought he was so cute,” Carlyn said.
Lou, who had just moved to town, became part of Carlyn’s group of friends who walked to school together. His house was the farthest from the school; Carlyn’s was the closest.
When she heard him whistle, it was time to leave the house.
They became close despite Carlyn’s parents disapproval. It was the 1950s, and Lou’s parents were divorced. Carlyn’s parents didn’t believe in divorce and weren’t happy that Carlyn was seeing a boy whose parents were no longer married.
It didn’t help that Lou, though smart, didn’t like school.
Lou and Carlyn’s attended a lot of dances together and chose “My Special Angel” by Bobby Helms as their song.
They continued dating until Lou started attending St. Andrews School in Sewanee, Tenn. Though they “officially” split up, they still saw each other whenever he was home.
Once Carlyn was walking home from a dance holding a balloon that was part of that night’s decorations. Lou ran past her, grabbed her balloon, and then walked backward, holding the balloon and teasing her.
“All of a sudden, I knew I was going to marry him,” Carlyn said. “I just knew.”
The couple married Oct. 8, 1963, when Lou was 20 and Carlyn was 17.
Lou had planned to join the U.S. Air Force, but a “fast-talking Army recruiter” convinced him to join the Army.
Lou went to Officer Candidate School and Carlyn began having second thoughts.
Carlyn, who loved Pensacola and didn’t want to move, decided a trial separation was in order. Two years after they married, they were divorced.
“I wanted the 2.5 children, the station wagon, the house,” she said. “I told him to call me when he got out of the Army. And if I’m not married, I’ll be happy to marry you again.”
Two years after the divorce, Lou remarried and had two sons with his second wife. They were married 25 years before getting divorced.
Carlyn remarried three years after her divorce from Lou and had two daughters. After 20 years, she got divorced.
Carlyn was working for the Lighthouse for the Blind in Sarasota, Fla., when out of the blue, Lou called and asked if she would have lunch with him.
The night before, she had taken a legal pad, drawn a line down the middle and wrote down the qualities she liked in a man and qualities she didn’t like in a man.
Driving to work, she was thinking about her list when “My Special Angel” came on the radio.
It was a good sign, but Carlyn was still unsure if meeting Lou was a good idea.
“I was nervous,” she said. “I hadn’t seen him in more than 25 years.”
Carlyn kept telling herself it was just lunch. She didn’t know if Lou was still married or not.
Lou was in Sarasota for a funeral. He was still in the Army (a lieutenant colonel), stationed at Fort Benning.
After their lunch meeting, Lou and Carlyn started dating.
Thirty years and nine days after their first marriage, they married again.
Since he was stationed at Fort Benning, Carlyn had to move.
“I never wanted to leave Sarasota,” she said. “I just really loved Sarasota. For three months after moving here, I cried Now, I wouldn’t move back for anything.”
Lou is now retired from the Army, and Carlyn is retired from Aflac.
Together, they have nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
A fresh start
Almost 20 years after being married for the second time, Lou and Carlyn have figured out how to be happy.
“Oh, God, yes,” is what Carlyn said when asked if her marriage to Lou was better the second time around.
“We’re older, more mature and we appreciate each other,” she said. “We’re more tolerant. It’s OK to be different. He doesn’t have to be my ideal.
“Now that we’re older, he does what makes him happy; I do what makes me happy and we do what makes us happy.”