By Anita Debro
Special to the Birmingham Times
“You Had Me at Hello’’ highlights married couples and the love that binds them. If you would like to be considered for a future “Hello’’ column, or know someone who would, please send nominations to Erica Wright at email@example.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
ANNIE AND JOHNNY MCCLAIN
Married: December 31, 1967
Met: Annie and Johnny met on Nov. 10, 1965 at Prentice High School in Montevallo. Annie, a native of Marvel, Alabama, had already graduated from Prentice when she returned to the school to attend a basketball game with her younger sister. Johnny, a native of Coatopa, Alabama, had just started working at Prentice High as a teacher. He ran into Annie at the basketball game. “He and one of his friends pulled up beside our car,” Annie recalled. “His friend introduced us and he (Johnny) was acting all stuck up.”
Johnny, who was teaching accounting and history, said he greeted Annie. After the brief first conversation, Johnny walked off toward the school, but she told herself that if he looked back at her as he walked away, it meant he was interested. “He looked back,” she recalled.
“I had just turned 21 and I wasn’t looking for a girlfriend, but she was the most beautiful girl in Montevallo,” Johnny said. “Look at her,” he said.
“You can even tell now how beautiful she is.”
Later that night, Johnny approached Annie at the basketball game and asked her if she was seeing someone. Annie told him she was not. Johnny would later ask Annie’s brother Frank for her phone number.
First date: Almost three weeks had passed since their first meeting when Johnny finally called Annie and asked her out. But first, he had to speak with her father, who outlined exactly how his daughter was to be treated. “My dad would not even let me go on the date alone,” Annie said. “So I had to take my little sister.” Annie and Johnny went to the movies for that first date.
Going the distance: “I was impressed by her and I wanted to continue seeing her,” Johnny said.
“I really liked him but I wasn’t sure where the relationship was going,” Annie said. “But we kept seeing each other.”
Annie eventually left Montevallo to attend nursing school in Montgomery. The couple continued to date during that time as Johnny would come to Montgomery on the weekends. “I would count the days until he arrived,” she said. The couple would watch movies, take rides in the country and go out to eat.
The proposal: Johhny asked Annie to marry him on August 20, 1967. Neither can remember just how the proposal happened. Johnny did ask her adoptive mother for her hand in marriage afterwards and she agreed.
The wedding: The couple married in a small ceremony in Annie’s living room in Montgomery. The bride wore a blue dress that her friend made for her. “I remember that was the first night I had ever met my mother-in-law,” she recalled. Johnny remembers the wedding being a family affair. “My brother came from Flint, Michigan to be my best man,” he said. The two also remember an unexpected piece of advice from the minister who married them. “He told us if we were not happy then we could get a divorce,” Johnny recalled. “I had never heard a preacher bring up divorce before,” he laughed.
Words of Wisdom: After 50 years together, the couple said they are still in love. They credit communication and having “a higher power that you both believe in” for their longevity. The couple said they occasionally give out advice to younger couples, but sometimes are met with resistance. “A lot of young people feel like we don’t know what we are talking about because times are so different,” Johnny said. But he said good advice such as “always talk to one another” and “don’t go to bed angry” stand the test of time.
Johnny and Annie recalled one particular disagreement that they now laugh about. The couple at one point actually worked together— Johnny, who was then principal at Montevallo Middle School, was Annie’s boss. She worked as counselor. One day, Annie recalled, she arrived at school late. “Well it wasn’t the first time I was late,” she said. “And so he actually wrote me up.”
“I did,” he said with a smile. “She knew she wasn’t supposed to be late.”
Annie said she was upset that day at school but the two never talked about it at home. “We didn’t bring that home with us,” he said. “Love will get you past those disagreements.”
Happily ever after: Last year, Annie and Johnny celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a vow renewal at Ross Bridge, complete with a wedding dress a wedding party and family and friends. “It was the wedding we never had,” Annie said. Afterwards the couple, who enjoy traveling, took an anniversary trip to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. “Some of our best anniversaries have been on trips to New Orleans,” Johnny said, who enjoys playing tennis now in his free time. Annie now spends her retirement volunteering at their church New Vision Christian Center in Helena. They also enjoy spending time with their three children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.