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story.lead_photo.caption Charlotte and Jack “Hoot” Gipson celebrated their forthcoming 50th anniversary with a family trip to Alaska. “I think it’s helped us that we were very good friends for years,” Charlotte says. “We really knew each other well before we got married.”

Charlotte Jackson told her cousin in 1964 that someday she was going to marry the boy she saw riding his motorcycle on roads around her house on Lake Conway.

"I still don't know what made me say that," she says. "I didn't know him."

The first time I saw my future spouse:

She says: “I saw him circling Gold Creek on his motorcycle and I said to my cousin that I was going to marry him someday. I had never met him. I never have figured out why I felt that way about that.”

He says: “I just thought, ‘Who’s this?’ I think my boat had broken down. I was building a race boat and I was having problems when they pulled up. We just talked for a minute and then I cleaned up and went on.”

On our wedding day:

She says: “We knew his friends were going to decorate up his Camaro so we decided to just park right out front and let them do it. We left it in my aunt’s driveway and took her new Chevrolet Impala — it was white with a black top and it was a really nice car. We left Conway and we were headed to North Little Rock and the muffler fell off of this new Impala.”

He says: “Checking in together as man and wife at a hotel … that was something.”

My advice for a long happy marriage is:

She says: “You have to be good friends first. And there has to be a lot of give and take.”

He says: “Don’t go to bed mad at each other. You have your bad days and your good days but we always got through it.”

A friend later told her his name was Billy Ferguson.

She saw "Billy" in his boat on the lake a few times after that, but it was on the bus on the way home from school a year or two later that she finally met him -- and learned his name was actually Jack "Hoot" Gipson.

Jack had made a Chinese checker board. He showed it to her and they talked, and a friendship was born.

Charlotte went to St. Joseph's Catholic School and she rode the bus every day. Jack usually rode his motorcycle to and from school, so she didn't see him on the bus often.

He had a girlfriend and she had a boyfriend, but they were neighbors -- she lived on Brannon's Landing and he lived on Gold Creek -- and he started coming to her house.

"He had a boat and it needed work done on it and he brought it to our backyard and he worked on it right there and when he would finish -- this was mostly on the weekends -- he would go home and get ready for his date and I would go in and get ready to go on my date, with other people ... not with each other," she says.

Her friendship with Jack deepened, as did the one he had with her family.

"Daddy had tools and he had some boats and motors right there on the lake and Jack worked on some boats and motors," she says. "He would help Daddy sometimes if he needed help, and Daddy would help him as well."

One night her father invited them to go frog- gigging with him.

"I wasn't seriously dating anybody then and he had broken up with his girlfriend," she says. "We just had a really good time. We laughed and we talked and he gigged frogs and I followed him and we just had a really good time."

On the way back home, with her dad driving, Jack kissed Charlotte in the dark back seat.

"And that was the beginning of it," says Charlotte, who's not sure her dad ever knew he had chaperoned their first date.

They were together as much as they could be after that.

"There was not a lot to do in Conway at that time -- not like it is nowadays," she says. "We would go to the drive-in movie and he would take me out to eat. We would occasionally go frog-gigging, and sometimes we rode the motorcycle. I wasn't supposed to be riding the motorcycle. My mother knew it but my daddy didn't."

In August 1967, they were driving across an overpass in Jack's red 1967 Camaro.

"I stopped the car and I told her I wanted my senior ring back," Jack says.

Charlotte had found herself to be jealous of a new girl who had moved into the neighborhood, and she instantly thought the worst.

"I thought he was breaking up with me," she says. "Then he said, 'Because I want to swap it with this one.'"

"This one" was an engagement ring.

"My mother knew, my aunts knew, his mother knew, his sisters knew, everybody knew but me, I think. I was surprised," she says.

Jack was drafted into the Army in February 1968. He called Charlotte when he made it to Fort Carson, Colo., his first post after boot camp, and told her to plan their wedding.

They exchanged their vows on July 27, 1968, and took a brief honeymoon to Hot Springs.

Then they packed everything they owned -- except Jack's boats and motors -- into a moving van and headed to Fort Carson, where they lived for four days before learning they would be going to Fort Riley, Kan.

In November, Jack was sent to Vietnam. Charlotte went back home for the year he served.

They spent a week together in Honolulu in June 1969, but for the rest of the time they were apart they wrote letters.

"My mom was really good about getting the mail and leaving his letters for me on my dresser," Charlotte says. "If I got home and I didn't have a letter I was falling apart."

When Jack came home, he went to work as a wildlife officer with Arkansas Game and Fish in McCrory. He is retired, and Charlotte is retired, as well, from her job as principal's secretary at McCrory High School.

Jack and Charlotte have four children -- Lori Howard of Little Rock, Kara Christensen of Cabot and Angela Ziegenhorn and Hunter Gipson, both of McCrory. They also have 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

To celebrate their forthcoming 50th anniversary, they took their family on a cruise to Alaska, where they have made annual treks for years.

"I think it's helped us that we were very good friends for years," Charlotte says. "We really knew each other well before we got married."

Photo by Special to the Democrat-Gazette
Charlotte Jackson and Jack “Hoot” Gipson were married on July 27, 1968. They met on the school bus and became good friends before they went on their first date — frog-gigging.

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High Profile on 07/08/2018

CORRECTION: Charlotte and Jack “Hoot” Gipson’s daughter Lori Howard of Little Rock was left off the list of their children in an earlier version of this story. Also, their daughter Kara Christensen’s first name was misspelled.

Print Headline: She was the only one who could float his boat

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