Charles Evans was shining shoes when he first laid eyes on his future wife Louise, but the connection was instant. "When you looked at her it was like an electric shock," he remembers, "I guess it's love."
From that day on, Charles would go to the cafe across the street where Louise worked every day just to see her. They quickly became high school sweethearts, and married at 18. The couple spent 60 blissful years together, before Louise passed away in 2001.
Now 82 years old, Evans is keeping his wife's memory alive in a very special way. Instead of building a scrapbook or photo album of their time together, he's built an entire museum in a small building in his backyard.
He calls the project Louise and LaLa Land (LaLa is his childhood nickname), and he's filled every corner of the tiny room with memories of their time together. The museum has gotten a lot of attention since it was featured on Ellen Degeneres's daytime talk show, but admission is still free and it's open year-round.
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The biggest attraction by far at Evans's museum is the shoeshine stand he was using when he first saw Louise. He also has the collection of records they used to dance to and home videos that play on a wall-mounted TV.
But what most guests notice are the photos, enough to cover every surface inside the building. Evans loved to take pictures, and his favorite one of all - a snapshot of his last dance with Louise - sits in a place of honor by the door, where he sees it every time he leaves.
Evans also has a special garden called the "Umbrella Grove," which is full of pinwheels and parasols. All of these attractions have made Louise and LaLa Land famous. It has been featured in music videos, and Evans made an appearance on the Ellen show last year.
You might think surrounding yourself with memories of your lost love would be painful, but Evans loves the chance to reflect on his time with Louise. “Now, I can see even more of the beauty in our life,” he explains. “I can reflect and say, ‘Wow, we lived.’”
If you find yourself in Starkville, Mississippi, you can see the museum yourself. Just be prepared to share a dance with Evans.
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