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Storied: San Francisco

Feb 13, 2024

Anita Beshirs was born in Batesville, Mississippi, because the small Southern town her family lived in didn't have a hospital.
Welcome to our Valentine's 2024 episode all about Anita and her husband, Lester Raww. In Part 1, we'll get to know Lester and Anita through the stories of their childhood and early adult years.
Anita's dad was a Church of Christ minister who, along with her mom, never drank or even took medicinal drugs. Anita is the third child in her family (she has two older brothers) and when she just two years old, their parents moved them to the Cameroon jungle on missionary work.
The family lived in Africa in a house made of concrete blocks and with a tin roof. Anita spent the first six years of her life with no TV or radio and so she was forced to make her own fun. She was home schooled by her mom because her dad was busy doing his church work.
After four years, the family returned to Mississippi, now in the college town of Oxford, where Anita started grade school. She says she didn't want to go to college right away because she didn't know what she wanted to do with her life. But her parents insisted that she go to Christian college, which meant a school called Harding University in Arkansas. This is where Lester and Anita met, but more on that after we hear the story of Lester's early life.
His mom grew up in Florence, Alabama, near the Tennessee River and not far from Muscle Shoals. She moved to Florida and met his dad, who was a fighter pilot in the Navy. Lester has one older brother, born not long before him. Their dad was in and out of Navy and the family moved around, first to San Diego, then back to Flordia, and finally to Virginia, where Lester finished high school.
Because his family was also in the Church of Christ and his brother had gone to Harding, Lester chose the school, mostly as a way to escape life in Virginia. He had grown apart from the church when he was 13 and a friend introduced him to things like books by Robert Anton Wilson and William S. Burroughs, marijuana, and prog rock. Lester started playing guitar around this time, but we'll get more into that in Part 2.
Anita and Lester remember first meeting in their first year at college in the campus quad. Anita's first impression was, Oh god, this guy is such a freak. They didn't date for another four years, but hung out with a lot of the same people. Then, in her sophomore year, Anita spent a semester abroad in Florence. She came back a changed person.
At this point in the conversation, we hear them each describe was they were like as young adults. Anita says she was a bit of a prankster, but Lester's stories take pranks to another level. Because of their respective shenanigans, they were each "dormed" at Harding, which was the school's form of detention punishment. We all share a hearty laugh over this.
Anita says that at Harding, it was the first time in her life that she was popular. She was recruited into a social club (their version of Greek sororities) and was a rising star in Christian leadership. She liked it enough, but again, Italy changed her. Slowly, she stopped believing in god and Jesus.
Lester shares stories of how they and others would sneak in drinking and smoking cigarettes while at Harding. Slowly, Anita was finding a new identity and crowd of friends, including Lester. She left Harding for Ole Miss but went back because she figured out that she could graduate faster at Harding. The couple really started hanging out regularly in their fourth years of college. Both had dated others and in fact, Anita set Lester up with some of her friends. Lester had never got serious with anyone at Harding, though.
It was Anita's goal to get out of Harding unmarried. Her future husband wanted to move to New York to pursue a music career, and she was just ready to live a little, wherever. She broke up with her boyfriend in early 1990 and soon after this, the two got together.
Check back next week for Part 2 and the conclusion of our Valentine's 2024 episode.
Photography by Jeff Hunt
We recorded this episode at Antia's art studio on Divisadero on a rainy day in January 2024.