Another Story: H.H. Robinson

Another of the people I liked when I was growing up was H.H. Robinson. I believe Mr. Robinson started teaching at Augusta High School in 1929 when my Dad was a senior and Mom was a sophomore. At that time he announced that he intended to live to be 100 years old.

By the time I got to high school Mr. Robinson was the Superintendent of Schools. He still taught, keeping his hand in by teaching drafting in the first two classes in the morning. My first four semesters in high school, I took Mechanical Drawing and the last four semesters I took Architectural Drawing. I enjoyed both forms and Mr. Robinson made them interesting and challenging. One of the things that he believed in strongly was that it does no good to create a beautiful drawing if no one can read the notes you have inscribed at the bottom. So, to remedy that situation, he gave a lettering test every Friday morning at the beginning of class. If you didn’t show constant improvement or at least seem to be holding your own, you heard about it.

The Robinson family lived across the street from the high school and from the time I was five until I was twenty, I lived half a block down the street from them. The Robinsons had 3 kids, all of them several years older than me. The oldest was Virginia and if I remember correctly she married a local guy named Jack Frost. Some name, huh? Next was Buell and he was away in college or the service. I just saw him a few times. The youngest was Stanley, 4 or 5 years older than me. I saw him regularly. He built his own kayak or canoe down in the basement. It had a wood frame with a canvas skin. He used it a lot.

H.H. was serious about living to be 100 and worked out all the time. He made regular visits to the schools and all the classes. Every time he showed up at gym class we learned something. He taught us how to jump rope but none of us ever got good enough to beat him. We learned to jump forward and backward and to do those neat skipping tricks you now see boxers doing. I practiced at home all the time but could never beat him. I came in second a couple of times when some of us in the gym class challenged him.

Mr. Robinson taught me and the other kids how to ice skate, too. We lived on the west edge of town and there was a pond less than a quarter mile away. It was called “Money’s Pond” because it belonged to a man named I.M. Money. It used to be a stock pond but Mr. Money no longer pastured cattle there. Anyhow, we usually skated at Money’s but sometimes went to Elm Creek which was about 1 ¼ miles west. Frequently we went at night and would build bonfires on the creek bank. Mr. Robinson hiked to the creek also rather than driving his car. The creek was more fun than the pond. There were some long stretches between curves where we could hold races. One time, H.H. had us drag the trunk of a dead tree out on the ice and taught us how to jump over it. We had a few crashes but eventually all learned to pull our feet up so we could clear the thing. Mr. Robinson was a very patient man who taught by example. H e only corrected someone if their bad habits might injure them.

The Robinsons could park their car under the house. The driveway was more of a ramp that started at the curb and went down at a steep angle and joined the floor of the basement. There was a pattern in the concrete of the driveway to improve traction. I’d swear the angle on that thing was greater than 45 degrees. A couple of us kids were walking past the house one day and we heard some noise coming from the open garage door. We looked down there and could see Mr. Robinson punching a speed bag. He was really making the thing sing.

Several of the teachers had cabins up in Estes Park, Colorado and took their families up to spend the summers.

As I mentioned earlier, I took all the drafting classes I could in high school. As a senior, my last semester was pretty relaxed. Mr. Robinson and I knew each other pretty well by this time. He trusted me and if he had a meeting or some business to attend to he left me in charge of the class. As we got to the middle of my last semester of Architectural Drafting Mr. Robinson announced that we would be starting our final project which would be the design of a house of the style of our choice. He had his clipboard in hand and said he would stop by our drafting tables that morning and we could tell him what we wanted our project to be. He would discuss it with us and if he agreed that it would be the right thing for us he would give us the okay and would note it on his clipboard. He went around the room and when he got to me he asked what I would like my project to be. I said “I’ve heard a lot women being compared to brick outhouses so I thought I’d like to design one and see just what it looks like”. Well, Mr. Robinson raised his eyes from his clipboard and fixed them on me like he was going to stare a hole in me. I stared right back at him and didn’t back down or say anything. After a bit, he said “OK” and without cracking a smile or showing any emotion at all, wrote “Brick Outhouse” beside my name. As Mr. Robinson made his rounds in class each day he would critique my drawing and give me helpful suggestions. I ended up with a very nice brick outhouse complete with a wood-paneled interior, space heater, television set and a curving concrete walkway to get there on. We didn’t have a blueprint machine but did have a frame that used sunlight to expose the image. We made tracings of our finished drawings and then cut a piece of treated blueprint paper from a giant roll and then locked the tracing and blueprint paper into the frame and went out in front of the building and let the sun shine on it for a few minutes. The end result was a piece of blue paper with white lines on it like any other blueprint. I got an “A” on the project. Mr. Robinson remained dignified throughout the job and treated it like any other without as much as a smile.

I joined the Navy a couple of years after high school graduation and didn’t get back to Augusta much after that. The first class reunion I attended was our 40th. One of the guys told me that Mr. Robinson had eventually retired to Estes Park and that he had indeed made it to his 100th birthday. Good for him!

Dave Thomas
February 3, 2014

 

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