Interview with Meredith Robbins, 2017 October 23

Material Information

Interview with Meredith Robbins, 2017 October 23
Robbins, Meredith ( Interviewee )
Munoz-Pardo, Roberto ( Interviewer )
Alvarez, Henry ( Interviewer )
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
Oral history interview


Subjects / Keywords:
Tidewater Main Street Development Project
Family history
Rural life
Spatial Coverage:
United States of America -- Virginia -- Lancaster


In this interview, Meredith Robbins shares his experiences growing up in White Stone, Virginia during the Great Depression and World War II. He describes his father's country store and his family's history in the area. He also discusses the menhaden fishing industry and his career as a commercial waterman. as well as his military experience in the Korean War.

Record Information

Source Institution:
UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Holding Location:
UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Rights Management:
All rights reserved by the submitter.
Resource Identifier:
TMP 117 Meredith Robbins 10-23-2017 ( SPOHP )


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The Foundation for The Gator Nation An Equal Opportunity Institution Samuel Proctor Oral History Program College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Program Director : Dr. Paul Ortiz Office Manager : Tamarra Jenkins 241 Pugh Hall Technology Coordinator : Deborah Hendrix PO Box 115215 Gainesville, FL 32611 352 392 7168 352 846 19 83 Fax The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) was founded by Dr. Samuel Proctor at the University of Florida in 1967. Its original projects were collections centered around Florida history with the purpose of preserving eyewitness accounts of economic, social, political, religious and intellectual life in Florida and the South. In the 50 + years since its inception, SPOHP has collected over 7 ,500 interviews in its archives. Transcribed interviews are available through SPOHP for use by research scholars, students, journalists, and other interested groups. Material is frequently used for theses, dissertations, articles, books, documentaries, museum displays, and a variety of other public uses. As standard oral history practice dictates, SPOHP rec ommends that researchers refer to both the transcript and audio of an interview when conducting their work. A selection of interviews are available online here through the UF Digital Collections and the UF Smathers Library system. Oral history interview t ranscripts available on the UF Digital Collections may be in draft or final format. SPOHP transcribers create interview transcripts by listen ing to the ori ginal oral history interview recording and typing a verbatim d ocument of it. The transcript is writte n with careful attention to reflect original grammar and word choice of each interviewee; s ubjective or editorial changes are not made to their speech. The draft trans cript can also later undergo a later final edit to ensure accuracy in spelling and format I nterviewees can also provide their own spelli ng corrections SPOHP transcribers refer to the Merriam program specific transcribing style guide, accessible For more information about SPOHP, visit or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168. February 201 8


TMP 117 Interviewee: Meredith Robbins Interviewer: Roberto Munoz Pardo, Henry Alvarez, Robert Teagle Date of Interview: October 23, 2017 A: Hello, my name is Henry Alvarez. I'm with M: Roberto Munoz Pardo. A: And we're with the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program. Today is October 23, 2017, and I am interviewing Meredith Robbins. R: That is true. A: And we're also with Robert Teagle. M: A t the docks o f . A: What would be the name of this . .? T: Where are we right now? R: Oh, you're located about fifteen minutes off of the Chesapeake Bay in a little small area creek called Antipoison Creek. A: You can go ahead and begin I'd like to start with where and when you were born? R: May 28, 1929. A: Where was that? R: In this area. On this creek. A: Okay. Could you tell us what your parents' names were and what they did for a living? R: My dad ran a grocery store for something like fifty yea rs located up the road about a mile from where we're located. A: What was his name? R: John Robbins.


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 2 A: Okay. So, were they also born in this area as well? R: Yeah. A: And they grew up here, too? R: Yeah, yeah. A: Do you remember anything about your grandp arents? Maybe names or what they did for a living? R: Well, my mother was a Lawson Hi William. William: These are a little better than what we had [ Inaudible 1:50] R: Okay. William: Okay. I'll pick them up later on. R: Okay. William: Have a good day. R: few Lawsons, they go back. They go back to the King Carter grant. So, I guess the Lawsons owned the majority of the property in this area at one time. My father originally was told they c ame from the Eastern Shore over on Oyster, near Oyster, Virginia. His brother believe it or not his brother was in the store business, also down at Windmill. But my mother . on both sides we were, in studying the history of my family, they were inv olved in the Civil War. My mother had her grandfather and four brothers were in the Civil War and went off and only two came back. So, in doing the research here not too long ago, my sister found out that one of em was killed, one went to Kentucky, and on e we're not sure where he went.


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 3 But Malachi and my grandfather, Adolphus, are back in the area, buried here in this area. Now, my father's side, believe it or not, at the mouth of the Rappahannock River years ago we had what they call a lightship. I always thought the lightships were only at the mouth of the b ay and entering from the ocean. But years ago they had a lightship. Well, during the Civil War, the Yankees came and took the lightship, took my great great grandfather, who was up in his sixties. He had a son that was involved too but he wasn't on the lightship. So, seems like my sister said she found out that he had joined the service at thirteen but [laughter] but he decided he got homesick so he deserted. Well, since he was so young there was no p enalty. But when he became of age, which was maybe a couple years later, he rejoined. So, he survived the war. Now, I'm talking about my father's father. But anyway, this particular area was really, really from what I've read and everything, we were real ly much involved in the Civil War. I had an old historian tell me one time, he said, "My mother told me that the Yankees came, they didn't kill a soul because there wasn't anyone but the women around." But he said they took all our pigs, chickens, and jour neyed on up the river. So, anyway, he was too bad you couldn't have him here this morning because he could really tell you guys what went on. He also spent a lot of time in the courthouse looking up deeds and stuff like that. Of course, that's where you get your history. He told me that and I was not much on history. But anyway, he told me that this particular area was kind of set up in fifty acres, more or less. Later


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 4 on, of course. We do know there was really large grants involved too because Fleets I sland down here that has thousands of acres that took in several counties. But anyway, that pretty much brings us up to date. This has always been a big seafood area. The backbone since I can remember, even back in the days of the slavery, it was small far ms. What they didn't make on the water they made farming. I was fortunate enough to remember some of it by my dad having a grocery store, and they all congregated there at night. And I'll never forget the Blacks sat on one side on a bench similar to what w e've got here, the Whites on the other side. You had probably the only radio in the area, and there were very few telephones back. M: What was the name of the grocery store, do you remember? R: How's that? M: The name of the grocery store, do you remember it? R: No more than Robbins, Robbins' Store. T: And your dad's brother had one down the road? R: stores from White Stone to Fleets Island and something like three post offices. Now, we have no stores. We have one marina. So, we've really gone back instead of . when it comes right to it yeah But my dad, I heard him make this statement, he said, "The chain stores are going to run the country stores out of business. All I get is t he kerosene can and that's about it. They can buy cheaper than I can they can sell cheaper


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 5 than I can buy." So, we're talking about probably this was all taking place just around World War II. We went through a Depression, I don't remember too much about the Depression. But this particular area was really hit hard. And, of course, World War II rolled around and nearly all of your Blacks left plus most of the youngsters because the seafood business was on the way out. This was a little bit after the steam boat era. See, we had probably our best connections were the steamboats out of Baltimore. We had daily service. We had boats coming and going. Back in the [19]30s Crisfield, Maryland was probably our best market. They'd have four to five buy boats in here on a Monday morning. Like this morning. And this little creek had four to five big boats where these guys put pound nets out. We just have one pound netter left. Things have changed, they really have. T: Can you explain the buy boats, how that worked? R: The buy boats, we called them. Some referred to em as deck boats. But they were in the range of say forty feet to about eighty feet. They transported mostly sea products. They were a very economical type right [inaudible 11:06] They were almost the sa me type of boat that these locals used for trap fishing pound net fishing. Of course, pound nets you might say are on p iling or poles. They drive em, and some people refer to em as trap nets. And, of course, they were located all up and down the east coast, as far as I know. But this area, in particular area, had a lot of her ring that would come in April and May, and they'd leave in June. So,


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 6 when the herring moved out, the menhaden moved in. So, it was one thing right after. And then, of course, crab bing was always the blue crab was always very popular. B elieve it or not, we've got to be global warming because we caught shrimp here last year. Not too many this summer. But we've got thousands of pelicans, which we never had. My son, who fishes one of the menhaden boats, he tells me that they see pelicans as far as Atlantic City. So, that tells you that . of course, things have definitely we're warming. A: So, I'd like to see what you did for fun as a child or maybe when you started to get into fishing when you were younger? R: Well, I dropped out of school at about the age of sixteen. I had a brother who had left before me and he was already working up in the t ug boat. Dad, I never will forget it, Dad said, "You're not at school today. What seems to be the problem?" I said, "Well, not doing too good." He said, "Well, you know, your brother will probably need you to help him. So, when he comes home, maybe you should consider it." So, I went back the first time my brother came home I went back. I'm real proud of that brother. Not bad, but t were so close that you could hardly make a living, you know? We were struggling. Believe it or not, not one of us boys, and there was five of us, went to colleg e. A couple of em finished high school. A couple of em went into service. Of course, I got ca ught in the Korean conflict so I went into service too, about a short while. Yeah. I found myself t ug boating and


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 7 then a friend . he had trouble [inaudible 1 4:58] t ug boating I went in the service and went to Korea. But I saw no combat and I was in transportation. But I came back and a friend of mine told me, he said, "You know, you should consider going fishing. There's a lot of money to be made. If you can m ake captain you'll make big bucks." So, we had several big menhaden companies back in those days. It took me five years to make captain, although I had been captain on a tugboat, it took me five years. But I guess you might say I was educating myself thro ugh experience Anyway, this day and time has changed. You've got to get that haven't you? A: Could you maybe describe, for people that don't know, what the term menhaden means? R: How's that? A: Could you describe the term menhaden for people that may no t know? R: Well, there's a lot of history to the menhaden. A lot of stories to be told. But this particular area there was a lot of menhaden fishing. I was told that the product that they produced back in those days were where they could they had a limi ted amount of use for it, mostly fertilizer. The oil was very oily The cosmetics. But I had an owner of a company tell me if we could get fish oil approved for human consumption they would make lots of money. Finally, I think here a few years ago it bec ame human consumption, it's now. But later it went for poultry, the meal. Meal was used in poultry and hog food, hog feed. Even, at one company I was with,


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 8 we tried to produce a fish flour for human consumption. But for some reason it didn' t . and had another problem, I think, with the Pure Food and Drug Administration said if they wanted to go that way they'd probably have to clean the fish. So, you wouldn't be able to grind. But I understand they seem to think maybe fishmeal today is probably at an al l time high. A lot of it's going to China, I understand. But the menhaden boats have been around a long time. It's automated, you might say. They 've gone to hydraulics, cut the crews in half. My brother my son just set a record this past week. He told me last evening that he fished yesterday, which is unheard of for menhaden boats, trawlers and stuff like that. He said last week five days he caught five million fish. A: That's amazing. R: I think they figure about ten bushels makes a thousand. So, you ca n put that into a computer, it's a lot of fish. The boat he's on is one of the latest boats in the business. It came out a couple years ago. They've got it to a perfection reall y. T: How are the nets how are they fished? They're not setting them like pou nd nets? R: Well, no. They call them purse seines, purse seining. And believe it or not there's purse seining for mackerel, purse seining for tuna. This is all, I think, started in say, the last ten to fifteen years. But menhaden was the first, from what I understand. The first menhaden net was designed up in New England. The reason they c all it a purse seine is it closes down it


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 9 pulls all of the bottom of the net together But I can tell ya, it's a way to catch fish. The most I would s ay the most way to catch em. Yes, indeed. A: So, could you say like what year you first started to captain your own boat, and maybe some of your early fishing experiences? R: My first year? A: Yeah captaining R: Yeah, I started in 1955. When I came ba ck from Korea I could never seem to be happy on a t ug boat. So, I had an offer and it took me five years to make captain. And then, I fished in the Gulf of Mexico, I fished in the South Atlantic. My company had a plant down in Southport, North Carolina. I s pent quite a few years down there. Of course, they had a plant here on the bay. But there were several menhaden plants all up and down the coast. But fishing got pretty slack here on the bay. So, I had a company offer me a position in the Gulf. So, I went down there and stayed for I don't know, six or seven years. They were good years, but I didn't like the Gulf. Too hot. [Laughter] R: Good country. A lot of fine people. Cajuns. Yeah, I was down in South Louisiana, yeah. Down around . our closest city, I guess, was Lafayette. We were at a little town called Intracoastal City. We had a big plant. It processed a lot of fish, and it's still there. And we've got a lot of Virginia boys that still go down there. Uh huh.


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 10 A: So, could you say the name of the co mpany that you mentioned earlier? R: Standard Products. That was a local, White Stone. Yeah, I worked there. They broadened out. They went from . I think after World War II they, the old man, Humphries, journeyed down to Moss Point, Mississippi and fou nd out fishing were [inaudible 23:21] and there was a couple of plants there. So, he went and set up his operation there. Then in fact, going or coming, I'm not sure h e had a heart attack and passed away, in traveling. So, his son, he had three sons, an d one of his sons took over. He decided he was going to broaden out and he started enlarging the company. And he bought a plant down in Southport, North Carolina. He also bought a plant in B eaufort North Carolina. He never had Standard never had a plant above the Chesapeake. Yeah. T: Where were the menhaden being caught? In the bay and the ocean or just both? R: Well, believe it or not, the last two years there's been very little menhaden else, it changes. Ninety percent of fish caught last year, I think, were out in the bay. Since they've closed all the menhaden fishing plants north of the Chesapeake, quite natural more chance of increasing in population. Bu t we have boats now that, back in my day, when I first started we had no refrigeration. Now they have refrigeration. You just can't imagine. I mean, t he last year that I fished, which was twenty years ago, we had a pretty good range because we had gone wit h


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 11 refrigeration. But when I started there was no refrigeration. So, you almost had to come in every night. But later on, as we got more and a lot of refrigeration started in the Gulf because of the extreme temperature. But they found they knew that the product would improve, but could they refrigerate and make a profit? See, it's like everything else. T: Did you come into the buy boats then every night? How did you get the fish off without refrigeration? What did you do? R: We'd always return to the plan t. And that limited your range on the old wooden boats. We had about a hundred mile range. Very seldom we once in a great while we'd go to maybe Delaware Bay. But it was always a return. T: And deliver them right to the plant? R: And go to the plant. But today they really the whole operation s changed. Larger boats, more airplanes. I would say it's been perfected. Like I say, my son told me last evening . he's in today processing. In fact, if you guys can get your foot in the door, it would be very interesting to go see what's going on. Because we're talking about I don't know what the amount of processing tonnage they can probably two hundred tons an hour or something like that. T: Is this up in Reedville? R: Up in Reedville, yeah. He said he land ed five million in five days. But he's still got two million onboard waiting for the offload. They'll pump em on and pump em off, and they've got a twelve, sixteen, eighteen, eighteen


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 12 in ch suction. So, you can imagine it's a big operation. Yeah. They pre ss the fish. They have one vessel, just about the same size as their largest fishing vessel, he does nothing but haul water. He has to carry the water to sea. And usually, how they get all that water, well, I think someone told me the menhaden is thirty pe rcent solid, the rest is water when you press em. But anyway, it's quite an operation. T: How's that water being used? R: The water, they try to get all the solids out of it. And then, of course, they have separators that separate the oil. And, of course, the fishmeal, the fish the first procedure is to pump it out and start cooking. They go through a cooker that is steam operated. Then, it goes from there to a press, and the press smashes the oil out of it some kind of way. And then, the meal is separat ed quite natural, they have oil separators. And then, the meal goes into these big drawers. So, the whole process, from the time it's pumped out of the boat I'm guessing, because I'm not a factory man. [Laughter] But I would say within an hour from the t ime it comes out I mean, it could be thirty minutes t hey process that fish, and the fishmeal is gone and the Quite a hell of an operation. Yeah. A: The story you told earlier was interesting about the Merchant Mari nes in this area during World War II and kind of its impact on this community. I thought you could talk a little bit about that. R: Yeah, I think we came out, by not having any industry, a lot of the boys left and went in the Merchant Marines. I know the A tlantic Refining Company


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 13 out of Philadelphia had a guy that would come through recruiting youngsters. They'd take em and put em on ships and train em. That went on for as long as Atlantic Refining Company needed personnel. They'd send through, and they went down your way and got quite a few guys. It's amazing how some of these boys wound up captains, chief engineers. They reached the top. Yeah, yeah. T: What do you remember as a boy about World War II? R: Well, I do know that me being a little young to g o off to war, we had a shortage of personnel. The elderly left and went to the defense, shipyards, whatever. Very few stayed at home. I made a remark the other day, one of the few places that were open in the little village of White Stone was a grocery sto re is now closed. We only have one service station, one grocery store. So, things were kind of quiet yeah T: Where was that grocery store? R: In White Stone on the corner. T: On the corner? R: Yeah. The guy that started that store had two sons, I'll nev er forget. One of his boys went through school, got his degree, and he taught up at Hargrave Military Academy for many years. He wound up dean of Hargrave, which is up in Chatham, Virginia. [Laughter] And he's still around, he's in his eighties. T: What's his name?


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 14 R: Ro m Sa u nders, Jr. He used to say his dad was up early mornings and late evenings and he said he made a million dollars or so out at that old store, the country store. T: Do you remember were they doing rations and stuff like that during the w ar? R: You know, believe it or not, I bought a house that had already been built. And he was a district manager for a menhaden outfit. In looking the house over before buying it, he had passed away, but his wife said, "You know, Mr. Robbins, I have no use for all this old junk and stuff." Said, "I'm going to move into a one bedroom house. Would you like?" And I said, "Yeah, leave everything like it is." So, here in the glassed in picture frame was ration stamps, the old gas stamps, the old shoe stamps. Of c ourse, I remember those days. But I was fortunate to get em, and I've still got em on the wall there. Yeah. [Laughter] Gas stamps . I never heard too many complaints about shoe stamps. You had shoe stamps, too. But gas stamps was always and tires. They just didn't come up to par with the tires. Some of the locals cut the outside bead around em and put em on over top of the old slick tires. I know some kids that did that. Then, I had a buddy that drove the school bus, he was a little older. And, of course, the owner would ask him to drive a couple or so times a week for him. He goes in the glove compartment one day and he pulled out a book. It must've been about this size, nothing but gas stamps. [Laughter] M: Oh, was it that recently?


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 15 R: No. M: Tha t was back in the day? R: Yeah, yeah. T: Did people trade them? R: Well, you know, those stamps were different from what you would've had. Of course, a stamp's a stamp when it comes to doing business. And tires, I never will forget. I ha d an old friend who owned a fish business and owned his own boat. He went off to Fernandina Beach, Florida and he said that his wife had to come home. And he said he told her, he said, "Honey, the tires on that car may get you to Reedville and they may not." But anyway, she decided, well, she had to come home. And he wrote this in his book. He said she got somewhere up in Georgia. He was fishing in Fernandina, Florida. But anyway, she got somewhere up in North Carolina, I believe, and she blew a tire. Of course, you couldn't get it, it was during the war, you couldn't get new tires. Anyway, she contacted him and he said, "You know, I was mighty fortunate," he said, "My man that I bought all my oil from said he also had a few tires." So, he managed to get her some tires and she got home. You know, I tell you, it wasn't all so easy during World War II. We had our ups and downs and everything. But he went on to say it really pays to know somebody. But his book is not available b ut if you know someone got one. I've loaned mi ne out a couple times and I have hell getting it back. [Laughter] M: What's the name of the book?


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 16 R: But I called him up before he passed away. Get Ready Below Get Ready Below That was his famous words. T: What was his name? R: When he was up the masthea d and he wanted to get his crew ready to go fishing, he'd yell down below, "Get ready below!" And when he wrote this book. We just had another new book come out, the one a lady wrote over in Weems. I'm enjoying that. I haven't finished it. I'm not much on reading. I'll read a little bit. You boys, y'all grab a book up and read it and throw it aside. She's brought back a lot of old memories and stuff. T: What was his name, the guy on the mast? R: Captain John Lowry. He fished from Maine to Florida and probab ly will be remembered for years to come. M: Is he still alive in Florida or did he pass? John Lowry, he passed already? R: He passed away. He passed away at ninety four, ninety five. Yeah. We lost two good old fishermen last week. A fella, Henry Dixon, who fished with and around me for pretty much the same length of time. He sort of had the same journey that I took. He jumped around from company to company. But most of his days was here on the bay. But he fished down in Mississippi and Louisiana. He was eig hty four. A big funeral, really. Filled the funeral home. Yeah. My buddies are leaving me. Yeah. A: I wanted to go back earlier about the Merchant Marines. I wanted to see if you had any family or friends that went to the Merchant Marines during World War II? Anybody you would know.


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 17 R: Well, like I say, my brother we were talking about . he was twenty one when he lost his life. He had another local boy that was a good buddy of his that went away with him. Also, I had the privilege of knowing a chief eng ineer that came back home. He was right much older than my brother. But he told me that he lost one ship and was on another ship that brought him back to the States. It seem ed like the ship he was on was loaded going to Europe. And he told me the name but I can't think of it right now. But anyway, they were reported, of course, this ship was bound back States. So, they picked up all the survivors, I don't know. Anyway, he later, after the war, he went to work for an outfit up in Baltimore, Sparrows Point. Bethlehem Steel had a big steel operation. Well, of course, every citizen in the United States knows about the liberty ship. The liberty ship, they always got the credit for winning the war. They were building something like about one a day when we really got going. I don't know about one a day but one a month. Yeah. I know they had t heir total, when they finally wound up, something like over three thousand of them had been constructed. Well, he was on one and he was chief engineer. And he said that Bethl ehem Steel had built the ship, they built a few liberties. So, he quite naturally the war was over and he had to have a job. So, he, with his experience, he by then had gotten his chief engineer's license. They'd load steel in Bethlehem Steel in Baltimor e and carry it to the west coast through the Panama Canal. They'd go from there I don't know which one of the cities on the west coast. But anyway, he would go to Vancouver and


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 18 load with lumber and come back. And he said it was hard to believe it would ta ke them around three months to make that journey, from the time they checked in and offloaded. Well, you didn't really offload in a day or so. It took you I know I was on a merchant ship. We went to Trieste, Italy. A: Really? R: Yeah, right after the war A: Could you talk a little bit about that? R: And we had, believe it or not, we had a load of cattle. They were rebuilding Austria. We had gotten tired of tugboating, my buddy and myself, and that other boy says, "Come on, we'll go down to union hall and we'll see what's going on." Well, in the meantime, they said ou've got to get a ticket. So, all you've got to do is get a letter from a company that you're working for, a recommendation showing your time, and they'll give you a card. Almost like a dri ver's license. But you're only an ordinary seaman. You're an ordinary seaman or you could be a wiper, if you were in the engine room. You could probably now I don't know about the cooks. But anyway, I got an ordinary seaman's ticket and down to the union hall. And we had two choices, they were getting a ship for the Far East and they were looking for a crew for that, and they were looking for a crew for a liberty ship, cattle ship going to Europe. So, we decided we'd go on that cattle ship. [Laughter] Bel ieve me, it was quite . we left Newport News, went to Baltimore. Loaded grain in the first two holds. Came back


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 19 to Newport News And I noticed they had all these old pins and stuff on that cattle. About three hundred and some cattle. And there were a f ew horses, I never will forget it, and the horses were just like Budweiser's horses. They were Clydesdales. So, anyway, we had thirty cowboys on there, two veterinarians, and I'm telling you it was a trip. I, of course, being on deck and only four hours on and eight hours off. I got a chance to circle around looking. But every one of those cows had been inoculated to make two for one, you know what I mean? They had been what do they call? They were all having calves, and they started having them just befo re we arrived in Trieste. M: In the boat? R: And it was a hell of a time. [Laughter] R: They had it figured out but there was not supposed to be any delays. But anyway, we arrived in Trieste. Well, Trieste, if you remember, it was a disputed territory afte r the war. The Italians claimed it and the Yugoslavians. Tito, I think, was in charge of Yugoslavia at that time. It wasn't exactly peaceful there, but they let em offload this American ship. And, of course, they were loading those cattle and horses and t hey were all going to Austria, building Europe. Yeah. M: What year was this? R: I would say roughly . the war ended, what, in [19]45? M: Uh huh.


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 20 R: I would say this was probably about [19]50, around about 1950. T: Before you went you went in the serv ice shortly after that, right? R: I went in the service five years later in [19]55. M: And you went to Korea, you mentioned? R: Korea in [19]55. They have a golf tournament coming off over there now. I've really enjoyed it although the attendance hasn't re ally been all that great. The Koreans have gone . South Koreans have gone out for golf. They've got a lot of females playing good golf, a lot of males are playing good golf. I was stationed right near Seoul, so I was trying to imagine where it's I ha ven't been able to find out where But I haven't investigated either. I just happened to look at it yesterday. I'm not a golfer. But when I was there in [19]55 things were real, real tight. South Korea ha d very few trees. They had used up all their trees a nd natural resources. Of course, I'm sure a lot of their natural resources ha d n't been touched. I was telling someone the other day, I think South Korea must've bought every old Greyhound bus that Greyhound had, because that was their main route from Busan to Seoul. Of course, didn't too many journey north of Seoul because you're getting up pretty close to the DMZ. So, anyway, I never will forget . I told someone, you know, I would love to go back to see how much change has been made, because the ships going into Incheon had to anchor off. Now, they've got a big ship channel in there, ships come in, offload, and go. Quite an experience. I'd love to go back. much done covered it with you boys.


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 21 A: [Laughter] Yeah, I think we're good. Just, as a last thing, because we were interviewing about it before. I wanted to see if you had any memories about, just quickly, about the Historic Christ Church? R: About Christ Church? A: Yeah, Historic Christ Church. R: You know [laughter] as a little boy, we'd journey over that way sometimes. I noticed the old brick wall around it had crumbled and fell down. The old tomb of King Carter, that hadn't been damaged, and the report was that some of his remains had been taken. I've attended service there. It's really interesting. My wife I don't belong to the Episcopal Church but she's Episcopalian. I was told that in constructing it, which I'm sure y'all [Laughter] would know that, that one of the laborers fell during the building of it, and rather than bury him o utside they decided it would be a good idea to just, where he fell, to go ahead and bury him there. [Laughter] Have you all been in the church? M : Yes. A: Yeah, we went there two days ago, I think. R : I haven't been there for some time. I've been to a coup le of funerals but I haven't been in it. T: How did you get there as a kid? Did you walk or take bikes or ? R : Well, we'd go over there, yeah, right, riding bikes and go visit. See, a lot of the kids that went to White Stone came from Weems years ago. It' s what


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 22 didn't come to White Stone, when they closed Weems School they went to Kilmarnock. T: Did you go to the school right there by the light at White Stone, on the left? R: Yeah, that went to twelfth grade. Uh huh. T: One big room, right? That one big ha ll? R: Well, no. No. It's just been resold. It's gonna be an events center again. A guy from Alexandria moved here. It was built like a h igh school [inaudible 53:50] and you started down here in the first grade and you worked on up. Then, they had the cafe teria on the front side. Then, you went on around and wound up seventh grade was over by the auditorium. It's a neat old building. I would never want to buy it or own it because, back in those days that it was built, when there was no air conditioning. So, the auditorium is designed with a flat roof on it, but it's lowered from the other roof so that you've got windows. You could open the windows and all the moisture [inaudible 54:36]. T: In the classrooms? R: No, this is in the auditorium. Yeah. See, that auditorium is located right in the middle of it. T: That's what I was thinking. The long hall. R: by the electrical [inaudible 54:54] It was really designed for its day because they had lowered the roof in the middle and opened these big windows. I never will forget that. Yeah. So, that flat roof, I know today has got to be a problem.


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 23 M: You mentioned your wife briefly. What is her name and what did she do for a living, how you met, all that? R: Huh? M: Y our wife, what is her name? R: Oh, yeah. Dixie Robbins. Dixie Cooper Robbins, her maiden name was Cooper. M: Okay. Did she work or was she a home wife? R: Yeah, she, for a while, she and another lady had a travel agency. M: Oh, nice. R: Yeah. I guess that' s been about fifteen years ago. M: Okay. Did you father any children? R: Yeah, I have three boys. M: Okay. What are their names and what do they do? R: Well, I just lost one of my boys. M: R: Diabetic at fifty eight. He did n't take care of himself. M: That's sad. I'm sorry to hear that. R: My oldest boy h e followed my footsteps. He got in bigtime trouble over a marriage. He thought his wife was running around on him, so he did away with the guy. M: Wow. R: Yeah. But anyway, my youngest one, he's burning the rails. He's catching lots of fish and making lots of money.


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 24 M: Oh, okay. That's good for him. R: I think my oldest boy will be coming back with us in the next three or four years. Like I say, he went to Hargrave four year s, military school. It's a Baptist school. He had even thought of being a minister. He suspected his wife was running around on him so he went to and confronted the guy and the guy told him to go you know what, and he had a pistol. I didn't know the boy h ad a pistol. But anyway, he emptied it on him, throwed the pistol on the ground, dropped the tailgate on the truck, and s e t there and waited for the law. I said, "Mack, why would you do such a thing?" He said, "Dad, I don't remember it." He said, "When he confronted me, I remember going, I remember him ," but he said, "I had pretty much had planned what I was going to do if he didn't do right." But he got fourteen years, so he'll be coming out, if things work. He'll be eligible after fourteen years. The only thing saved him was friends. He had so many friends and such a good record, well thought of. You know, luckiest guy, I guess. He pulled ten years at the local jail up here as a trust y because the sheriff liked him so well. But he lost his cool again up th ere. But he didn't thank the Lord he didn't hurt anybody. But he's that type, he's got a terrible temper. Anyway, we're kind of looking forward to him joining us. My youngest son, my middle boy all of em wound up fishing with me. They finished school, all three of em. But now, my youngest boy, who is he's got a boy up at the University of Virginia. He's majoring in business. M: So, you've got grandchildren as well.


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 25 R: This is his second year. Got a little girl, granddaughter teaching school down in South Carolina. Yeah. The other one was going to be a vet but she loved horses. She's now decided that she's gonna be married and have children. So, she's got two little boys. He's doing all right. Yeah. M: Well, thank you so much. I don't think we have any other questions. T: I'm just curious, what would be . this is a really broad question. But how have things changed in Lancaster since 1929? We talked about the stores, but what are some other big changes? If you had to s um it up in a few . M: Well, we need more industry, that's for sure. We're getting to be a retired community, as you know. We're losing ground, you might say, with our hospital. Bon Secours took it over. To really see Lancaster County grow we need industry, I would say, and seaf ood's not gonna carry it, and farming will not carry it. But we've gotten to be a retirement community. We're getting a lot of wealthy people building big homes, like next door to me. But who knows. We are kind of getting behind on our highways. Our highwa ys are not up to par. I feel sure that all that will work itself out. T: Did you say you worked on the Norris Bridge? M: How's that? T: Did you work on the bridge, you said? M: Yeah. I worked on it a short while before I went in Korea, went in the service While I got drafted I went to Fort Jackson. Fort Jackson, I went to Fort Eustis. It was during that period they tried to put you where you were


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 26 best suited. So, I went to Fort Eustis for a boat outfit and believe me, I thought sure I was going to, but the n I got into it being transportation and me, somebody liked me because they asked me to go to try to get some of our equipment that we had in our company up to par. And I got an MOS in materials handling equipment, and that was needed in Korea. But I nev er even though I went to Fort Eustis, I went from transportation to quartermaster, and I was very fortunate in that respect. I flew to Korea but I came back on ship. It was a real interesting journey. I wouldn't take anything for the experience now. But me with a wife and a son, I didn't want to go. But after it was all said and done, it wasn't bad. No. T: One more question: what was the ship your brother was on when the ship that was sunk R: Yeah, t he W.D. Anderson And she's off of Jupiter Light in F lorida. Yeah. And you know the neat thing about it? I have a nephew that retired from Martin, Marietta Martin at that time, Glen L. Martin. They could see what was getting ready to go on at Cape Canaveral, and they were a Baltimore outfit, but they hauled ass to Orlando and took most of its workforce, I guess. Even when he was still working for Martin, his dad was with him before him, which was my half brother. But anyway, he dove on that ship. He took up diving, and he was just up here last week. He's eigh ty. But my father was married twice. His first wife came from Deltaville and then his second wife came from here, and she was a Lawson. That's why we were talking about the Lawsons.


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 27 M: The second wife was your mother, is that correct? R: Yeah, uh huh. M: W ell, thank you very much for your time. It has been amazing stories that we have heard from you. We don't have any other questions, but if you think you want to say something that you want recorded so that people can know it. Any other history that we have n't asked you? R: I appreciate you fellas for asking me. I hope that someone will enjoy little bits of it. M: We did already so there's probably somebody at the archives who will put it up. R: Well, it's quite different from most of my interviews, I've don e several. M: How so? R: [Laughter] M: How are we different? R: interview was with a lady and, of course, they were also photographing it. This is just video. T: Can you describe ju st where this interview took place, so people know where we are? R: I always wanted to call it "Gateway to the Bay." It's just a hangout at my boatyard down here on Antipoison. We just get together and tell a few sea stories and hope you boys will come bac k. A: Yeah, I would love to.


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 28 T: Can we have some beer and crabs next time? [Laughter] M: Yeah, blue crabs. R: That's what my buddy came around here. We picked up oysters he did, and I shucked them yesterday. He, believe it or not, his sister is up from G eorgia and he said he certainly wanted to get some oysters for her. But his father was one of the largest pound net fishermen in the area for years, and made a lot of money. And, of course, he caught mostly herring. But the herring disappeared. Some of em say the Russians but that's not so. I think our chemicals and our water quality up the rivers kind of did em in. I know we'd have big spawns up the heads of these rivers and the chemical plants would just . but then, on the other hand, every thing has the tendency to come and go. I mean, oysters are back. We don't know why, but they're looking real good. T: Have you seen a change in the bay with the oysters coming back? R: I think the water quality, yeah, has got to be better. But it's like Mo ther Nature has a, you might say, control. Because if we have a lot of rain, we have a lot of s torms you know, it kind of changes everything. M: I would like to add to that description that we are actually on the water right now. We're in like a little wo oden deck. There's a ramp with a small boat in the little deck and we have three boats with inboard motors and cabins on the other side. So, it's a very nice view. A: It's beautiful.


TMP 117; Robbins ; Page 29 R: Well, I'm glad you gentlemen came. T: Well, thank you very much. A: Th ank you. M: We are also glad. Thanks a lot. A: Thank you. R: Yes, sir. T: Thank you, Mr. Robbins. R: Uh huh. [End of interview] Transcribed by: Patrick Daglaris, February 23, 2018 Audit edited by: Jessica Taylor, April 28, 2018 Final edited by: Patrick Da glaris, May 7, 2018