Writings of Charles Luther Robinson
He was the son of Fred and Era Robinson. Although born in Greensboro (on Aug. 1, 1928), Charles and his five brothers and sisters were raised on a farm just outside Cliffside. He was in Cliffside High’s class of 1945, after which he attended UNC Chapel Hill for two years.
He married Dorothy Hawkins, a Shelby girl, the daughter of Freeman and Ruby Bridges Hawkins. They soon moved to Greensboro, where he took a position with the Jefferson-Pilot Insurance Co. When he retired in 1990, after 42 years, he was Senior Personnel Assistant. One of his main responsibilities had been to oversee the Jefferson Standard Country Club. Another was editing the Jefferson-Standard Life magazine, which enabled him to focus on his love for journalism.
Charles was active as a volunteer for the American Red Cross and served on the board of directors at Guilford College. He was active in his church, First Baptist Church of Greensboro, where he was a deacon, a choir member, one of the Chronologicals (singing group), and served on the Personnel committee.
He loved to read books, especially those about WWII. (He was very close to the spirit of WWII and always admired those people in the military, including his brothers and his son David. Charles was also in the Naval reserve).
He loved the gatherings of the “family.” He and his siblings were always planning on being together on Memorial Day especially, for singing, laughing, eating, visiting and even producing special family events through videos, tape recordings and pictures for ever-lasting memories. Even writing poetry and songs of the family. (In another life he might have been a producer, director, writer, etc).
Charles inherited his mother’s creative gene—her talent for writing and rhyming—and kept a book of the poems, memories and tales he created over the years. His son Mike and niece Marilyn Moore Kerr shared several with us, along with photos.
Charles was at home on Jefferson Road in Greensboro when he suffered a fatal heart attack on June 15, 1992 at the age of 63 years. He is buried at New Garden Friends Cemetery near the resting place of his maternal grandparents, Manley and Cora Hollady.
He once said that you determine how rich a man was by the number of people that attend your funeral. He died wealthy.
Read more about the Robinsons in Family Stories. And enjoy the poems of Charles’s mother, Era, in our Poems of Cliffside section.
Old Lou & Simp
Old Lou wasn’t old at all – still in her twenties, I guess, when she and Simp and their chillun came to live in our tenant house back in the woods and across the branch. Simp was jolly and strong. He worked hard except on “Sad’dy evenin” when he liked to clean up, maybe put on some clean overhauls and go up to spend some socializing time at Zeely’s store.
He was a good provider. Old Lou worked in the fields with him and so did the “young-un’s”, if they were able to walk. Old Lou was about the closest thing to a nanny that we could ever have. She worked with us and for us, cooking sometimes on Sundays, and helping look after us in between Simp and her own five or six kids.
Old Lou and Simp lived on our place for several years. Years that I will always remember for their cherished moments of laughter, innocent fun with each other, and the love we had one for the other.
They were black. We’d never heard of integration or segregation. Somehow we just knew how to live in our house, and they knew how to live in theirs. They went to their church and we went to ours. Once or twice we visited in their little white church. My mother and sisters would sing for them. They had their problems and we had ours.
I don’t believe we were wrong then for the way we lived and treated our black friends. I don’t know. If we were, it was because of ignorance and not hatred. We really loved and respected each other. And somehow, I believe if GOD ever looked down and saw us all working or playing together, He couldn’t tell us apart anyway.
Old Simp and Lou are gone now, but good memories of them will remain with us as long as we live.
The date when Charles wrote this essay is unknown. It is thought by some in the Robinson family that Simp’s and Lou’s last name was Watkins.
Life was a celebration to Charles, and he made the most of each day that God gave him. As a young child Charles suffered a severe case of diptheria. This illness may have been the beginning of heart problems to come. In 1958 at the age of 40 he was diagnosed with a bundle blockage of the heart. That is when he received his first pacemaker. He so appreciated his Ventricular Inhibited Pulse Generator #5973 that he wrote a poem in honor of it. It was printed in a medical journal called “Pacemakers” in 1988.
You were there, my very own Ventricular
Inhibited Pulse Generator #5973, quietly
implanted close to my heart.
For a decade you supplied the power
my pump required to sustain
my life and the active pursuit of my goals.
Because of you, I did what I wanted to do
with assurance that you wouldn’t fail me.
And you didn’t. God and you.
Between the two of You, you gave me more than
378 million charges -378 million heartbeats.
But finally it was time. You have been replaced
and now I must make friends again.
But I will never forget you, my
little generator friend. Count on that!
You have earned a rest and a place of honor,
right here still close to me.
Blessed are the little pacemakers,
for they bring life and joy to the human heart.
Charles was at home on Jefferson Road in Greensboro when he suffered a heart attack. God took him home that day, June 15, 1992 at the age of 63 years. He is buried at New Garden Friends Cemetery near the resting place of his maternal grandparents, Manley and Cora Hollady.
Now he was no betting man,
but when it came to things he knew about,
he’d “betcha” now and then.
Old Grampa – he’d bet you about the weather
when rain was nowhere in sight.
Why, he’d “betcha” two inches was a coming
before late Saturday night.
He’d “betcha” about crops,
how much they would bring in the fall.
About the length of cucumbers, and
about his pine trees, he’d
“betcha” how tall.
Old Grandpa – sometimes he’d “betcha” about the preacher,
And when he did he was usually right.
But when it came to Politics,
Old Grandpa would “betcha” he’d fight.
It was a cold night mid-winter
when we traveled along by car.
Old Grandpa in the back corner,
dozing from his trip so far.
Suddenly a man appeared on the side,
lying still with his head in the ditch.
Rough, ill clothed and unshaven,
He obviously wasn’t very rich.
We went to investigate,
and found he wasn’t dead.
Only passed out from alcohol,
tomorrow he had more to dread.
We went again on our way,
A little sad for what we’d seen.
When Old Grandpa spouted out
one of his “I betcha’s”, cocky and keen.
Old Grandpa straightened up slightly,
rolled down his window to spit.
And said “DEMOCRAT, I betcha –
Didn’t know when to quit.”
It Was Summertime!
When, with the turning of day into June,
School doors pulled tight to enclose deafening silence,
For another interlude of childless days.
When robins paraded in broad-breasted splendor,
Apple blossoms burst forth to invite honeybees to sip,
And the nectar was sweet.
Then I knew – It was Summertime!
When it was time to hitch old Blue in early morning,
Pulling the point d eep to turn Mother Earth upward,
To walk barefoot with warm soil between tender toes.
When the night beckoned to lie still,
And gaze upward at star-speckled heavens,
To wonder the reason for it all to be so.
Then I knew – It was Summertime!
When the table overflowed with golden fruit,
Tasting better than money could buy – it seemed,
Any hours at garden labor was fully justified.
When at mid-day, the sun beat down to drive sun-browned
Bodies, not unwillingly, to a favorite place for swimming,
An oasis – much more than just a hole in a creek.
Then I knew – It was Summertime!
When, at the close of day everyone talked and laughed,
And made plans often too ambitious for mere man,
And stories were told to shiver spines and hold young eyes wide.
When, later, music filled the night and tall pines
Seemed to be in rhythmic sway to piano and innocent harmony,
And the timid were prodded – no, commanded – to “Sing out, loud and clear.”
Then I knew – It was Summertime!
And when it was time to sleep,
The quiet often interrupted by a bark in the distance,
There was a closeness present – a sense of security and peace.
And when young hearts sang simply and softly,
“Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep,”
And a sniffle came from where parents slept …
Then I knew – It was Summertime!
And I closed my eyes.
A Perplexing Time
Have you ever wondered why it is that you find yourself involved in so many things? Some of it, perhaps, out of chance – some of it, perhaps, because we can’t say “no” , . . But, I wonder . . . often one event or involvement creates another – then two – almost as if we are being multiplied and divided in some gigantic math exercise. Not useless, unimportant, involvement or frivolities – no, involvement where good comes out of it, and happiness, and smiles, and enlightenment For A Reason.
I can’t help but feel that God is moving me around – using me for a greater purpose that I can fully comprehend.
Oh, I hope He will continue to give me the strength . . . and time.
My Daddy Makes a Hundred dollars a week!
It must have been all the attention and pampering I got when I had diphtheria at age 5 that caused me a few problems when I finally got well enough to go back to school. I think I was telling my buddy across the aisle all about my illness when Mrs. Haynes (the sweetest teacher I ever had) scolded me. I must have been really shooting off my mouth because she came over with a ruler and smacked me a few times across the hand. It didn’t hurt but my ego was deflated. I didn’t think a little boy, who had been so sick should be beaten so badly.
Another time in the first grade, I remember telling the whole class about my daddy. Some of the other kids had stood up and told about their fathers. I proudly announced right out of the blue, “MY daddy is making $100 a week building a garage in Shelby,”
Well, it wasn’t a garage, it wasn’t in Shelby, and in 1934, you can be sure it wasn’t $100 a week either. Mama was a little upset with me when it got back to her, but when she told Daddy that Friday night when he came home, he just smiled and kept right on smoking his pipe.
I am 48 years old, and tonight I find myself reflecting upon the fact that it is a miracle, or a series of them, that I am here at all. When I look back at some of the brushes with death, the “close-calls, the chances when, instead of me, it was someone else. Does God’s hand really guide me? Is He really fulfilling a purpose by using me? I really don’t know WHY or if I am that important to anyone, especially to Him. But if I am, if God is using me, then I pray, earnestly, that I will be strong enough – that my faith will hold, and that my life will have been for good and in accordance with His will.
(Nine years later and I still wonder, but I know that God does work His miracles sometimes in subtle ways through ordinary, average people like me.)
“A Labor of Love”
Just two days in May –
Memorial Day weekend
Brought brother and sisters
And their Mom
A measure of joy and kind of love
That could be shown in another way.
It was a time set aside for labor,
To panel a room in the old house,
To cover peeling, cracking walls,
To paint and nail
And saw and fix-up,
Even to pretty, up the bathroom –
To shine and polish and clean . .
All to brighten a little
The life of a mom who remains there –
To make her house just
A little more comfortable and nice.
She appreciated it, no doubt,
But there is no doubt, also
That the brothers and sisters
Who toiled and sweated
Actually benefited the most
Because we know
–That every nail was for her
–That every noise from the
Hammer and saw was for her
–That all the measuring and
Fitting and cleaning was for her
–That this was our way of
Giving back a little as the
Love given to us long ago
In that house . . . in that room
–That the father who once lived there
Must have been smiling in approval.
And when it was over,
The tiredness and the soreness was beautiful
And we went away content.
A labor of love – a small way
To remember – on Memorial Day.
“She Waited Up For Me”
She waited up for us . . . as many times we were out too late
But still she would lie awake and listen and wait
And somehow no matter how quietly we turned the key
She heard us come in – and she would call our names
And by the sound of our voice she would know who it was
As we would answer and say “It’s me,”
Sleep for her often interrupted, and sometimes almost none at all
As children went through our childhood diseases,
And for her we would often call.
And like all mothers do – she‘d stay up to comfort us
And as only mothers know how, she would come in to check on us
Or smooth a fevered brow.
And we’d say “Mama, go lie down and rest,”
But still we always knew
That light left near the door for us
Would shine on ‘til the last child came through.
She would call our names out, as we tip-toed down the hall
And when she realized each one was home
She would close her eyes, and sleep ‘til dawn.
Then one day all 6 of us stood ‘round her bed,
The kindly old doctor calmed her fears
And assured her each child was home.
Then it seemed that when she knew each child was safe,
Though we were quietly weeping
She closed her eyes and with a smile
She quietly went to sleep!
The Gourd Hole
Ah, a mecca in the desert – when days of summer sun sent us flying, barefooted through pastures and woods, over barbed-wire fences to our special place of water fun. It was a magnificent retreat. Cool water, swimming, diving, sliding, and laughing on the slippery rocks – and no bathing suits, The girls never went with the boys. Even though their modesty made them wear “something”, we would try to slip around near enough for a pick. We really never got close enough to see anything but our imaginations did.
After a while, we would dry in the sun – some would bath “in the tub” (a hole in the rock) – then put on our overalls before travelling slowly back up the well-worn path toward the barn and the chores that awaited there.
Quite a place – this “Gourd Hole”? Not really – not now from an adult’s eye. Just a wide place in the creek – maybe 12’ x 12’ and not more than 4’ deep at the center – and often there were more snakes than shinny- dipping boys, but we didn’t bother them and they didn’t bother us.
But those were glorious, never-to–be-forgotten days when our “Gourd Hole” was more important to us than most anything.
And it didn’t cost anything.
Mama was a clown at times, when the four (then) of us gave her an opportunity. She was always poking nonsense at one of us. She liked to tell me that I was adopted – that I was so “dark” at birth she just knew I couldn’t be hers. The she’d laugh and give me a quick pat-pat-pat on the cheek and I’d say “Oh Mama, don’t say that!”
It was Halloween night, as I recall, and we four kids had been to the Halloween Carnival at the school gym. We walked, of course, because Daddy wasn’t home and there was no car. On the way back, when we were all psyched up with goblins and spooks and stuff, we really had the scare of our lives, Mama decided to really test our strength and our faith in our legs. So, she wrapped herself in a big (and Mama was big) white sheet and waited for us in a gully near the path we would take from the road to the house. It was a dark and eerie night. Just as we got to the gully, out jumped Mama in her big white sheet – screaming and waving her arms, so that old sheet whistled and slapped like crazy in the chilly October night. I swear, I thought it was the Devil himself. It must have been 200 yards to the house, but I don’t remember taking but two or three steps. Jimmy said she just sort of “scooted and slid” the whole way.
Later we pretended we knew it was Mama all the time, but my, oh how Mama did laugh at how she put the fear of judgement in her brood that Halloween Night.
She may have forgotten it, but I never will!
- About Charles
- Old Lou & Simp
- Ode To My Pacemaker
- Old Grandpa
- A Perplexing Time
- My Daddy
- A Labor of Love
- She Waited Up For me
- The Gourd Hole