Posted on 22 December 2010.
MILESTONES - Robinson celebrated her 100th birthday with a party for 130 guests. She has lived in Wise County most of her life except for a couple short stints away. Messenger photo by Joe Duty
With a memory as clear as a bell, one of Wise County’s oldest residents turned 100 Nov. 11.
Nina Robinson was born in Wise County and has only left twice for very short amounts of time.
“How does it feel to be 100?” Robinson said. “Well it’s no different than 65.”
Born Nov. 11, 1910, in Greenwood, Robinson lived on a farm just outside town with her parents and four brothers and sisters. Her parents farmed corn, cotton, peanuts, maize and lots of garden vegetables.
“I can remember the first time our daddy ever brought home bologna,” she said. “We thought it was so good. Prepared mustard and peanut butter. That was three things we really did go for.”
In the fall, the peanut thresher would come for the peanut crops, and Robinson remembers people swarming the house to enjoy her family’s hospitality.
“Goodness, I don’t know how many people we’d cook for,” she said. “They’d even spend the night out on the edge of the pasture, and they’d eat supper and breakfast with us. I’ll never forget one man, he was singing off out there in the dark. Prettiest song. Oh, it was so good.”
On her eighth birthday, Nov. 11, 1918, World War I ended, and she remembers having a house full of company. The men were sitting in the yard while the women were in the kitchen cooking.
“I caught on to the fact that something unusual was going on,” Robinson said. “I kept hanging around and found out that the war had ended. I wanted to hear more about that. I’d stop and listen to the men.”
Robinson said she has always been curious how the men knew the war was over so quickly, but speculates they probably received word through telephone by people who had first heard the news through telegram.
Nina’s grandfather fought for the North in the Civil War, while her future father-in-law fought for the South. However, Nina’s grandfather died before she was born, so she never had the chance to hear stories of his days in the Union army.
When living near Greenwood, Robinson was close enough to walk to school, but when they moved to the community of Sycamore, she and her siblings walked four miles to school. The church they attended was closer.
She went to school as long as classes were offered, which was through the ninth grade. Thirsty for knowledge, Robinson chose to repeat ninth grade. The teacher was fond of her and let her teach the smaller children.
“I went as long as they were teaching,” she said. “I loved school.”
Robinson met her husband, Claude, when he came to her house to visit his brother who was married to her sister. They married in 1934.
Their first child was born a year and a few days after they married.
In late 1941, the Robinsons packed up and moved to Vacaville, Calif., where Claude worked in the shipyards. They planned to save up enough money to move back home and become self-employed farmers. The year before, they had purchased some land, so her brother took care of it while they were gone.
On Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Robinson was busy with her young children, so she didn’t leave the house much, she said. However, she noticed changes within her town.
“They were shipping all the Japanese people out of the town,” Robinson said. “They were shipping them to Arkansas. They had great big open trucks. The Japanese people were standing up in the back of those trucks, just one right after the other. Took them all out of the town.
“They had some of the neatest little homes and gardens and the prettiest yards. They just dumped them in those trucks and took them right out of there like cattle. Oh, that was pitiful.”
Robinson’s brother was drafted into the Army the following year. Instead of losing the farm they bought in 1940, the Robinsons chose to move back to Greenwood.
“We wanted to farm when we got back because we already had the three little children and (Claude) almost had to go to the Army,” Robinson said. “He went to town one day thinking that was the day they would send him off, and they found out we were on the farm and had our own equipment and everything.
“They said, ‘You go back home. You’re worth more there to the world than you are in the Army.’ I never was so happy in my life.”
Back in Greenwood, Robinson’s WWII experience was far from over. One morning, about 200 soldiers marched through her front yard on their travels across the country.
Her family gathered at the front door, and she let the little kids watch. Some of the soldiers waved back. At one point, a few soldiers came to the house to borrow some fresh eggs, she said. Robinson didn’t know where they were going or where they came from.
In 1948, Robinson paid a $5 deposit for electricity for the first time. When she moved to Decatur in 1997, she received a $5 check from Wise County Co-op for her deposit.
“It was wonderful to get electricity,” she said. “We bought an ice box and a washing machine. We bought it all.”
The Robinson house was always brimming with people, and the couple were known for their generosity.
“I remember as I was growing up, people in need always came to mom and daddy because they knew they would get help,” said daughter Connie Pruett. “It might be milk and eggs, or a little bit of money or whatever they needed. They always got some kind of help. They were more or less pillars of the community.”
Robinson still cooks three meals a day, something she is known for.
“She’s fed a lot of people,” Pruett said. “She’s such an old-timey cook with the staples. Lots of bacon grease, beans, corn bread and lots of potatoes. Everybody wanted to come to my mom and dad’s house to eat.”
In 1989, Robinson encountered the toughest hurdle of her life when her daughter died at the age of 48.
“That’s about the hardest thing you’ll ever go through,” she said. “Life has been good to me most of the time. When you lose a daughter, it’s rough. And your parents and your husband and your sisters. There’s a lot of them already gone.”
To get through the rough times, Robinson turns to prayer.
“Pray and pray and work and pray while you’re working,” she said.
At the center of Robinson’s life is family. She lives in a duplex with her daughter and sees her family regularly. She has four children, seven grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and three step-great-granchildren. Her 91-year-old sister just renewed her drivers license.
“I don’t know how people live without families,” Robinson said. “I love my family.”
Robinson rarely leaves the house nowadays because her hearing has diminished, but she keeps plenty busy.
She has an expansive quilt collection which has been displayed at recent birthday parties. Robinson also crochets and is an avid reader.
The only television Robinson watches is sports, Pruett said. She loves the Dallas Mavericks, Cowboys and the Decatur Eagles. Robinson also knows all the names of the Texas Rangers.
Robinson has been a Baptist since she was 20 years old but has stopped going to church because of her hearing.
“If you ever lose your hearing, you lose a lot of living life, but it’s still worthwhile,” she said. “If I want to know badly enough, I’ll make them tell me.”
In her 100 years of living, Robinson said the secret to aging so well is her outlook on life.
“I’ve always been satisfied with life, or tried to be content,” she said. “I just make the best of everything, I guess. I love still being here if I’m not a burden to anybody.”
When she goes to visit her granddaughter Robin Stout, who lives in Robinson’s old farmhouse, she said it feels normal and natural.
“I’ve done it all my life. This road from (Decatur) to Greenwood just seems like mine.”
Pruett touts her mother and siblings as good, strong people.
“Mom grew up and stayed in the Wise County area, and we are all doing the same thing,” Pruett said. “There’s no place like home, I guess.”