Bill Robson

From Unicorners and Venus & Mars

Bill Robson celebrated his 90th Birthday on May 30, 2010. He exemplifies the spirit as well as the benefits of square dancing – fun, friendship, fitness and fellowship. Both Unicorners and Venus & Mars Square Dance Clubs are proud to call him our “Distinguished Senior Member.” Bill believes that dancing, usually at least twice a week, has helped keep him healthy. It is a pleasure to have Bill Robson as an active member of our dance community.

BillRobson1Bill was born at home on a wheat ranch in western Nebraska into a farming family. With no hospital nearby, relatives came to help with the birth. This was the year of the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) and the ratification of the 19th Amendment (Women’s vote). His home had no indoor plumbing or electricity. Envision a pump in the entry room next to the sink and a shower outside close to the well. Times were hard and the family struggled through the Great Depression and the drought years. Bill’s father and family members worked hard to keep food on the table, and they even let a homeless family stay with them during that time. Potatoes were bought and sold, and some were stored for winter food for the family. Bill Sr. hired neighboring men to help pick corn, feeling that would be a good way to keep them working, but most of the profits went for rent of the land. There were some pigs and calves, but the animals “went to market.” Occasionally, a chicken or eggs would be available for the family to eat.

Bill recalls a red, one-room schoolhouse with a room for coal and corn stalks to heat the building. The room could hold about 25 kids, but there were never more than 15 or so. His favorite subjects were reading, math, history and geography – not spelling or grammar. They did not have the McGuffey Readers. Bill continued with his education through high school taking college prep courses.

His recreation involved lots of running, volleyball (at school), riding a horse (from which he got thrown off), and roping a cow. There were never enough people to form a baseball team. Eventually, there were enough families to do some square dancing, waltz and polka and Bill and his family participated. Neighbors were the first to get a “crystal set” with earphones, and in 1925 they listened to radio station KDKA. Eventually, the family got a battery-operated radio with an antenna that was 60 feet tall (going up the windmill). When the earth was too dry, the ground wire didn’t work, and there would be no reception unless water was poured onto the wire. Programs were “The Lone Ranger, Grand Ole Opry and Maw Perkins” (listened to by his mother).

The family had a variety of cars, a “Model T” (1913), Buick (1917) and in the 1920’s there was another “Model T” and “Model A” (1929). Apparently, the “Model A” did great in the mud and snow. He recalls using six to eight cans of shoe polish to shine one of these cars. Some of his neighbors still went to town in a horse and wagon.BillRobson2

Bill’s father taught him how to work – the farm, the animals and the machinery. His parents shared their political concerns about Hitler. In 1940, Bill joined the Navy, insuring his older brother wouldn’t be drafted. He remembers listening to Edgar R. Murrow about the War in Europe. Bill served on a variety of Navy vessels, his first being a cruiser (USS Brooklyn) that he boarded at Pearl Harbor. His service took him to New Zealand, the Atlantic, Africa and the South Pacific. He recollects listening to Tokyo Rose on the radio. Bill received many medals for his distinguished service to our Country.

He went to school in Washington, D. C. where he learned about electronics and mechanics. It was here he met Eloudene Kinsey, who was also in the Navy. Bill and Eloudene married in 1945 and had three children, Barbara Ann, John Marquis and Mary Anne. There are now four grandchildren and one great grandchild. Eloudene has passed away.

After seeing an ad for a Radio Engineering/Electronic School in Kansas City, Bill picked up his family and went there to finish school. Upon completion, he applied for work all over the country and took a job with WKRC Radio in Cincinnati, where he worked for over 25 years. Bill occasionally met celebrities at work. Duke Ellington told him that he was the “best audience he ever had.”

When asked for some “personal comments” and “lessons learned,” Bill shared the following with us:BillRobson3

  • “Going to war doesn’t accomplish a thing. Wars are fought for money or power, not freedom. Many veterans haven’t been and still are not being taken care of properly.”
  • “During my lifetime, the technological advances in communication have been very impressive.”
  • “Work on cancer, smallpox and polio are important medical advances that have greatly impacted mankind.”
  • “THE EVENT IN HISTORY THAT HAD THE MOST REMARKABLE INFLUENCE ON THE WORLD IS GANDHI LEADING THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT AROUND THE WORLD (AMERICA, SOUTH AFRICA, ETC.)”

Along with dancing, Bill routinely exercises and still enjoys taking care of the yard where he lives with his daughter in Maineville. Not too long ago, he fulfilled his desire to “travel the world” with his good friend, Phyllis Winholt, a square dancer who has since passed away. Bill now has a special friend, Debbie Baldwin, with whom he shares his life experiences and she is his dance partner.

Bill keeps his mind active as he plays bridge and euchre, and he remains politically active. Bill didn’t abandon his farming roots. Until very recently, he always kept a large garden and generously shared his “harvest” with others. He works regularly in a homeless shelter and is involved with support of our Military Veterans and in other social service opportunities. Bill makes GREAT pies, and brings them to our square dances. They are usually the first item to be “gone” from our refreshment tables.