Remembering Bennie Robinson, of Start (1928-2019)

Ben was born May 9, 1928 and passed away Tuesday April 9, 2019 at the Northeast Louisiana Veterans Home after a lengthy illness.

Following graduation from Start High School, Ben enlisted in the United States Army, November 9, 1950. Ben served honorably both during wartime as Corporal and after discharge in the Army Reserves as Sergeant. Following his discharge from the Army, he enrolled in Northeast Louisiana University, which in 1950 was Northeast Louisiana State College, and completed a BS degree in Agriculture.

After marriage, he received his Masters degree from LSU in Agriculture Economics. Ben was employed by the United States Department of Agriculture for 35 years as a Supervisor for the Regional Cotton Classification Agency. He worked in the Alexandria office, but ran several offices all over the South.

Staying busy was always Ben’s way of life. While living in Alexandria, he developed an interest in restoring a 1929 Ford Model A car with a Rumble Seat. During his son’s high school years, the Model A got quite a workout cruising the streets of Alexandria. Later, Ben enjoyed driving the car in parades and weddings. Ben also enjoyed collecting and restoring antique clocks. He soon became a master clockmaker. He enjoyed making and refinishing cases as well as repairing the timepieces. Ben was an avid reader. He especially enjoyed reading and memorizing poems from his tattered and torn books of poetry. He took pleasure in reciting poems for groups and for loved ones.

Having become a Christian at an early age, Ben was a faithful follower of his Lord. He served each church of which he was a member with humility in many capacities including, RA Leader, Sunday School teacher, Deacon, Saint’s Alive president, faithful Sunday School member, and a longtime active member of the Civitan Club. He was a good son, a good husband, a good father, a good grandfather, and a good friend to all.

Remembering The Robinson Community

by Bennie Robinson, FROM RICHLAND MEMORIES, VOLUME 2. PAGES 162-163.

The following is a brief history of the Robinson community, located two miles south of Start, Louisiana, in rural Richland Parish, as told by Bennie Robinson.

I grew up there (the Robinson community) in the 1930’s and 40’s, the eldest child of Oscar “Doc” Robinson and Ollie Davis Robinson. It is the place that I have always called home. Although I’ve lived elsewhere for a number of years, I moved back to the community in 1978. I built a home on the spot where my grandparents’ home once stood.

It was shortly after the Civil War that John B. Robinson and wife, Mary, my great grandparents, migrated to this area from Mississippi. They had four sons. Benjamin, Edward, Josh and Frank; and one daughter, Marge.

Benjamin was my grandfather. Ben White and Bentley Curry are also his grandchildren and still live in the area. Lenora Lauranoff is a granddaughter of John Robinson and still lives in the community. John B. Robinson died in 1885 and his wife, Mary, in 1887. They, along with all their children are buried in the New Salem cemetery, north of Girard, Louisiana.

My grandfather, Benjamin Robinson, met a young lady from the Wynn Island community north of Start. Her name was Anna Wynn and she became my grandmother.

There were sixteen children born to that union. My father, Oscar “Doc” Robinson, was one of them. My grandparents along with a number of the children are also buried in the New Salem cemetery.

During its early years, the community had two one-room schools and a country store. The first school and probably the oldest was the Hollywood School located on property now owned by Bentley Curry. The second school was called the Magnolia School and was on property donated by John Robinson. It also served as a church.

Frank Robinson owned the country store that was quite large. It handled a wide variety of goods such as food, hardware, dry goods and even caskets, so I have been told. The schools were gone when I arrived on the scene in 1928 but the store was still going strong and I well remember having eaten many a piece of cheese and crackers given to me by Uncle Frank Robinson.

The store burned to the ground one night in 1933. In my mind, I still see the flames as I looked out of my bedroom window. Frank Robinson suffered a stroke and died in 1934. He was the last of the four brothers to pass away. I haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact year Josh Robinson passed away but it was sometime between Edward’s death in 1923 and Benjamin’s in 1929.

There was no electricity in the community until the early to mid-1940’s. Wood provided the fuel for cooking and heating. Coal oil or kerosene lamps lighted our homes. Water was drawn from shallow wells with a hand-operated pump. One water dipper served everyone for drinking. We washed our face and hands from a common washbasin usually placed on a shelf on the back porch.

Everyone dried on the same towel. Baths, usually a Saturday night event, were taken in a galvanized tub that was also used for washing clothes. Farm families usually made their own soap called “lye” soap. We shared everything in the “Good Old Days”, even our germs. Perhaps that is the problem with the world today. Not enough sharing.

Our clothing was sufficient but nothing fancy. We went barefoot from Easter until the first frost usually in November. We got one pair of shoes a year and these were usually mail-ordered from Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward. Some of our clothes were made from flour and feed sacks, which usually came in printed patterns.

The Robinson community grew up and so did I. Rural electrification came to the community in the early to mid-1940’s. This allowed rural families to have modem conveniences and a different way of life. I do a lot of dreaming these days and most of it is of the “Good Old Days.

Times were hard back then, but I would not trade mine for anything.

-Bennie Robinson – 2001

Bennie Robinson (1928-2019)

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