Tales of Retirement in Paradise
|Chapter 20: Harry Robinson, He's One of the Old-Timers|
Polly G. Vicars
Not all of the old-timers sit around and moon about the old days. Please meet our friend Harry who, though he has lived for ninety plus years, sees everything through youthful eyes that do not even require glasses. (Sadly, at this date in 2008, friend Harry is no longer with us. We miss him and his wife Louise with whom we have lost touch.)
|Harry with his beloved "fiddle."|
After a wonderful evening of dining and dancing at an AMF dinner-dance, Husband and I, worn to a frazzle and anxious to get home to fall into bed, signaled to Harry and Louise Robinson, who had come to the dance with us, that we were ready to leave. We said our goodbyes and headed to the van where we awaited our passengers.
We waited and waited, and finally Husband went back to find the then ninety-three-year-old Harry and the lovely Louise, thinking, perhaps, something had happened. Something had happened all right; the band was playing music they couldn't resist, and they were on the dance floor "cutting a rug."
This is typical Harry Robinson! He was born with the new century in Wadina, Minnesota and, like the century he came with, has seen miraculous progress and change, but has taken it all in his stride. Adventure was and is part of his daily life.
At the age of seven, his family moved to a tiny Montana town on a Crow Indian Reservation that consisted of a hotel, blacksmith shop, pool hall, Catholic and Baptist missions, and an Indian trading post where his father worked. Harry and his sister grew up there, learned the Crow language, went to a one room school and had instilled in them family values which endure today. Riding to school on horseback with their Indian friends, they witnessed the dignity of the those people, and they absorbed the beauty of the country.
Harry stayed on the reservation until World War I exploded on the century and as soon as he turned eighteen, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. He served his country in the Philippines, never getting to Europe. However, another culture was introduced to Harry, surely impacting on his life of love and generosity to mankind.
Returning home to help his father in a new joint ranching venture with an Indian friend that allowed him use of the land, much like joint ventures with the communities here in México, he quickly learned one of life's hard lessons. That winter proved to be Montana's coldest in history and wiped out most of the cattle, along with the businesses of all of the ranchers, including Harry's father.
So Father returned to the Trading Post, and Harry ventured to Billings, Montana where, using his father's connections, he found a job in a wholesale grocery. He stayed there fifteen years, tried Butte for a few years, then migrated to Seattle, Washington where, for twenty-six years, he managed the Davies Coffee Company. There he married, raised two sons, Larry and Tom, and lived a happy and fulfilled life.
After his first wife died, he met and married Louise, now his bride of twenty-nine years, who had also lost a mate. This turned out to be a "marriage made in Heaven," according to both. Louise says she lives with a saint, who no matter what he is doing will stop and perform the chore she wants done immediately. (Husband, please take note!) They emphasized that, having both successfully raised their children and completed their careers before they met and married, their marriage has been one long honeymoon of travel and adventures.
They spent the first years of their marriage making repeated trips exploring Europe. Then they began traveling to find a warm place to spend the winters. They tried Spain, Portugal, California, Arizona and Hawaii; all were comfortable, but none could measure up to their final choice, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, México. Harry says he loves the temperature and the tempo! "This is the greatest climate in the world, and I love the Mexican people and their lifestyle! I love the Mexican customs, the closeness of the families, and the generosity of the people. We had friends who wrecked their car in a small Mexican town with no hospital facilities. A local family took them into their home, cared for them until they were well and sent them on their way, expecting nothing in return. No matter what the trouble, here there is always someone who will help!"
When Harry and Louise decided to spend six months of each year here, they didn't just bask in the sun. A friend of Harry's was teaching English to the locals. Harry joined him and others, and taught many youngsters the rudiments of English, enabling them to find a better job in this tourist oriented town.
They taught in their homes, in hotels, and wherever they had room to get a few together for lessons. Of course they expected nothing in return, but through the years they have received payment. Young adults still come up to Harry and say, "Remember me? You taught me English at the hotel and now I'm manager of a shop." or "Remember me? I used to come to your house at 9 o'clock at night to learn English, and now I have this wonderful job." High wages for Harry, indeed.
Both Harry and Louise are active in the IFC, giving a helping hand where needed. Always keeping their keen minds active, they enrolled with Maestro Melchor for Spanish classes last year. They travel extensively in México, always returning to their lovely home of the last twelve years, Quinto Encanto.
Harry has not given up his love for music or playing his fiddle since coming to Vallarta. When Harry was about ten years old, living on the reservation, a farmer came to his house with a violin. Harry had never seen or heard of a violin, but was immediately interested. The man, though not formally schooled in music, taught Harry what he knew. Harry progressed and in his teens played for dances and for his own pleasure. Even now, at parties he can sometimes be convinced to get out the fiddle, to the delight of all who listen.
Harry's two sons, both now retired after successful careers, are the pride of his life. He beams when he tells me, "Like most parents, I'm proud to see my sons do better than I did. They are both good decent men and citizens and never gave me any worry! I'm very thankful for both of them."
When asked to what he attributes his longevity, Harry answers, "I never did anything right! I smoked, I drank, I didn't take vitamins, but, of course, I gave up smoking, and Louise has now introduced me to vitamins (no mention of giving up a glass or two.) My doctor says I can take no credit, that it all goes to my genes. My mother lived to be ninety-six, one grandmother to ninety-eight and the other to one hundred."
I disagree with both Harry and his doctor. Harry can take much of the credit. He has lived a life that is an inspiration to all who know him and would tempt a "maker" to keep him going and going like one of those battery run rabbits. Loving husband, father and grandfather - loyal employee - generous friend - patriotic citizen - lover of humanity! What more would any man want said of his life? Harry we love you and look forward to celebrating the new century and your one hundredth in the year 2000. I'm buying!
(Sadly we didn't get "to buy" for Harry's 100th, but he did get to celebrate it with his family in Washington. Perhaps Husband and I became such good friends with Harry and Louise as we did because we love all the things that he loved about Puerto Vallarta and we, too, did our stint of teaching English to locals in the school that evolved from Harry's efforts. You'll read about that in a later chapter.)
Polly G. Vicars and her husband of 57 years, Hubert (a.k.a. "Husband") retired to Puerto Vallarta in 1988 and soon became active members of several charitable organizations. Polly is the author of "Tales of Retirement in Paradise: Life in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico" [a sell-out!] and "More Tales of Retirement in Puerto Vallarta and Around the World." Proceeds from the sale of her books go to the America-Mexico Foundation, a scholarship foundation that is their passion.
Click HERE for more articles by Polly Vicars.