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Ralph Rodney Robbins
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E. Rodney Robbins

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THE Cornwall Elementary School COMMUNITY HISTORY PROJECT:
Seeing Cornwall's Past Through Its People


E. (EBEN) "RODNEY" ROBBINS

Esther, Joyce, and Cynthia
sisters photo

E. "Rodney" Robbins was born on April 3, 1904. His parents were Ralph and Anna James. Ralph and Anna were married June 13, 1900. Rodney died on August 10, 2004 at 100 years old. He is buried in the Cornwall Cemetery. Rodney had one sister named Catherine. He married Grace Brothers of Hinesburg and they had three daughters, Joyce, Cynthia, and Esther.


Remembrances of Rodney

Kate K., Jonah S., and Nick G. on the Kalamazoo stove.
kids photo

There are many objects and places that remind Rodney's daughters of him. One place is a picture of the Cornwall # 2 schoolhouse, located south of his home on Route 30. Also a fond memory is a picture of Rodney celebrating his 100th birthday in April of 2004. The sisters still have Rodney's yellow toy top. A place that reminds them of their father is at the dining room table that looks out over the garden Rodney tended and loved so well. Rodney

shared the garden's produce with friends and members of the Cornwall Church. The Kalamazoo woodstove, located between the dining room and the kitchen, reminded the sisters of Rodney because it was his job to keep it stoked, which he did faithfully and without complaint.

The Train Home

To get home from Vermont Agricultural College in Randolph, Vermont, Rodney would take an all-night train. Sometimes it was the milk train. One time Rodney fell asleep on the train, so when the train arrived in Middlebury, he didn't get off. The conductor found him asleep and quickly woke him and, knowing he should have gotten off at the last stop, lifted him up by the waistband and literally threw him off the train. The conductor tossed Rodney quickly so he wouldn't hit the tunnel they were approaching at Seymour Street. Meanwhile, Rodney's father, who had been waiting at the train station in his horse and wagon, left when Rodney didn't appear. Rodney beat his father home because he hitched a ride in an automobile.

THE SNOWSHOE TREK

One time Rodney and a college friend decided to snowshoe home from Vermont Agricultural College. They decided to follow the electrical lines. They went up a small mountain and came to a little town in the valley. They thought they were on the right track, but then they came to a fork in the road and took the wrong road. They ended up going across a field and fell into a brook. They got ice on their snowshoes, which made them sink deep in the snow. They decided to eat but when they took out their cheese sandwiches, they discovered that the sandwiches were frozen solid like boards. They started off again and came to Ripton where they bought a big bag of cookies for lunch with the only money they had left. While in Ripton, they asked some people if they could warm up in their house. The people then invited them to stay for the night. Rodney and his buddy accepted. The next day they walked to Middlebury and parted to go to their own homes. When it was time for them to go back to college, they decided to take the train.

THE MILK STRIKE

Another time, there was a milk strike. Rodney's family had too much milk and they could not sell it. They didn't want to waste the milk so they made butter. Because they had to make a lot of butter they decided to use the washing machine to churn it. After this butter making experience, their mother never made butter that way again, and we don't know if they ever washed clothes in that machine again, either.

THE RACE

Rodney had the latest car, a Stanley Steamer that puffed out steam. One time, when he and his wife, Grace Brothers of Hinesburg, were out driving, they drove past a railroad station. They decided to race the train to the train crossing. They won! Cars could travel faster than steam engines at that time. This same car had a joy stick for steering and it was really noisy, so noisy, it would scare horses!


Stories told to Kate K. by Cynthia (Robbins) Aube; Jonah S. by Esther (Robbins) Roundy; and Nick G. by Joyce (Robbins) Stephens.