Roscoe John Robinson – 1997 Inductee

Roscoe John Robinson, a dreamer, a lover of life but most of all a teacher, the youngest child of John William Robinson and Ellen (Eaton) Robinson, was born January 13, 1892, on a farm in the northern part of Saline County, Kansas. Roscoe attended the rural Mahon School, District Number 88, in Saline County throughout his elementary schooling. So that Roscoe could gain more education the John W. Robinson family moved to Tescott. He graduated from the three-year high school in 1909. He taught the school year of 1909-10 at the rural Cole School, District Number 72, in Saline County. The school term was for twenty-eight weeks. Roscoe received the salary of $40.00 per month. He probably boarded in the community as there was no direct route from Tescott to the school. He had no eighth graders that year according to Saline County school records. Needing a wider variety of high school credits, especially in the science subjects so he could attend college to fulfill his dream of becoming a physician, he enrolled in the Salina, Kansas, High School in the fall of 1910. Roscoe graduated, with honors from Salina High, in the spring of 1912. He traveled to and from Tescott to Salina on the train each day to attend school.

As he had not enough financial assistance to attend college beginning in the fall of 1912, Roscoe taught the next school year at Tripp School, District Number 8, in Ottawa County. No records yet have been researched as to the listing of salary, students or if there were any eighth graders. Roscoe felt that he should teach another year, and when his friend of high school days offered him a position of a teacher in the Tescott Grade School, he took it. That meant that Roscoe could live at home.

At last, to fulfill his dream of becoming a physician, in the fall of 1914 Roscoe enrolled in the medical school at Kansas University. An allergic reaction to the ether used in the surgery at the time caused him to give up his dream of becoming a physician. He then transferred to the education department to become a science teacher. Roscoe discovered that many of his pre-med courses could not be transferred towards his education degree; therefore he had to repeat many of the courses to complete his teaching degree to be a science teacher. He was not able to complete his B.S. in Education until the spring of 1926. His college was interrupted by World War I. He enlisted in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Army. His service was very short due to physical problems. Following a goiter operation Roscoe could not work for a year. It was while in the service that Roscoe lost his mother.

Since he could not return to college after his operation, Roscoe resumed his teaching in the fall of 1919. He was hired as the principal of the Tescott Grade School, where the new 3rd/4th grade teacher, Mabel Hobrock, from Minneapolis, Kansas, took his eye. On December 28, 1920, Roscoe John Robinson took Mabel Anne Hobrock as his bride. They were married at the Natoma, Kansas, Methodist parsonage. Roscoe and Mabel had four children–Helen, Robert, Doris, and Frances.

In the fall of 1921, Roscoe and Mabel moved to DeSoto, Kansas. Roscoe continued his studies at Kansas University while being the principal of the DeSoto Grade School. Teaching full time, starting a family, and attending college classes kept Roscoe busy for the next five years. With his new degree in hand, in the fall of 1926 he took the position of science/math teacher at the Eudora, Kansas, High School. He taught there for two years. In the spring of 1928, he had hopes of becoming a high school science teacher in Fort Wayne, Indiana, school system for the coming school year, but that did not materialize.

Roscoe and Mabel, with their young family, were facing a crisis; what to do now–no teaching position available. They finally decided to move back to Tescott to be with his father. In the early fall, a teacher of the Tescott High School resigned. Roscoe was hired to fill that vacancy. At the end of December, the principal resigned and Roscoe was hired for that position temporarily. Since Roscoe had no Master’s Degree, he could not be hired as the permanent principal. George Hitchcock, an old teacher friend, asked Roscoe to become the science/math teacher/coach at the Ada, Kansas, High School for the school year of 1929.

Roscoe and Mabel stayed for eleven years in Ada, Kansas, first as a very successful coach and teacher, then as the principal. At that time only certain size high school principals had to have a Master’s Degree. When Roscoe assumed the principalship, he began his work to receive a Master’s Degree. The state requirements changed, and every high school in Kansas had to hire a principal with a Master’s by the fall of 1940. Roscoe could not complete his work by that time so he was relieved of his position at Ada.

Roscoe and Mabel were again facing the crisis of what to do. His father had died; therefore there was no reason to move back to Tescott. After looking into several opportunities in the teaching field and in business, without success, Roscoe and Mabel moved their growing family to the farm of her parents in Natoma, Kansas, where they farmed for one year.

Beginning in the fall of 1941, Roscoe began teaching at the Portis, Kansas, High School, as the science /math teacher and coach. He was a popular teacher and successful coach for one year. The Portis School Board wished Roscoe to return another year but the football coach/science teacher position opened in the Osborne, Kansas, High School system. After much soul searching and regret at leaving a fine small school system and a friendly community, Roscoe decided to take the Osborne position. Roscoe soon gave up the football coaching but remained as the science teacher with an occasional math class until his retirement from teaching in 1955. During the 1943/44 school year, Roscoe not only had to be coach of the football team but serve as band director as well.

In the spring of 1956, with the office of Osborne County Superintendent of Schools becoming vacant, Roscoe decided to run for the county position. He won that election and the next three elections also. He served the four terms as County Superintendent helping teachers to become better at their professions and to help instill a love of learning and reading in the students.

Roscoe decided that maybe a legislative job in Topeka representing the county would be interesting. He was elected for two terms as the Osborne County Representative in the Kansas House of Representatives. Although an educator all his life, it was ironic he was not assigned to the Education Committee. He could have added much to the state plans as the present redistricting was beginning to form when he served his two terms. He was assigned to the budget committee where he worked to have Kansans receive the most efficient use of their tax moneys. For this service and other leadership roles, he was presented the Governor’s Meritorious Award by then-Kansas Governor John Anderson.

After his serving in the legislature, Roscoe retired to enjoy to a fuller extent his recent hobby, playing golf. He played nearly every day with old and new friends. He could now be a more active member of the Rotary Club and the American Legion. Roscoe was an avid sports fan all his life; he played baseball in his early years, with the Tescott High School and summer sandlot teams. He had a knowledge of football, basketball, baseball and tennis both as a player and as a coach. Roscoe loved to fish. During their early married life Mabel fished with Roscoe, but as the family increased and grew Mabel did little or no fishing with her partner. Roscoe and Mabel probably knew every fishing hole on the Wakarusa River in eastern Kansas. Roscoe, with his son, Bob, fished in all rivers and creeks in the areas in which they lived. If Roscoe ever saw a snake near the water where they were fishing, there was no more fishing that day.
That Roscoe developed a musical ability to play almost any instrument and to sing in parts is remarkable for he had no formal training. His grandparents were very musical; his maternal grandfather led singing schools in Michigan and in Kansas. Roscoe with his brothers played for dances in Saline and Ottawa Counties during the early 1900s. Roscoe always sang in church choirs whenever he lived. He sang in Christ Episcopal Church choir while attending high school in Salina. He loved quartet singing, mixed or male, but he especially enjoyed choir work and he was a soloist of note. At Ada, he was the baritone of a male quartet that sang for many school, church and community functions. At Osborne he was well-known for his work in and with the Barbershoppers. He sang in a quartet called “Men of Note” with Olin McFadden, Frank Chalk and Gordon Bartholomew. They were a guest quartet at many concerts. They loved the competition of the Barbershoppers contests. Roscoe directed the Barbershoppers chorus for many years. All who listened or sang under his direction remember his exuberance in directing to bring out the best of the singers. Roscoe loved to work with plays and musicals. He was in his element while being, usually, an end man in the minstrels that were so popular in the 1930s and early 1940s. He did some directing of high school plays during his teaching years.

While at Kansas University, he earned a KU pin for each of the four years playing the “Double B” in the university band. These pins were equivalent to the athletic letter given for sports participation. In 1920 he purchased a new Conn alto saxophone. He played that for fun and entertainment at many musical functions. He was one of the prime movers when Bobby Dale of Bennington, Kansas, formed a community band at Ada. How Mabel kept her sanity during those years with her husband practicing his sousaphone, and each of the four children practicing their various instruments every evening, each playing a different song at the same time, is an amazing thought. Roscoe, with Homer Clark, directed the Osborne summer band concerts in the city park pavilion during the middle 1940s. If he did not direct he was a band member.

Roscoe took several summer workshops in physical therapy from Coach “Phog” Allen at Kansas University. He practiced many of these techniques to keep his players and other athletes in top physical condition. Roscoe was always very active in the Methodist Church wherever the family was living. He served in all aspects of church work–Sunday School teacher, Sunday School superintendent, Bible School leader, always a choir member, various committees of the church, and yes, even preaching. His religious thinking and attitudes were influenced by his maternal grandmother, Lydia Eaton. He was in church every Sunday and made sure his whole family worshipped with him. Roscoe, as a teacher, was a lover of learning. He was ever instilling in his students, his friends and his family to develop the desire to gain more knowledge. Books were a part of his every day life. He was a prolific reader on all subjects.

Roscoe was a gentle, kind man who lived the principles of Christ’s teachings. That meant that Roscoe expected the best from all. Each and everyone did just that to escape that stern look of his displeasure. His outlook on life was always positive with a smile and a cheery approach. In being introduced to his eldest daughter’s principal at Williamsport, Maryland, High School, she said that Roscoe had been in the education field for over fifty years. The principal remarked that Roscoe must have loved it because he could still smile after all those years. Roscoe loved to laugh and enjoyed a good joke. Yet Roscoe was a strong man who was not afraid to state his views, or to stand up for what was right, and still kept his integrity with the respect of others for him. He inspired everyone to live to one’s fullest and to the best in all aspects of life.

One of the toughest problems Roscoe faced when he moved to Osborne was to be known by his first name. In every other teaching community the teachers were known as Mr., Mrs., or Miss–never by their first names. But in Osborne it was a traditional sign of affection and acceptance to call a teacher by the first name.

It is very difficult for the family to separate Roscoe from Mabel or Mabel from Roscoe. They were a perfect pair, sharing fifty-five years of married life, raising four children, facing the economic uncertainties of the 1920s, 1930s, and early 1940s, to bring glory to their family, their friends, their communities where they lived but most of all glory to their God.

To quote from his obituary: “What is the measure of man? Micah says–loving kindness, doing justice, walking humbly with God.” These words typify the lifestyle of Roscoe J. Robinson. He died Sunday, November 16, 1974, at the Osborne County Memorial Hospital and was buried in the Natoma Cemetery. He is still talked of with reverence, love and respect by all who knew and loved him. — Written by daughter Helen (Robinson) Long, January 1996.

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