Albert Robinson keeps kids safe
The first person many students see when they arrive at Park Elementary School and the last face they see when they leave in the afternoon is Albert Robinson. At 85 years old, he’s been a Great Bend crossing guard for more than 20 years, mostly at Park School.
Before the start of this school year, Great Bend USD 428 employees were reminded that they are all educators, whether they know it or not. Motivational speaker Joe Coles, a former educator from Cimarron, gave the program “One Team,” which includes school secretaries, janitors and everyone else who comes in contact with the students.
Park School Principal Phil Heeke already knew that about Robinson.
“He has always been so positive,” Heeke said. “He always tells our kids ‘have a good day’ and ‘see you tomorrow.’”
Last November, when Robinson celebrated his 85th birthday, Park School made a big blue birthday card for him. And on a cold day, one of them handed him a cup of hot chocolate.
One day last week, as first graders Devin Olivas and Jordan Perez were having lunch with the principal, 530News dropped in to learn more about Robinson. (Heeke explained that students who follow the school’s “behavior matrix” by acting responsibly, respectfully and safely are rewarded with Park School Tiger Tickets which are entered into weekly prize drawings. Devin’s name had been drawn and he chose the reward of having lunch with the principal. He was also allowed to bring one friend.)
It wasn’t hard for them to talk about Robinson.
“He’s very nice to us,” Jordan said.
“He keeps me safe by telling me when to go and when to stop,” Devin added.
A Great Bend native
Robinson, who is also known as “Reverend Al” to his friends, was born in Great Bend on Nov. 12, 1931. He started kindergarten at Riley School when he was 4 years old, and graduated from Great Bend High School when he was 18.
He worked at the Main Street Dillons store until he was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he was a radar operator at the Oakland (California) Army Base. “I had three 90 mm guns attached to my radar, and every time a plane flew over I’d track and hook onto it until they said it was safe.”
His first daughter was born in California. Robinson and his first wife had five daughters.
Returning to Great Bend, Robinson said Dillons counted his two years of military service as part of his seniority and he was proud to earn his 10-year pin. He was promoted to stock clerk, but even though he helped train managers for new stores as they opened, Robinson was never offered a management position. He talked to someone at the corporate office in Hutchinson about that.
“I said ‘I think you ought to have some of my people in the larger stores where you’ve got so many people, as managers.’
“They said, ‘you’re not satisfied here?’ The guy wasn’t too happy with what I said. He said, ‘Well, Albert, if you don’t like it here you know what you can do about it.’”
So he turned in his resignation accepted an offer to work with his wife’s uncle in real estate in Oklahoma City.
Robinson had several jobs in Oklahoma over the years. He was the first black Prudential Insurance agent for northeast Oklahoma, and he also worked for the Oklahoma City Police Department as a Lake Ranger at Lake Hefner.
“I’m a lake person,” Robinson said. Fishing is one of his favorite things to do.
He married his second wife, Ann, in 1982. She has a son and three daughters.
Ann is also from Oklahoma, but they met in Hutchinson, when he was visiting his mother. Albert invited her to church. He and Ann were married in 1982, the year he moved back to Great Bend.
An African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister for many years, “Reverend Al” had churches at Lyons and Sterling. Ann used to drive him to his congregations around the district. Today he is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Nowadays, the Robinsons enjoy spending take with family when they can — their children are scattered across the United States and live successful lives, — and Albert still likes to fish. It’s just a short walk from their Great Bend home to Park School, where Albert arrives twice a day to keep the children safe.
He said that he and Ann are “getting old together” and it hasn’t always been easy. But his positive attitude prevails. “We’ve been blessed,” he said.