Billy Graham Center

Collection 441 - Paul Robinson. T4 Transcript

This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Paul Robinson (CN 441 T4) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. Foreign terms which are not commonly understood appear in italics. In very few cases words were too unclear to be distinguished. If the transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. Readers should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.

  ...        Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.

  ....       Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.

 ( )       Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.

 [ ]        Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.

This transcript was made by Arnila Santoso and Paul Ericksen, and was completed in May 2004.

Click here to listen to an audio file of this interview (35 minutes)

Collection 441, T3. Continuation of interview of Paul Robinson by Paul A. Ericksen on April 3, 1991.

ERICKSEN: Okay, well, so it [Moody’s Elizabethton facility in Tennessee] was dedicated in 1970.


ERICKSEN: When was it decided that you were going to...?

ROBINSON: Well, far as I’m...I’m concerned, there was an awful lot of work to do Chicago, which...because of my expected retirement, and not to...I wanted to have everything ready so that I could move out without a ripple, which I did. They didn’t even miss me. And that was to take care of the pre-aviation students. We had classes. And we had counsel, end-of-the years with...with the pre-aviation students. Now these fellows had been partially tested. They...they’d had...they’d had aptitude tests. And I’m...I think now...I think they even have...they go down there for flight camp in June. So they’d even had that. So there was at least two years that they [pauses]...that was required of them, and then all the relationship between the faculty and the school, and...and...and the finances and...and all the...all the different [pauses] aspects of this whole thing. And I...I coordinated the whole thing. So I left my...I...I kept my office right there, so I could work with...with the pre-aviation students. We’d give them some orientation background and I was...I was plenty busy right there.

ERICKSEN: How’d you feel about not being involved in more of the flight training?

ROBINSON: Didn’t bother me. I was...I wanted to...I was so anxious to be able to make the transition, ‘cause it was a bigger transition than I’d anticipated and most everybody did. And I...I...I went down, I commuted, I was down there once month or so. So that was...that’s what we did there. And...and...and I just coordinated the [clears throat] Tennessee [unclear] with the...with the school up here. And there was all kinds of catalog copying, all...there were so many different things that had to be done to get things on an even keel, that I was busy for two or three years, and in ‘75 I retired.

ERICKSEN: Now what has been your involvement in the world of miss...mission aviation since your retirement?

ROBINSON: Not much, except the...the [pauses]...oh boy, on the board of the...of the safety...of the mission aviation safety [pauses]...boy [pauses]...MS...MSI, Missionary Safety Institute, I think it is. This is a group of missionary...interested missionary pilots, mechanics, people, mission boards, leaders, anybody that wants to join. And it’s got study and...and work on safety to.... Joe Hopkins has an office in our facility down in Tennessee. He’s the...he’s the head of it. In fact, he....

ERICKSEN: When was it formed?


ERICKSEN: When was the MSI formed?

ROBINSON: Oh, about five years ago. But it’s...and it’s...currently they...the...the annual meeting is this month, the 18th and 19th, and I’ll probably go down [clears throat], although there isn’t much that I can contribute really right now. So I....I haven’t done too much.

ERICKSEN: Do you still fly much?


ERICKSEN: You’re going to let somebody else fly for you.

ROBINSON: Oh yeah, oh yeah. I quite flying years ago.

ERICKSEN: Miss it?

ROBINSON: Nope, I don’t really. I had a lot of flying. [laughs]

ERICKSEN: When you look back on your...your career and all the training, are there any funny stories that you still laugh about?

ROBINSON: Yeah, I guess there probably are. I’m...I’m trying to think of them in connection with [pauses]...with aviation. [pauses] Kinda leaves me.

ERICKSEN: Well, maybe we’ll come back to that.

ROBINSON: Yeah, maybe [laughs]...maybe....

ERICKSEN: If some...if something comes up, you can....

ROBINSON: I’d have to...I ought to go through...I ought to go through my notes.

ERICKSEN: You mentioned...I guess it was in our last interview that you mentioned meeting up with Paul Hartford. This is back in the ‘40s.

ROBINSON: Well, that was....

ERICKSEN: How did you meet him? Where were these mission aviators coming together?

ROBINSON: Oh, I...I just heard of his...I just heard that MAF [Mission Aviation Fellowship] was being organized about that time. I was...I...I got into there. I was number twelve there and Hartford was driving to it. And....

ERICKSEN: Now you say you were number twelve?

ROBINSON: Yeah. [laughs] They used to number them in the beginning. This is just...that’s just a...just a number they gave that...they were trying to get a group together of pilots and mechanics and....


ROBINSON: MAF way, yeah. So, I...I was in on that. And yeah, I’m sure that’s what...we went down to Winona Lake [Indiana] where Paul lived for a conference one time with some of the people who were interested. And then I’m sure I met him down there.

ERICKSEN: Now when you talk about....

ROBINSON: But he...I think he’s been out of missionary aviation for years.

ERICKSEN: Now you just mentioned the Winona Lake conference. Is that something that would happen often? Once?

ROBINSON: No, it only only happened once.

ERICKSEN: How many people were there?

ROBINSON: Oh, I suppose fifty. There were some miss...mission leaders who were...had transportation needs in their...on their mind, because some of the mission boards around the world were handicapped because they didn’t have, so they were wondering what we could do. And then professionally, the pilots and mechanics who...who wanted a Christian orientation for their work so they...they were there. Nate Saint was there, I remember. Yeah.

ERICKSEN: Can you tell me a little about Grady Parrott?

ROBINSON: Well, he was a flight instructor in...aviation-wise. I think his...his business was accounting. And...but then he got into the...I think, during the war he was...he was a flight instructor. Boy, it seemed as though it was in...he worked with Canadian people to some extend, I think. I said another thing about him not very long ago. I mentioned those things but I didn’t pay much attention to it. I wish I had. And then he...then he got into MAF by the same way most of us did, I guess. But he became...he...he was...Jim Truxton was the original president of MAF, and then Grady came in with whatever he had to bring. I forget just...what...whatever he...he [pauses]...Grady was a fine fellow. He’s still...still going.

ERICKSEN: Good administrator?


ERICKSEN: What’s he like to fly with to Sao Paulo?

ROBINSON: [clears throat] Yeah, we flew....

ERICKSEN: You were cooped up in a plane for quite awhile.

ROBINSON: We were up in a plane for a long while. [laughs] Yeah. [clears throat] But Grady was an excellent pilot and a good...yeah, good administrator. [pauses] Yeah, I think his business was...was accounting. [pauses] But that little group at MAF, [pauses] that...that’s where it started. [chuckles]

ERICKSEN: As you look back on your career, what...what did you find most fulfilling for you?

ROBINSON: Well, I...I...I’m sure it was the...the help and the assistance that we could give people who had real needs, and...and to see see some of these problems solved, was a very satisfying thing. [pauses] I don’t know what could be second. There’s most...there were so many things. [laughs]

ERICKSEN: Any...anything you didn’t like about your work?

ROBINSON: No, I had a very...

ERICKSEN: Well, that’s great.

ROBINSON: ...very pleasant career, along with the problems which any administrative person who them. I considered myself, I guess, more of an administrator the last few years than an operator. I just didn’t have time for that.

ERICKSEN: Okay. I just want to pick up a few personal details on the end. Can you tell me when you met your wife?

ROBINSON: Yeah, [clears throat] I met my wife when I was six and she was five years old. [laughs] We were at a Sunday school picnic out at my grandmother’s farm, or grandfather...her grandfather’s farm. We went to the same church in Hamburg, New York. And I met my wife that day. I don’t ever remember seeing her before, but we kids at five and six played together at the picnic. And when I got home, my mother asked me if I had a good time. “Yeah.” She said...she said,“Did you play with Dorothy and Lillian Horton.” And I said, “Yeah, I played with them.” She said, “Which one did you like best?” [laughs] Oh man. I said, “I liked Lilian.” [laughs] I came right with it apparently. She...I don’t really remember it. But she said, “Well, why did you...why did you like Lillian?” Well, I said, “I like her face better.” [laughs] And then it was a number...we...we moved away from that church, and I went off to school and college, and...and I didn’t see her again in years. But I never forgot her. So when I came home... when...when we came home, she was at Vassar [pauses] and I was at Moody. [pauses] We [pauses]...I said, “Well, what did...what did....” Well, don’t tell me I’ve forgotten that. [pauses] Well, I...anyway, when I came home from college she was home from college. And I...I was talking to my mother one day on...while we were on vacation, and we were talking about marriage apparently. And I said, “Well, isn’t there any...there isn’t very many girls in the church there, is there?” She said, “No.” I said, “Of course, there’s Lillian Horton. She’s there. “Oh yeah,” my mother said, “but she cou...she wou...she’s...she’s engaged. wouldn’t have a chance with her.” And I said, “Mother, you want to bet?” [laughs] And I don’t know what her answer was, but at any rate I found out she was home there in that June break, and I dashed right over to her house, and [pauses] there I found her pick...up in the cherry tree picking cherries. And I...I decided I’d help her. Well, I guess that we saw each other every day for the rest of the summer. [laughs] It just grew from there on. She went back to school for two years. I came out here for two years more. And [pauses] then...oh, then...then her contract was off at Vassar and she came on out to Moody. I had one more year, a third year, one more year to go, and...(dropped it) [apparently something he or the interviewer had dropped]...I had one more year to go, so she...oh, we got permission to be married. I was at the end of two years, my two ye.... I guess that’s the way it was. And so then I came back for my third year and she...she came back with me. I mean, we were...we were married before...that summer.

ERICKSEN: And what year would that...?


ERICKSEN: Okay. So you say you were given permission. Was that a big thing for a student to marry during school studying at Wh...Moody?

ROBINSON: Yeah, that was against the policy. But I happened to know the president, Will Houghton, [laughs] and he went to bat for me. Of course, he was the president [clear throat] and...and...and there was a few circumstances, I guess, that were different, so I got permission to spend...come back for my last year with...married. But it took permission. Because it was was an infringement of the rule, but was a policy that they would follow. And now and then exceptions would be made, and I was one of them. So I was married 1935.

ERICKSEN: Now I think you mentioned at some point in the interview you have three children? Is that right?


ERICKSEN: Four. And what are their names?

ROBINSON: Well, Jack is the eldest. He’s the president of Seminary of the East, out [pauses]...well actually, it’’s in New York City, where he’s working, although he’s got...there’s two...two other branches of the seminary, one in Boston and one in Pennsylvania. And they...they...they work rather uniquely together. And he coordinates, as president, the...the three of them. And it’s going very nicely. Their work is among the foreign [?], the New York City crowd, the different ethnic groups. And...and it’’s hard work in my estimation, but [clears throat] he seems to enjoy it. Well, that’s Ed...I mean, that’s Jack. Anyway. And then the next Annette. She’s married Jim Carmeen [?] and is a...they’re missionaries Venezuela.

ERICKSEN: With what board?

ROBINSON: TEAM [the Evangelical Alliance Mission]. And then there’s Ed, who after spending thirteen years on the mission field flying, is now instructing Tennessee.

ERICKSEN: And who does he work with while he was flying?

ROBINSON: MAF, yeah. He flew with MAF, yeah. And then there’s Bill. He’s a college President of Manchester College near Fort Wayne, Indiana, this side of Fort Wayne a little bit. It’s a nice liberal arts school, with a student body of about a thousand and beautiful campus and school. It’s very attractive. So he’’s a Church of the Brethren sponsored or related or whatever they do. They don’t...he doesn’t have much to do with the church, but....

ERICKSEN: Now what about the Seminary of the East? Does that have an affiliation?

ROBINSON: Yes, Conservative Baptist, I think, is the...the closest. [clears throat] And’s a unique program. They meet together...they meet at Calvary Baptist Church in New York City.

ERICKSEN: That’s [Stephen] Olford’s...

ROBINSON: Olford’s, yeah.

ERICKSEN: ...old place.

ROBINSON: That’s where they meet once a week all day long. And they come in from...well, from the city there around. Then...then the one out in Pennsylvania, they meet at...I don’t remember the name of that town. They do the same thing there, but it’s...they...and it’s unique in that every student has to be a [pauses] a position with a...with a pastor, and he works with a pastor in the church as associate of some kind, or worker or helper. And then on Saturday they come in for classwork all day long, and [laughs] it makes it possible for them do that. And then there’s the...the one in Wooster, Massachusetts. And that’s the third one. They...they do the same thing. And they’re...the...the aviation would say they’re...they’re an approved school. They’ve got a...they’ve got a really good faculty. Good faculty. [pauses] And...and it’s [pauses]’s’s very, very well.

ERICKSEN: Well, one last question. We’re coming back. Any..any funny stories come to mind since we...since I asked you that before?

ROBINSON: Oh boy, I should have plenty of them.

ERICKSEN: Maybe something related training? [pauses] Near misses?

ROBINSON: I hope there’s no near misses, [Ericksen laughs] although [pauses] I’ve had three forced landings in my life.

ERICKSEN: Now what is a forced landing?

ROBINSON: Well, ordinarily you’’re forced down by weather...


ROBINSON: ...or malfunction of the airplane, quits. [laughs] And...

ERICKSEN: And you had three of those?

ROBINSON: ...Yeah, and one of them was kind of funny. Well, yeah, I guess one of them would be...just the only one that would be funny. Right after the war ended, the Fir...I mean, the Second World War ended, airplanes were hard to come by. This...during the war they weren’t making...Piper wasn’t making any until toward the end. And so they were...they were delivering...they delivered a batch of airplanes from the factory to the various parts of the country. And one of them was...oh, I should...I should say, I was...Jack and I when we lived in Buffalo, he was just a little kid twelve years old. And he and I went out to the Rochester airport one day. I wanted to see a friend of mine who was a flight instructor out there. And when I got out there he said, “We got some new airplanes that the factory released.” I hadn’t seen them, Pipers, Piper Cubs. And I said, “Oh, I’d like to see them.” And he said, “Well, come on. Take a look.” So we went out and he said, “Take a...take a flight in it. Go ahead and see what you think about it.” Of course, they were salesmen and they...they wanted people to talk about their product if they had anything to say. So he said, “Go ahead, take it. Take it, go around the patch, and spend a little time in it.” And I said, “Okay, I...I’d like to do that.” So I said to Jack (he was with me)...I said, “You want to come along?” And he said, “Yeah.” So I put Jack in the back seat and I got up there. And we [pauses]...we were checking it out for the various, you know...the...of the controls and the things. And one of the things that we were interested in is the stall characteristics of...of any airplane that we...that we check out like that. We...we usually pull them...pull it into a series of stalls. Well, we were flying along and I said, “Okay, Jack, we’ll...we’ll do a couple stalls.” In a stall, you pull it up, up, up, up until it quits flying and until the lift is gone and then [makes plummeting whooshing sound] it’’ll die right...right down. Then we catch it, and with plummeting a couple thousand feet of altitude.

ERICKSEN: Does the engine actually stop?

ROBINSON: No, it shouldn’t, it shouldn’t. [Ericksen laughs] But it did. [Ericksen laughs] I pulled up into the stall and because of a...of a malfunction of the carburetor or, the thing quit. And I turned the carburetor heat and it was turned on, so it should not have, but there was the manufacture was adjusted so that the carburetor ice remover didn’t...didn’t work properly. It wasn’t noticed. And...and so I pulled it up in the stall and was just about ready to break, you know, just about ready to break, the engine stopped, bang. And there was that propellor. It looked as big as a telephone pole out there because it [laughs] wasn’t spinning, it wasn’t turning. [laughs] It was just stopped. And there we were at two thousand feet with...with no engine. Well, I decided I would waste maybe five hundred feet to see if I could get it started by diving it, you know, and windmilling the propellor. But they were so new and stiff it didn’t budge. It just stayed right there. [laughs]] And I said, “Well, Jack, we’re going to have to land.” [clears throat] So we kept track...we always keep track of where the...the wind direction if you’re flying, because that’s important just in case you have this happen. You want to be able to get in...into the wind. Well, I...I circled a little bit and saw a building at the edge of a...of a lot, of a...of a...I don’t know, ten acre field. It looked pretty good. So I decided that’s the one we would take. So we circled around and made the necessary S-turn so that we would come in over’re coming over the top of these buildings that were sort of low and...and [pauses] stretched out. And so we came down over the top...over the top of the buildings, down on the...on the turf, which was out there in that little...little field and rolled to a stop. harm done whatsoever. But [pauses] I...I didn’t know what was the matter, of course. And then I happened to see the farmer coming across the field. And I was...I was sort of afraid that he was going to, I don’t know, sue me or what...whatever he might do to me for landing in his farm, landing on his farm. And so he came on over and greeted. I guess I said, “Hello.” And he...he...he agreed. And he thought...and the thought I came in there to buy a turkey. [Ericksen laughs] That long shed was filled with turkeys, and, boy, when...when they gobbled...when [laughs] I came over the top and suddenly was this air...airplane right in front of them which wasn’t very healthy. But “Yeah,” he said, “I thought you might want to buy a turkey.” So [laughs] he was [laughs]...he was...he was very affable [laughs] every way. So I...I knew what the trouble was. I knew that the carburetor had iced up, and I...I knew that, sure, I could...well, I wou...I just would keep the...enough power on so to keep in cleared out. So we got in the airplane and backed off the edge of the field and we had enough room to get out of there. So we flew out, back to the airport. [laughs]

ERICKSEN: Did you buy a turkey?

ROBINSON: No. No, I said...I don’t know what I told him, [Ericksen laughs] but “We weren’t in the market for a turkey. I didn’t...I didn’t meant to come in here. [laughs] I’m not in here by choice.” I had no [laughs] choice. I picked the best field I could...that it looked the best of any. And there it was. So I scared the turkeys that day.

ERICKSEN: And, of course, you reported your complaint to the [manufacturer]....

ROBINSON: Oh yeah, I told them. “Hey, you’ve got some problems up there in the carburetor heater.” And they fixed it easily. But it was. And...and the funny part of it was, we heard later that they released that day, I don’t know, maybe a dozen airplanes. And about five of them had the same trouble. And some of them were...were all bent up by the time they made a forced landing. It was a...because that’s tricky that you don’t have too many choices. You’ve got to come down. That’s one choice you don’t have. And...but there’s a technique where if there’s any possibility...(of course, the big airliners, they don’t have a chance) but in a small plane often, many many times, you’ll see a forced landing, successful forced landing. I’ve...I’ve had a couple of other ones and I’ve never scratched an airplane in three forced landings.

ERICKSEN: Now you mentioned the two others. Were they weather-related or were they mechanical?

ROBINSON: One of them was weather-related. It closed in all of a sudden and I thought I would take the best field I could see, because if I went out I might into something worse and couldn’t see my way back. So I just circled around and [claps hands] landed, and went across a ditch at the end of the field. It was a little short, [coughs] and the wheels stuck in the mud. It was just plain mud. And I jumped the ditch, and...and the tail came up and there it was with the tail sticking up in the air. [both laugh] And...but there was some people there that came running, you know, when they saw that airplane come in. They thought, of course, it was a bad accident. But I got out in the mud and...and wiped the propellor off. The propellor was buried in mud. [Ericksen laughs] And [laughs]...and we pulled the airplane back down and several men got a hold of it. We pushed it out into the field (This was sod. I was in a plowed field and I got into sod field.), and flew it out alright. I got it.

ERICKSEN: [rustles papers] I think we’ve gotten to the end of our interview.

ROBINSON: Well, it’s’s not...I...I could say that there was a lot of satisfying things that we did, but this interview wasn’t very satisfying to me that...when I can’t seem to articulate what I want to say. The words don’t come. I wish you had a...I wish you had a better source of...because I’m not really proud of that.

ERICKSEN: Well, you were the man who was walking in the steps that we were talking about, so there was no one else to talk to. And I thank you for doing that.

ROBINSON: Well....


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