Remember When: The Robinson Park Story

Published 1:02 am Saturday, May 18, 2019

“While strolling through the park one day, In the merry, merry month of May…”

     The words to this familiar song fit the theme of this column of which topic I know a little about but long to know more about – Robinson Memorial Park on Church Street. Riding past the entrance marker to our city park this week, I noticed the beautiful landscaping of spring flowers and greenery there at the corner of Railroad Avenue and adjacent to the Church Street Cultural Arts Center. That is thanks to the city workers, I am sure. It occurred to me that probably most young people do not even know who the Robinson family was. I yearn to know more than will be reported about in the following information compiled for this summary, however, Andalusia Public Library genealogist Linda Grimes Harrell is a great help as always in locating information!

Just about all of my older friends who enlightened me through the years about so much Andalusia history are gone now so most of what I can tell about will be from what has been written in the old newspapers and from my own memory of the activities that went on at the park in the generation that I grew up in – the 1950s and 1960s.

The City Pool was built when my father, Charles C. Bass, was a member of the Recreation Committee of the City of Andalusia. At that time, the pool was built behind the Church Street School on the edge of the Robinson property.


Teenagers were hired for summer jobs to be lifeguards, and Mrs. James Green, who taught history at the Andalusia High School was to supervise the students. She loved working with the young people and was always a joy and inspiration to students she taught. In her later years, she showed me a picture she carried in her billfold. It was a picture of her in a bathing suit in her much younger days. Yes, she was a “knock-out!” Laughing, she would say, “I haven’t always looked like I look today!” Bless her heart! Who has looked in their aging years like they used to look in their youth? Some of the teenagers working at the pool in the summer of 1955 were “Skipper” Caton, Mary Louise Dunn, John Hamiter, and Gatra Reid.

Rules were established and the fun began! All of the neighborhood children flocked to the City Pool. It was always said that a lot of chlorine was used. Some of the teenage boys like my husband Jimmy Wilson and his friend Billy Catrett would go swimming at the City Pool in the morning and again in the afternoon. Their “crew cuts” soon turned green due to the sun shining on the chemicals in their hair! Bet their mothers didn’t hesitate at all giving them the ten cents for the admission price to  swim – just to get them out of the house!

The Summer Recreation Department of the City of Andalusia in the 1960s employed AHS teachers Miss Patricia Seymour and Miss Merilyn Jones as directors of the program. They hired students to serve as swimming teachers, lifeguards, and playground workers at the Church Street and East Three Notch School playgrounds. They were 10th, 11th, 12th graders and a few college students home for the summer. Lehn Brooks and Margo Russell come to mind.  That program went on for a number of years. It gave students enthusiasm and experience for those who might desire to become teachers. This writer was privileged to be one of those workers under the leadership of Seymour and Jones in 1964.

Every Friday afternoon, it was “dress-up day” in the park.  There was a costume contest, and the kids came donned out for the fun as Indians, gypsies, ballerinas, clowns, and cowboys. At the end of the summer program, there was a finale, a “storybook festival” in Robinson Park – yes, the beginnings of what we know today as the annual “Storybook Festival.” It continues today sponsored by the Coterie Club even though the event has been held in several other locations. Maybe it will one day return to Robinson Memorial Park, perhaps a “Founder’s Day Storybook Festival!”

Andalusia Star NewsMarch 11, 1954“Robinson Estate Gives City Seven-Acre Plot For Park – Landscape Artist to Plan Development of Area Near School – Seven acres of realty adjoin the Church Street School on the east have been given to the City of Andalusia for development as a public park by the estate of the late Rev. J. M. Robinson, Sr.”

“Children of Rev. Robinson are Alexander H. (“Bertie”) Robinson, the late Probate Judge J. M. Robinson, Jr., Mrs. J. D. (Kate Robinson) Henderson, and Miss Maggie Mae Robinson (who later married Dr. Thomas Neal).”

“Improvement of the site for park purposes will begin immediately according to announcement by Mayor Tracy Wilder and city council who have lauded members of the Robinson family for their generosity in making the gift to the municipality.”

“An appropriate marker designating the area as the Robinson Memorial Park is to be placed at the entrance when the land has been landscaped and improved. Mayor Wilder said that Railroad Avenue and Walker Street that bound the school and park are to be paved, and the eastern end of Madison Avenue north of the swimming pool will be opened.”

“The realty in the gift is part of the Robinson’s old home property. Deeds to the land have been held by the family since 1890. The Robinson holdings, at one time, embraced practically all land from the Church Street School to Snowden Drive. Much of this property is still held by the family. Several years ago, the family gave a site for the West Highland Baptist Church pastorium.”

“The land being given to the city embraces a frontage of 475 feet on Church Street and some 900 feet north. The land at the eastern edge along Railroad Avenue is at an angle.”

“Tentative plans are to have a parking area paved for patrons of the swimming pool. A landscape architect is to be employed by the city and his recommendations will be followed as to the preservation of stately trees now on the property, the building of paths, placement of park benches, and the planting of flowers.”

“The Rev. J. M. Robinson, Sr. a native of Fayette County, Ga., came to Evergreen, Ala. in the 1860s when that city was the southern terminus for the L & N Railroad.  Rev. Robinson moved to Brooklyn, Ala., the oldest city in the state where he was a merchant for many years. His wife was the former Kate McIver, member of a pioneer Brooklyn family.”

“In 1890 when he was elected tax assessor, Rev. Mr. Robinson and his family moved to Andalusia. Their home was on the site where the Church Street School now stands. At one time Rev. Robinson was pastor of the First Baptist Church and founder of the Pleasant Home Baptist Church.”

“The late J. M. Robinson, Jr., was appointed probate judge  (at the death of Judge Malachi Riley in 1896) by Governor William C. Oates at the age of 22 to fill Riley’s unexpired term. He was elected for a full term the following year and held that position for 28 years. Judge Robinson died in 1946.”

“All of the Robinson descendants, Miss Maggie Mae Robinson and Mrs. Kate Henderson, are civic and social leaders and have been outstanding in the religious life of Andalusia for many years. Mr. ‘Bertie Robinson’ was engaged in the insurance business for 40 years prior to his semi-retirement some 10 years ago.”

From The Opp News Old Home Folks Edition 1980 edition – “The original Robinson home was where Church Street School now stands. It was the home of the Rev. J. Madison Robinson, Sr., father of the late Judge J. M. Robinson, Jr. who served as Covington County Probate Judge for many years. At that time (late 1800s), Church Street was not open and access to the Robinson home was through Robinson’s Lane, the starting point which began between Mrs. Mary Olive Henderson’s home and the present Tom Thumb location on River Falls Street.”

“The corner of Church Street where Tom Thumb is now was originally part of the site where a train station was to be located. However, the station was not located there and the land was partitioned off and sold. Property which extends on both sides of what is now Church Street was bought by the Robinson and Fletcher families.”

“This property (Robinson Memorial Park) was left in a will by Judge J. M. Robinson, Jr. devising the estate to Miss Maggie Mae Robinson, “Bertie” Robinson, and Kate Robinson Henderson.”

“In June 1954, these Robinson heirs gave a portion of land to be known as Robinson Memorial Park to the City of Andalusia for use as a public park.”

The deed specifies three things: (1.) ‘That no buildings or structures shall be erected or placed on said property except those related to the use and enjoyment of a public park or school playground. However, no school building shall be constructed on the property conveyed. That the grantee shall erect a suitable marker designating the property herein conveyed as “Robinson Memorial Park.’”

“’(2.) That the premises and property will be reasonably beautified and maintained for scenic park purposes and as a playground for school children, and (3.) That said premises and property will not be sold or conveyed, but shall be kept and used perpetually only for the purpose herein stated.’”

The dedication of the park story has yet to be found in the old newspapers, but some remember that occasion. Do you?

The park has truly been an enjoyable site used by families, individuals, joggers, picnickers, and school and club groups through the years. A walking trail was established in recent years and has been utilized not only by senior citizens but also by young people in their quest for good health and quality of life.

Do you Remember When events such as the Patchwork Derby and the Storybook Festival were held in the park? 

This writer visited the Robinson family graves in Magnolia Cemetery. Rev. Robinson died in 1906 and his wife Kate in 1941. In the family plot there on Magnolia Circle, his wife and three of his children lie beside him – Maggie Mae Robinson Neal (died 1971), Judge James Madison Robinson, Jr. (died 1946), and Alexander Herbert “Bertie” Robinson (died 1960).  Daughter Kate Robinson Henderson (died 1968) is buried nearby in the Henderson plot beside her husband, J. D. Henderson.

The Robinson family is “Gone But Not Forgotten.” It is fitting to think of these fine citizens each time we ride by Robinson Memorial Park and remember their contributions. Yes, these “tales from the tombs” are often quite interesting and intriguing. I will try to come up with some more!

Sue Bass Wilson, AHS Class of 1965, is a local real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at