Life Story

Roland L. Robin was born June 13, 1936 in a rural area on the outskirts of the small town of Duson, in Louisiana which had a population of approximately 200 people. When my parent’s brought me to the Catholic Church to be baptized, they gave the priest, Father Bertrand the name they had selected for me, which was Roland Lee Robin. The priest told them that it was required by the church that they have a Saint’s name in my name. They weren’t prepared for this, however, Father Louis Bertrand suggested that the Saint Louis be used, so I was named Louis Roland Lee Robin.  I later changed my name to Roland Louis Robin, which I felt met with all concerned since I kept “Louis” and this was done with my parent’s full knowledge and approval. My parents always took us to church every Sunday and saw to it that we learned about our Catholic religion. They brought us to the church so we could attend classes to prepare us for receiving First Communion and then our Confirmation, which acknowledges our faith and belief in God. This Trust in God kept me from considering doing (or getting caught) anything which would be breaking the law, and treating others as I would want to be treated by others. My love and trust in God would play a large part in my life when I turned to Him in bad (down) times as well as good times.

My mother, Mom, was orphaned at a young age with the death of her mother, Jeanne Breaux and raised by her stepfather, Velanie Hebert (her paternal father was Lefranse Washispack), from the age of 4.  She moved to Duson and at age 12, worked in a restaurant which was owned by Mrs. Alice Myers. Mrs. Meyer’s husband, Mr. Myers was the Town Marshall for most, if not all, his life.

My father, Pop, was born one of 16 siblings, 2 of which died at birth.  Of the 14 children, there were 7 girls and 7 boys.  Each of the children was responsible for chores on the large farm. Pop met Mom at the restaurant when he would go to bring the cotton to be sold at the cotton gin in Duson. Most of the time there was a long wait for your turn to bring your wagon of cotton to be processed.  A lot of the farmers would go for food and drinks during these long waiting times. I know how this occurred since most of my upbringings from the age of 5 years to 10 years old I experienced going to the cotton gin many times with my uncles.  Sometimes we would leave the farm around 5p.m. and return at 12p.m. to 2a.m. tired, sleeping, and stiff with aches and pains from the wait and from riding a wagon which had wood and iron wheels. The seat in the wagon was made of a wooden board with or sometimes without a short board for a back- rest.

Mom and Pop married in 1933 and moved into a small house which Pop’s family helped to build. It was located on my grandparents land and it was divided in two equal sizes. They opened the front half as a grocery store and the back help was again divided in half.  One half was used as a kitchen and an eating area. The other half was for our bedroom. It was so small that my parents had their regular size bed (which was small at that time) and my sister and I had a roll-a-way bed for both of us with very little room to move around.

My sister was born in 1934, and 1 came along two years later. We both were born in that house, and Mom was assisted in our delivery by Mrs. Myers, who was considered as a mid wife. When Morn was able to work she continued to tend the grocery store with us by her side.

As I was old enough to remember my memories (10 yrs old) during that time were great, and educational pertaining to experiences which would serve me later.

My father, Dudley Vincent Robin, at the first I know was employed by the Louisiana Highway Department, driving a dump truck. His honesty, responsibility and trustworthiness allowed him to take the truck to and from work. He treated the truck as though it were his own, as we didn’t have a car or truck at the time. Once, when I was about 6 years old, a friend and I were playing a tag game and we decided to hide in the truck.  In doing so, we accidentally broke a mirror on the truck. Pop used a razor strap to sharpen his razor, but used it to spank my rear to make me realize the importance of taking care of other people’s property; especially when they entrust that you will care for it.  I learned this lesson and never forgot it. Also, he never corrected me physically, and he didn’t have to since he made a lasting impression on me.

Mom and Pop both taught us the importance of our carrying our own load of chores around the house, since they both worked very long and hard. They also taught us to work at several different things. Since we lived on the farm, we were made to pick cotton.  The lesson I learned of this hard work is that it does give rewards. I enjoyed picking cotton with my uncle Ray Robin as a partner (one on each side of a row), since he picked a lot and also kept me laughing and happy with his jokes. He was an excellent cotton picker and I wanted to be good too. Then I wanted to do better than good and I started setting goals for myself, when I started picking I might have reached 25 pounds. So I would pick a higher amount to reach that and set another amount. The day I reached 100 pounds, I was told that I had done this earlier than anyone else my age. This experience introduced me to the meaning of partnerships that in some situations, and if partners are chosen right, more can he accomplished than one can accomplish alone.  Another lesson I learned from this is that goals should be set as a plan, concentrate on the immediate task and continue until you achieve that goal.

However, in a partnership I still had to achieve my goals individually.  Nobody put extra cotton in by cotton sack, and I was the only one who could get that 100 pounds. The joy and the feeling I experienced led me to continue this same drive thru life. As I challenged myself to pursue my goal, others also followed my lead, and so didn’t so I say that if you lead others will follow. As said: “Lead by Example “.  I have always tried to practice this in life, and as best I could whether I was the head of one of my companies or working for others.

At age six, I went to school at Duson Elementary School in Duson. My parents encouraged me to do well in school, preparing me to go as far as I could in school. They were stern with us by so many ways hoping we would finish high school and hopefully college. Mom and Pop had to quit school, prior to finishing high school so they could work and help their family to make ends meet.

I made very good grades making my parents proud, and this continued my wanting to learn about the rewards that went with hard work.  I actually loved school and especially recess, when we went out in the school yard to climb trees and swing on a rope that was tied to the limb of a large tree. Once, in a challenge of competing with a bunch of kids to see who could jump off of the swing, I had won.  However, in jumping the farthest, I fell on my left shoulder and broke my clavicle. Mom took me to the doctor, who simply taped my shoulder and arm to my chest. It hurt a lot, and I never let anyone know because I didn’t want to he called a sissy. The school was small in the amount of students, so sports were limited to track and boxing.  Since pop had excelled in those two sports, I too, wanted to follow in his foot steps, as with most sons who wanted to follow in their father’s footsteps.

Just like school and other things I did, my parents supported my participation in those two sports.  Pop was a much respected boxer, but he excelled in track. There was a state rally in 1930 for sports held in Lafayette at the university grounds. Pops last year in school, he ran track and won first place in every race he entered for a total of seven first place medals. He also was selected as the most outstanding athlete of the event. I still have the medals.  My parents also helped me as I realized that he had to work, go to school and find time to train to do this best in sports, which he did with drive, devotion to his sport and the will to succeed. I am proud of him for doing the best he could in order to be the best.

Some of the things we did as kids

  • We played with small match boxes as cars under elevated houses on piers.
  • We played with guns and rifles made with wood (carved by family member and given as Christmas gifts
  • rabbits, pigeons, goat & wagon with harness and everything to harness the goat
  • Homemade swings
  • Sears & Roebuck bicycle that I could hardly ride since the road we faced was
    (distance from Duson) gravel, and the street on the side was a dirt road
  • Played Cowboys and Indians with horses and the bid boys got to ride with a saddle, but all us smaller guys had to ride bare back with or without a blanket on its back
  • Would ride horses to the back of grandfather farm which was quite a distance
  • That is where the make believe fights were fought and we Indians always lost to the Cowboys.  The rules of this game were that the loser had his horse were confiscated and therefore had to walk all the way back home as the winners held us, taunted us and aggravated us with a lot of teasing.
  • Pick cotton at my uncle Alex and Aunt Daisy.  My sister would cry every time we went to pick cotton from the time we left the house and until we of home at the end of the day.
  • At noon we would rest at my grandparents.  They cooked for us every day.  After eating, my grandmother would give us a large glass of lemonade and we would lay out on their large front porch.

When I was ten, we moved to a dairy farm on Guilbeau Road in Lafayette Parish, which was about 6 miles away from the city limits.  It was in the country and on a narrow two lane gravel road.  About a mile from Johnston Street, (then known as the Abbeville Road), which was a two lane asphalt road.

(1) Education – Parents:

Learn as much as you can to reach better goes and set them as high as possible.

My parents taught us to learn English since we knew French from our grandparents who didn’t speak English. They spoke in French to each other, but always spoke English to us and in front of us unless it was something we should not have heard or so we believed.

(2) Honesty:

My father always went to work, even if he was ill.  He would leave earlier than he needed to and came home later than he should. This is what was known then as “giving an honest day’s work”.

Since we lived in the grocery store, I was spending a lot of time there and never saw Mom ever do anything dishonest such as short change anyone, pad the customer’s purchase of anything from fruit, nails, vegetables, rice (was sold by scoop from a barrels, as was so many other products) candy, jaw-beakers, etc, in jars.

Their hard work, dedication, honesty and regular attendance at church

They brought us to church, catechism, etc. (moral teaching)

We moved to Lafayette in 1946.  I rode a school bus to Myrtle Place Elementary which was a public school.

Pop and Mom sold the grocery store and we moved in a house that had no heat and cracks in the exterior walls.  We filled the cracks with black felt paper to try to keep out the cold.

We built the dairy with concrete blocks which made it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer than the house.  The heat was from space heaters and there were only a couple of floor fans to use when it was hot.

We had our first bathroom and toilet.  We didn’t get a phone for a couple of years, but when we did, it was a party line which had three other people on the same line and anyone of the four could listen to our conversations.  It was always nearly impossible to get a free line to use since conversations could last for hours.

My sister and I had to sleep together in the same bed in our house in Duson.  Although we thought that we may get our own beds to sleep in, we were wrong.  We had to share a room and a bed again, mostly in the winter, due to the cold.

Several other things were different and perhaps better in Lafayette. We could not have anyone sleep over in Duson, but at the new place we could have friends spend the night. We had kept the rollaway bed and would sit it up in a large room we identified as the “living” room.

Dairy Farm

Pop worked very hard at the dairy and the hours were brutal from 3 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The hours could be expanded as needed depending on extra work relating to the cattle.

Learn

Pop taught me to strive for perfection, to maintain a competitive edge (from competition of other dairies) almost to a fault. He showed me that persistence and determination would play a key role in business or even in my person life.  Also, having to work with him gave me the drive to try anything I wanted as long as it was not breaking any laws, and his work ethics set the goal very high

I had experienced some boxing when I was very young. It wasn’t odd that I would enjoy boxing since my dad had experienced it himself as well as two of his brothers. All were very good and well respected in the world of boxing.  It was them who actually worked with me getting started, teaching me the ropes and supporting me from start to retirement. I was successful from the beginning, winning all of my fights, while at Myrtle Place.  It was when I enrolled at Cathedral High School in 7th grade that I began to excel in the sport. Of all the fights I had, I only lost three of them.  It was with Ned Boudreaux, last years’ state champion and a close friend of my sister and me.  He even picked me up that night and we drove to the gym together. This resulted in a non battle boxing fight and we were booed because of it. I lost the other two fights in a split decision.  One was a last years’ state champion and the other was someone who was bigger than me, but lost weight to fight me since I was once again undefeated that year.

Pop taught me that I should be prepared in life to face anything that comes my way but also that once in the ring there is only one person that can help you and that is you. Coaches, trainers and others involved in the process of boxing can only prepare you  for battle, but the outcome rests in you hands.  They can tell you, guide you to what could work against your opponent, but remembering you and only you holds your immediate and long term results as the rounds go to actually succeed in the ring.

My mom worked at Beall’s Department Store for 32 years, starting the year I graduated from high school in 1954.  She worked at Beall’s in Lafayette, which was a family clothing store.  She gave away a lot of clothes to her families and was outstanding salesperson of the year for nearly every year she worked there.  She was always recognized by the owner, Ray Latiman, and her manager, Blackie Duhon, for her achievements.

If it wasn’t for my mother, I never could have received an education.  She was the one who took care of my financial needs and more from 1954 to 1963 when I graduated from pharmacy school at Northeast State University.

She was the BEST mom anyone could have and she always did for others unselfishly, even before doing for herself.  I cannot describe my love for her and the fact that she and I had a very close relationship.  I miss her very, very much!  I owe everything to her, for without her I never could have accomplished anything I did.  She always instilled in me that I could do anything I wanted and that no dream was too much to achieve.  She supported me in every endeavor I ventured in, and she is the one who always pushed me with her encouragement.

After graduating from pharmacy school, I worked at Medical Arts Pharmacy for about nine months.  Bill Hollis was the pharmacist and part owner 3/7 of the pharmacy.  Bill presented a buy out agreement to purchase the other 4/7owners who were four prominent doctors in Monroe.  He told me the night he was going to meet with the doctors and told me I would still have my job.  However, when he made his offer to the doctors, they decided to buy him out instead.

The offer had included the business, the land and the building.  They realized how valuable real estate was and they wanted only to sell the business, but Bill also wanted it all.  Therefore the doctors exercised the option to buy.  They called  me at home late that night for me to come see them at one of the doctor’s office where the meeting had been held.  Although confused, as to why they wanted me to come and see them at that late hour, I went and met with them.  It was then that they presented a proposal to me.

They had told me that they bought Bill, and that they wanted to offer me the position as Head Pharmacist, starting the next morning.

After some thought, I agreed.  However, with some stipulations and that was that I wanted a raise, a percentage of the net profits at the end of the year and also the right to buy the business in one year.  This took a lot of guts, since I had just finished pharmacy school, and they could have gotten any good qualified pharmacist for the job.  I had befriended all of the doctors and they approved my proposal and my first large deal was consummated.

Medical Arts Pharmacy had a very good business established, and I needed time to meet and get to know all of the patrons of the store.  Since I was somewhat new to the customers, I went the extra distance to satisfy their needs.  I thank God for guiding me through those years and often tough times, but I had made it and became successful in the process.

The store was unique, modern and geographically located in a great and growing area of Monroe, LA.  We offered free delivery, charge accounts and 24 hour service for prescriptions.  These services were unique in those days and our business continued to increase in the years that I had the pharmacy.  I bought the pharmacy in 1963 and owned and operated until I sold it in 1970.

while I had the pharmacy, I met and made many friends who stay in touch with me to this day.  I would say that those were the best years of my life.  I have nothing but fond memories of those times.

The business allowed me to raise my four children, own several nice homes, increasing the value every time we bought a new house.  We also enjoyed boats, motorcycles, trips, many outings at our farm for friends and family.

I had the opportunity to meet a man named Joe Cascio, who would become my mentor.  He was an extremely successful business man with a lot of influence in Monroe and with political connections in the state of Louisiana.  He was the first person to get me to invest in real estate.  Joe and his brother, Tony, had purchased a lot near my pharmacy, and allowed me to join them in the ownership, without any money from me.  He carried my interest and when we sold it, I received my share and had not put up any money.

This was my second best deal and my first real estate transaction.  This got me interested in the real estate business, taking me out of pharmacy and brought me to where i am today in real estate.

It was also Joe who introduced me to Governor John J McKeithen, as he did with many political leaders..  Because of Joe, I decided to get my real estate license for the state of Louisiana with H.D. Ruffin, the director of real estate.  HE also got me involved with the different local and state organizations for community participation.

Owning the pharmacy gave me an opportunity to meet many physicians, nurses and other medical professionals.    I made friends with them and in turn they would suggest the patients use Medical Arts  Pharmacy for their prescriptions and other medical needs (see Medical Arts Pharmacy section of this web site).

When not working at the pharmacy, I led a very active life with my family and also with friends.  When I bought the pharmacy I had three children and then had a fourth while I owned the pharmacy.   All the children owned their owned motorcycle while in their first six years.  My daughter, Evy, even raced her small 4-wheeler at a race track in Sterlington, LA and actually won a few times.  As each child grew older I got them a bigger bike and we all rode together on trails, hills and road courses.  I even designed a bike course on my farminm West Monroe.  On Sundays we had no less that 20 bikes racing on the course.

Eventually we moved from our family home in Monroe to Robin’s Nest Stables, our fram in West Monroe.  We built a beautiful two story home on the highest hill on the 20 acre farm.  We also had an old farm house that we used as a camp and guest house for friends.

I designed the house which had every modern electronic convenience, an outdoor kitchen, and even a cabana house with a kitchen and game room.  The game room had a pool table, pinball machine and other games for the children and their friends.

Boiling crawfish on weekends was a regular event for most of my Cajun friends and other who wanted to try them,  We hardly ever had enough, since more people would show up than were invited.

I also built a bran on the property for the kids’ horses, since they all had their own horse.  They participated in “play-day” horse shows and Evy won “Little Miss Western Queen” a couple of years.  See Robin’s Nest on this web site.  The horses were an expensive hobby, since we always had more horses than we really needed, but it was well worth it for keeping the kids busy and at home.