I read in Sunday’s paper where another long-time local that was big into sports has moved on to the big ball field in the sky. Mr. Roosevelt Robinson joins Bob Doss, Jeff Carlton, Vic Sapp, Johnny Weaver, and Doug Trent on the team that has passed away in the past year. The dinner bell has rung for the last time for the man that ran Robinson’s Restaurant uptown for many years.
Mr. Robinson was 79 years old and his death brigns to mind the many times that I stopped in at Robinson’s Restaurant over the years. I first met Mr. Robinson back in 1986 when I was selling ads for a small paper out of High Point. Mr. Robinison and his wife Freida ran the restaurant which sits right across the street from the old North State Chevrolet lot and it is just down the street from the downtown Marriot Hotel. Today the restaurant has been re-named the Smith Street Diner but to me it will always be Robinson’s Restaurant.
Mr. Robinson was a huge baseball fan and he used to listen to many of the Greensboro Hornets/Geensboro Bats games on the radio when they aired on AM1400 WKEW. Mr. Robinson had some old St. Louis Browns memorabilia hanging around in his restaurant and he also had a pair of Eric Montross sneakers from when UNC won the title back in 1993 and he had a framed photo of Pat Sullivan hanging above the counter at the restaurant. Old baseball pictures and basketball collectables and fine food in friendly atmosphere at Robinson’s Restaurant. Mr. Robinson even had an autographed Greensboro Bats baseball with Mike Lowell and Ricky Ledee’s names on it that John Frey, the former general manager of the team, had given him.
Mr. Robinson was a nice man and he was a hard working man, and it was never more evident of how he idenitfied with all people on all levels of life, when real Americana came calling on him and his wife Freida at their restaurant back in the early 1990’s. A young politician from the state of Arkansas who had set his sights on the White House came Crossin’ the Carolinas and he and his entourage were passing through Greensboro and they decided to make a stop at a place where everyone would feel welcome and that was Robinson’s Restaurant. So the bus was passing through and it pulled right up to Robinson’s Restaurant and Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and Tipper Gore all got off the bus and came on in and sat down to enjoy a meal and some good southern hospitality at Robinson’s Restaurant on 438 Battleground Avenue in beautiful downtown Greensboro.
Mr. Robinson was very proud that the Clintons and Gores chose his place as a stopping point on their Southern tour and the pictures of Bill, Hillary, Al, and Tipper hung proudly above the counter at Robinson’s until Mr. and Mrs. Robinson decided to sell out and get out of there about seven years ago.
Robinson’s Restaurant was a great place to sit down and enjoy a fine meal with a meat, a couple of vegetables, and a piece of cornbread. A glass of tea was always on the counter waiting on you when you came rolling in. Mr. Robinson’s daughter Debbie worked at the restaurant for her parents until she landed a solid teaching job and Debbie’s daughter and Mr. Robinson’s granddaughter little Shelley Reese was just recently named the Triad 3-A girls basketball Defensive-player-of-the Year. Mr. Robinson’s daughter Alfreida also helped out at Robinson’s Restaurant as did his son Junior, who former local radio DJ, Gary “Boomer” Von Cannon, nicknamed “Hurricane”, for the way Junior would go flying through the restaurant grabbing dishes, plates, and glasses while Junior cleaned up all the tables in mere minutes during the busy rush hours at lunchtime.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Robinson are now gone on(deceased) and all that is left to remember are the memories that came from the days spent at Robinson’s Restaurant in uptown Greensboro.
The dinner bell has rung for the last time for Mr. Robinson one of Greensboro’s biggest sports fans and a man that treated everyone equally.