Hats off to glamorous Melvina
Melvina Robinson claims she used to be shy, that she’d do whatever necessary to avoid being seen.
That changed after she entered the Glamorous Granny competition in 2004.
Encouraged by her seniors club at Bethel AME church to enter, she said no but then felt guilty because none of the other members would take part.
She nearly fell over when judges announced her as the winner.
“I was standing up and people were saying, ‘It’s you, it’s you!’,” she laughed. “I think winning the competition was a confidence boost.”
She’s not quite so shy any more, and is now an active member at seniors clubs at Peace Lutheran, Warwick Seventh-day Adventist and Southampton Seventh-day Adventist churches.
“I used to go up to Somerset to Allen Temple,” she said. “And I go to Home League on Monday nights at the Salvation Army. I just try to keep busy.”
Fifteen years after she was crowned, she still keeps her suit and winner’s sash laundered and carefully folded in a drawer.
“I look at it and check it to make sure there is no mould on anything,” Mrs Robinson said. “I keep my white gloves handy.”
She went out and bought her own tiara after competition organisers asked to give the original back. It all comes out on special occasions like her birthday, or a visit from the media.
Her hat collection is another of her treasures.
“I’m not sure how many hats I have,” she said a bit coyly. “I know I have less than 50. Maybe it’s around 30. I’ve lost count. Some I bought from [AS Cooper & Sons], but most of them were given to me in trash bags. One lady called me and said, ‘I have some hats and you can pick what you want’. I pick hats that match the clothes I have.”
She thinks her love stems from seeing women wear them to church when she was a child.
“I had a tam,” she said. “I would iron it to make sure it had a nice seam, and put a broach on it.”
She can remember buying ribbon for a special straw hat across the street from her childhood home on Parsons Road in Pembroke.
“Where the playground is now, there was a row of wooden houses and shops,” she said. “It was known as Pond Road then.”
Her parents, Charles and Thelma Morton, were quite strict, particularly with the girls in the family. While her four brothers were allowed to play with the neighbourhood children, she and her three sisters had to stay on the porch.
She didn’t do well in school, and had to leave at 13 to learn a trade.
For a time, she worked for a tailor called Samuel Johnson.
“I didn’t like tailoring because I didn’t understand it,” she said.
She left and always regretted not learning to sew. When she got older, she bought patterns and taught herself.
“If I didn’t understand something I’d ask the people in the tailoring area how to do different things,” she said. “I made clothes for myself and my children.”
Now she loves to knit and crochet.
“I crochet slippers and scarfs,” she said. “A lot of times, I don’t go by books for patterns. I don’t understand that way. If I watched you, it might take a little while to catch on, but then I would do the same pattern over and over again until I memorised it.”
She met her late husband, Erskine Robinson, in her twenties while working at the Kindley Air Force Base in St David’s.
“I think he was spying on me,” she laughed. “Every time I got off the bus, I would see this car on the side, but nobody in it.”
And then came the day she ran across him near the flagpole on Front Street.
“I saw him and we talked,” she said. “I didn’t say much. He had his big bicycle, so he walked me and the bike home. We always walked from Parsons Road to town and back. There weren’t any buses doing that route at that time.”
They were married on August 27, 1959. “He was a jolly person,” she said. “He liked to crack a lot of jokes. If you were eating he would say something to spoil your appetite. He was a taxi driver and before that he worked in a grocery store delivering groceries.”
They had three children, Eugenia, Barclay and Laquita.
Mr Robinson died ten years ago, shortly after their 50th wedding anniversary.
For the past 60 years, Mrs Robinson has lived in a neighbourhood off Hermitage Road in Devonshire. She’s famous among her neighbours for her baking, particularly gingerbread and lemon meringue pie, and making root beer.
“When she was baking, the neighbourhood children would all be standing outside,” her daughter, Eugenia, laughed. “And people still ask her to make things for different functions.”
Mrs Robinson has six grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.
• Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Tuesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or email@example.com with their full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them
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