Remembering Robert Robson, the Mayor of 11th Street

Editor at Large

While kowtowing to the quarantine suggestions, and commands, of recent days, the mind was free of such physical restraints, allowed to roam at will.
Take for instance the animated journey the mind was taking while revisiting the people and places that once inserted the bustle and the hustle into 11th Street.
In the 1950s, the street was a multihued river of neon, heralding the discovery of motels and motor inns, car lots and barrooms.
It was, after all, a vibrant section of Route 66, carrying dreamers and schemers right up to the doorstep of a wondrous and exhilarating downtown Tulsa.
One of those dreamers, a character of enormous imagination with a personality to match, was Robert Robson, a one-time public relations master who lived, appropriately enough, along 11th Street.
When I first encountered Robson, I was column-writing for the Tulsa World, back in 1990.
He became a constant source for material, for smiles, for fellowship.
He never met a hand he wouldn’t shake.
That’s one of the many reasons his image and his memory remain so vivid today. How would Robert Robson exist during this siege of virus, when handshakes are discouraged, commingling is taboo?
Robson was outgoing and gregarious, part artist, part gadabout.
He created, and mailed, “Genuine Robson Originals,” oversized and chromatic postcards and envelopes, each a work of art.
They were posted and forwarded to politicians and entrepreneurs, editors and educators. There were words of praise, illustrations of indignation.
Many of his missives landed on my desk, either at work or at home. They constitute half a scrapbook.
His flair and penmanship were matched only by his passion and his perception.
He was hailed by many as the Mayor of 11th Street, an appellation once reserved for used-car salesman Gomer Evans.
But Robson was no street vendor. He held unique sway over his street, over his city.
If anything, he was a merchant of mirth.
He was observant, keenly aware, always attentive, downright discerning.
He trained his talents toward local needy family funds, never shied from pointing out shortcomings of presidents, addressing envelopes to the resident within “The white house with the white columns.”
He could be whimsical and poignant, waggish and rational.
He spent hours over drafting tables and copiers, producing mailbox masterpieces.
Once completed, the letters reflected the man. One of a kind.
Robson died in 1993.
Among the personal treasure trove of artistic articulations from Robert Robson is an essay from politician-culturist Dean Alfange. In his own inimitable style, Robson handprinted Alfange’s “An American’s Creed” and had it framed.
For more than two decades, the treatise that begins “I do not choose to be a common man” has maintained a special place in my tranquil realm, uninterrupted by virus or fever.
It is a place the mind visits in times of chaos and fear.