Ina Robinson lived Auburn history but stays grounded in today

Community Portrait
By: Michael Kirby
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Ina Robinson’s roots run deep in the Auburn area. You could best describe her as “Old Auburn,” if there is such a description. Robinson is a Robie — her grandfather was E.T. Robie, Placer County pioneer and founder of Auburn Lumber who, with a partner, formed the Placer County Bank. E.T. Robie came out west to work for his uncles, the Towle brothers. “The Towle brothers came out from Vermont and set up a lumbering business supplying timber for the western section of the Transcontinental Railroad and my grandfather came out to work for them,” Robinson said. E.T. Robie was Wendell Robie’s father and Robinson is Wendell’s niece. Wendell Robie is the founder of the Tevis Cup 100 Mile Endurance Race. Her memory of Auburn brings back visions of buildings and establishments that are no longer here, but served Auburn residents well in their day: Hancock Hardware, The Freeman Hotel, Lukens Hardware, Keena & Williams Grocery Store, all longtime businesses that today few remember. Robinson recalls her grandfather buying a new car every year or every other year from one of the Downtown car dealers. She remembers going to Waddle’s Meat Market, near Central Square, and getting treated to a “weenie” from the butcher when her grandmother bought meat. She also recalls as a child buying a 10-cent ticket for the Saturday movies at the old Opera House and watching Flash Gordon and movie serials, before the State Theater was built. Robinson was one of the first women to complete the now-historic Tevis Ride, covering the 100 miles of historic trail from Tahoe to Auburn in less than 24 hours. “I said to my uncle Wendell after the first ride that I would like to try the ride,” Robinson said. “He said, ‘No woman could ever do that,’ and I said, ‘The hell you say.’” She rode and was the first woman to finish under 24 hours on her first try in the second year of the ride, in 1956. Many also credit Robinson in giving the Mountain Quarry Bridge its common nickname, “No Hands Bridge.” At the time the bridge had no railings and Robinson used the bridge to cross the river on horseback. “My horse would spook every time he went across the bridge. It was narrow and he would just kind of skitter along the edge. My heart was always in my throat,” Robinson said. “One day I really got after him, and from then on he didn’t do it, and the next time we were riding across the bridge fast, if you followed Wendell you always rode fast, and I raised my hands and said, ‘Look Mom, no hands,’” she recalled. The name stuck and the bridge is affectionately known today by many as No Hands Bridge. Robinson wed local businessman Don Robinson in 1961 and was married for 43 years until Don passed away in March of 2004. Robinson helped her husband in the early years of the business. She continues to be active with management at Robinson Sand & Gravel, as the chairman of the board working with company staff. Robinson likes to travel and has seen the world, visiting many places. She lives by a personal motto, “I’m not one to look over my shoulder. I don’t miss much from the past. I look forward to what’s coming next,” she said.