Samuel H. Robinson Meets Ruth Smilie Adair, or How I Came to Be

My father’s family escaped from Russia during the pogroms and settled in Los Angeles. My father, Sam, did not want to be Bar Mitsvah’d so he ran away from home before he was thirteen. He found his way to a farm in Oregon, told them he was an orphan, and the owners took him in to live and work on the farm.

His family, frantic to find him, sent out “missing” posters for two years, with a picture and text describing their lost son. The couple who had taken Sam in saw one of the posters at the post office, and when they confronted him, he confessed that he was the boy. They shipped him back home to Los Angeles.

In 1914 came the “war to end all wars,” and workers were needed in Lompoc, California to mine a large infusorial deposit, also known as diatomaceous earth. It was used in the filters for making gas masks for soldiers. Sam became an administrator in the Celite Company (still in operation today).

Meanwhile, Ruth got the job of weighing horse drawn wagons in and out of the Celite mine. They met, and had a four-year courtship.

Ruth, in 1914, weighing the horse-drawn wagons at the Celite mine.
Ruth, in 1914, weighing the horse-drawn wagons at the Celite mine.

During this period, Ruth went to school to become a legal secretary. Sam was studying to take the bar exam to become an attorney. He did not have enough money to go to law school, so studied on his own. He still managed to pass the difficult bar exam the first time he took it.

Ruth Smilie Adair
Ruth Smilie Adair

Sam also was working part time as a professional magician. Ruth joined on stage as his magician’s assistant. They married and moved to Los Angeles, and then to San Francisco where I was born.

Sam’s parents had difficulty accepting his marriage to a woman who was not Jewish until they met me, Baby Carolyn. Their hearts melted.

Sam, as a beginning attorney, joined an established law firm that turned out to be involved in crooked politics related to the Cali­fornia railroad system. They were all sent to prison. Because Sam was the youngest and newest attorney at the firm, he was only sentenced to one year incarceration at Walla Walla, Washington.

Sam as a Professional Magician
Sam as a Professional Magician

When he was released, he divorced my mother. She was so angry she punched out his face from some of the photos in our family album. He only came to visit me occasionally after that. She went on to develop her own life and careers.

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Sam Robinson  on Glacier Point in Yosemite, 1919 (Photo taken by Ruth Smilie Adair—he’s waving at Ruth)
Sam Robinson on Glacier Point in Yosemite, 1919
(Photo taken by Ruth Smilie Adair—he’s waving at Ruth)
From Carolyn’s Baby Book
From Carolyn’s Baby Book
The Robinson family: Sam, baby Carolyn, and Ruth, in 1923
The Robinson family: Sam, baby Carolyn, and Ruth, in 1923
Baby Carolyn, already reading
Baby Carolyn, already reading
Early steps
Early steps
Baby Carolyn with her father Sam, mother Ruth, and Ruth's parents
Baby Carolyn with her father Sam, mother Ruth, and Ruth’s parents
Little Carolyn and mother Ruth
Little Carolyn and mother Ruth
First reading of Tolstoy?
First reading of Tolstoy?
Carolyn in hot water
Carolyn in hot water

More fun this time
More fun this time

One thought on “Samuel H. Robinson Meets Ruth Smilie Adair, or How I Came to Be”

  1. Hello I came across this website doing family research. My grandmother is Blanche Adair, her Father John Smilie Adair and Mother Caroline Augusta Goldsmith. I remember fondly and Aunt Ruthie. But I think she was my grandmother’s niece or cousin. Perhaps Aunt Ruthie is your mother? She was so sweet. Lived in San Francisco when I was little in the seventies

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