75th wedding anniversary: It all began on a Gainesville school bus

Former Ozark County residents Orin and Ima Jean Robinson will celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary on Feb. 24, 2022, by sharing a meal with family and friends at their home in Sherwood, Arkansas. 

Well wishes, cards and correspondence can be mailed to the couple by sending to daughter Janet Akins, care of Somers Avenue Church of Christ, 4801 Somers Avenue, North Little Rock, Arkansas 72116. 


A school bus meeting and mysterious postcard

Orin and Ima Jean met on a school bus that Ima Jean’s dad, Everett Naugle, drove from Brixey to Gainesville each day. She was a freshman, and he was a sophomore at Gainesville High School. 

Orin and his cousin Sheldon Dauchy attended Ima Jean’s high school graduation together. Orin asked Ima Jean if he could drive her home after the graduation ceremony. 

Ima Jean was afraid to ask her dad permission to take a ride from the two boys, unaccompanied by a chaperone, for the 15 miles home. Orin said he’d be happy to ask her dad instead, but Ima Jean was afraid they’d both be embarrassed if her dad said no in front of the students who were boarding the bus at the time. Instead, Ima Jean rode the bus home with her dad, and Orin and his cousin rode home alone. 

The next day, Ima Jean told her mother Lottie what had happened. Her mother, a kind and mild-mannered woman, listened intently to her daughter’s tale. 

Soon afterward, Ima Jean received a letter in the mail from Orin, who wrote to say he’d like to come visit her. She later found out, after she was married to Orin, that before he wrote the letter asking to see Ima Jean, he’d actually received a postcard from an anonymous sender that stated, “Imogene would like to write to you if you would care for her correspondence.” The postcard was signed, “a friend.”

Ima Jean’s father never owned up to sending the postcard to Orin, but Ima Jean knew that the deliberately printed words, far from her father’s usual neat script, and the obvious misspelling of her name was proof enough of his involvement and intended cover up. She suspected the postcard was sent by her father, likely with some encouragement (or a stern talking to) from his wife after Ima Jean told her of the graduation night incident. 


The croquet grounds

That letter was the beginning of a sweet romance. 

Sparks quickly flew, and Orin and Ima Jean began dating, which mostly consisted of time at church together. 

The couple sometimes visited church’s croquet grounds on Sunday afternoons. 

In the evenings after returning home from her visits with Orin, Ima Jean passed by her parents’ bedroom on the way back up to her room. She always hoped her father was asleep, but most of the time he wasn’t and hollered out to teasingly ask, “Did you have a good time, daughter?”

After dating for three months, Orin proposed to Ima Jean at the church’s croquet grounds. Ima Jean said she didn’t want to seem too eager and make him think he was her last chance at love, so she told him she’d have to think about it. After a few seconds, she said she’d had all the time she needed and excitedly said “yes!” 


A quick ceremony and a ferry incident

The couple were married on Feb. 24, 1947 in Mountain Home, Arkansas, by A.J. Cypert, the justice of the peace in Baxter County at the time. 

Orin’s cousin  Alvin Dauchy and his fiancé Vada Haskins were going to stand with Orin and Ima Jean at the ceremony, but the pair had to wait until classes ended at Gainesville, where Vada was still enrolled in school. The witnesses didn’t make it in time, and the Baxter County Courthouse was near closing time. So, Orin and Ima Jean tied the knot without them. 

Cypert had his head down and mumbled through a ceremony script he read off a paper. The couple couldn’t hear most of what he said, but whenever he glanced his head up and looked at them, they each said “yes.” They later hoped he’d said the right words, so they were legally married. 

The couple rushed out of the courthouse and drove south, hoping to cross the Buffalo River that night on their way to Hot Springs. They arrived at the ferry crossing just as it was getting dark, but there was no one there. 

Chimney smoke rose from a home across the river. On closer examination, a sign sat nearby that said, “Honk your horn if the operator is not at the ferry.” 

The obeyed, honking loudly and desperately, and after a long while when the ferryman was presumably finishing his evening chores, he arrived, and they drove their car onto the ferry.

As they were crossing the Buffalo River on the ferry, the ferryman warned the newlyweds that the road crossed a long gravel bar, and they’d need to speed across it or they’d be stuck. Well, they didn’t speed quite quick enough, and, you guessed it, they were stuck. 

The ferryman, prepared for the incident, ordered them to back up and go at it again. This time, Orin gave the vehicle a hefty push of extra gas, hopeful they wouldn’t be spending their wedding night on a river bank gravel bar, and the car zoomed across the soggy gravel bar. 

They drove on to Marshall, Arkansas, in the dark, where they checked into Rose’s Court Motel. The next day they made their way to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where they spent the rest of their honeymoon. 


Life on the farm

After returning from the honeymoon, Orin and Ima Jean lived on the Robinson farm, 8 miles east of Gainesville. Their first task was to tend the farm while Orin’s mom and dad went to Arizona to work.

Orin’s parents had ordered a new pickup truck for them to use, but there was a waiting list because of World War II, and it took several weeks before the truck arrived. 

During this time, the couple had to walk 5 miles to church and back to attend. Due to the long distance to town with no vehicle, Orin an Ima Jean made arrangements with Bushong’s General Store for the delivery of feed and groceries, as well as hauling the farm’s cream and eggs to the store for sale. 

Although Orin and Ima Jean both had experience working on a farm, the task of caring for the farm’s milk cows, beef cows, horses, pigs, 400 laying hens and 400 baby chicks, as well as putting up hay and putting out a crop for later harvest was quite a challenge for the newlyweds. 

The family was known to have several hard workers. Ima Jean’s sister and brother-in-law, Opal and Bill Powell, had a bumper crop of cabbage one year. 

They gave Orin and Ima Jean a wash tub or two filled with cabbage heads. It so happened that Ima Jean’s grandma, Nancy Naugle, was in visiting Ima Jean’s parents and volunteered to come to the Robinsons’ farm and help save the cabbage. Ima Jean said her grandmother didn’t believe in wasting a thing - ever.

Grandma was a worker, and so were they while she was there. She helped them can 30 quarts of kraut from the fresh garden cabbage. The newlyweds thought there should be some fun with all that work, but they had to wait until Grandma Naugle left. 

Every home that Orin and Ima Jean moved into during those first years of marriage, so did “Grandma’s kraut.” It may have served as their first, and last, lesson in frugality, they say.


A long happy life and a large family

Orin served in the army, and afterward he attended and graduated college from Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University) in Springfield. He earned a master’s and doctorate degree in education at the University of Missouri at Columbia. 

He spent his career in education. He retired from Southwest Missouri State University after serving for 21 years as the department head of the Industrial Education and Technology Department. 

Ima Jean was a stay-at-home mother, happily running the household and caring for the couple’s three children. The girls remember how their mother taught them to maintain a home, as well as taking time to teach them many arts and craft skills, crochet and the love of music and singing. 

After their time in Ozark County, their lives took them to live in various places including Springfield, Fredericktown, outside of St. Louis and to Kentucky. They moved from a Springfield home to Sherwood, Arkansas, 14 years ago to be closer to family. They have lived there ever since. 

They were faithful members of the Sunset Church of Christ in Springfield. They are now members of Somers Avenue Church of Christ in North Little Rock, Arkansas. 

The couple have three daughters, five grandchildren and five great grandchildren. 

Orin and Ima Jean’s oldest daughter is Linda Mowrer. She is married to Mike Mowrer, and the couple have two grown children, a son and a daughter, who have families of their own with a combined three grandchildren. 

The second oldest daughter is Janet Akins, who was married to the late Jim Akins. They have two grown children, a son and a daughter, who have families of their own. Their son has two boys. They all live within a few miles of Orin and Ima Jean. 

The youngest daughter is Ronda Duce. She is married to John Duce and lives in Louisville, Kentucky. Ronda has a daughter who is married and lives in Astoria, Oregon. 



Editor’s note: The Times runs free anniversary announcements for residents with ties to Ozark County. Contact editor Jessi Dreckman for more information by emailing jessi@ozarkcountytimes.com or calling 417-679-4641.

Ozark County Times

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