Cindy Kelly: Okay, I am Cindy Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation. It is Sunday July 7th, 20 13 and I am in Scarborough, Maine, with Gwen Groves Robinson. And the first question I am going to ask her is to tell us her name and to spell it.
Gwen Robinson: To spell my name? It is Gwen Groves Robinson just as you said. G-R-O-V-E-S, R-O-B-I-N-S-O-N.
I was born in 1928. My father was posted at the Fort DuPont [in Delaware]. I was born in Wilmington, the big hospital there. I remember nothing of it except I have heard stories that it was a long trip for my father to come in to visit my mother, because they had an old rattling kind of car that was not comfortable and all of that. My brother had to come in too, and they would come in after the evening began. My brother would be left in the car. He complained about that bitterly.
My father was happy for a little girl, because he had a boy. I was named for his mother, who died when he was fourteen and left the family in his hands essentially, because the older male members of it were on the east coast. His mother contracted pneumonia on the west coast in Vancouver barracks. So there he was, fourteen years old with his aunt, his mother, and a younger sister, and trying to cope with no money. I think it was a horrible shock for him, as you can imagine. He managed, and I think maybe it was then that he decided that the people that were helping him on the fort, the soldiers and officers who came to offer whatever they could, I think it was then that he was impressed with them. And maybe at that point decided he wanted to go to West Point. My guess, I do not know, he never said. Next question?
Kelly: Tell us, us what was your father’s name?
Robinson: Leslie, which he never used, Richard—he used Dick—and Groves. But we could always tell how well somebody knew him because if they did not know him they would call him “Leslie,” and if they did they would call him “Dick.” So there is that. Most everybody when I was born – they called him “Captain” or “Lieutenant” or “Groves”. You know, it was not a first name society.
Kelly: Now his father was an Army chaplain, is that right?
Robinson: He was. The family originally came from the Utica area of upstate New York, middle—central New York, I think it is called. It was a big area with lots of Welsh people, and they were I suppose Lutheran or Methodist. And the other side, the Groves side, were Presbyterians, and so that is where the family came from. And my father’s father, my grandfather, went to Hamilton College and he studied whatever classes in English or whatever they offered, did very, very well, and then became a lawyer. And in those days you were an apprentice, you did not go to law school, you just went to an office and did what you were told to do. So he did that, and he thought it was not a righteous thing to do. This is a very religious sort of atmosphere in the Utica area, and he did not like cheating people and winning contracts that he did not think were quite proper anyway. So he left that and went to, I guess it was Union Theological Seminary.
He became a full-fledged minister. He studied Greek, Latin, Hebrew, all the Bible, and history and just everything. He was quite a learned man with a very strong interest in science as it was in those days. He was a collector of things. Then he was a minister in a number of places, all in New York.
Then the total number of children were four, and his wife, Gwen, had a sister who did not marry. It was the custom in those days that you would just take on a sister or a mother or an auntie or whoever it was that was floating around with no Social Security and all of that kind of thing. So this auntie lived with them, so it was a big household.
The chaplain was always a well-regarded figure on an Army post so he tended to have a big house, all the officers had. Have you been to any of these Army posts? They are gorgeous, they really are lovely and they have such a history too. Anyway, he always had a big house and so he filled it with children and all these people.
Then the father just decided he was going to—well, he would be called forth to go to the Philippines. The first one was Cuba, I think, and he was quite a hero then. The soldiers would be wounded, and he had a horse because he was an officer and he walked everywhere. He ended up having malaria, I think he got either yellow fever or malaria, and so he was shipped back, I guess to New York, to recover. He was not a well man, I think the malaria business—if it was malaria, I am not sure—really affected him his whole life. He would sort of sink and then he would get better.
For some reason—his [own] family was in New York. They seemed to be out on the west coast most of the time it seemed, the family, and he would come east. He was always sort of roaming around, and it left this poor mother with her sister with these four children, you know, handling it by herself and tithing. She raised chickens and sort of kept everything going, and the father meandered around. Dick, my brother, has quite a lot to say about him. He was an interesting fellow and he was a very nice person, everybody seemed to like him and admire him. He ended up settled in Pasadena close to the CalTech. [He] apparently knew a lot of the astronomers and geologists. So that covers him, I think, pretty well.
Kelly: Very well.
Robinson: But he was gone a lot. My father, I think being the third boy, sort of grew up a little bit— all the letters from my grandmother kept, that I have seen, mentioned Dick as being very—well, he teased his little sister, he was the wrecker of the family, into everything, doing everything, it was a little hard to control. The eldest brother was quite a scholar, the second one ended up—he too was a scholar, English literature. The elder one, I think he died very young. They all had heart trouble, it seemed to be in the family.
And then there was my father, who wanted to be a military man and the family did not want him to be. They did not think that was—I do not know why, but it was a good choice for him and so that is the way he started. I guess everybody knows that he was always pushed—I do not think he was pushed really, I think he pushed himself to start high school when he was too young. I do not imagine the standards—they would be close to Seattle I guess—and I do not think the standards in the schools were particularly high. But he wanted to learn, he did not want to waste any time. That was always a big issue with him, and he did not want my brother or me to waste any time either. So we did not waste any time, I am always doing something. Next question?
Kelly: Tell me, what was he like as a father?
Robinson: I was, what would I have been? Twelve, thirteen or so when the war started, so my real memories of him in the house would precede that date because then he was so busy. And I too was an adolescent busy type, and I have some very good memories of that. But early on he was, I suppose he dealt with me a little less severely—tricky word because it suggests a lot of things, but maybe I got away with murder, you might say, a bit like he had as a child, I think. I have very, very fond memories of him and we were very close, he and I. Because my brother went away to school when he was twelve—he was sent to Deerfield, as you probably know, and so I was there in the house with him.
The interesting thing about our relationship was that he loved to play games, any kind of game. We all had nicknames, and we had a variety of nicknames. We would play these games, and he would always end up being the baby. It was really odd because he was a big man. I do not remember him as being ever very thin, although he was in his youth, for me he was always beginning to billow out.
I think in Leavenworth, when I would have been seven, he used to—in Leavenworth, he used to keep a little box in his desk. The arrangements for the families were that the officer who was studying there would have a big room to himself and nobody else could enter it. It was his study, and that he was supposed to study. And he had a big desk there, and in the top left drawer he kept a little box and he would fill it with dimes. And that was for me, the dimes, I could go and get a dime whenever I wanted to ride horseback because there was a Negro sergeant whom I just adored. He was lovely. He used to go around on his horse, around Leavenworth streets. His horse was named Applesauce, and he named him Applesauce because he liked applesauce, and that was a good name.
Then he had two little ponies, and he would ride around and the parents would give a dime and the child would have a ride. Well I rode a lot that way with him, and he was my pal. He came to my birthday party, I really loved him. He took me out in the open prairies at dusk, and I had some wonderful memories with him. But anyway my father would leave these dimes because he wanted me to do that.
Concerning money and my father, I cannot remember him when he did not have a little piggybank on his bureau. And then there would be two piggybanks and then three, I now remember three. A great big black one was for pennies. A little green one was for dimes, and that was kind of a handsome little animal. There was sort of a medium one, I cannot remember what it looked like. These were ceramic. He always would give a bigger bill to get change. He loved change, and he would bring the change home and put it in his pigs. Dick and I were engaged from time to time to take a knife and hold these things over our heads to empty them, and they would all shower down on our face[s]. I do not know, but he would deny himself things in order to get change to feed his pigs, and it was a nightly performance.
I was trying to think of what else you would like to hear about. Just the games. He was fun to be with. He was really the king of the household I think for all the big decisions—where we would go to school, what we would study, what our sports would be. He was very careful about our sports. They were a big thing in our family. My mother made the decisions about hairdos and whether I brushed my teeth and all that kind of thing. So it was an old-fashioned family, I suppose. I do not know how families operate now. I study my children and I have to wonder a little bit. But ours was firmly a pyramid of authority.
Kelly: So tell us about the sports, what sports did he want you to—?
Robinson: Well mostly the horseback ride. He was a very good horseback rider and so was my brother. I did not have as much opportunity to do it, and my mother was scared of horses, that was another issue. But there was that, and the tennis of course was the crucial thing. He had played tennis as a youngster and he adored tennis. So we were all encouraged to play, and he put out quite a lot of money to have us have the best instruction, that was always crucial.
I think within the family we lived very frugally. I think their funds went to us to improve us, to make not for frivolous things really, but to develop us, I guess is the right word.
Kelly: So when did you move? You were twelve or thirteen when you moved to Washington? Or were you younger?
Robinson: No, no. Well, we moved from Fort DuPont. I went to Seattle because my father was going down to Nicaragua to work on the canal that they were building. He was working in the jungle so we could not go. So my mother, brother, and I lived for a year in Seattle, not quite a year I guess. With her family and her family were—her father was a military man so that my mother and father met on a post, an Army post in Helena, Montana, in the middle of a snowstorm.
So anyway, we lived there for a year, then we went down to San Francisco, and that is where my memories begin. I must have been very young, maybe a year and a half. I just remember this old building that my brother described that we stayed in at the Presidio, which is now a public park but it used to be, well it is a beautiful spot, I am sure you know it, but it used to be Army. So I think my mother, when they married, that is the first placed they went before they went to Hawaii, which is where my brother was born and they came back. Anyway, for me I was there briefly.
Then we boarded a boat and we went to Nicaragua, and there I have a very vivid memory of my father helping me get down the side of a ship. I was terrified because he came out with a tender and our big, big ship, this thing was bouncing. My mother’s piano was being lowered onto this bouncing thing, and I just remember landing in my father’s arms and saying, “Oh thank heavens, I will be safe now.”
So that was Nicaragua for a couple of years. And then we came back to Washington, when Washington was just a hot little southern town full of dust. We lived in Cathedral Mansions, and my father at that point—I went to the zoo every single day, twice, morning and night, I think to get me out of the house. My mother wanted to be a singer, and she took her career quite seriously in those initial days, and so she would because doing her arpeggios and I would be looking at giraffes and hippopotamuses and so on. Anyway, so we lived there for a couple of years, then we moved to Calvert Street, right opposite the [Omni] Shoreham [Hotel]. Those big apartment houses have been rebuilt now, but we were very close to the Oyster School there, and that was where we got a car.
Well we had the four years in Washington, then we went out to Fort Leavenworth, and then Kansas City. I had a lot of memories of him there, he was busy but he was there. Then we moved back to Washington and we lived initially in Chevy Chase on Oliver Street. I remember that my brother and I liked the back yard of this house very much. And it cost ninety dollars—I do not know why I remember this—ninety dollars a month. My parents did not want to spend that amount of money, but we lived there for one year, I think they just gave into us. And then I think my father was called back to Nicaragua to check out this canal. I think war was looming at that point and it became a very sort of insistence topic because nobody knew quite what was going to happen, except that it was going to be awful. I think they knew that by then.
Anyway at that point I was at Lafayette School, not learning anything, and my father decided that he would put me in a private school. He tried to do that a lot for me, he did for my brother as well. It seemed to be very important, education was it, that was the most important, sports second, social life zilch, nothing—he simply was not interested in it. It was a waste of time, unless it was somebody who was really had something to teach him. Education was a very big thing in the Utica area of New York. Anyway then he went down [to Nicaragua]. He was gone. I went into the National Cathedral School and my brother at that point was in Deerfield. And then war broke out.
I remember being at the Army Navy Club by the swimming pool and hearing my father talk to some other men who were there who were obviously either in the Navy or Army, officers. They were talking about what they would do with their families because they were expecting, you know, war, bombs. Washington, you know, is not from that point of view a safe place to be. So he decided we would go to Delaware. He knew Delaware because he had had his Fort DuPont days. He just figured it would be quiet and he could get to us, you know, if he was in Washington. I know that he very much wanted to go overseas, but I think his first job was, well you know better really, more accurately than I do probably.
But General Gregory, Edmund B. Gregory, do you know that name? I am sure you do. All right, they were very good friends, and they were both—General Gregory and his wife—my mother was a very good friend of hers, and my father was a very good friend of General Gregory’s. But they were older, by maybe as much as eight years older.
And so I remember going down to these big buildings because my father was taken on by General Gregory to do these big tasks of building camps and setting up the Army, a huge amount of work to do in construction, so he did that. When did he do the Pentagon? Was that— that would be after.
Kelly: It was before the Manhattan Project assignment, it was immediately before.
Robinson: Oh yes that I know, but had—war was looming, was it not?
Kelly: War was looming.
Robinson: Yes, okay. So anyway, there was that, and then he was taken on for the Manhattan Project. He was at that point, he was just gone, he was out of the house almost all the time. And that first Christmas I remember making him laugh so hard that I thought he was going to pop, and my mother said afterwards, she said, “That was the best thing that has happened to him in a long time.”
I was fourteen and I think Garfinckel’s was hiring anybody who they could use for staff behind the counters on the ground floor, and I was assigned with an old friend of mine to stationary. I had a couple of friends in hosiery and that was really weird, but there we were. And it was Christmas time, this was a Christmas holiday job. And some girl came up, I think she would be about sixteen, mind you I was about fourteen, and I did not know anything. She did not know much more, but she was having her debut and she wanted some little invitations. So I said, “If you write out the invitations in red ink that would be really very good looking,” so she thought that was wonderful. [I sold her the red ink, and also a box of black-edged mourning cards. Her parents were furious and complained. And I was called upstairs to the store’s main offices for a proper dressing-down.] And then they tried to bring it all back, and I had to go up to the main offices. Anyway I told my father this story, I will never forget it, and he just laughed and laughed, and it was a real relax for him.
I guess you want to know—I played tennis with him in the evenings, that was a very big thing. I did not mind doing it, if I had done my homework. I would go down to his office, I would take a bus, I guess it would be, or a tram. You know, they had those turquoise—weren’t they?—the trams that would move on the tracks. They were really something.
Anyway, I would go down and then have to walk quite a long ways because the tram did not take me quite where I needed to go. I would carry my racquet and my books and I would have to go sign in, or sometimes I would just wait for him and we would go out. He and Jean O’Leary and I—I do not know where my mother was—anyway, she had a hard time during this period because, well, it is a long story. We would go to the Allies Inn. It was a big restaurant, but it was a cafeteria and they had very good food and it was a big wartime operation. It was down opposite the Treasury Department. We would have trouble parking and we would walk up. Jean O’Leary smoked, yes, I think she did, yes I am sure she did, anyway she also drank coffee, neither of which my father approved of. So anyway we would go and go out for dinner, the three of us. We would sit at this table, there would be crowds because it was wartime and there were all kinds of people in Washington. Everybody was in a hurry. And then we would go back to the office. I remember my father saying to Jean, “You do not want coffee, it is not good for you. Put out the cigarette.” They had a good teasing arrangement.
One time after we had been in the office working, it was about nine o’clock and it was my bedtime. It was dark, and we saw Jean to her car. And she just unlocked the car and got in. And my father said, “Hey, watch it!”—like that. And Jean just froze, and he said, “Somebody is in the backseat!” Nobody was in the backseat, it was not a tease, but he wanted her to be careful to get in.
He did the same sort of thing with me later when I was driving a car. I was learning to drive, and he suddenly got terribly excited. I said, “What was that about?”
He said, “Watch out, there is a car!” And he said, “I just wanted to be sure that you could endure any kind of catastrophe or worry.” So those were the two instances of that. I am sure he tested my brother several times, but I do not know about that.
So more about the war years. On Sundays, when he was around, we would always be out at the country club playing tennis, which he loved. He had very bad knees and he always wore these guards, I guess, I do not know, elastic on his knees, that seemed to help him. His game was very canny and whereas I was trained to have beautiful strokes and all that kind of thing, he was always chopping and slicing and winning. He always won. It was very irritating because I looked much better than he did. But he would stand fairly still and just outwit you.
Well I remember a horrible time for me. I was an adolescent and my mother was to christen a Liberty ship. We went down to Sea Island, a big resort in Georgia, I think it was. And that was going to be his holiday, he was to have two days. And I do not know, I think already he was having trouble with his heart because when he died, he had something in his medicine cabinet that said “For heart pain.” [As I recall, the vial’s label dated from about that time.] This is old-fashioned, they would not say that now, they would say something else more specific. But he had had that for a long time, and I think just the doctors just said, “You need to rest.” So anyway we went to Sea Island, my mother christened a ship, and then we [the three of us] had several days there.
And during that time, he played a lot of tennis. He would always hire the professional at the courts. There would always be somebody who was good, a professional, and the professional—I do not know whether he told him, “Do not make me run,” but he would stand at the baseline and return these shots, and that gave him a lot of pleasure.
We used to play ping pong together. I remember the first time I knew I was going to beat him, and I thought, “I do not want to win,” so I lost the game. I remember that vividly. That was during the war, I think, yes.
Any kind of game he would love. Apparently in his family, the mother and the three brothers were champion bridge players, they beat everybody all around, all the posts and cities they went to, they beat everybody. And they were also champion backgammon players, and I used to beg my father to teach me backgammon and he never wanted to. I do not know why.
My mother did not like games. They were well matched, are they not? Very interesting there. But she had a nervous breakdown during the war, and I think that added terribly to his problems. He was carrying a terrific load.
Also my brother was at Princeton and all his chums were signing up for the Marines and they were wiped out – I do not known how many friends he lost. This was at Princeton, he would was waiting to be old enough to sign up, and then he got into West [Point], which is what he wanted and what my father wanted for him. They both wanted this desperately, so he got his appointment but all during that year my brother was saying, “I cannot wait, why am I waiting? I want to sign up now, as soon as I can.” That would be July, he was a July 10 baby. So he would finish his sophomore year at Princeton, but that was an issue.
I mean, these burdens that my father had were that, and his weight. And I think the doctors were all saying, “You’d better watch it,” because of the worry, the weight. And he would sit at the desk and then I think his elbows developed a problem, they became numb, because if you see photos of him he was always like this. He was on the phone, and then he would shift and his elbows would—they became numb, and that was a problem. I do not know how he stood it, but he did.
Kelly: So it sounds like your mother really bore the brunt of the pressure of him.
Robinson: No I would not say that, because nobody really quite believes this, but she did not know what he was doing. Do you believe that, may I ask you? Say yes or no?
Kelly: It is very hard to believe.
Robinson: Yes, well it is true, it is absolutely true. My mother was very artistic, very. She was a linguist, she knew five languages, and she was a singer. My father was always very nice because she would want to go if they had tickets for anything, she would want to plan to go out. She would want to go to an opera or a concert, and I can remember my father’s knees hurting but he would go and he would take her and sit there, and he was bored.
So it was an interesting relationship. What they had together was their standards, I think, of life. They both were brought up in the Army. The government, the country, was it, very, very important in a way that I think I could not expect my children to feel. When the flag came down, you held still and you took it down at five o’clock. You did not leave it until 5:30 or quarter to six, and if it rained you had to do special things. They both grew up firmly in that milieu of people, all of them thought that way particularly, I suppose, on an Army post. I think throughout the country, wherever we went we felt—we were taught to salute the flag, or whatever it was we had to do. In school, I do not know if they do that anymore.
Kelly: So your dad obviously held himself to high standards.
Robinson: Oh yes.
Kelly: And everyone else.
Robinson: Yes, particularly anything to do with education or self- improvement, or however he would have defined that. Some of us would not define it the way he did. When he had very little money—he was a second lieutenant with two children during the Depression years, they were not advancing the Army staff, they were holding them back—and I do not think my father ever thought about leaving the Army.
I know he was enticed once in Kansas City, because he became friends with a banking family by the name of Helmer. Anyway, this man was very wealthy, but he spotted my father and said, “Come and you can have this bank and that bank [just]—take over.” And he said no. I think my mother would have backed him on that, because the country was poor and they were very patriotic.
They knew all the same people. My mother was a charming hostess, a very shy person but when pressed, she would do it. They never drank; drinking was out because it was decreed by the government, so he did not drink. I remember when he first did drink. We gave a cocktail party in our little tiny house that was crowded with people, and he had a drink. That was after the war. It was not a temptation for him. His family did not do it nor did they smoke, nor did they drink coffee, nor tea. They just improved themselves, full-time job, depending on how rotten you are to begin with. What next?
Kelly: If you could tell us, you talked about games. There was one very charming story you talked about—2007 program—about when you had been afraid to go up the stairs in the dark.
Robinson: Oh yes, well again you see there he was, I told you he used to pretend that he was the youngest in the family. So I was frightened of this staircase, and every night it was a thing getting me to bed. It was fear, it was not that I just did not want to go to bed. So I would have to climb this staircase, and I remember the whole family at the bottom of the staircase watching me go up, watching me try to switch on the light. Finally I just really could not do it anymore. And so my father, I called him DNO, most of the time, we had a lot of nicknames for each other, but he would pretend he was the baby and I would be the momma. And he used to stand there and shake his legs you know, trembling, he used to do that a lot when he was playing baby. So I would have to take him upstairs, and I got up there that way, which was very nice. The games were the main household feature for both my brother and me.
Kelly: So do you remember when your mother and you learned that he had been in charge of this project about the bomb?
Robinson: When he went off was the day. I was down[town] to improve myself in the summer so that I would not waste a minute. I was sent to a secretarial school, the Washington School for Secretaries, I guess, I do not know where it is, sort of down there, F Street somewhere, I cannot remember. It was a hot, hot summer, and we all had to wear gloves, carry a purse, wear stockings and a hat, unbelievable. And I had to climb onto this crowded tram to get down there, and I would sit all day while they would play music and faster and faster rhythms. Anyway, that was the way I spent the summer.
And then one day Jean called, left a message at the office that said she had to speak to me immediately. So I did, I got on a phone. And she said, “I want you to take a taxi to go home immediately and do not speak to anyone.” Well I was happy to leave and she said, “Do you have enough money to take a taxi?” Because I go around with three nickels or something. Well I did, I think it was something like a dollar twenty-five,
I do not know why I remember that, maybe I am wrong, maybe I do not remember that, but anyway it seemed like that. So I got a taxi, I left the school, I got a taxi and went home. I think I wrote about this in Groueff’s book, I do not know whether he had heard it yet or not but he was interested in this horrible, confused day that we spent.
I went home and my mother was there, and she said, “I am not supposed to talk to anybody.” And I said, “Well I think we can talk to each other.” Then there was an officer who came. In the meantime, I had put my bicycle up for sale, and so there were a crowd of people trying to buy my bicycle. They had to be taken down into the basement where it lived, and I mean, it was just a mad house. Everything was cuckoo and crazy.
I do not know which officer it was that—somebody very nice just sat with us all day. And it was on the radio, I think that was sort of where we heard about it. It was a big bomb, and there was my father had done all this work, you know. And that is how we found out, and you do not believe that, but that is the truth. And my mother was truly astonished.
My brother I think had—I remember sitting in the car, we were always in the backseat, and my mother and father in the front. And Dick said, “I know what you are doing.”
Because it was a big secret, DNO always would say “No!” We called him DNO. And he said, “No, nobody knows.”
And so Dick was trying around. He would have been when he did that about eighteen, I guess, you know, just pushing, you know father/son. So he said, “You are doing something with the big bomb.”
And DNO put his head back and he said, “Ha, ha, ha.”
DNO is what we called him, and I think, and my brother had a different story, but my mother told me that she used to call him “Babbodino,” Italian, and that is how we got “DNO.” We all called him “DNO,” the grandchildren called him “DNO.” He was lovely with the grandchildren, he was very family-oriented. He paid for their educations. Utica, great place.
Kelly: So how did things change for him, or for you, once this news was out? And did you have people wanting to interview you? What kind of attention did the family get?
Robinson: Oh, well on the day that—the night before, I think this might be more interesting, the night before the Hiroshima bomb, we went to the Army Navy Club in town—is that still operating? Yeah—to have dinner, and we were with somebody named Mr. Thompson. Is that a name you know? He was a big Greenwich banker [I] guess, a very wealthy man, but he had something to do with – maybe the construction, or something to do with the business of setting all this up.
And we had dinner together, and then he and my father peeled off and said they were going to go back to the office to sleep. And he said to my mother, “I may not be home tonight.” And that was it. I think they had setup bunks in the room and they were just sitting there hoping that all would work. We just went home. And the next day, we went into again to eat and it had all happened, we knew. And I think actually he was wanting to see his friends: “Well, what do you think? I have not seen you.” I mean, he did not have a lot of friends but the ones that he did have, I think respected him. If they did not, I think they would have liked him, I know the Gregory’s really liked him and I think they had a number of very firm friends who admired him more perhaps than they actually knew him. That is a guess, I do not know.
Anyway, on that occasion lots of people came up to congratulate him. These would be fellow officers, classmates, and people that he had passed by in his sudden promotions. He just sort of exploded to the top, skipping lieutenant colonel entirely, which was unheard of, and there was resentment. I do not have names, I do not remember, but I remember when we left he said to my mother, “You notice that so and so did not say anything?” It was a custom, I think, to congratulate any kind of victory in this huge effort of winning the war, you see – patriotism. So there was that.
Kelly: We do not have to get into this, but after the war, there’s this big struggle in Congress as to whether the military or the civilian should be controlling all of this. And I think at first he had sided on the side of military control, obviously, because he has been in the Army. And the civilian prevailed. Tell us how you see the postwar playing out from his perspective?
Robinson: Oh dear, that is a toughy for me, I do not know enough to really answer you with any degree of interest. I think he would have felt certainly that the military were better, because he was very suspicious of—and rightly so—of other countries seeking the information, or whatever it is, you could say, the recipe for the bomb. So that is really all I can say. I do not know.
I used to go to the hearings regularly, and I knew there were certain people that he did not like and my brother did not stand, and they were all liars and selfish. So there was feeling, definitely.
After the war he worked with Remington Rand, and I think he knew the computers were coming into be—a big thing. And I think he saw himself with another career in computing, computer design, and in fact Remington Rand did the UNIVAC, as you know, and I’m thinking that is what he wanted very much. But James Rand, who was backing him one hundred percent, died after I think two years. And after that I think my father was totally disillusioned, and nothing was moving. I do not know how it all happened, I was really out of the family shortly after that, and then of course I committed a terrible sin by marrying an Englishman, so that was interesting and played out very well in the end. So that is it.
I will tell you one other thing. He paid for the education, private education of all the grandchildren when he began to make money. And they all revered him, were scared of him, and played with him. I have a wonderful picture, which I might show you but might—now, I do not know quite where it is actually, of him.
We bought a boat for our children, we had three, and it was a sort of rocking thing with a seat on two sides, but they called it a boat. And my father was really quite large and also his knees hurt. But anyway he got in this boat with my children, and we had trouble getting him out.
At one time, I think my mother sent us a little gingerbread house for Christmas or something. It was put up on the counter in our dining room, and he snuck it away, you know, looking at the children and they all screamed after him as he ran into the kitchen. That was the sort of thing that he was most noted for in our family. That and that—very steady.
When my mother broke down, I was sort of trying to get into college. I wanted to go and I said to DNO, “Mom,” or whatever I called her, “does not think we have enough money to send me.” I would be a junior in high school. I think, and I was very keen to move on with my education.
He said, “Do not pay any attention, I have put away stocks and I will sell them for you.” Well, he had not at all, I am sure, not at that stage. It was when he worked at Remington Rand that he got well-to-do. Until that time he was just the steady thing. And we did not have a bank account. I am sure we did, but he was very careful with money, and so was my mother.
After the war, when my father died, this would be then, we received a flood of letters from soldiers and Marines and Naval officers, everybody who had been out in the Pacific, thanking, just recounting what their situation was when the bomb went off and what a relief and how the families were rejoicing because this had been resolved, and they were going to live, essentially. It just filled a huge laundry basket, I remember. And my mother was a very—she wanted to clear things out when my father died, and she moved into the Distaff Hall, which is an Army officer establishment for old people, let’s face it. And so I think she must have somehow—I begged her to keep them and she said she would. But then they disappeared, I do not know where they are. Maybe she did not throw them out, maybe somebody else did, I have no idea, but there were slews of them. They were very complete and full, in how grateful these people were. It was a big bundle when they were—you know, they just came in after his death, so he never saw them.