Mary Philpot



Every year, the Board identifies a community member to interview in its annual newsletter. The article below was this years interview.

Mary Philpot is one of our neighbors and the daughter of Theodore Robins, who founded Theodore Robins Ford, one of the oldest family owned and operated Ford dealerships in America.

I was born in Balboa in 1931 by Dr. Grundy to Theodore Robins Sr and Mae Robins. This was long before Hoag Hospital was built. My dad, Theodore Robins, Sr., was a pilot in the US Army Air Force in WWI. When he was discharged, he was an aviation mechanic and flying instructor in Sacramento. On August 4, 1920, he was the pilot of the first plane to cross Mount Shasta. He was a pilot in the Forestry Service.

Theodore Robins in His Garage

Bay Avenue Garage in 1923 – 97 years ago

In 1921 my dad started his Bay Avenue garage right by the Pavilion for $15 a month. Hydraulic lifts had not been invented. The pit in the floor under the car would fill with water so he only changed the oil on a car when it was low tide.

Theo became a Ford dealer in 1923 and moved to 22nd and Balboa Blvd. across from the Bank of America which later became the Crab Cooker. Theodore Robins Ford sold their first car, a 1923 Ford coupe, for $637.10.

Mary, Doodle and Theodore Robins, Jr.

Doodle and Theodore Robins, Jr.

Our dealership moved to Pacific Coast Highway and then in 1966 to our present location on Harbor Blvd. in Costa Mesa.
When we were growing up we lived in homes on Montero and Anade while we attended Newport Grammar School (K-8).
On Montero we had a pet duck named “Doodle” that we had won at the Orange County Fair. Doodle would follow us to the beach and ride on my brother Bob’s paddle board. When Bob would dive off the board, the duck would dive after him.

I remember the Balboa Rendezvous Ballroom before it was burned down by a second fire in 1966. We walked to the Balboa Theater to watch live performances and movies.
We played stick ball, hide and seek, roller skated, and road our bikes.
On the weekends we went to the Fun Zone.

When we started NHHS, we moved to Redlands Avenue near the high school. I was active in student government and sports, especially tennis. Orange Coast College was also great! Then I transferred to Immaculate Heart College in Hollywood and majored in business and took classes to get a teaching credential. I also taught PE at IHC. Then I taught at Leuzinger High School in Lawndale near the LA airport for 33 years. With a General Secondary Credential, I taught any class that was needed. I enjoyed teaching business and PE the best. I also coached the girls tennis team. I also created a career center and became a grade level counselor. I lived in Hawthorne, Marina Del Rey, and Beverly Hills.

I met Earl Philpot on a tennis court in Costa Mesa. We played in many tournaments and won many trophies. We got married in 1983. Earl would walk on the court with a cane and knee braces. Our opponents were surprised when we won. Earl would drop the ball. He would yell “run Mary”, and I would hit my deadly forehand.
Dr. Dorr replaced Earl’s knees and hips so that he could play tennis. In the summers we traveled in our trailer all over the USA, Canada, and Mexico visiting relatives and friends, and playing tennis. One time in Cabo San Lucas we were fishing with Gini & Bob White. I caught a marlin. The next day Dave White and Bob won the Molson Open because I couldn’t raise my arm to serve.

\In the year 2000 we were playing in a tennis tournament at the Irvine Tennis Club when Earl had a massive heart attack.

Our family and I have been involved with and donated to many community service organizations.

Our Lady of Mt Carmel was built in 1923. Theodore Robins, Sr. and Mae were among the founding members. I am still an active member of OLMC. In 1996 I was the president of the Women’s Guild. Since 1969 SOS (Share Our Selves)
has been conducting the Adopt A Family Program which connects donors with 1,400 families recommended by schools. Amy Molloy and I have collected gifts from the PPRC and others for six years. The teachers recommend needy families and make a list of family members, their age, and what they need like shoes of a certain size. Gift cards at markets are also collected. Everything is wrapped for Christmas and taken to OLMC. The gifts are taken to the Orange County Fair Event Center where the families pick up their gifts. We never meet the families.

Theodore Robins, Sr. was very active in the community. He was a founding trustee of the Newport Harbor High School District in 1929. Robins Hall at Newport Harbor High School is named after my dad. He was also a charter member of the American Legion Post 291, and served as president of the Chamber twice. He was also named Man of year by the Chamber in 1966 and 1975.

Theodore Robins, Jr. was a board member of the Motor Car Dealers of Southern California and Orange County. Bob supported the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Harbor area and the Assistance League of Newport Mesa. He was selected “Man of the Year” by the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce in 1994.

Virginia Hutchison Robins was born in Covina. In 1954-58 Gini taught the 3rd grade in Newport Grammar School. She was a member of the Camelot Chapter of the Segerstrom Center of the Arts and Founders Plus. She was also active in the Hoag Hospital Circle 1000 and the Assistance League of Newport Mesa.

I have been lucky to live in one of best places in the world! Thank you CFBPP and BPPA! Glad I’m a Robins! Glad I’m still playing tennis!

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