Get to Know … Shorty Robbins

By Martie Thompson
editor@floridanewsline.com

About 25 years ago, Shorty Robbins was introduced to the world of historical reenacting and it now colors most of her life — from hobbies to family outings to her period piece tiny home. Originally from Massachusetts, Robbins moved to Florida in the 1970s with her family and attended high school in Vero Beach. She earned a degree in recreation from the University of Florida and moved to the Jacksonville area after graduation. By 2001, she had moved to St. Johns County for a job as the administrative manager for the county’s Parks and Recreation Department and, despite brief relocations for other jobs, has called the area home ever since. 

She has particular interest in historical reenactments and during the “season,” from April to September, said she usually attends one event per month. The biggest one is the Battle of Olustee reenactment unless she makes the drive to Gettysburg. She retired three years ago, but after running into long-time friend, Florida State Rep. Cyndi Stevenson at an event, agreed to be Stevenson’s district secretary. Her history with the community makes her an asset in the representative’s office. Robbins has two grown children and one granddaughter and shares her tiny home with two dogs and three cats.

Q: How did you get the nickname “Shorty?”

A: My given name is Robin and a family member gave me the nickname “Pigeon” when I was young. By the time I got to junior high school, some mean kids started calling me “Shorty” since I wasn’t very tall. They intended it to be a tease, but I liked the name better than my previous nickname, so “Shorty” stuck.

Q: How did you get started as a reenactor?

A: I was working at MOSH in Jacksonville on its “Maple Leaf” exhibit. I met the divers from the expedition to salvage the ship and they got me into reenacting. It was the summer of 1994 and I asked some questions about it … and the next thing I knew I was in a hoop skirt and a corset and going to events.

Q: What do you do as a reenactor?

A: Sometimes I do first person reenactments, like as Mrs. Chadwick, who was the only female passenger onboard the “Maple Leaf” or Lucy Wilson, from Lumpkin, Ga. I also do civilian reenactments; these represent the women who held it together when the men went out to fight. We research ahead of time and find out who the women are and why they are there. We demonstrate things like sewing, cooking and making bandages. Generally reenactors pick the thing that they’re good at: I did period games and cooking big, involved meals over the open fire. Sometimes I and my whole family will participate as reenactors in an event.

Q: How did you become interested in tiny houses?

A: Actually this came about because of one of the reenactments. We were at Olustee and it was raining and I was tired of having a wet tent. So my daughter showed me a tiny house on wheels that could be brought to the reenactments. I thought it was a great idea and I built my tiny house myself after attending workshops and viewing YouTube videos. My tiny house is Victorian and is outfitted for the period. I originally planned to just use it for attending the reenactments, but I loved it so much that two years ago I sold my home and downsized. My tiny house has a water pump and a pot bellied stove and a piano that turns into a bed at night, because they actually had such a thing back then. Now at the reenactments, I give tours of my period piece tiny house. Sometimes I like to leave a couple of modern clues out for the children who tour my home to find, like the television remote. (The television itself is hidden behind a painting on the wall.)

Q: What do you like best about living in a tiny house?

A: My tiny house is 125 square feet with 125 square feet of storage. It is so cozy and has everything I need. Plus, I can do my housework in 15 minutes!

 

Photo courtesy Shorty Robbins

Shorty Robbins