A hundred years ago this Saturday night, the Titanic ocean liner hit an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean on its maiden voyage. That same night, the life of a titanic figure in Jessamine County education began in a country farmhouse.
Robin Fain celebrates her 100th birthday April 14. Friends and family gathered at Royal Manor nursing home last Monday to see Jessamine County Judge-Executive Neal Cassity present her with a proclamation that Saturday, April 14, would be “Miss Robin Fain Day.”
“I just read the Readers Digest large print on the sinking of the Titanic, and it tried its best to get to New York, but it had to sink in the Atlantic, and there I was in a little four-room house,” Fain said.
As an 18-year-old at Elmwood School, Fain began a teaching career that would span 52 years in Jessamine County. She had attended the same one-room school, completing eight grades in six years, before graduating from Nicholasville High School and spending a year at the University of Kentucky.
Fain recalled memories of her early years teaching as she reminisced — women walking to Elmwood from Sulphur Well for a Christmas production, driving a Model A Ford, bringing home a salary of $75 a month, taking all her students to a funeral of a friend, and even telling the stories of the only two students she ever had to whip.
After six years at Elmwood, the school was discontinued and Fain moved with her students to the two-room Sulphur Well School, where she taught grades one through four. Three years later, then-superintendent Roland Roberts asked Fain to assume the head-teacher post at Little Hickman School, teaching grades five through eight.
By 1956, Fain was teaching English at Wilmore High School, also taking on world-history and library duties. When Nicholasville and Wilmore high schools merged two years later to create Jessamine County High School, Fain became the full-time librarian. When she retired 25 years later, the board of education named the library after her.
Current superintendent Lu Young, a Jessamine County High School graduate, was on hand last Monday and looked through her 1977 yearbook with Fain.
“We all adored her,” Young said. “She loved books and always wanted to talk to us about book. If we were reading something, she had 100 questions for us about what we read.”
Young said her fondest memories were from Beta Club, which Fain sponsored for 32 years. Young said she still remembers lectures about behavior and making memories at Beta Club conventions in Louisville each December.
“Every year, she and her co-sponsor, Mrs. Wilder, would call us all into their room, and they would give us a speech about good comportment and that we needed to know that we were about to make a memory,” Young said. “So every year we would think about the memories we were going to make, and I still think about that now when I take kids around, because I look back fondly on those things so much.”
Cassity recalled trips Fain had taken with the Jessamine County Beef-Cattle Association 15 years or more ago and told stories of the retired librarian making sure she saved her ice-cream cone when she fell and skinned her knee as well as a time she got separated from the group.
“It was in this great big parking lot in one of the shopping centers, and we were all over the place, and everybody was hunting for Ms. Fain,” Cassity said. “The bus driver started loading everybody up; we went around, and right in the corner of the parking lot stood this lady. Ms. Fain was out there on the corner — she said she had decided that we couldn’t find her in all that mess, so she got to where the entrance was; you had to go out there.”
Fain will celebrate her birthday Saturday (Miss Robin Fay Day) with family and friends and then be honored at a Jessamine County Retired Teachers Association reception on Wednesday, April 18, from 2:30-4:30 p.m. at Central Bank. The public is invited to that event.
Editor’s note: Some information was taken from Fain’s personal history in the 1993 book “A History of Jessamine County.”