The beloved, roving, singing produce vendor, Arthur Robinson, wasn’t the first Mr. Okra and he won’t be the last, according to his daughter, Sergio Robinson.
Sergio Robinson and Willie “Frog” Nelson, regularly rode in the colorful, Dr. Bob-decorated pick-up with Mr. Okra, daily once his health started failing. In fact, Sergio Robinson has been singing the day’s produce offerings off and on from the famous truck for years. After a period of mourning, Sergio Robinson and Nelson will continue the family tradition, as Arthur Robinson had wanted, they say. This means that what seemed to be the “end of an era” of this type of street vendor is not.
Ian McNulty reports that the street vendor tradition “goes back generations” in the Robinson family, and that Arthur Robinson once said that his father, Nathan Robinson, was really the first Mr. Okra. Nathan Robinson started with a wheel barrow, then used a horse and buggy, and finally used a pick-up truck in a career that started in the 1930s. Of course, it was the Dr. Bob painted truck, the outsized personality of Arthur Robinson, and his gravelly voice that sang out in so many New Orleans neighborhoods that made Mr. Okra emblematic of New Orleans.
While Mr. Okra’s truck will continue to roll through New Orleans, a child-sized replica of it, along with a recording of Arthur Robinson’s voice, will live on at the Louisiana Children’s Museum. And — there’s always the possibility that Mr. Okra’s famous truck might one day retire to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.
A walk-through visitation for Arthur Robinson will take place at the Marigny Opera House on Sunday February 25 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., possibly followed by a reception at BJ’s Lounge. A second line is being organized for February 26.
Craig J. Nero, owner of Who Dat Coffee, has set up a fundraising page to help with funeral costs.