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A Movie-Poster Traveler: Mr. Ross Robinson

Remember the old guy selling a myriad of movie posters that filled the entire hallway a few weeks ago at Seattle Central College? You would never expect that he lives in the jungle in Thailand, sets up all the posters by himself, does business as a charity, and, most importantly, is a wholeheartedly sweet and kind 85-year-old gentleman.

The origin of selling movie posters 

“Once upon a time in 1980, I was working at a record company in New York,” Mr. Robinson started it off no sooner than we took a break from the morning business. It was as if he had spoken this countless times. 

“I heard that there would be a school festival at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, and I decided to sell records. And I made $200 a day ($800 in 2024 currency). That is about my monthly earnings at my company, so the next day, I closed my company and decided to travel around to see more students to sell records in America.” 

The audacity and risk of such an impulsive decision impressed me, but I could understand him once he explained his job history. At 20 years old, he worked as a hotel manager in New York. Seeing a pile of trash around the hotel bothered him so much he had to clean it up. Impressed by his authentic thoughtfulness, a hotel manager promoted him to a manager, giving him the position until the owner sold the hotel for his retirement. He’s been selling posters for every one of the forty years since the hotel sold.

Seattle Central College and Mr. Robinson 

He said Seattle was full of energy and love. He was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. Driving up to Seattle was his favorite thing to do for the weekend because of the fabulous nature and diversity. He visits about 40 universities every year to support school funding out of business. I wondered how he made a living and asked him a question. He answered, “I have no issue with financial difficulty because I did a great job back in time.” He called almost all universities and colleges in Seattle to get permission for the charity, but Seattle Central College was the only school that welcomed him to do this. Plus, 15% of his earnings go to the student activity fund. 

Lessons of Life 

A few hours before he left for the next place, South Oregon, I asked him the question I had wanted to ask the most as a college student and someone concerned about their life: Do you have advice for your younger self and college students like me? After a long pause to ponder, Mr. Robinson said:

“The important thing in life is that a person does what makes them happy and joyful, and I always enjoy doing this. I never regret doing any part of what I am doing. I am a happy person; I am always pretty happy… All year, night, and day, you need to enjoy everything. Get a job that makes you happy, not your parents. A kid needs to remember: Wake up in the morning and enjoy what to do.” 

His hearty and straightforward words are the seed of his genuine happiness, and I would like to plant them in my heart, too.  As a 20-year-old college student, every day is a turning point in life with pressure from future success, concerns, life, and everything. This stress easily deprives you of the seed and joy, but it can’t be helped. As Mr. Robinson says, it is a crucial mindset to the youth, and the lesson needs to be remembered because it is too easy to forget that it’s often our integrity that makes us happy.

Rio Takahashi Mr. Robinson and a man loading posters into a truck. April 15, 2024

By the time this article is published, he might be doing the same thing in Mississippi or Chicago and spreading his love around America. An interaction with him made me realize that happiness comes from what I am dedicated to and a strong belief. It doesn’t matter whether what I do isn’t outrageously great or a lucrative business. Believing that my actions mean a lot brings me true happiness and is called success. If he comes back here again, let’s say hi and talk to him more because he is a wise man. He is a true gentleman with wisdom and love. 


Rio Takahashi

Rio Takahashi is a small traveler trying to see this big world with curiosity and ambition, and with a camera. Language, drawing, Ernest Hemingway, antique shopping are the joy of his life. Rio is happy now to study Hawaiian language.

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