Touring Texoma: Doris Robbins

Over the next four weeks, we're going to introduce you to some very interesting people from our latest tour of Texoma.

90- year old Doris Robbins was an acrobat from the time she was 5- years old, well into her adult years.
Her talents took her all over the world, and often times, 110- feet up in the air, or maybe even dangling from a helicopter without a safety next.

"We were hanging from the helicopter.  I don't know, someone else took the pictures."  "How high up were you?"  "High enough I didn't want to fall.  Put it that way."

When Doris married Vernon Liedtke in the early 1950's, 'The Sensational Ortons' was born.

"We were married the first Monday in September I think it was, and that's when I discovered what I was getting into."

Just about as far back as Doris can remember, she was part of an act that highlighted her acrobatic skills.
That began with her brother and sisters in the late 1920's.  First in Oregon, and then in California.

"We'd do acrobatics.  Each one of us would do a trick and go back, and then the other one would come out.  Seems like we came by it naturally."

But, in April, 1938, all four children, who could not swim, jumped into what they thought were shallow ocean waters around Long Beach.

"The boat channel somehow got switched where it ran across the bay, and we didn't know it.  They didn't know it.  We jumped the breaker, and wound up in a 25- foot boat channel."

Doris says while she'd just learned to float, and was eventually saved, Flora, Bruce and Jean were swept away by an undercurrent, and drown.

"When they drown, it took the, out of me. And, I didn't feel like it.  Well, I did work a couple of years with a girl."

Then Doris eventually worked in a 6- girl act and joined the circus, before she and Vernon married several acts and years later, and formed 'The Sensational Ortons'.

"They said, when you get up there, just sit up there and look straight out.  Don't look down."  "And, it took me a little while, but eventually I got to where I enjoyed it because you could see things, and see what was going on, that other people couldn't see."

Doris says she quickly learned exactly what she'd gotten herself into.
Dorrie and vern, as they were known then, were performing 110- feet in the air, with no safety net below!

"The only safety he installed was he put a cable from the top of the pole to the bottom, where it came out the bottom. So, if the pole did break, and you fell, the pole wouldn't come down with you."

"What were you going to land on?"  "Dear old mother earth."

"This was taken in Grand Rapids, and that's how close to the ceiling we were."

"That was the bar we put together to work club dates and stuff with, and we're just swinging toe to toe."

"He put his feet this way, and I turned mine out so I could hook over them."

Vern and Dorrie performed in carnivals and circus' in their own daredevil acts all over the world.  From England, Germany, Scotland and Ireland, to back here in the states.  And, the excitement and the adrenaline they felt never changed.

"Your tendency is to think, am I going to make it?  Because you don't have a good grip on it.  My hands were too small.

She's talking about the times they performed underneath a helicopter, and the fact her hands were too small to grip onto the skids.

"The runners it sits on, they were so big, I couldn't get a good grip on them.  So, all I could think of was I prayed to God my fingers would hold until I could get off of them and inside the copter."

"After it was over with, I thought, what was I worried about?  I made it.  I had enough strength to pull myself up by my fingertips."

In 1958, 'The Sensational Ortons' with Doris was no more after she and Vernon split.
Then, she says it was not long after their divorce, he fell to his death.
Doris never again performed, and says she never really missed it.
After all, she'd done that.

"When you go up, and you've done the act, and you finish and come down, and you're on the ground, it's a pleasant feeling to know you made it."

"They were just years that you spent working.  You spent it with people you enjoyed being around, places you enjoyed being, and you don't expect to see again."

Doris really did do and see all that, and has much to look back on with pride.

Doris says she even performed in- front of the Queen of England, twice!

Then, after those years, she married a man named Robert, and they closed his dental practice in Dallas, and moved to Wichita Falls so he could treat patients at the state hospital.
They were married for about 40- years until his death in 1998.
Their daughter, Joy, remains very close to Doris today.

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