If you’re a resident of Colton you are likely to be familiar with the man who stands at the corner of Rancho Ave. and Valley Boulevard six mornings a week for the last 16 years selling The Sun newspaper. Kenny Robbins, born in the small town of Ypsilanti, Michigan east of Ann Arbor, made his way to California in 1977 after he joined the Air Force and was stationed at the now defunct George Air Force Base in Victorville, where he spent two-and-a-half years before being honorably discharged.
A specialist in wastewater treatment, Kenny invested ten years in the industry before he decided he was not one to play office politics and sought reprieve with the Salvation Army in San Bernardino, working odd jobs here and there.
“I’m an independent, a non-conformist,” Kenny, who enjoys listening to old Rhythm and Blues, revealed. He began selling The Sun newspaper in San Bernardino in the late 90’s before he was relocated to Colton in 2003. He has worked at the same location across Colton High School ever since.
He endured a couple stints of homelessness while in San Bernardino, and had become homeless once again when his landlord/roommate sold the residence back in December. Kenny currently stays at Elizabeth Davis Park.
“I’m an optimist – looking at the dark side is an easy way out,” Kenny, who has witnessed the sinister side of human nature on the streets, said. “Being on the street is different from being a part of the street.” He admitted that the streets of Colton are benign compared to those in San Bernardino. “It’s best to just walk away,” he said when confronted with aggression.
What he likes most about selling newspapers is having no one to answer to, but the wages are inadequate to afford his own place. According to Kenny he sells an average of 25 papers a day and 100 on Sunday, pocketing 50 cents of the $2 per paper.
“Kenny is very likable, honest and truthful,” shared John Montes, Kenny’s friend and former neighbor who drives him to his jobsite each morning on his way to work at the Colton Police Department. “I’ve never seen him in a bad mood and he’s always willing to help.”
According to Montes, Kenny shows up to work rain or shine, proof of his strong work ethic. He has become a beloved part of the Colton community – residents even calling 911 when he didn’t show up one morning. But Kenny may not be around for very much longer.
Kenny is hopeful that he will be receiving his grandfather’s inheritance soon as it gets resolved in court in Tennessee. A wanderlust at heart, Kenny spends his time planning his future with what he calls his “retirement,” envisioning himself setting up homes on the west and east coasts, while crisscrossing the nation in his RV. When that time comes the Colton community will undoubtedly miss the gentle soul who waves at them every morning with an infectious smile they have grown accustomed to.
Update: Kenny moves into permanent housing.