History

MY GRANDMA SIMMONS


by Boyd Simmons

One of the great characters of my life was Grandma Simmons, as she was known to everyone in Kalama, Washington, for half of her lifetime. In truth she was "MY" Grandma.

Emma Simmons was born somewhere in Mid American. I am not sure (I wish I were) if it was Iowa or Wisconsin. She and her husband Leander came to Kalama in about 1900 with several of her seven sons and one daughter. They came from Barren, Wisconsin as their last residence. Grandma had some American Indian blood, but I am not sure how much. Some of the family wanted to hide it, but I wished it was more instead of less.

She was a tall bony sort of a woman who always wore dresses that came to the ground and large full-length aprons with large deep pockets. She was a great gardener with a green thumb, and loved her beautiful flowers. Her gladiolas were the prize of the town, but I have never liked them since it was my job as a teenager to take five bouquets a week to town to sell to local merchants for a dollar apiece. As this was in the heart of the Depression the barbers and such where I took them probably couldn't afford them but they were all afraid if they refused that Grandma Simmons would bring the wrath of God down upon them. Grandma, among other things, was known for her strong faith in the Nazarene Church and her hatred of John Barleycorn. Grandma's life was not easy, like anyone else in the Depression. Her husband died of blood poisoning after cutting himself with an ax while splitting wood. One son, Willie, was killed in the local mill. By coincidence it was his shift off but another man had been killed in the mill and his best friend was supposed to work but Willie filled in for him so he could go to the funeral. Willie was killed by the same kind of accident as the first man. When coming from the cemetery, which is up on the hill in Kalama on a narrow winding road, a horse ran away and knocked over Grandma's buggy and she was hurt rather badly and was laid up for some time.

Kalama had it's local bootlegger and he used to hide his hooch in the bushes along the China Garden Road where the Simmons' conclave was. Everyday Grandma would walk along the road. She had several long walking sticks which were cut from willow and stuff in the area. With her stick she poked into every clump of fern or brush along the road until she found a bottle. In her large apron pocket she always carried a hammer which came out and made short work of the sinful stuff. My brother Clyde and I also searched the brush but we just poured it out because we got 5 cents a bottle from Archie, our bootlegger friend, for empties.

I wish I had started jotting down things about Grandma years ago as it so hard now to remember things. I was back in Michigan when she passed away and always regretted that I missed her final years.

I was always jealous of the fact that everyone in town called her "Grandma Simmons". Dammit, she was MY Grandma Simmons.

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