Most folks around here knew my dad his whole life. One local woman said they used to play together when they were four years old. However, as well as people know each other in a small town like Caddo, there may be a few things that about him that weren’t common knowledge. As part of my effort to preserve some memories for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren I offer you ten things you might not have known about my father:
- When I was a child Dad collected and read encyclopedias. Several of the local stores gave the books away as part of a “points” system and he made sure we shopped there. He sat in his chair in the evenings, read the books, and shared things he thought were interesting. He loved odd information and bits of trivia and obscure facts.
- Dad loved jigsaw puzzles and he spent many cold winter days completing 1,000-piece pictures. He had his own way of doing them and enjoyed critiquing MY way of doing them when he visited on Sundays.
- Dad was fascinated by caves. He visited Carlsbad Caverns after he graduated from high school and returned to take me when I was a young child. My grandparents lived at the Forestiere Underground Gardens in CA for a while and my father helped restore part of it. He also lived on the Forestiere ranch and explored its vast network of caves and tunnels that were used during prohibition. No, he never let me go with him.
- In 1953-54 Dad worked for the Hotel Californian in downtown Fresno. He worked in the print shop and also took some photos. He made menus and other items. I remember watching him work with some special pens and other tools that seemed far too delicate for his farmer’s hands, but like every other task- he learned to do what he needed to do. He liked to call himself a “Jack of all trades, and master of none.”
- In 1959 Dad worked on a big dam project in Georgetown, Texas. I assume it was one of the twenty-three Bushy Creek Water Control dams built between 1959 and 1967. I know they blew things up with dynamite and often took us out to see how many snakes they had killed in a day. Dad was very proud of his work in Georgetown, but mostly he was proud of killing those snakes!
- Dad loved to drive anything, anytime, anywhere. We went for a drive almost every Sunday afternoon throughout my childhood. We drove to places just to see what they looked like. We drove to better neighborhoods to gawk at the big houses. We drove out to the country to see the animals or admire other farms. We drove from CA to OK at least once a year. And of course Dad spent many years making his living behind the wheel of a truck.
- My grandmother owned a “bar and grill” for a couple of years and my dad tended bar for her part-time. The building was part of an old motel and still retained a couple of the rooms. I spent lots of time at the bar and in the motel room watching television. I also visited with cousins who lived nearby and we rode their bicycles around town. Sometimes my brothers went with us, but more often they stayed with mom. I don’t think my dad liked tending bar, but he did like helping his mother and he loved to talk to customers.
- Dad loved music but wouldn’t sing. I can’t recall hearing him sing more than a couple of times even in church. He, like his mother, said that he “couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket”.
- Dad liked to eat odd things at odd times- he often ate leftover spaghetti for breakfast or cookies crushed in milk for a late snack. Mayo had to be Hellman’s and tea had to be Lipton’s- loose leaves, boiled. He loved liver with onions, mashed potatoes, buttermilk biscuits, fried peach pies. But he would try almost anything once- frog’s legs, squirrel, bear, alligator, crayfish, pheasant, rabbit, duck, goose, pig’s brains, cow tongue. His diet during his “senior” years was somewhat limited by the fact that he refused to wear his teeth.
- Dad loved money. I can’t remember him ever NOT checking his change for old coins and I spent many, many hours helping him put those coins in little blue folders. He picked up pennies from parking lots and road sides and even the beach. He could spot a stray coin ten feet away and never just walked past one. I don’t think he ever envisioned finding a rare one that would make him wealthy, but he liked the history and variety of the coins and he liked completing a series or set of them. In some ways it was similar to his passion for jigsaw puzzles.
Well, that certainly isn’t everything there is to know about Bob Simmons, but it’s a start. Each of us has our own memories and I just thought it would be helpful to the younger family members if we shared some of them.