When I think of my Grandpa Simmons, I picture him coming home from work. He’s wearing a white t-shirt and brown jeans, carrying his black metal lunchbox, his white hair shining in the sun and a twinkle in his blue eyes. His name was Rolin Clay Simmons and I wish I had known him much longer than I did.
Rolin came into this world on the 20th of February in 1918. He was born in Ontario, Oregon to Clay Taylor and Martha Alameda (Rowe) Simmons. Rolin was the youngest of three children. His two older siblings, Alta and Estel, were his half siblings. Martha had been married to Thomas Sager previously in a marriage that ended in divorce. After meeting and marrying Clay, Rolin was born. I don’t remember there ever being any talk of “half brother and sister”, Alta and Estel were simply his sister and brother.
Here Rolin is 7 years old and eating ice cream on the 4th of July. Look at those shoe’s!
The only thing that I know about his childhood years is that the family lived in the Ontario, Oregon area and his dad was a farmer. By the 1930 census, the family had moved to Oroville, California and Rolin’s dad was doing bridge work. Rolin was 12 that year.
(Clay, Martha, and Rolin Simmons)
When Rolin was 21, he married Leoma Nesta Dallas in Reno, Nevada on December 23rd, 1939. The couple made their home in Mineral, California where Rolin was working as a miner.
Leoma and Rolin – I don’t have a year or a place on this picture, so if anyone else knows, please let me know!
Rolin and Leoma’s first daughter, Marvelene Jean, was born in Oroville, California on February 2nd, 1941. A son, Philip Clay, followed the next year on June 14th, 1942, in Redding, California.
The family had moved to Redding and Rolin was working on the construction of Shasta Dam. He worked in the rock quarry that was being used to build the dam. Rolin was 24 years old.
The family was growing! Next came a daughter, Janice Sharon on January 9th of 1944, (my mom!), then Judith Leoma on May 24th, 1945. The youngest child born into the Simmons family was Randy Neal born on the 10th of July, 1946.
Around 1946, the Simmons family moved to the northeastern corner of Oregon, to Elgin. There’s much that I don’t know about why they choose to move there and what Rolin did in their early years in this part of Oregon.
For a few years when my mom was a teenager, the family had moved to Wallowa and Grandpa and Grandma had a hardware store there. I believe they only lived in Wallowa for about two years.
When I was growing up, Rolin was a contractor and they owned and operated Elgin Hardware, later known as Simmons Supply and Lumber. I loved going in to the hardware store and helping grandma. She would put us to work doing inventory, counting out the nails one by one. It has only occurred to me as I’ve gotten older, that she was simply keeping young hands busy and out of her way. Sneaky, Grandma, sneaky.
This is the house in Elgin where my Grandparents raised their family and the one that I have so many memories of myself. Behind the house, there was a fire-pit with Grandpa’s great big fat hotdogs roasting away and long stone benches that were so cool to lay on on a hot summer day. So many cousins running around, so much love.
Que once again my grandfather coming home from work, his lunch box swinging in his hand and a twinkle in his eye. His grandkids accost him, hoping for one of those special candies that he always has in his lunchbox. He chases us a minute, affectionately tells all his “poopdecks” to simmer down, and goes inside to place a kiss on grandma’s cheek.
I remember him as a fairly quiet man with a dry sense of humor. Gruff at times, but never really meaning it. Grandpa was a collector of stamps, of coins, of books. I loved going in his office and looking through his books full of the art of Charles Russell and Norman Rockwell. The times when he would sit with me, his big magnifying glass in hand, and tell me about his stamps were some of my favorite times.
Those special candies that were always in his lunchbox were because Rolin was a diabetic and needed them for when his blood sugar would dip too low. One of my earliest memories is getting up in the morning after having stayed the night with them, to find Grandma boiling Grandpa’s needle on the stove and then giving him his insulin shot.
Grandpa had a way about him, a special spark that made each one of us feel special. For me, he said he loved my biscuits and always asked that I make them for him. Now, I know I wasn’t a spectacular cook, but Grandpa knew that I liked to do it, so he always made me feel like I was the best biscuit cook this side of the Mississippi, quietly, simply by asking me to bake them for him. It was just his way.
Rolin passed away far too soon. He had his health struggles; carbon monoxide poisoning on a job in the 1970’s, a stroke about 1980, then he frostbit a toe and, being stubborn, didn’t go to the doctor until it was too late. They were going to need to amputate, but before that could happen, Rolin suffered a heart attack while in the hospital and passed away. It was the 17th of February 1982. He was only 63 years old. I still remember that evening like it was last week. Forever missed.
Rolin is buried in the cemetery at Elgin, Oregon between his beloved wife, Leoma, and his daughter, Janice. I remember standing at the graveside after my grandmother’s burial, when it was only the family left, and in a moment of lightness my uncle quipped, “Poor Daddy. Now he’ll never get any rest.”
Please please share your memories and I’ll add them in right here.
“The summer of 1980 I worked for my Grandpa Simmons. He was building a small shop just a few blocks from Grandma and Grandpas house. I was 15 at the time and had my drivers permit. Grandpa tried to teach me to drive his stick shift “Scout”. He had the patience of a saint. I killed it every time so we would walk the short distance to the job site.
One of my favorite Grandpa quotes is “You’ve got to get up early to get ahead of me.” ” – Stacey Sannar Roth
” He was a very caring and loving father. He worked very hard to support a family of seven. Sometimes we would not see him for one to two weeks at a time. He would be working out of town, doing construction. When he did return home, he would always have a surprise for us. One time it was a wild caught Badger, it was so mean. He wanted us to learn about it and then he took it back and let it loose. I was about 7 or 8 at the time. He taught us so much. I truly miss him a lot.” – Judy Simmons Hulse
“I remember Rolin as you aptly described him. He was a hard -working, soft-spoken man. He was very polite and helpful in his store.
I have fond memories of teenage years with Jan, Judy and Phil.
The greatest gift Rolin and Leoma gave me is a wonderful sister-in-law Judy, whom I dearly love. Such good memories!” ~ Elaine Hulse Durrer