Longevity runs in the Simmons family, with ages into the 90s being common, and turning 90 is something Tommy Simmons of Mountain View never thought much about. It’s on his mind now, with his 90th birthday being Friday, and with a public birthday celebration planned Sunday afternoon.
The Simmons children: Danny, Renee Storey, Virginia Lee, and Pam Setser, invite the public to a drop-in reception (cards only, please) Sunday 1-4 p.m. at the Ozark Folk Center’s Bois D’arc Center at 1032 Park Ave. A pictorial tribute will be shown at 2 p.m.
Born at Edgemont to Thomas and Grace Simmons, Tommy was the son of a railroad man and his family moved often. His first two years of school were at Angora. The Great Depression had hit and his father got laid off from work. The family traveled by train to Arlberg, crossed the Little Red River in a boat and then rode up the mountain on the back of a horse.
Times were lean but he never went to bed hungry, he said.
“Dad was a good provider and Mom was a good cook.”
In 1934, Angora School had 50-60 students and one teacher who enlisted eighth grade girls to help with younger classmates. Students walked or rode horses to school.
Back then, he said, it was “straight and strict,” adding, “What I see now is a lack of discipline, in school and in life.”
Tommy’s son Danny testifies to the fact that his father was a strict disciplinarian.
“He would tell you once, and if he had to tell you again it was too late.”
Danny recalls being sent to cut his own switch and he chose a short one. Tommy wore that one out on him then sent him to cut a proper one.
“And I did!” Danny said.
Tommy always encouraged his children to do the best job they could do, regardless of whether anyone was watching.
Music has been a big part of Tommy’s life from his early years, with many in his family playing instruments and/or singing southern gospel and shape note hymns.
When he was old enough, he ran a trap line along the route to and from school and eventually saved about $12 to order a guitar from the Sears and Roebuck catalog.
Later, he enjoyed singing in church and in quartets, something that he misses now that he has significant hearing loss.
See the full story in the Sept. 12, 2018 issue.