Grace L. Simmons

Grace L. Simmons

1899 – 1985

Oral History Excerpt from Connie Shurtleff McGee

Oral History Excerpt from Karla Moran

Oral History Excerpt from Nancy Arruda Oliveira

Oral History Excerpt from Tom Moran

Grace Simmons’ House. Postcard by O.E. Dubois, c. 1910. LCHS Collection.

Oral History Excerpt from Connie Shurtleff McGee

We didn’t go in Simmons’ Store too much as a kid. Everybody made you afraid of Grace. I guess because they always said she didn’t like kids. But, later on in life when I worked for her—I worked for her for seventeen years. She loved kids, but she had to give that persona, I guess to get respect? She never had any [kids] of her own, but at Halloween, the kids would go in there and she would give them—not her choice—she’d give them their choice of any candy bar they wanted in the place. Of course the kids used to go in there like, “Should we go in?”

Based on an oral history interview with Connie Shurtleff McGee.

First published in “Remembering Adamsville” by the Little Compton Historical Society, 2013.

Oral History Excerpt from Karla Moran

Grace Simmons was one of the most amazing people I’ve ever known. Friendly? It would take a while to get her to be friendly. But once you were part of her feelings, however, you were there. She took care of a lot of people in town. There was an old man, Irving Manchester, who lived up Old Harbor Road. There were two brothers, if I’m not mistaken, but Irving was the surviving brother. They were basically like old hermits. You would see Irving coming into the village with a big sack on his back, and he would stop at different places, and he would rest. He would spend quite a long time resting down here, I think just looking at whatever was going on. But he’d go to Grace’s and he’d get his supplies for the week, and then he’d walk back. He didn’t come in this one time, and she paid for him to be taken care of in the hospital. I mean, she was that kind of a person. So, in terms of friendliness she could be a stony character, but that didn’t mean that she wasn’t a loving person. I thought she had a very dry sense of humor. She really knew people. In fact, when we had Karla, our daughter, Grace was one of the names that I thought of naming her.

Based on an oral history interview with Karla Moran.

First published in “Remembering Adamsville” by the Little Compton Historical Society, 2013.

Oral History Excerpt from Nancy Arruda Oliveira

Gracie’s father was Fred Simmons of F.A. Simmons store. She had a brother, Ernest. She had worked at the phone company for years. When Ernest passed away [she took over] the store. She was a woman of her own kind, I mean, she was Gracie. When we used to go in, there was a stove in the middle of the store, and she would be sitting in a rocking chair nearby, almost always reading. She had never been married and lived in the house next door. She was always nice to me, however, she didn’t like children and the children did not like her. She was extremely good to me after my first husband passed away. She let me have my charge account there and pay when I was able to. But she was something. Bright red nail polish, spike heels, lipstick on all the time. Always dressed nicely and always with a cigarette in her mouth. She was iconic. Nothing mechanical about her. She would rip off the side panels of the cigarette cartons and each day she’d write down everybody’s charges for the day. So if I bought stuff, I had a sheet, somebody else had a sheet, etc. At night she’d go into her house and put the charges in a ledger book, all by hand, to the penny and never made a mistake.

Based on an oral history interview with Nancy Arruda Oliveira.

First published in “Remembering Adamsville” by the Little Compton Historical Society, 2013.

Oral History Excerpt from Tom Moran

Her father Hap and Billie, her mother, and Grace and her daughter Mimi—Marie sometimes, Mimi when you talked. They lived where Grace Mkivergan used to live and David. That was Simmons’ house. Hap ran the store. When he died, Billie was not that good at those things. The girls were young. Grace was working at the phone company. She was one of the first managers for the phone company. Fairly good powerhouse of a manager, knew what she was doing. She took over the store and took on supporting her brother’s family and the children. And she took on supporting her sister’s family, because her sister married a Morton. The two of them were killed, I believe, in an auto accident. And so Jimmy and Sammie were raised by Grace. So, here’s this woman doing that all out of that little store. I always considered her as being amazing.

I had been around that family for quite awhile. I used to go out with Grace’s sister for awhile. And Hap, at one time, went down the basement, brought up a glass of clear liquid, which was like liquid Vaseline—kind of had a clearer color and would flow a little more than Vaseline would. And it went down the throat, the stomach, very smoothly. And then the Atomic bomb took off. It had been aged in his basement since the days of Manny Avila and prohibition. So, that’s some of my early times with that family. Then, Marie had a horse, a Tennessee walking horse, and my sister had the horses. They were always doing horses. They’d recruit me later on to drive trailers to horse shows and whatever. Of course, the horse shows would be over in Chet’s barn, in the back of Chet’s barn was the horse shows. Now, it’s all trailers. That was a classy horse show. Such is life. So, anyway, with the Simmons.

Grace ran that store. Grace, I thought, was clever. She would take the cartons, the cigarette cartons, the backs of them, and she would run the tabs for the people on the backs of the cartons. And she had them all organized. So, it looked like it was disorganized, but it was highly organized. She precisely knew where everybody stood. She did not grant credit easily. If you lived in Adamsville and she knew you, you had a chance. But the summer people would come in and they would say, “Well I want the New York Times or The Wall Street Journal every day or every weekend.” And Grace would look at them and say, “Do you want to charge it?” And they might say, “Yes.” And she would say, “It’s x number of dollars to charge it.” The x number of dollars equaled the cost of the paper. So, they paid in advance was the way her credit was given for some people. Very much that way.

Grace Simmons Christmas Parties

She was the social head of Little Compton when I moved back here.  Her Christmas parties were to die for. The house on the corner, right at Crandall Road and Main Road. That was Grace’s house and she had that all fixed up. She would hold a Christmas party there and you had to be accepted to be invited. If you didn’t go or turned down the invitation, you probably would never get another invitation again. So, it was very prized—you had to be on deathbed to be able to bow out of the whole thing. 

One of the things that she had, I think she owned all the lobsters that landed for a month in Westport Point. She had this lobster salad, which was all lobster with nothing else. You’d have to hunt up things to go with it. And tremendous shrimp dips and things like that. Everybody tried to get in and she had it right down to a certain number and if you didn’t make it, you were replaced. That’s what she did. A lot of people, ask them about that, a lot of people in the village went there at various times and did that.

Based on an oral history interview with Tom Moran.

Portion of this text first published in “Remembering Adamsville” by the Little Compton Historical Society, 2013.

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