Billie Theriault Simmons
1912 – 1990
M. Imelda (Billie) Theriault was born in Fall River, Massachusetts to an Acadian Family that had emigrated from the Canadian Îsles de la Madeleine through Quebec to Fall River to work in the Mills. At the age of fourteen she asked for some spending money. When her mother’s answer was “No,” her reply was to quit school and go to work in the mills in order to earn her own money. Of course, in those times most of what she earned was not hers but rather the family’s. She never did finish school but she expected her daughters to do so. After her marriage she worked at the store in Adamsville for several years. During WWII she worked for a defense contractor making parts for gas masks and for a brief period she went to work at Shelburne Shirt in Fall River.
Billie married Ernest Frederick (Hap) Simmons in 1933. Hap’s family owned and ran F.A.Simmons store in the center of Adamsville. The young couple lived with Hattie and Fred in the house by the store until their own house was finished in 1936. When Billie married Hap at the age of 20, she spoke mostly French. She struggled with the English language until, as she put it, she learned to think in English. There were several other young wives in Adamsville at that time and they all were friends.
Billie and Hap raised their two daughters in a vernacular Cape Cod house on Stone Church Road. One summer she took her daughters to Fall River to play in the city parks so they could understand what city kids did in the summer time. Of course, Hap thought that was just plain dumb as the city people were anxious to bring their kids to the country in the summer.
An anecdote remembered by Marie Simmons Corey: “Peter, Jack, Phillip (Silvia) and I were down at the Adamsville River swimming and playing with my boat. I cut my knee on some glass on the bottom. Phillip, being little, had a life jacket on, but Jack was free. Pete yelled at Jack, “Go get Auntie Billie.” Jack ran up to the store and ran in yelling, “Auntie Billie, you have to come to the river. Something has happened.” When she asked him what, he didn’t know. So she rushed to the river. When she got there she saw Mimi and said, “Oh, it is just you.” Later Mimi realized that she had been afraid that something had happened to Phillip and so was relieved that she hadn’t lost one of her sister’s kids. At the time Mimi thought, “Thanks a lot.”
Winter time was made for sliding, Of course, roads were not plowed in quite the same manner as they are now, so it actually was possible to slide down Adamsville Hill. In order that no one got hit by a car, Billie would stand at the bottom of the hill and stop the cars until the mass of kids swooped down the hill.
Billie loved children and young people. One of her favorite expressions was, “If you want to know where your children are, you must allow their friends at your house.” With that in mind, she became the adult leader of the Adamsville 4-H club. Somehow she managed to meld the disparate ages into one club. We “littles” were included in much of what the older kids did. I think she enjoyed it as much as we members did.
She was very proud of her grandchildren and enjoyed watching their different personalities develop. Billie thought nothing of loading 8 grandchildren in the car. Then they would go to Battleship Cove in Fall River or to Buttonwood Park in New Bedford for a picnic and to see the animals.
In her later years she loved to go to Newport and park in a favorite spot on the Drive and watch the water.
Grace Simmons McKivergan and Marie Simmons Corey, daughters, and Anne McKivergan, granddaughter