An Interview with Ruth Simer Adams

This interview was conducted in the fall of 1980 in Boise, Idaho when Ruth was 70-years-old.

Ruth Evelyn Simer
Ruth Evelyn Simer

A large bouquet of bright yellow sunflowers sits on a round wooden table. Paintings of wild flowers and a carving of a woodpecker decorate the walls of the small apartment.

"I enjoy walking in the hills and picking flowers more than anything," says Ruth Adams as she smiles at her bouquet. The ruffles of her lavender blouse frame a cheerful round face that boasts many wrinkles. "But I guess somehow I’ve always made time for picking flowers. Except when I was young I called them hikes. Now I call them walks because I’ve slowed down some," she says chuckling and quickly lighting another cigarette.

Ruth attributes her love of wild flowers to nostalgia from having spent most of her life in the remote mountains of central Idaho. She was born Ruth Evelyn Simer on June 3, 1910 near the town of Salmon to parents Emma and Burton. Her father, a prospector and miner, often had difficulty supporting his large family. “It truly was the best of times and the worst of times,” she says. “Surviving it built character.” As the oldest of eleven children she says, “I never had any babies of my own, because growing up I changed enough diapers to last me a lifetime.”

Despite the hard times, Ruth enjoys recounting the events of her childhood, many of which she remembers fondly. “Mom made me a little red calico dress when I was about five,” begins Ruth. “Then she began working on something with white flowers all over it. I asked her what it was and she replied ‘a sunbonnet.’ I thought ‘Oh, happy day!’ She’s making me a hat that I can use to look at the sun.

“So I put on the dress and Mom buttoned it down the back and then tied this funny-looking thing around my head. It went rustle, rustle around my ears as I walked out the door. And I was so disgusted and disappointed when I looked up at the sun and could see nothing but the rays of blinding light. However, I did find another use for that hat. I could put my head in the well and yell “yoo-hoo” and somebody down in the well always yelled “yoo-hoo” back to me.”

Ruth learned early how to handle disappointment. She grew strong by “developing a good sense of humor.”

“Some people have said that I’ve had more than my share of problems,” says Ruth who has been widowed three times. “But you can’t just curl up and die because you’ve faced grief. I wasn’t the first person to go through it, and I won’t be the last.”

It was the sudden death of her first husband, Carl Hilton, that she found the most difficult. “I was almost 40 years old and had no idea of where I was going or what I would do. I had little education and a pile of bills to pay. I thought I’d be doing dishes for my living. I was just miserable,” says Ruth as the tears well in her eyes. “It was a neighbor lady, kind of a strange old gal, that finally helped me back on my feet.

“She came to visit one day and asked ‘How’s your family been treating you?’ And I said that they’d been wonderful. ‘And your friends?’ I said they’d been marvelous. Then she looked me in the face and said ‘For God’s sakes stop your belly-aching while you still have anyone left!’ I never forgot what she said.”

Despite being “untrained and untried,” Ruth embarked on a successful 25 year career selling Stanley Home Products. Within a year of her husband’s death she had “paid all the bills, bought a new car, and had a lot more confidence.”

“Door to door selling is not most people’s idea of a good job. But I had an almost magical ability to sell. I enjoyed my job thoroughly and was making twice or three times as much money as someone teaching school,” says Ruth. After growing up in poverty and struggling through the Great Depression she says, “It felt good to drive down the streets of Salmon and have everyone see me in that brand new car!”

Photo of Simer Sisters
Four of the Simer Sisters: Emma, Eunice, Ruth, and Teddy

Sometimes she still misses working, but Ruth says she is learning to enjoy her leisure time. Residing in a Boise retirement center, Ruth exclaims “I never knew living with a bunch of old people could be so much fun.”

She likes spending her days feeding the squirrels in the park, going on “excursions” with her neighbors, and reading history and biographies. “Mind you I didn’t say autobiographies,” she adds. “That’s just a chance for someone with an inflated ego to paint a rosy picture of themself.”

But what she enjoys most is being around all types of people as long as they don’t bore her. “As far as other people’s morals and ideas – that’s their business. I try to keep my opinions to myself. You can’t change people anyhow, so you might as well accept them as they are,” she says. “I’ve just seen too much of man’s inhumanity to man. So I try to be as kind and decent as I can to everyone because there are enough hurts that come naturally, and I don’t want to contribute to them.”

Ruth is also making plans for a book that will contain “all the little stories chugging around in my mind.”

“I have always had such a vivid imagination that by now I can’t remember which stories are true and which are lies, but they’re all good stories and should be written down,” she says chuckling.

Looking back on her life, Ruth says she wishes she’d had more education, but would change nothing else. “If you get old and have regrets then you become a very miserable person. You have to accept things that happen in your life and not blame others for your mistakes.”

She continues, “Most of the unhappy people in this world are that way because they carry a big bag of grudges around inside of them. They bring out these grudges occasionally to chew on them for awhile, and then wonder why they have such terrible indigestion.”

“I expect that, at best, I have a good ten years left,” Ruth says. “Every morning I get up and enjoy my day as much as possible. I hope that when I do go, that nobody will grieve. I hope they all get together at my funeral and say ‘Wasn’t she a crazy, old gal!’ I hope they all have a good, long laugh.”

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