‘Ma’ Gives Riders a Lift: At 82, Pomfret Cabbie Drives to Stay Young
Marion Simonds, 82, of Pomfret, a driver with her son’s company, P&P’s Twin State Taxi, waits while one of her passengers, Rich Royce, of White River Junction, helps carry groceries for another passenger, Susan Smith, of Hartford Village, on Tuesday. “I love it,” Simonds said. “I love the people, you know what I mean? I want them to feel comfortable and like I said before I’d go mad if I had to stay home day after day. I’ve got to be out here doing something and I love doing this. Making people happy, getting them where they need to go and do.” she said. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Cab driver Marion Simonds reaches out to Susan Smith, one of her regular passengers, during their ride — a frequent exchange between the two. “She’s quite a girl, this girl is,” Simonds said. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Marion Simonds waits while Smith loads groceries at a shopping center in West Lebanon. “If I don’t ride with her, I don’t ride,” Smith said. “I don’t drive because I grew up in Boston.” (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
“You have such a beautiful voice,” said Alexandra Parks, of White River Junction, surprised by Marion Simonds’ yodeling during a recent ride. Parks’ fiance, Ryan Sprigg, is at right. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Marion Simonds says a quick goodbye to her daughter, Bonnie Perkins, after a visit in Hartford Village. When business is slow, Simonds visits Perkins, who has cerebral palsy, to help around the house and keep her company. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Susan Smith, right, of Hartford Village, says goodbye to Marion Simonds, 82, of Pomfret, after Simonds took her on a trip to get groceries in West Lebanon on Tuesday. Simonds has been driving for P&P’s Twin State Taxi for seven years. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
While waiting for a customer to finish up inside the pharmacy in White River Junction, Marion Simonds, right, admires Ginger, the St. Bernard of South Strafford resident Pat Reynolds. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Pomfret — By lunchtime, taxi driver Marion Simonds had already put in a full day’s work.
“I’ve been busier than hell this morning,” the 82-year-old Chelsea native said.
On a recent Friday, she’d started work at 4 a.m., driving “a steady” who travels from White River Junction to his job at a Lebanon restaurant several times a week. And the calls kept coming, many from customers who on a dry day would have taken the bus.
“They don’t like to stand in the rain, and I don’t blame them,” said Simonds, who wore jeans, sneakers and a sweater against the cold.
For the past seven years, Simonds has volunteered with P&P’s Twin State Taxi to help out her son, George Simonds, who runs the business from their Pomfret home. She knows most of her fares and likes them to sit up front.
“I like to make the people riding with me feel comfortable,” Simonds said, so she chats with them and sometimes belts out old country songs. And that’s not all.
“You still yodeling?” asked William Morrison, settling into the cab at The Home Depot in West Lebanon.
In answer, she launched into I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart, a jaunty Patsy Montana tune that was a huge hit in the 1930s. Simonds’ rendition, lively and clear with a touch of twang, sounded like the original yodeling song.
“Your voice is still really good,” Morrison said. “It’s still nice and smooth and melodious. I have a feeling you (practice).”
“It’s because of I keep talking all the time,” she said, chuckling. “I don’t know enough to keep my mouth shut.”
Simonds’ family was full of amateur musicians who played and sang during parties at their home. When she was 4, her brother taught her to yodel, she said, “and I’ve been yodeling ever since.” In addition to giving impromptu performances in the car, she also sings in the annual Tunbridge Civic Club Show.
“It takes my mind off of a lot of other stuff. Know what I mean?” she asked Morrison.
“Yep,” he answered. “Everyone has something that helps them out a lot.”
Simonds sang most of the way to the Lebanon garage where Morrison was picking up his car.
“Keep singing,” he told her, pulling his bags from the back seat.
Leaving Lebanon, Simonds steered the worn Ford Taurus toward Hartford Village, where she visits with her daughter, Bonnie Perkins, between calls. She’d stopped there earlier, but just as she pulled into the driveway, her cell phone rang. It was a regular.
A disabled veteran, Bob Perigny moved from Manchester to the Upper Valley in December to be near the White River Junction VA Medical Center. The former Marine suffers from PTSD, and a recent stroke left him temporarily unable to drive.
When he needs a lift, Perigny calls Simonds.
“She’s a really good friend,” he said. “It’s good to have someone to talk to.”
His buddies were coming over that night to play cards. They were bringing the wings and pizza, but Perigny was in charge of the beer.
“Ma’s helped me out,” he said, using the nickname favored by her customers. “If I was short on money, she would give me a ride.”
“That’s how I was brought up,” said Simonds, who likes to reminisce about old times.
During the Depression, her family reached out to friends who were struggling. “We used to give away milk and vegetables, things like that.”
“You need anything, Ma?” Perigny asked before going into the store.
“I need a lot,” she shot back, grinning.
A self-described “Jack of all trades, mistress of none,” she formerly worked as a nurse and a cook.
“I’m supposedly retired, but I love my retirement,” said Simonds, who hopes to drive the taxi for a few more years. “It helps keep me young, full of the devil.”
Aimee Caruso can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3210.