by nathan oster
With nearly 20 years in the U.S. Senate, Alan Simpson is no stranger to the spotlight. But for one night, he was more than happy to share it with “that lovely Greybull girl,” his wife Ann Schroll Simpson.
The two were the guest speakers at a National Library Week “after hours” fundraiser Thursday for the Greybull Public Library. By night’s end, nearly $2,500 had been raised for the library’s endowment fund, all of which will be eligible for the three to one match.
Some of the money that was raised, in fact, came in the form of a generous donation from the Simpsons themselves, whose ties to the community date back many decades to when Ann was living up on the Greybull Heights and Alan was attending high school in Cody.
Ann shared fond memories of her roots in this community. Her grandparents were on their way to search for gold in California when they stopped in Shell. “Well it must have been a perfect day because they bought a ranch, and on that ranch was a store,” said Ann. “People kept coming to that store … eventually they thought it would be easier to run a store than a ranch, so he built the Shell Store, and lived in a house adjacent to the store.”
When the store was no longer profitable, the family — they had two girls, Ivy and Pansy, and a boy, Jack — moved to Greybull. Pansy eventually married, and to that union, two girls and a boy were born.
Ann said her father died of a brain tumor when she was a junior at Greybull High School. At the time, her brother was attending the University of Wyoming. Her mother, feeling it important for the girls to get their education, moved the family to Laramie, where Ann finished high school.
Ann said it was her mother who told her about “two tall boys from Cody,” but Ann admitted that she and her sister immediately ruled them out because they wouldn’t dance. “Back in those days, our weekly dances were big social events in Greybull,” Ann said. “Worland boys, they were preferred because they were dancers.”
Ann would eventually backtrack and come to like one of those “tall Cody boys.” She was in her senior year at college when she got two teaching opportunities — one in California, the other in Cheyenne.
“I think he panicked … and said if I stayed in Cheyenne, we could get married. Well fortunately for him, I said not for another year. He was relieved.”
They married in 1954 and Ann shared memories of campaigning for Alan’s father, who was running for governor. “We went door to door and through the process, I learned a wonderful life lesson,” Ann said. “That is, if you extend yourself, people respond.”
They eventually had a small, intimate wedding.
Al went on to serve in the military, spending time in Germany.
As he looked back on those days, Alan said, “When she first saw my brother and I, she was not enamored at all,” he said. “I weighed 230 pounds and had zits. She came to a junior high game in Cody one day…she was a knockout then and still is.”
Alan said he “took a lot of abuse” when his team played in Greybull. “I couldn’t run, I couldn’t jump, but I could shoot that basketball,” he said. “We won the conference championship that year, beating Lovell and the Goodriches.”
Laughed Ann, “And because we were all fair-minded people, we called him ‘Fatso’ when he was making all of those shots.”
Ann said that she and her family lived on the property that is now home to Dan Brown Trucking, which is in the Greybull Heights. “My life here started me on a good course, and what I learned here carried me through life,” he said.
At one point during their talk, Ann was asked about the dances, which were held in what is now the Herb Asp Community Center. She said her dad was strict — and made it a requirement of the girls that if went to the dance, they could not leave at intermission.
“Often my sister and I were the only ones in there,” Ann laughed. “And we weren’t allowed to sit on boys’ laps.”
Alan represented Wyoming in the U.S. Senate from 1979 to 1997, and the couple shared a few memories of their time in Washington, D.C.”
Ann and Alan both laughed about an experience while with the Bushes, George and Barbara, at Kennebunkport. It was a small, intimate gathering, and everyone who attended was asked to do something unique. Ann stood on her head and recited poetry. According to Alan, George still chuckles about it to this day. Says Ann, “I haven’t stood on my head for 20 years!”
Ann said the most interesting person she met was Anwar Sadat, the former leader of Egypt. It was on a trip to Egypt with her husband that was led by Howard Baker. “We went to the summer palace, and there we met him,” she said. “He looked as though his head had been polished…he had beautifully tailor-made clothes, and he gave a talk with PowerPoints that was just magnificent.”
Sadat was assassinated a few months after that encounter. “He was beloved by the American people…but sadly, he wasn’t as honored by the people of Egypt,” said Ann. Alan said that in that way, he was much like former Russian leader Mikael Gorbachev.
Alan was asked at one point if it was true that President Reagan called him into the Oval Office to tell jokes.
“Reagan was a piece of work,” said Simpson. “When Nancy would go to see her father in Scottsdale, he’d call and say, ‘Come over to the White House. We’re going to have a drink and tell stories — and not talk anything to do with business.”
Simpson said he and a small gathering of “about six” other legislators, including a couple Democrats, “would sit, tell stories and laugh” until the 10 o’clock hour arrived and it was time to go home. Often times, Reagan “would have on those green pants with the ducks, a pink turtleneck and a pink sport coat,” chuckled Alan.
During this time, Ann helped the family make ends meet by selling real estate in Washington, D.C.
Alan and Ann continued sharing stories — of the times Sen. Bob Dole asked him last-minute to fill in for him at official state events and the working suppers at the home of Washington Post chief Kay Graham. But in the end, they came back around to their roots.
“Thanks to Al, I had a wonderful life,” said Ann. “But I was prepared for it in Greybull, Wyoming.”