An interview with Sam Simmons, former Physical Education, Drama, and Freshman Basketball coach at BJHS (1972-1990) by Matt Johnson, BJHS Foundation President.
“Every day is the Super Bowl!” is Sam Simmons’ approach to mixing fun with instruction. A former Bidwell Physical Education instructor, Simmons is a well-known and beloved figure around town. He was a stand-out athlete and graduate of California State University, Chico, where he joined his father, Willie Simmons, as a Chico Sports Hall of Fame inductee.
Simmons’ first teaching job was at Gridley High School followed by 18 years at Bidwell Junior High School. He has great memories of teachers and staff like John Schulz, John Watson, Mike Christensen, Donna Scott, Rich Wallace, Opal Callaway, Mike Higginson and Al Crowson, to name a few. He fondly recalls Bidwell being ahead of its time in many ways, including integrating boys and girls Physical Education.
Simmons found the students and parents to be enjoyable during his tenure at BJHS. He strived to make class fun for the students because it was fun for him.
Simmons related a story about trying to get the students excited about the yearly square-dancing segment. To keep them from dragging their feet, he fibbed that they were going to be on television, and they had to show the world how great they were! It worked; then Simmons scrambled to get the local station KHSL to actually come and film it. They did and much to his relief, a short story was aired.
Another memorable exercise that many students participated in was “Running to the Donkey.” Students who needed a little extra “encouragement” were told to run to the farthest end of the field to see the donkey that brayed and hee-hawed in an adjoining yard.
Simmons chuckled as he relayed the story about the banana eating contest that took place at a school rally. Fellow P.E. instructors, Gerald Circo and John D’Anna, painted him up like a giant, yellow banana and the fun ensued!
Simmons recalled a faculty meeting where a teacher asked the P.E. instructors to “tone it down" because the kids were too excited and pumped up when they arrived in their next class. Tone it down? Of course, Simmons and his fellow P.E. teachers did no such thing! Heck, no!
Simmons went on to a short stint at Pleasant Valley High School and then finished his career as a P.E. teacher and Head Basketball Coach at his alma mater, Chico Senior High School.
Simmons retired in 2009 and he says his days at Bidwell were fun for him and he enjoyed the camaraderie of the staff.
Simmons feels blessed regarding his entire life in Chico and has a great appreciation for his father’s legacy in establishing his own path. He enjoys spending time with family, friends and grandchildren … and he follows his son’s coaching of the Chico Senior High School Boys Basketball team.
In 2008, The Bidwell Junior High School Foundation Board established the John Schulz Memorial Endowment with a $2,000 grant from the Foundation General Fund. The long-range goal for the Endowment is to increase its value to the point where dividends and interest can be used to support Foundation work without reducing the principal amount. It will then become a permanent source of funding for the work of the BJHS Foundation.
In 2018, The Endowment name was changed to the John Schulz and Linda Wilbur Memorial Endowment upon the passing of Linda Wilbur, a long time Bidwell Staff member, Foundation Board member and Treasurer. The Endowment has grown through the years, primarily with donations from Friends of Bidwell, interest and dividends on the principal amount, and unrealized gains which have outpaced unrealized losses. The current value is over $55,000. (Photos: Linda Wilbur (left) and John Schulz.