my grandpa, Hugh Allen Hutchins
With the passing of my Dad, Hugh Allen Hutchins’ oldest living son, passes a lot of direct memory of Hugh. However, I was lucky enough to know and remember him from my early years, and my dad was great at recanting his memories of him. so this is from both of our memories. Hopefully, others who remember him can add, correct any errors I may have made and maybe even post a picture or two they may have of him. This is for Hugh Vandeweghe, his great grandson, my cousin (2nd I believe), and Hugh’s namesake. He has giant shoes to fill.[singlepic id=300 w=320 h=240 float=right]
Little is know of Hugh’s earliest years. He was an only child. Both of his parents had piercing blue eyes, which he inherited. According to Hugh, his father was extreemly stearn. They did not get along at all. Hugh left home at age 13. Hugh was very smart and industrious. He learned to ride the rails. He was a hobo. He went where the wind blew him fixing things and doing odd jobs along the way to survive. He survived well all considering.
When Hugh was a young man, he was passing through Utah. He went to a little soda shop where he found the most beautiful tall,dark eyed, and dark haired girl behind the counter. He struck up conversation with her, finished his soda, lit up his cigarette and told her “I’m going to marry you!”. Well, you can imagine how this must have sounded to this nice Mormon girl! Well, Hugh hung around. He was taught the gospel which he embraced wholeheartedly and did exactly as he said and married Maple Perry!
Hugh and Maple went on to have many children. They were boys Perry, Gene (my dad), Dale, Melvin and Bob, and the girls, Barbara, Colleen (your grandma) and Ruth.
When Perry and Gene were little, Gene was about 2 and Perry about 4, there was a horrible accident. Hugh was backing his truck up to go to work, and unknown to him, Perry had run out to say goodbye, ran behind the truck and was run over and killed. (My own observation) I have photos of Maple, and her hair before this incident was dark brown. My photos after this, her hair was white as snow.
Anyway, the surviving childern all went on to become exceptional people, each in their own right. All very different personalities, but all with amazing stories of their own.
Hugh was an inventor. He worked on engines mostly. He invented a brand of oil called Hughsoil that was what he considered the best oil to run his machines. He invented wenches. His wench was the only one powerful enough to lift the giant pieces of cement that make up Hoover Dam. So when you cross over Hoover Dam, know that our Grandpa was instrumental in making it. Hugh built tractors. He was a very successful inventor and businessman, making (and loosing) millions of dollars in his lifetime, at a time when that truly was an unusual and extraordinary amount of money.
Hugh taught his children well. There are 3 things that stand out in my mind that Hugh was directly responsible for. My dad, Gene, when we were kids around the dinner table, among other things used to play this “game” with us. He would hold up a fork and ask “what’s this”? We knew better than to say it was a fork. We had to come up with uses for it other than the obvious. Hugh taught this to his kids, maybe not with that particular method, but he taught them to think out of the box. Creative problem solving, creative thinking. Of course, Hugh being an inventor and all, this was as natural to him to pass along this skill as it would be for a writer to pass on the love of literature, or a housebuilder to pass on his knowledge of carpentry and such. Grandpa (by the way, we called him Pappy) passed on his professional skill to his children. The tool of his trade was his imagination.
Hugh had a sense of adventure and an “itchy foot”. He was fearless, tough as nails, independant and competent. He loved to ride his motorcycles. The earliest of which he built himself of course. He and my dad rode all over the American continent together. Their favorite place to ride was Mexico. Of course the wives back home were not too thrilled them leaving at the drop of a hat and being gone for sometimes weeks at a time, so that independance was not always appreciated, but the children learned, and later Hugh’s grandchildren, great grandchildren and on down, to have courage, be fearless and have faith in yourself that you can do it…whatever “it” in your life is. ‘LET’S TAKE A CHANCE’ was not only the way they lived, but became, like it is in my family because of him, an inside joke. Hugh, when his kids were all kids, would pack up the whole family in their Packard or whatever huge car they had at the time and go visit relatives. On one such trip, it had been raining, and the road was muddy. (No pavement back then) There was one huge area that looked impassable. Maple thought they ought to turn around, but Hugh, with those steely blue eyes of his, got a twinkle in them, turned to his wife and kids and said “lets take a chance”!!! Crazy as it was, they did. He got back, gunned the engine and went flying over that mud, getting to their destination. That phrase “lets take a chance” became a family joke/mantra that has survived generations now!
The other thing Hugh taught his children was that we are not alone here. We have a creator, a Heavenly Father, that made us and loves us and helps us on our path. We are also obliged to help others. Grandpa had great faith and demonstrated it daily with his actions. I remember this well of him. He spoke of the gospel a lot to us grandkids. I learned things about him after he passed away from my dad that were interesting. He quietly financed a LOT of missionaries on their missions, including during the Great Depression. Hugh also had a very strong testimony of tithing. My dad told me this story of Hugh and Maple; as I stated before, Hugh made and lost millions of dollars. He would invent something fabulous, market and sell it and make a chunk of money. The family lived comfortably most of the time. But at times also, he would loose his money. It was at one of these lean times, the money was nearly gone. Hugh and Maple had a lot of mouths to feed. However, Hugh had just finished his latest invention, a special wench. He went to market it and had a possible buyer. If they got this contract, they would be fine. If they didn’t, they would not. Hugh took the last, literally the last dime they had, and told Maple he was going to use it to pay “pre-tithing”. Maple objected to this since it was all she had to buy groceries with, and as a lifelong Mormon, knew this wasn’t a normal way to pay tithing, but Hugh was determined that he was going to show his version of faith by doing this. Of course, they got the contract and all was well. Hugh made a good living, but he also KNEW where his talents and abilities, family, fortune and health came from. By the grace of God. In this respect, Hugh was a very humble man.
One thing was missing from Hugh’s life. His parents. Hugh still had bad feelings toward his father. Nobody knows the reason other than his father took a switch to him once too many times. One day, my dad and I were on our way to N. California via Kingman Arizona. Dad showed me a hill and recounted this to me; Without telling Hugh, my Dad and his brother Dale searched for and found Hugh’s parents when they were teenagers. I don’t remember where he said they lived, but Kingman was half way. They agreed to meet their never before seen grandsons on a dirt road at this hill in Kingman. They met. Dad said his grandmother was very quiet, and his Grandfather, he remembered the steely ice blue eyes. There was not a lot of emotion. The meeting was almost businesslike. But they agreed to meet the rest of the family in California. After this, they remained in contact, but it was never a warmness or sense of fun like the rest of the family had.
Some random things I remember about Pappy (some that maybe only a kid would notice!)
He had HUGE hands. Very wide and strong.
He and Grandma both snored really loud so had seperate rooms so they could sleep.
He was always very clean.
He had a lot of hair in his nose.
He was always out in the garage tinkering on his motorcycles and other stuff.
He was really handsome for an old guy, like Paul Newman movie star handsome.
Hugh was a fabulous motorcycle rider up to his last days. When he was about 80, he had a race he was going to be in, in the ‘old men’s division”. He was good. He always won. But even though he was a crazy good dirt bike rider, he was known to be at that time, not a good car driver. I don’t know how you can be so good at one and not the other, but it was true, he was a scary car driver when he got old and of course nobody could tell him he couldn’t drive. Anyway, he had a VW van that he had put his bike in the back of. He was driving down the freeway on the way to this dirtbike meet and turned into another car and had a horrible accident. It killed the 19 yr old driver of the other car. His motorcycle came loose and hit his head and also Hugh’s hip was broken. After he got out of the hospital (Grandma had passed away a year or so earlier) he couldn’t live alone anymore so he sold the house and lived with his kids, usually a month or 2 at each of their houses. He was normally a pretty stubborn, mischievious and independant old cuss, but with his head injury, these traits were exagerated. For some, he was hard to live with. My memories of this time with him were nothing but wonderful. I loved my Grandpa. He kept me amused. I was 17 at the time. I know it’s mean of me to say, but he used to drive my mom nuts and it was hilarious to watch some of his antics! I also remember some sweet times with him too. Because of his hip injury, it was painful for him to sit in a car and go over all the potholes our town was notorious for. I remember driving v e r y slow over those holes when he was with me, asking “was that okay?” He knew I didn’t want him to hurt, but I took it probably too far. He laughed one day and said I could drive normal. I still drove carefully for him. Hugh could no longer ride his motorcycles. But we had them all over our house cause my dad and brothers rode them. One day I came home from school and Grandpa had managed to somehow climb on one in our carport. He could get on, but couldn’t get off. He had apparently been there a long time unable to get off. He was pretty embarrassed, I was pretty amused. I remember we would go to our town square and walk around the courthouse arm in arm. He would buy me ice cream. I know these memories are silly and simple, but they are dear to me. I was sad to see him go when our turn was up.
I didn’t go to Grandpa’s funeral. I was traveling at the time and a long ways away. He would understand.
I think of Pappy and Grandma a lot. I can’t believe how lucky I was to have them be the parents of my dad and be able to enjoy being a part of his family. I know most families are not this cool. Because of the decisions Hugh made, his personality and spirit, his good choice of a wife and dedication to his family and principals, one man, Hugh Hutchins caused the generations that followed him to have the capacity and opportunity to be…what they are today, some of the most fabulous people I know, and what their future generations, including you Hugh, his namesake, will become.
All my love little cousin,