My Recollections of my father, Roy Hutchison 1900-1981

by Norma Louise Hutchison Bell

(July 2003)

My father was born in October 1900 in Bolivar, Missouri. When I was a child, I thought that he was very lucky to have an age that matched the year, if only for a few weeks at the end of the year. It was a much simpler life then, although it must have been noisy and hectic with so many brothers and sisters around all the time.

My father would occasionally tell us about that life, such as making apple butter in a big iron kettle in the yard or getting a job in order to buy a cow so his little sisters would have plenty of milk. Later he worked to buy an electric iron for his mother, although the electricity operated only an hour or so every day.

He graduated from Bolivar High School in 1921, and soon thereafter he moved to Baldwin, Kansas, where he worked in a dry goods store. A year or two later he applied to the J.C. Penney Co. and was hired and sent to Independence, Mo.. A couple of years after that he married the boss’s daughter, Norma Harris. Their first child Martha Fay arrived a year later, and then three years after that he moved the family to a little town called Bethany in northwest Missouri where he managed the J.C. Penney store for the next fifteen years.

During those years I and my little brother David were born. I remember Bethany as a very pleasant place to live. I remember lots of picnics and band concerts in the park and being free to ride my bicycle all over town, knowing that I couldn’t get lost and had nothing to fear but an occasional stray dog.

In 1944 my father was transferred to a larger Penney store in the larger town of Maryville which had many more exciting places to explore, probably because there was a college there with all sorts of activities. When I was finally 16 I got to work at the Penney store part time and enjoyed the many pleasures of the retail business. My father stayed with that store until 1959 when he retired. and moved to Lawrence, Kansas, for a few years. Next he and my mother moved to Shawnee Mission, Kansas, where he lived until six months after the surprise 80th birthday party my mother arranged for him.

I keep calling my father “Father,” but I actually remember him with four different names. When I was little, his name was “Daddy,” but he often referred to himself as “Daddy Roy.” It seems he would always sign his name that way if he was writing a letter or postcard to send home while he was on vacation. His first grandchildren Jack and Tom gave him the name “Poppy Roy,” which the rest of us used as his name until we all eventually shortened it to “Pop.” And that’s how I think of him now.

Pop also had four names for me which served four different purposes and clued me in to the reason he was addressing me. 1. “Sister” indicated he had a request for a service, such as “Hand me the newspaper, Sister.” Or “Close the window, Sister.”

2. “Dolly” meant he was feeling affectionate or loving. When I was sick, he might say , “You’re looking kinda peak-ed, Dolly.” Or “Would you like to have an ice cream cone, Dolly?”

3. “Lazy Loozey” was his nick-name for me, and it showed that he was going to tease me or say a silly pun or jingle. I can’t think of an example but he used that nick-name frequently because he loved puns and jingles.

4. “Norma Lou” was a no nonsense name, and I knew instantly that I was in trouble. But “trouble” wasn’t anything to dread. I remember when he wasn’t too happy that I had used one of his paint brushes and left it on the workbench where it had dried into an unusable mess. I learned a valuable lesson about brushes and oil based paint that time.

Pop never had any hobbies, and he showed no interest in sports, but he and the whole family enjoyed playing table games or working on jigsaw puzzles. I would say that his main pleasure was in traveling, and he took a number of trips all over this country and to Cuba, Mexico, Holland, South Africa, and Surinam in South America. He also really enjoyed belonging to the Rotary Club and attending the meetings faithfully every week, no matter which town or country he was in. He was a friendly person and loved chatting with nearby merchants and neighbors, and he looked forward to visiting other Penney stores in the towns we passed through on our car trips.

After he retired and had lots of free time, he liked to “tinker” around and took great pleasure in his workshop, tools, and gadgets, and it tickled him to death to create some “Rube Goldberg” type of contraption. “Rube Goldberg” was a comic strip character who drew elaborate, complicated but humorous inventions to solve some trivial problem. Pop actually preferred to find a practical solution to some troubling problem. For example, Pop realized how impractical it was to carry dirty clothes to the basement every week to be washed, so he built a clothes chute in every house he or his children occupied. A wonderful solution, we always agreed.

Another practical solution was building a switch to put next to his chair to turn off the sound of the television during those noisy commercials. Mind, this was long before we all got those hand controls that we all use now. He built the mute switch for us when we moved near him in Johnson County Kansas. That was in 1967, and we used it until we sold that house twenty years later. He also added such innovations as automatic lights in closets or stairways or created little swinging doorways so the dog or cat could enter or leave without our help.

He always managed to find a very good use for seemingly old and useless paraphernalia and materials from which he could create clever and useful objects. His workbench was stocked with old, but not yet antique items. For every need, he found a solution.

I think Pop really cared about his family. He encouraged us to think and to question and to always be curious about the world. He was so proud of all of his children’s accomplishments. He didn’t spoil us, but he definitely made our lives pleasant and complete. I miss him every day.