Reflections of Father: Calvin Hutchings, Part 2

Now another story, I know is going to sound strange. When I was a kid I loved going to the dentist office. I wasn’t a bit afraid, like my friends were, how could I be, my dad made it so much fun.

“Okay Sis, hop up in the chair and we’ll have a look in your mouth and see if you have any cavities.” Dad would say. Then he would poke around my teeth with his pointed explorer.

“Yep, I think you have a couple of cavities hiding in there, have you been brushing your teeth?” He’d ask with a questioning look. He knew I had been, although he was never a stickler about it.

“Well what would you like to have today, Snow White or Cinderella fillings?” He would ask smiling at me. That meant silver or gold. Then he would blast me in the face with his air gun and I would laugh. I didn’t even mind the drilling; it was all part of the event.

Dad taught us to appreciate hard work. As a youth he participated in all the rigors of farm life. On the weekends and before and after school, Calvin was responsible for milking the cows and doing other chores. He never had time to participate in school sports, although he would have liked to. During the summer he worked in the fields with his brothers and helped with harvesting in the fall. Farm life was difficult during those years. Dad and four of his brothers went to college and obtained graduate degrees so they could have a better life for their children. Only one of the six boys eventually moved back to the farm. Dad wanted us to have some sense of what farm life had been like for him, so in the summer we went to the family garden on the farm to weed beans, corn and tomatoes. We, of course, complained a lot. When we were older Dad showed us how to clean his dental office. Each Saturday the family would sweep, scrub and mop the tile floors together at his work place.

My father had the “common touch,” meaning he related well to almost everyone he met. Dad was a people person, although I don’t know that he would agree. He could size up people pretty quickly and know the right thing to say to help and encourage. He had a special ability to reach out and touch the hearts of the youth and served for many years in the scouting and young men’s programs of the church. He was always easy to talk to. You could tell by his comments that he was really listening. I can see him putting an arm on many a youthful shoulder and speaking to them eye to eye, during the course of an activity.

Calvin and his kids: (top left) Kenny, Calvin, Karen, and Clark at Torrey Pines, California about 1952; (top right) Julie and Calvin at the Daddy/Daughter date 1976; (bottom left) Jeff, Joe, Calvin, and Jenny on bikes about 1963; (bottom right) Joe and Calvin at the MTC about 1976

At one time he was the merit badge councilor for bicycling. He would plan marvelous excursions around the valley. He was also a councilor for archery. The young men would congregate at our house. Dad had set up an archery range in the gravel play yard where our swing set stood. Here they would practice, joke around, tease and eat hotdogs. The last event of the archery course was an evening rabbit-hunt. This was the highlight they had all looked forward to. Dad seemed to have a way of encouraging these young people in the course of rubbing shoulders and they knew he cared about them.

A couple of the guys really got into the sport and would come over to Dad’s workshop where they learned the art of crafting arrows. His hide-away was in the basement under the front porch. It was a tiny place with barely room enough for two or three people. It was always cooler in his tiny shop and smelled somewhat musty. I liked to watch Dad when he was working on a project. He would kid and joke around with us as he worked. In his arrow shop, I remember the smell of paint, and hot glue, but mostly I remember the awful aroma of burnt feathers as Dad fletched the arrows. Dad’s homemade arrows were something to behold and every bit as nice as the store bought variety, if not better.

Dad liked creating things with his hands. From life size Tiki-gods that adorned the yard, to toys and Christmas decorations. Just give him a pattern or picture and he could reproduce it. One summer he made our children, a sit on digging shovel contraption, with handles and pulleys to play with in the sandbox. Of course, Dad had five other children with families, so whatever he made he massed produced. Dad loved doing things for his children and with them. When I turned fifty, I told him I wanted a decorative birdhouse to hang in the yard, so we went out to the workshop and built one. I teased him that I had to wait until I was fifty before I could get my dad to build a birdhouse with me.

Dad was a kid at heart and wanted our growing-up years to be as filled with as much fun as his were. When I was in fifth grade, he built us a swimming pool in our backyard. It was the center of many family parties and fun filled events. I remember the day it was completed, Dad poured a cement sidewalk, and in that wet cement, he had us place our hand prints, and baby Joseph’s footprints. Then I watched him as he wrote the date with a stick: 1957.

That same year he heard about a wonderful new theme park in California called Disney Land. He sat us down and told us all about the different rides and activities. He was so animated and excited. The more he talked about it the more he wanted to go. When the decision was made, he began giving us a weekly allowance for the jobs we did around the house and we started to save up money for our tickets. I remember the day we arrived at Disneyland, Dad was just as excited as we kids. He was eager for us to enjoy the magic of this special place where the imagination could soar to new heights. During each ride he watched our expressions and wanted to know how we liked it. I remember going on the “Jungle ride.” Dad warned us to watch out for the wild animals or we might be their dinner. From then on it was his favorite spot in California.

Dad loved to see the country and gave us the advantage of travel. California was always a favorite destination, I remember several sweltering trips over the unbearable Nevada desert taken during the day. There were no air-conditioned cars back in those days. We tried everything we could to cool off. We sucked on ice cubes, my mother would chew them, to this day I can’t stand the sound of someone biting into an ice cube, ooh! We also wet our face, neck and arms with water, then let the air blowing through the window cool us off. It was refreshing, if only for a few moments. Eventually we opted to travel back and forth during the cool of the evening. I recall traveling that vast expanse in the middle of the night, sitting up front with my mother, to help her stay awake. It was such a struggle to keep my eyes open. Every part of my body longed for sleep, my mind kept trying to shut down. My legs were jittery and ached to stretch, but there was no room to even move. I thought I would go crazy before we stopped.

Most summers we visited different places, Oregon, Washington, Canada, New York, Washington D.C., all of the western states and many in the mid-west. Dad and mom enjoyed showing us the natural wonders in the world around us. I’m sure that is where I gained my appreciation for the beauties of the earth. Dad had a keen interest in history. We traveled to several church and national historic spots.

When campers first came out, we were one of the first to own one. Dad took us camping in the great national parks of Utah and other states. I remember one trip, camping in the beautiful, high meadows at Beaver, Utah. It was night, and Dad turned on his big flashlight, the beam reached out across the huge meadow into the surrounding trees, everywhere bright eyes began to appear as the deer moved into the meadow to feed in the safety of dark. We were enchanted.

On one occasion we traveled to San Francisco. I remember the people on the streets just staring at us. I think it was the first time they had ever seen a camper. I was riding in the top looking out the front window. I remember how scared I was as we came down those steep hills. I’m sure I had to hide my eyes.

My dad was a great lover of the out doors. He took us fishing several times, although I never saw him fish. He spent hours setting up our poles up with hooks, sinkers and bobbers, fixing our tangled messes when we crossed lines with one another, which happened often, and repairing the fishing reels that always seemed to be gummed up inside. At the time I didn’t realize he didn’t like fishing, I only found that out years later. By the time I was in high school, Dad had purchased an 18-foot motor boat. He thought it would be great to have for fishing and then we could also learn to water ski.

When he was younger he and his friend went deer hunting each season, which brings up a rather sad memory. I was six years old, at the time, my dad had taken off to go deer hunting for two or three days and left my Mom with five children under the age of six to care for. The youngest were twins only six months old. By the time he got home she was hopping mad and she let him have it. It is one of my worst memories, Mom and Dad fighting. Dad was so angry he snapped his thick leather belt in half. I was so surprised, I was afraid too, because he said he was leaving. Clark and I were both crying. Soon my Uncle Stan and Aunt Velma came over. I remember uncle Stan talking to Dad a long time in the bathroom with the door shut.   After they left Dad and Mom seemed to be somewhat better. It is amazing the impression that can be made on very young children in a traumatic situation.

When I began high school and those dating years, Dad was always there to guide me. We did a lot of talking back then. I remember his calmness, and his genuine concern. The spirit he so richly possessed reached out and pulled me to a higher level of understanding. Over the years he became my friend and confidant. He was a person after my own heart. The same things that were vital in his life became important in my own. We understood one another at a new level. I knew from the way he conducted his life that the gospel and the church were everything to him. I remember hearing his warm, earnest testimony on many occasions and it sank into my heart. Whenever we traveled to Salt Lake City and passed the temple, Dad would ask:

“Are you going to be married in the temple, Sis?”

I would answer, “Of course, Dad.”

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