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DOWNEY – Chuck Hutchinson would rather read than watch TV, listen rather than talk. His wife of 64 years, Lynne, says my description of her husband as a quiet, serious man, is dead on. For this profile, though, I needed Chuck to talk more, and he did, favoring certain areas of his experience more than others.
Born Charles Richard Hutchinson in Akron, Ohio, Chuck grew up in South Gate where his dad, R. Earl, working for the Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., was transferred in 1928 to its new South Gate plant. Earl, who was the plant’s chief chemist, served as mayor of South Gate when, Chuck narrates, “I was about 20-21.”
By that time, Chuck was a sergeant in the Army Air Corps directing seven personnel as station chief in the Arctic at a weather station at Koyuk, Alaska, located some 150 miles east of Nome. Koyuk is a way station on the Iditarod dog sled race.
Along with buddy Bill Hunter, Chuck had enlisted in the Air Force in 1941, a year after his high school graduation from South Gate High, where he played the violin with the high school orchestra. That year was spent studying at UCLA. In the Air Force, he was assigned to the Weather Service.
He described the importance of his Koyuk assignment as well as the harsh conditions in a club report: “It was the station’s job to report the weather conditions every 30 minutes by radio to Nome. Koyuk was an important outpost during the Lend-Lease era when airplanes were being flown to Russia. Russian pilots would pick up the P-39s and B-25s at Fairbanks, and fly them first to Nome and then on to Siberia. That winter, the weather station was to receive an Allis Chalmers snow plow or buggy that could be used to rescue downed flyers in the sector. It had to be picked up at Moses Point, which was approximately 90 miles from Koyuk over an unmarked trail across a cape that had a forest of trees and unmarked river and sea ice. I sent a guy to pick the snow tractor up. On the way back, the weather turned really nasty. My man told me it was so cold that he and his Eskimo guide had to drink their coffee immediately before it froze and had to peel raw eggs in order to cook them.”
After 3-1/2 years in the service, Chuck resumed his studies at UCLA, marrying Evelyn Pratt of Fresno a year before obtaining his BS in business administration (major in marketing) in 1949. They had met at the university. Lynne is of French descent: her grandparents were natives of Chaillot near the Southern French Alps. Married here in the States, they were able to buy a hotel in Huron, Fresno County and eventually accumulate land holdings totaling some 4,000-5,000 acres in neighboring Coalinga, while engaged in the sheep business.
Chuck sports quality genes, too. A grandmother of his, Eva Emery Dye, who had received a bachelor’s and a master’s in classics from Oberlin College in Ohio, wrote four books of history and/or historical fiction at or near the turn of the 20th century. She wrote mostly about the history of Oregon and that of Lewis and Clark, in which she first drew attention to the Shoshone Indian legend Sacajawea. Three of her titles: “The Soul of America: An Oregon Iliad,” “Portland, Mount Hood and The Columbia,” and “The Story of Lewis and Clark.” No one in the family seems to know if she ever finished a fifth book, on Hawaii, she was working on.
Fond of backpacking, hunting, and camping in the mountains in earlier years, he and another of his buddies, Bill Ingwersen, (he has maintained close contact over the years with a circle of friends – a few have passed away, of course), once found themselves face to face with a brown bear in the Yosemite back county. This is how he narrates the scary episode: “We were members of a seven-couple potluck group which met at least once a month since 1952. Well, the two of us had ourselves a ‘potluck’ experience as well with a bear one dark midnight. Unfortunately, the bear wasn’t interested in sharing our food with us, and we spent a couple of hungry days until we could hike out.”
Chuck’s accounting career started auspiciously. His first job after obtaining his BS in marketing from UCLA, without as much as performing a single bookkeeping entry, was as chief accountant for a manufacturing company. He was to supervise the accounting team’s work for four years.
Chuck never contemplated doing work other than in the accounting profession once he had a taste of it. Next stop was, from 1957-1960, with Thomas & Moore, CPAs, in Los Angeles, then at Lybrand, Ross Bros. & Montgomery, CPAs, as audit supervisor from 1957 (the year he got his CPA license) to1960; Lybrand et al is now Price Waterhouse-Cooper.
His auditing duties would take him to the Far East (Taiwan, the Philippines, etc.), instilling a love of travel that resulted later in visits with Lynne several times to Europe, Russia, China, Japan, Canada, and all over the 50 states, “especially places in Arizona and New Mexico and Civil War sites.”
After Lybrand, Chuck decided to go into business for himself, setting up his accounting and tax business in Downey. It was to last for, effectively, 63 productive and fulfilling years. During those years, in addition to his handsome house here in Downey, he would acquire another house in Laguna Beach (yes, it overlooks the sea), apartments as well as fairly extensive farming interests in Fresno.
An indication of how valuable he was to his accounting and taxation clients was their reluctance to let go of his services. It wasn’t till five years ago (he was already 83 by this time) that he was able to finally formally “sign off,” when he did the books for the last time for the Downey Masonic Lodge No. 220, of which he has been a member for as long as he can remember. Because of his clients’ different financial needs and schedules, the whole retirement thing, he says, was “quite a gradual process.”
As one equipped with industriousness and stamina such as he is, Chuck’s community/civic involvements have been many, and a few really noteworthy. To mention a few: Chuck was president of the Hospital Foundation of the Downey Community Hospital (now DRMC) the year when the hospital negotiated the extension of its lease with the city to 99 years; he has served as well on the city’s Hospital Commission from the very start of its formation, this year as current vice-chairman.
He says he has been active over the years in all of the Masonic bodies, including serving one term as master of Downey Lodge No. 220, as well as with the Boy Scouts (“We now have nine Eagle Scouts in our family”); one of the oldest members of the Downey Rotary Club, Chuck is a past president (1974-75) – his youngest son, Tom, a CPA in his own right, joined the club not too long ago.
Monday, March 19, was Chuck’s 88th birthday, but he celebrated it on Saturday, which was, by the way, Lynne’s birthday. All their four kids (Charles Jr., Ken, Nancy, and Tom) were present, along with their 11 grandchildren-all with good education and all blessed with solid careers (only one has yet to finish college – next year).
He had summed up his life and work earlier: “I have lived a great life. I’m healthy, happy, and I’ve got a great wife and family.” Who can contradict him?
Published: March 22, 2012 – Volume 10 – Issue 49