As many one-liners as her 104 years
It’s like meeting a time machine. Only Evelyn Hutchins has wisecracks too, and a firm handshake.
One minute she remembers her five-year-old self, surrounded by laughing, crying adults – they have drawn up their buggies, gigs and horses into a circle and she wonders why her mother is crying too.
The next she is sitting at a piano in a crowded movie theatre, frantically playing Beethoven as an accompaniment to silent movies.
And through all the sad times and good times, there are always jokes to tell.
Hutchins, one of New Zealand’s walking, talking connections to history who are kicking on from their century, shared her life before she turned 104 on Labour Day.
The Ka¯piti Coast woman has a strong handshake. She likes walking, plays skittles with a ‘‘fast arm’’ – she ate a lot of steak when she was young – and spits out oneliners like a pro.
She’d still like a dashing knight to burst through her resthome window, says she hasn’t had cosmetic surgery, and has an uncanny recollection of incidents from her life, and the country’s history.
A visit to Hutchins at Waikanae Lodge, north of Wellington, is like meeting a time machine. Hutchins said she was born in Arrowtown, in 1913. ‘‘That’s why I’m so quaint.’’
Ask her whether there were
Since 1840, life expectancy across the world has increased by about two years every 10 years, according to Statistics NewZealand.
People aged 65 and over nearly doubled in number between 1981 and 2013 – from 309,795 to 607,032.
Florence Finch, who died in 2007, is recorded as the longest-living New Zealander. She reached 113 years and 109 days. horses and carts when she was young, and she tells you about the end of World War 1.
‘‘I remember attending the end of World War 1 in Wanaka. We went in our Model T Ford car to this big gathering.’’
The folk of Wanaka formed a circle with buggies and gigs and horses, and the adults gathered in a strange mix of dancing and laughing and crying. Like her mother.
‘‘See, I was just five and I couldn’t work out what was wrong with my mother, and two or three other people seemed to be crying too. It wasn’t until about three years later I was told my mother had lost her brother at Gallipoli.’’
Hutchins had three children, five grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. These days her hobbies included going for walks, she said.
‘‘That’s exciting, isn’t it? And then I sit here at the window and I wait for a dashing knight to come through the window, but it doesn’t happen.’’
Music has always been part of her life. As a child she helped her mother play the piano to accompany silent movies.
She graduated abruptly from page turning to playing when her mum had to go to the toilet one day during the film.
‘‘All I could think of was Beethoven, minuet in G, so I played that. Then I turned around and I looked at the screen and it was the Wild West. What would the old Master think of that?’’
Hutchins was the eldest of 10 children who grew up on a south Otago farm. Only she and the youngest child, now in her mid80s, are alive. Her husband, Thomas Hutchins, has died too.
She served in the air force in New Zealand during World War II and drove a troop-carrying truck with 50 men on board.
‘‘I married a man who was my boss in the air force.’’
Thomas Hutchins was part of a group of men who didn’t necessarily want women ‘‘coming into their domain’’, she said.
‘‘Somebody said, ‘what did you do about it?’ I said oh, we fixed it, we married them’.’’
Ka¯piti Coast woman Evelyn Hutchins on her 104th birthday.
War years: Evelyn Hutchins and her late husband, Thomas.