As many one-lin­ers as her 104 years

Kapiti Observer - - FRONT PAGE - JOEL MAXWELL

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

LONG­EST LIVES

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’.’’

PHIL HUTCHINS

Ka¯piti Coast woman Eve­lyn Hutchins on her 104th birth­day.

War years: Eve­lyn Hutchins and her late hus­band, Thomas.

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