Celebrating 100 years

After turning 100 years old, Kernersville resident Hazel Preston Hutchins reflects on her life of hard work.
Hutchins was born on July 15, 1919 in Belews Creek.
“I was the oldest of seven and we had triplets in the family,” she explained, recalling that she would help rock the babies. “My sister, the second oldest, Stella Hutchings, and I are the only two still living. We married brothers, but in their family, they didn’t spell their last name the same.”
Hutchins explained that her family lived on a farm in the country.
“Daddy farmed and raised tobacco,” she said, as she recalled how hot it was working out in the fields. “We would get that tobacco gum all over our fingers and have a time getting it off our hands.”
Along with raising tobacco, Hutchins said they raised everything they needed.
“We raised everything we ate and once a year, we would get a 100-pound bag of pinto beans. In the summertime we raised everything and we canned so we would have food all winter, including peaches – we had a peach orchard,” she said.
Hutchins attended Walkertown High School and graduated in 1937.
“All grades were in one building, but I started at a county school in Belews Creek. It looked like a two-story house. I went there until the third grade and then went to Walkertown School,” she shared.
Hutchins and her siblings lived off the main road and would walk at least a half mile to catch the bus to get to school. She recalled that boys wore overalls and girls wore dressed.
“I had a study period just before lunch when I was at Walkertown and would work the lunch line so I could get lunch for free,” she said.
She met her late husband Leo “Edgar” Hutchins at a tent revival the summer after she graduated and the two were married in January 1938. They had four children: Calvin, Eugene “Gene,” Roy and Becky Tucker.
Hutchins recalled that dating (“courting”) was much different than it is today. She said they usually would get together on the weekends and Edgar would often come to her house.
Hutchins was a homemaker for several years until she got her first job working at the former Blue Bell factory in Greensboro, where she made overalls.
She explained that she and her family moved around for a bit until they settled in Kernersville in the mid-1940s on Oakhurst Street. She recalled Kernersville looking a lot different then.
“There were no big stores or shopping centers, and back then Harmon Park was about the only park in town and they had a little swimming pool,” she said.
Hutchins never drove and since she lived in downtown Kernersville, she walked everywhere.
“I walked to work and to church,” she said, noting that she later owned and operated Hutchins Studio, where she took portraits of people and developed film. “We developed film for individuals and even for Mr. Carter (former Publisher & Editor) at the Kernersville News.”
Hutchins would develop rolls of film that people brought to her in her dark room.
“We would hang the film up to dry. Depending on the weather, it would take about two-to-three hours to dry,” she said. “I enjoyed meeting new people. I knew just about everybody in town then. Today, I hardly know anyone.”
Hutchins ran the business from 1947 until 1972.
“I closed down when color film became popular,” she said. “After that, I went to work in the cafeteria at Kernersville Elementary School from 1972 until 1985. When I retired, they gave me a certificate.”
She shared some differences in the cost of things and how things were different throughout her life compared to today.
“When I was growing up, you could buy a loaf of bread for five cents, but we didn’t buy much of that because Mama made her own bread,” she said, noting that they also milked their own cows when she lived in Belews Creek.
Once living in Kernersville, Hutchins recalled that there were three grocery stores, including Coltrane Grocery, Musten & Crutchfield, and Cottingham Grocery and Market – two of which she remembered delivered.
Along with having the option of grocery delivery, Hutchins said they also had milk and ice delivered to their house.
“You would put your empty milk bottles on the doorstep every morning and they would give you new ones, and the ice plant on Bodenhamer Street would put ice in the icebox on the back porch and you had to chisel ice off,” she said. “Things sure have changed.”
Hutchins said they didn’t have a television until the 1950s and would sit around the radio as a family to listen to shows, such as “Amos ‘n’ Andy.”
She explained that instead of shopping for all of their clothes, she made many of hers and her daughter’s clothing.
“I also used to sew clothes for other people, like friends and family,” she said.
Hutchins’ daughter, Becky, noted that her mother enjoyed and was good at cooking.
“The neighbors always commented about her biscuits and all the family would get together at her house on Sundays and she would cook,” she shared.
Tucker noted that the Town used to drive a truck around spraying for mosquitoes, and all of the children would chase the truck through the fog on their bikes.
“I can’t believe we did that,” she remarked.
Today, Hutchins has 13 grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren, and three great-great grandchildren.
When asked what she feels has contributed to her longevity, Hutchins said, “I never smoked and I’ve worked hard and stayed busy.”
When asked how she feels about having turned 100 years old, Hutchins remarked, “I can’t believe it.”
To celebrate her birthday, Tucker’s family held a birthday party for her at a local church the Saturday before her birthday. Afterward, Kerwin Baptist Church honored Tucker during a church service where Mayor Dawn Morgan presented her with a proclamation, and then they held a reception afterward.
“On the day of her birthday, her family came and took her out for dinner,” Becky added.

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