Old Hutch's Plaza is a place on the Chico State campus next to Kendall Hall. It is named after distinguished professor and historian W.H. Hutchinson.

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Image Above: Illustration by John Pagan, from the cover of "A Note Book of the Old West" (1947) and "One Man's West" (1948)

W.H. Hutchinson, known fondly as "Old Hutch," was a horse wrangler, cowboy, boiler fireman and a mucker in mines before he began teaching Chico State courses in 1953 on the history of California and the western U.S. Hutchinson was an accomplished magazine writer, wrote columns for the San Francisco Chronicle, produced several historical pageants, and had his own weekly radio and TV programs. His books include the Pulitzer Prize-nominated "Oil, Land and Politics: The California Career of Thomas R. Bard."

He was Chico State Distinguished Teacher in 1968 and the CSU system Outstanding Professor in 1978. He retired in 1978 and died in 1990. He also served on the Butte County Board of Education. 1

Above is the standard citation of the Old Hutch mythology. Indeed, Hutch was a horse wrangler and cowboy in the Burro Creek and Baca Float area of Arizona, where his father was a self-made mining engineer. Yes he fired boilers and mucked in a mine. These aspects of his early work are exemplary examples of his learning the work ethic carrying him through life. Hutch was blessed with a daunting intellect, a talent for story telling, an extrovert personality, and a dry sense of humor honed growing up on the last of the Denver, Colorado, frontier, moving further west, living among miners, Anglo-American, Mexican and Hualapai cowboys. Before moving to the foothill community of Cohasset (north east of Chico, CA) with his wife and two young sons in 1946, determined to write for a living, Hutch worked his way through the Alexander and Baldwin organization, becoming a purser for Matson Lines on their cruise ships. He subsequently served during World War II  as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Maritime Service where he saw duty in the South Pacific, North Atlantic, and Mediterranean hauling supplies along with thousands of troops. Offered a corporate shore job after the war, Hutch saw no future. Some savings, his cowboy childhood, and a father-in-law finding a timbered quarter section of land in Cohasset called him back to the rural life. It must be noted Hutch could not have succeeded without the support and love of his wife "Red" Ormsby Hutchinson.

His first work was creating volumes like "Gene Autry and the Golden Ladder Gang.". In the late 1940's he began a weekly radio broadcast. Stories from the broadcasts were compiled into "A Note Book of the Old West," "One Man's West," and "Another Notebook of the Old West," and sold for a dollar each around the northern Sacramento Valley. A longtime interest in the work of the western writer Eugene Manlove Rhodes resulted in his becoming the literary trustee for Rhodes's estate. Rhodes was a New Mexico cowboy intellectual and prolific author of books and Saturday Evening Post fiction. Hutch thought Rhodes wrote more accurately than any other western author, bringing the Anglo-American history of the region stretching from El Paso to Alamogordo and Truth or Consequences to life. This love for Rhodes's work led Hutch to Rhodes' widow, who was living in semi-poverty in the 1940s. He wrote the authorized biography of Rhodes, "A Bar Cross Man," and devoted much of the rest of his life to helping keep Rhodes's work in print, thereby providing income for Rhodes's wife in her final years.  In the early 1960s, while simultaneously working on various research and writing projects, he earned a Masters Degree in history at Chico State (1961), soon becoming a member of the history faculty (he had previously taught occasional courses at the college beginning in 1953). His publication history and his scholarly reputation led to his becoming a tenured full Professor in the department in the 1960s.

Hutch was an early member of the Appaloosa Horse Club, traveling each summer with his family to various sites in the west to help organize and run the annual horse show. This involved spending time, as well, with the horsemen and Nez Perce Indians who were beginning the Appaloosa breed registry. He coined the name "Silver Dollar Fair" for the Butte County Fair, helped in various ways with the running of the Plumas County Fair in Quincy, and knew many community leaders throughout northern California.

As mentioned in the "Staff Reports" above, W.H. Hutchinson made many notable contributions to the Anglo-American historical account of the settling of the west. Hutch had a full life unshaped by academia and the quest for academic honor before ending up in Chico. His God-given talents, early life scratching for a living among miners and cowboys, expansive personality, and a bard's love for history and storytelling forged him into the man who was, indeed, one of the California State University system's most notable professors. Within weeks of Hutch's passing, his beloved wife and friend "Red" passed away. They were two people bound by decades of sacrifice and shared devotion to one another.

1. Staff Reports. Hall of Honors: Former Chico State faculty to be honored by retired association. April 24 2010. 4 pages. <u>Lexis-Nexis</u> . <http://www.allbusiness.com/education-training/teaching-teachers-college/14339975-1.html>

2011-03-20 09:16:09   Thought I'd water the seed a bit so it can grow. —ThomasChrisEnglish