My Family Tree Stories by Jasmine Hutchinson Kelley

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Earl Ofari Hutchinson and Yvonne Divans Hutchinson

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Gramps and Grammy at her 80th birthday celebration, April 7, 2023

Earl Hutchinson – Grandfather, Chicago, Illinois,  (b: 1945)

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What is your cultural background?

Midwesterner, born and raised in Chicago.

Why/how did your family come to California? Where did they come from? How were they treated when they got here

We relocated from Chicago in the early 1960s to LA. We had come to California in the mid-50s. We drove out here from Chicago. Then we came back again about 59’, and my mother fell in love with it. Chicago then was brutal in the winter, a lot of snow and ice. So living in that kind of climate, my mother and father decided we wanted to relocate to the land of sunshine and orange groves and perpetual summer and spring. In other words, a warmer climate. They also just wanted a new environment. 

We thought LA was going to be different, that you didn’t have the same racial barriers & discrimination that you had in Chicago. But when we got there, it wasn’t exactly what we thought. You still had every bit of racism and racial barriers that you had in Chicago. The only difference was that the racism was much more subtle. 

What are memories from your childhood? What did you do for entertainment?

In the neighborhood then, unlike neighborhoods now, it was very tight knit. You knew everybody on the block, because everybody lived together. So we all played together. During the winter time we brought our sleds out, and built this big snow hill in an empty lot about a block away. Back then you could stay out late, because you didn’t have safety issues with children like you do now. 

One of the great delights of my childhood was during the summer I got to go down and spend a couple of weeks with my grandmother in Quincy, Illinois. At 8 or 9 at night, kids are playing all over the place. Back then it was hot and humid during the summer, and there was no air conditioning. So, air conditioning was the old folk sitting on the front porch fanning themselves. I’m walking up and down the street, I could stop in every house and have a little snack, because it was so tight knit. Cousin Mary Jane had a huge fan, so we kinda hung out there because it was cool. 

While I was in Clarksville, I got sick. We thought it was just a fever. I got sicker and sicker, probably about 8 or 9 years old, not recovering. There were no hospital facilities in Clarksville. There was a country doctor and that was about it. So my father came down to Clarksville, transferred me to a children’s hospital in St. Louis. The diagnosis was polio. One of three things could’ve happened. One, you just died. The second thing is you’re crippled for life. The other was you recovered. The blessing was, I had the mildest strain. But I still have this memory of being in the hospital for days and days on end, I don’t know how long. They didn’t know whether I would survive or not. I remember my father never left my bedside. He was there always praying.

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Above: Gramps with his published books

What technological changes do you remember? What technology did you have in your childhood? 

The only thing I remember having were transistor radios.

Talk about your family dreams. Have your dreams come true?

Oddly enough, I still have dreams about the future, even at my age. The greatest dream of all has always been one thing, fulfillment. Finding that one thing that will give me total personal satisfaction. I’ve written 27 books, tons of Ebooks. Traveled the world, 27 countries. Been involved with many, historic events going back fifty, sixty plus years. But even here, in my late seventies, there’s still a youthful sense that I could do more. In life, I like to tread paths that no one else has gone. I like to explore things that are out of the box. As a kid, I never really focused on one thing I wanted to be. It didn’t mean anything, because most of the time it changes. I never locked into that, I was just too busy growing up. I didn’t think about, “this is what I’m gonna lock into”. There was a downside to that, because I didn’t have a firm thing in mind. It was always kind of open ended.

Yvonne Divans Hutchinson – Grandmother, Little Rock, Arkansas (b: 1943)

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What is your cultural background?

Southern African American and urban since I was born in Arkansas. And then, we moved to LA when I was eight, and we lived in the cities.

Why/how did your family come to California? Where did they come from? How were they treated when they got here?

My mother and stepfather moved here because they felt they’d have better job opportunities. As far as I can tell, in their employment they didn’t have any complaints. My mother worked steadily, she worked in factories mostly. My stepfather was somewhat erratic. He would have jobs but then he would go off, he was a gambler. So he would go off and be gone for several days, then he wound up unemployed

What are memories from your childhood? What did you do for entertainment?

I read books, magazines, cereal boxes, newspapers. My mother used to buy me these little golden books. There was a lady next door who used to hand me her True Confessions magazine. Whatever book I could get a hold of I would read. And I listened to soap operas on the radio everyday. My most precious memory of the radio was writing a letter to Santa and having it read on the radio. I also listened to the news, but it scared me cause they would talk about bomb threats, and I was afraid that we were gonna be bombed. Even when we came to California and had a television, when the news came on I would change the channel. 

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Grammy with family and friends at the Yvonne Divans Hutchinson library at Markham Middle School in Watts

What historical events happen in your lifetime?

Civil rights, Brown V. Board of Education which was supposed to be an end to segregation, Black Power Movement in the 60s, Black Panthers went to Sacramento with guns and invaded the chambers of the legislative building. That’s when people started killing [the panthers]. Martin Luther King’s assassination, All the Kennedy assassinations, Obama being elected. LA unified trying to integrate their school by busing kids from the ghetto to the valley, then to the inner city, but that didn’t work cause the white kids refused to come.

What technological changes do you remember? What technology did you have in your childhood? 

We came to LA in 1951, and I remember being maybe in a train station, and I saw a TV. We didn’t get a TV until I was 12. Before that, I remember we used to babysit for this lady, and she would let us stay there. When she got home we would watch Little Rascals, mostly. And then years later, when I was a teacher, maybe around 1998, I got a computer and one of my former students taught me how to use it 

Talk about your family dreams? Have your dreams come true?

Well, when I was a young woman in college, I decided I didn’t wanna get married cause it was boring. So I told my mother that I wasn’t gonna get married, I was just gonna have 5 babies by the 5 most intelligent men I knew. And my mother said, “You’re a fool”. But meanwhile, I went to college, and then I met your grandfather. I was a first year teacher, he was still in college.

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Me with grandparents, dad and cousin Kahron

Jasmine Hutchinson-Kelley: What I learned

I learned a lot about how and why their parents chose to move them over to Los Angeles. Those were stories I’d never heard before. I also enjoyed learning about the various memories they had of their childhood. It’s intriguing to see what sort of things they were into as kids, and how much of that differs from who they are now. It’s interesting to get a glimpse of what life was like back in those days. Throughout this, I was thinking about the ways in which the world has changed since my grandparents were kids. 



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