Colleen Green Hutchens was born in Bryson City, but has lived in Winston-Salem since she was three and a half years old. Colleen’s mother died when she was just 18 months old. She had brothers who were older than she, but there was no one to care for Colleen and her sister, who was four at the time. Initially, the sisters went to live with their aunts, but once their aunts married and had children of their own, other arrangements needed to be made.
As was often the case in the 1930’s, church members contacted Pop Woosley who was the director of The Children’s Home in Winston-Salem. He arranged for Colleen and her sister to come live at the Winston-Salem campus, where they remained until they graduated high school. Colleen said the Home saved her life, “My aunts took care of me as long as they could, but sending me here was the best thing they could have done for me. I had mothers and sisters galore!”
Colleen first lived in the baby cottage. As she grew, she ultimately lived in Smith, Cornelius, High Point, Julia Higgins, Stockton, and Anna Hanes cottages. In High Point Cottage, Colleen became the “house girl” with the responsibility of helping to clean the house. She also worked in the laundry during this time, learning how to iron and to care for the bed linens. Anna Hanes Cottage was a little boys’ cottage, but Colleen went there as a house girl too. She helped Mrs. Carter with the children and with the upkeep of the home.
A happy place.
But it wasn’t all work. One of Colleen’s favorite memories was when she lived in Smith Cottage and it snowed. Colleen laughed as she said, “The snow was over our heads and the boys from John Neal Cottage had to come and carry us to the dining room.”
During her last three years on campus, Colleen worked in the dining room. She lived upstairs from the kitchen and helped to cook, serve, and clean. Colleen attended R.J. Reynolds High School with the other boys and girls who lived at the home. “This was a happy place,” she recalled. “It was the only home I ever really knew. I remember making playhouses out under the trees with all the other little girls.”
After high school graduation, Colleen rented a small apartment and went to work at Bimco Plumbing Supply. Carl Hutchens worked at a local service station in downtown Winston-Salem and the two were married in 1955 and had two daughters and four grandchildren. Carl went on to work at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and ultimately died of lung cancer after 42 years with Colleen.
As life often does, it came full-circle for Colleen in 2002 when she moved back onto the Winston-Salem campus. She was friends with Gray Todd, the farm manager, who developed a serious heart condition. After being told that he should not live by himself, Mr. Todd asked Colleen to be his caregiver, which she did until his death in 2009.
At that time, Colleen was helping around the farm and so she was asked to stay on and continue that work. She still can be seen riding around the farm in an old pickup truck, checking on the cows and the bees, and locking and unlocking the farm gate.
Colleen had many memories to share about growing up here, but when asked why she has stayed, she replied, “It’s peaceful here. And it’s my home.”