The Hutchamadungles

When I was a kid, back in the 1950s, my father would tell Hutchamadungle stories to try to keep three small boys in the backseat quiet on long car rides. Many of those rides were to visit relatives in that part of Pennsylvania where Pennsylvania Dutch names were on every other mailbox, business, and street sign. It should be no surprise that “Hutchamadungle” has a similar flavor.

The members of the Hutchamadungle family in the stories were, of course, the members of the Easton family. There were Mama and Papa Hutchamadungle, Tommy Hutchamadungle, Walter Hutchamadungle, and Jim Hutchamadungle. If the family had a dog or cat at the time, it too was there by name.

The stories were generally constructed around some actual event, such as the time a motorcycle cop tore his pants and Grammy Hutchamadungle (who lived in Maine) sewed a bright red patch on his butt. In the story, Mama Hutchamadungle had Papa Hutchamadungle stop the car while she got out her sewing kit and did the same thing. As you might guess from this post, another essential element of the stories is the constant repetition of the family name. This works well when the stories are being made up on the spot and told aloud. It also seems to work when the stories are being read aloud.

When Tommy Hutchamadungle grew up and had a daughter of his own, he of course told her Hutchamadungle stories. Joellen Hutchamadungle loved them and demanded more, and more, and more, until Tommy Hutchamadungle, now Daddy Hutchamadungle, cried “Enough! I’ll write one down for you every Christmas!” The stories continued until Joellen Hutchamadungle was 30, and over the years they changed from stories suitable for young children to ones suited to teenagers to ones for young adults. The connection to actual events remains, but though they may tempt a reader into seeing actual biography, the connections just aren’t that explicit—or accurate.

Have the stories become a family tradition? We do hope that they will be continued into the next generation, and then the next.

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