Park Place Lodge

“I was sixty-one, twice divorced. My house in Vancouver had a respectable west side address, a terrifying mortgage and three empty rooms upstairs.  My only saleable talent was writing steamy romance novels, I was far too old for prostitution, the only other job I could think of which might net enough to pay the mortgage”.

Bobby Hutchinson

Bobby Hutchinson

With this introduction Bobby begins her latest book a memoir titled “Blue Collar B&B, Adventures in Hospitality”.  Bobby enters the room wearing a black ensemble that shows off a youthful slim figure and plays off perfectly against short white hair.  She looks stunning and I tell her so.  “I’m seventy this July 29.  I’m excited about being seventy.  I feel better; I feel every bit as good as when I was in my twenties.  Then I was pregnant and raising little kids, this is the time of life to enjoy being free. 

Age is a state of mind.  It’s important to challenge yourself, especially as women we’re going to be more capable and functional as we age.  The major part of our job is done when we turn sixty.  But we have many more years ahead of us.  Twenty or thirty to accomplish what we want.  This is a time of wonderful opportunity. Challenge yourself to write, anyone can write, writing stimulates, grandparents should keep journals because grandkids want to know about what the grandparents’ lives were like, they want to know the personal, like how was it to date in the forties?  They want to know intimate details, if they wrote this down it would be a great gift for the grandkids.  Writing is good for co-ordination as well.  I want to finish my last book on the last day”.  I believe her; more than likely she will be at her desk writing as the last chapter of her own life winds down. 

Bobby is articulate and expressive.  Not surprising for a woman who has fifty-six published books.  Fifty-five of which are Harlequin super-romances and one a biography. She’s currently working on six more.  I ask if she gets characters confused when writing six stories simultaneously.  Looking me straight in the eye she asks back, “Do you confuse the people you interview? Of course not, I respond immediately understanding her point.  She elaborates by saying that all the characters have such diverse personalities that there’s no way she forgets who they are regardless of which story she’s working on.

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Bobby is one of the Elk Valley’s best kept secrets. She keeps a low profile keeping busy operating her bed and breakfast and writing novels because although she could  bask in past accomplishments she’s  a high achiever that doesn’t believe that a number needs to determine the way you live life.  She left Sparwood at a young age but never forgot her roots.  The Rothel name is well known in the Valley, her grandparents emigrated from Scotland in 1898.  They had eight children of which Bobby’s father was one.  She was born in the house her parent’s built and where her sister Karen and brother Ole were also born. First son Dan was born in Sparwood and all three sons spent their summers here with her parents.  “My family’s roots go as deep in this valley as the seams of coal in the mountains.  My father lived his entire adult life in the house he and my mother built, a thousand meter from his parent’s house where he was born”, says Bobby.  Both her sister and brother married locals, their children settled here as did numerous cousins and two of her sons.  She never imagined that she would ever return to live permanently in Sparwood until she spotted a white house with a red barn along the river. That vision caused her to realize how much she missed home and she decided then and there to sell her house in Vancouver and move back.  The decision was met with resistance but a friend told her to “trust the insistent voice deep inside urging me”. 

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That was five years ago.  “I feel blessed, the B&B attracts interesting people, they usually teach me something I need to learn, whether positive or negative, every single person that comes into my life is there to teach me, each relationship is an assignment and I look at what I need to learn.  I don’t worry about being busy or not, whoever is meant to come will come.  Whatever is happening now is right for you, I used to be more uptight but age has taught me to let go, I understand the present is important, everything else is anticipation or memory.  It’s a relaxing way to live life, it’s wasted energy to live in the past, we can’t change the past, How’s being angry or upset going to change others, we can only change ourselves.” 

About her white hair “at age 19 I dyed it because it went white but when I ran the marathon at age forty I stopped dying it”.  American society is very cruel to older women but Hollywood is changing, actress Susan Sarandon has just married someone 23 years younger”.  I stare at her unlined face with its high cheekbones and hazel eyes and comment.  “My mom always said the Rothels don’t look their age. But why do we consider it a compliment when we are told we look younger than we are, society has such expectations. There is so much a sense of ourselves in how we look, for a woman especially, it hampers our freedom”.

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Bobby has lived through two abusive marriages, her oldest son Dan was born deaf but last year he had a cochlear implant and so now he can hear sound.  “He was profoundly deaf without it, now in conversation he speaks softer and annunciates words better, the family still signs but he speaks.  He picks up so much sound that he says there is too much noise”.  His peace has been shattered I comment and she concurs, a world of noise after years of quiet is mind blowing. Danny is now working as a carpenter in Sparwood, “he did all the renovations at the B&B” she says with pride in her voice.  Her son Rob works at the mine in Sparwood and son Danny is a fireman in Vancouver. For some time Bobby had three deaf chidren in her home as two of her second husband’s children were also deaf, the whole family learned to sign she says.   She’s content but constantly keeps seeking, “looking for knowledge, growth gets stuck sometimes but you must keep open to new technology, new music.”
 
I have spent the better part of the day speaking with Bobby, the time has flown quickly.  Her quick humor and wisdom makes conversation a pleasure. Her directness and honesty is as evident in person as it is in her autobiography which is available at Amazon or by contacting her personally.

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