Happy Hour

Trevor Hutchinson headshot

By Trevor Hutchinson

A graduate of the University of Toronto, Trevor Hutchinson is a songwriter, writer and bookkeeper. He serves as Contributing Editor at The Lindsay Advocate. He lives with his fiancee and their five kids in Lindsay.

Those of us of a certain age will remember, back when our local radio station was on the a.m. dial, the noon in memoriam announcements.

Growing up, weekday lunches, which we called dinners, began with this ritual. One of us would race to turn on the countertop radio. The meal was timed so that we were eating our Kraft Dinner or canned soup just as the somber organ music stopped, and the announcer started reading the death announcements.

Using a bit of ironic gallows humour, my mom always called it ‘happy hour.’ Now before anyone feels compelled to write and tell me how horrible and insensitive my mom is, I will note that after 30 plus years working in the hospital, my mom volunteered to do end of life palliative visits, staying with people who had no local family, so that they wouldn’t die alone. The name was just a joke, but the content was beyond important to us.

I remember marveling at how my parents seemed to know everyone ever mentioned on the program. As the names and details of the dearly departed were read, there would be commentary and additional knowledge shared: This person was the mother of an old neighbour; that person was one of Grandpa’s taxi customers; another related to a second cousin by marriage. Everyone, even in death, seemed connected in my small world.

And while there was frequent laughter at my childhood dinner table, the five minutes of happy hour was not a time to goof around. That was a line that wouldn’t be crossed. And we all knew about that line, thanks to a notorious relative. It may be apocryphal, but when my larger-than-life great uncle was a local DJ, he was fired on air for being (allegedly) intoxicated and announcing the obituaries as a sports score between the funeral homes.

But as actor Steve Allen once famously quipped, tragedy plus time equals comedy. So I probably find humour in that unverifiable story now.

When I got to university I would share the noon radio obituaries as an example of how small and uncool my hometown was, as people who first leave home often do. But over time, as I have gotten ever statistically closer to being the subject of an obituary, I have changed my views.

I realize now that happy hour was just one of many little, often weird things that made living in a small town different and special. And while that difference may sometimes lie in special annual events or physical attractions, it’s often the ‘characters’ and stories that set us apart. They give a feeling of community that I, for one, have never found in big cities or in the echo chambers of social media.

So to all in the (sometimes whacky) community I love, I wish you a Happy New Year.


  1. Mina Coons says:

    I worked in a nursing home for over 30 years and for some reason the lunch time was changed to a half hour later.
    That was the biggest complaint that the residents would miss their Happy Hour.
    I enjoyed my job and most of all the residents who seemed like family most days.
    Enjoyed this story. Keep up the good work.

  2. Jan says:

    Not only the noon obits that most began with “Entered into rest at the Ross…,” which led to jokes about the hospital, but also the agricultural report that included the Corn Heat Units, something I never understood but I’m sure had great significance to the area farmers. It was a different time, different town. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  3. Dave Valentine says:

    Don’t apologize for your mother, Trevor; the Happy Hour it was to my family and friends.

    Your mention of the farm report reminds me of taking that job for a week or two for someone’s absence. It was an interesting challenge to sort through the news feeds and round up commentary to fill the few minutes allotted. The important news was farm prices, mainly steers and corn.

  4. Jim Mackey says:

    Trevor, I’m “of a certain age” too.
    When I was a kid, in our house, you could hear a pin drop when the ‘notices’ came on the air. We didn’t refer to it as “happy hour” for obvious reasons but, the title was certainly an accepted colloquialism and part of the vernacular. I learned, in later years, that he noon hour audience for the death notices and the farm market report was such that those time slots were among the most coveted by advertisers on the radio station. Yes, it certainly was, as you say, small town different and special.

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