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Everybody Has a Story

August 16, 2011

The art of business

GREENVILLE — Walter C. Hydick has done a great deal in his lifetime, from traveling all over the U.S., capturing the beauty that he sees, to bringing companies back from the brink of disaster.

Add to that a nine-month job at the Walt Disney Company, commonly referred to as simply Disney, and you’ve got an interesting array of experiences.

Hydick has spent some time in art schools, but considers himself more of a self-taught artist, with roots dating back to kindergarten.

“I’ve always been into art,” he said. “My teacher used to hang them up and even called my mother and told her that I should follow up with that path. Unfortunately, there’s just no money in it.”

While serving in the Marine Corps on the First Marine Airwave in China, one of his liberties was to go into town, where he would find the local artists and study them at their trade. He remained in China until the latter part of 1946.

After returning home to Buffalo, N.Y., he attended the Art Institute at the University of Buffalo. This is where he met his wife.

“As she walked by she said ‘Hello, sugar,” he said with a smile. “And that was it.”

Hydick also studied at the Rochester Institute, though he didn’t stay at any university or institute long.

“I come from a different school of thought, for instance Charles Hurchfield of New York,” he said. “He was a well-known watercolor artist and a real boon to me. I learned more from the people I came across in my travels than I ever did in a classroom setting.”

While attending Rochester, he and his future wife decided it was time to tie the knot, eventually making the move to California in 1950. There he attended the University of California for a brief period of time before a friend saw his drawings and said he should come work at Disney, so he decided to give it a shot.

He worked there for nine months, learning a great deal as he went along and even getting his hands on an autographed picture of Walt Disney. He did some work on “The Wind in the Willows,” among other projects.

“Disney was a stickler,” he said. “He’d come up to me and say, ‘What’s this?’ I’d reply ‘My pen slipped, sir,’ and he’d say ‘Do it over.’ It had to be done right or not at all and anyone who worked for him could tell you that. It paid off, though. I mean, what other animation studio has lasted as long?”

Hydick was paid $20 a week for 52 weeks.

“It sounds stupid, but we lived pretty well,” he said. “When I really got big at Disney I was up to $50 a week. That was the times.”

After a while it hit Hydick that to live the life he and his wife were wanting to live, he’d have to find another profession.

A job presented itself in sales, with Hydick selling refrigerators, microwaves and more.

“My first check was $1,800 that first week,” he said. “I decided to quit school and go into sales. I rue it at times, but it all turned out.”

He advanced quickly within the company, American Products and Engineering in Los Angeles. After only five months he was the manager and operated the store till they closed it in 1954.

At that time he decided to come back to Buffalo, N.Y. with his wife and the first of three children. He worked for several tire companies, always running the stores, with the company often sending him to various stores that were in dire straights, amounting to a fair amount of travel. The company eventually sent him to Mesquite, where he bought a house. One day he stumbled across Greenville and felt it was the perfect community for him and his wife to retire.

“We’ve been here almost 25 years,” he said. “It’s changed quite a bit over the years. I loved the small-town appeal of the place.”

In his retirement, Hydick began collecting German and Japanese war artifacts.

“I made some good money doing that, too,” he said. “I did a lot of traveling with my job so that when I retired I didn’t really feel the draw of the road as many others might have.”

He never gave up on his art, however. Even though he gave up trying to make art for a living. To him, it was more about expressing his thoughts and ideas via doodles, political cartoons and other various mediums.

 Hydick gets a lot of his inspiration from around him, as most artists do. The scenery, a particular person that strikes him walking around the gun or antique shows that he frequents, these are the things that find their way into his sketchbook, which to him is something of a journal.

“Even when I was in sales, I still found the time to draw,” he said. “I never gave up on it.”

While putting pen to paper, Hydick exudes a sense of calm.

“It soothes me. My only complaint is this damn shake,” he said, referring to the light shake in both hands. “Life really has been a bowl of cherries, even now.”

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