The famous aviator loved the Hampton's
The name Howard Hughes means different things to many people.
Some think of a reclusive billionaire whose eccentric behavior lead to his death in an airplane in a very unkempt condition. To others the recent movie, "The Aviator," is their only knowledge of a colorful man who passed away before they were born.
In his lifetime, he was rumored to have dated Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Gene Tierney, Ava Gardner, Olivia DeHavilland, Joan Fontaine, Bessie Love, Jean Harlow and many others.
To conspiracy theorists, the name Howard Hughes is cloaked with the mysteries of speculative plots to buy Presidents, go on secret CIA missions, or influence US business. This story is none of these. This is a simple tale of Howard Hughes and some of his connections with the Hamptons.
Although born in Humble, Texas, Howard Hughes went to prep school in the Boston area. While at school, he developed a reputation as quite the golfer and it is believed his first trip to the East End of Long Island was to play golf perhaps at National Golf Links course, with a classmate whose family had a home in the Hamptons.
There are tales of Howard Hughes landing a sea plane on Georgica Pond and giving a ride to Peter Herrick and Larry Gourlay, whose family he was visiting. It may be noted that Juan Trippe a later rival of Howard Hughes, used that same pond to land his airplane when he came out to stay at his oceanfront home off Georgica Pond.
Eventually Howard Hughes built a Spanish style home on Lily Pond Road although he is rumored to have only slept there once or twice.
Sylvia Mendelman's book about Three Mile Harbor mentions that at the age of 32 Howard Hughes was rescued from a yacht off Three Mile Harbor during the epic hurricane of 1938 at night in rainy, windy darkness.
But Howard Hughes also appreciated the simpler side of life here in the Hamptons. In 1930 B.J. Corrigan opened up a gas station on Route 27 in Bridgehampton. It is still in operation 77 years later. Back in the late '30s a quarter mile down the road from the station, (off Route 27 on Hayground Road) was Hayground Airstrip then run by a Mr. Root from New York who commuted to the field by air. The hangar still exists but the runway is now a potato field. Originally, the land belonged to George Strong but is now owned by Thomas Conklin. William Schwenk, the now deceased son of a butcher in Southampton in those days also flew his bi-plane onto that field although his legacy was keeping his plane in his garage at his home in Southampton.
B.J. Corrigan’s son, Bernard “Barney” Corrigan, fondly told me the story of how Howard Hughes would land at the Hayground Airstrip while coming out to the Hamptons to visit a friend. Mr. Hughes and Barney's Dad, B.J. became buddies. Howard Hughes would fly over the gas station to let B.J. know he was arriving in town. B.J. would then drive his Plymouth the quarter mile to the airstrip; pick Howard up and then lend him his car while he was in town. The Plymouth and Howard were often seen at the old watering hole “Step In; ” (later renamed Julie’s) located on Sag Turnpike not too far from where Mickey D’s is today.
Socialite Barbara Hutton, a friend of Howard’s acknowledge this simpler side in her notes when she wrote, “I never met a less materialistic man. He owns two suits and no tuxedo-if he needs one he borrows it. He usually wears tennis sneakers; the result of bad feet; and when he travels he packs a cardboard box with two shirts and pairs of unmatched socks. He eats nothing but salads and would sooner sleep on a cot than in a comfortable bed. That is when he sleeps at all. He is an easy person to be with.”
Barney says his dad, who passed away in 1977, treasured his brief friendship with Howard. The only payment he ever took for lending Howard Hughes his car those times were rides in Hughes’ airplane. It seems Hughes understood what was more important to men than just money.
So the next time you pull into Corrigan’s just think of the vision of Howard Hughes dropping the Plymouth back off at the station and waving goodbye.
Become a blogger today!
Get started now