Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The jitney

I have so many friends now who've only lived here for ten or twenty years that I wonder how many of them have any idea what the beginning of the Hampton Jitney was? It's such a great story I have to share it with them.

Back when I was in high school, forty years ago now, someone had the brilliant idea to buy a couple of VW buses (which were all the rage in the late 1960s), paint them brown, and drive them around town with bike racks in tow. The idea was that you could pick up a "jitney" as they referred to themselves, put your bike on the back if you wanted to, and get a quick ride to the beach. Then when you were ready to come home you hopped on your bike (if you'd brought it) and rode home if you were not able to catch another jitney back. Or simply wait for the next bus to take you back where you came from. It was brilliant, really. There were various stops around the village and town and it caught on quickly with the summer crowd out here. Before long there were dozens of those little brown buses driving up and down Montauk Highway, dropping people and bikes along the way.

Well that young guy with the great idea became a multi-millionaire who built that business into something really wonderful. He recognized the need for good transportation in and out of Manhattan from the east end (since the train service is abysmal) and before long he had a fleet of larger buses that made the trip many times throughout the day. What began as one trip in a day is now about twenty and I would venture a guess that the jitney is the most popular means of transportation out here.

Whenever I see one of those sleek, modern Hampton Jitney buses driving down Montauk Highway I'm reminded of what a great country this is. It's a country where a young man with a simple concept can make himself a lot of money with little to start with and lots of hard work. That bus has become a symbol of American ingenuity to me. What a great story!


Gail Tiska-Flurry said...

I've always marveled at what a great idea that was.
How do you post the graphics everyday? I'm seriouly compromised in this area!

Kathleen said...

Do you remember the large one with the 'accordian folds' in the center? That didn't last very long, did it?
I always loved the idea that the local jitney made a big loop down through the Springs. I rarely used it, but for kids and others who didn't drive, it was a real convenience!

Anonymous said...

I think it was Jim Davidson who started the jitney. Summer of 73 or 74? He was financed in this venture by a lady I knew, the late Ann Jones Light of Hook Pond Lane.

It did not really take off till that fall when he applied to start running the vans to NY City. The LIRR fought him a little, but he won out and started daily service.

He kept his busses in a barn in a Bridgehampton potato field in those days, till he outgrew it and later moved to the Omni.

Your right, a real success story. It was a service the public wanted. Right place at the right time. There is an old story I read about this in the microfirm room at the EH Library. Wow! Almost 40 years ago.