In 1978 Eddie Money sang, “I’ve got two tickets to paradise…” and if he were talking about the paradise that is our Hamptons he would undoubtedly be referring to two tickets on the Hampton Jitney, now celebrating its 40th year!
I first came to the Hamptons in the pre-Jitney year of 1969, driving out in my 1964 VW bug, top down, with my high school girlfriend to her parent’s summer house in Sag Harbor on weekdays; they came out on the weekends…if you get my drift. At the time the American Hotel was pre-visionary Ted Conklin and in ruins not having taken in guests or served a meal in its beautiful dining rooms for decades and, believe it or not, many now toney store fronts on Main Street sat vacant. Two town “rummies” held court on a park bench lovingly dubbed “Paul Newman” and “The Mayor” by my girlfriend who frequently brought them sandwiches and the only legitimate celebrity resident I recall at the time, although I do not think he considered himself one, was legendary American novelist John Steinbeck who hung out at the firehouse and died the winter before my first and very memorable visit.
In the years between my arrival in the Hamptons and the maiden voyage of the Hampton Jitney I along with about 500,000 other people spent a weekend in Bethel, NY at the Woodstock Festival, the Vietnam War raged, I joined the SDS, attended my first anti-war demonstration in D.C. with what seemed to be the same 500,000 people at Woodstock, witnessed the Stonewall Riots and watched Neil Armstrong walk on the Moon, and that was just 1969! In the next few years I broke up with my beautiful girlfriend of Sag Harbor summers, I started college in Boston, the Vietnam War still raged on and I was recruited by the Weather Underground and turned them down. The Draft Board denied my request for Conscientious Objector status despite my willingness to be an unarmed Medic and probably the first one to be shot in my unit. I made my first backpack trek around Europe to seven countries with “Europe on $5.00 a Day” clutched in my palm, they lied! During this time I started my journalism career as a stringer with the Boston Phoenix while driving a Checker Cab around Beantown, appeared in my first professional play (as in I was actually paid), had my first short story published in 1974 (for which I was not paid) and, unbeknown to me that year, a guy named James Davidson created the Hampton Jitney.
Why do I mention all this personal history? I hopefully kept you reading because of our shared Hamptonian Baby-Boomer eclectic past or is it perhaps just my homage to the writing style of Dan Rattiner…hmmm? Anyway, in the late 1970s I desperately needed a visit to the paradise of my youth, the Hamptons. I had no plan on how to get there from NYC, as I was now car-less, still careless, and an underpaid copywriter drone at an ad agency living in a hovel of a studio apartment in Manhattan. A friend had a cheap summer rental on Tuckahoe Road and invited me out for a weekend. I am in Manhattan, he in Southampton, “How do I get there, LIRR?” He says, “Jump on the Jitney!” I respond, “What the hell is the Jitney?”
See, you knew I would get you back here eventually! Well, I did indeed “Jump on the Jitney!” as have hundreds of thousands of other visitors to the Hamptons over the past four decades. Yes, the Hampton Jitney is celebrating its 40th Anniversary! What started out in 1974 as a van providing shared ride service between the villages of the Hamptons for car-less or driver license-less visitors and residents, has grown into a fleet of luxury motor coaches and the #1 carrier between NYC and the Hamptons and North Fork. The Jitney also has evolved into a charter and tour service with numerous excursions throughout the year like the upcoming Longwood Gardens tour to Pennsylvania, New England Getaways, Broadway Theatre packages and Day Trips to Yankee Stadium and the casinos, to name but a few.
The Hampton Jitney is planning several events to commemorate its 40th year including giveaways, contests and specials throughout 2014. Kicking off the celebration is a “Design a Jitney” contest. Calling on the wealth of local talent, artists are encouraged to submit designs that creatively embody the Hampton Jitney logo and celebrate the 40th Anniversary. The chosen design will be converted into a full motor coach wrap for one of their fleet vehicles to exhibit throughout the year. The winner will also receive complimentary Hampton Jitney tickets for travel on the line run service between NYC and the East End.
“Our customers are the reason we have been in business for 40 years, we wanted to involve them in the celebration as a way of recognizing how important they are to us. We are looking forward to a great year,” noted Hampton Jitney President Geoffrey Lynch.
As iconic a symbol of the Hamptons as any, the Hampton Jitney classic green chariots carry Manhattanites east and Hamptonians west…or is that visa-versa? In any event, “Jump on the Jitney!” and celebrate their 40-years of superb service, comfort and convenience…”Ride the Legend!”