I'll take the
Great Depression of the 1930's over our current era of socioeconomic upheaval
any time. The 30's had style and grace: Big Bands playing to men in tuxedos and
women in pearls and flowing gowns, Art Deco, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers,
elegant motor cars, ornate movie palaces, and nattily-attired gangsters.
Between the Armistace and Pearl Harbor, the giant airships sailed the sky,
observed with great admiration and romance; reflections in the heavens of the
era's majestic Grace, White Star, and Cunard lines.
The July 1919
visit to our area of the 665-foot British Navy R-34
to a very different Roosevelt Field is remembered on a mural
on the second floor of the shopping center was doubtless visable from the
Jerusalem/Island Trees area. Such rigid giants faded after the Hindenburg
disaster in 1937 and were
replaced by blimps and, in 1940, the Goodyear blimp arrived and set down in the
meadows north of the old Stewart Line of the LIRR in what's now the "flower
section" of Levittown. Its brief visit was captured on film by Steve
Buczak, a friend of mine who recently passed away, and can be seen at the
The Second World
War saw the skies of Levittown abuzz with quality-control test flights from our
area's big defense contractors. On Hicksville Road, Grumman built nearly as
many F-4F Wildcats and F-6 Hellcats as Levitt & Sons built houses and the
nearby Republic Aviation Corporation mass-produced 15,000 P-47 Thunderbolts to
support the bombers bound to strategic targets in Germany.
produced the F-84 and Grumman made the F-14 fighters that put the teeth in the
U.S. fleet's strike capacity throughout the Cold War.
By then, of course,
flying machines were old hat in this neck-of-the-woods anyway as three rural
airfields - Nassau Airport (now the site of St. Bernard's Church), LWF Field
(now the Target store), and the Long Island Aviation Country Club (Blacksmith
Road and environs) had operated here in the 1920-50 era. Oddly enough, in 1955
a military aircraft crashed on Blacksmith Road without injuries or home
property damage where, just half a decade earlier, a runway was situated.
Cold War, the ubiquitous drone of the Grumman E-2 Hawkeye was part of Levittown
life; its signature twin turboprop and 24-foot rotating saucer antenna always
prompted a skywards gaze from the backyard. If Levittown symbolized the era's
American way of life than the Hawkeye - designed to be the eyes and ears of the
aircraft carrier task force - was an emblem of the awesome military might that
could be brought to bear to protect it. No less a fixture overhead was the
bird-like Concorde. Between November of 1977, when it began London-to-New York
service, and 2003, this Anglo-French SST rumbled over the Levittown skies a
couple of mornings every week.
father of an elementary school student, I'm reminded that the Hawkeye and
Concorde will seem as curious flying machines by the time my daughter's an
adult as the R-34
seems to us today.
Want to learn
more about the history of Levittown and the surrounding communities? Visit www.levittownhistoricalsociety.org
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