Rear Admiral Dr. Grace Murray Hopper coined the expression “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.” Just that alone justifies naming a ship and a park after her, but she did a few extraordinary things and coined some other expressions as well. Her motto, “Dare and Do” is also rather inspirational.
Unfortunately I do not own RADM Hopper’s autograph, but I have the next best thing. You see, a Brooklyn-based aviator and mechanic, one of the builders of “The Spirit of St. Louis”, Corrigan became famous in his own right by practicing Dr. Hopper’s prescription. He modified his own plane for a transatlantic flight, but spent years battling the bureaucracy. Finally he took off from Floyd Bennett field on a trip to California, but due to a “navigational error” (which he never admitted to be a ruse) ended up in Dublin, Ireland. Amused and impressed New Yorkers gave him a ticker tape parade, the Post printed a headline in reverse and for the rest of his life he was know as “Wrong Way” Corrigan. And here’s an autograph from my collection:
Corrigan and Hopper were born and died around the same time. They were a part of the Greatest Generation (by the way “American Generations” articles at Wikipedia are outstanding). Did something die with them? Why is the Canyon of Heroes so infrequently hosting ticker tape parades? Why didn’t Burt Rutan, Steve Fossett and Co. get one? Are there fewer non-sports heroes or is my generation, or is this all a result of the decline of the ticker tape machine?
As I mentioned earlier, I spent a summer working in a summer camp at Floyd Bennett Field. The camp organizer rented huge hangars that were used for makeshift basketball and tennis courts. One of the duties that I had there was cleaning bathrooms in the hangars.
Only many years later did I learn how important and historically interesting Floyd Bennett field was. I distinctly remember cool Art Deco aviation wings on the front of the hangars. And here’s a nice picture of none other than Howard Huges walking in front of it (very likely the very same hangar in which bathroom I was mopping up poo and pee).
As it turns out Floyd Bennett Field used to be a small, money-loosing airport that had one big draw. It was heavily favored by aviation pioneers as a starting point for world record attempts. It was a starting point for Hughes’s famous around the world in 3 days flight, Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan’s transcontinental “wrong way” flight which is a story in itself and numerous other flights by the likes of Alexander de Seversky, Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh. You can find more very cool pictures of the glory years of Floyd Bennett Field here.
Of course, not being able to compete with JFK and La Guardia, after the war Floyd Bennett Field airstrips and hangars fell into disrepair, and were used for ventures similar to that summer camp.
Looking at google’s satellite map I found something interesting on the abandoned airfield: two Maltese Cross markings. It’s either Knighs Templar or FDNY. Maltese Cross of FDNY insignia is actually adapted from the one worn by Knights Hospitalers, some of whom served as firefighters in the crusades (Greek fire and stuff). Who knew that one of the corners of FDNY maltese cross symbolizes “Tact” and another “Explicitness”…