Howard Hughes on Trial

From Gazette editions of July, 1934:

The seventeen year locusts which have been devouring the foliage on the state forest reservations for the past few weeks descended upon the village of Vineyard Haven Sunday morning, where they attacked the elm and other shade trees. But their foray was of short duration and little destruction resulted. The mackerel gulls, which have been feeding on the insects and holding them in check, were quick to note the shift of operations and followed. For hours they dove and swooped above the treetops, a screaming, swirling feathered mass. And before the day was done the locusts were few indeed. There was but one lonely voice of a cicada raised to greet the darkening twilight, and the gulls did not return on Monday morning, from which it was deduced that the swarm of locusts had been fairly obliterated. These gulls are the only birds of the Vineyard known to destroy locusts in large numbers. In Edgartown, too, the gulls appeared on Sunday and disposed of a migrant band of the locusts.

His concern over his court appearance contrasting with the comparative unimportance of his offenses against the law, Howard R. Hughes of Hollywood, Calif., multimillionaire oil man and movie producer, faced Judge Braley in district court on Monday morning. Trial of the charges against him, brought by State Patrolman Joseph Fitzgerald, was delayed a half hour or more while Mr. Hughes pondered and telephoned to possible witnesses, finally deciding not to put them to the inconvenience of appearing in court, and agreeing to go to trial. He pleaded not guilty.

After evidence was presented by the state and by the defendant, he was found guilty on both complaints, the first, driving without license and registration, and the second, failure to keep to the right of the road. Both were filed.

Before going to trial Mr. Hughes explained to the court his eagerness to be through with the case, as he wished to fly back to Newport and must depart as early as possible because of the threatening weather. He had been here only since Friday, staying at the Colonial Inn. His yacht, Southern Cross, the second largest privately owned yacht in the world, is waiting for him at Watch Hill, R.I. Mr. Hughes gained prominence in the movie production field when he produced Hell’s Angels. Only 28 years old, he inherited a large fortune from his father, a Texas oil operator.

Patrolman Fitzgerald, appearing for the state, told of driving over the beach road between Edgartown and Oak Bluffs on Sunday and barely avoiding a collision with the Marmon driven by Mr. Hughes. Traffic was heavy at the time, and the defendant had cut out of the line and “stepped on the gas” to pass another car, so that the officer had to slow down to avoid a collision. Back in line, he had cut out again to pass another car. He was driving at high speed.

Very earnestly, Mr. Hughes told his story to the court, explaining that as there was water on both sides of the road, he was assured that there was no cross road to watch out for, and that he had tried to pass another car which was considerably behind the line of cars on his side of the road. He attributed the trouble to the fact that the car he was passing speeded up and started to race with him, leaving him out of line in the middle of the road, so that in order to get back to the right of the road, he had to pass two more cars. He thought the officer was driving quite fast. He was proceeding at a reasonable speed, much slower than that allowed in California.

As to his license and registration, he had left his license in Newport when he made a precipitate departure for the Vineyard. He had assumed that the registration was in his car, as it had been before it was put in storage, from which he had just retrieved it.

There she blows! is the cry that lifts the sea-mist off Noman’s Land in these days. The whales are there, my hearties. Three swordfishing boats have raised whales within four days’ time, indicating that the creatures are lingering in the locality. They are believed to be finbacks or sulphur-bottoms, chasing the menhaden, possibly the tuna, both of which are schooling in the neighborhood.

Increased purchasing power is the hope held forth for national recovery. We have some instances on the Vineyard. Our largest automobile concern reports a twenty per cent increase in business, a large grocery business about the same, and another automobile distributor a larger increase still. These are local signs of what it is hoped will be a national swing into further recovery.

The annual regatta of the Edgartown Yacht Club is likely to set a new high mark for this yachting event with the beautiful Class M sloops. After close observation this weekend, we should say that it takes almost as much white flannel as white duck to run a regatta.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner