Exhibit features memories and swag from Playa Vista’s past life

The Hughes exhibit celebrates a legacy of innovation
Photo by Christina Campodonico

Before the reign of computer scientists and software engineers, Playa Vista belonged to aviation innovator and movie mogul Howard Hughes. Aeronautic engineers and researchers with Hughes Aircraft Company, which covered all of what’s now Playa Vista as well as some of the LMU campus, built the Spruce Goose, designed military fighter planes and made early advancements in the Space Race right here.

Current residents and visitors can get a glimpse into those days at the Playa Vista Branch Library, where now through mid-June the Hughes Aircraft Retirees Association is exhibiting memorabilia and recollections from former Hughes employees. The display features everything from Hughes coffee mugs, patches and pins to tools of the trade such as a slide rule and early model HP calculator.

There are also clippings from the company newsletter (Hughes News) and personal anecdotes by former employees. One story by a former executive recounts impersonating Hughes in Paris to salvage a dinner meeting with members of the British Parliament. Another, this one unsigned, recalls how the notoriously reclusive Hughes would use the ladies room to avoid interacting with his employees — there was only one woman in the office, his secretary, and if she was typing he knew the coast was clear.

To further bring the history of Hughes Aircraft to life, former Hughes Aircraft Company President D. Kenneth Richardson (author of “Hughes After Howard: The Untold Story”) is giving a talk at the library on Saturday.

“Helping new residents and transplants to get to the know the history of the area is part of our commitment to the community,” said Playa Vista Senior Librarian Joseph Atkinson.

— Christina Campodonico

Richardson speaks from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 15, and the exhibit continues through mid-June at the Playa Vista Branch Library, 6400 Playa Vista Drive, Playa Vista. Free. Call (310) 437-6680 or visit lapl.org.