Saturday, April 19, 2014

So Long At The Fair

The Unisphere

The Unisphere

Fifty years ago next week the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair opened in Flushing Meadows.  The New York Times looks back at the fair and the times.

The grounds of the 1964 New York World’s Fair were a blur of perpetual motion: Gondolas dangled above the crowds from the Swiss Sky Ride, a monorail glided in the Lake Amusement area, Greyhound Escorters ferried fatigued visitors, helicopters landed on the Port Authority’s helipad and a giant tire Ferris wheel spun.

On the 50th anniversary of the fair’s opening, we asked readers to share their memories of the event and photographs from their visits. We got more than 1,200 responses, which included many snapshots of visitors with the Unisphere and recollections of eating Belgian waffles, being entranced by new technology (the touch tone phone!) and feeling moved by Michelangelo’s Pietà.

The fair, with pavilions sponsored by car companies and insurance giants and with special effects by Disney, may have been as corporate as a modern Olympics, but it still sparked the imaginations of those who attended.

My family went to see the fair in early September of 1964.  I was eleven, about to turn twelve, and it was my first trip to New York City.  We flew into Newark and stayed in a hotel in Manhattan — The Waldorf, I think — and then went out to the fair on the subway; the fare was fifteen cents.

It was, to this kid from Ohio, amazing.  We saw all the famous exhibits: IBM, GE, Ford, Bell System, GM, Kodak (and that damn song that has been bored into the brain since then), the Vatican, Pakistan, Africa, the Belgian Village, and just about everything in between.  We must have spent two or three days at the fair to see all that I remember seeing.

We did other things, too, including hitting the usual tourist sites in New York City, including the Empire State Building and my first Broadway musical, High Spirits, by Noel Coward starring Tammy Grimes and Beatrice Lillie.  On our last full day we went to Radio City Music Hall and saw the Rockettes.

Did you go?  Share your memories.

6 barks and woofs on “So Long At The Fair

  1. What a memory! I’m now reading that the Mustang was introduced by Ford at the fair unbeknownst to you. And I believe we took a helicopter to the fair one day. Am I wrong?

  2. Oh, no, I remember the Mustang being introduced very well. When we went to the Ford exhibit I was all over it.

    The helicopter ride I remember was going from the top of the Pan Am building to JFK to catch the shuttle to Boston to take me to SG. That was in 1967.

  3. I went three times to the fair; once with my parents that included the sights of New York. Then two of my friends, one with a 1953 Studebaker Champion, skipped school twice and drove down to the fair from Connecticut. A speeding ticket on the way back on the second trip pretty much ended those adventures.

  4. Went with my dad one day, can’t really remember what we saw, so it mustn’t have been all that memorable. Also once took the helicopter from the top of the Pan Am building out to JFK with my parents, despite my pilot fathers trepidation, having seen that thing drop 20 stories on take off more then once from his office across the street.

  5. I remember Sinclair Dinoland, with replica dinosaurs along pathways with sign explaining the then current science about them. There were machines that made a plastic injection dino souvenir for, I think, 50 cents while you waited.

    I was six. That fascinated me.

  6. We went as a family when I was 8. Belgian Waffles!(Haven’t had one since, but still have cravings.) The Sudan pavilion, where I bought a tortoise shell ring. The Bell Telephone picture phones – they happened! The NYT article brought back other memories. But what I remember most is that we went on a glorious spring day, so warm we forgot to bring coats and it was a very cold walk back to our car.

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