Hey, Old Guys! Do those still work? (Reflections on the World’s Fair).

I recently found this image and it got me thinking, and thinking some more, about my own experiences with the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair.

Not much is left of the New York World’s fair of 1964; even those awesome towers are now looking sadder and sadder, as time and the elements take their toll… but how the memories linger. My mom took me, and I think I was there for only a day, but I was impressed. Looking back, it now seems like a cross between Disney’ EPCOT and Tomorrowland, with an endless variety of things to see and do.

The first place I ever had a Belgian Waffle.

The first place I ever saw a picturephone function, at the Bell Telephone pavilion. It was a sexy idea in concept, but the old sets, requiring a CRT and having only a tiny screen, never caught on, and copper wire made bandwidth narrow and expensive. Not until the advent of the PC, smartphones, and the Internet did the concept become practical.

Speaking of phones, at that age I would always check pay phones for forgotten coins in the coin return bin. I remember finding one that was out of order, but when I tapped the switchhook, it disgorged about $8.00 in change like a slot machine… Score!

The generous phone in question was right in front of the Mormon pavilion. Even though it would be another 5 years or so before I joined the LDS Church, (to my mother’s everlasting dismay, her pioneer family having rejected organized religion when she was a little girl), I remember this building well – it was quite striking, designed as it was to look like the Salt Lake Temple. An interesting historical tidbit – the pavilion later became a church in Plainview, New York, dedicated December 2, 1967 and still in use (minus the temple façade, of course.)

My one tangible souvenir of the fair was a game of Wff ‘n’ Proof, which I had until the foam rubber case holding the dice crumbled into powder.

The Monorail. To me, AMF is synonymous with bowling, although I always had a soft spot in my heart for the Brunswick A-2 pinsetters, mostly because I learned how to repair them, lo these many years ago.


An aerial view of the fairgrounds.

One thing I do remember about the fair was that it wasn’t packed wall to wall with people, the way Disneyland gets. This picture is pretty representative.

The New York pavilion. Look closely, and you can see there were actuallythree towers – the lowest one, hiding in the back, was used by the mayor to entertain dignitaries.

The Wikipedia article about the fair answers certain questions I had about why they don’t do this sort of thing more often – apparently both the 1939 and 1964 fairs in New York lost money, although the second one did so more spectacularly as the result of mismanagement and possible corruption. (In New York? Nah…)

As time passes, events like this have become less relevant because of the massive amount of information and cultural exposure available through the broadcast media and the internet, but that doesn’t stop me from wishing they’d do another one somewhere. Epcot still seems wildly popular – I know I enjoyed it with my sweetheart when we went right after we were married, but at close to $100 a pop these days, it’s hard to justify the expense unless you have good friends who get you in for free.

I think Mom must have taken me because she went to the 1939 fair as a young woman – the following shots were taken during one of her visits there:

The trylon and perisphere.

An avenue among the exhibits. Looks rather sparsely attended.

Tourist shot. The Life Savers-sponsored parachute ride was a popular attraction, costing 40¢ per ticket at the time. After the fair closed, the ride was moved to Coney Island, where I had the thrill of riding it. The tower still stands, although the attraction is no longer functional – it closed in either 1964 or 1968, depending on whom you talk to. (Mom was a lot pudgier then, I almost don’t recognize her!)

Thus endeth the nostalgia.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


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