Something magical happened on January 21st. Older bud Denise told a story about all the things she had done with her mother, including take her to the 1964 World's Fair in New York City. At the end of the story, several other older buds piped up that they had been to the '64 World's Fair as well. I'd never been to a single World's Fair in my life, but I'd stories about how massive and exciting they were. I asked those who had gone to bring their World's Fair stories to the next session. And I have them here for you all to enjoy:
Memories of the World’s Fair
1964 I was 9 years old and I had the pleasure of attending the New York World’s Fair. One of the exhibits I particularly enjoyed was “It’s a Small World.” Delightful songs played as puppets swirled around representing each country and the residents of that country. And then at the end the countries came together, all the children were together at the end, and they played again “It’s a Small World. “
I remember a Spiro, like a Unisphere, it was similar to when you go to Epcot, that huge globe. That was good. They had a panorama of New York City. Jet packs that represented the future of technology. I remember eating Belgium waffles with fruit for the first time and I really enjoyed that.
I realized that I did see Michelangelo’s Pietà in a bulletproof glass, they had the original sculpture flown in from Italy. I forgot I saw that and then had a scale model of what was the World Twin Towers. I remember this RCA color TV studio which when you walked by you could see yourself on TV. Which in those days was pretty exciting because you could see yourself in color.
General Motors had an exhibit that showed us highways on the moon, commuter spacecraft, an underwater hotel and something we use a lot today, covered moving walkways; I’m thinking particularly of airports. FaceTime, they showed, I thought about the Jetsons at the time, in which they showed that you could see the person that you’re speaking with while you’re speaking, so that was FaceTime now.
There were live animals in the African pavilion, and I remember the Sinclair oil exhibit, they had large replicas of dinosaurs. There was the State of New York pavilion in which they had 500 mosaic panels. We also saw Spanish art displayed by original Spanish artists, for example Pablo Picasso. And the last thing they showed a lot of IBM computer technology that we use today. So, it was a wonderful trip, one of the best I have ever taken in my life. Very enjoyable.
Ann von Dehsen
The World's Fair '64
Since I grew up in a town less than an hour’s drive from the World’s Fair, I was very fortunate to go several times. Sometimes with my family, sometimes with friends and their families. Despite the huge modernistic corporate pavilions, the beautiful Unisphere and the impressive flags of all nations, the very first thing that came to my mind when we brought up this topic last week was Belgian waffles with strawberries the size of apples. This is because my favorite area was the World Pavilions, consisting of maybe 50 countries; I’m not sure. But each country featured their nation’s history, music, food, and dance, and many constructed little villages showcasing their famous sights and streets. So yes, you could actually walk down the boulevard and visit things like the mini Eiffel Tower or the Trevi Fountain. My favorite pavilion though was Belgium, where you could stroll down a quaint cobblestone street complete with shops and yes, Belgian waffle stands. It was there that I sampled the exquisite combo of three inch high waffles covered with huge strawberries and dusted with powdered sugar for the first time. Don’t think I’ve had waffles that good since. The Moroccan pavilion also comes to mind, but not so much for its food as the architecture, music, and belly dances. Of the corporate pavilions I mostly remember the GE Building and its long lines to get into the Carousel of Progress, featuring typical rooms from houses of the past and future. Not positive, but I think that very large microwaves were shown in the house of the future. I also think that flying cars were predicted. Very Jetsons like. The Kodak Building had a circular theater that you stood in while the fast-moving movie encircled you. I only remember the very dizzying scene of a hundred people closely riding their bikes in a very crowded street in China, and my claustrophobic mother saying, “Oh god, please, I have to get out of here!” Other vague memories include ‘It’s a Small World After All’ before it went to Disneyland, and an area of amusement park rides with a huge Ferris Wheel in which the wheel was made to look like a huge truck tire. I’m sure I saw many other amazing sights on our visits, but those are the ones that come to mind. My final memory was also my final visit to the World’s fair on the occasion of my 13th birthday and I was allowed to bring three friends. Better yet, the friends and I were allowed to roam freely, without having parents nearby. So, of course our first stop was the Belgian waffle stand, and after my friends sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me, the waitresses serenaded me with the Dutch version of the song. All in all, lots of good memories from the World’s Fair.
Going to the Fair
I remember my father talking excitedly about World Fairs when I was a young child. It sounded so exotic to be able to see exhibits from all over the world as well as fantasy cars and spaceships from the future.
In 1964 my parents announced that our family of 6 was driving to New York to attend the World’s Fair. I had been to New York a number of times to visit my mother’s aunts, uncles and cousins who lived in Flushing, which it turns out that was where the World Fair was. We attended shows at Radio City Music Hall, ate cream cheese sandwiches on raisin bread at Chock Full O’ Nuts and walked endlessly up and down Broadway.
In the early 60’s people still got dressed up to go out and the World’s Fair was no exception. My mother had taught herself how to sew and was quite an expert seamstress. For the occasion she sewed me a white wool coat lined with covered buttons and a matching A-Line skirt. I wore little heels and felt quite sophisticated and grown up.
The theme of that World’s Fair was Peace Through Understanding. There were exhibits profiling the cultures of 80 different countries. One big theme was the future, space travel and modern cars. One exhibit showed a model of the World Trade Center which was constructed several years later. The Ford Mustang was introduced and became a runaway best seller. RCA debuted a color television. We walked through this fantasy world for two days, exhausted and inspired.
In 1967 I had the opportunity to attend another World’s Fair, Expo 67, this time in Montreal. This was another city I was very familiar with. It was where my mother grew up, and my grandparents along with many other relatives lived there. Expo 67 coincided with my grandparents 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration. It also coincided with Canada’s centennial.
The rest of my family drove to Montreal without me since I had to finish my high school final exams. After completing my exams I took my very first flight from Toronto to Montreal to meet them.
My family took very few pictures, and in those days people generally didn’t, but especially my family. I can’t find a single picture of the ‘67 World’s Fair, but that of course I remember much more clearly because I was more on my own. I went with my cousin, and it wasn’t with my family. The Montreal World’s Fair was wildly popular. It is considered to be the most successful World’s Fair of the 20th century. The first Habitat for Humanity had been designed and built for it; and it was a very new concept. So many people attended the fair that we had to line up for hours to get into the pavilions. I remember a 3 hour wait for one. I think one of the most popular exhibits was the Russian Pavilion, which was all about space travel. And we thought, “Well that’s ridiculous. Waiting three or four hours to get into a pavilion?” But it was true, you had to wait three or four hours to get into the pavilion.
Expo 67 was a landmark event in Canadian history. Montreal’s major league baseball team was named the Expos after it.
The World's Fair '64
I’ll start with my daughter who was very young, and when we told her we were going- she would be going to the fair, and it was quite different from a state fair. What’s going on here? Which had, she had seen before. We told her this was a fair that was called a World’s Fair; countries all over the world would be showing things from their country. People from those countries would be in abundance, and many she had not seen before except in books and magazines, but not just one or two people who looked different from those she saw in the U.S. Many, many people! Rides and things we would see. After many questions, the day finally arrived. We took the train, which was very exciting for her, on a trip out of town. I chose things that I thought would be very interesting to her, and many things in the pavilion displays that would be educational. Kodak Pavilion rooftop had a- you could see the view of the fair in all directions. It was probably the gift shops where I bought a Kodak camera that I still own. The gift shop was also where I got most of my photos when I traveled because I could travel from one part of the country to another with a camera and take no pictures and end up buying pictures and postcards of those kinds of stuff.
She got to ride on many things that were of interest to her, and then there was an audio of Abraham Lincoln that was just compelling for her to see. Pictures of future cities and transportation et cetera were just in abundance. We took the train back late in the evening. She slept most of the way back home. She had a great time telling me how much fun she was having; that made me equally happy. I had to really think about the fair and what I remembered, but I had some help from a friend who reminded me of things that I had moved to the recess of my mind. The New York fair reminded me of things my brain needed no prompting, such as viewing Michelangelo’s sculpture of the Pietà, (and we were on moving chairs as the Pietà show was showing) and also the King Tut museum was one of the things that I could recall about New York. And then, in London, the royal jewels which were just a wonder to see. The Pietà as you might know was Mary cradling her son Jesus; the artistry of was awe-inspiring, and the King Tut museum was the tomb, most of the thing, when he was in reign for a very short length of time. That reminded me more of New York and other places than the World Fair.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri