50th Anniversary of the 1964-65 New York World's Fair

Opening of the 1964/65 New York World's Fair in Flushing Meadow, NY.
Opening of the 1964/65 New York World's Fair in Flushing Meadow, NY. | Source
Original entrance ticket for the New York World's Fair.  $2 for adults and $1 for children.
Original entrance ticket for the New York World's Fair. $2 for adults and $1 for children. | Source
An entire Belgium medieval village constructed by Belgium for the World's Fair where Belgium waffles were served.
An entire Belgium medieval village constructed by Belgium for the World's Fair where Belgium waffles were served. | Source

Memories

My cousin's wife, her name is Susan, and I were recently reminiscing about the 1964/65 New York World's Fair and sharing our memories of that spectacular, vibrant, magnificent fair that we both experienced when we were about ten years old. We are both baby boomers and this was a significant experience that greatly impacted our lives.

We were both fortunate to visit this World's Fair more than once, and Susan had me beat. Her parents took her to the fair every Sunday it was opened because she lived in Queens. I only attended it three or four times over the two years it was held at Flushing Meadows (Queens), NY.

My family was living in NJ at the time, only two hours from the fair, and so we were able to experience this great phenomenon several times. Susan and I were mesmerized by the great pavilions, some of American businesses, some of different countries, and some of different states in the U.S.

It was a large colorful extravaganza that portrayed all that was good with America. It was mid-20th century and America was in its glory. It was an optimistic time in America and the fair portrayed that in the many pavilions it featured.

The theme of the fair was Peace Through Understanding, and the fair was dedicated to Man's Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe. The Unisphere, the 12 story high stainless steel model of the earth which stood at the entrance of the fair, was the symbol of this theme.

Ironically, this World's Fair happened in history just on the cusp of the turbulent years of the Viet Nam War, our country's cultural changes, and our struggles for civil rights. But, for 360 days, the World's Fair showed us what America had done right and all that it could be in the future.

Today, as Susan and I reminisce on the fair and post articles about it, we are doing this all through our PC's, laptops and iphones, which remarkably were predicted for the future at the 1964/65 World's Fair.

We both find this amazing because as visitors to the fair, we had our first interaction with computer equipment. Several of the corporations that sponsored pavilions demonstrated the use of mainframe computers, computer terminals with keyboards, CRT displays, Teletype machines, punch cards and telephone modems.

All this was the burgeoning future in America and we marvel that it did come to pass. The Bell Telephone Systems (remember the phone monopoly system across the U.S. before deregulation?) Pavilion showed hand held phones of the future (our cell phones today) and wall phones with a vision screen to see who was calling. (today in the homes of my Italian relatives in Italy.)

These devices were the forerunners to Skype where now we can communicate with vision with anyone in the world, anytime, day or night. As ten-year-old's, Susan and I saw the great possibilities of our country on the rise.

This was also the dawn of the space race with the Soviet Union and in the Space Pavilion the space age was well represented here.

One of the great impacts of the fair was the Vatican City Pavilion which featured Michelangelo's Pieta, that he so finely chiseled that it nearly looked alive to us. Yes, the Vatican sent its most prized sculpture from St. Peter's Basilica for viewing at the World's Fair.

And we both ate Belgium waffles ( a waffle topped with strawberries and then whipped cream) for the first time at the World's Fair's Belgium Pavilion which was the reconstruction of a medieval town in Belgium.

Although there were many international pavilions, this fair was really the showcase of the mid-20th century American culture and technology.

Following is a glimpse of what we remember from the 1964/65 New York World's Fair.

The Pieta, by Michelangelo, which the Vatican sent for its pavilion at the World's Fair.
The Pieta, by Michelangelo, which the Vatican sent for its pavilion at the World's Fair. | Source

Not all was well behind the scenes

Read an article written by a woman who was a worker and presenter at the Coca-Cola Pavilion at:

www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2014/04/the-1964-worlds-fair-wasn't-so-great.html

Coca-Cola Pavilion.
Coca-Cola Pavilion. | Source

The Fair

The 1964/65 World's Fair ran for two six month seasons: April 22-October 18, 1964 and April 21-October 17, 1965 for a total of 360 days. More than fifty-one million attended the fair.

The chief organizer of the fair was Robert Moses, a master builder in NYC, with vast experience with fundraising for large public projects. He was head of the corporation established to run the fair.

The World's Fair was not sanctioned by the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE) headquartered in Paris because they had just sanctioned the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle, WA and they only sanction one world's fair per country every ten years.

But, Moses and his corporation carried on anyway without the BIE sanction. Many international countries had pavilions at the fair despite this: Spain, Vatican City, Japan, Mexico, Sweden,
Austria, Denmark, Thailand, Philippines, Greece, Pakistan, and Ireland as well as some African and Middle Eastern countries all joined the World's Fair.

Indonesia sponsored a pavilion but withdrew from the fair in 1965, as well as the United Nations because of anti-Western and anti-American rhetoric targeted at President Lyndon Johnson over the Viet Nam War.

Those countries which did not participate in the fair were: Canada, Australia, the Soviet Union and many major European countries.

The Westinghouse Pavilion which featured the time capsule.
The Westinghouse Pavilion which featured the time capsule. | Source
The General Motors Pavilion which featured the concept car of the future.
The General Motors Pavilion which featured the concept car of the future. | Source
Dinoland
Dinoland | Source
Ford Motor Car Pavilion and the introduction of the Ford Mustang sports car.
Ford Motor Car Pavilion and the introduction of the Ford Mustang sports car. | Source
Disney also produced the Monorail for the first time for the fair.
Disney also produced the Monorail for the first time for the fair. | Source
The Swiss International Pavilion supplied these "pods" (gondolas) for seeing a 'bird's eye view' of the fair.
The Swiss International Pavilion supplied these "pods" (gondolas) for seeing a 'bird's eye view' of the fair. | Source
IBM Pavilion, home of the Mathematics Exhibit.
IBM Pavilion, home of the Mathematics Exhibit. | Source

New York State Pavilion

New York State was the host to the fair and built a six million dollar open-air pavilion called the Tent of Tomorrow and was designed by modernist architect, Philip Johnson. It featured three high-spot observation towers that included cafeterias and restaurants. My family ate in one of the restaurants and had a view of the entire fair from high above.

On the ground floor of one of the towers as a twenty-six foot scale reproduction of the New York State Power Authority's St. Lawrence hydroelectric plant. Just an example of our electric infrastructure at the time. Has it changed from 1964? Not much.


United States Pavilion

The title of our pavilion at the fair was Challenge to Greatness, and focused on President Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society" proposals. It featured a fifteen minute ride through a filmed presentation of United States history.

There was a tribute to former President John F. Kennedy, who broke ground for the pavilion in December 1962, but was assassinated in November 1963. He never lived to see the fair.


U.S. Space Park

This pavilion was sponsored by NASA, the Department of Defense and the fair. It featured a Gemini capsule, an Atlas with Mercury Capsule and a Thor-Delta Rocket. These were our first man propelled capsules in space.

The Aurora 7, Apollo command/service module and Lunar Excursion Module were also featured along with unmanned spacecraft.


General Motors Pavilion

This presentation featured Futurama where visitors seated in moving chairs glided past elaborately detailed miniature 3D model scenery depicting life in the future: microwave ovens and the cartoon Jetson's type houses and transportation. This was one of the fair's most popular exhibit.

I loved this presentation and have often wondered where is the Jetson's type transportation, flying cars, today?

This pavilion also had one of the most interesting of presentations. It featured future life of living underwater in underwater apartments and underwater hotels. I found this fascinating and think we should extend our knowledge of the ocean beds throughout the world.

Today, we can't even find Malaysian flight #370 which has seemed to disappear over the Indian Ocean. What a sad statement on the Futurama of our country.


Bell System Pavilion

This pavilion was also one of my favorite ones to see. In the 1960s the Bell Telephone System was the only phone company available at the time throughout the United States. Every U.S. citizen was part of the Bell Telephone System.

Their presentation featured a fifteen minute ride in moving armchairs depicting the history of communication in dioramas and film. There was a demonstration of a computer modem and we saw the telephones of the future. Hand held phones - today's cell phones and telephones with a screen to actually see who you are talking to.

I remember being amazed at these two future telephone options and today it is amazing to me it came true.


Westinghouse Pavilion

This pavilion was also one of my favorites. Westinghouse planted a second time capsule next to the one planted there in 1939 for that year's World Fair. Some of the contents put in the 1964 capsule were a World's Fair Guidebook, an electric toothbrush, credit cards (which were rare at this time) and a 50 star flag.

Both of these capsules were placed southwest of the Unisphere and each are marked by a monument today. They are to be opened in the year 6939. Will our civilization even be around in that year?


Dinoland

This was another favorite pavilion sponsored by the Sinclair Oil Corporation. It featured life-size replicas of nine different dinosaurs, including their signature Brontosaurus. They moved by robotic means.


Ford Motor Company Pavilion

This was a fabulous presentation of all the Ford cars being built at the time. And the surprise? Ford introduced the first Ford Mustang sports car on April 17, 1964. The public went crazy over this new car and it has been a popular one to this day.

This pavilion featured fifty actual convertible Ford vehicles, including Ford Mustangs. On the People Mover, which was a ride system, visitors entered the vehicles on a main platform as they moved slowly along the track and we saw a Ford presentation. We were able to climb in and out of the vehicles and pretend we were actually driving them. This was one of the highlights of the fair.


General Electric Pavilion

The Disney Productions Company sponsored Progressland here. We were seated in a revolving auditorium, the Carousel of Progress, which was an audio-animatronic presentation of the progress of electricity in the home.

The Sherman Brothers (who wrote the songs for the Disney movie Mary Poppins) wrote the signature song for this pavilion, There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.

The highlight of this presentation was the brief plasma "explosion" of controlled nuclear fusion. We were amazed and awed by this.


The Pepsi Pavilion

This was another favorite of mine and I went here every time I was at the fair. In a nod to UNICEF and the world's children, Disney Productions also sponsored and debuted its signature song, It's a Small World. This song was also written by the Sherman Brothers and included animated dolls with identical faces but with different world country's costumes.

This song was near and dear to my heart and this was also my grandfather's favorite pavilion.


IBM Pavilion

This pavilion featured a five hundred seat grandstand and the showing of the film, Think, that was shown on fourteen large and eight small screens that showed the workings of computer logic.

Mathematics: A World of Numbers . . . and Beyond presented mathematical concepts and models. This was my least favorite pavilion as I am not a math connoisseur, but, it did have one feature that I loved. It had a feature that demonstrated handwriting recognition on a mainframe computer and this was my first hands on interaction with a computer.


Parker Pen Pavilion

This was another pavilion favorite of mine. At this exhibit we saw all the different pens and pencils that Parker manufactured. But the best part of this exhibit was being matched up with an international pen pal. I took advantage of this, although, today, I can't remember which country or pen pal I was matched up with. We did exchange a few letters, but that was all.


These were the highlights of the fair for Susan and me. We remember them vividly because they made such an impact and impression on us. We loved the fair each time we went and at the age of ten, all the promise of the future certainly seem possible to us then.

If only our nation could make the giant leaps it takes to make some of these future suggestions part of our lives today, the present.

This is all that is left of the 1964/65 World's Fair,  the NY Pavilion (in disrepair)  and Unisphere.
This is all that is left of the 1964/65 World's Fair, the NY Pavilion (in disrepair) and Unisphere. | Source
The memorial under which the time capsules are buried.
The memorial under which the time capsules are buried. | Source

After the fair

The fair grounds were turned into the Flushing Meadow Park and remains a park to this day. All that is left as remembrances to the fair is the Unisphere and the NY Pavilion and observation towers.

The open air pavilion was used for rock concerts following the closing of the fair, but today, along with the towers, it is in disrepair. There is even talk and discussion of tearing these down at this point.

There is a memorial over top of the time capsules that were buried there. So if our civilization makes to to 6939, they can take a nostalgic and probably humorous look at how we lived in the mid-20th century.

Disney's influence on the fair can still be seen in the relocation of several of the exhibits at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. Dinoland has become the Disneyland Railroad Primeval World diorama.

The Carousel of Progress was moved to Disneyland in 1967 and to Magic Kingdom (Florida) in 1973.

Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL has Epcot Center designed as a "permanent" world's fair.

It's a Small World, Disney's most popular exhibit at the world's fair is now at all five Disney Magic Kingdom-style parks and has not lost its popularity.

Will the U.S. ever host a World's Fair again? It is hard to imagine in the world today. 1964/65 was a kinder, optimistic and almost a naïve time in our history.

But, ahh, the memories!

A step back in time . . .

© 2014 Suzette Walker suzettetaos

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Comments 35 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

I remember it well, as well as the one in Seattle earlier. Interesting look back, Suzette.


suzettenaples 2 years ago

Bill: This fair made such an impression on me. I thought there was nothing America could've achieved then. I didn't see the Seattle World's Fair. We were not about to travel across country for that one. But NY was close enough to our back yard to see. Thanks for reading and for your comments.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

I bet that was an experience. When I was 16 I traveled through NY going to Boston and thought that was an adventure! lol So I know you must have so many thoughts and feelings beyond sharing! ^


RachaelOhalloran profile image

RachaelOhalloran 2 years ago from United States

I remember it too. It was wonderful, just wonderful. Every day we went there was always something new to see and we made sure we went back to our favorites over and over again. We were there both seasons and I wish it had never ended.

I was going to write on this sometime last month, you must have caught my thought waves in the universe. I get so sidetracked and off to some other project, I can't remember what I wanted to write on most.

Oh how great this fair was! I have so many pictures and even some old 8 mm film that my hubby always meant to get converted to VHS, I don't know if it is any good anymore. I'd love to see it because some of my relatives who aren't here anymore went with us and are on film as well as in my photos.

This was a great trip down memory lane for me. You did a great job in presenting it. Voted up and shared!! I wish I could share it over and over it is that great a time in history. lol


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

Great look back at an amazing time! It sounded awesome! I used to work for Ford so that would have been interesting! great hub Suzette, nell


bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi Suzette. I was only five years old when my parents took us to the Worlds Fair but oh the memories I have. I wish I were older so that I could remember more. I did not know that Michelangelo's Pieta was there, amazing. Thanks for a look back at an exciting time.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

Wow Suzette, that was just like being there! I can't believe you could remember all that, but I guess it would have been an unforgettable experience. Thank you for sharing in this amazing hub.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Jackie: You are a hoot! Yes, the World's Fair was wonderful, but so is NYC. While we lived in NJ we were able to zip up to NYC many times and I have a whole host of memories: NYC Ballet, the Opera, shopping, the store windows at Christmas, Broadway, I had a great- aunt who lived in NYC and she was a hoot. I do have great memories of that city and one time assisted our high school musical director in taking students to see some Broadway plays. That is one of my best memories. I bet your visit was full of adventure - 16 is a wonderful age to experience NYC. Thanks so much for reading and for your comments. Most appreciated.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Rachael: I am so pleased you enjoyed reading this. I can feel your enthusiasm jumping out at me. It was a wonderful time and a wonderful fair. I hope you get your 8 mm film into a video because it would be so fun to watch all those experiences all over again. It certainly made an impression on us, didn't it?


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Nell: You used to work for Ford? That is so awesome! Their pavilion was so fantastic and being able to get inside a Mustang and pretend I was driving it was a great experience. I think I experienced this World's Fair at the right age - at ten years old, everything is marvelous, and what an educational experience it was too. So much of the fair was interactive and it was so cool to call one another on the phones and see our images on the screen. I just thought our country was wonderful and the best. Then came Viet Nam and the rest of the 60's and I wasn't so sure about how great we were. But, the fair was a moment in time to marvel. Thanks so much for reading Nell and for your comments.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

bdegiulio: You went to the fair too. How wonderful. Yes, the main reason we attended the fair the first time was to see the Pieta. My Italian grandparents went with us, so the first place we went was to the Vatican Pavilion. The Pieta was bathed in blue lights and we stood on a moving track to see the statue. Afterwards, we went back a second time to take another look. I was so impressed with the Pieta. I am so glad you experienced the fair also - it was a great moment in time. Thanks so much for reading and for your comments. Most appreciated.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

John: Thank you so much for your kind comments. Between Susan and I, I put this hub together and with a bit of research. There was much more to the fair, but these exhibits were the standouts and really stuck in our minds. There were 140 exhibits and pavilions in all and I only gave the highlights of what we remembered seeing. This was fun to write because it was a trip down memory lane for me. Thanks so much for your visit - most appreciated.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

What a wonderful hub here and thank you for taking us back in time with you on your wonderful trip to the World's Fair! You have such great memories here you have shared. I would have loved to have gone back then, during that ...as you write, kinder, more optimistic and naïve time indeed.

Up and more, tweeting, pinning and sharing

Blessings always


ocfireflies profile image

ocfireflies 2 years ago from North Carolina

Suzette,

You are such a wonderful and prolific writer. Your hubs are always truly impressive and indicative of an accomplished artist. This hub is no different. Thank you for sharing your amazing experience.

V+/Share

Much Love,

Kim


Vellur profile image

Vellur 2 years ago from Dubai

Great hub, it must have been quite an awesome World Fair! Awesome Pavilions, it must have been a great experience. Thank you for sharing. Voted up.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Faith: I am so pleased you enjoyed reading this. I am fortunate my family lived in NJ and not far from NYC. We were able to take advantage of that and so we visited the World's Fair three or four times. My father was insistent that my sister and I experience as much as possible as we were growing up. He organized our family vacations and we visited other regions of the U.S. And, it worked, we learned a lot and it gave us a love of travel. Thanks for the shares - I appreciate your interest, Faith.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Kim: You are too kind in your comments. I just try to do my best when writing these hubs/essays. I think it is important to write memoirs especially now, looking back to when I was ten years old. The fair at that age and time really made an impact on me, and taught me that anything was possible. It is also the teacher coming out of me. LOL! I am sure you can relate. Kim, your writings, especially your poetry, are of such quality, I wonder why I even bother to write poetry. Your poetry is exquisite. Keep on writing and sharing your memories and thoughts with us. You have a unique way of seeing and feeling the world that I share also, but can't seem to convey it that well in poetry.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Vellur: It was a great experience from a different time in our country's history. I was greatly impacted in a positive way by attending this fair. I would love to see Dubai someday. I am fascinated by that city, but have only read about it or seen it on TV and in movies. Your city is so interesting to me and growing by leaps and bounds. Thanks so much for reading and your lovely comments and for the shares. Most appreciated.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

So interesting. I have never been to a world's fair! So much sense of history in looking back here!


CMCastro profile image

CMCastro 2 years ago from Baltimore,MD USA

I remember going to the New York's World Fair when I was only 4 years old with my parents. What my brothers and I remember the most was the dinosaur display. We came home with dinosaur replicas to play with. I actually have a memory of the futuristic sky way, too. It was actually more exciting for my Dad and Mom instead of us three little ones. Dad has fond memories of it, being his real first trip to New York. He had only been in the U.S. for 10 years from the Philippines. Coincidentally, I attended the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville Tennessee, and at that time, my uncle, Joselito A. Castro came from the Philippines and became the trade commissioner for the Filipino Pavilion there and all of my family got a chance to be his guests at the Fair for free. I remember also going to Disneyworld in Florida 1974 when it had first opened. So your hub brought back a lot of Memories.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

What a fascinating walk through time! I truly enjoyed sharing this experience, and was engrossed in reading about the changes that have taken place since then, and the forerunners in technology and science we see today. Your memory of these events is amazing. Voted up and beyond and sharing.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 2 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

What wonderful memories. Thank you for sharing them with all of us. Oh, what a time it was in the mid 60's. America still had its innocence and held out so much promise. The photos really capture the feel of the times. I'll spend the rest of the afternoon reminiscing - so much has changed. All the votes, sharing etc.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Hi Audrey: Yes, it was fascinating. This is the only world's fair I have been to and it made quite an impression on me. Thanks so much for your comments.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

CMCastro: Yes, as children the dinosaur display did stand out for us, didn't it? Wow, I didn't know there was a World's Fair in Knoxville, TN. That is so interesting that your uncle played such a part in it. I am so glad this brought back pleasant memories for you. Thanks for taking the time to read this and comment. Most appreciated.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Thank you, Genna, for your comments. I had 'help' remembering these exhibits from Susan and I did a little research on my own. I was amazed how much I remembered too, with the reminiscing. This fair made such an impact on me at the time and it is amazing to see how some of the predictions came true.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Mike: That time in the 60's was special before all the cultural and war differences nearly tore us apart. It was such a lovely but naïve time in our history. I love to reminisce about that time too. Thanks so much for your visit and I appreciate your comments.


ologsinquito profile image

ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

That's really something that you got to see this, and it's absolutely amazing that 51 million people visited this exhibit. Voted up and shared.


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

A great experience and sounds an unforgettable one thank you for sharing such a wonderful memory


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

ologsinquito: yes, I was fortunate indeed. It was an amazing experience and I'm glad I got to see it. Thanks so much for your comments.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

I remember how much my sisters wanted to attend this event. They made it sound so exciting. I can see by your post how much they would have enjoyed going. Thanks for the tour.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Dianna: Yes, it was very interesting and a wonderful memory. I think your sisters would have loved it too. Isn't great you were too small to remember? I am dating myself. LOL!


tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California

Beautifully written hub. I was 7 when we went to the Seattle worlds fair and don't remember much.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

tirelesstraveler: I did not make it to the Seattle World's Fair - too far across country, but I can tell you the New York World's Fair was wonderful and exciting. With the help of my cousin's wife I was able to remember much more. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Glad you made it to Seattle.


PurvisBobbi44 profile image

PurvisBobbi44 2 years ago from Florida

Hi,

What a wonderful journey through the NY Fair, and it was especially great to read your hub since I did not attend.

Have a great weekend.

Bobbi Purvis


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Bobbi: I am so glad you enjoyed reading this. This fair left quite an impression with me. Of course, it dates me! LOL! But, it was truly amazing and amazing to remember too. Thanks so much for your comments. Most appreciated.

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