Tuesday, April 22, 2014

New York World's Fair 1964-65

One of the great events in the memories of baby boomers and their parents living in the metro New York area, the New York World's Fair opened to the public on April 22, 1964. 
The Unisphere
 The Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library is proud to share some of the photos in our collection, taken the late Max Hubacher, a local resident, during his many visits to the Fair.

The Unisphere, the most recognizable symbol of the Fair, was presented to the Fair by U.S. Steel in 1964.  Standing 140 feet tall, it was the World's Fair's most popular meeting place and is the centerpiece of the modern Flushing Meadow Corona Park in Queens.

 For an adult admission of $2.00 ($2.50 in the 1965 season), and a children's admission of $1.00, visitors could spend the entire day in the world of the future.  In 1964 color TV was in its infancy, computers were limited to large businesses, where they occupied entire rooms with less computing power than an average laptop.  The Fair gave visitors a glimpse of a future that was right around the corner, a world united by technology and trade -- and a universal love of strawberry-topped Belgian waffles!
 New York mayor Robert F. Wagner and a team led by master builder Robert Moses, chose Flushing Meadows Park, the site of the 1939 World's Fair, as the location for the exposition.  Many years before the Fairs, this reclaimed garbage dump had been referred to as "the city of ashes" in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (1925).  It was transformed into a pristine and usable public space, close to  transportation hubs and New York City's many attractions.  
The New York State Pavilion
At the height of the Cold War,  the theme "Peace Through Understanding" resonated with the public as America took on the challenges of the nuclear arms race, the Vietnam War and the future of space exploration.  Thirty-six foreign nations and twenty-one states sponsored pavilions  -- among the most celebrated were the the Vatican Pavilion, where Michelangelo's Pieta was displayed, the New York State Pavilion (above) with its rotating towers, and the Swiss Sky Ride (below).   

In the part of the fairgrounds closest to the Van Wyck Expressway, more than 45 pavilions  surrounded a pool around which was held a nightly fireworks show. With pavilions from Ford, DuPont and  General Electric Pavilion’s Progressland, the Industrial area was a showcase for corporate America. The Kodak Pavilion’s roof was designed like the surface of the moon, and Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen’s egg-shaped IBM Pavilion, where visitors sitting on grandstands were lifted swiftly into a theater. At the Bell System exhibit, visitors previewed touch-tone phone technology that was soon to replace the rotary dial.

Lake Amusement Area
Walt Disney Studios introduced "audio-animatronics," their new robotics technology, in the form of the Illinois Pavilion's Abraham Lincoln, the General Electric "Carousel of Progress," which showed the progress of the American family  through the technology of the Twentieth Century and the Pepsi-Cola Pavilion’s Unicef-Disney production of “It’s a Small World,” featuring animatronic dolls in their national costumes and a theme song, sung in several languages, destined to be lodged in the memories of all who attended.

The United States Pavilion
While it never became a financial success, over 51 million people visited the Fair over its two seasons.  And for this visitor, who first saw the spectacle as a wide-eyed twelve-year-old, the memories of the exhibits, the rides, the pageantry and the belief that all things might be possible are recollections almost as sweet as those waffles!

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