19 March 2007

A Little More on the 1964 World's Fair

In a recent post ("recent" being a somewhat relative term here), I reported on a trip Kate and I took to the Queens Museum of Art to see one-third of the new Robert Moses exhibit, after which we looked at a few of the structures left over from the 1964-65 World's Fair. Interestingly enough, my dad, John, had begun systematically digitizing old family slides going back to the early 1960s, and was easily able to locate some images from a 1964 excursion he'd taken to the fair with my mother and her parents. Some of his photos (especially those taken from atop the observation towers) offer a terrific view of the fairgrounds, so I thought I'd post a few of the pictures here in case anyone's interested. (Just to reiterate, though: these photos were taken by my dad, not me. I wouldn't even come onto the scene for another year and a half.) Anyway, the fair itself sure seemed like a weird enough place -- part amusement park, part corporate showroom, and part post-imperial sideshow.

1964 world's fair 2
Here's the Jordan pavillion in the "International Area." I'm not quite sure why it's shaped that way or what, if anything, it has to do with the nation of Jordan, but visitors could sample middle-eastern food and take in performances by "Arab dancers" and "military pipers." I'm assuming the picture was taken from the Sky Ride.

1964 world's fair 1
Here's a view to the northwest, taken from the observation towers. That's the unisphere in the back, of course, while the circular structures to the left are part of the Africa Pavillion, described in the official guidebook as "a hut-village on stilts" that featured "wild animals, tribal dancers, and a tree-hut restaurant." Uh huh. And to the right is the Greece Pavillion, in which a "sound-and-light show dramatizes Greek contributions to Western thought." Whoa. What would Socrates do?

1964 world's fair 3
This is a view to the east, looking out over part of the "Industrial Area." The circular body of water at the back is the "Pool of Industry," which housed the "Fountain of the Planets." This was the site of a nightly water-jet-and-colored-light show, which apparently featured fireworks and music including "The Ride of the Valkyries," "Ol' Man River," and the University of Wisconsin fight song. No, really! The white building beyond is the Bell System pavillion, and the structure to the right with the arching canopy is the pavillion where visitors could watch "To Be Alive," an 18-minute film presentation dedicated to the "joys shared by all living people." The pavillion's sponsor? Johnson Wax. Of course!

this explains a lot... (1967)Finally, since we're on the photo-fueled nostalgia kick, here's a picture of me and my dad from late 1967. In retrospect, this could actually explain a lot.

Oh, and the picture at the top is of the Astral Fountain, a little south of the unisphere.


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