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NEW YORK CITY and the WORLD'S FAIR in 1965

Part Three: After the Fair

We returned home, and life resumed. My fifth grade teacher, Mr. Toohey, managed to keep his rowdy class occupied for a few more days, and then vacation began. We went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for an idyllic week, and it was truly paradise. Endless barefoot days in a sandy camp-ground named Lake Arrowhead which had a great store and even a miniature golf course, and warm ocean water with big waves. Then the sixth grade began, and the next month the Fair closed. Later, I went to consult my scrapbook, but I couldn't find it anywhere! I can only say that it disappeared under mysterious circumstances. It didn't really seem like such a tragic loss, anyway; the World's Fair was over. Somehow the big article from Life Magazine I'd attached to the scrapbook's cover remained, and I still have that. But interest had waned, and I put away these pages with some Futurama pamphlets.

In 1967 we journeyed to Montreal to see Expo '67, the next World's Fair. This one was all over three separate islands in the river, two connected with bridges and the third reached via Montreal's brand-new subway. This subway, or "Metro", had RUBBER tires! Very unlike New York. Expo itself wasn't as gaudy or exuberant as the World's Fair, but it was a more global fair, with a large Soviet Union pavilion. The USA Pavilion was an enormous Buckminster Fuller dome that curled around to form a geodesic sphere. Inside were hanging Peter Max banners, the longest escalator in the world, and many American artifacts, including one of Elvis' guitars. The Australian pavilion had a big orange room with a bunch of those audio chairs fixed in place. When you sat down in one, the speakers would tell you facts about Australia. A great psychedelic pavilion called "Kaleidoscope" showed abstract films in long theaters with parallel mirrored walls ending at the edges of the screens, so that, to the viewers between, the movies reflected out to infinity. But there was no Futurama, and no Unisphere. I didn't make the next Expo, in Osaka in 1970.

Sometimes I missed the World's Fair, and I wished that it was still open. I didn't understand why it had to close - there were so many pavilions I didn't get to see! In 1970 I got a chance to inspect a World's Fair that was made permanent, when we returned to Montreal and visited "Man and His World". (This had been Expo 67's slogan.) It was kind of run down, frankly, and all the good stuff was different or missing. The USA pavilion, now called the Biosphere, was full of plants. Kaleidoscope, still a neat building on the outside (it changes color as you move around it) had some real dismal science exhibits. 'Hippies' congregated in various places. It seemed awfully shabby, unlike Disneyland, which we finally visited the next year.

Disneyland was clean and really classy in places. I was immediately impressed with the similarity to the World's Fair, if you ignored Mickey Mouse. Sometimes it was duplicated exactly: "It's a Small World" was there, stripped of its Pepsi insignia, but I avoided it. Over in Tomorrowland we discovered General Electric's "Carousel of Progress", which was wonderful to see again. When I visited the new Disney World four years later, in Florida, the Carousel there had been updated, so the robots' show was more contemporary. Unfortunately, they changed their song to something less memorable. This visit also finally found me riding through "It's a Small World" on the little boats, an experience which, curiously, I found to be charming, (although perhaps a bit maudlin).

The World's Fair seems to have been a temporary phenomenon, and has perhaps become an obsolete form of exhibition, with the Magic Kingdom and all its Theme Park brothers absorbing a few of the better attributes. Rather than ushering in a bold, new era, I now understand that the World's Fair heralded the end of the 'futuristic' epoch which began a few years after the war. The area occupied by the New York World's Fairs is now a public park. Green swards of lawn cover the spaces where once stood the pavilions. The paved avenues remain, radiating from the Unisphere, perched in its drained fountain. The two Time Capsules wait beneath their graffiti-stained concrete marker, not to be unearthed until the year 6939 AD. Shea Stadium, across the tracks, is the far more common destination of those coming out of the subway station. Usually the Fairgrounds are kind of deserted. Only the Rocket Thrower stands eternal vigil, hurling his spacecraft into the sky.

© 1987
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