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Disneyland Article
50 Year Old Memories Of Worlds Fair

Author:Jim Carnett
Dateline:November 11, 2014
Posted:March 3, 2015
It's A Small World
It's A Small World
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It was half a century ago.

This native son of Newport-Mesa was on the East Coast visiting the 1964 New York World's Fair.

That fair turned out to be one of the highlights of my young life. I was 19 and stationed with the U.S. Army at Fort Slocum, N.Y., north of New York City. The fair was spread over 650 acres of Flushing Meadows territory, in Queens.

The fair ran for two six-month seasons, from April through October of 1964 and again in 1965. The theme for the extravaganza was "Peace Through Understanding." The exposition was dedicated to "Man's Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe."

The fair was a showcase for mid-20th-century American culture and technology and drew a whopping 52 million visitors.

At the entrance to the grounds was the fair's iconic Unisphere, with its impressive fountains and reflecting pool. A tribute to the Space Age, the Unisphere still stands in Flushing Meadows, foreshadowing by 18 years Walt Disney's Spaceship Earth at Epcot in Florida.

Disney, by the way, fashioned Epcot after the New York exhibition. It was intended to be a "permanent World's Fair."

I attended the fair in June of 1964. Admission was a mere $2 for adults.

We GIs at Fort Slocum were given free passes to the fair. We'd take an Army launch on Saturday mornings from the island to Flushing Meadows. The trip took an hour.

After departing the Fort Slocum dock, we headed into Long Island Sound. We cruised past historic Fort Totten in Queens, under the Throggs Neck Bridge, around College Point and into Flushing Bay. The skipper would drop us off at a dock next to gleaming new Shea Stadium, which had opened earlier that spring.

An outfield gate was left ajar during my visit, and I surreptitiously entered and walked the field. It strongly resembled Dodger Stadium, which opened two years earlier.

My favorite exhibit at the fair was a huge scale model of New York City, on display in the New York City Pavilion. The 9,335-square-foot architectural model included every building in NYC in 1964 - nearly 900,000 of them.

A team of 100 people working for architectural model maker Raymond Lester Associates began preparing the panorama three years before the fair opened.

The panorama featured a nine-minute simulated helicopter flight over the city. Fourteen hundred people rode the ride daily. I remember being mesmerized.

The helicopter "flew" you completely around the city at dusk. I watched the tiny cars moving across bridges, and on city streets and expressways. You could see airliners taking off from JFK. It was magnificent.

I recently discovered that the panorama still exists and is on permanent display at Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows. It's been updated to reflect changes in New York's skyline.

The Vatican Pavilion at the World's Fair displayed Michelangelo's Pieta. I managed to see it a second time 30 years later in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

I also remember a medieval Belgian village that served Belgian waffles. It was my introduction to the culinary treat. The waffles - piled high with strawberries and whipped cream - were delicious. I subsequently, for many years, faithfully frequented the wonderful Belgian Waffle Restaurant at South Coast Village.

As an Orange County native - familiar with all things Disney - I saw some interesting items at the World's Fair. It was at the fair that Disney unveiled "It's a Small World." I enjoyed the attraction but had no idea that I'd experience it countless times in the future with my children and grandchildren at Disneyland.

I also first saw "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" at the fair's Illinois Pavilion. I would see that again over the years at Disneyland. Dinosaurs from Ford Motor Co.'s Magic Skyway moved west after the fair closed to become Disneyland's Primeval World diorama.

The 1964 New York World's Fair left me with an abundance of unforgettable memories.

Attractions Referenced

Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln
It's A Small World
Primeval World Diorama
Restaurants Referenced

Parades Referenced

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