World’s Fair 1964: I fall in love! #AtoZChallenge

Sepia Saturday 569. W is for World’s Fair 1964: I fall in love! Twenty-third of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

A big event in my early teens was the opening of the 1964-1965 World’s Fair in New York City’s borough of Queens — with the optimistic theme “Peace Through Understanding.”

Laid out on 684 acres in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park — with 140 pavilions, 110 restaurants, a lake, fountains and amusements — the fair was an immense experience. And at 14, I got to go twice!

1964/1965 World Fair. Laid out on 684 acres in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park,with 140 pavilions, 110 restaurants, a lake, fountains and amusements, the fair was an immense experience. And I got to go twice! Photo: Wikipedia

First visit: August 1964

Boom, my maternal grandmother, was the first to take me. We went by charter bus (from the Altamont, N.Y., area ) during my summer visit to my grandparents’ farm.

Of course I had high hopes of meeting boys – but mostly I remember being in awe of the fair’s sheer size. There were so many people – so much to do and see in just one day!

Aug. 25, 1964. Goin’ to World’s Fair tomorrow! Hope I meet some guys!

At the New York State Tent of Tomorrow in Oct. 1964. Laid out on 684 acres in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park — with 140 pavilions, 110 restaurants, a lake, fountains and amusements — the fair was an immense experience. And at 14, I got to go twice! Photo by Norm Charboneau

There were celebrities, too. At one point, as we walked between pavilions, my grandmother gabbed my arm. “Look, there’s Gloria Swanson!” she said — and from a distance, we watched an elegantly dressed woman debark from a limousine and enter a pavilion.

Swanson was a silent movie star from my grandmother’s era — who later played Norma Desmond in the 1950 noir classic “Sunset Boulevard” about the rise of talking pictures. What fun to see Boom as awestruck as I was over celebrity sightings!

Return to the fair: Oct. 1964

My second trip was a family affair – my dad taking me and my brothers during a three-day school holiday. (My mom stayed home with my sisters, who were too little to go.)

There was, of course, more flirting.

Oct. 21, 1964. Went to the World’s Fair on Oct. 12! Panic!!! I was flirting with this guy…He worked at the GE Pavilion! Flirted with another guy at the Chrysler Futurama!…[He was] saying to “keep moving”…When I passed him, he said, “Keep moving and keep smiling.” I looked up and he smiled and so did I!…The dear!

Oct. 1964: Thinking of home at the 1965-1965 World’s Fair. From left, my brothers Mark, Jeff and me posing by Endwell on the giant map in the New York State Tent of Tomorrow. Photo by Norm Charboneau

Focus on technology

My techno-Dad took us to different places than Boom took me — like the Chrysler Futurama with its moving panorama of an automated future and, of course, the General Electric Pavilion sponsored by the company where Dad worked. I even hooked up with a new English pen pal!

Oct. 16, 1964. Got an English pen pal out of a computer at the Parker Pen Pavilion at the World’s Fair. Her name is Sue Horton and she lives in Stafford, England. Have to write her tomorrow.

We walked all over — more walking than we ever did at home! And at one point Dad and Jeff rode an overhead ski-lift while Mark and I strolled along underneath — all of us in awe of the monumental fair.

NYC: I fall in love!

Yet the single image that stayed with me — and changed my life — was the breathtaking view of the New York City skyline at the end of my first World’s Fair visit.

New York City skyline at dusk. The single, life-changing image that stayed with me from the 1964-1965 World’s Fair was the breathtaking view of the New York City skyline at the end of my first trip to the fair. Photo: Pixabay

The sun was setting when Boom and I boarded the charter bus. As we headed north, the view of the dazzling urban skyline — with the sun setting behind it and lights twinkling in a million windows — was truly spectacular.

Aug. 26, 1964. Went to N.Y.C.! It’s the most thrilling city! I never imagined how beautiful it was! Now that I’ve seen it, it’ll be hard to go back to little Endwell! Someday, I’m gonna go back loaded & live it up!

And that was it — I was in love! Not with my teen crushes — not with the World’s Fair guys I flirted with — not even with the pop stars I idolized. No, it was New York City that stole my heart.

Ten years later, at 24, I moved there for good. And now I live in Queens, not far from the World’s Fair grounds — where out my window I have a panoramic view of the sparkling New York City skyline that captured my heart all those years ago.

Up next, X-Bedroom: I have to move. Please leave a comment, then join me as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time! Meanwhile, please visit this week’s other Sepia Saturday bloggers.

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25 thoughts on “World’s Fair 1964: I fall in love! #AtoZChallenge”

  1. Among the photos passed down to me from my grandaunt Violetta Davis Ryan are two post cards from the Worlds Fair of 1939. My husband went to the one you went to. Maybe you were there at the same time. Wouldn’t that be something.

  2. A lovely story about the romance of big cities. My mother was taken to NYC for the 1939 World’s Fair. She was nine and other than a souvenir of its iconic Trylon and Perisphere she didn’t remember much, but I suspect its sculpture and artwork played a part in inspiring her to pursue art in college.

    In about 2001, I took my family to Knoxville when my son was about 12, partly to see the remains of the 1982 World’s Fair it hosted. It was just as decayed and creepy as satirized in an episode of The Simpsons. Memorable for all the wrong reasons. My son was not charmed by the big city of Knoxville.

  3. I’m your opposite. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area & worked in the city. But I married a forester & moved to the woods & mountains & have loved every moment. You couldn’t pay me enough to go back to the city. I’ve been to N.Y. City & seen many of the famous sights. Nice, but returning home was so welcome! One thing I remember about N.Y. City was going up in the Empire State Bldg. It was a cold foggy day. While we could hear all the traffic below from the observation deck, we couldn’t see a blessed thing. When we came back to the elevators I noticed a single door beside the regular bank of double elevator doors & asked the elevator fellow – who was dressed as King Kong 🙂 – where it led. He informed me it led to an elevator that went up another 12 floors to the very top. “Could we (I was with a daughter) go up there?” I asked,. He started to say no, but changed his mind. Looking around, he quickly led us to the door & into the elevator & up we went to the very top into a very small round ‘room’. The only thing above us was the spire or whatever it’s called. We still couldn’t see a thing, but now when I look at pictures of the famous bldg. & see that tiny little round place way up there, I know I’ve been there – for all of two minutes. The elevator fellow was a little nervous so didn’t want us to stay long. Still, I was there! Hopefully he didn’t get in trouble for letting us go up there, but I’m so glad he did! 🙂

  4. That’s quite a love story! I’m glad it has turned into a long-lasting relationship.
    My closest travel experience was Expo ’67 in Montreal as a yount teen. It was amazing!

  5. You were lucky to get to go twice to this World Expo. I’ve only been to the one in 2010 in Shanghai. That was fabulous, but I didn’t fall in love. Shanghai is a great city, but it didn’t steal my heart. I liken it to making a friend rather than finding a love.

  6. I had commented last week that I think my husband went to this same world’s fair – he was maybe 5th or 6th grade? This is his memory all of these years later: Yes, we went to the fair at least one day and were walking around and saw a sign for a free movie so went in. The movie was put on by *a religious group* and I still remember seeing people riding up to heaven on an escalator.

  7. I remember the World’s Fair in New York but not as clearly as you because I was seven years old at the time. It was big and it was amazing and that huge globe was magical. It gave me a sense of wanderlust, which I still possess to this very day.

  8. I just sent this link to my husband. I think he went to the World’s Fair in NY that year . . .all the way from Alabama. He is an identical twin and his brother got sick and hubby stayed with his brother in the hotel most of the time 🙁

  9. I recently read Devil in the White City and it was interesting to read about what an undertaking a World’s Fair is to put together. So glad you got to experience one albeit much later than the one in Chicago.

    New York City does have a magic about it. My oldest recently graduate from Pratt Institute so we’ve spent a lot of time down there for the last few years.

  10. Amazing how a place can capture your heart forever. Sounds like it was a better bet than chatting up the guys 😉 we had World Expo 1988 in Brisbane and with whole season passes were able to go frequently. It was a real eye opener and an additional temptation to travel…not that much was needed 😉 Our kids were teens and loved it.

    1. Glad you had a marvelous fair experience as well. The idea seems to have been to bring the world to the public before travel was inexpensive enough for the public to travel the world — and it appears to have succeeded.

  11. You were fortunate to be able to go. I was living in Northern Indiana at the time and about 13 years old. I was keeping up with the fair and wanted to go very much, but we didn’t. The concept of a World’s Fair intrigued me so much. I finally got to go to one in 1982 when it was in Knoxville TN where I had been living. It was wonderful!

    Your account of your experience at the Fair is very nicely done.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

  12. In 1965-66, I worked in Boston, Mass. on an exchange scheme for trainee librarians, and a friend and I went down to New York for a short break. We did all the usual sights, UN tour, Empire State Building, Staten Island Ferry, and the World’s Fair — though I cannot remember much about it apart from the giant globe. New York was an experience I enjoyed, but I doubt if I would ever have wanted to live there. My ancestors emigrated to New York in 1887, settling in Brooklyn and later moving to New Jersey.

    1. New York it’s not for everyone. One of my brothers lived here briefly, but found he preferred upstate New York — while I just loved the city from the moment I arrived.

  13. A beautiful skyline to fall in love with. And what delightful memories. I certainly wish we did a better job of adopting “peace through understanding.”

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