Simanaitis Says

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1964 WORLD’S FAIR

IT’S SAID you never forget your first kiss, your first love, your first…. But what about your first taco?

Taco

Wife Dottie almost rolled on the floor in laughter today when I told her about my first taco. She is, after all, a valley girl, born and bred in California’s Imperial Valley where she claims her first taco probably came off a street vender in nearby Mexicali when she was a toddler.

By contrast, Cleveland, Ohio, is a long way from Mexicali, in more ways than one. And, in fact, my first taco wasn’t in Cleveland, it was in Flushing Meadows, New York, at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

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Tomorrow-Land: The 1964-65 World’s Fair and the Transformation of America, by Joseph Tirella, Lyons Press, 2014. It’s listed at both www.abebooks.com and www.amazon.com.

Joseph Tirella’s book Tomorrow-Land doesn’t mention those tacos, but it offers a lot of other details of the World’s Fair taking place in New York City a half-century ago. Notes Tirella, for two years it was “a cultural nexus at the center of American politics, pop culture, technology, urban planning, and civil rights.”

Yes, and that first taco of mine too. This was at the New Mexico Pavilion, one of 25 U.S. states and regions with their own exhibits.

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A model of the New Mexico Pavilion.

According to the 1965 Official New York World’s Fair Guide, New Mexico’s “pueblo of five buildings recreates the adobe construction, the spicy food and the Indian handicrafts of the state.” I suspect “spicy foods” got my attention.

For this Cleveland kid going to college in New England, it was exotic fare on a crisp U-shaped tortilla. Nothing like the soft-wrapped delights that I now enjoy as a southern Californian, but it was memorable.

Talk about memorable. That same day, I saw Michelangelo’s Pietà. This 15th century sculpture, usually residing in St. Peter’s in Rome, was painstakingly crated up and brought to the Vatican Pavilion at the fair.

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La Pietà, created by Michelangelo in 1498 – 1499, as seen at the fair.

Moving walkways at different heights and speeds permitted millions to view the sculpture in an artfully composed setting.

Talk about extremes. There was also the Uniroyal Tire Ferris Wheel, relocated after the fair and still seen along Interstate 94 on the way to Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

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The world’s largest rubber tire, as a Ferris wheel at the fair and along I-94 today. The latter image from www.workingtravelingmom.com.

Wife Dottie reminds me that her late brother Willard played a role in the NY Fair. He worked for Pacific Bell at the time as a specialist in communication hardware. The Bell System’s Floating Wing Pavilion included a Picturephone demonstration, sort of a Skype precursor, and Willard was sent east in its setup.

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Bell System’s Picturephone offered a “see-as-you-talk” link with Disneyland in California. Imagine!

There’s a good family tale in this: A neighbor from the East gave him a vintage overcoat for the trip. In fact, the coat was a particularly fine Chesterfield dating from the 1930s, and it’s said Willard—who resembled Clark Gable in his youth—was one of the best dressed people working the fair.

Another neat feature of the Bell Pavilion was a “Quiet Room” corridor through which visitors passed. Within, you could hear the sound of your clothes stretching as you inhaled.

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Disney’s “It’s a Small World” made its debut at the fair.

It’s said actress Joan Crawford, a Disney friend, persuaded Walt to get his Imagineers involved with fair presentations. One result was “Pepsi Presents Walt Disney’s ‘It’s a Small World,’ a Tribute to UNICEF and the World’s Children.” Quite a moniker, but indeed it was the debut of this attraction that’s now a part of five Disney parks around the world.

Disney’s Imagineers also brought animatronics to the fair, in the Illinois Pavilion’s Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. The animatronic Abe later worked Disneyland’s Main Street.

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The Unisphere, as seen at the 1964 fair and as it is today. The latter image by Zander Z.

The Wikipedia entry “1964 New York World’s Fair” gives an extensive listing of pavilions and major exhibits reused around the world. In this sense, 1964 New York was the best kind of world’s fair. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2014

One comment on “1964 WORLD’S FAIR

  1. MYRNA DILLON
    April 29, 2014

    Dennis, Griff and I are remiss in telling you, but we so enjoy your posts. Keep ’em coming!

    Myrna

    ________________________________

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