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articles on '64-'65 World's Fair in Queens in NY Daily News

Fri Apr 18, 2014 12:09 am

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'A Beacon of Light'

Fifty years ago, the world came to Queens. It came in a kaleidoscope of brilliant colors, fountains of dancing water and mouth-watering Belgian waffles.

The 1964-65 World’s Fair opened April 22, 1964 and brought excitement to a city and a nation still grieving for an assassinated president.

The social upheaval of the 1960s was waiting around the corner. But for two summers, visitors indulged in the optimistic flavor of the fair, which embraced the space age and the advent of technology that would forever change American culture.

“When the fair opened, people needed something,” said Joseph Tirella, author of “Tomorrow-Land: The 1964-65 World’s Fair and the Transformation of America.”

“The fair was a beacon of light at a very dark time.”

The fair theme was “Peace Through Understanding.”

President Kennedy, a booster of the fair, had been assassinated just five months earlier to the day. The murder of a young woman named Kitty Genovese in Queens just a few weeks before shocked a nation when reports surfaced that neighbors failed to answer her calls for help.

The theme of the fair was “Peace Through Understanding” and it was dedicated to “Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe.”

The fitting centerpiece was the 140-foot high, 700,000-pound, stainless steel Unisphere. The most recognizable symbol of the fair, the Unisphere has become the icon of Queens. Hundreds of unique pavilions radiated from the Unisphere, representing foreign lands, technology, transportation and government.

The 140-foot high Unisphere.

At night, spectacular light shows and fireworks sprung from The Fountains of the Planets and the Tower of Light.

“You couldn’t believe it,” said Carol Green, 71, who worked at the fair for Con Edison. “It was almost like a dream world.”

A Glimpse of Utopia

The idea for the fair came from an idealistic real estate lawyer named Robert Kopple, who had attended the 1939-40 World’s Fair at the same site.

The fair's opening day rush.

But it wasn’t long before New York City’s master builder Robert Moses grabbed the reins and pulled together the resources needed to plan the fair.

Moses, the force behind much of the city’s highways, parks and bridges, locked horns with the Bureau of International Expositions.

The BIE refused to back the plan, in part, because its rules stated that a country could only host a World’s Fair once a decade. Seattle was the site of the smaller 1962 fair.

Robert Moses (l)

Another rule forbid the fair from charging rent for the pavilions. Moses, angry but undaunted, pressed on. When the BIE barred its members from the Fair, Moses and organizers went to tourism organizations — bypassing governments — and managed to get Japan, Austria, Greece, Spain, Ireland and other nations to participate. The larger countries chose to sit it out.

But for the second time, the former ash dump in Queens — the “valley of the ashes” described in “The Great Gatsby” — would be transformed into the grounds of a World’s Fair.

Construction of the 1964-65 World’s Fair also gave Moses the opportunity to tackle one of his most ambitious and incomplete projects. He wanted to transform Flushing-Meadows Corona Park into the city’s flagship park — to eclipse the work of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in the more popular Central Park.

“He envisioned this beautiful park for New Yorkers created in the geographic center of New York City,” said John Krawchuk, the director of historic preservation for the city Parks Department. “This was the population center that was growing and it was the gateway to Long Island. He saw potential.”

“It was almost like a dream world.

”No detail was too small. Even the benches featured a curved design that echoed the space-age theme of many structures, he said.

“When you sit on them, you almost feel like you are going to take off,” Krawchuk said. It was estimated $1 billion was spent to build the fair, including extensive roadway and infrastructure improvements for miles around.

Pop art provocateur Andy Warhol made headlines before the fair even opened with his mural “13 Most Wanted Men” plastered outside the Theaterama. Considered too shocking for the family-oriented crowds, the wanted criminals were covered with silver paint.

The fair was a dazzling spectacle — especially to the millions of youngsters who attended.

“It was big open spaces with wild, fanciful buildings,” said Bill Cotter, who has written three books about the fair. “I grew up in Flatbush. There certainly wasn’t anything like the fair in my neighborhood.”

Unique pavilions surrounded the Unisphere.

Cotter, who was 12 when the fair opened, scrounged up bottle deposit money and even cashed in a coin collection to help pay for the $1 child admission so that he could attend numerous times.

The influence of Walt Disney was felt throughout the fair, highlighted by one of his most popular creations — “It’s a Small World.” The exhibit featured state-of-the-art animatronic dolls dressed as children from around the world singing the song.

The Disney influence.

The New York State Pavilion, designed by renowned architect Philip Johnson, provided sweeping views of the fair and its surroundings from observation towers.

“I remember being at the Pavilion on the observation deck and our skirts blew up,” said Winnie Scuteri, who was five years old when she went to the fair. “We were stuck on the Small World exhibit for a while when it broke.”

Scuteri and her siblings had a unique view of the fair thanks to their father, Donald Phelan, who was a photographer with UPI.

“He took us into the fair before it opened,” recalled Scuteri, who uses her fair experience as a volunteer tour guide with Big Apple Greeters. “We might have been the first children to run around at the fair.”

And there was plenty to see.

Model rockets featured in NASA’s exhibit promised a trip to the moon was just years away.

Visitors to the futuristic IBM Pavilion sat on a moveable grandstand that carried them up to a theater.

IBM's moveable grandstand.

Kids at the IBM Pavilion get a lift out of moving platform which carries them up into theater.

Ford showed off its radical new Mustang. And utility companies touted how atomic energy would provide cheap, limitless electric power.

If atomic energy was going to light our future, then plastics would make it much easier, according to manufacturers. The DuPont pavilion showcased the “Wonderful World of Chemistry” with a musical number from “The Happy Plastic Family.”

While these dated concepts may now induce eyerolls, they were embraced at the fair.

“When you walked into Flushing Meadows, it was really utopian,” said Cotter. “Everything was projecting a wonderful future. Dishwashers were going to take care of themselves. Everything was going to be perfect — but it didn’t work out that way.”

The Mustang's big debut.

Despite high hopes, the fair was also less than perfect.

Organizers had banked on the idea that 70 million people would visit the fair, but the closing tally was closer to 51 million.

People who paid the $2 adult admission fee ($2.50 in 1965) bypassed paid attractions for the free ones. Moses and organizers didn’t want the “honky-tonk” atmosphere of a midway but critics said it was one of the things sorely lacking at the fair. And some of the pavilions, built as temporary structures, didn’t fare well during the New York City winter and started to look a little shabby.

City Comptroller (and future Mayor) Abe Beame was one of many who questioned the finances of the fair.

But the final season still generated excitement as the Beatles landed at the fair’s Port Authority Heliport for their August 15 concert at Shea Stadium. Pope Paul VI stood in the Vatican Pavilion and blessed the crowd.

Oct. 17, 1965 — the last day of the fair — drew more than 446,000 visitors.

“I walked through the fairgrounds to the train and tears were streaming down my face,” said Carol Green. “I knew this time tomorrow night this place would be in darkness.”

Return 'to the Natives'

The New York City Pavilion

Demolition of the pavilions took more than a year, but some remained as permanent sites, such as the New York Hall of Science. The New York City Pavilion, first constructed for the 1939 World’s Fair, eventually became the Queens Museum. And the Theaterama was transformed into the Queens Theater.

The city officially took the park back in June 1967.

“Guard it well, Mr. Mayor and Mr. Parks Commissioner,” Moses famously told Mayor John Lindsay and Parks Commissioner August Heckscher. “It has echoed to the sounds of many footsteps and voices. The world has beaten a path to its doors. Now we return it to the natives.”

If the park fell short of what Moses had wanted, it still gave Queens a vast greenspace of manicured lawns, dotted with sculptures left from the fair and amenities like a pitch-and-putt golf course. An 18-acre zoo, now known as the Queens Zoo, would open in the park the next year.

From fair grounds to public park.

The fair was now history and no one guarded it, and the park, more fiercely than a young Flushing man named David Oats.

A 12-year-old Oats had snuck into the fair several times when it was being built.

After being nabbed by a security guard, he met Moses and the two struck up an unlikely friendship. Moses even made him the junior representative of the World’s Fair Corporation. It was a mission that Oats took seriously as he went into community journalism, working at the Queens Tribune and later at the Queens Courier. He often used those positions to lobby for the New York State Pavilion and other fair structures he felt the city was ignoring. His efforts helped transform the city’s pavilion into the Queens Museum.

Oats passed away in 2008 from an illness.

“His passion had no limit, his fights to do the right thing for the park were endless,” said his wife, Corinne Oats. “Robert Moses left David with a powerful mission: to create a citizen organization to be the watchdog for the park and the preservation of its elements.”

David Oats

Greg Godfrey (left- President) and David Oats (Chairman), of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park World's Fair Association.

In more recent years, dedicated fair enthusiasts have tried to keep its spirit alive through conventions, social media and even cleanups at the park.

The 50th anniversary of the fair has brought a resurgence of interest in the fair’s relics, especially the massive New York State Pavilion. The once grand architectural wonder is a rusted modern ruin. The famous 567-panel terrazzo map on its floor has fallen victim to vandals and the elements.

Fair relics now part of park's future.

Matthew Silva, a teacher from Long Island, is making a documentary about the building. He also helped create People for the New York State Pavilion, which is trying to build support for the neglected treasure.

A recent engineering study commissioned by the Parks Department said it would cost about $52 million to restore — but only $14 million to demolish.

“What if people tore down the High Line?” Cotter asked. “Some people thought it was a rotting eyesore. Now it’s a beautiful park. Once something is gone, you lose your options.” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has pledged to make sure the pavilion is not torn down.

For the first time in decades, the pavilion will open to the public on April 22 to help celebrate the 50th anniversary. The city has pumped millions of dollars into the park in recent years and is trying to figure out how to incorporate the fair relics with future plans for the park, Krawchuk said.

“This is a public park actively used and not frozen in time,” he said. “We want to retain those elements so New Yorkers can experience them in a meaningful way.”

Fifty years later, the fair still echoes loudly through the park for visitors who seek out its footprint and those who still carry vivid memories.

“The Tower of Light,” said Carol Green, “still glows in my memory.”

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Katz: World's Fair anniversary celebrations will bring back fond memories of historical Queens events

To commemorate the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs, the World's Fair Anniversary Committee has planned a six-month series of spectacular events to remember the great times.

BY Melinda Katz / SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS / Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 8:36 PM / Updated: Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 8:36 PM

Christie M Farriella/for New York Daily News

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz was part of the committee planning events to mark the anniversaries of the World's Fairs at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

This is a very exciting year for those of us who call Queens home. This year we are celebrating the anniversaries of two major events in our borough’s history.

Fifty years ago, on April 22, 1964, Queens welcomed the world to its doorstep when the World’s Fair first opened its gates on the grounds of what is now Flushing Meadows Corona Park. And 75 years ago, another World’s Fair held its grand opening at that same location on April 30, 1939.

Both of those World’s Fairs were seminal events that had wide impacts locally, nationally and internationally.

The 1939 fair was focused on the future. Its slogan was “Dawn of a New Day” and was aimed at letting visitors take a look at “The World of Tomorrow” by allowing them to explore groundbreaking architecture and amazing new devices such as the electric typewriter, the electric calculator and something called television.

The theme of the 1964 fair was “Peace Through Understanding,” a vision that is as appropriate today as it was 50 years ago. That theme is aptly symbolized by the Unisphere, the giant, stainless steel globe that still stands in Flushing Meadows Corona Park and has become known worldwide as an icon of Queens.

Both the 1939 and 1964 fairs left favorable impressions on their attendees. And in the case of the more recent 1964 fair, thousands of people from around the world still have fond memories of the great times they had visiting that event’s many exciting attractions.

Christie M Farriella/for New York Daily News

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz (second from left) gives a tour of the aging New York State World's Fair Pavilion in Flushing Meadows Corona Park with Assemblywoman Marge Markey (from left), Assemblyman Micheal Simanowitz and Councilman Rory Lancman.

That’s why we need to make sure the legacies of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs never fade away.

In that spirit, the World’s Fair Anniversary Committee, co-chaired by myself and by Assemblywoman Margaret Markey and made up of public officials, community leaders and representatives of our borough’s outstanding cultural institutions, has been hard at work organizing and coordinating a six-month series of spectacular events celebrating the anniversaries of the 1939 and 1964 fairs.

These events (some of which are listed in this Daily News pullout) will help keep the spirit of ’39 and ’64 alive among younger people who did not have a chance to attend the fairs. They will also help achieve my goal to rebrand Queens as a tourist destination with world-class cultural institutions and other attractions that people from around the city, nation and world should explore.

The centerpiece of the anniversary events will be the city Parks Department’s World’s Fair Anniversary Festival in Flushing Meadows Corona Park on Sunday, May 18. Also, on April 22, there will be an anniversary opening ceremony at 10:45 a.m. at the New York State Pavilion, followed by public tours of the pavilion between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Melinda Katz is the Queens borough president.

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18-year-old college student waited days to be first visitor of the World's Fair

Bill Turchyn and his pals were students at St. Peter's College in New Jersey in 1964 when they took a spontaneous road trip that brought them to the World's Fair, where they waited outside for three days and two nights to be the first visitors to walk through the turnstiles.

BY Lisa L. Colangelo , Seth Bookey / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS / Published: Thursday, April 17, 2014, 12:08 AM / Updated: Thursday, April 17, 2014, 12:08 AM

An 18-year-old Bill Turchyn shakes hands with World’s Fair official Thomas Deegan as the teen is recognized for being the first visitor in 1964.

It was a spontaneous college road trip that put Bill Turchyn, an 18-year-old student at St. Peter’s College in New Jersey, in the headlines and the history books.

Turchyn was the first visitor to walk through the turnstiles of the World’s Fair on April 22, 1964.

“It was a very big deal for New York,” said Turchyn, now a partner at Mariner Investment Group. “This was the equivalent of the Olympics.”

Bill Turchyn now lives in Manhattan and is a partner at Mariner Investment Group.

Turchyn, now of Manhattan, and his college pals waited at the turnstiles for three days and two nights, huddled in sleeping bags. A canopy shielded them from the rain but not the chilly air.

“So many of our professors were talking about computers being a big thing and we really needed to learn about them,” said Turchyn. “We knew there were supposed to be a lot of cool, forward-looking things at the fair.”

Television crews and newspapers covered the teens’ quest to get into the fair. But once opening day came, they were too tired to spend much time there.

“We didn’t stay long — but we did go back,” he said. “Somewhere I still have part of the ribbon they cut to open the fair. It was pretty exciting.”

For info on upcoming events for the 50th anniversary of the '64-'65 World's Fair & 75th anniversary of the '39-'40 World's Fair,
go on http://www.itsinqueens.com/WorldsFair/march-may/

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World's Fair brought us Disney's Small World, color TV, the Mustang and the Picturephone

Among the exhibits at the 1964 World's Fair were things that prevail today, like color TV, the Ford Mustang and Disney's Small World ride.

BY Eli Rosenberg , Melissa Chan / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS / Thursday, April 17, 2014, 2:34 AMA.

Phil Greitzer/New York Daily News

United Nations Secretary General U. Thant (right) is joined by C. V. Narisiman (left), UN Undersecretary of General Affairs, and Musa, 8-year-old Nigerian boy, for a ride on Disney's Small World.

Small World

Walt Disney's well-known whimsical boat first sailed around Queens before becoming a world-famous Magic Kingdom attraction.

The popular “it’s a small world” exhibit saluted children around the world with a musical boat-ride that featured audio-animatronic dolls, decked out in different garbs. More than 100 countries were represented.

The happy figurines danced to and sang the now-famous tune written by Disney legends Richard and Robert Sherman.

Visitors took a voyage past miniature world icons like the Eiffel Tower in France and the Taj Mahal in India.

The cultural cruise was presented by Pepsi-Cola and UNICEF, the United Nations agency for childrens welfare.

Today, versions of the ride exist in all five Disney Magic Kingdom-style parks around the globe.

The 1965 Ford Mustang fastback unveiled in front of the Ford Pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair in New York.

The Mustang

The Ford Motor Company had their finger on the pulse of the nation when it chose the World’s Fair as the grand stage to unveil its newest model, called the Mustang, on April 17, 1964.

There was a new car-hungry demographic on the rise, as the generation of babies born after World War II came of age, and Ford’s executives could see the untapped potential.

Retailing for $2,368, the Mustang was created specifically to appeal to these youngsters, “designed to be designed by you” as one of the company’s slogans put it.

It was highly customizable, a break from what was typical in the automobile market at the time. Buyers could choose between automatic or manual transmission, 17 exterior colors, carpeting and interior options, and of course, a radio — this was 1964 after all, and the Beatles had just broken onto the scene.

Ford’s gamble was a huge success: within several months, the car broke its first-year retail goal, on its way to becoming one of the most iconic American automobiles ever made.

A dispute still exists over the origin of its name, chosen by Ford executive Lee Iacocca. “You can ask several people and they will give you several different answers,” said Melanie Banker, Ford’s Mustang brand manager. “The two answers are it came from iconic P51 aircraft. Or it came from the pony.”

Thomas DiBlasi said he was dazzled when his father’s dealership was selected to deliver the concept Ford Mustang to the pavilion at the fair. For awhile, it even sat in his driveway and the 12-year-old DiBlasi would marvel at its style.

“We would drive and people would just stare at it,” he said. “It was so exotic looking. Everything else was like a big box driving down the road.” Eli Rosenberg

Bill Cotter/Bill Cotter

The debut of the color television was a big hit — and the lines at the World's Fair were long.

Bill Cotter/Bill Cotter People could see their own images broadcast in color within RCA exhibit at World's Fair.

RCA Color TV

Visitors to the World’s Fair saw their favorite television stars — and themselves — on screen in color for the first time.

The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) pavilion had several exhibits and a TV studio that served as the fair’s official Color Television Communications Center.

Near the main entrance, fairgoers could walk by a camera and see themselves in color on monitor sets. They also watched interviews of celebrity visitors broadcast on more than 200 sets scattered around the fairgrounds.

“We feel that both the RCA exhibit and the Fair-wide color network are attuned to the spirit of the Fair itself in their blending of entertainment, culture and information through the latest and most comprehensive means of communications,” RCA President Dr. Elmer W. Engstrom said in 1963. “The Fair itself is, in essence, a great venture in communications that is designed to convey to millions the substance and excitement of life in the 1960s.”

RCA famously debuted the original black and white television at the 1939 Fair.

People see themselves on color TV for first time

Bill Cotter/Bill Cotter
Picturephones were a hit at the World's Fair but they proved too costly to catch on in the real world.

Picturephone

When they showed off their cutting-edge invention to awed audiences at the World’s Fair in 1964, the creators of the Picturephone had the future both completely wrong and completely right.

Designers from the Bell System were mistaken that the unveiling of the gadget, which transmitted a picture image along with a phone call to a small monitor, allowing two callers to see and chat with each other, would instantaneously revolutionize communication, the way the first telephone call had nearly a century before.

Though three public call centers were set up in Chicago, Washington D.C., and Grand Central Station in New York City, the phone systems never took off. At around $27 for a three-minute call between Chicago and New York (about $200 in today’s dollars), they were far too expensive for practical use.

“The equipment was too bulky, the controls too unfriendly, and the picture too small,” explains AT&T’s website.

But fast forward to today, where video chatting is easy, accessible, and increasingly affordable, and it’s clear the designers of the gadget were true visionaries, only just a few decades ahead of their time.

Gallagher, Tom

The Futurama pavilion created by General Motors showed glimpse into possible things to come, including underwater hotels (above) and a trip through space.

Futurama

General Motors spared no expense for its Futurama exhibit at the fair, building the entire 230,000-square-foot installation in Detroit with the help of Hollywood set designers and carting it to Queens on the beds of a 50-truck fleet.

The main attraction was the “ride into tomorrow” — the most popular attraction at the fair — where visitors on moving lounge chairs were taken through an immersive artificial world that included scenes of futuristic life in Antarctica, the jungle, outer space, the depths of the ocean, a “journey for everyone today, into the everywhere of tomorrow,” according to a promotional video made of the ride.

The company promised technology would allow humankind to conquer the previously unconquerable. It was a show of force for GM as a leading American innovator, one that had helped design the first heart-lung machine, early lunar rovers, and technology that helped power NASA’s Apollo missions.

“If you look back, it’s impressive today,” said Greg Wallace, the general manager of GM’s Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, Mich., which houses some artifacts from the Futurama. “It really gave people a chance to dream about what the future might be.”

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Hirshon: World’s Fair champion David Oats fought to maintain New York State Pavilion

David Oats never let up in his battle to see the Flushing Meadows Corona Park structure preserved, likening it to 'the Acropolis or the Valley of the Dead' as he lay on his death bed.

BY Nicholas Hirshon / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS / Thursday, April 17, 2014, 9:58 AMA.

No Credit

David Oats' (left) encounter with city planner Robert Moses (right) sparked a lifelong fascination with the New York State Pavilion.

David Oats, propped up on a hospital bed, listened to his wife’s phone call with a reporter in 2008.

The Daily News was writing a story on the New York State Pavilion, a decaying relic from the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. Oats, a feisty advocate for world’s fair history, was in no shape to speak.

Instead, he had his wife, Corinne, read a statement he had written, bashing the city for neglecting the iconic structure in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

This didn’t last long.

Within seconds, Oats had commandeered the phone. His voice sounded muffled, like a man struggling to speak through medical tubes lodged in his throat. But then he blasted the city with his classic spunkiness.

“They are mummifying it like it was the Acropolis or the Valley of the Dead in Egypt,” Oats said, subtly and cleverly putting the pavilion on par with perhaps the most historic sites on Earth.

When I took that call, I thought that David was in the hospital for a routine procedure. That’s what he had told me. But a few days later, I got an unexpected call from Greg Godfrey, the vice president of David’s civic group.

Bates, Susana Freelance NYDN

David Oats (right) and Greg Godfrey stand in front of the iconic globe in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Feb. 2007.

Only then did I realize one of my few regrets in life: I would never have the chance to meet David Oats.

David had become one of my most reliable sources over the previous two years, while I carved out a minibeat on historic preservation in Queens.

As a child, Oats tried to sneak onto the construction site for the world’s fair, only to be caught by a guard. He was brought before Robert Moses, the famed city planner, who took a liking to Oats and stoked his lifelong fascination with the fair.

Eventually, Oats launched a civic group dedicated to preserving the park that would sprout after the fair closed in 1965. He became an advocacy journalist, too, writing about the park as an editor for the Queens Tribune and The Queens Courier.

At one point, David was even nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for an investigative series that uncovered asbestos at the Terrace on the Park catering hall, which had been the Port Authority Heliport during the fair.

I worked on many stories with Oats. Together we pressured the Parks Department to change a broken warning light atop the New York State Pavilion, which is supposed to alert passing airplanes.

Farriella, Christie M,, Freelanc

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, Flushing Meadows Corona Park Administrator Estelle Cooper and widow David Oats' widow Corrine unveil a plaque dedicating a rose garden to him in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

I’d often arrange for Oats to meet with a News photographer. This led to a series of he-means-business photos in which David sported a gruff expression and crossed his arms for dramatic effect, standing in front of something in the park that he felt the city was overlooking.

I often met up with photographers on assignments, but somehow I never tagged along for one of those photo ops with Oats.

After he died, the Tribune published a fantastic editorial cartoon in his memory.

David, with angelic wings, was seen looking down from heaven at, of course, the broken light bulb atop the New York State Pavilion.

The thought bubble above his head read something like, “Change that @#$% light!”

I cut it out and taped it above my phone at The News, a small tribute to a man who never let up.

Nicholas Hirshon, a reporter for the Daily News from 2005 to 2011, is a teaching fellow at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.

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Adventurous boy ran away, lived at World’s Fair … until his parents caught up with him

Dominick Tucci, 12, hopped the train from Port Washington into Queens in May 1964, and lost himself in the crowd. He pinched coins and lived off concessions for nearly two weeks.

BY Seth Bookey , Lisa L. Colangelo / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS / Thursday, April 17, 2014, 10:14 AMA.

New York Daily News

LITTLE RASCAL: Dominick Tucci had quite the adventure before he was discovered.

For more than a week, 12-year-old Dominick Tucci turned the World’s Fair into his own personal playground.

The adventurous Port Washington youngster hopped the train into Queens in May 1964 and disappeared into the crowded, colorful exhibits and pavilions.

Tucci’s parents reported him missing on May 6 but he wasn’t found until almost two weeks later, when a concessionaire noticed the scruffy boy.

While his parents spent days searching for him at the fair, bumbling security guards noticed the youngster wandering around but let him go several times.

Meanwhile, Tucci snatched coins from the fountains to buy food. He sacked out in various pavilions.

New York Daily News

The 12-year-old (top right) was eager to get away from his five younger sisters and younger brother.

He was in no rush to return to the home he shared with five younger sisters and a younger brother.

When his Huck Finn-like escape finally ended, his relieved parents picked him up from the fair.

Tucci, who died in 2001, did return to the fair a few weeks later as a guest of the Chrysler Corp. This time, he arrived with his whole family.

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New York State Pavilion must be saved to fulfill legacy of World's Fair

The case for saving the pavilion is more than just a call to save a piece of architecture. It is a movement to preserve the memories of the past so that they may inspire memories of the future.

BY Matthew Silva / SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS / Thursday, April 17, 2014, 1:06 AMA.

Don Phelan

For the many people who attended the 1964-65 World’s Fair, the New York State Pavilion is a link to a youthful time and fond memories, as well as a bittersweet reminder of the promise and optimism that seemed so potent during the 1960s.

However, for the generations that followed the fair, there is little trace or indication that Disney Land essentially came to Queens for two remarkable summers in 1964 and 1965.

Being born in the 1980s, I never had the chance to visit the World’s Fair, nor did I grow up with fair memories. My parents were both living in South America at the time and did not immigrate to Queens until just after the fair ended.

As a kid, sitting in the back seat of my parents’ minivan, my face pressed against the window, I would pass the rusty spaceship wreck, completely mystified and enchanted by what it was.

Countless times I asked my parents what the building had been, only to be given some vague explanation about the World’s Fair with nothing specific about the building itself.

To a 9-year-old boy gazing at the massive concrete and steel behemoth, the ’60s seemed like ancient history. In my eyes this building, a beacon of my home, remained one of the great mysteries of the city.

The New York State Pavilion is an immense structure at the World's Fair.

Years later, while studying architecture in college, I came to learn the mysterious hulk I would pass on the way to my grandmother’s house was designed by world-class architect Philip Johnson.

Johnson himself was an advocate of the arts, a champion for his profession and a preservationist who fought to save some of the most iconic buildings in New York. How, I wondered, could one of his buildings be left to rot in plain sight?

In the early 1960s, Johnson had picketed the demolition of the original Pennsylvania Station, a monumental structure now lost to the ages.

Years later, when developers looked to wipe away Grand Central Terminal, Johnson was there locked arm-in-arm with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, fighting so that future generations of New Yorkers and tourists alike could delight in the electrifying atmosphere that only the most unique pieces of architecture can evoke.

In her plea to save Grand Central, Onassis said it best: “Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future? Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters. Maybe … this is the time to take a stand, to reverse the tide, so that we won’t all end up in a uniform world of steel and glass boxes.”

The New York State Pavilion has fallen into disrepair, but an effort is underway to restore it.

The New York State Pavilion towers over the World's Fair.

Today, the thought of demolishing Grand Central Terminal seems ludicrous. I hope that one day we will feel the same way about the New York State Pavilion, when it is restored and we cannot imagine our city without it.

The case for saving the pavilion is more than just a call to save a piece of architecture. It is a movement to preserve the memories of the past so that they may inspire memories of the future.

If this building has been able to capture the imagination of generations of dreamers who never went to the fair and only know it as a ruin, imagine what it could do if it were open to the public again.

To design a future for the New York State Pavilion that is positive and prosperous would be to fulfill the legacy of the fair.

Matthew Silva is a technology teacher, filmmaker and Co-founder of People for the Pavilion. He is making a documentary about the New York State Pavilion, titled “Modern Ruin: A Worl d’s Fair Pavilion.”

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World’s Fair ‘Con Ed Girls’ reminisce about stylish attire, swooning over celebrities

‘Con Ed Girls’ reminisce about World’s Fair 50 years ago in Queens. Along with spotless outfits, updo hairstyles meeting celebrities, the two women also got the task of lighting the awe-inspiring Tower of Light.

BY Lisa L. Colangelo / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS / Thursday, April 17, 2014, 10:43 AMA.

Michael Schwartz for New York Daily News

Carol Green (left) and Mary McGarry hold up photos from their days as 'Con Ed Girls' during the 1964 World's Fair.

They share a bond forged a half century ago at the World’s Fair.

Carol Green and Mary McGarry were “Con Ed girls” who greeted visitors to the Tower of Light Pavilion, and ushered celebrities and VIPs to special events.

Impeccably coiffed and dressed in smart, tailored suits, the two attractive young women took their jobs seriously.

“We were representing Con Edison,” said McGarry, 72. “Our outfits had to be spotless.”

McGarry swooned when Paul Anka stopped by — just one of the millions who marveled at the Tower of Light display that lit up the night sky.

“All you would hear was oohs and aahs when it was lit,” said Green, 71, who went on to work with Con Edison for 37 years.
She was also named Miss Tower of Light and represented the pavilion in the Miss Unisphere Contest.

Hand Out

Green (left) and McGarry (right) lighting Con Edison's Tower of Light. New York Daily News Mary McGarry (center) and Carol Green (second from right) with Con Edison employees. Hand Out The women served as the face of Con Edison at the World's Fair. 'Our outfits had to be spotless,' said McGarry.

Hand Out

The two women hadn’t seen each other in decades when they recently visited the fairgrounds together. But they picked up as if time had never passed, giggling about the stiff updos they wore piled high on their heads.

“If your head was itchy, you had to use a pen,” Green said with a laugh.

The two remembered the international pavilions, exotic food offerings and cheery atmosphere of the fair.

“Just closing my eyes brought back all these memories,” McGarry said of her visit to the fairground. “I could almost hear the carriages and families walking around.”

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World's Fair 1939 presented vision of 'World of Tomorrow,' with ominous signs of impending war

Those lucky enough to attend the World's Fairs in '39 and '64 say the earlier event was more memorable, since it gave a very real impression of what lay ahead in a world torn apart by conflict.

BY Tobias Salinger / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS / Thursday, April 17, 2014, 10:43 AMA.

New York Daily News

The 1939 World’s Fair's 700-foot Trylon obelisk and 18-story Perisphere were given over to the war effort after the fair.

The “World of Tomorrow” turned out to be World War II.

The 1939 World’s Fair, which played out over 18 months on the former site of the Corona dumps, symbolized the new age that would rise from the Great Depression, an idea embodied by the fair’s iconic 700-foot Trylon obelisk and 18-story Perisphere structure.

The fair, which celebrates its 75th anniversary on April 30 — introduced the world to a host of futuristic inventions including television, the superhighway and even the fax machine.

But by the time the fair closed, in October 1940, the 40 million tons of steel from the Trylon and Perisphere would have to be given over to the war effort.

More than 44 million visitors flocked to the 1,200-acre site that living witnesses and souvenir collectors still recall with awe today.

As the Nazis began their spread across Europe, the war vied for headlines with frequent police raids on the fair’s nudie shows and a July 4, 1940, bombing that killed two city detectives.

Critics assailed the New York World’s Fair Corp. for the event’s high cost, but the 1939 fair could well be remembered long after the more widely celebrated 1964 Fair fades from consciousness.

New York Daily News

The 1939 event had plenty of spectacle, like these elephants.

“Historically, the 1939 fair was more famous,” said Pierre Montiel, a historian and lecturer who will present a collection of photos of the ’39 fair at the Queens Historical Society on June 22. “It’s historic because it was the turning point of the 20th century.”

The fair became the bailiwick of publicity hound Grover Whalen, the president of the fair corporation, and city parks overlord Robert Moses.

The two pitched it as a fulcrum to help lift the city out of its economic doldrums and clean up a notorious dump strewn with stinking piles of garbage as tall as 15 stories high, said James Mauro, author of the 2010 book, “Twilight at the World of Tomorrow.”

Mauro estimates the fair’s $160 million cost translates to $2.3 billion today, a princely sum that city leaders never could have afforded on their own.

“The thinking was that if you had a world’s fair, you’d get state money and federal money to pay for it,” said Mauro. “And that’s when people really came around to it.”

The fair opened with a speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which NBC teamed with RCA to beam across the city in the first large-scale display of television.

AP

Constitution Mall was one of many striking structures at Worlds Fair 1939. In the foreground at the left is the statue 'Freedom of the Press.' Silhouetted against the illuminated perisphere at the end of the central pool is the gigantic figure of George Washington, while the brilliant shaft of the trylon pierces the sky.

Another RCA innovation — the “facsimile machine” — wowed visitors, as did an 8-foot-tall robot named Elektro, who walked, talked and smoked in the Westinghouse display.

Adele Bender, of Forest Hills, who visited the fair when she was 9 years old, still remembers the “Futurama” exhibit’s double-decker highway city of 1960 and Ford’s “Road of Tomorrow,” made of cork and rubber.

“You didn’t need that many cars then, they didn’t have any need for highways,” said Bender, now 83. “But they were preparing for the future.”

The world of the present, however, was riven by conflict. Two of the countries represented in the international pavilion — Austria and Czechoslovakia — were both under German rule by the time the fair opened, and Polish officials draped their display in black following the Nazi invasion in September 1939.

Albert Einstein penned his famed letters advising Roosevelt to pursue the atomic bomb while serving as chairman of the fair’s science advisory committee.

The city shuddered with panic on Independence Day 1940, when Detectives Joe Lynch and Freddy Socha both died after a bomb detonated in a bag they had just carried out of the British pavilion. The culprit was never identified, but the incident and the hysteria it provoked were stirring harbingers of the coming conflict.

New York Daily News

The adult section of the fair drew ire from some of society's conservative leaders.

“Everyone thinks Pearl Harbor started the war, and it did,” said Mauro. “But, a year before that, a Nazi flag was found on the spot where this bomb was set.”

Still, the World’s Fair provided a needed window of diversion from the dread of what was happening overseas as well as the doldrums of the Depression that had only recently begun to lift.

And all eyes were fixed excitedly on the future; even the girlie shows presaged some of what was on the horizon.

“It’s interesting to note because of the ‘World of Tomorrow’ motto,” said Montiel. “Playboy magazine would be coming out in the 1950s.”

Curiosities like “Oscar the Obscene Octopus” and Salvador Dali’s “Dream of Venus” featured cavorting topless women, and the adult section of the fair elicited the ire of church leaders and then-Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, who shut down the raciest of the displays.

The fair will always be remembered for its status as a precursor of the subsequent World’s Fair, which would return to Flushing Meadows a quarter century later. But those who attended both say the 1939 fair stood out.

“I found the first one more magical somehow,” said Bender. “In ’39, we were looking at the future. By the ’60s, we were in the future. We were more jaded.”