Your 1964 World's Fair Memories

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Unisphere in the Queens borough of New York City on September 6, 2007. The Unisphere, designed by Gilmore D. Clarke, it was put in place to celebrate the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair. (Nick Laham/Getty)

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the World's Fair of 1964. Bill Young, World's Fair historian, host of, and co-author of The 1964-19645 New York World's Fair: Images of America Series (Arcadia), talks about the fair's significance and we take your calls with memories or reflections from the pavilions, rides, and exhibitions.

→ Events: Celebrate the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs at exhibitions and events across Queens.

Behold, GM's Futurama exhibit from the fair:


Bill Young

Comments [24]

EMcKenna from Jackson Heights

Went to the Worlds Fair on the last day. It was a complete mob scene and we got caught in a bottleneck
of people waiting to go on the boat rides in I think the Pepsi Pavillion with Small World ride. I was at
the top of the escalators and my sneakers were heating up as we were stuck right where the stairs met
the platform. My sister and I started crying and men lifted us up to safety while everyone was yelling
to turn the escaltors off. Crazy moment! Completely surreal for us three sisters from Phila. and it is
a fabulous memory even with the drama. Please, please, please restore these towers! They are a treasure.

Apr. 24 2014 08:41 PM

yes, i was one of those that lost their 'Belgian Waffle virginity'. the singular "foodie food" of that event. i was so young it should have been illegal.

Apr. 18 2014 05:04 PM

a nightmare sponsored and envisioned by Monsanto. no flying cars,but plenty of carcinogenic eco-strangling chemicals.

Apr. 18 2014 04:58 PM

someone just flew overhead with a car that looks like my stolen Jeston Special..should i contact the FAA,the air force,or my local police precinct?

Apr. 18 2014 04:00 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights


Parts of the GM Futurama is NOT in Disney World/Land.

The dinosaurs of the Ford pavillion are - seen on the train ride around the park in Disneyland.

For more information:

Apr. 18 2014 02:47 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights


Parts of the GM Futurama is NOT in Disney World/Land.

The dinosaurs of the Ford pavillion are - seen on the train ride around the park in Disneyland.

Apr. 18 2014 02:43 PM
telegram sam from Staten Island

My mom and step-mom both worked in different pavilions, 15 years before they were aware of each others' existences: My mom in the Hawaiian pavilion (naturally, because she's a Jewish girl from Kew Gardens Hills) and my newly-arrived German step-mom at the Lowenbrau pavilion. Just figured I'd throw that out there.

Apr. 18 2014 01:31 PM

BTW, round trip toll costs from Hackensack NJ to Flushing Meadows Park was $1.50 in 1964. Fifty cents (each way) for the GWB, and 25 cents each way for the Triboro Bridge. (We hadn't thought up one-way tolls yet.) That's about an hour and twenty minutes at the then current minimum wage rate.

The same trip today is $15 which is more than two hours of minimum wage pay at the current Federal rate. Just another measure of how the middle income earners are being cheated.

Apr. 18 2014 01:20 PM

@Linda from East Village

"I distinctly remember viewing the Mona Lisa in near darkness on a rolling walkway."

Sorry to correct your memory, Linda, but that was The Pieta NOT the Mona Lisa which had come to the U.S. the year before.

"It's a Small World" is in Disneyworld now. And you'll recognize much of GM's Futurama down there, too.

Apr. 18 2014 01:07 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

I fondly remember the IBM pavillion and the Selectric typewriters that you could type on, and the large Pascals Triangle with dropping balls that demonstrated some type of distributions.

That and some other artifacts from the IBM pavillion are now at the Hall of Science museum in Queens.

I believe there was some sort of a ride, an elevator, that you could sit on and be lifted into a large "Egg" - that may have been a theater. I didn't get a chance to ride it. Of course the GM Futurama and Ford Motors and General Electric (Carousel of Progress) had great rides. The GE ride is now in Disney World.

Apr. 18 2014 12:30 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Wonderful memories. Is there a place for a "World's Fair" today, with globalization and the Internet?

And, of course, Mr. Farmer was right to call out the hypocrisy.

Apr. 18 2014 11:59 AM
Andrea from NY State

There was a wonderful puppet show that sang and danced to the song, "It's A Small World". That exhibit may have helped fuel my interest in studying anthropology. And through that study I learned that people throughout the world are more similar than dissimilar. It's the political/economic arena that keeps us in turmoil.

Apr. 18 2014 11:58 AM
bob from Brooklyn

Irving Harper who designed the Chrysler Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair is 97 and lives in Rye New York.

Apr. 18 2014 11:55 AM
Paul from Northern NJ

Belgian Waffles!

Apparently these do not exist in this form in Belgium. Go figure.

No matter. Totally yummy yeast-raised waffles. These were 50 cents (in 1964 dollars) with powdered sugar, and an outrageous $ 1.00 with fresh strawberries.

I grew up in Nassau County, and lived about 10 miles from the Fair. I was 12 when it opened, and looked forward to those waffles every time we went.

I remember my mom mentioning how ridiculous it was to pay as much as 50 cents for a cup of coffee at the Fair.

Apr. 18 2014 11:54 AM
Lee Ann from Florida

We traveled up by car from Florida to go to the fair and continued on to Boston for a family reunion.

I was 8 years old and remember the globe as magical. The Carousel of progress and the Small world rides were something I remember vividly. I brought home a snow globe and I am pretty sure the pieta was there. My Mother bought a little copy of it. She just died a couple of weeks ago and I packed it up last week with all her momemtos.

The Fair was magical.

Apr. 18 2014 11:52 AM
Elizabeth Cohen from Manhattan

I remember going to the fair as a 13 year old with my friends -- no parents. In those days NYC was safe enough so that parents were fine with this. It was as exciting to take the new #7 train as it was going to the fair. I still remember watching the "new phones" of the future with which you could see the person you were talking to. I also loved the Johnson Wax pavilion and the fabulous film shown there. First time I saw the idea of lines that snaked around so that they took up less space (and made you think they were shorter).

Apr. 18 2014 11:51 AM
Linda from East Village

I distinctly remember viewing the Mona Lisa in near darkness on a rolling walkway.

Also, sampling an experimental new invention: touch-tone phone dialing.

And I recall there was a model underground fallout shelter the first year of the fair, which morphed into a disco the second year.

Apr. 18 2014 11:50 AM
Elaine from Baltimore

I was 8 when my aunt took my sister and I there during summer vacation. I vividly remember the Belgium waffles with strawberries and mounds of real whip cream. In the age of convenience foods, this set off my quest as a foodie!

Apr. 18 2014 11:18 AM
henry from MD

The educational system is more geared towards girls than boys. Not much talk about that.

Apr. 18 2014 11:14 AM
Catherine Clare from Katonah, NY

I was 11 years old at the time the 1964 World's Fair first opened and my parents took me and a friend there that spring. I know my pal and I had a blast but what I remember most clearly is that my father kept saying that the '39 Fair was a lot better!

Apr. 18 2014 10:58 AM

We lived in Hackensack, NJ. My mom's closest sister - in age and personality - lived in Jamaica QNS. Summers for us was a weekly family trip to Jamaica and then on to B79St at Rockaway...I would be a teen-ager before I even went down the Jersey Shore...During the Summers of '64 and '65, half of our beach trips were replaced with visits to the World's Fair...

I was only 7 and 8 but have very clear memories of ...
Seeing The Pieta - We couldn't get closer than 20 yards
The African Pavillion...The exuberance of the dancers, the reek of the somewhat sad gorilla
The General Tire Pavillion - Well, really only the GIANT tire
Riding the sky cars across the park
The General Cigar (?) Pavillion - They has a *really* bad magician
The Thailand Pavillion - The dancer explained that they trained their hands to arch that way by dipping them in boiling water(!)
The Belgian Pavillion - and there fabulous waffle sundaes that the we children were too young to buy a whole one but could have a spoonful if we behaved...
The GM Pavillion and the moving sidewalk
The gold-colored Aston Martin that was tricked out like the James Bond car. Even I knew that James Bond's DB5 was silver.
The knick-knacks to be had at the Japanese Pavillion.(The balancing jetplane I bought lasted through college...) Japan had yet to move into its position of Tech primacy...but you could feel that they were strivers.
Staying up past bad time to see the jazz acts - Ella, Satchmo, et al - at the Singer Bowl.

Apr. 18 2014 10:55 AM
Richard Grayson from Brooklyn

This morning I reminded my father that he took all of us in the family: my mom, my two younger brothers and cousin, and me, to the very first day of the Fair; our parents thought it was fun and let all of us boys stay home from school. I can remember very clearly how excited I was when we parked and it seemed like a wonderland to 12yo me. My clearest memories are of GM's Futurama, the animatronic Abe Lincoln, "It's a Small World After All," the squarish Federal Pavilion, having a fear of heights and being scared on the NYS pavilion's upper deck, and for some reasons the Johnson's Wax pavilion, though I'm not sure what was there.

A few weeks later, my eighth grade homeroom teacher, Neil Berger, at J.H.S. 285 in East Flatbush, took our class there for the day. (I am still in touch with Neil and I know he remembers this, too.) The World's Fair was the first place outside of my part of Brooklyn that I went to by public transportation on my own. There was a special World's Fair bus in Crown Heights by the Utica Avenue subway station at Eastern Parkway that stood in front of what is now McDonald's (and which was then the kosher Famous Dairy Restaurant. My friends and I would go several times during the fair's summers.

Living in other parts of the country later, I met people a little older than myself for whom the Fair was an important part in their development because they went to work there as high school students and college students for the summer, coming from Florida or Nebraska and having their eyes opened to a wider, more cosmopolitan world.

Apr. 18 2014 10:45 AM
Colette from New York City

My parents were in courtship when visiting the 1939 World's Fair - I was in courtship with my husband to be visiting the 1964 World's Fair - he was Greek and took me to the Greek Pavilion for lunch - there I dared to try my first squid - the first one I put in my mouth squiggled and I let out with an audible cry in the middle of this lovely restaurant - he had such a good laugh - he died when we were 36 and I cry now to remember the good memories of the 1964 World's Fair

Apr. 18 2014 09:57 AM
paula lysak from Hillside NJ

In light of the "British Invasion" I got a pen pal from both England and Australia at the pen exhibit. I think it was sponsored by Parker Pens. My correspondence with both pen pals lasted about five years.

Apr. 18 2014 09:23 AM

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