The 1964 World’s Fair opened 50 years ago this week in Flushing, New York, and every family within a day’s drive (including ours) made the pilgrimage to get a taste of what other cultures were like on U.S. soil before Epcot existed, and to catch a glimpse of the future.
We saw the revolving turntable history of kitchens from the past to the future as presented by G.E. (and narrated by an actor named Ronald Reagan). We saw Disney’s first animatronic robot in the form of Abraham Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address in between friendly greetings. We dined at a restaurant in the clouds (or slightly above the smog) before the Seattle Space Needle existed. And we saw men with jet-packs strapped to their backs flying into the sky above the stage and wondered how soon it would be before we had our own. Fifty years later we’re still wondering, and they never perfected the technology beyond the insane danger of having a napalm bomb of hydrogen strapped to your body.
Let’s take a look back into what we thought was looking forward:
When you consider most cars of the time looked more like this 1960 Thunderbird, at least they got the aerodynamics down somewhat.
We thought we’d be traveling through all cites on monorails above the ground such as this one. But, today, about the only place you’re guaranteed to find monorails is Disneyland or Disney World.
Dancing fountains with light are still popular. You can find them in front of hotels in Las Vegas, and at the Shell Factory in Cape Coral, Florida. Dubai probably has them, as well. Because it’s such a rational use of water in a desert environment.
And no, we actually didn’t think people would be bigger, but I just find it hysterical that I appear to be checking out Paul Bunyan’s package, perhaps to see if size really is proportional.
Even though JFK had been dead several months, the over-sized sunglasses his widow, Jackie, always wore, were still popular, and remain in the sunglasses rotation to this day. My mom did them justice and rocked the dark hair bouffant, as well.
Standing in line hasn’t changed much, but fashions have, for better or worse. My systers in the center here are rocking the loud color print patterns of the day, which you might also recognize from Sally’s psychedelic rebellious phase on AMC’s Mad Men.
I have no idea what this exhibition was unless it was some kind of tribute to psilocybin mushrooms. Either that or it’s the Hobbit pavilion.
Cool is still cool. Even with a 15-inch blue feather stuck in your cap.
I don’t know why my dad, who was taking these slides, didn’t get a shot of the most iconic symbol of the Fair – the Uni-sphere, but I’m grateful for the shots he got of a time and a place where we knew an awesome future was awaiting us.
– A. Wayne Carter