How do I remember the opening of the New York World’s Fair when I’m only 39?

Posted on 22 Apr 2014 at 10:03am
Unisphere

The Unisphere hasn’t sunk into the swamp under Flushing Meadow Park because of my Uncle Milt

I know I’m supposed to wait for Throwback Thursday for a post like this, but today is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair.

I grew up in Yonkers, N.Y., and as a kid my family went to the World’s Fair a number of times.

Most of the pavilions and attractions are gone, but one that remains is the Unisphere. That was the big globe that served as the symbol of the fair that can be seen when landing at LaGuardia Airport. My Uncle Milt Taffet did the engineering on the Unisphere that has kept it from sinking into the marshy garbage dump that Flushing Meadow Park is built on.

On my last trip to New York, I asked my aunt how Milt became involved in the project, but she really didn’t know. My father and two uncles owned an electronics factory in Queens with a big sign on the roof that said TAFFET Electronics facing the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, not far from Flushing Meadow Park. We assume someone associated with the fair noticed the sign and contacted them. However it happened, I think of my uncle every time I fly into LaGuardia.

I remember the fair as a sort of pre-Epcot Center, full of all sorts of wonders. I saw color TV and touch-tone telephones for the first time, and we even used a picture-phone booth. Ford showcased its car of the future, the Mustang, and GM showed people living in underwater colonies in the Antarctic and on the moon and highways of the future where you programmed in a destination and didn’t have to touch the steering wheel. Animatronics were introduced at the World’s Fair.

Once the fair closed, some of the pavilions were moved elsewhere. The best known was Pepsi’s It’s a Small World that’s now at Disneyland. Yes, I know. Now you won’t be able to get that damn song out of your head all day, either. The animatronic Abraham Lincoln and General Electric’s Carousel of Progress also moved to Disneyland. (Disney World didn’t open until 1971, but copies are found there).

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Brontosaurus at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas

A piece of the New York World’s Fair can be seen right here in North Texas, also. Two of the Sinclair Oil pavilion’s dinosaur models were moved to Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, about 75 miles southwest of Dallas. They’ve been restored recently and remain on view near the park’s entrance.

From Dallas, take US 67 to Glen Rose and make a right at the Dinosaur Valley sign, drive past the Creation Evidence Museum into the park. The dinosaurs are outside the visitor’s center, before you get to the fossilized dinosaur tracks. For fun, stop at the creation museum to learn about how the dinosaurs were wiped out in the flood with Noah and how Adam and Steve were real people. Or something like that.

One other thing that might confuse anyone who knows me is: How can I possibly remember the New York World’s Fair that opened 50 years ago today if I’m only 39?

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