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Bill Cotter

Event this Sunday 11/20/11

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Oral history project hopes to capture memories of Flushing Meadows World’s Fairs

Student Eileen Townsend hosts more interviews

BY Nicholas Hirshon


Originally Published: Thursday, November 17 2011, 6:00 AM


Christie Farriella/ for the New York Daily News

Eileen Townsend, a student at Sarah Lawrence College, is recording the oral histories of people who attended or collect memorabilia relating to the World’s Fairs in Queens.

A college student who is interviewing fans of the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens will host an upstate get-together on Sunday to record more memories for her oral history project.

Eileen Townsend, 21, is capturing remembrances of fair visitors and collectors who covet the mementos that were available at the expo.

She is also reaching out to young enthusiasts who, like herself, are drawn to the few surviving remnants of the fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Townsend said she is interested in how the fair reflected the generation. “Beyond the fact that it was an exciting event there are a lot of ideas about identity,” she said.

Townsend, a senior at Sarah Lawrence College in Westchester County, is urging the World’s Fair community to meet at 3 p.m. Sunday at the school’s Bronxville campus.

She will meet visitors in front of the library and take them to a nearby building for three hours of conversations that she plans to record.

She hopes to someday share her audio with the Queens Museum of Art.

Museum spokesman David Strauss said Townsend’s project sounds like “a fantastic concept.” He said the museum has reached out to Townsend to learn more.

Townsend, who grew up in Memphis, became enamored with the fair on a class trip to the Hall of Science in September. She said she grew interested in the upkeep of fair relics.

She then joined “Come Back to the Fair,” a group on meetup.com where the expo’s fans plan get-togethers.

The group’s founder, Richard Post, fondly recalled attending the 1964 fair as a youth. “It was all about dinosaurs and astronauts,” said Post, 56, of Lawrence, L.I.

Townsend has already started her interviews. On Tuesday, she ventured to the Queens home of Ephraim Horowitz, 95, who attended both the 1939 and 1964 fairs in the park.

Horowitz, who lived in Midwood, Brooklyn, during the 1939 fair, visited just once on that expo’s closing day.

“I’ve regretted it all my life,” he said of not having the opportunity to return.

A quarter century later, Horowitz, then living in Flushing, roamed the pavilions at the 1964 fair many times thanks to a free pass he secured through a business acquaintance.

Gary Miller, 63, of Jamaica, said he will try to attend the Sunday event to share his thoughts on the fair.

“They’re here and they’re gone,” he said. “It will not happen in the same way again. That’s the appeal of any of the fairs.”

World’s Fair visitors who want to contribute to the oral history project can contact Townsend at (901) 484-8344 or etownsend@gm.slc.edu.


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Yep. I attended. I promoted it through my local outreach group of the growing "NY Worlds Fair community". http://www.meetup.com/COME-BACK-TO-THE-FAIR/ The NY Daily News helped big time. I am glad to say I will be posting more Oral History MEETUPs. After the Holidays and in Queens. Dare I say, perhaps at our Mecca, our hallowed NYWF grounds. A Queens institution has expressed their interest. 'Nuff said for now. My Meetup group will in 2012 work with Johnny-at-the-Fair and the estate of David Oats to provide events for us to celebrate and beautify Flushing Meadows and have ourselves counted. I will work closely with Bill Cotter to make sure I don't get too NY with you out-of-towners. I want to acknowlege PTU-ers; Hoodlock, Ray Dashner, Gary Miller, Fred Stern, Jerry Bagels, and Jess (I think you are JerkFace Jess - please pick another screen name), for joining my effort.

Doug Seed? you can see my last Oral History Meetup here: http://www.meetup.com/COME-BACK-TO-THE-FAIR/photos/4497902/

Those of us in the know could pick out John Ricardelli with 90+ items exhibited at the Queens Museum. John rarely appears publicly and engages in conversations, but I have have created a safe haven for him to show up exhibit and converse.Join my Meetup?

It's all Good.

yer pal,


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Sounds like and looks like a successful Meet Up! Sorry I missed it, was celebrating my Daughters 16th birthday. I hope to make future meet ups besides paint days!

Great work...


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Jim Brown said it best in a recent thread where PTU was wondering where me and my local outreach MEETUP were coming from. Jim eloquently mapped things out for us :

"Each of the websites on the fair serve a need as each as its own functionality - message board (PTU), RSVP management (meetup), and information library (NYWF64), etc."

Thank you Bill Cotter for joining, thus endorsing my effort yesterday. Half of my MEETUP population so far are PTU-ers http://www.meetup.co...CK-TO-THE-FAIR/ Mitch? I have been supporting your NYWF carousel thingy for years. Thanks for your interest in my thingy. Happy Sweet 16 to your daughter.

Hey PTU - check what I'm doing. We are on the same page...

Yer Pal.

Richard Post


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