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Bill Cotter

A visit to FMCP on July 4, 1971

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I recently bought a set of slides from an event in FMCP on July 4, 1971. I'll post them as I work through them, but in general, the park sure looked shabby just a few years after the end of the Fair.

Anyone ever see this snack bar in the park?


fmcp-71-snack-bar.jpg

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Approaching the United States Pavilion on July 4, 1971. The building has already drawn the attention of vandals, with some of the letters missing and a hole in the colored panels. Sadly, as we'll see later, probably tomorrow, this was not the worst of it.

fmcp-71-us-1.jpg

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I remember flying kites on the site of the Ford Pavilion and renting two person surrey cycles from the lake area but that was before '71.

The rack of water fountains looks odd.

Surprising number of wire basket trash cans! Do not recall the hideous snack stand and decorative 55 gal drums. 

With those pointless promenades and flat topography FMCP telegraphs a prior use I'm sure even to those without knowledge of its past. For me the park will always be a forlorn palimpsest unless they rip everything up and start over.

That geometrically unique map looks like Robert Moses was doodling crop circles on a napkin. Or like sub atomic particle traces at the Large Hadron Collider: the lines imply some ineffable purpose and regularity.

I fear someday, like Richard Dreyfus' character in Close Encounters of the First Kind, that image, etched in my mind at an impressionable age, will emerge and I will manically dredge matching channels in mashed potatoes to the consternation of my fellow nursing home denizens. 

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Two views of the Singer Bowl, one from July 4, 1971 and one from 1964.

fmcp-71-arena-1.jpg

fmcp-71-arena-2.jpg

Two more views of the Singer Bowl, one from July 4, 1971 and one from 1964.

fmcp-71-arena-3.jpg

fmcp-71-arena-4.jpg

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The stage is set but where are the speakers and the crowds? The 4th of July, 1971. That's a copy of the Declaration of Independence on the stage.

fmcp-71-us-2.jpg

fmcp-71-us-3.jpg

More to come.

The concrete sure was crumbling already on the steps and curb.

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Blue and orange rain barrels--nice touch.  I totally agree with Xl5er.  That topography was and is strange.  It is so vast and so oddly empty.  Anyone with an ounce of curiosity would have to wonder what once happened in that park, why the roads exist as they do.  That map of the park is equally bizarre.  It looks so temporary and makes absolutely no reference to what exists at that time nor what once existed.  I remember those years.  After 1965, the Fair just disappeared--from the park and from all discussion.  It just ceased to exist.  Maybe because it lost money or because Moses became persona non grata or because the national culture so dramatically changed--whatever the reason--the Fair was just gone and all but forgotten almost as if it had been an embarrassment.  And the park which may (and that's a hugely qualified may) have looked good in June of 1967 when it was turned back to NYC, had become a shabby and easily avoidable dump by 1971.  My god, holding whatever that ceremony might be in front of a blighted and worn out Federal Building creates a really rather pathetic scene.  It looks as if some grammar school kids set up a booth and planned to sell lemonade.

A few years later, I found an article in the Times about Flushing Meadow Park.  It was entitled, "The World Is A Lonely Place If You're A Unisphere."  The author recounted why the Unisphere exists and what it was like when surround by massive floodlights, great throngs of admiring people and flags smartly snapping on their poles.  And he used the current forlorn feel of that great monument standing in an all but abandoned park as a metaphor for the loss of the wonder and glory of the Fair.  I would not like to see the place altered and and its traces to 1939 and 1964 erased.  But as it still remains fifty one years after its final fair closed, it really is a peculiar piece of urban geography.

PS:  That concrete plaque with the Federal eagle is a joke as it stands there rather in the way.  Something once formed a facade on the outline of that faded eagle.  One can see the bolt holes.  Now that's the very definition of forlorn.  It reminds me of all of those Nazi era eagles scraped clean of their evil emblems and just left on the sides of hundreds of buildings all over Germany--buildings that were once so important.  One can look and wonder what significance the eagles might have had but never be quite certain.  Oh, and I see El Cid signed his name to that rather strange map.  That's a nice touch as well.

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9 hours ago, Bill Cotter said:

Two views of the Singer Bowl, one from July 4, 1971 and one from 1964.

fmcp-71-arena-1.jpg

fmcp-71-arena-2.jpg

Two more views of the Singer Bowl, one from July 4, 1971 and one from 1964.

fmcp-71-arena-3.jpg

fmcp-71-arena-4.jpg

Used to go to rock concerts in the Singer Bowl during that era. The Doors and The Who appeared on the same concert.

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Around 1972-73, my family visited the park from our home in Howard Beach. 

We had  a picnic and rode on a glide-a-ride that was still in use.  I think it cost 25 or 50 cents cents a person for a an extended trip around the park.

I remember a bird sanctuary on the grounds. Is that possible?

 

_Karyn

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I'm not sure when the zoo opened on the site but it does have a large bird sanctuary, made of the former Winston Churchill building. That's interesting to know there were still tram rides.

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Bill is correct.  It still stands in what was the Transportation Zone of both Fairs, I believe.  It is a partial geodesic dome that was used at the People to People exhibit devoted to Winston Churchill in 1965 and moved from its original site to its current location to be a bird sanctuary.

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The last of the speaker shots from the July 4, 1971 event in FMCP.

fmcp-71-us-6.jpg

Here's the entrance to the United States Pavilion on July 4, 1971. Unfortunately the original slide was blurry and I can't make out any of the signage or possible displays.

fmcp-71-us-7.jpg

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New York City was not a pretty sight in 1971, and Flushing Meadows Corona Park was not immune to the blight.

I hope the parents of whoever did this were so proud of their offspring.

 

fmcp-71-time-capsule-1.jpg

fmcp-71-time-capsule-2.jpg

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The only recognizable thing in the photo, to me anyway, is the copy of the Declaration of Independence on the front of the podium.  The photo of the Time Capsule monument is shocking and a hell of a commentary on the economic decline of NYC and NYS.  This shot was  taken just six years after the Fair closed and just about four years before the City of New York tottered toward bankruptcy.  When I think about it, I really disliked the 1970s.  

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The two movies that best capture New York in its seedy John Lindsay-era decline would be "The French Connection" and "The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three."    Just as these photos show a World's Fair site far removed from the one of just six years earlier, those films show a New York vastly different from the glossy light-comic films shot on-location in the mid-1960s ("The World Of Henry Orient"; "Barefoot In The Park" or the opening credits of the "That Girl!" TV series).

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Good thoughts, Eric.  I would add "Death Wish" to that first list.  But "The Taking of Pelham One, Two Three" creeped me out for years and I had a nagging fear of riding Metro North from Rye into the City.

To the second list I would add "The Out of Towners" with Jack Lemon and and Sandy Dennis.  It highlighted the problems of  NYC in the late 60s but in a very funny manner and all filmed on location it was made at a time when NYC was still glittering.

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You can also add The Warriors (now streaming on Netflix) to that crumbling city movie list.

Edited by icedstitch
forgot add adjective.

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