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Craig Bavaro

Opening Day Tidbits

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The following bits of information were gleaned from the Fair Corporations records at the New York Public Library during one of my many fact finding missions over the years:

  1. Robert Moses entire Yale graduating class of 1909 was invited.
  2. Robert Moses lamented the passing of his fellow classmates.
  3. One assistant to Roberts Moses said remove a name from the list because "He's dead."
  4. Fair officials were very concerned that President Lyndon Baines Johnson wouldn't come to the opening ceremonies.
  5. Former President Eisenhower wouldn't come from Palm Springs because it was "Too much of an effort to travel across the country". Fair officials asked him to write a statement, which he did.
  6. Former President Hoover was too frail to come. He was also asked to send a statement.
  7. Former President Truman was in attendance and did speak.
  8. President Johnson's assistant (possibly Kenny O'Donnell) actually asked fair officials to move the opening date of the fair to 4/20 to accommodate the president’s schedule. Fair officials politely declined by explaining that was just not possible given the complexities involved.
  9. Fair officials debated whether or not to invite Grover Whalen's widow. They did and she wrote a very grateful thank you letter to Robert Moses.
  10. Many people made personal pleas for tickets to the opening ceremonies and fair officials went out of their way to accommodate most, if not all of the requests.
  11. The invited guest list quickly grew from 5 to 10 to 15 thousand people in the last 2 months leading up to opening day.
  12. Fair officials were very concerned about how it would "appear" if the former or current presidents didn't all accept their invites.
  13. Fair officials worked with presidential intermediaries to get a feel if The White House would accept if an "official" invite was sent.
  14. The letter sent to President John F. Kennedy on 11/21/63 about attending the fairs opening had a note attached to it dated 11/22/63 saying that it was retrieved from the mail room before it could be sent.
  15. A two thousand guest official party was planned for the Top of the Fair restaurant, but it was canceled once fair officials found out that President Johnson wouldn't be attending.
  16. Robert Moses table at the official party would have been 11 people instead of 10 at all the others.
  17. The centerpiece on Robert Moses table at the official party was to have been a certain kind of flowers in a round black basket.
  18. Fair official (possibly Ernestine Haig) pointed out that the fair is the star of the show, not any politician that the public can see on TV at any event or holiday.

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Great information, Craig.  Thank you.  I wonder why they even debated inviting Grover Whalen's widow.  It would seem that such an invitation would be a thoughtful gesture that would need no debate.  Mr. Whalen died in 1962.  President Hoover was living in NYC in 1964, at the Waldorf Astoria, where he had been living since his wife's death twenty years earlier. He really was terribly ill and suffering from what became terminal intestinal difficulties and he died on October 20, 1964.  I know that President Eisenhower was dealing with heart problems, and had been for the better part of a decade, but he did attend the Republican convention in San Francisco in 1964 and while he had a retreat in Palm Springs, his true home was in Gettysburg and he did travel between the two places that year.

It would've been rough for the Fair if President Johnson had not attended the opening ceremonies.  The man maintained a whirlwind schedule and any hesitation about attending must have been a result of that hectic schedule.  Fortunately, he did attend.

It is interesting to consider all of the US presidents who have walked the grounds of Flushing Meadows during the course of two world's fairs and the UN presence in between.

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