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Bell Telephone's Chair Ride

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Hi Everybody, Happy New Year!

I was 8 years old in 1964, and while many fairgoers recall GM's Futurama chair ride as their favorite memory, mine was the Bell Telephone's chair ride called "From Drumbeat to Telstar" or something like that. Sure, the Futurama with it's scale model cities and minaiture vehicles was quite a trip, but what impressed me more about Bell Telephone's chair ride, which occupied the pavilion's "white wing", was the hundreds - or thousands - of projected movie clips that floated and whirled around me as I sat in my moving chair. There were many clever visual gimmicks, such as at the ride's beginning when, as I watched my reflection in a passing mirror, my reflection was suddenly replaced with a projected image of an actor sitting in my chair! There were lots of tiny, projected humans integrated with elaborate sets, a rotating earth prop surrounded by projected satellites (Telstars, presumably), and all kinds of numbers and symbols and disembodied smiling heads (a bit spooky) just flying through the air. Imagine a young Steven Spielberg or Peter Jackson taking a ride like this - how that might have affected them!

Tons of photos exists today of the Futurama, but I've hardly seen any visual documentation of Bell Telephone's ride except for a very brief film clip on a couple of Fair documentaries. I've read the script on Bill Cotter's terrific web site and listened to the audio recording, but do any visuals exist anywhere of the ride itself? Does anybody out there, who has fond memories of that ride like I do, know of or have any visual evidence of any kind?

Thanks a lot,

Robert http://www.webnik.com/homemovies

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The Bell System ride was one of my favorites. I knew a hostess on it and she would sneak us to the head of the line, so we saw it quite often. I have a few pictures from Bell, but for the most part it's tough to find shots of the interior. Unlike GM or Ford, which had models or figures that were easy to photograph, most of Bell was multi-media images and projections, which don't lend themselves to photography. I assume you have seen the Bell System film from the Fair? That has a few glimpses as well.

By the way, you probably saw the script on Bill Young's web site, not mine. Ever since we wrote that book people keep confusing us. It's easy to tell us apart, though - I'm the good looking one.

Bill Cotter

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It was one of my faves (in a very long list of faves), as well. I remember the excitement I would feel as the chairs inclined upwards as the Bell exhibit theme tune "Hello" played. And the beginning scenes, which were looped films, of the "tom toms", etc, as well as the globe with teh 'communications circuits pusating all over it and the model of Telstar. But, as much fun as the ride was, I also had a great time fooling around with all the exhibits, games, etc. in the basement, especially on a rainy day..

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I really liked those "basement exhibits" too. They were duplicated at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago where I worked weekends and summers, and got to play with them a little. I seldom got posted to the Bell exhibit though, at least not enough for me.

I think they always had female demonstrators there, sometimes with a guy. It was discrimination, I tell ya, discrimination!

Actually, I learned every demo at the museum (except the coal mine, which was given by retired miners). That included "Homes", a series of living rooms from four periods of American history, which normally were done by women (who, I admit, were more at ease commenting on fashions of clothes and furnishings). My boss and her boss (both female) were quite amazed by my mastery of that script.

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Now that you mentioned it, Wayne, I do believe all of the shots I have of the Bell exhibit area feature hostesses and not hosts. I wonder if it's too late for a class action suit?

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The chairs seem to resemble the "Doom Buggys" in Disney's Haunted Mansion. Nice pic- I never saw one of those before

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Those three rows of chairs are close together. Did they split off onto sepatrate tracks? Certainly, the ride wasn't like that the whole way.

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I was just about to ask the same thing, Doug. In the other picture, they looked like Haunted Mansion vehicles, but in this one they look different. I think they rotated 90 degrees after leaving the load dock, (like haunted mansion) and traveled in individual pods 3 abreast. (also like Haunted Mansion). The part with the multiple loading platforms though completely confounds me. We'll need one of the experts on that one.

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The chairs moved through the pavilion just as you see them, they did not pivot, but moved up and down ramps and remained vertical, the ride did split into upper and lower tracks, but always faced the same way and view the same show. The speakers were matched to the action you were viewing, so the person next to you were either ahead or behind in the audio. This ride is the only major pavilion that after riding it once, I was done with. The real joy was in the basement exhibits and there were no lines to deal with. Best of all was the acoustical halls, a row of halls that separated the outside world with the exhibit area. These halls lined with ultra soundproofing, so that when you yelled, you could not hear yourself, but felt your body vibrate from the effort. As you exited the hall, the first thing you heard was the sound of bird chirping.

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Those three rows of chairs are close together. Did they split off onto sepatrate tracks? Certainly, the ride wasn't like that the whole way.

What you see is not three, but four rows of chairs. The reason is that two rows are going one direction, and two rows are going the opposite direction.

The chairs ended the ride by coming back DOWN from the 'dark hall' area to the loading platform, which was lower down under the building proper.

Once down there the passengers debarked on a moving ramp, and then the chairs made a direction-reversing loop back to the the boarding ramp.

The two rows nearest the plexiglass windows in the color photos are just starting the ride. The two rows coming down on the inside part of the curve are ending the ride.

In this photo, passengers on the right are debarking and going down an escalator to exit. On the left passengers in twin feeder qeues are stepping onto the moving belt and being guided to their seats to start the ride. The direction-reversing loop can be clearly seen in the background.

Boarding_the_Ride_of_Communications.jpg

Once boarded, two rows of chairs rose back up (with the individual chairs remaining level) into the dark ride.

As Hoodlock said, one row was elevated slightly above the other so both rows could see as they passed the 'show', and each chair remained pointed at a 90 degree angle to the direction of the ride's movement, throughout the ride.

79149_-_Cubicle-like_conveyor_seats_carry_visitors_through_Bell_System_ride.jpg

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The round part of the elevated platform is where the direction-reversing loop was located.

Both arriving and departing passengers used escalators to get up to this loading and unloading area and to come back down to street level after they finished the ride.

64-05-30-13_Bell_Pavilion.jpg

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That's a neat ride! Pretty much like the old Horizons ride at Epcot, only with the track underneath instead of above. The directions reversal loop (DRL) on the inside track was pretty tight! Look how orderly and cooperative all the people are as they board. Try to find that kind of behavior getting on a ride at a theme park these days!

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I'm working my way little by little back through old topics to restore my photo links.

This was an interesting topic. Even the picture with the "flying nuns" going for a spin on the ride.

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I'm working my way little by little back through old topics to restore my photo links.

This was an interesting topic. Even the picture with the "flying nuns" going for a spin on the ride.

Thanks, Randy!

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It never ceases to amaze me how incredibly large some of these pavilions were. This picture gives you an idea of the scale of Bell Telephone.

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I hope Webnik found my photos of the Bell System ride itself. Better late than never.

 

 

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