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Interview With a Coin Crusher From the 39NY WF

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I may have the opportunity to interview a 90 year old man who actually crushed pennies at the 1939 NY World's Fair. I was contacted by his son who wanted to purchase an elongated cent from then for a Christmas present for his Dad.

I'm interested as to whether any of you think this is an interesting opportunity, and if so, do you have any specific questions you may want me to ask of him?

I'm a past member of TEC and current member of the ANA, CWTS, CONECA, and the NLG.

Ron Fern

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Sure, a great opportunity. He would have worked for Frank Galland's Penny Crushers, at least in 1939. There were crushers all over the Fair. It would be neat to know how often something other than pennies were crushed (dimes etc.). I used to collect Proof Seated and Barber 10c.

MB

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The crushers at the '64-65 World's Fair were pretty much self-service machines that needed little maintenance. Maybe occasional oiling. Much like you see today in areas where there are kids, like zoos.

I had assumed that crushers from earlier Fairs were similar.

We called them penny smasher machines.

Why did they need somebody to run them? Maybe the crushing gears were not enclosed, so there was some danger that kids could crush their fingers? Maybe crusher operators eventually went the way of elevator operators, but that was later than 1939?

Not only do people collect coins other than pennies which were smashed in the machines designed for pennies (even as large as quarters), but foreign coins as well. My '64-65 elongated coins (the current term) collection includes nickels, dimes, quarters, Mexican pesos, Canadian coins, etc.

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"Why did they need somebody to run them? Maybe the crushing gears were not enclosed, so there was some danger that kids could crush their fingers? Maybe crusher operators eventually went the way of elevator operators, but that was later than 1939?"

Perhaps I am dating myself, but I never recall anything but the operated kind with a human operator - it was not until "recently" (last 15-20 years) that I started seeing the self operated ones at public attractions. I was reading online that they were first generally introduced at the 1892-93 Fair. I have an elongated floating around from Asbury Park with the Morro Castle on it - August 1935 I think.

MB

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I spotted something interesting while restoring another picture from the 39 Fair. Here's a cropped view showing one of the elusive penny crusher booths:

39-penny-crusher.jpg

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Hi Bill,

Again - neat photo. Right by Communications. Now, what does that say? "Mail a lucky(?) penny to the World's Fair something or other???" The sign with the "5 cents" on the ends. I really expected it to say "Frank Gallands Penny Crushers" or some such. They are scarce in photographs because they were just 12 - 15 in 1940. The 5 cents cost nails it though - Frank Gallands.

Great photo!

MB

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And look at that tour bus. What a gem. It just shouts "world of tomorrow."

I would love to climb right into that photograph for an hour or so!

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i never knew that those things were called "penny crushers", proves just how young i am i guess! i have a few of those pennies from zoos and random theme parks, and all i remember is cranking the machine myself, but granted i was born in '87... (eep! i AM young!)

awesome photos, and you're right Jim, that bus is amazing looking!

part of me feels i should really look into the '39 fair more because every time i see a photo or something it fascinates me

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I agree. When I wrote my masters thesis on the 1939-40 NYWF, I interviewed a dozen or more people who had visited the Fair

(one was a boy at the time of the Fair and had visited perhaps fifty or more times). Their collective memories were

inspirational. To a person, their experiences at that Fair were a highlight of their entire life. Some actually became misty

eyed as they recalled their Fair experiences. And their memories were crystal clear nearly forty years after the event. The

architecture, the lighting, the gardens, the amusement zone, the souvenirs--all of these were vividly remembered.

That Fair was a watershed both for a nation and for countless numbers of visitors who walked those grounds.

I wish I could have seen it.

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I cannot tell you if the 1939 Fair was better than the 1964, the 1933, or the 1893. I am sure it was different and awe inspiring.

In 39’ the advent of TV…64’ Computers

39’ exhibits, dioramas…64’ Disney

64’ had technical advanced architecture; most of it was hidden and only advertised in architecture journals. 39’ beautiful styled buildings

Audio/visuals technically advanced in 64’ with surround sound, 360-degree movies and multimedia…39’ nudes.

Human nature being what it is, each generation embraces with fond memories the early years. Ask anyone over sixty if actors are better today.

Was the 1964 Fair better than the GSA Expo 2007…no doubt.

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1939...Perisphere. And its contents. And the walk down to the "orientation point.

1964...Unisphere . With it's visually implied meaning.

The differences to me render one..mm..almost transparent.

But a good analogy - in many ways things had become less substantial by 1964 (sort of like the differences in acting Hood mentioned) - as did the buildings and size of the Fair (the 1964 Fair was nowhere near the size of the 1939 as we know), the scope of what was attempted - just look at the two from the air. One looks like a trade show. Sorry, but the 1939 New York World's Fair seemed to be under rated in the above post. Jim has it right above - that Fair was indeed a high water mark. And Maverick as well - I have yet to encounter anyone who went to both who thought anything other.

MB

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Well, like I said, everyone I have spoken to that was THERE at both say that the first was better by far... not by a little bit.. Architecturally, culturally, technologically... it packed more wow and awe by ALL of those fairgoers I have spoken with by FAR. Unfortunately, most of us will never be able to compare them for ourselves, and even if we could go back in time, it would be impossible to experience it with the right perspecitive coming from 2007.

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<!--quoteo--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE</div><div class='quotemain'><!--quotec-->Now, what does that say? "Mail a lucky(?) penny to the World's Fair something or other???"<!--QuoteEnd--></div><!--QuoteEEnd-->

The sign reads: MAIL A LUCKY PENNY TO THE FOLKS BACK HOME!

And if I could somehow manage to mail myself back to Flushing Meadow in 1939, I would in a heartbeat. My father-in-law, who attended the first fair a handful of times during his tenth summer... has never forgotten what an extraordinary experience it was.

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My Mom was 10 during the 1939 Fair. She lived in Ridgewood at the time and has vivid memories of the fair. It must have been something. She told me that she and a friend got lost at the fair one day and her friend's dad happened to be an undertaker and he picked them up in a hearse at the lost and found which she believes was near the giant cash register. She even remembers what she was wearing that day. I also have a picture of her in front of the Belgium Pavilion ( I believe). What a time that must have been. She has children by the time th 64 fair came and saw things from a different perspective.

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Hood said:

<!--quoteo--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE</div><div class='quotemain'><!--quotec-->Human nature being what it is, each generation embraces with fond memories the early years. Ask anyone over sixty if actors are better today.<!--QuoteEnd--></div><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Exactly! I'm absolutely sure any Fair I'd have gone to after '64 would pale in comparison. I'd expect the same feelings from a '39er.

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My parents know I'm a big 64 nut, but my mom keeps telling me that if I had seen the 39 Fair I would understand how much better it was. I would have to imagine part of that had to have been due to the fact it was the first one out there in the former dump. After all, by 64 they could be saying "Been there, done that". I also think it was a major boost to the world's ego having come out of the Depression into a setting where the future was said to be unlimited - and just around the corner.

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"After all, by 64 they could be saying "Been there, done that". "

And on the same 65 miles of paved roads. That was a major design flaw IMHO - and it robbed the 1964 event of its own identity.

MB

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Interesting point, MB. Though I'm sure if there ever was any discussion by the second fair's designers and planners about ripping up all that infrastructure-- it couldn't have lasted long. Imagine the added cost and headaches of completely tearing everything up and starting all over again.

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you all have great points here... i mean i flock to the 64 fair because well, at first it was because of Disney, then it was because that was the fair my parents went to... i think it all depends on the generation, and the people you interact with who have the stories to tell. i heard stories about the 64 fair, and i am sure if i heard more about the 39 fair from others then i could learn to know (and equally love) both of the fairs. i mean i dont know if you all remember my post about that random '39 fair movie that i saw on tv, but i loved watching that.. it was so cool! this is why i love this site.. because you come in knowing and loving one aspect of the NYWFs and you begin to learn and know so much more.

ANYWAY...

it makes total sense that the '39 fair was "far superior" to '64 because of the excitement after the depression, and really because of the time. i might be wrong on this, but wasn't the 64 fair FAR MORE "corporate" than the '39? it could have easily just lost the wonder of all of it if everywhere you turned there was an ad for something. (at least for '39 fair goers who went to the '64 fair). BUT at the same time, it was what the companies brought to both that were important... their ideas for tomorrow and of course..... FUNDING

i could be talking out of my arse here but that's what i think at least. if you go to a fair today? it would be so expensive, and littered with ads, and giveaways and things that we see already. just look at TV today, it is littered with ads everywhere, and even in movies.. the recent SpiderMan 3 had so much advertising in it it was not even subtle. the old movies of '39 and '64 even weren't remotely like that.

and i guess thats why we all flock to these fairs.. to recapture time that was "better" and simpler, where commercialism isn't as horrible as it is today.

and i am happy to say that i believe this is the longest post i have ever written for the boards. haha

(i hope you understand what i am saying here.. if i offend or say anything "out of step" in regards to historical accuracy, i apologize )

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I don't know enough about 39/40 to opine on whether it was as "corporate" as 64/65, but G.E. and Westinghouse and The Railroads et al, sure made an impression on me, from the materials I've seen. And, IMO, it was a very, very soft sell at both Fairs. I remember nothing of the "product areas" of 64/65, but I sure remember the show!

A debate that won't end.....

Bunny, do you have "The World of Tomorrow" documentary? A must!

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