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Afikoman

Worlds Fair on "New York" PBS documentary

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I hope everyone is enjoying the fantastic conclusion to the Ric Burns documentary "New York". Last night's episode (Sunday 9/30) was 1929-1945)had lots of great facts about Robert Moses and his remarkable affect on NY roadways. I missed the last 40 minutes, but I assume they discussed the 39/40 NYWF.

Tonight is the conclusion of the entire series: 1945-present. Hopefully there will be plenty of 64WF action!

It is on your local PBS station and will no doubt be repeated thru the month. Enjoy!

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There was a major segment devoted to the '39/40 Fair last night. I didn't watch the whole episode tonight (Monday) but I did not see anything about the '64/65 NYWF. I think I did see a clip of a Robert Moses groundbreaking during the highways segment which had a Belgian Village sign in the background and seemed to be in fact from the groundbreaking for that exhibit.

Using some artistic license the announcer described the 39/40 Fair as a huge success which would make the '64/65 edition an even bigger one. Right?

[This message has been edited by Gene (edited 10-02-2001).]

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The general view of historians is that the 1939-1940 NYWF was the main event as regards world's fairs in the 20th Century and I certainly agree. I suppose it is much as The World's Columbian Exposition was the most remarkable American fair of the 19th Century. While the Chicago Century of Progress was a successfulr fair (even financially successful), it lacked the lasting impact of its predecessor. I suspect that is the assessment of the 1964-1965 NYWF. I loved that fair, but did not expect to see it highlighted in the PBS series because it was not a watershed event as was its predecessor. Also, for the record, ol' Robert Moses got hammered in that series. He was portrayed as a proverbial urban Simon Legree. For that reason alone, I knew "his" fair would be ignored.

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I think it's interesting that the 39/40 Fair has been regarded as an apex in expositions. The look of it was certainly impressive but other than GM's Futurama and the Railroads on Parade I rarely hear the content of the exhibit buildings as discussed or fondly remembered as many of the 64/65 Fair. Like the 64/65 Fair it was heavily criticized at the time by the local intelligentsia and attendance was disapointing. The permanent and unrealized goal in 39/40 as well was to build FMCP. Moses did not design the Fair but it was he that effectively picked the site by blocking alternatives and he built the general infrastructure and layout with this park in mind. It was a great event but I think a lot of the nostalgia for the 39/40 Fair was based on its poignant historic context-between the Depression and World War Two.

[This message has been edited by Gene (edited 10-04-2001).]

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I wrote my masters thesis on the 1939 NYWF. In the process of doing the research, I must have interviewed a hundred people who had attended the Big Fair. To a person, their memories were in vivid color and as fresh as if they had attended the Fair yesterday. For most, if not all, the Fair was a turning point in their lives. They recalled RCA and television, Carrier and air conditioning, DuPont and nylon, Westinghouse and the Time Capsule and flourescent lighting everywhere. Most of all, they remembered the vision and hope that seemed to bathe the entire exposition at Flushing Meadow. Many still had miniature Trylon and Perisphere souvenirs and their memories of Democracity were as clear as snapshots. Several even found 1939 Fair mementos at flea markets and then gave them to me. They loved retelling their stories and I loved hearing them.

They honored me by sharing their memories of "Merry Days at Mad Meadow."

Those who did attend the second Fair at Flushing Meadow liked it but remembered it as "less" than their Fair. Some saw it as interesting but a poor imitation of the orginal Flushing Meadow fair. They told me the 1939 Fair offered hope and optimism just when it was most needed while the 1964 Fair seemed plastic and commercial at a time when our nation was rich and prosperous.

The World of Tomorrow was more than the apex of the great Fairs of the first half of the 20th Century. It was a milestone in the lives of Americans emerging from the difficulties of the Great Depression and facing the challenges of a world that was slipping into the grip of global war. It was a vision of hope; it was a respite; it was a promise. It took place at a moment when America stood still and prepared to become the most prominent player on the world stage. I loved the 1965 fair. But if I could go back in time, even for just one hour, I would chose to spend that one hour in Flushing Meadow on a beautiful June afternoon in 1939 and share the Big Fair with the greatest generation.

[This message has been edited by Jim (edited 10-04-2001).]

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I loved the 1965 fair. But if I could go back in time, even for just one hour, I would chose to spend that one hour in Flushing Meadow on a beautiful June afternoon in 1939....

Jim, I could not agree with you more! I get very emotional when I see the color footage from the 39WF. The Jason Robards narrated PBS special gives me chills at the beginning.

The 39/40 NYWF conjures up visions of hope as well as feelings of trepidation due to the wartime atmosphere. It was certainly a much more beautiful fair (okay, no flames!) in terms of buildings and even collectibles. The Art Deco flavor of the 1939 can't compare to the underwhelming steel and concrete concoctions of 1964.

But, I am a fan of the 64/65WF too. It was a fun fair for kids (I have some cool home video of myself and my sister on the "Playground of Tomorrow")and provided a melange of suburban family meets the space-age atmosphere. Yet I don't get the same pangs of emotion when I see a swooping, lingering camera shot of the Unisphere or of the Lagoon of Nations.

I have often wondered what it would be like to spend a week in NYC in 1939 and the Worlds Fair would have been an amazing place to visit for a few days.

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[This message has been edited by Afikoman (edited 10-08-2001).]

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Afikoman, Thanks for the good words. I fully agree about the memories of 1965. I, too, have great slides of me, my sister and my parents at the NYWF. It was wonderful.

The Jason Robards film is awesome. Just reading through the pages of a 1939 NYWF Official Guide is almost a magical experience. There is a book entitled New York: Fair or No Fair published in 1939. It is sort of a humorous visitor's guide to the City for out-of-town Fair visitors and it is witty, very innocent by today's standards and a great glimpse into life in NYC in 1939.

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Anyone have a copy of the episodes or know if they're going to re-air it?

I was away the last two weeks and didn't get to catch any of it.

Thanks,

Erick

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Hi Erick, knowing PBS, the entire 7 part documentary will probably be rerun in the not so distant future. Also, the entire documentary or just the last two episodes, which heavily feature Robert Moses, are available for purchase at <a href="http://www.pbs.org....Bill" target="_blank">www.pbs.org....Bill</a>

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Guess I'll have to keep an eye out for the re-airing whihc I'm sure they'll do.

Thanks for the welcoming Mike. I've been lurking around here and Bill's board for the past couple of months.

Got interested in the Worlds Fair and FMP again during the summer when we had a family reunion at a great aunt's house which is directly across from the Hall of Science.

Me and my wife took a nice walk through the park with our new son and that peaked my interested in everything.

Erick

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