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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Looking Back at the 1964-'65 New York World's Fair

The Unis-sphere, symbol of the New York World's Fair. Photos taken by my Uncle Everett Wallace over two visits. Spring 1965.  

        Looking back on the New York World’s Fair 1964 – 1965
                                                     By Eric K. Williams   

It is hard to believe that the last New York World’s Fair took place nearly 50 years ago in the mid-1960’s. Yet, so much of what we take for granted now in the 21st century is all around us. Like Babe Ruth’s legendary ‘Called Shot’ home run in the 1932 World Series, the New York World’s Fair of 1964 – 1965, was right on target, and was the ‘called shot’ in the way we live today.

In short, technologically speaking, and especially in the way we humans communicate, share and exchange information, take simple photographs, send short messages, speak on the telephone, that fair was true to prediction 50 years ago. Think of it in the way in which we watch and record  television programs, view movies at a cinema, listen to music, travel within cities and across oceans, and in so many other ways, much of what we do now has come out of that very fair.

For Baby Boomers like myself who were born in the 1950’s, the very notion of everyone having a colour television set in their home, considered a luxury item then, was nothing short of revolutionary. So, too, was the concept of ‘portable hand carried  telephones,’ safer cars, a man landing on the moon, brighter colour film, and movies, and high definition television, smaller audio recording tape machines, video telephone calls to anyone in the world, and also, how space satellites would become more important in everyday life, back then, it was all science fiction.  

The Clan of Everett Wallace, standing in front of the World's Fair symbol, the Unis-Sphere at the New York World's Fair 1965. Photo by Everette Wallace.

Yes, the American space program where much of today’s technology comes from, out of the so-called RACE FOR SPACE, was driven in large part by the ‘Cold War’ with the Soviet Union. That race for space also captured the imagination of international scientists, educators, those in the media, the public at large, and also, young people. I should know, being among the millions of American young people who would sit up and watch the rocket launches into space out of Cape Canaveral on television. 

But why jump forward? 

For the generation of New Yorkers who were born in the early part of the 20th century, the 1939 – 1940 World’s Fair was a landmark event for them on so many levels. Television, more affordable cars giving one freedom, differently constructed city life, cheaper and less cumbersome radios, washing and drying machines at home, for example, was introduced. But, unlike the World’s Fair that would follow two and a half decades later, that fair at the end of the 1930’s had an ominous backdrop. Europe was then in the beginning stages of the second ‘war to end all wars.’ It was a constant under-current on the mood of the American public, still reeling from the Great Depression. So that meant much of the new technology being introduced there, would have to be placed on the proverbial ‘back burner,’ and the world would have to wait until the latter part of the 1940’s, after this war, to experience what had been promised.    

My interest in writing this piece is twofold: One is that it came about after running across a series of old colour slide photographs an uncle of mine had snapped at the second New York fair. The photos cover two visits he had made with his branch of my large extended family, in 1965. My late uncle, Everett Kermit Wallace, was a man well ahead of his time. For the better part of 40 years, from about 1948, until about the mid-1990’s, my uncle had the foresight of recording his life by snapping hundreds of colour slides of his family in New York, his life in the U.S. military overseas in Asia, and other items of note in the world about him. Later in the 1960’s, he captured other significant events with motion picture Super 8, and 8mm colour film of his travels across much of North America while on vacation.  

Left to right, Cousins Everett Wallace III, Frances Wallace, Aunt Inez Wallace, Nancy Wallace, and Cousins Gregory and Lewis Wallace. Sitting at the foot of the Unis-Sphere, New York World's Fair 1965.  
The other reason for sitting down and writing this, is more a question as to what happened to the concept of Expos, or World’s Fairs in America, and why is it that not much has happened on the American scene since those days? My relatives who were alive and had attended the 1939 fair, spoke of it with deep civic pride, and had pointed out the many benefits of it to the city. Those benefits included, jobs a-plenty, completion of what is now La Guardia Airport, the linking of the Grand Central Parkway to other city traffic arteries, and perhaps most important of all, an impression left on tourists that New York was the most exciting place to be.  \

But first, the photos.....   

My uncle’s youngest son, and my cousin, Kermit Wallace, had been transferring these colour slide and film images since his father’s death into a digital format, and sharing some of them with me in recent years. The photographs that accompany this ‘look back’ are the property of the Wallace Family collection. Most of the 20-odd photographs here contain members of my extended family at the fair, and will likely have interest, for some, of one New York African-American family taking part in a historical site, and major event.  

The Author, with his cousin, Kermit Wallace. Wall Street. New York City. March 2011.
I had visited the New York World’s Fair a total of six times. The first visit came in late May of 1964, as a member of my sixth grade class from P.S. 99, while on a day trip. The other five visits took place with extended family members, with two additional visits in 1964, followed by three additional trips, and one all by myself, in 1965.     

The New York State Pavilion and main entrance way at the New York World's Fair 1965.
I do remember a photo slide exhibit at my elementary school in The Bronx in early 1964. Public School 99 was one of many such New York schools that took part in a big promotion organized by fair promoters that spring of 1964. The next New York World’s Fair, we were told, was promised for 1989, but it never came to be.     

The last World’s Fair held on American soil was in New Orleans back in 1984. Since then, The U.S. has sat on the proverbial sidelines, and surprisingly since that year, withdrew its membership from the Paris-based Bureau of International Expositions. The B.I.E., as it is also known, is the organization that chooses sites for World’s Fairs every five years. The U.S. State Department, it seems, was no longer willing to pay the annual dues, about $20,000.00 dollars a year, a relatively small fee for membership in an international group.  

Helicopter landing at the Port Authority Pavilion, New York World's Fair 1965.
As of this writing, 98 countries are members of the BIE, and that includes every major U.S. ally. For this writer, the absence of an American presence on this world body sends a disturbing message to the rest of the world. This message also flies in the face in the push of globalization, truncates the message of America being an important leader of technological innovation and excellence, and it also says, in essence, that the rest of the world does not matter. American presentations at the most recent expos were called “a disgrace,” by one Popular Science magazine reporter in a lengthy piece.  

Yet, this question must be posed to critics of the world fair, or expo concept: ‘Would the 20th Century have been ‘The American Century,’ without the two New York World’s Fairs of 1939, and 1964-1965?’ David Gelernter, is a History Professor at Yale University, who is also known for his book titled, ‘1939: The Lost World at the Fair,’ has an opinion on that worth noting.    

When asked about the 1939 fair and its impact economically and socially, he said it helped to “improve the city’s image (internationally.”) Pausing for a moment he added that between 1945, the end of the Second World War, and well into the mid-1950’s that for New York, “they were ‘boom years’ economically, yes (that while) many things also helped, the 1939 fair was a huge factor.”  

View From the Uni-Royal Ferris Wheel at the New York World's Fair 1965.
 The two most recent world fairs, or expos, took place in Aichi, Japan (2005) and in Shanghai, China (2010,) with the Aichi fair drawing over 22 million visitors. Both fairs, which were overlooked by the U.S., represent the beginning of the ‘Asian Century,’ so say expo proponents. The Shanghai Expo, which drew over 70 million attendees, was a no-expense-spared advertisement for Chinese ambition. It showcased technological and architectural innovation. It was like a male Peacock’s ‘showing of the feathers’ for the Chinese nation, eager to demonstrate that it is a strong global economic force. That display also underlined how China is keen to improve its international reputation in what became a public relations coup in Shanghai.

Entrance to Far East restaurant, an early peek at an emerging region, at the New York World's Fair 1965.
A world’s fair is important and leaves a longer lasting impression, it could be argued, than a city hosting, say, the Olympics. While the Olympics is a two week affair, an international expo runs for at least six months. Both New York events, for example, ran for two year stretches and drew millions of visitors.

There is also the enduring architectural legacies unveiled at expos that leave an indelible mark on a city from such events. London’s Crystal Palace, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, for example, both came out of 19th century world expositions held in each city.  

The collection of family colour slides shared with me unearthed not only my own memories of the fair, but memories of a different time. Much has changed in New York, America, and indeed, the rest of the world over the past 50 years, when looking at technology, politics, society, and culture. Personally, nearly half of my relatives in those photos have long passed on, including my uncle who snapped those pictures. For my late uncle, and grandmother, who had both attended the New York fair a quarter century prior, the event offered hope of a better future world. I, too, was infected with the bug of a brave, exciting, and new world about to unfold in front of me, in spite of the World’s Fair critics back then.  

Hurrying along, Aunt Inez Wallace, Cousin Gregory Wallace, with Everett III, far right, at the New York World's Fair 1965.  
Like today, there were opponents of a city hosting such an event, with arguments mostly about costs, a better use for public funds, and the temporary inconvenience visited upon its residents. Opponents now advance those same arguments, even adding in a new twist that technology, and the Internet, make holding such a physical event that would draw millions to it, passé. Yet, several published stories reported that the crowds which attended the most recent expos in Asia were large, enthusiastic, and in most cases, had waited in line for up to ten hours just to get in. Hardly passé for the citizens of Japan and China, who not only have held successful expos they can point to, but who also benefitted from an economic injection numbering in the billions despite the current global financial crisis.

Left to right, my Aunt Inez Wallace, Grandmother, Ethel Wallace, and my Cousin, Lewis Wallace, at the New York World's Fair 1965.
New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who spent much of his political capital attempting to lure the 2012 Summer Olympics to his city during his first term. Bloomberg did not lift a finger, nor entertain the idea of bringing a 2020, or 2025 expo, to the Big Apple in his two terms that followed. That extension of his political capital over the Olympics was unsuccessful, as London beat out New York. An opportunity may have been missed, but there remain supporters in academia, science, technology, civic boosters, business, the media, and some elected officials in New York, who would be eager to drum up support to bring back the fair.

The Mono-Rail ride, a big attraction, at the New York World's Fair 1965. 
Prior to 1939, what became the World’s Fair grounds, and later, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, was for decades a large city garbage dump. The fair made the park, and later, a lot of other useful and permanent sites in New York, possible. What the high quality colour slides my Uncle Everett left behind do for this New Yorker is to not only touch a deep emotional chord of a time now gone, but they also give me a jolt of promise, and yes, the possibility of a better future still yet to come.                      

My Uncle Everett Kermit Wallace, Photo Chronicler, Left, with his wife, my Aunt Inez Wallace In front of the Bell Telephone Pavilion at the New York World's Fair 1965.

Friday, September 18, 2009

We have heard about the attack on reporters in East Timor in the late 1980's where Pacifica Radio Network journalist, Amy Goodman, nearly lost her life. Goodman, known for her work on the daily Network radio program, DEMOCRACY NOW, was not the first. The new Australian film, BALIBO, recounts the ordeal of the citizens of East Timor in the mid-1970's, as the Vietnam War was winding down. Lost in that time, was the invasion by Indonesian forces that critics say both U.S. and Australian government officials had a hand in. This movie, like the Oliver Stone Film of the 1990's, JFK, raises serious and disturbing questions over the fate of five Australian journalists who died at the hands of the Indonesian government forces. Whatever became of them, no one knows for sure. But, it is clear that the five likely died at the hands of the invaders. This is a deeply moving story and, no matter what you think about journalists or the job they do, they are the instant historians of our times. This movie looks back makes the audience think just what this means and how such events are swept under the rug and, kept away from public view. This is a feature film worth a look. Australian officials, as a result, have asked the Indonesians for a re-examination of those events left under a cloud of mystery and unanswered questions.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The movie BALIBO stars Anthony Lapaglia and Oscar Isaac as the principle characters in the movie. Lapaglia, photo left, is known to U.S. audiences from film and television series since the 1980's. One is the movie INNOCENT BLOOD, the Pittsburgh Vampire movie that received rave reviews using humor and horror. This may be his best work as an actor.

One image from the movie, BALIBO, of four of the five journalists running for their lives as they are chased by Indonesian invaders. The story is gripping using facts from a part of the world most of us have never visited, know little about but, one the world media has largely ignored. A powerful film based on a true story.


This is a film that should not be missed where ever you may be, or live. For those who like suspense and, love films with an Alfred Hitchcock twist, this is the movie for you. But, the tale of this movie is more than simply the story of a lost Australian saga. It is the story of everyman in search of a better life, but who, gets caught in a web of terror. This is also a movie with a story. Some call it a lost masterpiece that was rescued, restored and now, nearly forty years later, re-discovered. Below are a few images of a tale not told of many films. The story of WAKE IN FRIGHT is compelling. It comes from the 1961 novel by Kenneth Cook that tells an Australian story that is fascinating and terrifying all at once. Wake in Fright is a movie that should not be missed. The Australian story is more than that of Gallipoli, Paul Hogan and, Kangaroos. But, one that also takes place in the heartland of this vast and complex nation. This is 'Not As It Is,' but rather, one story that gives insight into the Australian story and, society. I highly recommend this tale of a nearly forgotten film to, not only the English speaking world but, to those interested in seeing an unusual story from a country with a unique history. Check this one out!

This film, from the book of the same name and written by Kenneth Cook, was first released in 1971 and, was the Australian representative at the Cannes Film Festival that year. The release of the movie in U.S. theaters was in July but, was re-named OUTBACK. There were several alterations of it, including the opening and end titles and, one scene re-done with the star of the movie, Gary Bond, appearing in underpants, rather than the naked scene in the original. The movie then disappeared but, did manage to surface in different formats, including VHS in North America. From 1972 through 2002, this film was lost. In early 2002, the original negatives for Wake In Fright were located in a Pittsburgh vault marked for destruction! From that year until now, the film was carefully restored, through digital means because of significant scratching and color fade to the negatives.

Above, details of the journey of a lost Australian masterpiece and, how this film, thought lost, was rediscovered, re-processed and, re-released. This is a film not to be missed.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


by Eric K. Williams

President Barack Obama, Left, with the late Massachusetts Senator, Edward Moore (Ted) Kennedy, April 21, 2009 in Washington, D.C. at a bill signing.

To Visitors and to fellow readers here. I, too, feel a tremendous sense of loss with the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. What I tell people around the world and, to my countrymen, too young to have remembered President John F. Kennedy is this: Were it not for the Kennedy's and, what they stood for, I likely would not have attended college in the 1970's. That's right, it was the Harlem - East Harlem Model Cities College grant that made it possible for a working class Black kid to attend college. The other thing that Senator Kennedy had a big hand in, was the creation of the too-short-lived Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, known by the acronym, CETA. Senator Kennedy, along with Senators Humphrey and, Hawkins made it possible for me, in addition to attending college, to get REAL Training in Broadcast Journalism. The program CETA funded was called the Community Film Workshop Council of New York. It was through that intensive program where I got my start in Broadcast Journalism with a job as a reporter with WYTV-TV in Youngstown, Ohio.

I met Senator Kennedy through a college buddy of mine who attended the same New England school as I in the early 1970's. I will not call my friend's name, for he is very much a part of the Irish Massachusetts attorney crowd now, as was his father, who was also close to the Kennedy clan. Senator Kennedy was one public official who was disarming, funny and, not full of himself. That struck me, and also stuck with me when I got the chance to meet him again, years later. It was in New York's Bryant Park, weeks after the September 11th attacks, in 2001, where Kennedy, along with Former President William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton made stump speeches for fellow New York Democrats. Kennedy was approachable and, not aloof. And, again, one disarming man.

Covering politics in New York and, in other Cities around the USA for a variety of media organs, one can get cynical of elected officials who have a penchant to disappoint. With Ted Kennedy, there was always something to learn and, to ponder. Yet, I cannot forget the indelible mark, through legislation and policies, the impact this family has had on my life both directly and indirectly. WE may never again see another elected official with the vision, passion and heart of the man, known to many as the lion of the U.S. Senate. For this observer, he will be missed.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

By Eric Williams

Melbourne - The death toll stands at 181 but, police in Victoria are expecting that number to rise significantly upwards, with scores of people still unaccounted for and, among the missing. What's more, while many of the fires were started because of the hot and dry conditions, there is the assumption on the part of police and, the Prime Minister, Kevin Ruud, that a number of the fires were set deliberately. There is video tape evidence to back this up. Two suspects are in custody as investigations continue. 30 fires are STILL burning around Victoria as of this writing. No rain in the forecast.

The current heat wave has subsided at the moment but, is expected to return early next week. Forecasts call for more 40-plus degree temperatures starting on Monday. Last Saturday, the temperature hit 48.7 degrees Celsius in much of Victoria. It was 46 in Melbourne city, proper. The highest temps EVER recorded in this state. Translated that is about 120 degrees Fahrenheit in U.S. measurements.

What is odd is that while Victoria burns, there is heavy rain and flooding in the Australian state of Queensland to the north. Streets are flooded and, rescue teams are present there now. This follows mass flooding in the Pacific Island nation of Fiji, north and east of Australia, from mid-January. There are brush fires underway now in New Zealand but, not on the scale of what has taken place in Australia.

On Friday, the 13th of February, (Thursday in the U.S. and Europe,) there will be a national day of mourning called by the Prime Minister, Kevin Ruud. Large gatherings are expected at St. Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne, where I will be this morning. Similar events are scheduled in most of the rest of the country. Nearly everyone I have spoken to and, know here in Melbourne, has been touched by this spate of heat and, brush fires. That is, they either have a friend or relative who has been touched by this event, or know someone who has. One friend, whose elderly 80 plus year old father was in a nursing home just north of Melbourne, died last Saturday.

Much of the U.S. media has not paid close attention to this story and, regard it as being 'too far away' from the Americas for U.S. audiences to care. In truth, the story warrants wide and detailed coverage because, this is the clearest case yet of Global Warming, having a major impact on a fellow industrialized nation. This could happen in the United States and, besides, there are American ex-patriots I know personally, who were directly touched by this phenomena.

What makes this scary is that even the occasional high winds offer no relief. The air, blowing down from northern Australia, is as hot as a furnace and, further dries already dry conditions. Complicating matters even further is the drought. Victorian government officials, for example, had been airing 'save water' public service announcements on local television stations in recent weeks.

In Melbourne less than three weeks ago, a water main broke in the Northcote district of this city, as millions of gallons of water shot over 20 meters high into the air and, spewed down sewers and was lost. Politically there is a debate among federal lawmakers in Canberra, the national capital, over the stimulus package and, spending on infrastructure. The measure, advanced and supported by the Labor party led government, was defeated days after the height of the heat wave and brush fire emergency.

This story is changing by the hour as I write this but, the Summer season is at mid-point. That means, the very likelihood of this current emergency repeating itself is not only possible but, scientists believe, probable.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Here are some words and, thoughts to ponder on the issues of the day from one of the I-A-N Board Members......

When a nation is attacked by terrorists who are given safe haven by another nation, what are they supposed to do? Should they negotiate to get that other nation to put a stop to the activity? Should they go into that country and try to eradicate the terrorists? It depends on whom you ask. If you are asking leaders of a country who have done the latter, the United States for example, and have supported it for its allies, as in the case of Israel invading Lebanon, then they probably would recommend incursion. It gets a little sticky when the country currently being attacked is Turkey and the country they want to invade is Iraq, which the U.S. is now occupying. Everyone who supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, must get behind the Turkish parliament’s call for military action in northern Iraq. Remember your phrases like, “better to fight them over there than here.” The chickens have come home to roost.

jim sutherland

Monday, August 20, 2007

It has come to our attention that another Jazz Giant has passed, Jon Lucien. This has been a Summer of significant passings in all fields of Entertainment and Public spheres. Our Hearts go out to those closest to the Jazz great. I had the opportunity to meet the man himself just three years ago at the TRUMPETS Jazz club in New Jersey. A gentle and humble man, Jon Lucien played a mean guitar, and sang mostly mellow tunes. He will be missed and, he joins the great Max Roach among significant passings in this Summer of 2007. Funeral arrangements have not been announced at this time. Stay tuned for updates. On funeral details about services for Max Roach, please visit our sister Blog, Jazz and World Beat.


JON LUCIEN - JAN 8, 1942 to AUGUST 18, 2007

"I would say my sound is a romantic's's's tranquility."