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Expressway: My doubleheader 50 years ago in Flushing

This 1965 file photo shows the New York

This 1965 file photo shows the New York State Pavilion at the New York World's Fair in New York. They were designed as sleek, space-age visions of the future: three towers topped by flying-saucer-like platforms, and a pavilion of pillars with a suspended, shimmering roof that the 1964 World's Fair billed as the "Tent of Tomorrow." That imagined tomorrow has come and gone. Now the structures are abandoned relics, with rusted beams, faded paint and cracked concrete. And as the fair's 50th anniversary approaches, the remains of the New York State Pavilion are getting renewed attention, from preservationists who believe they should be restored, and from critics who see them as hulking eyesores that should be torn down. Photo Credit: AP

There's a great big beautiful tomorrow,

Shining at the end of every day.

There's a great big beautiful tomorrow,

And tomorrow is just a dream away.

Many who have been to Disney World will recognize this as the start of the theme song from the somewhat corny, but undeniably endearing Carousel of Progress.

While the audience sits in a rotating section of seats, the carousel visits stages depicting periods of 20th Century America to celebrate electricity, the telephone, household appliances, transportation, plus a voice-activated oven that always overcooks the Christmas turkey. The family dog Rover accompanies each scene (although I've never known anyone who named their dog Rover).

As some New Yorkers know, the exhibit originated in Flushing Meadows at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. It was created by Walt Disney for General Electric's Progressland pavilion.

The song reminds me of a day 50 years ago -- June 23, 1964 -- when I had a unique doubleheader for an 8-year-old: My mom and dad took me to the fair -- and then to my first New York Mets game at the beautiful new Shea Stadium nearby.

We lived in the Bronx and did not have a family car until 1965, so we took the subway to Grand Central Terminal before changing to the 7 train to the fair. I remember my excitement as the train pulled toward the Willets Point Station. The Unisphere appeared on one side and Shea on the other.

I wish I could remember more details about that day, but I do recall the people and the excitement. I remember riding in a Ford convertible through the Ford Pavilion and later the amazing monorail that ran not above its main rail, but below it. Ford also introduced a car that season called the Mustang that created a stir. I ate a Belgian waffle, perhaps at the Belgium Village, and my mom fussed to make sure strawberry juice didn't wind up on my shirt.

I remember a gentleman from India holding court, dressed in the garb of his country. This was 1964, and the world was not as small as it is today.

"What are you supposed to be?" a woman asked one of the men, somewhat indelicately.

The young man smiled disarmingly and stated, "Why, I am a man," as everyone laughed.

My mom was so enchanted that she had her picture taken with him. Wish I knew where that photo was.

Later at about 7:30 p.m., we crossed Roosevelt Avenue to Shea Stadium, which opened that season. We saw the Pirates, led by Bill Mazeroski and Roberto Clemente, beat Casey Stengel's Mets, 5-1. I became a Mets fan and it was the first of many visits to Shea.

My favorite memory of the day was the Carousel of Progress. It was a more innocent time and it seemed that everything was possible and the world would be a better place for all the new gadgets. I'm not sure I feel that way about today's technological advancements. Perhaps that cynicism is testament to my 58 years on Earth.

It is noteworthy that my children, particularly my older son, Chris, loved the Carousel at Disney World. He briefly used the jingle for voice messages on his cellphone. It's a reminder of a younger, more innocent era of hope.

And a heck of a day for an 8-year-old.

Reader Jerry Giammatteo lives in Sayville.


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