started when during one of my many visits to the Fair, I wandered
into the American Express Pavilion. My eyes beheld something
the likes of which I had never seen before. There, spread out
in front of me was a huge scale model of the Fair. The model
would have been impressive by itself, but then there were the
narrative and lights. I was awestruck. At age 14, I walked out
of that pavilion and was never the same again. I had always tinkered
with model kits, just like most kids, but to build something
like this would be quite different. I dreamt about building my
own scale model of the Fair in an unfinished bathroom on the
second floor of my Elmont home.
thoughts about this project fascinated me. First, I would build
something that no one else had or could buy. Second, I loved
the World's Fair and this would be an opportunity to bring the
Fair home, to relive my memories many times over. The American
Express official model of the New York World's Fair would be
building some of my favorite pavilions from wood, clay and paper.
The unique architecture of the Fair made model making a real
challenge. I found myself looking at any and all objects around
the house and in restaurants asking myself the question, "does
this thing look like any part of a pavilion?" I studied
the official guidebook, took photos and researched any information
I could find that would serve as a resource for my model. The
first roadblock occurred when I attempted to illuminate the pavilions.
The thickness of the wood and clay made lighting the buildings
impossible. My aunt Celeste, who lived in Manhattan, was able
to purchase several large sheets of plastic, which I was able
to reshape into World's Fair pavilions that could be lit from
inside. I also discovered that by remaking the buildings they
would look better on the second attempt. By the time the model
was complete, not one original building remained. Most models
were of the third or fourth generation. Even the photo of the
model that appeared in the paper was not the final version of
"How I ended
up with my picture in the paper is as much a story as making
the model itself. After several months of sheer model making
pleasure, I had a pretty good replica of the Fair with pavilions
that could be illuminated. The only thing I was missing to make
the experience complete was the narrated recording from the American
Express Pavilion. This recording named the pavilions and spoke
briefly about each one as they would light up. It was quite a
show. The 20 x 40 foot model was located on the floor and when
it lit up it made you feel as if you were in an airplane flying
above the Fair. But how to get a copy of this recording?
and model several years after the Fair
supportive father took me to the Fair carrying our reel-to-reel
tape recorder with the intent of tape recording the narrative.
You might imagine my disappointment when we arrived at the pavilion
to find out that there was no electrical outlet in the room.
(Battery operated tape machines were not available back in 1964.)
I was depressed and very upset and told my father that I just
wanted to leave. He noticed how visibly disappointed I was, and
wasn't about to leave that easily. He suggested that we ask someone
who worked at the American Express Pavilion if we could somehow
make a copy of the recording. It was at this point that he spoke
one of his many words of wisdom...a lesson that I continue to
experience throughout my life. He said, "Let's just ask
someone...we have nothing to lose by asking." I was reluctant
at first and somewhat embarrassed at the thought, but my father
prevailed and proved to be right again.
I knew what was happening, we were being escorted to the VIP
room on the second level of the pavilion. From a small viewing
room I was able to look down on the Fair model and make the recording
that I had wanted so very much. As we were getting ready to leave
the pavilion, the American Express employee asked what we wanted
the recording for. I told him what I had built at home and he
was so intrigued by it all, that he said he wanted to come and
see it and bring a photographer with him. Several weeks passed
and the day came when we had these special guests in our home.
pictures were taken and they said to watch the local papers.
On July 12, 1965, my picture with my model of the New York World's
Fair appeared in the Long Island Press. I guess you can
say that it was my one moment of fame. Who would have thought.....
The photo and caption
months that followed I learned that Newsday and several other
papers had also carried my story and photo. Unknown to me, UPI
had picked up the story and ran with it. One of my most prized
possessions arrived in the mail on September 16, 1965, just one
month before the Fair closed. It was a letter from Robert Moses
himself. It read, 'Dear Robert, The excellent job you did on
constructing a model of the World's Fair has come to my attention.
I congratulate you on this accomplishment and wish you success
in your future endeavors. Enclosed is a World's Fair medallion
which I thought you might like to have.'
"All I could
say was WOW!!!!
letter of congratulations
I was living in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I was working as the
Administrator of a Retirement community when one of our part-time
employees called me to say that she had something very interesting
to show me. It so happened that this employee also worked in
the local bank. One day a couple visiting from Clovis, New Mexico
came to the bank. They had a newspaper clipping of their wedding
from 20 years ago. Because the paper had aged, they wanted to
know if the bank could laminate their clipping. She told them
that she could do that for them, and proceeded to do so. In the
process, she turned the article over to fit it into the machine.
Can you guess what was on the other side of that article? The
same article that had appeared in the Long Island Press
in 1965! There I was, halfway across the United States and 20
years removed from the event that now reappeared before me. I
cannot fathom just what the odds of this happening are, but I
can tell you that it was the most amazing thing that ever happened
to me. To think that my little article had appeared in the Clovis,
New Mexico newspaper made me wonder just how many other papers
it might have appeared in."