I was about 4 1/2 when my family went to the Fair, so I don't have a lot of clear memories, except for one encounter that has locked itself into my mind to this day. Even though I was so young I was a bona fide car nut and knew a lot about different makes and models. I couldn't wait to see the new Mustang at the Ford Pavilion.
When we got on the Magic Skyway ride, my parents, grandparents, sister and I got into a dark blue '64 Galaxie convertible with a white interior -- this I remember clearly. I begged to sit behind the wheel, and as soon as I got in, turned on the radio. Just as the ride started moving, I heard a voice on the radio intone, "Hello, this is Henry Ford, and welcome to the Ford Magic Skyway." Well, even at my young age, I knew Henry Ford was dead! Totally spooked by this ghostly voice talking through the radio, and combined with the looming darkness of the tunnel, I screamed from one end of the ride to the other.
I told this story to a co-worker once who [is] the same age as I am. He related a story about going to the Fair in '65. He remembers that his family sat in a red '65 Galaxie convertible and he begged for the driver's seat also. In his case, he started turning the steering wheel to pretend like he was driving. Unfortunately for him, many other Fairgoers must have done the same thing because he said that the wheel came off in his hands. Not wishing to anger his parents, he held the wheel against the steering column with all his might throughout the ride. When the time came for them to get out of the car, he wouldn't budge and when the operator asked him to get out, he started crying hysterically, figuring that he would be held responsible for breaking the car.
I drove my parents NUTS switching the language channels on the dashboard radio in front of me.
One of my memories of Ford and some others was sneaking in on the VIP line. Being only 12 in '65 I would look for a young couple and we would walk up and stand next to them. It looked like we were one big family. Only once did we get caught. We tried this at many other VIP lines. Why wait?
I also had the daylights scared out of me at the Ford Magic Skyway. I was [6 1/2 years old] then ... but if you remember the blinding multi-colored lights as your car entered, that was enough to scare me to death. What can I tell you? Glad to see I was not the only one scared. After a few times being on it I grew up and enjoyed the dinosaurs.
I do recall of the Ford pavilion, seeing new Mustang convertibles on the rotating displays, someone giving me a "Maryland" [souvenir pin] rather then "New Hampshire," where I lived, and getting to sit in the driver's seat in a Galaxy 500 (I think it was white). I too was a real nut about driving, so I was really ticked when I discovered that the steering wheel was locked and didn't turn!
While riding the Skyway my friend, Dale, reached out over the door of the car to grab part of the display. It must have been in the early days or most likely a slow day. I say this because Dale and me were the only ones in the car. Think about that, just two young teens left alone in a brand new car. Well anyway, as he reached over the door of the car his hand hit one of the wires that ran along the sides of the Skyway. No sooner did he touch it he gave out a yell, screaming about an electrical shock. He was convinced that this was designed to be a deterrent, intended to keep kids like him in their place. I believe it was only some static charge. But then again, it wasn't me who got zapped.
A snapshot shows our family happily tooling along the Magic Skyway, my brother and I in the front seat of a new convertible, with my parents and sister apparently in the back. My sister's clawlike arm can be seen reaching over the front seatback in a foreshadowing of her future role as our family's self-appointed backseat commander. After navigating through our glass tunnel, giving us a great view of the Fairgrounds, the ride plunged into darkness, then opened into a room where a Tyrannosaurus was fighting a Stegosaurus on a rocky ledge, so that they looked like they would fall right into your car as you passed underneath. Just as we safely made it past them, the ride stopped. After waiting some time, and thinking to lighten the mood, I turned around and said, "Gee, I hope my playing with the pedals didn't cause the ride to break." My mom exploded: "Then keep your #@!& foot OFF THE PEDALS!" I quickly turned back around and began staring straight ahead. Mom was obviously having a bad day, and in all the excitement I hadn't noticed. The five of us spent the next 15 minutes in icy silence while a giant plastic Pterodactyl shrieked overhead as it circled endlessly on what I could now make out was a black wire suspended from a rotating black arm in the corner of a black ceiling. The radio kept repeating the same two sentences over and over. The illusion of being in a primeval jungle had pretty much vanished.