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An age of awe

Forty years ago the eyes of the world were on Flushing Meadows. Those lucky enough to have visited the 1964-65 World’s Fair shared in an unforgettable experience, one that to this day has never been duplicated.

In a special section in last...

An age of awe

Forty years ago the eyes of the world were on Flushing Meadows. Those lucky enough to have visited the 1964-65 World’s Fair shared in an unforgettable experience, one that to this day has never been duplicated.

In a special section in last week’s paper, the Times Ledger took a nostalgic look back at the World’s Fair. The fair took place during a period of dramatic change in America. It was the dawn of the space age when the opportunities of the future looked boundless. Satellites and color television were shrinking our world. Disney reminded us that was indeed “a small world after all.”

It was also a time when the nation was shaken to the core by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the bitter struggles of the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War and the emerging anti-war movement.

But when visitors stepped off the No. 7 Train and passed through the gates, they put aside the controversies of the day and dreamed for a moment about a future filled with high-speed travel, picture phones and mind-bending technology. It didn’t matter that the fair was not sanctioned by the Bureau of International Expositions or that countries such as France and Germany did not officially participate. That was their loss.

The nation's industrial giants, such as G.E. and General Motors, gave us a glimpse of what the future might be like and a ride to the past. The animatronics that we take for granted today were introduced at this World’s Fair – Lincoln talked and dinosaurs raised their mighty heads and roared.

For Queens this was a moment of glory and a moment of awe. It happened because people of vision triumphed over those who said a second World’s Fair in Queens wasn’t practical.

Forty years later remnants of the World’s Fair still stand in Flushing Meadows. The Unisphere with its fountains is still a work of remarkable beauty and still speaks of the optimism and international spirit that made this fair an unforgettable experience.

As we prepare – hopefully – to host the 2012 Olympics, we hope the leaders of Queens will be as visionary as those who planned the greatest World’s Fair the world has ever seen.

Setting the standard

His name pops up nearly everywhere one looks in College Point. Everyone there has heard of Conrad Poppenhusen, but few know why he has become so famous in this town.

Poppenhusen was a German industrialist who relocated his rubber factory to College Point 150 years ago. Over the years he provided jobs and livings for thousands of workers. But he did much more than that. He was before his time in providing health and death benefits to his workers. He built what today is called the Poppenhusen Institute housing one of the nation's first kindergartens and providing his workers with a school and a place to congregate. He helped to bring fresh water to the residents of College Point and helped to pay for the construction of the First Reformed Church that stands to this day.

Conrad Poppenhusen set the standard high for the corporate citizen. He demonstrated that it was possible to achieve great wealth while investing generously in his workers and in their community.

Last Saturday College Point honored Poppenhusen and Betty Pegen, a local resident who shares his community spirit. For as long as this paper has been in existence, Betty has been caring for the small garden that surrounds the Poppenhusen monument.

Nobody had to ask Betty to do this. Like Poppenhusen, she does it because it’s right.

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