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World’s Fair gave rise to boro’s Flushing Meadows

On Oct. 17, 1965, the 1964-65 World's Fair closed. It was visited by more than 51 million people, with the final two days the busiest ever as many people stood in line for hours to say goodbye to their favorite attractions.

General Motors' "Futurama" exhibition was the most popular, playing host to an estimated 29 million people over the two-year period and beating its own record of 24.2 million visitors during the 1939-40 World's Fair.

More than 23 million people visited the New York State Pavilion and its 226-foot observation tower, which Queens groups were campaigning to have retained for the post-Fair park. It was outstripped only by General Motors and the Vatican Pavilion. Ford's "Magic Skyway" attracted 15 million adventurous souls and fair-goers quenched their thirst with 7 million cups of 7UP.

Fair President Robert Moses was quoted as saying that the closing was really a commencement. "I have seen Flushing Meadow rise from ash dump to glory," he said, "and after this second fair we shall inaugurate what I am sure will eventually be the city's finest park."

Moses noted that many were saddened by the fair's closing, but added that, "We have fostered enduring friendships and memories which will persist and draw the people of a troubled world closer together."

It all came to an end late Oct. 17. Couples embraced as "Auld Lang Syne" was played through the loudspeakers just before midnight. In the press building through which stories of the world's greatest fair had passed, "the teletypes fell silent, the rows of new push-button phones were mute." People began to drift out the gates for the last time.

"I wish it could have gone on forever," Tina Stone of Sunnyside sighed as the carousel in the Belgian Village slowed to a stop. But, in the words of the Star Journal's headline, "All the Tomorrows were Spent." The flags of many nations were lowered and the Tower of Light went dark.

On the morning of Oct. 18, the Unisphere stood alone and deserted as the garbage collectors moved in and the demolition crews readied their wrecking balls. Children were no doubt saddened to learn that Sinclair Oil's Dinoland would be the first pavilion to be razed. But they got some good news Oct. 21, when it was announced that a zoo would be built as part of the new park.

The owners of the Willets Point auto junkyards near the World's Fair grounds were less enthusiastic about the city's attempt to condemn their 67 acres of land for an extension of the planned Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The owners' attorney, Mario Cuomo of Holliswood, said his clients would raise objections when the proposal came before city planners. At least they could tell their children that they had been once represented by the future governor of New York.

For further information, call the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-278-0700 or visit www.astorialic.org.

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