Editor Emeritus - Ed Wilkinson

Readers Recall World’s Fair Memories (with slideshow)

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So many parishioners have shared their memories of the New York World’s Fair that was held in Flushing Meadow 50 years ago.

Like Mike Glus of Astoria, who was 18 at the time and a resident of Greenpoint.

“My uncle, James Gotthardt, got two tickets to the Fair,” he recalled. “I remember seeing long lines at all the sites. We got on the car ride at the General Motors Building. It was so exciting, I couldn’t wait to grow up and drive a car. We went to the Parker Pen Pavilion where I filled out a card to get a pen-pal friend.

“My Uncle Jim and I waited almost two hours on line, just to get into the New York City building and see the Panorama of New York City in miniature. We walked the park grounds over and over until we saw the Vatican Pavilion. We were amazed when we saw Michelangelo’s Pieta. Entering into the Vatican Post Office, I told Uncle Jim that I had to buy something. I purchased three sets of Vatican stamps, one silver coin that has two popes on it and a set of six (quarter-sized) gold coins of former popes.

“I also went to see the United States Post Office where I bought several souvenirs. I have in excellent condition 24 collector-size trading cards of different buildings at the World’s Fair.

“After 50 years, I still have all these books, coins and stamps. I also have many fond memories of the trip.”

Nancy Motto of Middle Village sent us a copy of an article and photo from the New York Daily News showing Cardinal Francis X. Spellman signing a pizza chef’s hat.

“That pizza chef was my grandfather Frank Motto at his pizza stand that was near the Vatican Pavilion,” she said. “I remember going with my classmates from St. Barbara’s school in Bushwick and Grandpa made us a pie and got us into the Bavarian Village.

“Grandpa was 69 years old in 1964. Wish I could say the family still has the chef’s hat but we don’t.” The hat may be gone, but Nancy also sent a copy of her grandfather’s employee’s ID card that remains a treasure to the family.

Sister Mary Ita O’Donnell, a Sister of St. Joseph who taught third grade at Our Lady of Sorrows, Corona, sent us a copy of a clipping from The Long Island Catholic, dated May 14, 1964. On that day, Rockville Centre Bishop Walter Kellenberg celebrated Mass at the Vatican Pavilion.

Sister Ita and members of her class were walking past the Unisphere when the photo was taken.

Maryann (Bannon) Hamcke emailed a photo of the Our Lady of Grace Glee Club from Howard Beach singing at the New York State Pavilion. The choristers are directed by a nun, who Hamcke believes was Ursuline Sister Mary John.

Barbara Strauch of Maspeth wrote that as a 9-year-old with a strong devotion to St. Therese the Little Flower, she was thrilled when she saw a porcelain brooch with the saint’s image in the Pavilion of Paris gift shop.

“It took me the entire two years of the World’s Fair to add enough chore money to my First Communion gift money and pay the approximately $30 price of the pin,” she recalled.

“To me the brooch was and still is a priceless piece of jewelry, even though the pearls are man-made, and the background is gold colored metal, not real gold.”

Ellen Covas sent us scans of different Vatican Pavilion mementoes that included a milk cap, silver spoons and a notecard.

We also received a letter signed by Msgr. John J. Gorman, Father Joseph T. Lahey and Christopher Kiernan of the Vatican Pavilion Committee thanking Joseph B. Lehman of Jackson Heights for his service at the Pavilion and urging vigilance in the final weeks of the Fair.

“Experience would lead us to believe that several million visitors will attempt to see the Fair in the final weeks. Experience also tells us that among these will be varied assortment of souvenir hunters and possible vandalism,” said the communiqué. “Beyond the usual functions of counting and crowd control, every man should be alert and keep a watch out for souvenir hunters and outright vandalism.”

The letter called for 14 men to be on duty at all times. Six would be placed at the entrance, two each in the patrolling gallery, crypt area, and banner area, and one each in the children’s area and Sisters Chapel replica.

The letter concluded, “We have a proud record well-established for the dignity, decorum and courtesy of our Pavilion.”

The Tablet has purchased several pieces of World’s Fair memorabilia and will raffle them off to some lucky Tablet readers who sent us their photos and memories. The names will be chosen by lot and will be published next week.

One thought on “Readers Recall World’s Fair Memories (with slideshow)

  1. The I was in the Glee Club that perfomed twice at the New York Worlds Fair the director at the time was Sr. Mary Jerome and Urusuline of Tildonk who is now Sr Mary Lou Tressy – we sang The Happy Wanderer and also Gregorian Chant of “The Magnificat”…wonderful days