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MARY L. PALERMO

SONGSOPTOK THE WRITERS BLOG | 8/15/2016 |




The vacation I took with my parents to the New York World’s Fair in 1965 , still ranks as my most memorable trip. I was only twelve at that time. An innocent dreamer with my head up in the clouds. Every summer my dad would get a couple of weeks off from his job working at the Gulf Oil refinery. We would head out of town on some grand adventure, maps and pamphlets in tow. We lived in a modest little southeast Texas town, just an hour east of Galveston. Most of our trips included visiting relatives that lived in much different terrain than us. Usually up in the mountains in various states, such as Arkansas, distant from the Gulf of Mexico. It was always amazed me how hundreds of miles from home, you could already smell the gulf. How in the horizon, the mountains you had grown accustomed to, seemed to follow us? I had a very active mind at that time. So this year’s destination couldn’t have been more perfect.

This year we were going to wind through the Smoky Mountains and end up in my mother’s hometown in New York City. The World’s Fair was still open till October of 65, so we decided to take it in. Little did I realize, it would only take that three-day journey from Texas to the fair, to unlock a whole new world for me. For within the entrance of that fair, I would experience a dreamland like no other. Not only would I get to experience what it felt like to be in other countries. I would travel back in time to actually see a T-Rex, but journey into the distant future and partake all of the possibilities that it held. Most of my images of such things came usually from our local library. I was an avid reader and often could be found high up in some treetop reading. Some thrill-seeking quest. One moment I was a pirate, the next learning about minerals and fossils.

I remember back then it had been very trying times for the United States. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy had left a nation in shock, and very disillusioned.  So I believe many families attended the fair as a way of moving on. A way of keeping alive the thoughts of Kennedy and his plans for our space program. Of course me and my parents did the typical visiting and sightseeing the well know landmarks of New York. Going to the Statue of Liberty, and visiting Time’s Square, where I went to my first Broadway play. I still remember the awe I felt attending the fair! Our two dollar tickets in hand with our camera, sunglasses and sporting comfortable walking shoes. We came from a very remote city, where most of our entertainment came from a black and white television with only three channels. So upon entering, one of the first things I remember seeing was a color television. Many booths displaying them were set throughout the fair. I can’t express how thrilling it was to stand back and for the first time in my life see such an invention. To actually see the color of a flower, the shimmer of a lake as the sun was setting on a screen. This was advertised to be just around the corner where most families would be able to afford such a devise. My father also repaired televisions on the side, so it was also fascinated by the technology it took to create such a thing. I hungered to see what was inside. Just the wonder of seeing my first color television would have satisfied my attention for hours, but it was only the beginning. All around were space aged looking building inviting you to enter.

The theme of the fair was “Peace Through Understanding” and it was dedicated to “Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe.” The appropriate centerpiece was the 140-foot high, 700,000-pound, stainless steel Unisphere. I still remember me and my parents posing in our typical tourist stance, while some willing couple took our photos. Not far from us, a brave soul was jet-packing from the ground. Hundreds of unique pavilions radiated from the Unisphere, representing foreign lands, technology, transportation and government. At every turn was a new venture that challenged and broadened your thinking.

 So hour after hour we explored the wide expanse of the fair. Exploring a mini sized replica of the Eiffel Tower, to life size models of dinosaurs. General Motors, who was at that time the leading American visionary, held within its exhibit ‘The Futurama’, many artifacts to be from our near future. The company promised technology that would allow humankind to conquer the previously unconquerable. Where there had once seemed like unsurmountable barriers to overcome. Now there appeared to be none. So living on the moon, on the bottom of the sea, or even in the North Pole was no problem. I sat inside that building as a train transported you past glass showcases. Inside miniature towns flashed by. Colonies on the moon with rovers and huge machines laying down tracks of roads. Under the ocean, existed thriving cities. They seemed so real that you could just reach out and touch them. The creativity and dynamics it took to think up all these different ideas seemed almost beyond belief. That day opened up a whole other world for me. Way beyond anything my few thousand miles from my home could do. My imagination now had images to base my dreams on.

One of the last exhibits showcased the newly designed Ford Mustang. I remember sitting on the third row with my parents listening intently. The speaker was saying that somewhere out in the audience was a lucky ticket taped to somebody’s chair. That ticket was a free ride in the Mustang that had just pulled up. By then my feet were starting to hurt, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be so lucky! Yet, sure enough I won that ride! Over fifty years later in a crumpled cardboard box I found mementoes from that fair. The ticket from that chair, an old postcard, and a brochure map of the layout of that fair. Just like yesterday, the memories from the little girl I had been on that day flowed back like one of those showcases.
   
I still have not been to France, or any other country outside the United States. Nor all these years past it’s design, owned a Mustang. But somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, I have been many places. Then again, I have been to many places yet to be. From that day on, I totally released any limits upon my dreams. Maybe this is why I became a writer. Paper is my way of capturing something someplace my heart travels. Whenever I care to journey I just close my eyes and let that vison appear in my mind.

Sometimes it’s a tale, or a poem. Maybe even a song never before heard. Just like the kid in me that dreamed of one day being a paleontologist in Egypt I see those dinosaurs from that exhibit. Today I traveled back and stood with my parents under that Unisphere getting our pictures taken. Dad with his hands trying to balance all our souvenirs, while mom picked up my baby brother from the stroller. In the background I could hear the voices and exited laughter all around us. Then the blast as another brave soul with jet-pack rose upward in the brilliant blue of those cloud filled skies. So close I could almost touch them.


[MARY L. PALERMO]

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