The Fair

Twelve years old and pushing my mother in a wheelchair.

This is not a story of childhood oppression. The adult was doing the suffering.

If an advantage was to be found, and no right-thinking person thought this way, it was the accommodation (most assuredly not the vocabulary then) afforded by sensible, compassionate people who spirited to the front of long, long lines of equally eager visitors, the handicapped (that was the vocabulary then).

News reports today comment and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the optimistic world of the future presented at the 1964 World’s Fair. Some stories focus on the deteriorating structures still occupying Flushing Meadows, NY where the Fair took place.

Other news reports on the 50 million Fair visitors and the glimpse of the future the Fair predicted – a future that turned out to be more amazing than predicted. And still other stories celebrate the half-century anniversary of Ford’s debut of their cooler-than-Hollywood Mustang.

Except for the wheelchair, I remember little. Well, the Mustang. Maybe the Kodak pavilion but not the Bertoia dandelion sculptures in front of it (which are now owned by RIT). And some exhibits by nations with unfamiliar names whose locations I would have been unable to point to on a globe.

In sharp contrast to Ford’s latest product, we drove to the Fair from New Jersey in our four-door 1959 Ford Fairlane Galaxie 500. The car was about three city blocks long. Its name and our destination were, of course, coincidental.

I also don’t recall my mother complaining. But being scurried to the front of the line thanks to the extra set of wheels was hardly anyone’s idea of a fair trade. Never mind “cutting.”

None of us then knew that the rheumatoid arthritis she recently began being afflicted by was still in its infancy. It would only get worse, we’d all learn. Her world of tomorrow wouldn’t have the same sheen as did the Fair’s. Twisting joints and producing relentless pain, it eventually made stair climbing impossible and relegated her to the dining room that became her bedroom.

The Fair’s Unisphere I recall sharply. I drove by it in a cab, years and years later, on my way to a job interview. It didn’t look so great then, but it was still standing, still presenting its symbol of unity, oneness and underscoring the Fair’s motto, “Peace through understanding.”

But not everything was fair about the Fair.

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