A New Adventure in Our Continuing Adventure

Well, as of this morning, Susie and I have entered another new phase of our Adventure. For the last several years, we have been increasing our summer time spent in Ocean City. We started 13 years ago with 2 weeks, then increased it to 3, and the last year I worked (the summer of 2015), we spent the entire month of July here! As wonderful as that was, in a sense, it made the ultimate packing up of our “stuff” difficult, just so we could turn our dream over to renters.

Last year, with both of us retired, we spent most of May, June, and July here, kind of blocking out the need to empty out the Mineola house. Last year, however, on August 21st, we left on our Big Adventure trip across the country, which ultimately lasted 9 weeks. It was sad, but it made sense to rent the house again, and we did starting the first Saturday in August. That once again necessitated packing up our personal items, our good glasses, and packing away our clothes, shoes, and especially our booze! A sad time for us again, even though we were looking forward to the great trip we’d planned.

IMG_7366Well, today is the first Saturday in August, and I am sitting writing this blog post on our front porch, watching a new crowd of Pennlyn visitors unloading cars, getting organized, having their first beer, and starting their dream week of vacation! We are here, and we’re staying here!! For the first time, Susie and I will be spending August, September, and the beginning of October at the beach. In fact, if you really want to know, we live here pretty much full time now. The culmination of a dream we’ve had for years is about to come to fruition….We live in Ocean City, NJ!!

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In fact, the reason I said the beginning of October, is that we’re flying out for a 2 week trip, exploring some of Nevada and California that we’ve never seen before, and to top it off, we will be leaving and returning to Philadelphia International Airport! We have made the move…in our minds at least.

Now, if you are interested in our progress on the other end, last week Susie and I came to the conclusion that we have moved virtually everything that we want from our old house to Ocean City (except for some last minute necessities we need there). Some of it will surely be weeded out from here (our closets are little full), and there are things we’ve stashed in our rented storage place down here, that we will go through over the winter, and some of that stuff will probably leave us too, but it’s done! What’s left at 40 Fairfield Avenue is not coming to Ocean City, and so a process that we wondered if it would ever end, has ended!

 

Progress too on other fronts…we’re meeting next Friday with a lady that conducted a tag sale at my Mom’s house, and hope she’ll say we have enough stuff for her to do the same thing for us. Then someone who is interested in the house wants to set up a time to take a look, so good things there too. When we left Mineola last Wednesday, Susie and I both realized it’s almost over, and trust us, we are glad!

So, if you are looking for us for the rest of the summer and fall, you can either find us on Pennlyn Place Beach, or on our front porch. As the new porch sign Susie got this year says, “Come Sit On The Porch With Me…The Drinks Are Cold And The Friendship’s Free”

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Our favored view most mornings!

 

The Road Less Traveled

This morning, a little before 9AM, we left our house in Ocean City, heading to Raleigh, North Carolina, and Father’s Day with our Son Billy, his wife Lori, and our two Grandchildren, Layla and Henry.  Having made this trip once before, for Layla’s birthday in April, we weren’t sure what kind of traffic we’d find on a Summer Saturday morning along Southbound I-95.  Everything was going fine, until we crossed into Maryland, and approached Baltimore.  Suddenly the GPS told us that there was “Severe Traffic Ahead”, and routed us off I-95.  Figuring we were just going  around Baltimore, we weren’t concerned, until the GPS said to follow US Route 301 for 99 miles to Interstate 95!

At first we were pissed that the GPS had routed us on this very congested road, surrounded by malls, fast food venues, and traffic lights….lots of traffic lights!  But then we got into less congested areas, and the road took on a kind of Route 66 existence.

FullSizeRenderOld motels from the 50s, and local restaurants replaced the fast food joints and Hampton Inns.  The road was rural, with only a light every once in a while, and we were taken back to what the east coast was like before Interstate 95. Reminded me of road trips I’d made to Miami Beach with my folks, before the interstate existed.  Heck, we even saw several restaurants that had obviously been Howard Johnson’s back in the day.  All in all, not a bad way to spend some time on the road, especially if I-95 was crawling along, bumper to bumper!

Before we were re-routed by the GPS, we’d seen something we’d never seen before.  A tractor without a trailer, pulling a car, like you’d see a motor home doing.  I mention this, because after the almost 100 miles on 301, when we were about to join I-95 again, there was the exact same vehicle coming off I-95, meaning that they’d taken the same amount of time to traverse this section on I-95, as we’d taken on 301! Only thing was, we’d stopped for lunch, and hit the bathroom too, so we had scenery, lunch, a bathroom break, and done it in the same time!  Thanks Ginger Peach  (our GPS’ given name…by us)!

Reliving Memories

In October of 1980, a little more than a year after we got married, Susie and I embarked on a 10 states in 8 days Road trip, across the North East.  We traveled in our new 1980 Honda Civic, and saw the Old Man in the Mountain in New Hampshire, went to the top of White Face Mountain in New York State, and made our first visit to Amish Country in Pennsylvania.  On that first visit, we stayed in a small place in the town of Intercourse, PA called the Intercourse Village Inn.  We spent one rainy night there, and we have memories of the sound of rain and the clip clop of Amish horses as we went to sleep that night.

Our room was one of those windows in the second floor red part of the building

As our family was growing, we made yearly trips to this area, usually every fall.  Over the years, probably 10-15 yearly trips to see things like the Strasburg Rail Road, the Choo Choo Barn, to eat at places like Miller’s Smorgasbord, and to probably stay in 10 to 12 different hotels and motels in the immediate area.

As the kids got older, the trips stopped,  but Susie always had memories of the great furniture we saw that was built by the Amish and the Mennonites in this area.  About 15 years ago, we came back and purchased the dining room set that Susie had looked at for years, but that was the last time we were in this area, until today.

Susie just had a big birthday this Memorial Day Weekend, and I thought she might get a kick out of returning to an area we spent a lot of time in over the years, even though we hadn’t been here for years.  So today, we traveled over for a couple of days from Ocean City to spend two nights visiting Amish Country.  We’re once again staying in Interourse, PA, this time at the Best Western Intercourse Village Inn and Suites.  Does that name sound familiar?  Yep, it’s the same place we stayed at on that first visit, almost 37 years ago, but like so much else in the area, it’s changed a lot!

Just a little bigger these days

Things have changed and so have we, so for Susie and I, this may be our last trip to the area.  We ate tonight at Millers, and it was as we remembered, but an “all you can eat” buffet is no longer who we are.  Areas that we remember as quiet little shops, are now huge shopping centers.  Hell, there’s even a Target on Route 30!

But, if you get off of the beaten path, and on the side roads, there still are places that we remember.  Places that I can still see a much smaller version of our kids at.  Places that still transport us back to a time when we were all younger.

Kings Furniture and the “boat” the kids loved to climb on

The wooden train outside the Choo Choo Barn…lots of pics of our kids taken on this train

The Red Caboose Motel

Have great memories of much smaller D’Elia children staying several times in one of these cabooses.

So, will this be our last trip to this area?  As they say, Never say Never, but we kind of think it will.  Urban civilization has moved closer to the area, more and more farms are now housing developments, and there are less and less of the places we remember from our younger days.  As I said, Never say Never, but if this is our last trip to the area, it’s kind of poetic that our visits to this area are bookended by staying at the same place on our first and our last visit!

Happy Birthday Susie…let the Birthday Week Celebration continue!

Memorial Day 2017

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This whole weekend carries many memories for me, as it was always one that seemed to make the D’Elias a typical American Family. In the early days of being a family, the weekend always started with a great fireworks display on the beach Friday night at Bar Harbor, on the Long Island Sound side of the Town of North Hempstead. We attended this event for many many years, and over the years, our group of friends changed and grew. It started out being folks from ABC, then church friends were added, eventually the kids’ school friends’ families, and then neighbors and our Boy Scout friends joined. Whatever the make up of the group, it always was centered around sitting in a beach chair, surrounded by our kids and friends, watching a wonderful Gucci fireworks show. What could be more American than a local fireworks display on the beach to start your Memorial Day Weekend?

Then, Saturday morning, bright and early, it was time to pile everybody in the van and hit the highway. To be specific, to head to the Garden State Parkway, and even then, our spiritual home, Ocean City. We’d stay in a motel, we’d walk the boardwalk, we’d eat pizza and french fries, we’d play ski ball and mini golf, and join with hundreds of our Shoobies in the traditional first week of the summer season in whatever year it happened to be. That was our usual Saturday and Sunday routine, and then Sunday night. we’d pile into the van again, and start the northbound trek up the Garden State Parkway home to Long Island.

While Memorial Day’s date would change year to year, one special event that was also usually centered around this weekend was Susie’s May 28th birthday. Some years it happened before the actual weekend, and some years after, but the many years that it landed on the weekend, it was a huge part of the D’Elia Family’s Memorial Day weekend. Some years it was celebrated with a candle in a Hostess Cupcake in a motel room, some years there was a fireworks display on her birthday to mark the special day, and some years, the Village of Mineola even threw a huge parade to celebrate…Susie never knew exactly what form that year’s celebration would take!

IMG_2534As much as we love the traditions that have become such a huge part of our family’s life, as time goes on, things change. Eventually the fireworks display on Friday night at Bar Harbor ended, and we no longer had that anchor for our weekend. The kids got older, and they had their own life, and were no longer interested in Dad’s version of the typical American Memorial Day Weekend. For the past 13 Memorial Days, we’ve owned our house in Ocean City, and so that has led us to create new traditions. For many of those 13 years, we have had the kids join us at the house, we’d spend the weekend on the beach, on our front porch (when the weather has been better than it’s been this weekend), surrounded by our family and their friends, and our Ocean City friends who have become more like family than friends. We’ve celebrated Susie’s special day with the kids, at the Ocean City Yacht Club, at a surprise party at a friend’s house, or just sitting around having friends drop in to have a drink, and share her special day with her. If you ask me, great new traditions that will last forever!

But if you remember earlier, I said we’d pile into the van on Sunday night and head home, and that’s because of the longest standing tradition in the D’Elia Family’s life. This was one tradition that transcended the many changes in our lives, that took different forms in some years, and was enjoyed by different people, but was a constant part of this weekend for us for close to 30 years, The Mineola, New York Memorial Day Parade.

IMG_2519From Billy’s first year in Cub Scout Pack 246, through the years when younger brother Kenny joined him, the years when Billy transitioned to Boy Scout Troop 45, to the years when Kenny and Dad joined Billy in Troop 45, to the years when Billy went off to college, and even long after Kenny stopped being a Boy Scout, marching in the parade was a constant part of this weekend. Some years my Mom would drive in from Bayside, and she, Susie, and Krissi would stand on the side of the road and cheer us on. Some years Susie’s Dad would join us in the parade, and we’d end up after the parade at a party at her Dad’s VFW Post in Albertson. Some years we’d sit on a neighbors porch and reflect on the day and the parade, and for many years, the day would end at our good friends Pat and Steve Grosskopf’s house, as Scoutmaster Steve would throw a huge post parade party for the Troop 45 Family!

For most of the last 13 Memorial Days, no matter what has been going on at the Ocean City house, and no matter who was with us for the weekend, and no matter how late Sunday night went, our routine has been to set the alarm for 5 AM on Monday morning, quietly get up and get dressed, sometimes climb over sleeping people, get out of the house and into the car, and head for an empty Garden State Parkway and the Village of Mineola, arriving in plenty of time to change clothes, and get over to the start of the parade. We might have been somewhat sleepy, but remembering those who had given their lives for our freedom, and reminding the boys of Troop 45 why we were doing what we were doing, had become a very important part of our Memorial Day Weekend.

Because both Susie and I were retired last year, and there was no reason for me to be in NYC on Tuesday morning, we made the hard decision to change our routine and not head back for the parade. Mother Nature must have felt bad for us, because she opened the heavens in Mineola, and the parade was canceled because of torrential rains, so we didn’t miss a parade. As I write this on Memorial Day, 2017, I’m sitting at the table in our Ocean City house, reading a weather forecast for heavy rain the Mineola, and wondering if the parade will happen, or if it will have to be replaced with a smaller indoor ceremony to commemorate the day. Either way, we won’t be there, ending yet another tradition in our life.

IMG_2520But no matter where we are, and no matter what we are doing today, on Memorial Day Monday, my heart will always be walking the streets of Mineola, following a large group of young men, holding many American flags, being proceeded and followed by many other organizations, seeing friends and neighbors on the side of the road cheering on the marchers, and remembering the sacrifices that so many made so that we can have the lives we now enjoy. I’ll remember our long standing Memorial Day Weekend traditions, and always be thankful that it was because of the sacrifices of others, I am blessed with these wonderful memories, our wonderful family and friends, and the ability to live the life we now live. Our family was lucky that all those from our circle that served, returned home safe and sound, but for the thousands of families who were not as fortunate, today has even more meaning. Please remember them today, and their heroes who may have died at Pearl Harbor, or a trench in the First World War, or over the South Pacific or wherever they were standing up for what they believed.

Memorial Day is truly about memories!

My Grandfather…oh, the stories he could tell!

My Grandfather, my Mom’s Dad, William McKenzie Sim, was born in Aberdeen, Scotland on March 12th, 1892. He married my Grandmother (Jean McRobbie Robertson) on November 14th, 1914, when he was 22 years old. My Mom (Lilias) showed up 2 years later, her brother (Bill) 2 years after that, and their youngest child, (Jack) 2 years after that. As a young father, my Granddad worked in the ship building industry (more about that later) in and around Aberdeen, but when that work dried up, like so many others, he looked to America for better opportunities. He arrived in the United States via Canada in April of 1923, and settled in Chicago, Illinois, and sent for his family. They arrived in August of 1923, and started the life of American emigrants, even though they were better off than most, as they spoke English well, with a definite Scottish accent.

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My Mom between my Grandparents on the top step and my Uncle Jack and Uncle Bill below

When I was born in 1950, my Grandpa was 58 years old, and because my Dad’s father had died in 1936, he was the only Grandfather I knew. As they still lived in Chicago, and I grew up in New York, we didn’t get to see them but a time or two a year, but whenever we were together, we were hard to separate. My Grandpa was an inveterate storyteller, and I was a more than a willing listener. If we were at their house on the South Side of Chicago, he and I would spend hours at their kitchen table, him drinking coffee, smoking Camels, and filling my head with story after story. I don’t know if they were true, based on truth with some embellishment, or if they were total fabrication, and I didn’t care then, and don’t now. All I know is that this is what my Grandpa and I did, and I was a more than willing audience. In fact, if he didn’t start telling me a story, I’d ask for one. I even remember making requests for him to tell me certain stories over and over. He died in 1975, when I was 25, and right up to the day he died, if we were together, he was telling me a story abut something! He was a kind, warm, wonderful man, and he died peacefully in his sleep one night. I think that was a fitting way for him to go, and even though he was 83 at the time, it was too early in my opinion. I’m sure he had more stories for me!

So, let’s get to some of his stories…at least some of the ones I remember. It was Susie’s idea for me to write this blog, and re-tell some of my Grandpa’s stories. I guess over the almost 40 years we’ve been together, I’ve told more than a few of my Grandpa’s stories to her, and when we were looking at some old family pictures the other day, she said I should write a blog about him and his stories, so here are some of the ones I remember.

My Grandfather always had what we called, “hot hands”, meaning he could grab a pot off the stove or even something out of the oven without a pot holder. As I mentioned early on, when he was young in Scotland, he’d worked in the ship building industry. His story explaining how he could handle hot things without any apparent effect on him, went back to his early days in ship yards, when he worked as a riveter’s apprentice. The way he told me the story, the rivets would be heated on the dock in a big fire, and the way they got to the riveter working on the ship was to be thrown from one apprentice to another, till they got to the needed location. He claimed that although it was hot and dangerous work, it didn’t take long to become immune to the heat, and that’s why he was able to grab anything hot…he was immune!

Dad Sim in Mason OutfitAs with many immigrant groups, there was a desire to stick together with new and old friends from the “old country”. My Grandfather was very active in the Masons, and my Grandmother was very active in the Daughters of Scotia, the ladies version. As such, many of their friends were Scottish, and even when I was a kid, they had Scottish friends all across the country, that we’d often visit when I was with them. This story has to do with a Scottish friend of theirs who happened to be an engineer at the Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan.

The way my Grandpa told the story, one day this engineer friend of his was in the passenger seat of a new Ford automobile, as a test driver drove around the Ford test track. In the back seat was Henry Ford, and his good friend Harvey Firestone, of the Firestone Tire Company. At one point they hit a huge bump, causing all the occupants to get bounced around. According to the story, Henry Ford said, “My God…what was that?”, to which my Grandpa’s friend retorted (without skipping a beat or thinking), “What do you expect…..Its only a Ford.”. The way my Grandpa told the story, his friend would have been collecting his last Ford paycheck that day, but for the fact that Harvey Firestone got hysterical, laughing so hard that eventually Henry Ford started laughing too. His friend did, however, keep a low provide around Mr. Ford for the near future, but eventually retired from the Ford Motor Company, so I guess the old man forgot about it.

                          A very young me in my Grandpa’s Milk Truck

It wasn’t too long after they got to this country, that my Grandfather started as a milkman. I don’t know if this was the norm at that time, or an exception to the rule, but my Grandfather didn’t work for a dairy. He was an independent contractor, owning his route and clients, and when I was a kid, his milk truck! Their house on the South Side of Chicago had a big three car garage on the alley behind the house, and in one of the stalls, was his late 40s Divco Milk Truck. In those days, a milkman got up in the middle of the night, loaded his milk at the dairy, made deliveries way before folks were up for breakfast, and was home, finished for the day before lunchtime. As a young kid, when I visited Chicago, having my Grandfather home early in the day, and a real milk truck in the garage, was huge! Of course, he had not always delivered milk with a truck. When he started, he had a horse and a wagon, and there were some great stories from those days too.

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My Grandparents with my Grandpa in his standard milkman outfit

He had one horse that he claimed knew the route better than he did. Jock was his name, and my Grandfather said he was the smartest horse he’d ever seen, and made his route so easy! As he told the story, he’d load his milk bottle carrier with orders for the next couple of houses, walk down the street or alley making his deliveries, and when he needed more milk, there was Jock waiting at the next house for my Grandpa. He even claimed that the horse knew who was and who wasn’t a customer, as he’d walk right past the non-customer’s houses, right up to their next customer. That was in stark comparison to another one of the horses I heard about. This guy had been a Chicago Fire Department horse in the days before the CFD was using motorized rigs. The stories I was told about this horse had to do with how he still thought he was a fire horse, and if a fire engine happened to pass my Grandpa’s route with the siren blaring, this horse would take off, milk wagon and all, and follow the fire engine! On several occasions, before my Grandpa got rid of him, my Grandmother would get woken up by calls at home about where somebody had found my Grandfather’s loaded milk wagon and his horse. Often times, it was the firemen who’d try and bring the horse and wagon back to where they’d seen him, so that my Grandpa could continue his route. I wouldn’t be surprised if that horse was his inspiration to go from horse to motorized truck!

Another story had to do with the “drunk” my Grandpa stumbled over, early one morning on his route. It was dark, and he was walking up the back alleyway of a house when he tripped over something, fell, and broke two milk bottles. He got back to his feet, saw a prostrate sleeping drunk lying on the path, kicked him as hard as he could in the ass, and muttered, “Goddamn drunk.” He went back to the wagon, got a couple of more bottles of milk, made his delivery, and thought nothing more of it. Later that morning, when he got back to the dairy to return bottles, the manager called him to his office. “Scotty, these two gentlemen are from the Chicago Police Department, and they’d like to ask you a couple of questions”. They gave him an address and said that they’d found broken milk bottles there, and they wondered what had happened. He told them that he’d tripped over a dunk sleeping in the alleyway, and when he got up he’d kicked the guy in the ass, gotten replacement bottles, and gone on his way. “Is the guy complaining about something?”, he asked. The police then informed him that the guy wasn’t drunk, but was dead, having been shot a couple of blocks away, and stubbled to where my Grandpa found him. Well, it was Chicago in the 20s!

Another story he told me about was having a very nice customer who’s name was Capone. He never thought anything about it, till one day he went around collecting, and when Mrs. Capone opened the door, and invited my Grandfather into the kitchen, he found Al Capone sitting there. According to my Grandpa, Al peeled a couple of bills off a wad in his pocket, gave them to my Grandpa, and told him to “take good care of my Mom”. True or not, it was a great story to have your Grandfather tell you when you’re 10!

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The Sim Family at my Mom and Dad’s Wedding in 1947.  My Uncle Jack, my Grandfather, my Dad, and my Uncle Bill.  My Cousin Billy, my Grandma, my Mom, and my Aunt Ann

Early one winter morning, when my Grandpa went down to take the truck out of the garage, he discovered that the cold had frozen the newly fallen snow in the alley to solid ice. This ice was right up against the two big swing doors that opened from the garage into the alley. Try as he might, he could do nothing to free the doors from the ice, and the clock was ticking and he really needed to be on the road to the dairy to load up. Absent any other solution he could see, he got in the truck, dropped it into gear, and proceeded to drive right through the garage doors to freedom. I can imagine that at 2 AM or so, on a quiet winter’s night, that noise did not go unnoticed in the neighborhood, but he had deliveries to make. On the way home, he stopped off at the lumber yard, and picked up the supplies he needed to re-build the doors.

This next story really has to do with me more than my Grandpa, but since his being a milkman was central to it, I think it fits here. In 1956, I was in Mrs. Arnold’s second grade class, at Garden School in Jackson Heights, NY. We must have been talking about various occupations, when I raised my hand and told the class that my Grandfather was a milkman with his own milk truck. The discussion must have continued for some time, and I guess I neglected to mention that my Grandfather, his truck, and the dairy they delivered from were all in Chicago. I know that, because later that day, Mrs. Arnold called our house and spoke to my Mom. After the preliminaries, Mrs. Arnold told my Mom what we’d been talking about in class, and wondered if we might be able to arrange a class field trip to visit my Grandfather’s dairy. My embarrassed Mom then had to explain to Mrs. Arnold, that her father lived and worked in Chicago, and that a field trip wouldn’t be possible! Hey, I was 6!

Unlike some people, my Grandpa was someone who really lucked out in the Social Security lottery. As a self-employed person, he had only recently become eligible to join Social Security, and after a very short time in the system, he retired before he was 65. He collected for the next 20 years plus, and my Grandma, who lived to be 93 collected after that, so a very good investment!

This last story has to do with his retirement, and getting out of the milk business. As he was a self-employed milkman, there was no pension to fall back on, just the value of his route and customers. When he was ready to sleep through the night, like a normal human being, he put his route and his truck up for sale. A young man bought the route and the truck, and my Grandpa bid farewell to the milk business. Unlike my Grandpa, this young man was not fortunate enough to have a garage that the truck would fit in, so he arranged with the dairy to park the truck in the same lot they used for their own milk trucks. About 4 months after he started the route, there was a big fire one night at the dairy, that damaged or destroyed many of the trucks in the yard. Unfortunately, my Grandfather’s former truck was one of them. Imagine his surprise when a couple of days later, the wife of the young man who bought the route and the truck called and said to my Grandfather, “Mr. Sim, can you tell me who carries the insurance on your truck, as it was destroyed and we have to make a claim.” I guess these folks really didn’t have a head for business, and I’m sure weren’t happy when my Grandpa told her that as soon as the transfer was complete, he’d canceled his insurance.

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On a trip with us to Washington DC

In the early 70s, my Mom had my Grandparents move to New York to be closer to us. They were getting older, and their neighborhood was going downhill, so it was time for them to make a move. My Grandparents put the great old house on the South Side up for sale, and when it was finalized, I flew out to Chicago, and drove my Grandparents and their possessions to New York in their 1964 Ford Galaxie 500. It was 800 miles on the road, I drove and my Grandpa sat in the shotgun seat, and we talked for the 2 days we were on the road (much, I’m sure, to the consternation of my Grandmother, who was in the back seat). Once they were in NY, they had an apartment just around the corner from my folk’s house in Bayside, and we were all together a lot. The story telling continued whenever I was with him.

He was a great Grandpa to have and now, more than 40 years after he died, I still think back fondly on our sessions together, and the great stories he always had for me, and that I continue to tell! I only knew one grandfather growing up, but he was a peach, and I always considered myself very lucky to have that kind of Grandpa!

1964/65 New York World’s Fair

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I opened up the May Issue of Hemmings Classic Car the other day, and it had a story about all the auto exhibits at the 1964/65, New York World’s Fair! Immediately I was taken back to the exciting summer days in 1964 and 1965, when for three young Queens boys, the fair was our playground! I remembered writing a blog piece about the fair, and started going through my archives looking for it. Reading that piece brought back many great memories of those two summers. If you’re interested in my memories, here’s a slightly updated version of the piece that I wrote in 2010.

IMG_2471When the New York World’s Fair opened in April of 1964, I was a 14 year old boy who lived in Queens just 5 subway stops away on the #7 train. The brand new Fair Subway Special subway cars were our gateway to a place that we would know like the back of our hands by the closing day in October of 1965. The “we” I refer to were my best friends Richard, David and myself, and over the next two fair seasons we spent over 100 days at the fair’s Flushing Meadow Park site. Richard and I took the #7 train to the fair, but got on at different stops. In the days before cell phones, we’d try to hook up on the subway, but if we missed each other, we’d meet up at the fair stop. (Take a look at the commercial from NYC Transit, advertising the Subway Special to the World’s Fair…you even get a peek at the brand new Shea Stadium as the #7 train pulls into Willets Point, the World’s Fair stop! https://youtu.be/wStZZ6hNweU) The third member of our group, David, lived on the other side of the park and would come in the Rodman Street entrance, and then the three us would meet up at the Unisphere.

The first act of this story happened years before any of us were born. I’m speaking of the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair at Flushing Meadow Park in Queens. The purpose of that fair was to help lift the city and the country out of the great depression, and it was the first fair to look to the future with it’s slogan, “Dawn of a New Day”. It took place on 1,216 acres of a former ash dump, that after the fair would be turned into a city park (This was the same ash dump that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s characters passed through on the train ride from West Egg to Manhattan). As a kid growing up in Queens, I knew the park (in fact I’d even skated at the ice rink in one of the surviving buildings from the ’39 fair, the New York City Pavilion), and had heard stories of the fair from my father.

Turn the clock ahead to the late 50s and a group of businessmen, who had fond memories of the 1939 Fair, and wanted the same kinds of experiences for their children and grandchildren. The result was the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair. If you read the history of this fair today, you will discover that there were all kinds of problems associated with it right from the beginning. Money was, of course, a huge problem, as was sanctioning from the Bureau of International Expositions. But to a group of teens who lived literally down the street from the fair, all that we cared about was that for two summers we’d be blocks away from a huge playground of the future! Even better was the fact that Walt Disney had signed on to design exhibits in a number of pavilions, so this would indeed be our East Coast Disneyland.

IMG_2480The fair, with the slogan Peace through Understanding, had lots of incredible cultural happenings during it’s two years, such as the ability to view Michelangelo’s Pieta at the Vatican Pavilion, but the favorites of the three of us were the pavilions of the Industrial area. We knew the song from the Pepsi Pavilion (“It’s a Small World After all”…come on, sing along), enjoyed GE’s Carousel of Progress (which we just visited again last month in Florida’s Disney World as Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress), and had even seen Mr. Lincoln talking to us at the Illinois Pavilion (well, when Mr. Lincoln worked!). Thanks to Mr. Disney and others, the 1964/65 World’s Fair was a real showcase of new ideas, new products and new ways of doing things! The perfect playground for three teenage boys! Our days started early and didn’t end till we’d watch the fountain-and-fireworks show every night at 9 p.m. at the Pool of Industry, just outside the Kimberly-Clark Pavilion.

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IMG_2465At the Bell System Pavilion, we got to see and use touch tone phones for the first time. At the IBM Pavilion, we loved the way the theater slid up into the huge egg, and we learned about the future of computing. We signed up for pen pals at the Parker Pen Pavilion, and looked at the contents of a new time capsule at the Westinghouse Pavilion – a match to the one Westinghouse had sunk in the ground at the same spot at the 1939 Fair. We enjoyed the chemical magic show at the Dupont Pavilion, got to use a microwave oven for the first time, and even got to taste Belgian Waffles and have chicken chow mein in bowls made of fried noodles! But, as full-fledged car nuts already, many of our days were spent across the Grand Central Parkway from the main fair in the Transportation area.

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IMG_2481I remember the Chrysler Pavilion, and getting our first up close look at the Chrysler Turbine Car in its incredible copper color with decidedly Thunderbird design influences. I remember seeing the automotive near future at the General Motors Futurama Pavilion – although I am still waiting for the roadways they claimed we’d have by the year 2000 that would have imbedded control strips in the pavement that would allow drivers to sit back and relax with their passengers while the road controlled the cars! As a died in the wool Ford Fan, I especially remember the Ford Rotunda!

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1964 World's Fair Ford Exhibit 1965 Mustang

I remember walking up and seeing the Mustangs (which were introduced to the world at that fair) on the carousels outside the pavilion as we waited to get on the ride. As “World’s Fair Experts”, we were partial to pavilions that had continually moving rides as the line went faster than did those with theater style exhibits. This was how the folks at Disney had constructed the Magic Skyway, so Ford was one of our favorites, and it was one we went to almost every time we were at the fair! The ride started you out in the past – as far back as the dinosaurs (which look to me to now have a home in Ellen’s Universe of Energy pavilion in Disney World’s Epcot) – giving you a look at the history of transportation, starting with the invention of the wheel, and then moving you through the present into the future. Of course, the best part of the ride was that, unlike the GM pavilion where you sat in a moving chair, at Ford, you took your ride through time in a Ford Motor Company convertible!

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There were lots of family groups going to the fair, so they were often put in one of the big Ford convertibles such as the full size Ford, Mercury or Lincoln cars. As three teenage boys, more often then not, we got one of the smaller cars, like a Falcon or Comet convertible, or one of the Mustangs. I have to honestly say that from what I remember, the ride was good in a typical Disney way, but it was the ride in a new Ford convertible that kept us coming back! Once you were finished with the ride, there were still lots of Ford cars to see, and even sit in, and of course, the Ford Rotunda state pin to take home as a souvenir!

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IMG_2470One of our saddest days was our visit to the fair the day it closed for good, October 17, 1965. It, of course, included a visit to our favorite pavilion, the Ford Rotunda. For three young teenage boys from Queens, the two years since the April 1964 opening had been magical. We always had a destination, and a way to have fun and explore, and at a $2 entrance fee, for not a lot of money. I remember that last day that folks all over the park were taking souvenirs, and that many of the knobs were missing from the Ford cars on the Magic Skyway. Over 50 years later, the memories I have of those two summers spent with my two best friends are some of the best souvenirs I could have. It may also be why my candy apple red Mustang convertible is my pride and joy, and my own Magic Skyway vehicle!

If you’re interested, there are pages and pages of videos from the New York World’s Fair on YouTube!  As I write this, we are less than 2 weeks away from the 53rd anniversary of the fair’s opening date, April 22nd, 1964…..A lifetime ago!

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=1964+ny+world%27s+fair

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

In case you are wondering, yes, we did make it home safely from North Carolina and our great Family Weekend! We left the Hampton Inn, Wake Forest about 10 AM on Monday, and backed into our driveway in Ocean City, NJ at about 5:30 that afternoon. Clear sailing with good weather, and only a few slight slow downs as we went around Washington, DC. In fact, after a brief 2 night stay in Ocean City, today we headed back to Long Island, where we will stay for about a week and continue dealing with sorting stuff to take or leave, and getting closer to making the move to NJ official!

Since leaving Long Island last Thursday morning, we have driven over 1,000 miles, and spending that much time in the car has given us time to think and talk about our travels. One thing that we were talking about is the stupid stuff that mars an otherwise pleasant trip. For me, that usually entails being stuck in traffic. This then, is a look at some of the reasons we have been stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, crawling along at 5 miles an hour, or even stopped dead!

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I guess one of the ones that really ticks me off, is when there are road issues because of an accident. If you are like Susie, you are probably sick and tired of me complaining about the way people drive today, so if you fall into that category, you might want to skip the rest of this paragraph! Here goes….what the hell is the matter with people today??? Have they no clue that they are hurtling through traffic in a 2 ton implement of death, and that this is real life, not Grand Theft Auto??? Oh my God, the stupid, careless, selfish stuff we have seen people do in a car! From driving at 90 miles an hour when everyone else is at 60, to cutting in and out of lanes when there is no room, to driving off the road, into an entrance lane to pass someone on the right, we have seen this and so much more! And what’s with everyones refusal to use their directional signals??? I mean, if you are going to drive like an asshole, at least give the rest of us a clue as to where you might be going!!

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The results of another accident!

This past Saturday, while heading down I-95 just before Washington, the interstate almost stopped dead. We were a couple of miles from the I-495 bypass around Washington, that we were planning on taking, when we came up to a flashing digital sign that said, “ACCIDENT. Two Left Lanes Closed on I-495 Before Exit 28”. Well this accident not only impacted on I-495, but every other road surrounding Washington, as people in the know looked for alternate routes. Thousands of people were delayed and inconvenienced because one or two yahoos had the misfortune of not finding someone who would avoid hitting them. Their luck ran out, and so did the rest of ours! Back in October, when we were leaving Atlanta on I-85, we stopped dead, and sat without moving for 25 minutes, again because of an accident. That was the second time in 2 days we’d had something like that happen! No telling how much time we lose as a nation, just because folks drive like shit!

Oh, and then there’s construction. You know things like “roving pothole” repairs, which can turn a road like the Belt Parkway into a parking lot. Or one that we seem to have a lot of experience with lately, “guard rail replacement”. Yeah, I know, one of the crappy drivers probably had an accident, which took out the original guard rail, necessitating delay of thousands so it could be repaired! Then there’s the “phantom” repairs…..miles and miles of closed lanes, with nobody working! That was the case Monday in North Carolina, when we drove about 40 miles on I-85 with one lane closed for the entire stretch, and we only saw about a 1/2 mile of active construction! Of course, the selfish even get into the act when there’s construction. You see a sign that says “right lane closed 2 miles”, so you get out of the right lane, but does everybody else? Nope, some manage to stick in that lane till the barriers are at their front bumper, causing a slow down as they must now push their way in front of you. Sure, you may have done the right thing, and gotten out of the closed lane in a timely fashion, but let’s face it, they’re more important than you!!

Then there’s the road that is in such bad shape, that there is no way traffic can maintain the posted speed limit, without inflicting damage on your vehicle. There was an area like this on the eastbound Long Island Expressway, just at the fairgrounds, for many years. About a mile of the LIE was a pot-holed, moon-cratered roadway, that predictably stopped traffic, night and day. Our tax dollars at work! Oh, and how about the way we no longer seem to bother doing repairs on roadways at night, when there’d be a lot less traffic? Hey, it works for them!

But today, we saw one that I don’t think we’ve ever seen before. Coming home from Ocean City, we came across the Verrazano Bridge, and exited onto the eastbound Belt Parkway. With all the major construction that’s been ongoing on the Belt for years, we expect that this will often be a major source of delays when we are going to or from Ocean City, but today was special. We seemed good at first, and the Belt was fine as we exited the bridge, but then the road slammed to a stop, and we crawled for probably 5 miles. Crawling along for close to 25 minutes, Susie found on a phone app, that it looked like it got a little better just after Knapp Street. We got to Knapp Street, but we were still crawling. We were wondering if the backup had to do with ongoing construction, when as we drove up one of the new bridges, we saw an NYPD car in the right lane, with it’s elevated warning lights blinking. We wondered if it was an accident, but as we got closer, we realized there were no cars in front of the police car, and the lane was open. WTF??? As we passed, Susie looked to the right and saw directly in front of the police car a huge swan with a bandage wrapped around it’s body! Well, that was a new one for us! Traffic delayed due to injured bird!

As they used to say on TV, “There are 8 Million Stories in the Naked City, this is just one of them!”