This spring marks the 50th Anniversary of the opening of The 1964/65 New York World’s Fair. The convoluted political history of the Fair is well documented elsewhere on the internet, and is being celebrated on its former site at Flushing Meadow Park, in one of the few buildings left.
Though the fair introduced many innovations like the Disney effects department’s “animatronics” figures, I’ll keep this post focused on a couple of personal recollections and images specifically about Sinclair Oil Corporation’s Dinoland. Sinclair touted their fossil fuel product with a nice green dinosaur logo and Dinoland was a pre-Jurrasic Park petting zoo of sorts presenting life size fiberglass replicas of prehistoric fauna.
Missed the Boat…
Part of my story includes a dinosaur sized disappointment. In the middle of October 1963 those titanic saurians were being barged down the Hudson river from their creation point at Luis Paul Jonas’s studio in upstate New York to the fair site in Queens. Their trip included several scheduled stops, one at Manhattan’s Battery. It was a spectacular way to ballyhoo the upcoming fair.
Appreciating my love of prehistoric creatures, my folks decided a day out of school for a unique field trip was in order. We hopped on a subway and unfortunately arrived minutes after the barge had completed it’s docking and continued on the way to the Fair grounds. I recall that our only family photos show the barge way out on the river, its outsized cargo too far in the distance to appreciate the scope of.
Fortunately this sad story came to a happy ending the following year, and as you can see from these photos I got some up close and personal time with the critters. I also brought home a “Mold-A-Rama” replica of the stegosaurus, though at the time I was dismayed to find the T-Rex mold machine (my first preference) was out of order. Mold-A-Rama machines have a neat history of their own, and can still be found at many fair sites pumping out their freshly minted “hot potato” mementos.
Over the years Dinoland’s inhabitants have been tracked down to their current residences across the United States with, I believe, the exception being the small pictured in the foreground of the image above.
My Dad had put a camera in my hands pretty early on, so even by 9-10 years old I could make a reasonable aperture adjustment and frame a shot the way I wanted it. I know for sure that the framing of the photo above was going for a “time travel” effect, with the dinosaurs in the foreground and space age rockets visible in the rear.
One photo of mine reveals the little discussed tableau of just hatched baby Apatosaurs (Brontosaurs in my day) being menaced by an errant archaeopteryx. This scene always reminded me of a similar hatching in Irwin Allen’s The Animal World. At 9 years old that image that was already burned into my brain via the Sawyer View-Master “Prehistoric Animals” slide set, though I had yet to see the film.
Dinoland can easily be seen as the progenitor of today’s “Walking With Dinosaurs” shows, which add motility to the mix. The Australian staging of “King Kong,” in the process of finding a home in New York City, is sure to please the next generation of dinosaur kids.