November 12, 2013

It's true - travel does broaden the mind

One of the things I've noticed in looking through TV Guides of the 1960s is that there used to be a lot of travel shows on TV.  In other words, The Travel Channel isn't anything new. Specials, weekly series, travelogues - many of them in color.  It's one of the things we tend to forget, with travel having become so ubiquitous, that it wasn't always thus, and many people got their first glimpses of life in other parts of the country, or the world, through television (and newsreels before that).

When Edward R. Murrow's See It Now premiered in 1951, both he and the viewers were impressed by television's ability to show, for the first time ever, live pictures of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans simultaneously.  Seeing both Oceans, even if it were only on television, was something that many people could only hope to experience in real life.

This came to mind the other day when, while watching Barclays Premier League soccer, I saw an ad for Dubai's bid for Expo 2020, otherwise known as the World's Fair*.  Commenting on it, my wife replied that she wasn't even aware that World's Fairs were still being held.  Indeed, Expos are now only held every five years or so, and I can't really remember the last one that made big headlines.  Perhaps it was Expo '67 in Montreal, which birthed the name of a baseball team, or the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle, which gave us the Space Needle.  The 1939-40 World's Fair in New York - the "World of Tomorrow" - is one of the most iconic ever, and the 1933-34 "Century of Progress" in Chicago included an exhibition baseball game that continues to this day - the All-Star Game.

*Alright, a "Registered Exposition," if you want to be technical about it.

One of the last iconic fairs, at least in this country, was the 1963-64 World's Fair in Flushing Meadow, New York.  There seems something so "modern" about it - not just the times, but the architecture, such as the Unisphere, that fair's version of the Trylon and Perisphere.  There's also the idea that the wondrously exotic world of the Fair, which up until now had been something one could see only at the Fair itself, was now available to anyone.  The jet age, the age of Pam-American and TWA, meant that world travel wasn't just for the select few, but now was available to a broader section of Americans.

NBC's Edwin Newman hosted a documentary on that World's Fair, one of the earliest existent color broadcasts still available.


There's something both progressive and innocent about the fair. I like the idea that a lumberjack competition could be considered exotic, just as much as the wonders of the Orient. Again, it's a glimpse at a time that offered a glimpse into a world few people had seen - but, as the song of the time said, "It's a small world."

The special is complete on YouTube in six parts.  Part 1 is above; here are the links to Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6.

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