1964 World's Fair

The 1964 World’s Fair was “a protective cocoon” where “foreign nations sang in harmony, corporations existed to produce things that made life better, and, most important, the future looked brighter than ever..... For the tens of millions of kids who went the fair planted a seed of the possibility to achieve great things.” Lawrence R. Samuel, The End of Innocence

Although we lived less than an hour away from New York and most of my mother’s family still lived in Brooklyn, we rarely went to the city. However, when the World’s Fair came to the city, we went. The World’s Fair trip was such a big deal; we wore sports coats and ties when we went.

I come from a small, New England factory town and in the 1960s; the town and the surrounding towns were almost totally filled with white people and they fell into three camps; Irish, Italian or Poles, so the only Asian person I ever saw was on TV, and actually, in the mid-1960s, the few Asians you saw on TV were usually the Japanese soldiers from McHale’s Navy although more and more Vietnamese were turning up on the news.

When we walked onto the main concourse of the Fair, the first thing I spotted was an Asian lady working at an egg role booth. I didn’t know what an egg role was but it sounded cool...rolled egg.....the booth was built in the form of a Pagoda, which is Chinese-South Asian and the lady was dressed in a kemono with a long stick through the back of her hair, which is Japanese and I don’t know where the hell egg rolls are from, probably New York.

I ran up to the booth and stared at the poor woman, but in fairness, an Asian lady in a pagoda wearing a kemono with a stick in her hair in the middle of Brooklyn was something worth staring at.

Finally she said to me...in flawless Brooklynese “So you gonna buy some thin or what or over here?”

Luckily, my mother is from Brownsville so I spoke fluent Brooklynese. I asked “So what are you, Japanese?”

When your nine years old you could get away with questions like that in 1964.

“Naw” she said turning an egg role “Korean”