Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Time Capsule from the Sixties

One of the funniest scenes in Woody Allen's film Sleeper is when he wakes up 200 years in the future and the scientists as him to identify the various historical items which they had found from civilization in the 20th century. They showed a film clip of Howard Cosell and surmised that in olden times interrogators would play this as a form of torture to elicit information. Woody Allen assents, "Yes."

These kinds of juxtapositions, looking back on the present from the lens of the future, have been used to comic effect in many films and cartoons. And it really will be fun to see what people of tomorrow thought of the 20th century, especially when they find the time capsules we've left behind with their various memorabilia.

1964 was a big year in my life. It was the year we moved to New Jersey. It was also the year of the New York World's Fair, or rather, the first year of the two year showcase of American industry in the midst of this international exhibition. A centerpiece of the fair, which sprawled at Flushing Meadows in the Queens, one of New York's five boroughs, was the Unisphere, a spectacular (in its day) enormous steel globe. My friend's dad, Mr. LaGreca, was a welder on the project and I am sure he took pride in being associated with it.

The World's Fair featured 140 pavilions on 646 acres. 21 of the pavilions were from various states like New Jersey. There were also 36 countries represented. I especially remember the aerial acrobatics at the Mexico pavilion. But the primary investors in the fair were U.S. companies like Ford, GM, Dupont, Westinghouse, Pepsi Cola, IBM, General Electric... sinking more than a billion dollars into the occasion.

In 1965, Westinghouse assembled items for a time capsule that would preserve the Sixties unto eternity, or whenever it was decided to allow its contents to be opened. Take a minute to guess its contents while I babble on for a paragraph or two.

Lee Iacocca's Ford introduced the Mustang in 1964 so that you could ride around the Ford Pavillion in the shell of a Mustang. Hopefully you got the color you wanted, or you'd have to stand in a long, long line for the next time. And I'll never forget the demonstrations in the Dupont pavilion, such as what happens to a tennis ball when you drop it into "absolute zero" temperatures.

Speaking of lines, they were almost always long for the favorite "rides" (if you call GM's travel car into the future a ride). You could, however, see a lot by avoiding the things most visited and returning another time when it was less crowded, if you lived a reasonable distance from the City.

O.K.... have you been thinking about that time capsule? What would a 1965 time capsule contain? At the top of the list, which you can find online is.... a bikini. Do you think people in the future will know what to do with it?

Here's the complete list of the contents of that 1965 Time Capsule.

• bikini
• Polaroid camera
• plastic wrap
• electric toothbrush
• tranquilizers
• ball-point pen
• molecular block
• 50 star American flag
• superconducting wire
• box of detergent
• transistor radio
• fuel cells
• electronic watch
• antibiotics
• contact lens
• reels of microfilm
• credit cards
• ruby laser rod
• ceramic magnet
• filter cigarettes
• Beatles record
• irradiated seeds
• freeze-dried foods
• rechargeable flashlight
• synthetic fibers
• heat shield from Aurora 7
• Revised Standard Version of the Bible
• film history of the USS Nautilus
• fiber-reinforced material
• film identity badge
• material from Echo II satellite
• computer memory unit
• pocket radiation monitor
• graphite from first nuclear reactor
• Vanguard satellite radio transmitter
• container for carbon-14
• tektite
• pure zirconium
• desalted Pacific Ocean water
• birth-control pills
pyroceramic baking dish
• plastic heart valve
• Official Guide to New York World's Fair
• photographs of important events
As for that Beatles record, I hope they also included a record player.

If I've given you an appetite to hear and see more of the 1964 New York World's Fair, then you might want to bookmark this website and visit all the pages of information that have been compiled there, including maps and photos. Have fun reminiscing.

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