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Jack Murphy with his collection of World’s Fair memorabilia on display at the Great Neck Library. (Photos from Jennifer Murphy)

Local World’s Fair Enthusiast Displays Memorabilia Collection

Jack Murphy, a sixth-grade student at Great Neck South Middle School, has become a World’s Fair enthusiast over the past couple of years.

According to a press release from Jack’s mom, Jennifer Murphy, “World’s Fairs are special events. Vast resources must be brought to bear in the design, building and operations of something very transitory in nature. There is great excitement when the fairs are announced. However, when they close, there is very little left to mark their existence.”

Jack’s interest in the World’s Fairs has led him to research and learn about the World’s Fairs through articles and documentaries and amass a collection of World’s Fair memorabilia. His collection of The New York World’s Fairs of 1939-1940 and 1964-1965 is currency on display at the Great Neck Library.

Jack shared that his introduction to the World’s Fairs began in May of 2022 when he was in fourth-grade.

“I was sitting down at a table, and my grandma said, ‘The globe in Queens was called the Unisphere, and the Terrace on the Park used to spin and was called the Port Authority Heliport.’ She told me all of that and sparked my interest,” said Jack. “I started searching up The New York World’s Fair and it led me down a rabbit hole that led me to the point that I am at today.”

Jack’s grandma attended The New York World’s Fair 1964-1965, and while she didn’t remember much of it, the few pieces of information she did share sparked Jack’s interest in learning more.

“I started searching up articles online and started reading the articles. After about a week and a half, my interest had gotten to the point where I had openly started talking about facts and information about The World’s Fair and eventually I started looking at movies of The World’s Fair too,” said Jack.

According to information from the Murphy family, “The 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair began as a way to generate economic growth and leave the Great Depression behind. Many residents of Queens had been complaining there was no large public park for their enjoyment – the largest open area was a miserable ash heap for incinerators and furnaces. The City’s leading businessmen and government leaders announced the theme would be “Building a better tomorrow with the tools of today”, a fair that would showcase the best American industry could offer, with examples of a life of ease and luxury that could be attained by the average American. The 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair, whose theme was “Peace Through Understanding,” was one of the biggest international extravaganzas and set records for size and cost. More than 51 million visitors enjoyed the sights, sounds and tastes of the Fair.”

Jack presenting his World’s Fair collection

Jack’s growing interest in The World’s Fair led him to attend museum exhibits and meet other enthusiasts.

“I did meet other World’s Fair enthusiasts and started learning things from them. I first met other enthusiasts at the Queens Museum. It was the first real event that I had ever gone to that was World’s Fair related,” said Jack. “I am currently friends with some of The World’s Fair enthusiasts and met some of them.”

Jack is now on an email list with other World’s Fair enthusiasts, who share facts and photos of memorabilia from The World’s Fairs.

Jack has collected some memorabilia from The New York World’s Fair on his own. But his collection of memorabilia grew tremendously from a generous donation from the Bordonaro Family.

“Robert Bordonaro went to the World’s Fair (1964-1965) as a child and collected some of the stuff from the World’s Fair. And he did go to other World’s Fair expos and collect stuff from the expos,” said Jack.

Robert’s wife, Michelle, shared that “Robert loved the 1964-65 World’s Fair in Flushing, Queens. His mother, Martha, brother Bill, and he visited the Fair many times. His favorite part was the Ford Pavilion, where he could ride different Ford convertibles. It was called the “Magic Skyway Ride.” He enjoyed the boat ride featuring the animated dolls that sang the song “It’s a Small World.” Michelangelos’ Pieta with the statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus, holding her son’s body in her lap, was a beautiful addition to the Fair. He enjoyed an occasional Belgian waffle while he visited all the sites. Throughout his life, he would go to World’s Fairs exhibits to obtain objects from collectors. He saw many international World’s Fairs such as China, Japan, Germany, Spain and Canada. In his mind, the 1964-65 World’s Fair was the best of all.”

Robert passed away in 2022, and his wife, Michelle, didn’t know what to do with his incredible collection.

“She was thinking about giving it to a museum, but she didn’t really know what to do with it all,” said Jack. “Michelle works with my Aunt, and when she shared that her nephew is a World’s Fair enthusiast, she decided to give me his collection.”

“I know my husband is very happy that Jack has his World’s Fair collection. Jack will take very good care of it so that future generations can appreciate it,” Michelle shared. “I wish we would have another World’s Fair in the United States. It was an extremely important piece of history that we should always cherish.”

With Jack’s large collection of informational cards, license plates, flags, cups and other trinkets, he said its hard to choose what he thinks the most interesting piece is.

“I definitely know the rarest thing in my collection is the roof ornament of the RCA Pavilion and there were only a couple in existence,” said Jack. “Even other World’s Fair enthusiasts eye it when they look at my collection.”

According to the World’s Fair Photos website (worldsfairphotos.com), “The RCA pavilion, looking from the outside like a cluster of white and copper drums, has several exhibit sections and a TV studio that serves as the Fair’s official Color Television Communications Center. The Center is linked via a closed circuit to over 250 color TV sets located around the fairgrounds; a completely equipped color mobile unit supplies coverage of news and special events.”

Something Jack doesn’t have in his collection yet but is looking forward to obtaining soon is a mini-figure resembling the US Royal tire-shaped Ferris wheel.

“Some of these things are pretty cool. They are basically little action mini-figures and they have a switch, and if you turn on the switch, it would spin like a real Ferris wheel,” said Jack.
When researching and learning about The New York World’s Fairs, Jack found one of the most interesting he learned was “that the area where the fair was held was converted from an ash dump for the World’s Fair in 1939.”

Jack’s exhibit of The New York World’s Fair memorabilia will be on display at the Great Neck Library through Sunday, March 31. Visit greatnecklibrary.org for more information.

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