Tomorrow Land

George_Tranos_Outside_EdgeTomorrow land

by George Tranos


Fleetwood Mac sang, “Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow, Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here, It’ll be, better than before, Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.” In 1964, the New York World’s Fair was all about tomorrow. The fair’s theme was “peace through understanding”, dedicated to “Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe.”


The fair is best remembered as a showcase of mid-20th-century American culture and technology. The space age had begun and it was well represented at the fair. The burgeoning computer revolution had started but most computers were still hidden from everyday consumers. The fair brought some technology to the forefront; things like microwave ovens and computer terminals were shown with great fanfare. Motorcycles of the time were primitive compared to today’s examples but even then certain trends foresaw the future such as four stroke engines, disc brakes and overhead camshafts.


Many of the pavilions were built in a Mid-Century modern style. This was a futurist architectural style influenced by the atomic and space ages, car design and jet aircraft, which were all on display at the fair. Other pavilions were more abstract representations, such as the sphere shaped IBM pavilion, or the General Electric circular dome shaped “Carousel of Progress”. Some similarities can be seen in today’s motorcycle models such as the angular shape of the Victory Vision or the fluid lines of a MV Augusta Brutale.


New York played host to the fair at its six-million-dollar open-air pavilion called the “Tent of Tomorrow.” Designed by famed modernist architect Philip Johnson, the 350-foot-by-250-foot pavilion was supported by sixteen 100-foot-high concrete columns, from which a 50,000-square-foot roof of polychrome tiles was suspended. Complementing the pavilion were the fair’s three high-spot observation towers, two of which had cafeterias in their in-the-round observation-deck crowns. The pavilion’s main floor, used for local art and industry displays including a 26-foot scale reproduction of the New York State Power Authority’s St. Lawrence hydroelectric plant, comprised a 9,000-square-foot terrazzo replica of the official Texaco highway map of New York State, displaying the map’s cities, towns, routes and Texaco gas stations in 567 mosaic panels. Global positioning systems  used on today’s motorcycles are a successor to this paper mapping technology.


The most notable corporate pavilion was General Motors Corporation whose Futurama, a show in which visitors seated in moving chairs glided past elaborately detailed miniature 3D model scenery showing what life might be like in the “near-future”, proved to be the fair’s most popular exhibit. Nearly 26 million people took the journey into the future during the fair’s two-year run.


In “Pepsi Presents Walt Disney’s ‘It’s a Small World’ – a Salute to UNICEF and the World’s Children” at the Pepsi pavilion, animated dolls and animals frolicked in a spirit of international unity accompanying a boat ride around the world. The song was written by the Sherman Brothers. This is my strongest memory of the World’s Fair back from when I went when I was 8 years old! Of course, Disney recreated this later on again when it opened Disney World in Florida.


At the center of Flushing Meadows park, where the fair was held, stands the symbol of “Man’s Achievements on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe” – the fair’s Unisphere symbol, depicting our earth of “The Space Age”. The Unisphere was made famous again in 1997 when it was featured in the film Men in Black (in the film, The Unisphere is destroyed by a crashing space ship). The Unisphere has become a symbol of Queens, and has appeared on the cover of the borough’s telephone directory books.


The World’s Fair was a look forward to the future. We tried to envision what the future held for us. As motorcyclists, we live in a world where today’s motorcycles are far and away so much better than what the dreamers of yesterday ever foretold. The future is now. Yesterday is gone.


John Lennon sang, “Imagine all the people, Sharing all the world… You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one, I hope someday you’ll join us, And the world will live as one.” Today’s dreamers are still thinking about tomorrow. The bikes of twenty or forty years from now will surely be different from those of today. But the thinkers of today are already imagining the forms and functions tomorrow’s designs will take. Be one of them and choose to believe that tomorrow will be better than today. After all, it will soon be here!

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