GM Powerama - Chicago 1955

©Original 35mm Kodachrome transparency
One of the largest GM Motoramas ever built, the September 1955 GM Powerama lasted 26 days and cost $7-million dollars (in 1955 dollars!) Held just south of soldier field, the fair included the first solar-powered electric car. You would think that maybe 54 years later, they would be in production by now?

©Original 35mm Kodachrome transparency
This is the same venue that hosted the Chicago Railroad Fair of 1950, described elsewhere on this blog.

©Original 35mm Kodachrome transparency
Despite the electric car debut, the main theme was DIESEL POWER!! Some over-the-top events included a tractor hoe-down with choreographed tractors square dancing, A bulldozer chorus line, a dumptruck chorus line, a Bulldozer vs. elephant event, a net-full of girls, a trapeze act, high dives into a giant dump truck, a Vegas-style stage show and more.

©Original 35mm Kodachrome transparency
A herd of 6 elephants approaching a waiting bulldozer. The lead one with the top-hat will challenge the bulldozer in a tug-of-war, and of course lose.

©Original 35mm Kodachrome transparency
The tractor hoe-down. Looks like a square dance with the men tractors wearing hats, and the ladies (with female drivers) wearing bonnets.

©Original 35mm Kodachrome transparency
The Convair concept plane created for vertical take-off (VTO). Called the Pogo, it could take off vertically into flight, and then arch into level flight. To land, would stall and hang by its propeller. Despite its unconventional appearance and layout, J.F. Coleman, the test pilot, reported that the Convair XFY-1 Pogo was one of the best handling aircraft he had ever flown (in conventional flight mode). By the time Convair XFY-1 Pogo had been developed enough to be a feasible design the US Navy had lost interest in the aircraft, and the project was canceled.

©Original 35mm Kodachrome transparency
Lighter, lower, faster and costing less, the GM Aerotrain was ahead of its time. It rode on a bellows of air, and was fast - the center of gravity was very low. This is the first of two "Dream Trains" built, the T1. Again, somehow we lost interest. Love the styling! Designer: Chuck Jordan.

©Original 35mm Kodachrome transparency
The Regulus was the Navy's first sea-bourne nuclear deterrent. Essentially a small turbojet aircraft, 42 feet long, with a wingspan of 21 feet, and weighing in at just under seven tons, its Allison J33-A-14 engine could propel the missile to Mach 0.91 (about 550 knots). Either a 40-50 kiloton nuclear warhead or a 1-2 megaton thermonuclear device could be carried. POWERAMA!

These last two images taken from Life magazines archives, located on Google here.


USSR at the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels

© Original Diapositive Kodachromes Fabriqué en France

The monumental Russian pavilion from 1958 as seen from the United States; the Saudi-Arabian/UAR/Arab Federation pavilion can be seen on the right. Measuring 500 by 240 feet wide, the USSR pavilion was created so that the outer walls were suspended by cables attached to eight pairs of steel supports. Impressive and sturdy, the central themes were technology, industry and transportation.

The impressive entrance hall. This could be seen as the start of the cold war between Russia and America, or at the least, the beginning of the space race. One of the main features in this area was the Sputnik satellite, seen above and below. Launched in October 1957, the little beach-ball-sized satellite really caused a chain of events in America. In July 1958, Congress passed the National Aeronautics and Space Act (commonly called the "Space Act"), which created NASA. In fact, look at the US pavilion 6 years later at the '64 World's Fair - it is almost entirely space-related.

Sputnik display and some other machinery (high-tech in 1958, no doubt.)

He's so big, he's got to be great. Where is this statue today?

I love this populist mural depicting patriotism. When other countries do this, we call it propaganda.

I think this has something to do with polar exploration and ice-breaking technologies.

A group of nuns pass by a display of Russian textiles.

More "industry." My guess is these are state of the art electric drills. (I don't have good literature on this fair, and the official guide book is very brief and poorly translated.)


United States Pavilion at Expo 1958 in Brussels, Belgium

I found a box of Expo 58 slides I hadn't seen in a while, and now have a new appreciation for this Expo. Officially called the Brussels World Exhibition 1958, it was the first postwar world's fair, and the architecture and optimism reflects that. The notable metallic Atomium, which still stands as an icon of the fair, is one of the most astonishing buildings of the world.

The United States Pavilion
Architect: Edward D. Stone

The United States focused on "American Humanism" at the fair and portrayed the openess and plentitude of the American life. What was notably missing from the exhibit was the governments obsession with national security. In fact, American enthusiasm towards the fair was lackluster until plans for a monumental Soviet pavilion became public. Things moved quickly from there, and plans for a pavilion as large as the Roman Coliseum were soon finalized.

There's a "typical" American beach here, with a sailboat, grill, outboard motor, people on lounge chairs.

The theme was “Research for the Good of Humanity.” Culture and arts were stressed. The “Cicarama,” a 360° circular theater debuted here.


Halloween in the 50s

When your birthday is on Halloween, you have a party!! Here's three Kodachrome slides from 3 years 1958-1960. Put on your favorite party hat and have some real pumpkin pie!

This photo is from the inside of a diner in Clearwater, FL. Outside is a crisp October day; a Fina gas station is visible through the trees. This is probably on Ft. Harrison drive.


Chris' Seafood Restaurant, Ocean City — 1966

This first thing you would see as you entered Ocean City island on the 9th Street Bridge, was the landmark Chris' Seafood Restaurant. The owner, Chris Montagna, was a fisherman who ran excursion boats for many years. The restaurant was open from 1932 to 1972 and he supplied his own sea food. Many kids remember the PT boats he modified and the thrill rides he gave folks in them.

The Flying Saucer was a converted World War II mahogany-bottomed PT boat that held up to 125 passengers and burned 300 gallons of high octane airplane fuel an hour at full-throttle (1,200 gal. capacity). It had air-fins synchronized with her rudders for responsiveness. He said it reached 90 miles an hour, and most agreed. It was a wet ride up to 21st St. and back. The Coast guard retired it in 1973 for safety reasons, even though it was outfitted with excursion-boat safety equipment. More photos here.

Chris would always talk to the passengers and slowly give a little tour before heading out to the open sea. The truly adventurous would grab the front seats and get a screaming soaking ride. It had 3 big Packard engines.

Under the green fiberglass roof.

The much beloved Chris passed away in 1987, but will always be remembered by anyone who had the pleasure of joining him for a wonderful trip and a delicious meal. Condos now stand where this restaurant once was.


Eagle's Nest Gardens - Bellair, Florida Pt. 2

I was recently contacted through this blog by the grand-daughter of John Dean, who lived in the wonderful waterfront Bellair bluff house (see earlier post here) located in Eagle's Nest Gardens prior to Mr. Alvord (who developed the garden as an attraction). Her grandfather built most of the wooden elements of the gardens: the little temples, pagodas, bridges, etc. Her father was born in the house in 1930 (note: what a great place to start your life!). She refers to her father's childhood home as the grove house. In fact, she has extensive family in the area dating back more than 150 years!

She writes “Yes my dad has lots of memories of playing in the gardens — taking my grandfather his lunch, having tea with the aunties at the little Japanese teahouse… he also remembered distinctively the "Hound of the Baskervilles," so I was tickled when I found a picture of it. My grandfather had found a large eagle's nest that had blown down out of a tall tree during a storm and had climbed back up the tree to reposition it — amazingly enough, the eagles had returned. Considering my grandfather was only about 5'-5" and eagle's nests are very large and heavy that was quite an accomplishment.” (Electrospark's note: Bald Eagles build the largest nests in the world that are made by a single pair of birds. Some nests weigh over a thousand pounds. A large nest could be 12' deep.)

It's great to hear from people with personal stories connected to history such as yours. Thanks for sharing the photos and the stories with us, Lisa!

This photo (circa 1937) shows an exterior treatment given to the Dean/Alvord house by Mr. Dean to make it look tropical by using bamboo as exterior cladding. There was no power on the property, so Mr. Dean had the fabricate all the bamboo by hand.

Tea House

Trolleys came here from the lavish Belleview Biltmore resort hotel; note the upper-class clothing on the visitors in this photo.


Wild Women of Wongo

My brother-in-law showed me this movie a little while ago; we both tend to love bad movies. This one is Florida-bred, so it gets bonus points. The plot to this movie meanders terribly, but the basic subtext is this - two warring factions: a beautiful race of women living with ugly men; and a handsome race of men with not-so-beautiful women learn to live together. They anger the Dragon-God (a 3-ft. plastic souvenir alligator tied to a branch) on Tahiti Beach in Coconut Grove; the women dance the frug at Coral Castle, wrestle sedated alligators in Silver Springs and run aimlessly around at Fairchild Tropical Gardens.

Tahiti Beach

Behold the Dragon-God!! Ok — it's a souvenir alligator from Miami Beach tied to a stick...

Tahiti Beach then

Tahiti Beach today (Bing Maps)

Now home to multimillion-dollar estates. The tidal pool and beach still remain, as do the Australian Pines to the south. Nearby Bebe Robozo lived (R.M Nixon friend & millionaire).

Coral Castle

Crazy Alligator-head go-go dance at Coral Castle.

Queen of the Dragon-God on her seat of power. The most she does is yell “DANCE! DANCE!” to her minion.

Coral Castle today on US 41 in Homestead.

Fairchild Tropical Gardens

Fairchild Tropical Gardens. 

The landscape designer was William Lyman Phillips, the same designer who created the gardens at Bok Tower in Lake Wales, among others. Apparently just what the set-designer of Wongo had in mind. Or that is was 5 minutes away from Tahiti Beach...

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