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Not lost, just seeing the sights

Posted: July 24, 2014 10:29 a.m.
Updated: July 25, 2014 5:00 a.m.

In 1964, the World’s Fair was in New York City. I was 6 years old and went with my parents and older sister to the fair. New York City seemed like a different world to a little boy from Dexter, Mo., but it was all good. We rode on subway trains, we had cheeseburgers in a diner where the staff had funny accents and rode the Staten Island Ferry and saw the Statue of Liberty. I saw a billboard that had the Marlboro man blowing smoke out of his mouth. We were living it up.

My daddy’s idea of traveling often involved towing a small camper trailer behind the car or pickup truck and this trip was no exception. Thinking back on it, I’m sure we must have looked like the Clampett family or Ma and Pa Kettle rolling into New York with our “motel room” attached to our vehicle. Actually, I think we stayed across the river in New Jersey and could see the New York City skyline from our campground.

I’m sure we really stuck out to the people of New York. I remember getting on a subway and a policeman on the platform asked daddy if we were going to the World’s Fair. Now, how did he ever guess that? He advised us that another train on a nearby track was an express train to the fair, so we got on that one instead. Thank you, sir.

At the fair, we saw the sights and visited several of the attractions there, including the Ford Pavilion. Inside, they had Ford cars moving around a fixed track. You would get into the cars and they would take you through a display of animated dinosaurs, courtesy of Mr. Walt Disney and his company. I’ll never forget it, because those things were 100-percent scary! I screamed and clung to my sister, who still to this day, 50 years later, claims my fingernail marks are still embedded in her skin. It really was frightening.

What wasn’t frightening was the time I walked away from my family to do some exploring on my own. I guess in just a brief moment of not watching me, I wandered off. I wasn’t trying to escape. I just did it. I went and got into a long line, by myself, that went into one of the attractions. I think it may have even been the Ford Pavilion again, which would make no sense, other than I was familiar with it.

There were two lanes there, divided by velvet ropes. One lane was for people actually waiting in line and the other lane was for employees to enter and exit the building without having to deal with the foot traffic. I was waiting in line like a good little citizen when a staff member walked by, heading into the building at a brisk walk. I thought, “well, that’s obviously the line to be in,” so I fell into step behind him. The rest of you suckers can inch along. I’m in the express lane!

Up to that point no one seemed to notice I was without adult accompaniment, but shifting into high gear drew attention to myself and someone pointed me out to the young man I was following. He turned around and, seeing I was alone, naturally assumed I was lost. He figured he should do “the right thing” and take me to the lost children’s area. What did I do next? I did what any red-blooded, 6-year-old boy from Dexter, Mo. would have done when a guy in New York City tried to manhandle me. I resisted arrest. Hard.

I had not been the least bit scared or angry or upset until this poor soul tried to “help” me. I kicked him, I punched him, I screamed as loud as I could. He finally had to hoist me up over his shoulder and carry me away, under great protest. It wasn’t until they booked me into the World’s Fair kid jail that I cried. I had not been lost. I had merely been adventurous. Oh, the injustice of it all! The jailers somehow calmed me down and washed my face and I started playing with some of the other inmates for a while until my parents came to bail me out.

I guess any charges against me were dropped, because I never had to go to court over it, but to this day I still maintain my innocence. I wasn’t lost; I was just seeing the sights.


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