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TAPE #2 NORMAN PERSE 
1514 w. 11th Street 
Brooklyn, NY 11204 
(718) 232-7211 

(Q) DO YOU WANT TO START WITH YOUR 1939 PARTICIPATION AND EXPLAIN 
WHAT WAS INVOLVED WITH THAT? ... 

(NP) "In 1939, I worked as an office boy for a newspaper. My job 
was primarily to go out to the fair, hang around with some of the 
camera men and bring back the film to either build a library or 
publish them in the paper everyday. If I am not mistaken, I think 
I worked the first 49 or 50 days (of the fair) without a day off. 
OH, WOW! I remember I was in the Roosevelt pennant. I remember 
the openning day; the crowds were horrible. It was crowded but by 
today's standards it wasn't as crowded. 

The nights at the fair were gorgeous. The weather happened to 
be nice for the bulk of the season in 1939: a nice pleasant spring; 
the summer wasn't too hot. The people came out to see the fair at 
night, with its . fountains and the colored lights in the fountains. 
I think it was the fountain in front of the French Pavilion that 
had the fireworks in it. The Italian Pavilion was a great copy---I 
later saw the very same building the Victoria Manor in Italy, Rome. 
The Soviet Pavilion was a gorgeous, dynamic, thing with a huge 
stainless silver warbook? column. The exhibits interior were 
mostly murals and diaramics in all the buildings because there 
wasn't too much film then." 

"In '64-65, I worked as a projectionist. So, I . saved film 
because film was the thing. A NEW TECHNOLOGY. YOU WERE AFFECTED 
BY THAT. ! A technology, certainly! ..... ? • . • . I had a three image 
triplelock? projection, that means all three projectors running 
simultaneously." 

(Q) ONE, TWO OR THREE SEPARATE SCREEN? 

(NP) "Three separate screens. However, it looked like one piece 
after a while, because there were no black borders ·separating 
them." 

"Good sound." 

"The IBM was a completely different technology. Although it 
was basically the same, because some of it was just loops--the same 
piece of film running against a loop--and that was the hole show." 

(Q) THAT WAS DONE BY CHARLES HEEMS? 

(NP) "I don't remember who it was. I know that when I worked up 
there it was horrible; a mud sliding projection booth to get up 
into. We had a crew of about seven or eight men because the 
projectors would stop and start simul:taneously by program, by 
program, not computer." 



TAPE #2, pg. 2 

(Q) CAN YOU EXPLAIN A LITTLE ABOUT THE PROGRAM? 

(NP) "Pleople got into this grandstand way below the ekt. A 
narrator would come down on a thing that looked like a trapese--but 
it was a rostrum--and held a microphone, but he didn't speak in the 
microphone because we were running ·an amplyfied sound film at that 
point--he was talking into a dummy--and he would give them a quick 
introduction of what was going to happen in the show and that we 
were going to go up. After that the stadium rolled up into the 
ekt. There was a motorcylce that started, stopped and ran around 
in little circles. There were movies shown. We didn't see movies 
as movies today. The movies were run not as we visualize a movie 
as a huge picture; these were little segments all over the place." 

(Q) MEANT TO LOOK LIKE REALITY? 

(NP) "Yeah, or conversations going on with a woman picking up a 
telephone on one side and callling her whatever on the other side." 

(Q) LIKE A DIGITAL? 

(NP) "Right! Just like little vignettes separated by this big black 
spance. It was an exciting show. It was mind buggling. Because, 
first, there was a lot of money involved in producing it. This is 
the name of the game today. Like we see some of the new movies 
today with the special effects. Money, is the name of the game; if 
you don't have the money you can't put it on the screen. 

I worked at the Hall of Science up at the Martin-Marietta 
Show; the one with Danny Thomas about missiles. We also had 
locked in with it a film on a normal screen--as we visualize a 
screen. A large cinemascope screen, I think it was 50 or 60 feet 
wide. WOW! People stood for most of the shows were standing only. 
Except for the Johnson's, I think, Johnson's wife and the Dupont 
were they sat; and the other one where they were making a lot of 
noise--! don't know what the response was to that one was, but that 
was an animation. Anyhow, they stood while the film went on--it 
was about the history of jet propulsion the one with the three 
rockets and the chinese with the gunpowder and so forth. Someplace 
along the line they talked about two space vehicles in orbit; the 
screens went black, the overhead lit up and these modules where 
moving. WOW! Which were all programed with the film and the 
mechanism was all mechanical. Electro-mechanical, not 
computerized. We didn't have computers or we didn't have the 
compatibility or the availability of a computer to control all the 
devises. These were little timing switches and motors, cams. They 
looked like group Goldberg's invention, I looked at them"and still 
marvelled at how did they work. 



TAPE #2, pg. 3 

The other show I worked at the 1 65 was the lower level · at the 
Hall of Sciense with the Mechanical Man. It was sponsored by 
Abbott, the Pink Ball." 

(Q) DO YOU KNOW WHAT EVER BECAME OF THAT? ... 
(NP) "I don't know, but there was a duplicate of that originally; 
although, it was owned by Abbott Chemicals. The original Abbott, 
I think, was in the Chicago Hall of Museum of Science and Industry. 
Because whenever we had a problem they said, "Gee, we never had 
this problem in Chicago." 

(Q) CAN YOU ELABORATE A LITTLE BIT ON WHAT THE CHEMICAL MAN WAS 
ALL ABOUT? 

(NP) "It was a pure narration with film projected and it looked 
like a little flight cockpit. People, I think, sat or stood; I 
don't know. It had only a capacity of about 50 or 60 people. It 
came up in this, I would say, 2 5 foot diameter ball made of 
fiberglass or reinforced fiberglass. Very well .constructed; never 
had a mechanical problem. There was a quick introduction; the film 
was started by remote-control and projected through two prisms or 
mirrors. These are front coated mirrors that we called prisms, 
that hung from up above, parallel to the screen the film/image was 
shot? down 90 degrees. The narration continued about the DNA in 
the life-prolong cells of life ? and the exciting poi~t was that 
modules of what they were discussing, at large, would move out into 
the viewing area. Models or modules, which we called modules, came 
out and the film ran about about 16 to 16 1/2 minutes. It stopped 
automatically, the lights went on, people exited and about five or 
six minutes later the show went on again; over and over. I think 
they ran three shows an hour." 

(Q) THREE AN HOUR? 

(NP) "Yeah, it was wild. The film was a continuous •.. LOOP? well 
not a loop, it was fed by a continuous fed mechanism; an endless 
mechanism. The company I worked for developed this thing. It was 
one of about 50 devices. 

(Q) WHAT COMPANY WAS IT? 

(NP) "The Royalty? Company. It was out in Los Angeles ·in 
Hollywood. I don't know if they are still in business or not. 
They were also the contractor for many of the exhibits because some 
of the corporations were reluctant to sign union contracts. So, 
they set up subsidiary corporations to hire contractors and they 
said, "that is enough problems; we don't want to know for no crap, 



TAPE #2, pg. 4 

we got to have shows, period." and that's the way it was. Because 
of that and the friendships it created, and the I.D. card, and the 
friendship with my fellow union projectionists; I knew every 
backdoor and my daughter, who was 14 or 15 at the time, and her 
friend saw every exhibit and never stood on line. This is 
something she still brags about to her husband . ... 
(Q) THAT COULD REALLY HELP YOU OUT AT THE GM FUTURERAMA. 

(NP) "They weren't impressed with GM so much. I think the GM in 
1 39 was much more impressive as a show. The Chrisler Corporation 
was a good one. It was a revolving stage with four screens on it 
on each side, a four sided thing, and a film was running on each 
one." 

(Q) THERE WAS ALSO A BILL BAIRD PUPPET SHOW. 

(NP) "And then it had the puppet show besides, Yeah. The backroom 
also had the transluxoramic show. 

The building next to GM; the one with the dome on it, had a 
space type film that was projected unto the ceiling, which was dome 
type ceiling. It sat on a little revolving stool it had and it was 
mind-boggling---! think that was the word for it. Since then we 
have seen pictures like 'Close Encounter of - the Third Kind,' 
'E.T.,' 'Roger Rabbit' and so forth; so its become more everyday, 
commercially, compared to what we had then. Like I remember we 
just saw the old film with the '64-65, "Danny Comes to the GE 
Building." A walkee? that also had a continuous projector because 
when the oven door opened, there was a film of him, food cooking 
inside. 

(Q) OH! THAT IS INTERESTING 

(NP) "It was done with a little continuous feed (16) running behind 
him. When the number closed; the telephone setup, that was all 
16 millimeters and they were all on loop. These were small loops, 
some of them were only 10 to 12 feet long. 

The projectionst worked in this long, huge, tunnel attending 
all these machines in case the film broke. The viewer was looking 
at the front side of this painted aquarium, for example, and the 
fish were swimming by which were on film. It was live; and this is 
the thing the mind admits. Like the multimedia you saw at the 
Dupont with the juggler or the dancing girls and boys. Where you 
had film panels between open panels. Live in the open and film •..• 
. . . . • AND DISCOURSE BETWEEN LIVE; live conversations, or juggling of 
balls, throwing of balls back and forth; BLOWING OUT CANDELS AT ONE 
POINT; and in the end, I think, Dupont even had some rain. Either 
Dupont or Clark?, I don't remember which one, there were so many of 
them that I just passed through for two days or three days over 
there." 



TAPE #2, pg. 5 

(Q) DID YOU HAVE DUPLICATES OF THE FILMS? 

(NP) "Yes, there were always spares. On the continuous feeds like 
the small loops or like a telephone, for example, you immediately 
put on another loop in and repaired the damaged one either before 
hours or after hours. During ~he day they even had some 
supervisors." 

As a matter of fact most of my friend worked out there .... 
By today's standards, we didn't make much money but in those days 
we made very good and most of it because we were all union and 
because there was a suppposed to be a manpower shortage. So if you 
had a field job, the union was willing to give you a day or two out 
of the fair as supplemental income. Additional income to cover the 
job. I didn't have a steady field job. I just worked at the fair 
and they used to call me constantly to go to different theaters." 

(Q) DID YOU ENJOY THE ENTIRE TIME? 

(NP) "I enjoyed it. When I talk about film, I think you can see my 
eyes light up. I love film; I still go to the movie. I am retired 
now; I have been retired since April 1st, after 30 years in the 
industry...... I worked on productions and I know some of the 
(camera) tricks in them but I still marvel at it. There is nothing 
like the large screen. I have a VCR at home that I rarely use 
because I don't rent any movies. I like it big! (Otherwise) You 
can't see it in its real immage, the real format .•.. we -also had 
some wonderful sound systems. Better than stereo systems." 

"Our company also ran the show at the Port Authority, which 
was at the little ball theater under the big 'T'. That is how we 
refer to the building, as the big 'T' , which still stands, 
incidently, its in the park. our company, the Royalty? Company, 
deviced the nine projector mount so that they were able to take a 
350 degree image, because (prior to that) it was done with nine 
cameras running simultaneously and it was projected the same way, 
from the center of this ball. There were no black bars between the 
screens, so we actually showed a 365 degrees? screen." 

(Q) SO YOU HAD IT ALL AROUND. 

(NP) "Yeah. Two or three of the biggest, mind-boggling, scenes 
where the one with the TWA plane at Kennedy Airport, which was 
across about seven screens or about 250 degrees. We used to use 
that film to set up a new set of prints; for this had to have nine 
reels which were on continuous fee and not on reels or scroll? as 
we know them. We used that tape to register because TWA h,as a nice 
red stripe across on their plane and we raise it and lower it to 
make sure the line was correct (balanced) . OH, BECAUSE YOU HAD THE 
WHOLE PLANE. Right. The other one was a night game at Yankee 
Stadium. The camera was mounted on a little truck that was, 
probably, on second base and it move from here to there. This show 



TAPE #2, pg. 6 

also ran for about 18 or 20 minutes and there was never any 
admission charge. The bulk of these shows had no admission 
charge." 

(Q) JUST GENERAL ADMISSION FROM THE FAIR? 

(NP) "That's right. Of course, it publicized either the product or 
the corporation. It was all about corporate image more than 
anything else, the institution, because they didn't sell you a 
product. As a matter of fact, you couldn't buy a car at the Ford 
exhibit or the GM or the Chrysler." 

(Q) YOU BOUGHT THE IMAGE, SORT OF SPEAK, THAT YOU TOOK HOME WITH 
YOU. 

(NP) "Right, like you rode in a Ford car back and forth. 
Other than in one or two shows which, subsequently, failed; 

there was no charge. If I am not mistaken, Texas had a pavillion 
that had a film show. It only lasted about two weeks or so, 
because it had an admission charge and because it was out of the 
way. It was locked in with a nightclub and there wasn't enough 
income to warrant the expenses so they just eliminated it. They 
closed that building during the first year. The only other job was 
the translux show. The one that was projected upon a dome. It was 
also run on a 70 millimeter. There were a lot of 70 millimeters in 
those days." 

"Billy Graham had a wonderful! show that used a 70 millimeter. 
They weren't selling any product, just selling religion. They had 
a wonderful thing; a 10 channel selector to find the language that 
you wanted to hear or that you could understand. The sound was 
recorded on a 10 track? or type." 

(Q) LIKE THE CHOICES YOU GET IN AN AIRPLANE, ON AN INTERNATIONAL 
FLIGHT, AS TO WHICH LANGUAGE YOU HEAR THE FILM DUBBED INTO? 

(NP) "Yeah. Well, maybe they had a different film, possibly. The 
closest thing to it that I have seen was in a tour bus that I once 
rode on in Palms. It had a selector that had five or six languages 
that where prevalent among the tourists there. The building had 
things that were mind-boggling. Dupont and IBM were mind-boggling 
and these shows, whose films were monologue, had the longest wait-
lines. I watched a film before that said that the waitlines were 
never more than 90 minutes, that was devatable. My daughter would 
always ask me, "Dad, who did you see?" 

"The nights were beautiful, even as late as the last two weeks 
two weeks in October. I remember that by the last two weeks of the 
season which were the first two weeks, I think, of October; I was 
in demand from sometime in April to sometime in October. Roughly 



TAPE #2, pg. 7 

a six month period. Even in the cool nights, it was a pleasure to 
come out and see all the lights as they were being darkened. The 
gounds closed at 10 O'clock, but the lights didn't go on until the 
beginning of 10 O'clock.--OH, REALLY. Yeah. They didn't start 
flickering at a quarter to ten or anything like that but everything 
would slow down. It didn't go in td a dead blackout but, slowly, 
the lights would start to go off." 

The food was the same old snack type food: hot dogs, 
hamburgers, whatever. My first introduction to a microwave oven, 
which was not like the microwave oven we know now, was at the 
Greyhound Transportation Building. I bought a sandwich on a 
plastic plate that was covered by a sheet of saran-wrap?, or 
something, and it had a sticker on it. The stickers were red, 
blue, green, etc. Then I put it on this metal plate and pressed 
the .•• ? button; it rose up into a thing, and when it came down it 
was heated." 

(Q) DO YOU HAPPEN TO RECALL WHAT COMPANY MADE THE MICROWAVE? 

(NP) "No. I know it was at the Greyhound building because they had 
the greatest coffee in the fair. Besides we were in that area. 
They had the best coffee in the fair and I think their coffee was 
cheaper than~? We used to go over to RhineGold?, way over in 
the far side (of the fair), for cornbeef sandwiches ...•.. Yet the 
beer was better at the Lowenbraw, which was across the street from 
where we were." 

(Q) SO, IT MUST OF TAKEN A LONG TIME TO GET A BITE TO EAT? 

(NP) "Yeah. A lot of us used to brown-bag it for that reason and 
to avoid the lines. Also, theoretically, we had no lunch period. 
We worked six hour shifts because the fair was open from ten to 
ten, a 12 hour day. During the six hours you were there, the 
client or the employer who was contracting you didn't want to know 
for nothing--the show must go on." 

(Q) AND YOU HAD TO PAY FOR ANY FOOD YOU BOUGHT? 

(NP) "Right. The only one tha used to give us any accommodation 
was Kentuky Fried Chicken. They used to accommodate us by the back 
door and all you had to do was flash your pass. We got buckects 
for the whole crew. Even the kids that worked as ushers, 
attendants and narrators in the shows would all share our bounty 
with us. We were all trying to make a living. Some of the young 
kids, a lot of them, were night stewards and worked onl~ two or 
three days a week. I felt sorry for them in one respect because 
they didn't know their way around New York. They were lucky to 
rent an apartment, someplace in Jackson Heights or whatever, and 
even had girlfriends share their apart~ents. They had a lot of 
money, too, but they used to go from paycheck to paycheck and we 
felt sorry for them in a way. But that is the way it was." 



TAPE #2, pg. 8 

"I wanted to go to the Vancouver Expo last year but I couldn't 
get accommodations. I think some of the cities had learnt their 
lessons from other fairs and didn't over build hotel rooms. I 
think they might have learnt a lesson from New York before the 1 64-
65 fair. When, at the time, the Hilton, the Sheraton, and two or 
three other large capacity hotels opened; and a lot of motels open 
out here in the area of Queens, supposedly, to attract the crowds 
and the people in large numbers. But the people didn't come or if 
they came, they stayed with their relatives. So, some of the other 
cities, like Vancouver, didn't build one an additional bedroom for 
their fair. 

"At the time of the Vancouver Expo, I worked for a company 
that had two demonstrations here in New York. An outfit called 
Showstand. They/we also ran a film at the international auto show 
at Javitz this past year or the year before. In the 70 millimeter 
there was Douglas Trumbul?, a special effects genius, who developed 
this thing for projecting three-time speed of a 70 millimeter. Not 
an optical effect, but it was a large image. At the Expo, they had 
four or five shows running. They had something soothing from the 
Japan-Sand? Company. I think they had a permanent running of the 
Niagara Falls, pertinent to the fall; but it was not as mind-
boggling as the Imax?, which was here at the Museum of Natural , 
History, but it can be done. The Imax? is another completely 
different type of loose technique that is very expensive and very 
protable. 

(Q) WE HAVE COME A LONG WAY FORM THE 1 39 WORLD'S FAIR. 

(NP) "Yeah. In 1 39 we had very little film. I was talking to one 
of our union officials and he said that, all told, there was only 
about 20 people employed in the 1 39-40 World's Fair. In the 1 64-65 
I think we had something like 200 jobs; not necessarily people but 
jobs. Sometimes a job is broken up to accommodate. 

However, the only thing (difference) is that the union existed 
then and the employers or contractors extisted. Because the 
techniques were the same but different. The operation was the same 
but the technique was a little different. People that were not 
capable of continuous film did not run continuous film and people 
that weren't fully capable with the 70 millimeter, did not run the 
70 millimeter, and so forth. So, we became a crew of specialists. 

(end) 


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