After 50 Years, Matson Comes Clean

Americans are commemorating many 50-year anniversaries in 2014, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act, LBJ’s “War on Poverty” legislation, and the Beatles U.S. debut.

One golden anniversary receiving less attention, however, is the New York World’s Fair. The Fair - held in Flushing Meadows, Queens - opened April 22, 1964 and provided many happy memories to thousands of tri-state residents over a two-year period.

Although hundreds of NYSID alums undoubtedly attended the Fair, one DFS staffer, Gary Matson, actually worked for the Fair. Gary worked the graveyard shift as a maintenance guy at the New York City Pavilion – mostly, washing windows over the panoramic model of the City.

One of Gary’s most vivid memories from those days was the time he and some friends who worked around the Fair decided that the Fair’s signature fountain, at the Unisphere, was lacking a certain sudsiness.

They hatched a plan to insert laundry detergent into the fountain after it had been turned off for the evening. If their plan worked, the fountain would be overflowing with suds once it was reactivated the following morning.

To ensure the plan’s success, the conspirators cased the joint, noting a late-night interval when one security shift went off-duty before another started patrol.

During that break, the team positioned themselves in ones and twos around the perimeter of the fountain. They had shopping bags, inside of which were plastic bags with spouts, full of liquid detergent. At the agreed time, they dumped in the soap. Task completed, the team headed home for the night.

As luck would have it, Gary, who got off work not long after sunrise, was the only co-conspirator who would be there the next morning, before the Fair was open to the public. Thus, if the plan succeeded, he would be the group’s sole eyewitness to the sudsy glory.

That morning the fountain was indeed transformed into the City’s largest washing machine. The plan had worked! Although the stunt received some local media attention, the identities of the co-conspirators have remained a secret for half a century.

Gary, we assume, felt that after 50 years it was time to come clean.


We encourage other DFS staffers and NYSID alums with remembrances of the 1964-65 World’s Fair to e-mail them to for posting on the alumni website.