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BBC Interviews Martens About World’s Fair

By Staff | Jul 28, 2010

Warren Martens of Burton happily recalled his visits to the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City during a recent interview by the BBC.

It’s not very often that the BBC comes to Wetzel County to interview one of its residents, but that is exactly what happened on July 5 when a two-person team visited Warren Martens of Burton.

The cameraman and interviewer transformed his dining room into a studio for about an hour, talking to him about his experiences at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. “We really enjoyed their company,” said Warren and wife Margaret Martens of the “two very fine gentlemen.”

Having grown up in Queens Borough, NYC, the fair was only about 15 minutes from his home, so the Martens family attended the event several times. It was of significant interest to his father, Gustave, as he was an amateur moviemaker in the 1920s-1940s. In fact, he was a member of the Amateur Cinema League, founded in 1926.

It was these films that sparked the interest of the BBC as they are producing a series on the American dream. A BBC employee found and viewed the 60-year-old videos on the internet.

The videos were put there by Bob Martens, son of Warren and Margaret, who has followed in his grandfather’s footsteps with amateur cinematography.

“This is a tribute really to two generations-my father Gustave and son Bob,” said Warren. “It came as a complete surprise to me.”

A boy of 10 at the time, Warren thought the fair was interesting and remembers several specifics of the grand event. “The greatest treat of all,” said Warren, was found at the end of a boat ride across Flushing Meadow Lake. The boat landed at the Florida Pavilion that included a concession stand. It was there that Warren found orange sherbet made with fresh Florida orange juice. “It about knocked my socks off!” exclaimed Warren. “I never tasted anything so good.”

The fair was divided into various sectors such as transportation, government, and electricity. It was the former where the Martens spent a lot of time as Gustave was a salesman in the automobile industry.

Warren specifically remembers the General Motors building where there was a train ride with chairs and ear-level speakers. Riders travelled sideways as they looked down on a futurama showing how towns and cities would look in the future.

One of the predictions was that family cars would be replaced by the family airplane. Homes would have hangars instead of garages and air strips instead of driveways. Mom would fly to the grocery store and dad would fly to work. “That was a definite thing and that would definitely happen,” explained Warren with a bit of sarcasm.

But one prediction did happen. The new 1940 model of cars from Chrysler, Ford, and GM were on display and available for free rides. Eventually those automobiles ended up in family garages-but the arrival was a bit delayed thanks to World War II.

The war also affected Gustave’s employment, as it did for many people while the country became focused on the war effort. He worked for EDO Aircraft who made floats for the Navy and Coast Guard. Warren now thinks of that work as humanitarian in nature as float planes saved the lives of many pilots who were stranded in remote waterways.

Perhaps that had a hand in Warren’s eventual service as a Navy chaplain in the active reserve for 10 years and 13 years as the national chaplain for the Second Marine Division Association. While he was never in combat, Warren said there is an element of danger in any service. He cited the time period when he was airlifted three times per Sunday to conduct services on his fleet’s various ships.

“I was very thankful for the chaplaincy. I met a lot of people,” said Warren, who also said it gave him and his family the chance to see the whole United States.

Warren was a minister with the (Dutch) Reformed Church in America for 41 years. When it came time to retire in 1996, Warren and Margaret decided to build a home in Burton, just down the hill from Margaret’s childhood home. They now attend Harmony Baptist Church.

Margaret was in training at the Philadelphia State Hospital, sent there by Fairmont Hospital, when she met Warren who was in seminary and doing an institutional chaplaincy rotation.

They first went on a blind date where they played miniature golf. That date was followed by more and they eventually married. That union now enjoys a family with four children-Bob, Daniel, Margie, and Tom-and nine grandchildren.

The result of Warren’s interview will air sometime on the BBC and, hopefully, also on the Discovery Channel. “It’ll put West Virginia and this little hamlet of Burton, and Wetzel County, on the map,” said Warren proudly.

Videos by Gustave and Bob Martens can be found on www.youtube.com by searching for username robertwmartens.