A 10-year-old at the Seattle World's Fair
Times editorial columnist Bruce Ramsey remembers the 1962 Seattle World's Fair.
10-year-old at the Seattle World's Fair
A security officer fakes a stern pose as a boy tries to stretch to the required size to drive an automobile at the World's Fair.
Seattle Times Editorial
Friday, April 20, 2012
I REMEMBER the Seattle World's Fair, which opened 50 years ago Saturday. I was 10 years old. It was the year of space travel; two months earlier, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. I watched his blastoff on our black-and-white television.
My family lived in Edmonds, a far suburb reachable on Aurora Avenue, then U.S. 99. In 1962, Interstate 5 was being built along the side of Capitol Hill. A four-mile segment would open the next year, from Olive Way to Ravenna, and I would make my dad drive me on it several times. I loved freeways. When I grew up I wanted to build them.
I collected road maps, which were new each year because there were new freeways. In 1962, the Standard Oil map of Washington had the Space Needle on it, and the monorail.
Seattle was an old city then, a brick city with a skyline from before World War II. The two tallest buildings were the Smith Tower, opened in 1914, and the Northern Life Tower (now the Seattle Tower), opened in 1929. The Space Needle and the monorail were the promise of a future radically new.
I also collected coins: Lincoln pennies, Mercury dimes, buffalo nickels. One of my most vivid memories of the fair was a glass cylinder with a million silver dollars. Back then, to make $10,000 a year was big. People talked about millionaires, which was hard for a boy to imagine. There it was: 1 million dollars.
That tub of silver made more impression on me than any of the other pavilions, most of which were about things of no interest to a 10-year-old boy.
I liked the amusement park, particularly a ride called the Wild Mouse, which was the closest thing the fair had to a real roller coaster.
I also liked the Food Circus, which was another new thing. They changed the name afterward to the Center House, but for 50 years I've thought of it as the Food Circus.
— Bruce Ramsey