HOLIDAY WEEKEND at the World's Fair

ROBERT METCALFE June 30 1962

HOLIDAY WEEKEND at the World's Fair

ROBERT METCALFE June 30 1962

HOLIDAY WEEKEND at the World's Fair

ROBERT METCALFE

A MILLION OR MORE CANADIANS are expected at the World's Fair in Seattle, Washington, this summer, and Seattle is hopefully looking for ten million visitors altogether. When we were there, a week after the sixmonths fair opened on April 21, there were about 40,000 people a day at the fairgrounds — about par with Vancouver's Pacific National Exhibition or Winnipeg’s Red River Exhibition. Attendance reached 75.000 on the Sunday after we left, not yet in sight of the 300.000 that go to the CNE in Toronto on a good Saturday.

It was our first World's Fair (North America’s first since 1939) and our children's first trip to the U. S. Our expectations had been fired for months by press agents ballvhooing “Century 21 Exposition — The Space-Age World’s Fair — Most Stimulating World's Fair Ever Staged!” The publicists had made the fair's "space needle" almost as familiar as the Eiffel Tower, and the unabashed enthusiasm of the Vancouver newspapers had suggested the fair was going on in Stanley Park (Vancouver hopes to profit handsomely from the flood of fairgoers to the West Coast).

For five years Seattle, which has a popu-

lation of about 600.000, had labored to produce a World's Fair. The city began with plans for a modest “festival of the west” and ended with what the fair’s promoters are now calling “An Animated Jewel Mined From The Intellect And Creativity Of Scientists, Artists And Men Of Vision.” For us — my wife, Audrey; Bobby, fifteen; Valerie, ten: and Shelley, eight — the fair began with our initiation as full-fledged players in the West Coast's popular new' game: How Much Does It Really Cost To See The World's Fair? As our first move, 1 phoned the fair's housing bureau. Expo Lodging, which has enlisted rooms in fraternity houses, military barracks and campus dormitories as well as hotels and motels. There's a B. C. agent for Expo in Prince George, 600 miles north ot Seattle. Ads urged us to book accommodation well in advance.

I asked Expo for a motel close to the fair at a reasonable rate. The girl phoned back that we were booked into the Coach House. 4081 24th Northeast, at S24 a day.

"Twenty-four dollars?” I said. "Is that reasonable?"

"Yes. she said. "It's only two blocks

from the fair.”

WORLD'S FAIR: THE THEME A FAMILY’S AFFAIR WITH THE IS THE SPACE AGE BUT THE MUSE WAS P. T. BARNUM

CONTINUED ON PAGE 28

continued from page 20

“Budget or no budget, we did the ‘musts': rode the monorail, the sky-ride and the spinning restaurant”

She told me to mail a day’s rent to the Coach House or they wouldn't hold our reservation. I did so.

We got to Seattle's approaches at twilight. Vacancy signs were lighted at every motel we passed. We could’ve had our pick. Highway 99 took us past the fairgrounds and its gay sounds and lighted brilliance. I stopped at a gas station for directions. The Coach House was four miles away, near the University of Washington. 1 twice got lost trying to find it.

Reservation? Not here, said the desk clerk. Advance cheque? No trace. But they had room — plenty of room: two bedrooms. large living room, dining area, kitchen. It was a very comfortable apartment. I didn't ask if it were one of the apartments from which regular tenants had been evicted to make way for fair-goers, a practice that had become a scandal a month earlier. Before turning in we shopped for breakfast groceries ($7.25), a dozen bottles of beer and some pop ($3.65). That motel cost us $74.88. including $2.88 in state tax. One night in a motel is plenty for a two-day tour of the fair.

Perhaps you need a system to see a World's Fair in two days, though we'd never stick to one with our family. At the fairground we piled into the first thing that came along — a "fairliner." one of several trains of open coaches that meander through the crowds on sightseeing tours (there are also pedi-cabs. rickshaws and electric carts like surreys). We disembarked at the first open doorway — a large tent packed with Moroccan handicrafts. including camel saddles, something we've always coveted.

I've no precise recollection of what we did next, but over the two days we managed. with remarkably few disputes, to juggle science and sky-rides, fern's wheel and art. foreign shops and sugar-candy, a "flight to Mars.” coliseum and Disney phones, communications and Indian war dance, food and people - watching. We agreed to forgo domestic exhibits (we get them in Vancouver) and, alas, theatre and showgirls. But. budget be damned, we did the "musts.” Here they are:

► We rode the monorail, the first in North America, though Germany has an experimental model and Tokyo has started to build a monorail transit system. Two fourcar trains, straddling concrete tracks on T-shaped concrete columns, can travel the 1.2 miles from Seattle’s centre to the fair in ninety-six seconds. However, people complained about the speed, so now they dawdle along for all of two minutes. All effort is eliminated by "speed ramps" — moving belts that carried us to overhead terminals at either end of the monorail. Though slightly bumpy, it’s an unhindered ride above the heavy traffic. It costs seventy-five cents round-trip for adults, and fifty for children, and the trains whiz back and forth all day.

► We rode the sky-ride in three-passenger gondola cars that carried us on cables 1.450 feet across the fairgrounds. It's the fair’s sleeper, collecting 50-cent fares from as many as 20.000 people daily.

► We rode to the top of the space needle, a 600-foot steel spire topped wi.h an observation deck and a revolving restaurant. "The F.ye Of The Needle.” We saw the panorama of the fair. city, bay and mountains unfold through the lift's plastic walls. Under the deck, the 260-seat restaurant turns on a one-horsepower motor,

identify scenery as it passes; contrasting chair-colors help the waitresses find their rotating customers. People line up to pay $2 for the cheapest luncheon sandwich, $6 for the cheapest main dinner dish. $1.25 for highballs, and 50 cents, so help me. for a menu. The 3.500-ton tower is anchored in 6,000 tons of reinforced concrete buried thirty feet in the ground, but the day we arrived in Seattle a gale swayed it three inches and diners complained it made them sick. Officials closed the needle in case the lifts jammed (it's 832 steps by the stairways). The needle dominates the fair acoustically, too — an electronic carillon inside plays tunes audible ten miles away. It's there for keeps, a $4.000,000-venture, hopefully designed to earn a profit long after the Fair is over with charges of a dollar for adults and 75 cents for children just to get in.

We pressed on to “Gayway 2 1—A SpaceOriented Spectacular Amusement Zone!” Here we learned that the Space Wheel is a ferris wheel; the Flight to Mars is a spooky ride past scary images in the dark; the Space Whirl is a set of cars spinning in opposite directions. It's all carnie — barkers, shills, pitchmen and their jargon — and partly the creation of Patty Conklin, who did the same for Toronto’s CNF. We used the Gayway to break up long walks and stops at exhibits. With rides, hats, balloons, candy, pop and popcorn. I got us out of it for $13.85.

We spent two hours in the Indian Village with Indian handicraft and Indian war dances, things we can catch near home. But we enjoyed it; we stomped around a fire in the “owl dance” and had a long powwow with Bill and Josephine Heavy Runner of Cardston, Alberta, who were about to dodge home to seed their farm and see their children into university summer classes before donning beads and feathers again to finish the fair.

It’s Bell Telephone’s own fault w'e missed its communications exhibit; outside, Bell installed colored junior phone booths

where children can dial to taped talks with Disney’s cartoon characters. On other

phones, parents listen in. I thought we’d never get Valerie and Shelley away from there, or the three of them aw'ay from the U. S. science pavilion. The pavilion,

six interconnected stucco and concrete

buildings on six acres, has a centre court of fountains and pools bridged by raised platforms leading to the buildings, and four tall arches on slender columns. The impact is of dazzling whiteness, lightness, airiness

— and simplicity. It is the fair's architectural triumph. Inside, we had to wait. Parties of three hundred or so are let in every half hour; some rent small play-back machines with shoulder-straps, earphones and a two-hour taped guide to the pavilion. Dozens of U. S. firms and government agencies and fourteen nations, including Canada, are showing exhibits here.

First, in a vast darkened theatre, we squatted on a carpeted floor for twelve minutes while seven projectors lighted the wall with slides about science and the scientist. In the next building we followed science’s development from nature's aspects (lightning, stars, seasons, spores) to measurement of atomic particles and the development of mathematics.

Next is something called a "spacearium"

— an oval-shaped theatre with an eightton aluminum screen suspended from the ceiling and a wide-angle projector that spreads a film of the heavens over 8.000 square feet of the screen. We rocketed off on a simulated flight past the planets of our universe and the stars of the Milky Way to the billions of stars of the Andromeda galaxy. The effect is much the same as that of our National Film Board’s prizewinning Universe.

Our children were enthralled. The attendant was glad they didn't carry balloons; on the day before a small boy had released a balloon and it had risen to the screen, an uncharted planet with a stringy tail. Fortunately, the screen is punctured with hundreds of tiny holes. An attendant climbed the steel network above the screen, flicked hot cigarette ash through a hole and exploded the balloon.

Outside, the children found the stairs leading down to the children's laboratory. It's also popular with adults who. outnumbering children at times, are blamed for breakages among the twenty-eight exhibits.

The kids used a gyroscope, microscope and telescope, watched demonstrations on electrolysis, growing crystals, blending light, reflecting sound, exploding hydrogen and oxygen gases. They saw an ant colony at work and shock waves bounce from an electric fish and from their own heartbeats. Youthful attendants help children with experiments and show them how to operate instruments. Push-buttons that activate everything from phones to waterfalls are a hazard of the fair: the junior lab has enough buttons, levers and turn-wheels to satiate any child.

We went back to science on Sunday and in the fifth building lost one another among twenty-eight "methods of science" exhibits — including 9.000 fireflies in a demonstration of light, pigeons pecking out color and pattern combinations for food, infant monkeys and chicks accepting artificial mothers, salmon responding to light flashes. Science students performed simple experiments for us; two girls dissected a horseshoe crab to find its optic nerve which, attached to an oscilloscope, sent nerve impulses as visible signals onto the gadget’s viewing tube. Finding everybody again was a major operation, peering into forests of legs for those of Valerie. Shelley or Bobby. Shelley wanted to stay until a new-born chick extricated itself successfully from its shell. Altogether we spent eix of twenty-three hours at the fair looking at science exhibits.

From practical science to a pie-in-thesky preview of what scientists might have in store for us — that's the transition from the pavilion to the Washington state coliseum. the fair's "theme" structure. The coliseum, like a huge big-top. is three and

a half acres of post-free space eleven stories high in the middle. Seattle will use it later as an 18,000-seat sports and convention centre. Seemingly hanging from the ceiling are 3,250 four-foot aluminum cubes, arranged in clusters around a ramp. And inside the clusters is the fair’s theme show — World of Century 21 —one of five worlds (the others are science, commerce and industry, art, entertainment) the fair is built around. Color slides projected onto the cubes, sound effects, threedimensional models, dramatic narration and music told us how we’ll work and play in the year 2000, if we last.

We entered the labyrinthine cloud of cubes in a plastic-bubble lift with a spacesuited operator. It rises from "an eerie, dark green pool . . .” we read in the official guidebook, "... through soft lights of ever-changing hue as music from another world — the World of Century 21 — surrounds the globe and its passengers ...” We read on: "Suddenly the beauty of the images is scarred by the threat on the threshold of the future — dramatized by the vision of a family desperately awaiting help in a fallout shelter. Hut soon these figures are gone, as the voice of a child of the future banishes their plight with words of compassion ... In a panorama that fuses the past with the present, the traveler through time sees a series of pictures — from the Acropolis and the fleet of Christopher Columbus to the atomic cloud and Marilyn Monroe...”

After twenty-one minutes of this, the show ends "... in a symphony of music and color. The visitor files down the exit ramp and goes his way into the future, which he will help shape.”

The script for this forward-looking soap opera is by Doris Frankel and two others. Producer, Radio Corporation of America: sponsor, Washington’s Department of Commerce and Economic Development. But my own favorite World’s Fair writer

is the author of the souvenir program, which beats the guidebook with prose like this: “In a shimmer of golden light, you enter the World of Century 21. It’s a rainbow-hued world of cubed facades ...”

Canada’s exhibit holds its ow n in a good location in the International Plaza, beside a graceful Everett Du Pen fountain. People seem to like the Arctic Diorama, an animated mock-up of what an Arctic community in our far north might be like fifty years hence. We’ve been through too many bitter Prairie winters to be moved by more snow, ice and cold. But w;e liked examples of Canadian medical advances, including a gadget that eases labor pains; a huge copper map showing our industrial grow'th in lights; and the exhibit’s booklet, w'hich answers questions Americans often ask about Canada.

Thieves like Canada’s exhibit as well. The night before the fair opened they stole a mannequin exhibit and the following Friday helped themselves to a miniature train and a light fixture from the $75,000 cancer treatment machine. "We’re getting a little tired of it,” a Canadian official said.

Shelley liked the Japanese exhibit — and for a very simple reason: “Please don’t touch” signs are everywhere so when Shelley reached for a bolt of Japanese silk Audrey said, “Don’t touch. Shelley.”

“Of course she can touch it,” said the Japanese attendant. "How else is she to know what the silk feels like unless she touches it?” He placed it in Shelley's hand; she was immediately enamored with the whole exhibit — cameras, television sets, ship models, lathes, motorcycles and all.

Valerie’s fingers finally got her into trouble when she went to touch oil mounds on a modern canvas; a security guard popped up and sharply rebuked her. Later I drew Valerie close to a painting to show her how oil paint is built up by brush strokes and the same guard demanded to

know "who stuck that blob on this painting?”

1 don't blame the guards for being touchy; they're guarding a fortune in art. When I told one custodian how thieves stole two masterpieces recently from under the noses of guards in London's National Gallery, he looked at me suspiciously and nervously fingered his gun.

The fine arts exhibition is an adventure we wished we'd had much more time for. Five galleries hold paintings, sculptures and objets d’art on loan from galleries, private owners or the artists in the U. S. and abroad.

Jackson Pollock, Mark Tobey, Paul Horiuchi, Louise Nevelson and Jack Levine are some familiar names among eighty "modern American” paintings and thirty sculptures; from abroad (120 paintings and thirty-four sculptures) there are Robert Jacobson, Henry Moore, Joan Miro. Jean Arp. Karel Appel and others. Titian. Cezanne. Goya, Picasso, Renoir. Rembrandt. Gauguin and company must be seen before September when seventy-two paintings in the Masterpiece Gallery will be replaced by contemporary art.

In the international gallery of modern art. a wheezing, clanking racket drew us to a weird pile of junk. tied, welded, soldered and bolted together and sent into insane motion by an electric motor triggered by a maladjusted timer. Loaned by Stockholm's Museum of Modern Art. it was the Swiss Jean Tinguely's version of the absurdity of life. Bobby eyed the rusted saw. cogs, torn headlamps, carriage wheels, winch drums, iron bars, and bits of tin. and said, “That's one way to clean out your basement ...”

There are more than seventy restaurants, cafés, booths, carts or stands on the fairgrounds. A few cafés are merely chairs and tables grouped around food-vending

machines; a few are fairly lavish, serving beer and cocktails and costing a pretty penny to use. On Saturday, we made for the Food Circus — “A Great Bustling Eaters Delight!" Bang inside the front door is a twelve-and-half-ton fruit cake thirty feet high: it's roped off so we couldn't sample the icing. There are other roped-off areas with tables and chairs, though I traipsed our starving safari tw'ice around that huge, crowded hall (do people go to fairs just to eat?) before 1 spotted an empty table, pounced on it and staked it out with coats and hats while we queued for food. We had “Danish frankfurters” (hot dogs), milk shakes for the children and coffee for Audrey and me, for $2.90. On Sunday at a small "French café" we brought the lunch bill up to $6.50 for two days. Later I learned that Bobby, who has a bottomless teen-age pit for a stomach, had packed away extra hot dogs and doughnuts on his allowance. The girls subsisted on excitement and sugar-candy.

For people who want to eat standing up the fair has 400 food machines (some atop the space needle), serviced by a kitchen that can turn out 50,000 hamburgers in four hours and 100.000 meals a day — and a $65,000 silver fund for dozens of dollar-changing machines. The food machines are expected to take in $3,000,000. and one of their owners. Norman Esary. a Vancouver caterer and restaurateur, says he'll put them to work in Canada when the fair's over.

Fair people and Seattle residents are sensitive about fair prices. Washington businessmen set up a “fair practices council” and pledged, in half-page ads in Vancouver dailies, to give “courteous, friendly service at normal prices.” Major concessionnaires agreed among themselves to accept Canadian dollars at par I discovered— after losing $11 changing $200

into U. S. currency in a Vancouver bank. (I don't know how their agreement stands now' our dollar takes an eight-percent discount). However, gouging rumors preceded our trip and we were often asked if we thought prices were too high at the fair.

Generally, they're not. It's worth a dollar to stand atop the space needle, a dollar to see Indian or Japanese Village, fifty cents to tour fine arts, thirty-five cents for most midw'ay rides. The so-called Boulevards of the World shops are too expensive: we can buy some of their Chinese and Japanese gewgaws in Vancouver's Chinatown for half the price.

Pack a lunch, though, and you can see the fair for the price of admission. Except

for the art show, accessible without entering the grounds, exhibits are free. So are daily shows staged in the open by various states in turn. The most jaundiced eye would appreciate the myriad lights at night on half a dozen lovely fountains, on the pavilion's slim white colonnades and a stained glass mural in the Christian building. the glitter of hundreds of tiny bulbs in the pavilion’s trees, and possibly the colossal brassy glare of the midway.

With that thought in mind we tallied the cost of our weekend:

Accommodation .............. $74.88

Fair lanches ................. 6.50

Dinners, breakfasts............ 24.50

Drive-in stops (both ways)...... 4.00

Parking ..................... 4.50

Tips (motel, restaurants)....... 2.50

Fair admissions . :............ 14.00

Gayway ..................... 13.85

Souvenirs ................... 8.20

Space needle................. 4.25

Monorail .................... 3.00

Sky-ride..................... 2.50

Fairliner .................... 1.25

Indian Village................ 3.50

Fine arts .................... 2.05

Fine arts programs............ 2.00

Fair souvenir program......... 1.50

Official fair guide ............ LOO

$173.98

Driving back to Vancouver through the rain we played, between my passengers' catnaps, a game of "things we remember about the World's Fair." The thing I still remember from the list was a fresh-faced boy who. standing under a large picture of a sphinx, asked the Egyptian attendant: "How much would that cost?" Ah. America! iy