Memories of a Future Past
Seattle Pacific Alumni Recall the 1962 Seattle World's Fair
By Jeffrey Overstreet (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In the Winter 2012 issue of Response, readers can visit — or revisit — the Century 21 Exposition, otherwise known as the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.
Response contributing editor Jeffrey Overstreet invited Seattle Pacific alumni to share their stories of World’s Fair memories. He invited them to respond to these questions:
- What are your favorite memories of the Seattle World’s Fair?
- Did you participate in the Exposition in some way?
- What do you remember about the vision of the future that the Century 21 Exposition presented? Have we seen its predictions fulfilled?
We hope you enjoy these stories. If you have memories of the Expo, tell us about them below.
Class of 1962
LaVerne P. Blowers: [I remember] the reaction to the chapel presentation by the Century 21 Exposition Committee sometime around 1960. Many wondered, “We're just halfway through the 20th century, why all the hype for the 21st? Besides they will never be able to pull it off!”
I marveled at the monorail, but was disappointed that it didn't serve the broader community. The Science Pavilion was spectacular, as were the changing forms and colors of the water fountains. The international exhibits introduced me to a much larger world than the USA — and they offered exciting promises of new cultural experiences. The view from the Space Needle was awesome. I remember shaking Prince Philip’s hand as he disembarked from his yacht at Golden Gardens.
The Science Pavilion was filled with futuristic ideas and fanciful concepts, some of which have proved beneficial, though many cannot be remembered. Almost all of these have called for increased energy supplies and consumption thus creating other environmental problems for which science is yet to find effective controls — one example is nuclear energy. There was much enthusiasm for the future, but little concern for broader consequences.
Marilee Kauffman Dietzman Drew: My husband and I took our son, Brian John Dietzman ’86, up to the top of the brand new Space Needle. He doesn't remember it, however, as he was not born until December 18, 1962.
John G. Hanington: One of my strongest memories is actually pre-Exposition. During the summer of 1961, to help pay tuition, I was part of a team that finished concrete for the Space Needle. Certainly memorable, perhaps not as enjoyable at the time, but the experience has gone a long way in the telling whenever we or family have gone “home” to visit over these many years.
Jay Johnson: I worked part time all four of my undergrad years for the Diamond Parking System in downtown Seattle to help pay my living and school expenses. When the World's Fair opened, I continued to work for them full time, managing the parking lots around the fairgrounds. I was one of many managers there, and we supervised the parking of thousands of cars. There were license plates from every state, Canadian provinces, and many of the U.S. territories.
I handled the complaints from customers who were unhappy that they had to pay for parking. I remember one family who was upset because we would not let them park their pickup truck and house trailer for the price of a car.
But, most visitors were friendly, excited and in high spirits. The fair was a lot of fun and we had a six-month-long party in the city. Seattle had not had that since the Alaska Yukon Exposition of 1909, nor has it happened since.
Duane Olberg: I was a starving SPC student looking to make a buck any way I could, so I took a job as a housing and room inspector leading up to the fair.
The fair was so hyped that the city of Seattle was going to be completely overrun with people, and they would have no place to stay as all the hotels and motels would be overbooked. Therefore the call went out to anyone having a spare room that they could rent out to a fair visitor to register with the housing department of the fair. They needed all these rooms inspected to see that they were acceptable. They paid, as I remember, $2.00 per inspection. It was amazing, all the old ladies that wanted to rent out their bedroom. They were willing to sleep on the couch or the floor so they could make a few bucks.
As it turned out there was plenty of room in the hotels and motels, so none of these rooms in private homes we needed.
My wife and I were renting the upper apartment at 7 Etruria, the Free Methodist Conference Superintendent home, and we were told we had to leave so that guests to the fair could have a place to stay. Needless to say, it was very hard for us to find a place on short notice just prior to the fair.
Dan Olson: Going up and enjoying a meal in the Space Needle was pretty amazing, unique, and enjoyable at the time.
Although I was not a huge rock ’n’ roll fan, it was also interesting to see Elvis Presley in person as he was filming a movie there. (I didn’t think Elvis would be as much of a success as he ended up being — but what did I know? I thought the Beatles would be a flop as well!)
I suppose that the scientific advances that have influenced our lives the most since 1962 might relate to miniaturization of circuitry — first transistors and then integrated circuits. This helped to make so many things possible from space travel to the world of personal computers, instant world-wide communications, satellite navigation, and the World Wide Web. There have also been many life-saving medical advances — new medicines, new surgical procedures, new techniques all designed to prolong life and ease pain and suffering. I know that I would not be here but for some of them.
So life is now improved in many ways but a lot more complicated. Sometimes I long for simpler, less stressful times.
Robert Putnam: 1962 was a heady and glorious and exciting year, not only because of the World's Fair and all of the exciting things going on, but also schoolwork, work after school, and taking care of three little boys … [and] it was also the year of graduation from SPC.
It was exciting meeting people from foreign countries that came in. I said “Salaam” to some Turkish sailors and they got all excited about that.
My wife, Margaret, ran the elevator at the Space Needle, and that was a exciting job for her, pointing out all the sights visible from the glass elevator, and taking people to the only revolving restaurant in the world at that time. Now all the major cities have them.
Kenneth Swinth: What I remember most is the people I met; the people I worked with, workers in other exhibits, and some of the visitors I had the opportunity to talk with.
However, one thing that sticks in my mind was watching the filming of a movie with Elvis Presley visiting the fair. What I remember is how everything was scripted; each motion, each gesture, each word, each inflection, etc. We were not seeing Elvis, but an image portrayed in a script.
I also remember that the Krusteaz exhibit was the place to get donuts!
One thing that was clear was that most people are not interested in the details of science, but only in the glamorous or exciting aspects, or areas they can relate to directly. This was clear by which exhibits in the Science Pavilion visitors spent time at and the questions that they asked. For one who had just spent four years as a science major, this was an important reminder, and one that I have tried to be sensitive to over the years.
The summer seemed to fly by, and I did not spend as much time exploring the fair as I would like to have spent.
[At the satellite tracking station exhibit], we, the SPU students, were technicians at the tracking station and operated the electronics, while one of the young ladies presented a short description of what we were doing and trying to accomplish with the tracking. The exhibit had a group of young ladies (recent college grads, I believe …) who were the contact point with the public. I answered questions and talked with the public after the presentations and made the presentation about once per shift while the ladies were on lunch or dinner break. We also maintained the station, but in general we had few problems. We also made a presentation on the exhibit on KCTS [the local public television station].
I think there was a general excitement about science and space in particular. John Glenn had just orbited the earth in February, and we had a President (Kennedy) who had a positive outlook for the future and was a strong leader. We always had a large group for our presentations. I think that seeing how science was improving our understanding of the world gave visitors a hope for our future through science. Maybe a misplaced hope.
The satellite tracking station was presented at the fair for its value in understanding the shape of the earth. The exhibit used three racks of electronics and had promise as a navigation tool for the Navy. Even though I was aware of the early research on integrated circuits, little did I imagine at that time that the technology in our exhibit and the computer technology in a nearby exhibit would one day fit in my pocket and provide so much information — position, maps, directions —in a manner that even nontechnical people could fully benefit from it.
I think that space travel, greater material comfort, improved electronics, better communication were all potentials that were sparked by the fair, but I doubt that many of us could see the impact or the magnitude of the changes that were coming our way.
Jim Thurston: The Seattle World’s Fair changed my life forever.
As a summer job 1960–62, I worked at the Northwest Steel Company in Ballard, cutting steel bars which went into many of the buildings. Among them were the Science Center, Key Arena, the Monorail and the Space Needle.
But the big impact came when I was a senior and Gordon Klink from Campus Crusade for Christ came to SPC to train people to work at the Sermons from Science Pavilion. I went through the training and counseled people after the hourly science films. By that experience, witnessing became very natural, as in those days very few Christians shared their faith.
Because of this impact in my life, I joined Campus Crusade shortly after the conclusion of the Fair and was sent to minister as a campus evangelist at the University of Oregon. After three years working in Oregon, I was transferred to Santiago, Chile, where I had the privilege of being the founder and director of Campus Crusade for 10 years.
The original idea was to be in Chile only a year, and now it has stretched into 45 years where I am still ministering as a missionary. Thousands of lives have been changed by the Lord in Chile, and it all started at SPC and the World’s Fair.
David Weaver: I remember chasing my 1-year-old daughter’s bottle that she had tossed into the International Fountain.
Beulah Whitlow: The Fair was supposed to have been “Century 21 in 1961.” Like the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, Century 21 was delayed due to haggling over details, unmet construction deadlines, and arguments about the Space Needle, as I recall. In Chicago, the Fair was to have commemorated the 400th Anniversary of Columbus discovering America in 1492. (There they had arguments over the world's first ferris wheel.)
Robert VanderPol: I mainly remember how awestruck I was about the whole fair. I was living at home in Seattle for the summer, and went several times.
Class of 1963
Jeannette Ross Deffinbaugh: My memories of the World’s Fair that year were somewhat different than most. It was the summer before my senior year, and I worked very long hours — six days a week at a cleaners several blocks from the World’s Fair. The extra hours I worked helped me have enough money to pay for most of my senior year until I did my student teaching. …
That summer wore me out but prepared me, in a way, for my future life as a teacher, as the wife of a preacher for the past 44 years, and as the mother of five daughters.
Peggy Burnham Hovind Johnstone: The summer of the World's Fair was a significant time for me.
My fiancé, Bob Hovind ’62, and I were winding down the end of the school year at Seattle Pacific College. For him it meant graduating with a B.A. in business and economics and a job waiting for him at Boeing. I still had one year left to complete for a B.A. in home economics, a wedding to plan, and a wedding dress to make. Mrs. Burns [Flora Gwinn Burns, instructor of home economics 1955–74] was gracious in allowing me full run of the sewing lab after hours to accomplish that task. Where else would that have happened but at SPC? Many thanks!
Bob and I did not rush right out to join the hordes entering the World's Fair gates, but we did go. In fact, I still have our two tickets saved with other college memorabilia — #996061 and #996062.
Garry Laine: I was working my way through school as a special delivery carrier for the post office. The World's Fair area was my route, three times daily from 3 p.m. to midnight, as well as the North End of Seattle. I carried my camera in the car and photographed the Fair as it was being built, especially the Needle. I was one of the first up the thing.
I also delivered some mail to Elvis at his hotel while he was making his movie about the Fair.
Darwin Wisdom: I remember that summer, since I was painting houses on Queen Anne Hill with Barry Solem ’61. We could look out over the fairgrounds from our sometimes three-story-high painting perches. We were also serenaded by the bells that were played at the fair.
Del Wisdom: The most significant memory is that I was fascinated by the broad diversity of people attending. Therefore, people-watching became my favorite activity while at the fair.
Class of 1964
Glen Anunson: I remember that Ron Hatch ’62 (I think) coordinated hiring several of us SPC physics students to man the satellite tracking station that was in the Science building.
Warren Barnes: The Space Needle was the big deal for me. No other specific recall, other than hordes of people, all of whom seemed to be having a wonderful time.
Janet Westmoreland Bryant: In our days at SPC, we were all poor, broke college kids. It was a rare student indeed who had a car. The typical SPC date was Vespers on Wednesday night, or some weekend SPC activity, and then walking Queen Anne Hill. …
I have very fond memories of the Seattle World's Fair. I had met my future husband at my home church in Everett. He was in the Air Force and had a car. I remember the Columbus Day storm. We parked on the hill overlooking the World's Fair and watched the lights go on and off all over Seattle. (I didn't realize it at that time, but my mom, dad, and grandmother were visiting the World's Fair that day and evening and were evacuated for fear some of the structures would tumble.)
Our first kiss was on the observation deck of the Space Needle, and we celebrated our 42nd anniversary with dinner atop the Space Needle. December 28 will be our 48th anniversary. We were married five months before I graduated.
Grant Elliott: One vendor — I believe it was The Village Restaurant from Marysville, Washington — served the best pie I have ever eaten to date.
The Space Needle: At graduation and prior to my departure from Seattle, my friends treated me to dinner at the top of this edifice. It was a grand and unforgettable experience to watch the setting sun over my peach cobbler.
Having been involved with the theatre program (mentored and directed by the one and only Professor James Chapman), I was asked by filmmaker Ken Anderson visiting the SPC campus to portray Ben Asher — an “agnostic from the Middle East” who played the theological foil to the protagonist in the film Beyond These Skies, which was sponsored by the Youth for Christ organization. Some of scenes were filmed at the World’s Fair grounds, just after U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson II had visited the same location. Quite an experience to be filming in such spectacular surroundings.
Robert Hammond: I remember cutting classes with Skip Matthews to go cover the opening ceremonies. We took photos of the Air Force fly-by with one jet out of formation (very unusual). The jet had a flame-out and crashed a few minutes later in Lake Forest Park.
Our neighbor, Allen Anunson ’60, witnessed the crash and traveled over to the scene before the Air Force arrived and viewed the "hole in the ground" that had been a home.
I remember the World's Fair publicity department tried to squash the news of the accident during the opening ceremonies, which continued unabated.
That is my memory on a bright spring day off-campus. (Parking was terrible and we walked a long distance to get into the grounds!)
Betty Hutchinson: The biggest impact on my life was the training in Campus Crusade materials for evangelistic activities in conjunction with the Sermons From Science exhibit. I have used what I learned through the years since, even though I could not spend the summer in Seattle. The Sermons From Science that I attended were amazing.
When my mom came to get me in June, Madeline Post Bishop ’66 came to see SPC.
On the last night of the fair, a bunch of us from school and church used up several coupon books on the carnival rides. It was a fun time with good friends.
Tom Johnson: I enjoyed going downtown to watch them build the Space Needle. I was also awestruck by the Monorail.
Steve Kenagy: I was living in Hill Hall at the time. I went with a bunch of the guys shortly after the fair opened and paid to get in. But then, word got out on how to sneak in. It wasn’t too sneaky, since we had to run between the spotlights and the back wall of the Science Center. The placement of the lights made our shadows huge on the large white wall of the Science Center, and everyone driving by couldn’t help but see the larger-than-life shadows darting across the wall.
Maybe it’s guilt, but after all of these years I still can’t drive by the Seattle Center without recalling our clandestine visits to the Seattle Fair.
Oh, yes, and for starving college students, the Food Court, the musical fountains and the people-watching was all part of the Fair experience.
Bonnie Keith Neely: My memory is that all of the education students were thrilled to have easy access to material for their education files. In those days all of the education students, especially elementary majors, were required to create massive files full of pictures, pamphlets, and other information for bulletin boards and classroom resources. We would go from one international exhibit to the next collecting pictures and other resources as well as the science displays and other areas of interest. We had it easy compared to those who had had to send away for materials.
Also, dinner in the Space Needle was a wonderfully romantic place to receive my engagement ring! Sweet memories!
Dale Ramerman: What I recall most clearly was the Space Needle being built. There was a good view going south over the crest of Queen Anne, and as the first visible steel was in place, I wondered what it would look like when completed. The pre-construction sketches were dramatic. Each time I saw it, the steel was higher, but how high would it go? The answer was not clear until the top part that rotates was being constructed.
Ralph Rhoades: I worked [for] a door-to-door radio and television survey called Pulse. I worked on south Queen Anne hill, and over several months, I watched the construction of the Space Needle as I tugged along.
Ralph Weaver: My most outstanding memory is that of having to move from an apartment close to Seattle Pacific College, because it could be rented for so much more money during the Fair. I was so busy working full time at Boeing and carrying a full load of classes that I only visited the Fair a couple of times.
Class of 1965
Alvin Kroon: I graduated from Crater High School in southern Oregon in June 1961. My parents gave me a choice of four colleges: Simpson Bible College in San Francisco; Prairie Bible Institute on the Canadian prairies; Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois; and Seattle Pacific College.
I chose SPC for four reasons:
- It was close enough to get home easily.
- It was accredited.
- We had relatives in Seattle.
- The World’s Fair was opening in 1962.
I sang in the a cappella choir under Professor Phil Mack. We were scheduled to sing the Easter Sunrise Service at Washelli. They opened the fair on Thursday, April 21, earlier than planned, because Easter fell on the original opening day. Saturday afternoon, I along with several friends took the sunset bus downtown and rode the Monorail back to the Fair. We stayed until midnight, assuming we could catch a bus back to campus. Wrong. No bus service that late, so we had to walk back over the Queen Anne counterbalance to Moyer Hall. We got back around 5 a.m., just in time to get up and meet Professor Mack and take the bus to Washelli.
I remember the focus on space travel with the satellite on display; the kitchen of the future with “intelligent” appliances — microwaves and computer chips; Ma Bell had displayed a lot of future communications concepts, like telephones of the future, which has morphed into the cell phone; and a lot about world peace — Vietnam was a remote French Province at that time. President Kennedy and the Peace Corps were hot topics of optimism.
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