Opinion

The wonders of the World's Fair | Pat Cashman

My parents didn’t take us anywhere. Why would they? We were five brothers (no sisters) who argued, wrestled, cried, pinched and screamed – on any car trip longer than Safeway.

We owned a cramped Ford Falcon sedan – which was a slightly roomier version of a Ford Sardine Sedan.

As for me, I might have been the least welcome passenger of the group: the one who reliably got carsick before we were out of the driveway.

And yet, in the summer of 1962, we embarked on the most ambitious car trip in the history of our family: Driving from our hometown of Bend, Ore., – to the big town of Seattle – for the planet’s grandest event of all time: The Century 21 Exposition.

Our parents said the World’s Fair was a celebration of the Space Age – a majestic showcase of science, culture and mankind’s destiny. My brothers and I had no interest in any of that. There were rides!

The distance from Bend to Seattle is around 330 miles. At our dad’s average driving speed of 180 miles an hour, we figured to be there in well under two hours. But after factoring in stops for bathroom breaks, food, more bathroom breaks – and my regular disgorgements – the trip took two days.

As we approached the outskirts of Seattle, we could see the spectacular Space Needle looming on the far horizon. “Look,” said Dad. “There’s the spectacular Space Needle looming on the far horizon.” That confirmed it.

We stayed at a motel that was easy walking distance to the Fair – and the spectacular Space Needle, by now looming on the near horizon.

I can still remember standing at the foot of it, looking straight up at its awe-inspiringly majestic height – and wondering if I’d get sick on the elevator ride up. Hedging their bets, our parents kept me away from the Belgian waffles.

Some of the exhibits at the fair attempted to show what sorts of gadgets would be commonplace nowadays. Futurists said we’d all be driving around in our gyrocopters. The closest we came may have been the Yugo.

It was believed future cities would be encased in giant domes. Good thing that didn’t happen to Seattle – or it would have been blown up after just 20 years and replaced with a new, outdoor city.

Scientists were supposed to develop future foods rich in protein. Sure enough, the new 2012 Slim Jim Beef Jerky has a whopping 9.4 grams of the stuff.

As for the monorails we were all supposed to be riding on, that plan has been on hold for the past 50 years while they work the kinks out of the existing one.

Our family loved the Food Circus – with its variety of cuisines from afar. The Italian food was a particular revelation to our family. Previously, we thought Chef Boyardee was penultimate.

I remember the Bubbleator, where the famous greeting was always, “Step to the rear of the sphere” – except for the fill-in operator who was on shift the day we were there. He rearranged it to: “Step quickly into the sphere, before the door shuts on your rear.”

As our weeklong visit ended, we piled once again into our tiny sedan and headed for home. I recall looking out the rear window as the Space Needle began to disappear (on the far horizon).

At that moment, I believed I could see my own future – and whispered to myself: “Someday I am going to return and live here.”

But the vision was ambiguous, so I was unclear whether it foresaw Seattle – or Fife.

 

Pat Cashman can be reached at pat@patcashman.com.

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