Opening Day

Fifty-five years ago today the Seattle World’s Fair opened. It was the first World’s Fair held in the U.S. since 1939, and only the third fair held after the end of World War II.

Seattle Councilman Al Rochester first proposed the idea for a Seattle World’s Fair in the early 50s. By January 1955, so much interest had been generated that the state legislature rounded up $5,000 for a group to study a fair’s feasibility. Smart advertising caused public interest to explode, and in 1957 Seattle voters passed a $7.5 million bond for the development of a Civic Center/fairground.

The goal was to host a fair in 1959 in honor of the 50 year anniversary of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Expo, a fair hosted at the University of Washington to celebrate the first shipment of Klondike Gold Rush gold through Seattle. When it became apparent that the 1959 deadline was too ambitious, the fair was pushed back to 1962.

In addition to the funding from the citizens from Seattle and the state legislature, the federal government, local businesses, and civic boosters helped to fund the fair.

To commemorate the 55th anniversary of opening day, I have an envelope to share with you. Scroll down to check out what’s inside.

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Four cents to ship a spoon First Class!

This packet, which contains two pieces of paper and a souvenir spoon, appears to have been sent to fair boosters as a thank-you gift.

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The pink sheet reads as follows:

“Dear World’s Fair Booster… As a BONUS for your patience and public spirit, we are making available additional World’s Fair Souvenir Spoons at a cost of fifty cents (50c) per spoon. We now have a sufficient supply to make possible IMMEDIATE DELIVERY…on ANY NUMBER you order…IF YOU ORDER WITHIN THE NEXT THIRTY DAYS! This offer also includes World’s Fair literature and each spoon will be individually packaged. Have them sent to yourself or your friends. Send to: “Invitation Spoons” PO Box 919 Seattle 11, Washington”

The price of 50 cents is equivalent to about $4 today. As for the address “Seattle 11, Washington”, it made use of the postal district/zone numbers introduced in 1943. Zip codes were not introduced until 1963.

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This second sheet is basically an advertisement, enticing the booster to attend the fair he/she helped make possible. Interestingly, it focuses on attractions that are now Seattle Center landmarks: The Science Pavilion (now Pacific Science Center); the Coliseum Century (now Key Arena); and Seattle’s most famous landmark, the Space Needle. The Monorail gets special attention, as does “The World of Entertainment”, which included Gracie Hansen’s “Paradise International.” The building that housed Gracie’s show is now a multipurpose building in Ravensdale, Washington.

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On the flip-side of the advertising letter are paintings of what was to come. Check out the one of the monorail. It doesn’t look much like what Alweg actually built.

The metal spoon features an Space Needle-styled handle adorned with the words “Seattle World’s Fair ’62.” The spoon itself is engraved with the official ’62 World’s Fair logo.

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Whoo Gives a Hoot?

Whooo doesn’t love ice cream? And whooo doesn’t love sundaes, floats, and concoctions with names like “cherry phosphate” and “egg cream”? Whoo has fond memories of Owl Drug in Wenatchee, Washington?

The history of Wenatchee’s Owl Drug predates the formation of Chelan County. In 1894, only a year after the incorporation of Wenatchee, Owl Drug opened in the city’s downtown. Business boomed, and despite times of economic difficulty, Owl Drug persevered and prospered. A soda fountain was added to the pharmacy in 1926.

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This ad was featured in The Wenatchee World c. 1966

In 2001, after 107 years of business, Owl Drug fell victim to economic hardship and closed. The soda fountain remained open under the name “The Owl”, selling sweet treats and gifts. After a year of no economic improvement, The Owl’s owner decided to close permanently and liquidate all assets.

Customers and staff alike were saddened by the loss of their beloved landmark. Pam Higgins, who started working at the Owl soda fountain in 1971, didn’t want to see Wenatchee’s only soda fountain sold piece-by-piece, so she and her husband, Frank, bought it. At first they had no idea what to do with it, but at the suggestion of local business owners, they moved everything two blocks north to the Commercial Building.

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Modern postcard purchased from The Owl

Now located at 25 N Wenatchee Ave, the counter, cabinets, stools, equipment, and Hamilton Beach mixers were all purchased from the original Owl. Pam and Frank also bought the pharmacy’s original cash register and 1926 Toledo Scale Company scale. These scales are said to be the most accurate scales in existence, and this particular scale was borrowed for military use during WWII. It was shipped to Moses Lake, Washington and used to weigh soldiers before they were sent out for duty.

The Owl is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30am to 6pm, and on Sunday from 12pm-5pm.