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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Snow Day!

While it can make the morning commute an even bigger headache, this week’s sudden snowstorm has been a blessing to those hoping to hit the slopes this weekend. In honor of the beautiful yet sometimes pesky snow, take a look at Summit West circa 1962!

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Double Chairlift and new Skihaus Restaurant, Lodge, and Gift Shop

At a height of 3,865 feet, Summit West, also known simply as Snoqualmie, is the family and beginner ski slope at Snoqualmie Pass. Operated by the same company as Alpental, Summit East, and Summit Central, it features two quad chair lifts, one triple chair lift, four double chair lifts, two doube chair lifts, and one handle-tow lift.

Public use of the area dates back to 1933 when the City of Seattle operated a city ski park named Municipal Park. Seven years later locals objected, saying that Seattle was too far away from the area (about 46 miles) to claim it as a city park. The city relented and sold the park to Ski Lifts, Inc. who changed the park’s name to Snoqualmie Summit Ski Area. Shortly after, the new owners installed a rope-tow.

Although business was spotty during the war years, Webb Moffet, the owner of Ski Lifts Inc., focused on developing the area to attract more visitors. Nighttime skiing arrived in the late 1940s when Moffett installed gas station lights along the slopes to allow employees the chance to ski after hours. Soon paying guests were staying for nighttime skiing as well, making Snoqualmie the second place in the country to offer this type of skiing.

Snoqualmie Summit continued to grow throughout the 1950s. Thunderbird, the summit’s first chairlift, opened in 1954. Two years later, Thunderbird Restaurant opened at the top of the summit, offering skiers warm food and majestic mountain views. The completion of Skihaus, a restaurant, lodge, and gift shop, completed the Summit’s status as a wintertime tourist destination.

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SNOQUALMIE SUMMIT SKI AREA, WASHINGTON, 46 miles from Seattle on Highway #10, is a popular resort with its double chairlift (shown in foreground), three PomaLifts, twelve rope tows, Thunderbird Restaurant at top of chairlift and new SKIHAUS — recently completed fabulous lodge.

Ski Lifts, Inc. operated Summit West and its surrounding summits through 1998, when it sold to Booth Creek Ski Holdings, Inc. Thunderbird Restaurant closed in 1990, due at least partly to the lack of running water and indoor plumbing.

Although renovated and hardly recognizable if not for it’s sharply sloped roof, Skihaus still exists. Now Webb’s Restaurant, it continues to serve thousands of hungry skiers every season.

A Charming New Year

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful end of 2016 and a great start in 2017! To kick off the year on the blog, I thought I’d share one of my Christmas gifts with you:

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I’ve seen many variations of these charm bracelets online, featuring different varieties and styles of charms. Mine features six distinct charms–The 1962 World’s Fair logo, Chief Seattle, a dugout canoe, an airplane, the Monorail, and the Space Needle– but other bracelets include totem poles, a ferry boat, The Science Pavilion, The Coliseum, a salmon, and a Washington State logo. Seattle World’s Fair bracelets exist in both gold and silver and range in quality from inexpensive to high-end.Some of the charms featured tiny gems and colored enamel (including a Galaxy Gold Space Needle charm!)

 Although versions of completed bracelets exist still attached to their original cards, I believe charms could also be bought separately, allowing visitors to augment existing bracelets or start from scratch.

Many World’s Fair souvenirs commemorate only the fair itself, but these bracelets also nod to Seattle’s character, history, and economy.

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Century 21 Logo: This blue enamel charm features the official logo of the 1962 World’s Fair. Running from April 21 to October 21, the fair’s official name was “Century 21 Exposition”, and its theme was science and how it would change life in the next century.

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Chief Seattle: Although not in his exact likeness, this charm represents Seattle’s namesake. Chief Seattle, also known at Chief Sealth, was a member of the Suquamish Tribe who lived near the shores of Elliott Bay. When members of the Boren-Denny party arrived to scope out the area, Chief Seattle welcomed them and sent men to show them around. He is well-known for his welcoming attitude toward white settlers and for his speeches, which are oftentimes regarded as pro-environment and pro-Indigenous rights. He was christened Noah when he was baptized into the Catholic church.

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Dugout Canoe: The indigenous Washingtonians enjoyed the bounty of salmon, shellfish, and cedar trees available in their land. They used cedars to build longhouses and canoes. The dugout canoes produced by the Suquamish people were prized for hunting and transport and traded all along the West Coast.

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Boeing: This Boeing jet (a 707?)  looks ready for takeoff! From mail carriers to bombers to commercial airline jets,  Boeing has been filling the sky with an assortment of aircraft for 100 years. By the time of the fair, Boeing was actively involved in the Space Race and employed thousands in Washington and Alabama. Although Boeing’s president hated fairs, the company’s Spacearium was a popular attraction at Century 21.

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Alweg Monorail: Known simply as “The Monorail”, this futuristic train was built in Germany by Alweg. While officials briefly considered using the monorail to link Seattle with Sea Tac Airport, its red and blue trains linked the fair to downtown. Alweg won the bid for the train when they offered to underwrite the costs of construction, but within six months, over 8 million riders had generated much more than the 3.5 million construction costs. Following the end of the fair, Century 21 Corporation gained ownership for free. They sold it to the City of Seattle for $600, 000 in 1965.

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The Space Needle: What part of the fair is more iconic than the Space Needle? Built in a mere 400 days, this 605-foot tall structure offered panoramic views of Seattle and fine dining among the clouds. Along with the Monorail, it opened in March 1962, almost a full month before the opening of the fair.

On the Shores of Green Lake

What is that strange concrete structure perched on the south end of Seattle’s Green Lake? It’s a staircase, it’s a set of bleachers…It’s the Aqua Theatre!

Or, at least, what’s left of the Aqua Theatre.

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The Aqua Theatre, October 23, 2010

Now just a shell of its former self, its hard to envision what the theatre looked like in its glory days. Today, it’s a popular spot for joggers, and the perfect bench for anybody wanting to rest a while and look out over Green Lake, but at its peak, it had the capacity to seat 5,582 people.

Built in a mere 67 days for the first-ever Seafair (1950), the 5,200-seat Aqua Theatre would become one of Seattle’s most popular outdoor performance venues. At a total cost of $247,000 (about $2,477,741.49 today), the Aqua Theatre was by no means a budget building, but for the next two decades its seats would often be filled to capacity for concerts, plays, and other performances.

Opening day for the Aqua Theatre was August 11, 1950 for what an advertisement described as a “flashy, splashy water spectacle”– The first-ever performance of The Aqua Follies–and it sold out. 5,200 people came to see a night of ballet, comedy, singing, dancing, and high-diving.

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Aqua Follies Ad from 1963 Seafair Booklet

Aqua Follies performances (also called “Swim Musicals”) enjoyed immense success throughout the 1950s, as did other forms of entertainment. The Summer Opera Company produced “Music Under the Stars”, concert versions of operettas accompanied by ballet. Full-length plays and musicals including “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “Oklahoma!”, and “The King and I” were also performed at the Aqua Theatre to the music of a floating orchestra.

To accommodate the popularity of the shows, 382 additional seats were added in 1960. Two years later, the World’s Fair brought visitors from around the globe to Seattle and the Aqua Theatre for an array of events from musicals to a jazz festival to performances by Bob Hope. The Aqua Follies performed for 21 nights, rather than the usual 13. But along with the visitors and the success, the World’s Fair also brought new, indoor performing spaces, such as the Coliseum (now Key Arena) that were fresh, comfortable, and out of the rain.

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View from the Top

The Aqua Follies performed their last show in 1964, and the theatre began its descent into disuse and disrepair. It remained a venue for concerts, often catered toward the younger crowd. On August 8, 1966, The Northwest Battle of the Bands Championship was held at the theatre. For as little as $2 (about $15 today), a person could see Don & the Goodtimes, Merrilee & the Turnabouts, The Sonics, George Washington & the Cherrybombs, The Bumps, The Live Five, Jack Horner & the Famous Plums, Dusty Springfield,  Sam Sham & the Pharaohs, and vote for a winner!

On May 11, 1969, the Aqua Theatre hosted Three Dog Night with opening acts Spring, Jaime Brockett, Translove Airlines, and Led Zeppelin. The theatre and surrounding areas was packed. Those who didn’t have tickets perched in trees, sat atop the concessions stand, sprawled out on nearby lawns, huddled on a nearby dock (causing it to sink slightly), and crowded the stage in canoes and rubber rafts. Some even swam in the stage’s pool!

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Later that summer, city inspectors discovered that the structure was damaged and the facility was condemned. The Aqua Theatre’s last performance was on August 20, 1969, featuring the Grateful Dead.

The following year, the diving towers were removed and the demolition slowly progressed until 1979 when most of the seating was demolished and a new shell house was built.

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Top Corner

I visited the Aqua Theatre in October 2010 (I sure wish I was there August 8, 1966, instead!) It has a wonderful history board hanging on the back side, filled with information and historical pictures. The theatre itself is quite a sight to see! I’m not sure why large chunks were cut out of the structure (structural soundness, perhaps?), but the remains account for about 3 out of 7 original seating sections.

It was fun to look out at the lake and envision where the stage once was.

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For further information, and great historical images and memorabilia, I encourage you to check out these links on Historylink.org:

Aqua Theatre–Seattle

Led Zeppelin Rocks Seattle’s Outdoor Green Lake Aqua Theatre on May 11, 1969

Also, check out this great Aqua Theatre footage from the Kiro 7 Archives.

And, of course, if you ever find yourself near Green Lake, I encourage you to go see what remains of the Aqua Theatre for yourself.

Shopping City

Happy November! Now that October and Halloween have passed us by, some of the biggest shopping days of the year are yet to come. In the spirit of holiday shopping, take a look at this lovely late-60s postcard, featuring  Southcenter Mall!

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Shopping in Style

While the mall’s opening day was July 31, 1968, its roots date back to 1956 when three officials from Seattle’s Northgate Mall (which opened in 1950) formed the Southcenter Corporation with the vice president of Allied Stores (a Department store chain). The four men planned to build a new mall south of Seattle that would match the success of Northgate. They began searching for a site that was at least 100 acres.

Their search led them to the 800-acre Andover Tract. Previously farmland, the Andover Tract was purchased by the Port of Seattle for use as an industrial park. In November 1957, the city of Tukwila annexed the tract. The same year, Southcenter Corporation purchased 160 acres of the tract that were strategically located near the intersection of two planned freeways: I-5 and I-405. The start of construction was to depend on the construction of these roads.

The first part of I-405, connecting Tukwila to Renton, opened to traffic in August 1965. In 1960, he first segment of I-5 opened through Tacoma and by January 1967, the road ran continually from Tacoma to Everett. Southcenter Mall broke ground in early 1967.

The architect for the mall was the Seattle-based John Graham & Company, the firm responsible for both Northgate and Tacoma malls. A total of 75 contractors worked on the project, and despite four worker strikes, the majority of construction was complete by May 1968. Interior work continued until the day before the mall’s grand opening.

When Governor Dan Evans dedicated the mall at 11 AM on July 31, he was dedicating the largest mall in the Pacific Northwest. The 1,400,000 square foot mall featured the largest expanse of terrazzo floors in the area (84,000 square feet). Southcenter boasted four anchor stores, 88 other shops, and employed 3,600 people.

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Southcenter Shopping Center, the northwest’s largest air-conditioned shopping city, features a terrazzo surface and lush tropical planters in the 40 foot wide mall walkway between the 110 stores. One of the highlights of the center is the specially designed mobile chandelier which hangs above the main mall intersection. Many of the stores take advantage of the completely heated and air-conditioned interior by having wide open entrances with no standard doorways. Southcenter is one of the few shopping centers to have four major department stores; the BON MARCHE, FREDERICK AND NELSON, J.C. PENNY, AND NORDSTROM-BEST. Southcenter is 8 minutes south of Seattle at Tukwila and the junction of Interstates 5 & 405.

In 2002, Southcenter Mall was purchased by the Westfield Group and renamed “Westfield Shoppingtown Southcenter.” Four years later, the mall underwent a $240 million expansion, adding 400,000 square feet of space.

Some of the stores featured on this postcard include Zale’s Jewelry, Bernie’s Menswear, The Coat Closet, and Hazel’s Candies. Zale’s is still in operation, as are three of the original anchor stores: J.C. Penney, Nordstoms, and  Macy’s (formerly Bon Marche).

Despite the stores and the decor and the clothing, perhaps what really dates this card is the last sentence on the back: “Southcenter is 8 minutes south of Seattle…” Today, the commute is about 16 minutes via I-5.

Seafair Weekend

Welcome everyone, on this lovely Seafair Friday! I thought today would be an appropriate time to take a break from the Summer Motel Guide and take some time to participate in  the 66th annual Seafair celebration!

In honor of Seafair and its iconic hydroplanes, I invite you to leaf through the following selections from a 1963 Seafair Trophy Race booklet!

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The 50 cent price tag is equivalent to about $3.94 today

This 35-page booklet hails from the time when hydros still raced on Green Lake and Seafair was a 10-day celebration in early August. As the title suggests, most of the booklet is dedicated to the hydroplane races, but it also contains a complete schedule of Seafair events, and a few noteworthy ads.

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Who else would love a return of this Seafair font?

Take, for example, this lovely half-page advertisement for the Aqua Follies, a Seafair staple from 1950 to 1964. For as little as $2 (about $15.75 today), Seafair celebrators could catch an outdoor performance of singing, dancing, comedy, water ballet, and diving.

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Can you pick the winner?

Look at this handsome bunch! Page 9 gives us a quick look at the year’s hydroplane drivers, while the surrounding pages provide short biographies. Many of these men were seasoned drivers–one with a racing history dating back to 1939–but a few were competing for the first time.

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Tempest weighed more than 8,000 pounds

Also included is the 1963 Hydroplane roster, which was still subject to change. Here lies all of the information about 1963’s hydroplanes that anybody could want, except the race results. The previous owner penciled in a few corrections.

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The mighty Aqua Theater pales in comparison to the size of the race route

Page 22 presents us with a map of the hydroplane race route on Green Lake. Details in the booklet state that the course must be three miles long, in water at least 5 feet deep, oval-shaped, and include two turns with a minimum clearance of 600 feet.

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The back cover doubles as a Thriftway ad

The back cover features Miss Thriftway, the hyrdoplane who had won the President’s Cup, the Governor’s Cup, and the Lake Washington Race the previous year under the name “Miss Century 21.”

I wonder who will win this year?

Enjoy your Seafair Weekend and, of course, the hydroplane races! For a complete list of events, visit the official Seafair website here.

A Unique Post

Today I’m here to present you with a late-1960s zipper from the Unique Zipper Company of Seattle, Washington!

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Costing 80 cents (approximately $5 today), this particular zipper is about a foot long with nylon teeth and a metal pull painted to match the beautiful aqua color. It is still in its original packaging of a paper sleeve with plastic covering.

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I was not able to find any information on the Unique Zipper Company, but the zip code of 98301 places them somewhere in the Greenwood, Phinney Ridge, Fremont, or Wallingford neighborhoods, near Green Lake.

Although the packaging does not have a date on it, I would place it someplace in the late 1960s. My grandmother has a similar zipper labeled 1969.

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The packaging acts as an advertisement for Unique’s invisible zipper foot, which is supposed to install your zipper in less than 5 minutes!

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Does anybody remember Unique zippers and zipper feet, or know anything about the company?

Fair Weather

Spring has officially arrived, and in many cities around Washington, it’s felt a bit more like August than April. Seattle beat a heat record Monday with a sweltering 89 degrees!

54 years ago today, the temperature was a comfortable 64 degrees, perfect for the opening day of the 1962 World’s Fair.

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Although the Needle had been painted white in 1968, these matchboxes seem to commemorate its original galaxy gold glory.

In honor of opening day, I have a pair of 1970s matchboxes from the Space Needle restaurant, which was then operated by Western International Hotels. The boxes are small, only a few inches high, and filled to brim with tiny matches…

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Gold-tipped matched! How much classier could it get?

… with gold heads!

The front of the matchboxes feature a white silhouette of the Space Needle, prior to the 1982 addition. The back features a logo and a telephone number for reservations.

The restaurant, originally named “The Eye of the Needle”, welcomed its first visitors to a gala on March 24, 1962, before the fair even opened. Located at a height of 500 feet, it was the second revolving restaurant in the world. Its floor, powered by a 1 horsepower motor,  made a complete rotation once every hour. Imagine the surprise some diners felt when they left their handbags on the windowsill!

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Got a match?

Today, the restaurant is called “Sky City”, and it features a menu of local ingredients. The floor, now powered by a 1.5 horesepower motor, makes a complete rotation once every 58 minutes. Although still considered fine dining, the dress code is much more casual than it was 54 years ago.

The “Lunar Orbiter Dessert”, a brownie sundae topped with strawberries served surrounded by dry ice, is the only menu item remaining from the fair.

KJR Seattle, Channel 95!

Back in the 1960s, KJR was one of Seattle’s top radio stations. DJs like Pat O’Day, Lan Roberts, Larry Lujack, Tom Murphy, Dick Curtis, and Jerry Kaye entertained the greater Puget Sound area and introduced listeners to swinging music. Although the Top-40 station was hugely popular with the teen and young-adult crowd, among the station’s most loyal listeners were housewives.

Perhaps one of KJR’s most well-remembered disc jockeys, Pat O’Day was also an entrepreneur in the music entertainment business. O’Day hosted concerts, arranged tours, owned clubs, and organized teen fairs. This mid-late 1960s pin was purchased at one of these teen fairs, or teen spectaculars, that were hosted in Seattle, Spokane, and Yakima.

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“Channel 95– Funnnnnnnn!”

The Seattle teen spectaculars were hosted in the Seattle Coliseum (now the Key Arena) and featured live music, games, activities, and product displays. Displays focused products that had teen appeal, such as clothing, cosmetics, cars, electronics, and sports equipment. Underneath the permanent risers were four separate “clubs”, featuring new local bands by day and established local bands by night. Big-name groups such as Paul Revere & the Raiders and Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels played a concert on the Coliseum’s main stage at 3 PM and 8 PM.

Admission was $6, which is roughly $44 today.

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The fastening mechanism is clearly different than that of today’s pins.

For those of you nostalgic for the old days of KJR, or for those who were not around to witness it, an eight minute compilation of 1960s KJR jingles can be found here. A ten minute set of incredibly “fun” KJR jingles from 1967 can be enjoyed here. And lastly, there is Cruisin’ 1966, a wonderful, but all too short piece of a summertime Pat O’Day program from 1966. Cruisin’ 1966 can be found on LP, CD, or youtube.