"Mr. President, will you say the magic words?"
(R.M. Nixon) "At 12 Noon on this day
in my capacity as President of the United States,
it is my high honor and privilege to declare "EXPO '74
officially open to all the citizen of the world."
♪ "Meet me by the river" EXPO '74 theme music ♪
♪ "Meet me by the river" EXPO '74 theme music ♪
♪ "Meet me by the river" EXPO '74 theme music ♪
♪ "Meet me by the river" EXPO '74 theme music ♪
(Alison Kartevold) Back in 1974, much of the world's
attention focused on Spokane. Momentarily the country put
aside issues like: the Cold War, energy crisis, and Watergate to
kick-off, the bicentennial, think about the environment, and
welcome the world to Spokane. Millions came here to see a
World's Fair, in six months these visitors were gone, but
Spokane remained forever changed. For 20 years now,
people have cherished these 100 acres of land. Riverfront Park
is Spokane's Crown Jewel. Its existence is the fulfillment of
a dream--a dream accomplished by the most ambitious undertaking
this city has ever seen. It took the power of both man and nature
to create this park. The sage of its birth is the story of Expo
'74. So join me, Alison Kartevold, as we look back at
this story in Reflections by the River of Expo '74.
These falls have always brought people together.
In centuries past, the roar of tumbling water
guided native Americans to tribal
gatherings on the riverbanks. Later, the promise of harnessing
some of its power encouraged pioneers to settle here. Then
slowly, without people giving it much thought, the beauty of this
place became obscured by progress.
Before there was a park, and before there was a fair,
this area was covered with the skeletal remains
of an industrial empire.
Spokane was built on industry.
Its heart and arteries were forged from
railroad steel. Its first decades saw prosperity, but in
the Sixties the times were, indeed, changing.
(Kartevold Question) "What was the Spokane area
like in the 60's?"
(Jack O'Brien) "It was very charming,
it was very peaceful and it was very much behind the
times. We had just really not kept up with the state, with the
region, even with the nation. It was a very comfortable place to
live, but the economy was stagnant; culturally we were
just not in keeping with the world.
Something had to be done."
>>No where was it more blatantly clear that something
needed to be done than here in this area. Now it looks out into
Riverfront Park, but in the 60's this was Spokane's Skid Row.
(Mike Kobluk) "It was urban blight.
Trent Avenue, which right now is the street right
out in front of the Opera House--which became Spokane
Falls Boulevard. It was a series of shops that were less than
your most ideal shops in the city. With two levels of
railroad that came right down Spokane Falls Boulevard--Trent
Avenue then. The 2 levels of railroad and 2 railroad stations
completely blocked off the river from the core of the city and
took what people of Spokane did not realize was an island, and
of course had marshaling yards and railroad yards and
warehouses on that island, as well as, as I mentioned, one
railroad station. So they took this gem of a piece of property
and, over the course of time, had developed it for
their own use."
(Jack Geraghty) "I used to be a newspaper reporter here and
covered the County courthouse, and would walk from the
newspaper offices to across the North Street Bridge to the
courthouse. In those days there were all kind of railroad
trestles going across the river gorge, and I used to think how
fantastic it would be if we could do something in this
community to bring back the river for peoples' use, and that
the people of Spokane--not just the people traveling on the
trains--see the falls, which are really the heart of this
community. So, it was kind of in that vein, and in that spirit,
that as the EXPO project unfolded, and it started out as
a centennial celebration, and also as kind of a continuance of
some urban renewal planning for the city, and I just got caught
up in that. . . >>Jack Geraghty was not the only person who "got
all caught up" in the idea of a World's Fair. King Cole was
hired by an organization called "Spokane Unlimited" in 1963 to
work on rejuvenating the downtown area.
(King Cole) "I wasn't thinking of World's Fair. I was
thinking of something that would be regional at least in
attraction, national in scope as far as the theme and so forth,
and that would be able to attract outside money for the
event. We hired a consultant firm--this is after I'd been
here for about five years, we'd done some things already: we'd
rebuilt the Parkade downtown, and put in trees and
streetlights all over downtown, did a lot of things that could
be done to sort of get the downtown back on its feet,
'cause it was pretty bad. The reason that the World's Fair
appealed to me was that, if we could pull it off, was that it
would do things for the community that you couldn't do
for yourself. It would bring people into the community who
would spend money; and some of that would be left in residual
benefits in physical construction; and it would bring
attention to the community in a way that only large cities can
do, and which we couldn't do in and of ourselves"
>>But could this little industrial town
really put on a World's Fair? As the
60's drew to a close, Spokane only had about 170,000 people in
it. No city that small had ever held a World's Fair before.
Plus, outside the region, its name was virtually unheard of.
However, it did have one thing going for it: an unusually
strong group of potential leaders.
(Jack O'Brien) "One of the most
amazing aspects of EXPO '74 and Spokane and the Spokane
community was the truly unusual level of leadership that emerged
as part of the EXPO '74 project. Admittedly, a lot of these
people were Leaders in the community, but, being very
pragmatic about it, there really wasn't a heck of lot to lead
back in those days. But there were people like Rod Lindsey
with Lincoln Savings, Luke Williams who headed up the
state's EXPO '74 Commission, people like King Cole, and the
list goes on and on. These truly remarkable people who came forth
and without whose leadership this thing never would have
happened" >>Most of these leaders including Luke Williams, came
from the business community.
(Luke Williams) "Well that's really the way it's supposed
to be in America, up until recently the private sector
was the initiator of a lot of projects throughout the
whole country. We didn't even have a Department of Urban
Renewal in Spokane, and so there just weren't any other sources
of money. I think that's one of the good things, because if we
had been waiting for the government to do something, we
probably might still be waiting.
>>Another key factor in the Expo's success
was the home-grown nature of these leaders.
(King Cole) People on my board, I had thirty people on
the board and about 21 of them owned the business that they
were in and therefore didn't have to call to Seattle or New
York to get permission to do anything. And could, if they sat
around a table, and they'd never tried this before, but if they'd
get in a single room and sit around a table, could, if they
wanted to, could come up with enough money to make something
like this happen. Seed Money. And so, after that picture was
painted to the leadership and the board that i was consulting
to they decided that they ought to give it a try >>They gave a
try to the tune of more than five million dollars. Members of
the business community wanted this area cleaned up so badly
that initially that put up 1.3 million dollars of their own
money in an attempt to just get the site approved. Their Seed
Money was not guaranteed. And neither was success.
(Luke Williams) "Well everyone knew there was some gamble to
it, but they also were some pretty intelligent people, Most
of the money, the Seed Money, came from 2 sources:
and the rest of 'em, it wouldn't have hurt
either of those sources if they'd lost the money,
the other people, for lesser amounts, it wouldn't have
killed anyone. Sure there was risk of loss, but it wouldn't
have been calamitous insofar as their individual businesses are
concerned >>The decision to try for a fair was the first step.
But there were many obstacles ahead. Besides getting approval
from the International Exposition Committee in Paris,
the site itself had to be acquired from its various
owners. 15 of the 100 acres that is now Riverfront Park was owned
by three railroad companies. Looking over the area now, it's
hard to imagine the train tracks and trestles that dominated the
landscape. But one reminder of this time is is the People's
Wall. Residents now use it as a canvas to express themselves to
the rest of Spokane. But this mass of concrete is really an
abutment for a train trestle that used to tower ominously
over the Monroe Street Bridge. King Cole says that dealing with
the railroads was like negotiating with world
governments. (Cole) People didn't even want to start
because they didn't see how it could be done. And we just
decided to start--we had to because they had to be off of
they property, it had to be done. People said, well I'll
give you the #1 objection 'Where are you gonna get the money?' So
we went to see the railroads, and we got them to tell us how
much it would take And when they got finished, we said, 'Would
you give us your figures please we want to go back east and see
your bosses back east and we're gonna ask they to donate it. The
next thing was that we had such good cooperation from our major
shippers on the railroad, and if they weren't a major shipper
they had good friends and knew people who were elsewhere in the
country, and they developed a network and got the railroads to
listen to the right people. So by the time people in Portland
and Seattle had finished their work, and very incredulously
handing it to us shaking their heads, we were back in St. Paul
and New York talking the the chairs of the board, and so
forth. The long story short is that four railroads became 2,
and they got off of the site about 20 years earlier than
anyone had dreamed possible. All of 'em. and we didn't pay a cent
for it--they donated all of it." >>Gaining ownership of the
proposed site in 1972 was a major victory. But many other
things also needed to happen it there was going to be a fair
here. The idea of having a world's fair in Spokane
initially developed 8 years before opening day, yet time was
still running short. (Cole) There was just barely enough
time to do it. It takes a lot of time to make these things
happen. For example, just getting your own city council to
do what it has to do so that state government will do what it
has to do 'cause it won't do what it has to do until the city
has done it. And the federal government, which won't do
anything until the city and the state have done something--those
things are all like steps on a ladder, and they have to be
built one ladder step at a time to make it happen. >>Another
rung on that ladder was public opinion.
(George Reitmeirer) They ranged from people in Seattle
saying "For god's sakes don't embarrass our state,
you can't put one on successfully"; to "Grab it! Go
for the gusto!" to everything in between was there. >>In 1971
local opinion created the most pivotal point of Expo's
development. (Jack Geraghty) By and large, i think the people of
the city just had a wait and see attitude. On the one hand, the
possibility of a World's Fair in Spokane was very intriguing, but
on the other hand, some of the things that that might bring was
certainly not. There was only one vote--a lot of people are
confused about this--there was only one vote, community-wide
vote, that had anything to do with the fair. It had to do with
a bond issue, a very small portion of the fair funding,
about 5 million dollars, that was to go for the city's part of
putting in the infrastructure for the fairgrounds: water lines
and that kind of stuff. And the people voted 58 per cent in
favor of that, but it needed 60%.
(O'Brien) And that was the reason why
Mayor Rogers called a meeting of the business
community and said ok, folks, it's up to you. We want to have
an EXPO. The city has a major role to play in developing the
site for EXPO, we can't do it without the money, the revenue
necessary to do that job. The only source that we have,
available to us, is the B&O tax. Now you tell us, what do you
want us to do? And the business community, very reluctantly,
said go ahead and vote it in. But, put a dollar limit on it.
5.7 million dollars. And at the time that that amount of money
was raised, then the B&O tax came off. As i recall, it only
took about two years to raise that amount of money, and the
minute that total was reached, then we cut it off. That was the
end of the B&O tax, for that time.
>>Passage of the B&O tax
solved another problem that could have derailed the EXPO
project. But there was still areas of public dispute. Even as
demolition began on the railroad trestles, a strong movement was
underway to save some of Spokane's railroad heritage by
leaving the train station standing. The save our station's
campaign divided households.
(Cole) "Even my kids, a couple of my
kids thought that we ought to save that station. And they had
a great motto: "SOS", you know? But those who wanted to get rid
of the station prevailed. The main thing was that we had the
railroads coming off the river, and even the Great Northern
station, which was next door and across the river, is only left
by the residual of a tower, which is there as a memory. But
the station itself had no value at all. It took up space on a
site that was already too small to put a world's fair on. We had
another station, the Northern Pacific, two blocks south, which
someday, and it turns out now, would be remodeled. >>While the
business community in Spokane focused its attention on the
EXPO task, the rest of the world was concentrating on much
Spiro Agnew: "I think that there's a little mischief
going on with regard to the end the war amendment."
"How serious a problem will the gasoline situation be for the
visitors from your state?" "I am the chairman of the Western
States Governor's Conference, and we've been working on it a
great deal, and we feel that we will have a sufficient
amount of gasoline."
Lee Iaccoca: "You're gonna see in the next 10 years a
continuing movement to small efficient packages
on all car lines"
Jimmy Carter: "I believe that the President is guilty of
action that would warrant his dismissal"
"We've done some research and development
at the Bell Telephone Laboratories regarding
the ultimate in portable telephones, you know
the kind that might resemble a James Bond thing, a pen where
you talk into it and so forth. We're not at that point, but
we're looking at all the possibilities.
>>In the early '70's, most people in Spokane
paid only passing attention to this world's fair idea.
They were far too busy living their private lives
to heed the commotion downtown. But there
were a few people anxiously awaiting the fairs arrival.
Using his 8mm movie camera, one man actually decided to capture
the metamorphosis of the site from beginning to end. Ed
Thompson is a self-appointed Spokane historian.
(Ed Thompson) Really i am, in a way, a historian.
I've preserved things that nobody else has got.
Nobody has got what i had on film--I know that.
Cause i was the only...sometimes I used to see
people down there with a still camera, you know, takin'
snapshots once in a while, but I was the only one with a movie
camera that I knew of anyway when i was around taking
pictures. And now I'm glad i did because a lot of people maybe
get a chance to see this, whereas it laid in my basement
for 20 years and nobody ever'd looked at it.
>>Now his film helps take us on a journey
back in time. He was there when the
double-decker trestle, nicknamed the "Chinese Wall" fell to the
wrecking ball in 1972. And as he chronicled the countdown
displayed in the Clock Tower, there were times when he thought
that they would never get it all done by opening day.
(Thompson) No, I didn't, because in my movies
I was sayin', 'Gosh, the days--you know
they had the days on the Clock Tower up there, how many
more days until EXPO--and I thought, 'How in the Dickens are
the ever gonna get this done by that time?' >>These directly
involved in the project wondered this, too. But, at the same time
they felt great pride in what they had already accomplished.
(King Cole) I used to come down from my home here, I used to go
down the hill, down Grand Boulevard, and on down
Washington Street, come out and come underneath the trestle on
Washington Street and look up and there I would see nothing
but a big trestle across my vision, which was on Trent,
which is now Spokane Falls Boulevard. "The morning I came
out from under it and there was nothing there, in my heart I
knew that, if nothing else worked from that day on, Spokane
had done most of its job. The main thing was finished. They
could handle everything else--it would be costly, it would be
time-consuming, it would be full of. . .it would be no fun, but
it would be done. But, the work was over when that happened. And
that's how good it. . . that's how big it was
for us in Spokane.
Even as the old structures came down, crisis
management continued to be a way of life for the EXPO project.
(Jack Gerhaty) In the early going we kind of stumbled around
a little bit in getting the Fair off the ground, and we had some
fits and starts, and there were a couple of times when we went
home at night and we thought, 'Well, it's all over. We aren't
gonna go ahead' "A lot of it had to do with funding; and putting
together all the many things that had to come together. The
railroads deciding almost on a minute's notice to vacate the
site, to getting the caliber and quantity of exhibitors that we
needed to make the show a success; lining up all the
entertainment events...it was a remarkable undertaking for a
community of this size."
>>As demolition on the site continued,
King Cole traveled the world trying to secure
foreign exhibitors. In May of 1972, the Soviet Union shocked
skeptics and thawed a little Cold War ice by announcing its
participation. The USSR was the first country to commit to EXPO
'74, the first World's Fair with an environmental theme.
(Reitmeyer) This is an area
that has always been concerned with the environment.
Many people would disagree with that, but it is an area where
people have been interested in outdoor activities; have been
interested in making the outdoors a big part of their
life. Skiing, hunting fishing, you name it. So it was a natural
that "Man and His Environment" was, a topic that came up very
quickly in the discussion. >>The theme of celebrating tomorrow's
fresh new environment also seemed natural because of the
site. Nature is what made this place so appealing. Enclosed in
this 100 acres are two islands, and a series of cascading
waterfalls that rival any across the country. Especially when you
consider their location at the heart of a city. The
environmental theme gave Spokane a chance to clean up the site
and the river. But it did not necessarily please area
(Ed Reynolds) "Well the idea of cleaning up that ghastly
downtown area with all the overhead railways, and that kind
of thing, was something that interested me a lot. The idea of
doing something that would focus on the environment was something
that interested me a lot. But from the outset, I was kind of
suspicious about the people who were putting it together because
that didn't appear to be a group...I knew very well that
wasn't a group who was involved in the environmental movement in
Spokane. And my belief was, and still is, that the folks who put
those things together are primarily interested in
economics, and not the environment.
(Gerhaty) We were criticized a lot for
'Well, you're really putting on a show,
it's not really an environmental Fair.' But we did do a lot to
stick with the theme: we had, during the course of the Fair we
had an environmental symposium series; we did insist that some
of the development would be environmentally sensitive--and
that's hard to do when you have an entertainment event-- but
nevertheless, I think in the long-run it really worked, and
it made Spokane much more environmentally conscious than
it ever was before. >>There are those who disagree, and think
EXPO officials had to be prodded into following an environmental
track while developing the Fair. But there is no denying that,
with encouragement from area environmentalists, a monumental
step was taken. A then relatively new procedure called,
"An Environmental Impact Study" was done on the EXPO site.
(David Peterson) I believe we were the first
entity in the State of Washington, we may have been the
first entity related to any federal program, to file an
environmental impact statement in the United States. >>Though
the timely theme caused some extra work, it was not one of
the major problems EXPO officials had to overcome.
(David Pearson) The main problems dealt much more with
the problems of selling the idea internationally that Spokane
could have a Fair, getting the international exhibitors to
commit early enough so that we could get domestic exhibitors to
commit. Getting down payments of money to match with all the
pledges and all the early "risk financing". I mean, this
community, which is not a large one, had to risk millions and
millions of dollars without ever even knowing if we could reach
opening day. >>Part of those millions went into marketing
the area: (Announcer) "Spokane Washington, site of the World
Environmental Fair. >>Films like this were made to show Spokane
off. It is much easier to sell the idea of a place if people
know something about it. And the more interesting a place looks,
the better. For this reason, it was decided to market not just
Spokane, but the entire Northwest. Announcer: "Within an
easy day's drive from EXPO '74 you'll find the rugged Cascade
Mountains of Washington, Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks,
as well as the treacherous Snake River and Hell's Canyon Country
of Idaho." (Jane Johnson) That was certainly a strategy
because, although we knew that our attendance
was probably going to come from a 300-mile radius,
a lot of the spots did try, particularly those outside the
state of Washington state, try to attract people to the total
Pacific Northwest: the Canadian Rockies, the coast, certainly
Glacier National Park, that it wasn't just a stop at the Fair.
And that seemed to work, too. >>They also used big names to
help draw interest to the Fair. Bob Hope: "I'm on the road
again--this time to EXPO '74 in Spokane Washington. it's so
lush, you wouldn't believe it's Crosby's home town. >>Spots like
this worked great, but Mike Kobluk remembers the long, hard
road to getting people like Bob Hope interested in the Fair.
(Mike Kobluk) Joe Rosenfield used to ask me to come to the
Board of Director's meeting a make a presentation on "What's
Happening in Entertainment". And, of course, for the first
year or two, I would go to some of these meetings and I would
have to report that 'Well, so far, the Jumping Jills, who do a
skip rope act from...I don't know where, from the Tri-Cities,
is gonna be on the site for Two Performances!" And, of course
the Board of Directors would yawn and say, 'Oh my gosh, is
that really the extent to which we're going? Is that really
where we're headed?' And then I'd come back a week later and
have to give another presentation, 'Well, we've
written all these letters, and done all this stuff, made these
calls we're making progress, and now we have "The high school
marching band" . it stated off real slow. >>t may have started
slow, but it ended strong. Anybody who was anybody during
the early '70s made their way to EXPO '74.
>>Never before, or since, would so many big name entertainers
be in Spokane during such a short period of time.
Kobluk: "Someone said that
we were the entertainment capital of the world for six
months. And I have to tell you that I cringed when I first
heard that because I thought, 'Are you kidding? Spokane,
Washington? Yes it's going to be important. Yes it's gonna be
great. But, really, Spokane the capital of entertainment for the
entire country? Next to New York and Los Angeles and Seattle, and
whatever?" But doggone, as I look back on it, I think we
were. We had an extremely important series of events that
were both international in nature, that were local in
nature, that were regional in nature, and that offered a wide
variety for everything, for everyone who wanted to see or
do something over six months."
>>Before the visitors could come,
the site had to be completed. Ground was broken for the US
pavilion in the fall of 1972. It would be the focal point of both
the Fair, and Riverfront Park. (David Pearson) Keep in mind
that we had to plan a Fair, and we had to plan a way that six
months later, when it went away, the park would be left in a
state that we wanted the park to be in. And those were two
different--entirely different--equations. So, first
you do your Master Plan for what the Fair should be, and then you
say 'Does this make any sense? Are we leaving behind the kind
of park that we want to leave behind?' "But the concept was,
obviously, to put the federal pavilion at the center, at the
top part of Havermale Island, there at the northern edge,
where it could be both the center of the Fair and the
residual pavilion could be at the center. And I think that
worked very well. And then we did sort of a radial theory
around it, with the international governments right
around it, and the domestic exhibits were farther out to the
edge. That was two-fold: one of the reasons was that we thought
that would be a nice relationship; the other was, we
built the international exhibition, and so we wanted to
be able to build that in a tight area. We allowed the domestics
to build their own--we built some, but they were able to
build their own. Those were the greatest quantity of unknowns.
Well, if you're gonna leave a gap, you'd rather leave it at
the edges and bring the fences in than you would in the center.
So, that was some of that Master Planning process. >>And what a
Master Plan it was! In spite of all the obstacles, EXPO '74
opened in Spokane on May 4th to a crowd of 85,000 people.
"()in three and a half years we
went from a site that we didn't own, with railroads
crossing it to a brand new open World's Fair, all built
within budget' open on opening day"
>>For the six months
EXPO '74 ran every day was like the Fourth of July. Each and
every one even ended with fireworks.
In fact, the Fair marked the kick-off
of the country's Bicentennial Celebration.
From the opening ceremonies on, the first
environmental World's Fair was a hit! Everywhere it's mobius
strip symbol--with green for the growing things, blue for the
water, and white for the air, represented our eternal link to
the environment. Divided into color-coded sections, with giant
butterflies marking the gates, the site itself was a very
user-friendly environment. The ground were designed so visitors
could see it all in about three days. But many spent even more
time taking in the sights here. The most prominent of the sights
to be seen was the U.S. pavilion. Perched at the top of
the newly-landscaped Havermale Island, it was the largest
pavilion at EXPO, and one of three structures designed to
remain after the fair closed. The United States government
erected this web of steel and vinyl to house a courtyard and
exhibits showing the federal approach to environmental
issues. Plus, the world's largest IMAX theater screen.
Nine countries, besides the United States, had pavilions
scattered across the fair site. Canada teamed up with the
provinces of British Columbia and Alberta to transform Canon
Island into Canada Island. After years of industry, the emphasis
was once again placed on the area's natural beauty.
Greeter: "Hi, welcome to Canada island. As you can see,
we have an awful lot of fun around here."
>>Korea, the Republic of China, and Japan
all brought a feeling of the Orient to the Fair.
And the Pacific Rim met Europe when the Philippines
and West Germany shared a building.
The Philippines showed the beauty of tradition.
German man: "In our building we are not only showing
a documentation of environmental problems, ...[fade]" While West
Germany used modern technology to display the Fair's
environmental theme: (announcer): "Technology and
industry have given us prosperity.
But they've also brought hazards
to the environment." "Polluted air, contaminated
water, mountains of garbage, incessant noise..."
>>Another pavilion located on the river's edge became home to our
neighbors down under. The Australians were popular hosts
at EXPO '74. Aussie man's voice: "Could you open it up for me?
And there's a little gift for mommy in memory of there being a
hundred thousand visitors to our pavilion. And there's a little
bit of a 'warm you up'' for dad." Aussie woman: "This is
part of the Australian pavilion, right next to the beautiful
Spokane River Falls. We're going to show you a lot about
Australia in 1974. We're going to show you about our ancient
country and its beauty, we're also going to show you about
some of the terrible tragedy that man has made on the earth."
(Kobluk) The Australians were fabulous. The Australians used
to have above their exhibit a small dining area.
And the Australians love to have dinner parties,
late dinner parties, usually. So
after a performance on the Opera House stage, they would invite
certain artists over for a wonderful dinner, a wonderful
evening. >>Looking back at the Fair can illustrate how the
world changes...in 1974 Iran was an ally of the United States,
and openly shared its culture with the world at its pavilion.
And the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was also
represented at EXPO '74. Whether it was due to its overwhelming
size, or the mystique of its cool relationship with the
United States, people went to see the 54,500 sq. ft.
building in droves.
For many, this was the first real look at a land
and people they had been raised to distrust.
(Geraghty) "We had a lot of fun
with the Russians. The, you know, the Soviet Union
and the US were not the best of friends, and the
soviet people that were here were really great and charming
people for the most part, but we also had the KGB agents, and
stuff, and that was kind of interesting." Russian woman:
"While being in the United States, everywhere we felt
hospitality. And I like to thank you for this warm and cordial
reception. (Jane Johnson) "They couldn't go outside a certain
radius outside of Spokane. They always traveled in pairs. They
were not allowed to go alone shopping or any of those things,
so there were a lot of interesting kinds of cultural
differences that we had to overcome and understand. And I
think that was all very positive for the community."
>>Mixed among the foreign pavilions
was a seeming endless array of domestic exhibits
(Mike Kobluk) "Part of my job was
to try find the on-site entertainment. To try to
find the groups that were going to perform on the site.
The concept was, that every time you turned the corner there was
supposed to be something happening, so we were going to
be looking for the bands, the musical events, the clowns, the
jugglers, the magicians and those kinds of things, all
throughout the site, so that when a visitor came to the site,
there would be, not only the pavilions to see, but all this
>>One of the most popular areas to find an
ever-changing variety of this free entertainment was the Folk
Life Festival located on the north bank of the river.
(Robert Glatzer) What we wanted ot do in Folk Life
was to bring people into immediate and prolonged
contact with cultures and heritages and traditions and
activities that they might not have had a chance to see before
in their own lives. After all, Spokane at that time was a very
old-fashioned city. I used to say it was like walking into a
Booth Tarkington novel: there was the heavy hand of
Anglo-Saxon mentality and mores that hung over this whole
region. People who weren't of the British persuasion were
self-conscious and often intimidated about expressing
their own heritage. We asked ourselves what were the
heritages of occupations and traditions in the Northwest:
railroading, logging, mining. Well, we had visitors come and
pan for gold. And we would have logging shows 3 times a day 7
days a week for 6 months, and we would invite visitors--not to do
chopping or buck-sawing, or anything like that--but we would
invite them to do log-rolling if they wanted to do it; talk to
railroad men--we had a Union-Pacific locomotive on the
site, manned by old Union-Pacific people--and so we
had those. We had quilters who would invite people to come and
sit down and work with them on the EXPO quilt, which they did.
"So those were the kinds of things that we had. We had boat
builders from Puget Sound that actually came and built a wooden
sailing ship during the six months of EXPO. Those were the
things people could get into. Then every week we had an ethnic
group and perhaps another cultural heritage group, who
would come and do things like cook or dance or play
games--traditional things--tell stories, share things like that
with visitors." Reporter: "The Folk life Festival region at
EXPO '74 is this week featuring Ukrainian arts and crafts and
entertainment. And fairgoers are given a chance to participate in
many of the exhibits, and learn a little bit more about the
Ukrainian culture. "Are you baking all this stuff right on
the grounds here?" "Yes we are, with the exception of the two
larger ones, they were brought in from Vancouver. Canada. The
stoves here are not large enough so we're not able to do it. But
we are showing them, demonstrating them, how to do
these, and how we make twirls, how we make the various designs,
how we make the doves. I've made a batch over there, as you can
see, and the various designs, and this gives the people an
idea just how we apply the various designs to our wedding
breads, or to our Easter paskas." >>And, if things got a
little slow at the festival, well, that was nothing a little
gold rush couldn't solve. (Glatzer) "We had these
wonderful, wonderful prospectors who were just great with people.
They were for real, they came from Murray Idaho, and they were
miners for all of their lives. Anyway, they were very good at
"palming" little nuggets--now there are no nuggets of gold in
this area, but nobody knew that at the time--so they would come
over and they would help someone to pan for gold, and they would
say 'nows here's what you gotta do, and you've gotta kind of
swish it this way and that". And here, from their palm they would
just let this nugget go into the thing. 'O my goodness, look what
you've got!' And there just happened to be a camera crew
there watching it. Well, it was that kind of thing. >>The
possibility of gold may have brought some people to the site,
but, all in all, it was the sharing of culture that seemed
to have a lasting effect on everyone involved. (Glatzer) I
think that they recognized that they had something worthwhile in
themselves. And we saw, after EXPO, a lot of these ethnic
groups and cultures found the strength in themselves to keep
on going and to renew themselves. And even to grow in
strength and ability. If there was any legacy of the Folk life
Festival, I would guess that was it.
>>One of the most important
legacies left to Spokane as a result of the Fair are the Opera
House and Convention Center. (Luke Williams) O I think
without a doubt, we never would have had it without EXPO '74.
The state paid about $10 million dollars to build those
facilities, and Governor Dixie Lee Ray sold it to the city for
a dollar, and that's a bargain. And we never would have been
able to finance or fund that type of a facility. Of course,
it's been used and appreciated by so many people. Not only for
Spokane, but for the whole Inland Northwest.
>>For the first time in Spokane, crowds of up to 2700 people
could gather to see world class productions in a
world class facility.
(Kobluk) I remember Bing Crosby coming in,
who did not perform at the
World's Fair but who came as a guest, and standing on the stage
and saying: 'Ah, let me try this out, Ba-Ba-Ba-Boo.' And he said,
'This is really a fabulous auditorium. I'm going to have to
come back here and play sometime'. And he whistled off,
and we never could get him to come back." >>Bing Crosby didn't
play this house, but many others have. And it all started with
the parade of world famous performers that came to EXPO
'74. (Kobluk) "The Opera House was built as part of the State's
participation in the World's Fair, and it lifted Spokane's
performing arts capability to a new and unknown level. And
certainly the attached Convention Center, and now the
Ag Trade Center with that, put Spokane in a different league as
far as meetings and conferences are concerned. More than that, I
think what the World's Fair did, as far as I'm concerned, is that
it made people understand that we can do things in Spokane,
that we don't have to take a back seat to anybody, and the
sky's the limit, and that imagination is the only
limitation." >>During the six months the fair was open, more
than 5 million people came through these gates to see just
what Spokane could offer. And it was hard to find
anyone who was disappointed.
(Georrge Reitemeier) I think the community tolerated
it up til opening day. They were impressed by opening day, and
they bought into it about 4 days later--maybe a week later.
Because they found out it was exactly what it was represented
to be. Spokane sometimes is a bit reluctant to accept that
which is stated on a public issue. And in this particular
case they found out that it was exactly what it was supposed to
be. And then you couldn't find anyone who voted against it.
They'd all moved out of town. (Jane Johnson) It was sort of
fun to see that happen, because those who had been some of the
biggest critics, all of a sudden were pretty proud of what they
saw, and the fact that it was moving and doing well. We had a
wonderful summer >>But as with all things people seem to hold
most dear, the summer inevitably came to an end. The Fair closed
on a dark and cold November night. President Ford was now in
office, but he was not present. His message to the crowd was
recorded. The fireworks were grand, but similar displays had
been seen every night for the past six months. In short, the
closing did not have the same Pomp and Circumstance of the
opening, but it did serve its purpose. Those responsible for
EXPO '74 were happy it was over. They were also proud of what it
had been. (King Cole) "The memory for me is that after the
ceremony was all over people I knew who were out in the
audience came up to me and everybody was crying: 'Could we
keep it going a little longer? It was so beautiful! We'll never
forget it. And I just had a terrible time to keep from
smiling. I was so happy it was over. It was such a stretching,
such a stressful kind of a thing to go through. And to have it
happen without mishaps or problems, to have it come off
the way it was supposed to do. I probably shouldn't have
smiled as heavy as I did, but i sure was glad it was over. It
was done, it was done well. i was glad for everybody in
Spokane who took so many risks, and worked so hard. And so many
of them had to leave town because that was their job, and
they would have nice memories of us, but. . . I mean, the
Commissioner General, who went on to become an Ambassador from
Canada, he came back here just to visit one time at some sort
of a commemoration, and he said he'll never forget Spokane. He
said that's the fair of all Expos, and he's been to all of
them now, he's been the President of the Bureau of
international Expositions in Paris, and he said that this is
the one, not the big one, not the expensive one, not the one
with the great excitement, he said that this is the one that
he remembers as the one being so perfectly conceived and so
well-delivered and that had such a warm feeling to it. Now that's
a pretty nice way to have anybody leave you
when they leave town.
>>The day after the fair closed workers were already
busy tearing the place apart. Man being interviewed: "The
first priority occurred last night--we removed 289 light
bollards off the sight to protect them from damage. And
the warehouse crew and the grounds crew worked all night.
And this morning why the concessionaires started to move
in and take out their concessions, in fact some of
them are already completely gone. And after this process,
the international pavilions and the domestic pavilions will
remove all of their material. And then we will go into the
phase of actually removing 243,000 sq. ft. of buildings and
concrete and so forth. >>As much as some would have liked it to
remain as it was during EXPO, it would not. (King Cole) "And on
purpose. The Bureau of International Expositions gave
us permission to have an exposition of a special
category, which one of the requirements was that none of
the buildings were permanent. We had to take them all down. And
we liked that because we wanted to have a park, and the more you
leave up, the harder it is to get rid of. So we could just say
'I'm sorry, the rules are set. We have to take 'em down. >>By
design only three buildings remained where they were during
the fair. Its vinyl top is now just a memory, and the IMAX
theater has been moved to the side, but the U.S. pavilion is
still a prominent fixture of the Spokane skyline. The Opera House
and Convention Center--which has since been expanded--are also
city landmarks. And the unique copper-topped building which was
the temporary home to the Bavarian Beer Gardens during the
fair, was always meant to be the permanent home of the
now-beloved carousel. After the fair, the city wasted little
time transforming this area into a park. (Jack O'Brien) "That's
what we were committed to do, and we honored that commitment.
But, I think probably the most important contribution that that
park has made to Spokane is that it has provided a kind of an
anchor to downtown. Downtown Spokane is different from most
other downtowns because it has Riverfront Park, see. And even
though that has seen its peaks and valleys since EXPO '74, it's
still there, it's still functional, and it's still to a
very, very commendable degree serving the purpose for which it
was intended." >>The park itself is an important legacy to
Spokane residents, but so is the self-esteem which was built
along with it. (Jack O'Brien) "Probably more than any other
measurable impact, it was in their opinion of themselves. In
their own ego as a community. Up until that time Spokane had been
just sort of a nice sort of a railroad town that had grown up
because there were a lot of wheat fields around us, and a
lot of mines to the east of us. But, beyond that we really
weren't all that much. But then all of a sudden, we're a good
enough, a big enough, a strong enough town to put on an
International Exposition. And I think it changed, at least for
those days, the image that people had of themselves in
Spokane. That we are different; that we are 'Spokane'."
Now, some people may say,
that these are qualities that people of this city
no longer possess. But others believe that you just have to
know where to look. (King Cole) "We gotta keep on being
nice to each other, and thoughtful. Not only thoughtful,
but thoughtful in the buildings you build; thoughtful in the
ways you raise your children; thoughtful the way the children
act, and in the way business people treat their employees and
treat each other. "We always very close to being successful
in that, very close to major success, and we came there
during the fair. We hit it because the stimulus was there.
And it'll come back full bore anytime we want it to--if we
want it to."
>>What the future holds for Spokane and the park is
another story we will have to wait for time to reveal.
However, there's no denying the impact that EXPO '74 had on
Spokane. Countless people gave part of themselves to make it,
and this park, a reality. And they realize that most of the
people who enjoy it today and in the years to come will never
even know their names. But as one EXPO official put it,
'That's okay, as long as Spokanites do remember that once
there was a generation that cared enough about this city's
future to give its people a legacy they can be proud of.'