- The 1962 Seattle World's Fair (handout, discussion questions, activities) WA State History Illustration

Seattle World's Fair

Dear Pen Pal (Handout)
Discussion Questions & Activities

Imagine the year is 1962...

Summer, 1962

Dear Pen Pal,

We went to the Seattle WORLD'S FAIR today - the first world's fair to be held in the United States in over twenty years! In case you haven't read about it, it's called "Century 21 Exposition" which doesn't sound that cool, but it's the best fair ever!

The theme of the fair is "The Space Age." You wouldn't believe all the stuff they have! Twenty-nine nations have pavilions or displays at the fair! That's twenty-nine different countries! I was so excited when Dad said we could go. He's not much on crowds.

Dad said the lines everywhere would be awful, including the lines at the ferry. He had the whole family at the island ferry dock by 4:30 in the morning, and we still had to wait! It was that crowded!

When the ferry docked at Seattle, we climbed on the Getabout Bus. You know how Seattle is mostly uphill from the harbor? We kept passing crowds of people who were trying to walk all the way from the harbor to the fair. They probably didn't know the bus was free! We left them huffing behind us, and hopped off the bus at The Monorail.

The Monorail is the next thing you take to get to the Seattle's World Fair. It's a train in the sky - no joke! A sky train runs on tracks built above the city - I know, it sounds impossible! The sky train can move 10,000 people an hour! The city built it just to haul people from downtown Seattle to the World's Fair. It's about a ten minute ride. I must say, familiar things look quite differently when you're high in the sky on your way to the Seattle World's Fair International Exposition!

The minute the sky train dumped us out, Dad hauled us off to the United States Science Pavilion. We took an imaginary rocket ride to outer space, and traveled billions of light years - past the moon, Mars, Jupiter, Pluto! How? By watching the world's largest movie screen through the biggest and widest movie lens ever made!

After we explored the United States Science Pavilion, Dad gave my brother the next pick. He chose the "Gayway" - nineteen thrill rides - newly created and just invented for our World's Fair by German and Italian engineers! We drove this little gasoline-powered sports car around a specially created track. Then we went on the "Geister Express", a two-level ride through a spooky dark Swiss nightmare scene. Then we went through the "Allotria", a German Fun House. What a blast!

Mom decided she needed something to do that didn't beep, spin or bump, so she took her choice next - a slow stroll to The Coliseum Century 21 Theme Building. Dad said the Coliseum is so big that it covers nearly four acres! I have no idea how it remains standing, but it's quite a sight! It's eleven stories high, but has absolutely no inside supports. (Being an engineer, my father knows things like this.) My favorite part was the Bubbleator - the bullet shaped plastic elevator. It takes you all the way to the top, to the floating city of the future. This is where they have all the displays to show how people might live in the future. What will life be like in the year 2000? According to the exhibits in the floating city of the future, we're going to wear plastic clothes, use solar powered appliances, and eat foods made from cotton and wood wastes!

Can wood wastes make you hungry? One turn around the floating city, and my whole family was starving! Dad took us out to lunch in the Food Circus.

I think the Food Circus was my Mom's favorite section of the Fair. There are about thirty different food places, arranged around three open spaces - like rings in a circus. First, you visit whichever food place you want, then you bring your food back, and meet your family at one of the tables at ring side. Each ring has performing acts you can watch while you eat - magicians, tumblers, dancers, singing groups!

From ring side (from everywhere really) you can see the Space Needle, the "Eye in the Sky". It was designed to look like a flying saucer, and it does! At the very top is a restaurant. On top of the restaurant is a beacon (a light) that shines up into the sky. And the restaurant spins! It revolves in a complete circle once every hour. All it takes to turn this big room full of people is a single one-horsepower motor! The people who built the Space Needle said that they could turn the earth around with the same motor, if they only had something to set the earth on!

The Space Needle is the tallest building west of the Mississippi River (Dad said), and it's the symbol of the Seattle World's Fair. It's about 600 feet high! I wanted to take the elevator up to the observation deck. The elevator rises on the outside of the spire. It has portholes so you can see out. But the line was too long. Instead, I chose to stroll the "Boulevards of the World." We didn't buy anything. Everything was too expensive. But we had a lot of fun window shopping at all the things for sale.

What can I say? The Seattle World's Fair is simply .... the best fair ever! Dad says the real stars of the fair are the engineers from around the world who built it.

Well, that's it for now. Write me back soon! Signing off ....Your pen pal, ME!


Fun at the Seattle World's Fair 1962
Discussion Questions & Activities

Classroom Questions

1. How many kids are in this family? Name one thing we know about each of them.

2. What is the floating city of the future?

3. This pen pal letter mentions some of the guesses about what life might be like in the year 2000. Did they guess right?

4. What does this pen pal letter tell us about family life in the 1960's?

5. This letter mentions flying saucers and aliens and outer space. Name an event that might have triggered interest and awareness of space and space travel on such a grand scale that "The Space Age" became the theme of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair.

Your Turn

A. Your turn - Make up a question that does not have a yes or no answer using the information provided in this pen pal letter. Write down your question on a piece of paper. Give your question to the person behind you. If you are the last person in your row, bring your question to the first person in your row. Immediately, retake your seat. (Example question: Is the author of this pen pal letter a boy or a girl?)

B. Answer the question handed to you. Justify your answer. Then, hand the paper you are holding (with question and answer) to the person behind you. If you are the last person in your row, bring your question to the first person in your row. Immediately, retake your seat.

C. Challenge the answer handed to you. Disagree with the answer provided (even if you really agree.) Briefly, justify your position. (Make up something - be creative!)