Snohomish County remembers the ‘62 World’s Fair

  • Thu Apr 19th, 2012 8:58pm
  • News

By Gale Fiege Herald Writer

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The man then explained to the 12-year-old girl that the dog was a “laddie, not a lassie,” and there was more than one dog playing Lassie in the popular TV series.

“When I returned to my mom, she asked if I had gotten an autograph. I told her that dogs don’t sign autographs,” Meisner said. “Then she told me that the man I had been talking with was Bob Hope. He was such a nice man.”

* * *

While Lassie was the most famous dog at the World’s Fair, the first pooch to reach the top of the Space Needle was a young black Lab named Baron.

To get out of his wife’s hair after she had a baby, Bob Spiwak of Mountlake Terrace took their 5-year-old daughter Vikki on a camping trip on a Thursday near Index. The little girl and the family dog, Baron, disappeared into the woods soon after they arrived. Spiwak could not find them.

“I won’t go into the horror of the next three days, rainy ones,” Spiwak wrote in a recent blog from his current home in the Methow Valley.

The hunt for Vikki was big news on national television and in newspapers across the country. By Saturday evening, the official search was called off, but a Boeing employee named Adam Kintop, who had seven children of his own, would not give up.

Kintop was climbing a hill when he heard a dog growl. He called Baron’s name and the dog came to him. He followed Baron and found Vikki, who was dehydrated, but otherwise OK. The dog had never left her side and had never stopped licking a deep cut on her leg.

Baron was awarded a hero’s medal from the lieutenant governor and granted immunity from the Terrace dogcatcher. It wasn’t long before the Spiwak family and Baron were invited to the World’s Fair.

Vikki’s mom, Lyn Neuhardt, 76, of Everett, remembered that a royal blue carpet was rolled out for Baron and the Spiwak and Kintop families. The group ate lunch at the Century 21 Club where Baron was served a tray of coldcuts.

“Somebody dressed as Huckleberry Hound took Vikki and the Kintop kids on the rides,” she said.

The little girl, now Vikki Anderson, 55, of Bainbridge Island, remembers that her dog was given a Tupperware container of water on the blue carpet.

“I remember how big the fair was and how, at that time in the world, it was the place to be,” Anderson said. “I remember my dad holding me up for a photo at the top of the Space Needle and me asking him not to drop me.”

Bob Spiwak said Baron was the only non-service dog allowed at the time to the top of the Space Needle. A woman there haughtily asked Spiwak if he knew that dogs were not allowed.

“It’s OK,” Spiwak responded. “He is blind and I am his seeing-eye person.”

* * *

As the fair went from spring to summer to fall, people came away with cherished stories they’ve kept their lifetimes.

For Tom Silliman, two remain treasured.

Thirteen at the time, he played trombone in a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth with the Seattle Youth Symphony in front of a large crowd at the Opera House. The other recollection is more boyish. A television station helicopter dropped ping-pong balls as a promotion all over Seattle.

“I found one floating in Green Lake and I won $10 and $10 worth of fair tokens,” said Tom Silliman, 63, of Clearview. “Those were good times.”

Another 13-year-old at the time of the fair was Gable — the boy who ran to the Space Needle. He lived in rural Snohomish and attended a two-room schoolhouse.

“This fair was to be our glimpse into the future, the biggest thing in our lives,” Gable said. “For a school project, I made a replica of the Space Needle out of balsa wood, complete with a rotating top.”

He and a buddy asked for permission to ride the bus to Seattle. Their parents didn’t want to make the long drive to the big city, so off they went. Gable promised to record the adventure for his family with an 8mm movie camera.

It was a great time for boys, Gable said.

And for girls.

Former Herald columnist Kristi O’Harran was 12 when she had fun on the Gayway amusement rides while her parents went to the Gracie Hansen Vegas-style burlesque show.

“I’m still waiting for what I saw in the futuristic house,” said O’Harran of Mill Creek. “I would like to put my clothes in a closet and have them automatically get ironed.”

Food vending machines were popular at the fair, she said.

“I ate hot dogs, riding in buns shaped like boats, sold from vending machines,” O’Harran said. “It was a clever idea and very tasty for a picky eater who would never try other foods from around the world.”

Keith Riedel remembers those same vending machines.

The Monroe man, 14 at the time of the fair, scraped together a little money to go. The entrance fee was expensive for a kid in those days, so he snuck in. His spent his cash instead on a hot dog from the vending machines and a carnival ride.

“It seemed that all of Seattle attended the fair, whether you were rich or poor. Somehow, you found a way,” said Keith Riedel, who is married to Karen Riedel.

Not everyone thought the fair was wonderful.

Self-described curmudgeon Michael Mates, 65, of Monroe, retired from the foreign service and has lived around the world. He remembers being disappointed in the fair.

“My parents agreed with Sir Thomas Beecham, who had conducted the Seattle Symphony, and had called Seattle a cultural dust bin. At the fair, the Egyptian and French exhibits were poorly done and the Belgian waffles were not as good as my mother’s,” Mates said. “I gave it all a second shot and still came away disappointed.

“I still believe the Space Needle is a hideous eyesore.”

Linda McCullough of Edmonds couldn’t disagree more. She worked as an executive secretary at American Building Maintenance organizing the eight cleaning crews at the fair.

“It was the experience of a lifetime. Beautiful!” she said.

Bob Nelson was among a group of young folk singers who sang at the United Nations exhibit each Sunday during the fair.

“It was the a forerunner of the Northwest Folklife Festival, which began about 10 years later in the Seattle Center,” said Nelson, now 74, of Everett.

Gary Hatle graduated from Everett High School in June that year. In celebration of Century 21, he was one of 21 guys from his class who joined the Air Force en masse at a ceremony June 21 on the grounds of the Snohomish County Courthouse.

The infamous Columbus Day windstorm occurred Oct. 12, just nine days before the fair closed. High winds were in the weather forecast for that day, but the prediction did not deter Vera Miller, 81 of Silver Lake, and her husband.

Once they were up on the observation deck of the Space Needle enjoying the view, however, the building began to sway back and forth in the 80 mph gusts. A fair official announced that everybody was to evacuate immediately.

“So we squeezed into the elevator like sardines. Everything was shutting down and the electricity was going. By the time we left, Seattle was dark,” Miller said. “On the way back to Everett, Highway 99 looked like a war zone.”

* * *

Peter Evans, 87, graduated from Everett High School in 1942, and has lived most of his life in Mountlake Terrace.

During Century 21, he was a chemistry teacher at Ballard High School in Seattle. He and some of his students were invited to the World’s Fair to do some work with esteemed Princeton University chemistry professor Hubert Alyea, a friend of Albert Einstein.

“The results of the experiments we performed at the World’s Fair were published in a national science magazine. It was great fun for the kids,” Evans said. “I also took my family to the fair, where they loved riding the Monorail, the sky tram and the Bubbleator in the Coliseum. And our Greek Orthodox church helped out with the Greek exhibit at the fair.

“What I am left with most, though, is that I did not record all of this very well. One does not have a sense of history when you are in the middle of it. We did not know how really big it was.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427;

Gale’s fair visit

Reporter Gale Fiege grew up in Mountlake Terrace and was 5 when she went to the Seattle World’s Fair with her mom, along with her “Memaw” and a great aunt, who were visiting from Ohio. She remembers the crowds and eating a whipped-cream topped Belgian waffle. She wanted to ride to the top of the Space Needle, but her family wasn’t about to waste the money. She has gone up several times since.