We asked print and online readers for their Expo ’74 memories and photos, and reprint a selection here. View the photos at www.spokesman.com/ reader-photos/expo-74. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Mark Conlin, Spokane: My wife Kathy and I have one of the largest souvenirs from Expo ’74. After the Worlds Fair, we purchased the Expo ’74 post office building at an auction the following spring. They were removing the buildings to make way for the park. We disassembled the building and transported it to Lake Pend Oreille and made it into a lake cabin. We built an addition to the cabin along with several improvements over the years. Five generations of our family have enjoyed the lake at the Expo ’74 post office building.
Robert Grossman, Camano Island: As coordinating architect for the construction of Expo ’74, I spent many hours on the site with the various contractors. On this particular day, the metal framework for the iconic “butterfly” structures had just been erected, held in place by three guy wires. Parked adjacent to one was a construction truck belonging to one of the large utility companies working nearby. One of the guy wires had not been properly secured, and the butterfly frame fell across the truck but, held somewhat above the ground by the butterfly arms, managed to just barely cause some cosmetic damage to the vehicle. Surveying the damage, the crew members were discussing which one of them would fill out the company’s required accident report. Finally the crew supervisor indicated he didn’t plan to submit a report. When asked why, his response was: “What am I going to say – that a butterfly fell on my truck?!!”
Pat Cadagan, Spokane: I worked in an office downtown at that time so got to enjoy watching the area evolve from a railroad slum to world exposition site on a daily basis while watching the countdown in the Clocktower windows. On opening day I was lucky enough to score a spot in the shade of the Russian Pavilion to watch the opening ceremonies. President Nixon, countless hot air balloons, the doves, the march of nations, soooo many memories. Then there was lunch every day in a different country thanks to the Food Fair. As a member of the Spokane Jaycees at the time, I was fortunate enough to be one of four chosen to be “Mayor’s Ambassadors,” meaning we acted as driver-escorts for and with Mayor David Rodgers as he entertained visiting dignitaries. Truly a wonderful time to be living in Spokane!
Arlene Calhoun, Nine Mile Falls: Just a note to let you know about my parents and Expo … believe it or not, they attended the fair every day for the entire six-month run! There was always something new. All of the entertainers would rotate from the different countries. They were both retired and they never missed a day, they absolutely loved it. We used to tease them about it but now that I think about it … They had a wonderful time and made many friends from many countries.
Frances (Wang) Martin, Spokane: I worked in the Chinese Pavilion for the World’s Fair as the chief hostess. I met my husband Terry Martin during the fair and later on we were married here. The Chinese, Korean and Japanese pavilions were next to each other. A woman who lived in Spokane named Haru was the secretary of the commissioner general of the Japanese pavilion. She would come over to chat from time to time. One day she said, “You don’t go out.” I told her you should be properly introduced. So she said, “Oh, I can introduce you to somebody.” A few weeks later she said “I got one. I’m sending him to your pavilion to say hi to you.” Here comes this graduate from Gonzaga Law School. I see this guy with sideburns, long hair and a leisure suit, polyester of course. He didn’t talk much, he was very quiet and shy, but I talk a lot. We went out a few times and it worked. But I must return home because of my passport. I came back in May and we got married in August in Spokane. This event was monumental for a small town to host. A lot of people put out a lot of heart, soul and money. I hope people don’t forget.
Donald Orlich, Pullman: Expo ’74 was a great experience for my wife and two children. We bought season tickets and drove to Spokane about every week or so. A memorable highlight was attending every session of the Trinidad Cavaliers steel drum orchestra. They played on steel drums tuned and harmonized to give a wonderful organ effect. Calypso and other West Indies tunes abounded. And they even played “Time is Tight” and “In the Mood.” We still have their 12-inch vinyl “Steel Vibrations” album.
John Miller, Portland: I marveled at the striking clash of mottos on the pavilions. U.S.: “The Earth does not belong to Man, Man belongs to the Earth.” USSR: “The land and its mineral wealth, waters, forests, factories, are state property that belong to the whole people.” The U.S. quoted Chief Seattle while the Soviets featured their “Decree on Land.” Scary contrast! I just loved everything about Expo ’74 and how it transformed my hometown. I moved to Portland in 1972, but purchased a full pass, and I came up many times to visit the fair and my family. I get emotional to this day just thinking about it.
Maryrose Groce, Spokane Valley: When the opera “Aida” was in the Opera House during the Expo the lead was a lady from Croatia by the name of Bozena Ruk Focic. My husband and I greeted her when she arrived with her husband at Spokane International Airport. I spent much time with them during the two weeks they were here. The reason was that I was asked to be her interpreter. My parents were born in what is now Slovenia.
Janet Pattison, Spokane: I met my husband at the 1974 Expo. We were both competitive roller skaters; he was a short track speed skater (his parents owned Pattison’s Rollercade) and I was an artistic skater from Portland. This was the first year I had not qualified for nationals in seven years and I had just turned 18, so a girlfriend and I decided to drive up to the Expo in Spokane. We made reservations at the Bell Motel and sent our $13.50 deposit in. My girlfriend and I get to Spokane and can’t find our motel, so we go to the skating rink (now Pattison’s North) hoping to find our friends…that was the first time I met my husband. Well, no one knew where the Bell Motel was and couldn’t find it in the phone book even; so Larry said we could crash at their house, seeing how there was not an empty room in town. The next day seven or eight of us decided to go to Expo together. My husband was very shy back then, but as we were walking from where we parked, everyone just kind of goofing around, he grabbed my hand joking around about going to the Union Gospel Mission instead and never let go of it. Two days after that….this shy man asked me to marry him!! We were in Spokane for about a week and a half and went to Expo three or four times. We got married a month and a half later, after having only been together an accumulative of two weeks. We will be celebrating our 40th anniversary this October. We have three children and six grandchildren.
Terry Hontz, Spokane: I was a student at SFCC and night custodian at the Spokane County Courthouse in those days. Many nights we watched the 10 p.m. fireworks from the courthouse tower. And I attended the fair nearly every day as I lived just blocks away on West Broadway.
Don Cummings, Mead: My memories of Expo ’74 go back to late ’73 and spring of ’74 when I supervised up to 85 men at Dix Steel Co. where we fabricated five walk bridges and the U.S. Pavilion. I am proud of that experience and the way this small city carried out the large task of cleaning out the old part of the city and pulled it all off. I was across the river when President Nixon opened and was so proud to have a part in it.
Charlie Bowman, Spokane: I parked cars at the Coliseum. I worked there all through high school, that was my junior year of high school. I got to see all the shows, got to see Grand Funk Railroad, Aerosmith, Rush. I met Jim Nabors, shook his hand. We worked noon to 6 p.m. We could cut through the Coliseum to get from one side to the other, we were walking right by the stage, he pointed down to us and said, “I need some backup singers for the next song, how about you two guys?” That was a great summer. We used to look forward to going to work.
Deborah Wittwer, Spokane: When we picked that day for our wedding, I didn’t realize it was going to be the opening day of Expo. My best friend since first grade was supposed to sing with Rogers High School for Nixon, but she came to my wedding. I was late getting to the church because of the traffic. I was being married while Nixon was speaking and when I came out of the church the sky was filled with balloons. It was a wonderful feeling. My husband’s name was Robin Wittwer; he died in 2002.
Keith LaMotte, Spokane: Our Expo story begins early in 1974 on radio station KMPC in Los Angeles. My mother-in-law decided to enter a contest sponsored by Hughes Air West. Her challenge was to figure out the clues on the radio about Spokane, solve a puzzle, and send in a postcard. She figured out the clues, despite having never set foot in Spokane, gave us the answers and we, along with her and my father-in-law, each sent in the cards. We both won trips.
We set down in Spokane in the last half of September, which provided refreshing weather for a couple of Southern Californians – short sleeve days and windbreaker evenings. On the last of our four days, with a late afternoon flight back to Smogville, we had become intrigued with the city and started walking around. I worked for IBM at the time, and our wandering took us to the IBM office and ended up looking in the window of what appeared to be a closed real estate office on Sprague looking at the photos of homes for sale.
The seeds had been planted, and after some soul searching and prayer, we decided in November to see if we could engineer a transfer to the IBM office here in Spokane. I actually began working here in mid-February, then returned to Palos Verdes, sold the house, and Caroline and I and our three children (almost 10, 7, and 4) headed for Spokane in a U-Haul truck.
But that’s only a fraction of the story. My cousin, who helped us move, went back to Pasadena, got his wife and moved here in July. Following that, Caroline’s sister, husband and two children; Caroline’s brother and wife; my aunt, niece and her daughter; and Caroline’s parents arrived in the late ’70s and early ’80s. And then between 2006 and 2012, five more families with 22 new Spokane residents settled into the beautiful Inland Empire.
So you could say that my 95-year-old mother-in-law is responsible for a substantial number of former Californians finding their way to Spokane. And I haven’t heard any one of them wishing they’d stayed in Southern California!
David Roberts, Spokane: I hadn’t yet turned 18 during my senior year in high school when Expo ’74 opened. Certainly, by then, President Nixon was in big trouble but he got the stage to launch it. I bought a season pass and I enjoyed many visits to the World’s Fair. Several of my friends and I had jobs working as busboys at the Black Angus Restaurant (now Anthony’s) across the river from the site with a spectacular view of the upper falls (remember the stainless steel dance floor?) Throughout the summer, the place was packed every evening, especially for the fireworks show to close the fair for the day – we worked our tails off but we also got to watch the show from that prime location. When I had a night off, I liked to go to the view spot at the east end of Canada Island to watch the fireworks – right underneath the explosions! Another favorite was the Imax Theater – such new technology then. Felt like I would fly out of my chair when the traffic scene came to a screeching halt. The rides, riding the sky-whatever-it-was with a date, exotic international foods, colorful butterflies for landmarks, sparkling water, friendly people from all over the world – good times in Spokane!
Lee Stone, Post Falls: I had just graduated from Shadle Park and started working as a janitor at the Expo ’74 Headquarters/YMCA building. I got to watch the construction of the site and often saw King Cole and Mayor (David) Rodgers with the site’s architects working late. The headquarters had several desks of photographers who tossed boxes of rejected slides out showing construction and conceptual artwork that I would take home and pick out the best. I’ve sent some of these to the photo upload site.
Arlene Mork, Spokane: I remember the French onion soup, the ebelskivers, the didgeridoo music at the Australian exhibit. My most memorable memories are of the beautiful paintings exhibited there. We had a wonderful gallery of famous artists’ works, sponsored by Seattle First National Bank, where I volunteered as a docent. People came from all over the world. I met people I would never have had the opportunity to meet. We couldn’t always speak the same language, but art is universal, and the appreciation of art does not need language. We studied with Radford Thomas for several weeks to become informed of the artists’ works and history so we could answer the visitors’ questions. I still have my homework, and I refer to it. I began to study art and paint with our own resident artists, Herman Keys and John Thamm, because of this experience and it has been a lifetime joy.
Julia Hand, Cheney: Those were exciting, magical, halcyon days for me as an employee of the Expo ’74 public relations department and as a new citizen. To say I enjoyed meeting people every day, and interviewing some of them, would be an understatement. They came from all walks of life and represented diverse interests and life experiences. Most were politicians who visited Expo ’74 for their state day celebrations. Some were entertainers like Liberace and Rolfe Harris. The interviews I did on site with personnel from the USSR Pavilion were interesting but not as spontaneous and natural as I was accustomed to, probably because the interviewees were always accompanied by KGB personnel. It was a bit unsettling to say the least.
I also interviewed Iran’s ambassador to the United States, Ardeshir Zahedi, who at that point in time was also known as Washington DC’s most eligible bachelor. He was a very gracious and charming gentleman. Later that day, I was asked for the cassette containing his interview and was told it was going to Iran in the diplomatic pouch to be broadcast on Radio Tehran. A few days later I received a small package. It contained a commemorative Persian gold coin and a handwritten letter from Ambassador Zahedi expressing his pleasure with our interview. I still have the letter and the gold coin.
Donna Potter Phillips, Spokane: Our story is about our son, Timothy, who turned seven during Expo ’74. One day we were all down enjoying the day as a family when we turn around and Timothy is nowhere to be seen. (The crowds were huge that day.) We backtracked and found him with a vendor on the “blue bridge.” This enormous black man, with a heart as big as he was, was holding and consoling our Timothy with his tear-stained face. Wish I had had my camera that day!
John Miller, Spokane Valley: Kids were 3, 5 and 6 and we went every weekend during the fair. Enjoyed building kites and watching the wooden boat as it made its way to completion. Expo ’74 was one event that helped convince us to stay in Spokane. We arrived in 1973, and we stayed.
James Stueckle: I was 12 years old from Colfax and the concert choir with some children (me) sang “Everything Is Beautiful” there. When Expo ended my father bought some of the pavilions, tore them down and brought the lumber home to Dusty, Wash.
Barbara Curtis, Spokane: My view of the opening ceremonies was from the floating stage as part of the Expo ’74 Official Band. I was the only woman hired as a permanent musician with the band. We stood behind the NORAD Band, a few rows behind the dignitaries and President Nixon. We cleared security early and had to remain on the stage until the close of the ceremony. The day was unseasonably warm for early May and I soon discovered that the turtleneck shirts and band uniform jackets were not designed for hot Spokane summers. Obviously, I have no photos of the event. I am sure many fair-goers have pictures of me, though, as I performed with the band for the duration of Expo.
Lindsey Sean Mahar, Spokane: At the east end of the U.S. Pavilion across from the Imax was one of three main features of the pavilion exhibition space called the Federal Action Center. Incidentally, it is still there. My favorite exhibit at Expo was housed in that facility and was called “The Spokane Story.” It included many audio and video exhibits regarding the history and development of Spokane and included a beautiful and very authentic recreation of a turn-of-the-century downtown basement bar/tavern. This part of the exhibit could be viewed from an elevated walkway on one side of the room. I have never forgotten that exhibit because it was so beautifully presented and yet I can find no mention of “The Spokane Story” exhibit in my Expo literature or on the Web. I just wonder if anyone else remembers it and maybe has some information about it. At the time of Expo, I was a member of the Moose Merrymakers, a clown group that was a unit of the Spokane Moose Lodge #161, and our group visited the Expo at least twice, in costume, and had a great time entertaining the attendees. What a great memory.
Bob Isitt, Spokane: As far as memories, the one that stands out is the obvious one and not particular to just me. It’s the opening day along with 80,000 other people, with the world looking on and President Nixon giving a speech just a few months prior to his resignation as a result of Watergate. My grandpa was a conductor for the Great Northern and we use to drop him off at the depot where the Clocktower still stands. So for me to have experienced that transformation while watching the opening day festivities was a strong memory. To many today it’s just the Clocktower but for me I’m still standing inside the train depot with trains coming and going. Hard to believe it’s been 40 years.
Dan Mullenix, Spokane: I was a junior at University High School and our choir performed at the opening ceremonies for then-President Nixon. (Not that I was a good singer. I took choir thinking it be an easy A.) We were practicing days before on the floating stage when I noticed they had just started up the chairlift that ran from one end of the park to other. I thought how cool it would be to be one of the first on the lift. My friend Greg and I were in the back row of the choir so we climbed off the stage and ran to the beginning of the chairlift. Not thinking this through too well, (as a typical high schooler) the lift went right over the top where the choir was practicing. As we came into view, suddenly my fellow classmates were pointing upwards at us and laughing. At that point, our choir instructor looked up and saw Greg and I passing over the top. Although he may have been laughing on the inside, he sure wasn’t on the outside. He just stood there shaking his head. Yes, we may have gotten in a little trouble, but we still got to sing on opening day.
Sheldon Engstrom, Spokane: I was 10 years old when Expo opened so my favorite part of the World’s Fair was a visit from the president and the chairlift ride that went across the park. My sister and I enjoyed many rides on that chairlift and just plain enjoyed going to the fair. Our family had season passes (my sister still has hers) and all of us enjoyed going to the fair. To this day I still cannot believe how many people were in Riverfront Park on that opening day so many years ago. It was nice seeing our little corner of the world get some attention instead of just Seattle hogging all of it.
Margaret Shields, Liberty Lake: Working downtown durning the 1950s and having to walk to my car after 9 p.m. under the train tracks was a scary ordeal. Downtown Spokane was not a pretty place and where were the falls? Then Expo appeared and so did our river and the falls, plus the world joined in. What excitement and what a beautiful city. When I heard a pass cost $50 I thought I would use it only several times but we used it several times a week. Daytime, and what fun at night. My favorite memories are being able to show off Spokane to out-of-town family and friends. My parents loved it. To this day whenever I am in the city park I am taken back to when the area was dark, and then Expo appeared and now a beautiful park for all to enjoy.
Joan Tracy, Cheney: During the summer of 1974 our daughter, Jean, worked as a waitress at the Davenport Hotel coffee shop. She often finished work at 11 p.m. so my husband and I bought season tickets to Expo. We got to the Expo grounds before 11 p.m. so that we could find a place to sit near the river and watch the fireworks, which happened every night at that time. The fireworks were preceded by music from Handel’s Water Music. We noticed that when the music began the ducks, which were paddling peacefully in the river, moved rapidly upriver, away from the fireworks. They had learned that the music meant that soon a loud noise would be coming.
Shari Davis, Spokane: I do not remember exactly who got me into Expo the day before it opened but it was a connection through my dad’s business at the time. I remember going in by the way of the bridge onto Canada Island. We got to ride the Sky Ride.
I also attended Expo the next day for the opening ceremonies and watched Richard Nixon speak. There were doves let off at the end of the speech. I was 11 years old the summer of Expo ’74 and my parents bought me both a bus pass and a season pass. It was the perfect age as I really enjoyed going to the fair. I counted the number of times I stood in line to see the Imax movie “Man Belongs to Earth” – it was 13 times over the season. I have memories of the Soviet Union pavilion, Australian Pavilion, The Book of Mormon and I want to say the Iran Pavilion. I saw Bill Cosby and Marcel Marceau perform at the new Opera House.
I also have memories of the Indian culture display over on the north side of the fair. I would visit that area quite often over the summer. Of course I would also visit the rides! I have a memory of a very tall Ferris wheel and can remember going on it both day and night.
Every entrance to the fair was designated by a colorful butterfly. There was a red, yellow and lilac one and probably some other colors too. I usually entered at the red entrance. I also rode the gondola many times during the fair. I remember one of the popular toys was the invisible dog on a leash. I watched people spend their money on that all summer long.
Laurie Giles Suess, Colfax: I worked at the Ford Pavilion during Expo ’74. Our pavilion was located close to where the red wagon is today. Great memories of working at Expo ’74.
Jim Stefanoff, Spokane: My brother David Stefanoff and other Explorer Scouts were helping to coordinate liftoff of the manned hot air balloons partaking in the opening ceremony. The plan was for these to all take off at once at the moment the fair opened, along with thousands of small helium balloons. My brother and two hot air balloons were stationed on the roof of what is now the River Park Square parking garage. In final preparation for launch the balloon pilots were making adjustments to their balloon’s air, when one of the pilots accidentally overfilled or overheated his balloon, causing it to lift too hard for the volunteers holding the anchor ropes, and they let go. The result was that the balloon took off, and when the other pilot saw that balloon going up, he lifted off as well … and then when the other balloon pilots who were located on other roofs around the park saw those two going up, they went also. That is why the opening photos of the fair show the hot air balloons up prematurely.
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