Paula Becker and Alan J. Stein

The Space Needle, Elvis, the Monorail, the Bubbleator at the Food Circus … there was even a nightclub with feathered and occasionally topless showgirls (!) on the Seattle Center campus, which was specially cleared and created for our city's grandest post-war celebration. Part of the charm to flipping through historians Paula Becker and Alan Stein's The Future Remembered: The 1962 Seattle World's Fair and Its Legacy (HistoryLink.org, $39.95) is the nostalgia appeal, but there's also a bit of a rebuke in its futuristic, optimistic pages. 1962 was a time when we built things, when we got things done. Boeing jetliners, the new I-5 freeway, a second bridge across the lake—we didn't suffer from political gridlock or debates about stimulus spending and deficits. The looming 50th-anniversary coincides, too, with the current Mad Men chic, a longing for JFK-era glamor and political certainty. And such ambition! The Century 21 Exhibition, as it was called, had a space-age theme, since the Russians had already beaten us into orbit and Boeing was becoming a major player in the aerospace industry. And the visitors—Igor Stravinsky and Van Cliburn, Nixon and RFK, Dennis the Menace and Nat King Cole! Seattle craved, and got, the recognition that its boosters and government officials believed would bring more tourists and trade. But in truth, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Amazon would've probably happened without it; and the money-losing Seattle Center itself has proven to be a white elephant despite a half-dozen redevelopment schemes. Today, can you imagine anyone proposing another World's Fair in Seattle? Where we'd have to condemn properties and issue bonds? And the traffic? Not a chance. BRIAN MILLER

Thu., Feb. 23, 6:30 p.m., 2012

 
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