by Kirby Lindsay, posted 7 May 2012
For a generation, the 1962 World’s Fair came at a particularly auspicious moment in their youth. “We were all 8, 9 or 10, Kennedy was in office and we were going to the moon,” Fremont resident Bill Crossman recalled. The Century 21 Exposition celebrated an era and a city, and nothing bears this out as well as the memorabilia that has remained behind.
“People get all crazy and giddy,” Crossman said, about himself and others, when they start talking about going to the Fair. He does talk about it a lot, since his business these days is in the collectibles that have remained behind from that historic event. In the items that Crossman finds and shares, it is easy to see the vaguely provincial city that Seattle was, and the pride we exhibited in showing it off. This history may appeal most to those who recall the Fair, but in this 50th Anniversary year it would be worth a look by all Seattlites – to see where we were in the summer of ’62, and how far we’ve come.
How Far Crossman Has Come
In 2006, when he retired after a full career in education and marketing, Crossman decided it was his time to act like a child. He had no interest in starting out on another career (and meeting him, a quiet, retired life doesn’t seem real possible,) and instead he sought something that would engage his interest – and launched a business in ’62 Seattle Collectibles.
At first, “I had a display at Pioneer Square,” he said. He found and sold items there, and as well as at the Fremont Antique Mall. Eventually, he found his website most effective at both selling and finding items, and giving advice as his expertise grew. He recently installed a new display (beside the checkout) at the Fremont Vintage Mall, so history buffs (and shoppers) can see the treasures from Seattle’s most shining moment.
Where Crossman Was
“We went one day,” Crossman recalled of the Fair, “I wanted to go more.” His parents operated the Horseshoe Tavern in Tacoma, and the trip up to Seattle – and a day spent at the Fair – couldn’t have been easy. Crossman didn’t make it back that summer, but “when I was older,” in his teens, “I would take the Greyhound Bus,” up to Seattle (it cost $1.99.) No matter where he started in his explorations, he admitted, “I would find myself at the International Fountain.”
Crossman grew up in Tacoma, yet as an adult he worked at a few different school districts – and for the State – and relocated a few times. “I’ve lived around the State,” he said, “and when I traveled to Seattle, I would always stay at the Travelodge by the Seattle Center.” When he retired, he moved to Fremont and enjoys the view of the Space Needle as Fremonsters see it – a UFO hovering over Queen Anne.
Also, “I have a 7-year-old grandson,” he explained. “At least once a month we go on an adventure,” Crossman related, “and usually end up at Seattle Center.” He enjoys these opportunities to explore the ‘fairgrounds’ as they have become fifty years later, including visits to the EMP and the Children’s Museum, as well as the Pacific Science Center and the Center House. “I’ve seen it through his eyes,” Crossman observed.
Where We All Are Going
“The Science Center needs refurbishing,” he observed when asked about the Center, 50 years later, “I like the EMP.” Crossman doesn’t changes made at the Center. For him, it’s a park – and a place for families, although a pricey one. He did object to the Chihuly Exhibition Hall. He said he might have preferred something more in touch with our Native American heritage, but he fully acknowledged the need to replace the Fun Forest. While Crossman collects the memorabilia of ’62, it becomes apparent that he hasn’t become stuck in the era – or see a need to freeze the Center in that time.
His healthy attitude extends to his collection – from the ephemera of coloring books, ticket stubs and prints, to the commemorative glasses, jewelry, dolls and tea cups. “I have something I like to look at,” he explained, “and then it is time to pass it on.” He decorates his home with the treasures, and enjoys talking about them, but he also willingly parts with pieces when he finds someone who shares his appreciation.
His collection, he admitted, has come largely from e-Bay. “I don’t go to estate sales,” he said, even though more and more memorabilia has become available as the adults who went to the Fair, and acquired the trinkets, start passing away. This phenomenon has also created a sideline for Crossman in giving advice, appraisals and explanations about what the items were. These days, he frequently also advises people to beware of reproductions being sold as originals, particularly with the anniversary celebration gearing up.
He does own a number of particularly unusual and unique items – especially an architectural rendering of the fairgrounds, printed on corrugated cardboard, as a promotional item for Bar S Meats displayed at a grocery store. Yet, for him, the ‘Holy Grail’ of Seattle World’s Fair memorabilia is a champagne glass, with a green stem. Only 1,000 of these particular glasses were made – and given to 1,000 guests who used them to toast the Fair. The glass might be worth from $700-800 Crossman estimated.
“It’s a very narrow niche,” he acknowledged, of his business. Natives of the Pacific Northwest, that knew the Fair and stayed in this region, may fully grasp the importance of the six months in 1962. “People have to have an emotional connection,” he stated. Yet, even for those who didn’t go, and don’t remember, the history of the pieces – the icons it celebrated, the view it gave of a bright, successful Seattle, and the choice of products made to promote it – are well worth a view.
Take a look, if only in celebration of the anniversary, by stopping by the Vintage Mall and seeing some of the collectibles. Or, stop by the website or Facebook group (Seattle Worlds Fair Memories,) and see what this time capsule of 1962 history looks like.
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©2012 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.