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50th anniversary of Seattle's World's Fair conjures up good memories among locals

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A group of area residents reflect on the Seattle World's Fair during a game of dominoes at the Sunnyside Senior Center. Pictured clockwise from left are Cheryl Holmes, Mary Ann Abercrombie, Gloria Alexander and Barbara Diaz.

In 1962 they overcame a fear of heights, rode the monorail and even saw Elvis.

Fifty years later locals are still talking about the time when the world came to Seattle for the 1962 World's Fair. It opened 50 years ago tomorrow, April 21.

The fair's futuristic theme was Century 21 and today, in the 21st century, Seattle's fair still brings plenty of smiles.

Mary Ann Abercrombie of Sunnyside was afraid of heights and the thought of going up the Space Needle was intimidating.

It also didn't help that family gave her a good-natured teasing, jumping up and down in the elevator on the way up the needle, with a height of 605 feet.

"It was an experience," she smiled. "I loved it once I got back down on earth." The secret to overcoming her fear and ascending the needle? "I prayed a lot," she laughed.

Jim and Jerri Honeyford of Sunnyside were young married students at CWU when they went to the 1962 fair. Their first-born child was only three months old at the time and accompanied them in a stroller.

"We went there in August before school started and there were a lot of people thinking the same thing. It was crowded," Jerri recalls.

"The Space Needle...that was really an experience to go up there and look out over Seattle. The view up there was dramatic."

Though by far the biggest, the Space Needle was not the only attraction at Seattle's World's Fair.

Linda Cornwell of Outlook was 14 years old at the time, and she fondly recalls riding the monorail during the World's Fair. "It went so fast. Faster than my dad drove," she said.

She also went to the Space Needle, but was content to look up at the skyscraper, then the tallest structure west of the Mississippi. "I was afraid to go up," Cornwell admitted.

Goldendale native Gloria Alexander, now of Sunnyside, went to the Seattle World's Fair with her classmates as part of Goldendale High School's senior class trip. Alexander said she went on the trip with her boyfriend. "We spent most of our time eating and doing silly things," she smiled.

Terry Fischer was only nine years old when she rode a Greyhound bus with her mother from Sunnyside to the Seattle fair. "I was so little that everything looked twice as big as it really was," she said.

Cheryl Holmes, now of Sunnyside, was a high school student in western Washington at the time of the Seattle fair. She figures her family made five or six trips to the World's Fair during its six-month run.

"We drove down to the fair all the time," Holmes said. She recalled how the Space Needle in those early days would make a startling jolt occasionally as it made its circular turn.

But that wasn't the biggest excitement for Holmes.

"I saw Elvis Presley," she gushed. Presley was at the fair for his feature film, It Happened at the World's Fair, which was set at the Seattle fair.

Holmes said Presley was accompanied by dignitaries, including Gov. Rosellini, but her focus was on the King.

When asked her reaction to seeing Elvis in person, Holmes laughed, "I was a high school girl! What do you think I thought? He was drop-dead handsome!"

It was just one of many exciting days for locals who made the trip to Seattle to see the world back in 1962.

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