Our journey through time

The Seattle World’s Fair was held in the summer of 1962. A group of visionary risk-takers had been promoting the idea for at least a decade. Their vision came to fruition that summer with nearly 10 million people visiting the 75-acre fairgrounds. The space had been prepared with a number of futuristic buildings and public works projects. Most famous of them all was the Space Needle, a 600 ft observation tower that features an observation deck 500 ft above the surrounding neighborhood. The tower, once the tallest structure west of the Mississippi in the United States, used to house two restaurants. After a renovation in 2000 a single larger restaurant remains.

We didn’t make it to the World’s Fair in 1962. My parents were committed to family travel and invested in some pretty big family trips. We all loaded into our twin Beech, a converted military C45, and flew from our home in Montana to Washington DC in 1959. In 1961 our family trip included stops in Salt Lake City and San Francisco. With the pattern of taking a big trip every other year, we didn’t have a big family trip in 1962, but we did make it to Seattle in 1963. We landed our airplane at Boeing Field just four miles south of downtown Seattle. At the time it was the center of Boeing airliner production prior to the opening of the larger facility at Everett.

I was just a year older than our oldest grandson is today as we wandered around the fairgrounds, eating at the International cafes in the large pavilion and riding monorail and the elevators to the observation deck of the space needle. One of the details I remember from that long ago trip is that the elevators traveled at 10 mph, a very fast rate. It all seemed very futuristic to me. The Seattle World’s Fair was also known as the 21st Century Exposition. I imagined that some day in the distant future, in the 21st Century, there would be lots and lots of towers like the space needle, that people would live in them and have flying cars that could zoom to and from the structures.

It was, of course, impossible for me to imagine what the 21st Century would really be like. the years have gone by, however, and somehow they have found me living an hour north of the Space Needle. Roughly half way between our home and downtown Seattle is the Boeing Everett Factory that includes the largest building in the world. It isn’t tall like the Space Needle, but the roof of the plant covers more acres than the entire 1962 World’s Fair grounds. Just under 100 acres of roof cover the giant building.

We don’t have any flying cars. We don’t live in 600 ft towers. The Space Needle, however, still can draw a crowd. With the pandemic, the number of people allowed in the Needle has been reduced to 25% of capacity. Visitors must wear face coverings and the lines waiting to ascend are spaced out. We haven’t visited the Needle or ridden its elevators for several years, but it is something I plan to do after the pandemic has eased and we feel it is safe to go to more crowded places once again. Maybe I’ll also take the factory tour at the Boeing plant one day as well.

I have been thinking of that phase of my life, when I was 10 years old, quite a bit lately. The key inspiration for my memories is our grandson whose nine-year-old enthusiasm and energy inspire us. This has been reinforced by my project of going through family photos. I’ve discovered a few pictures of myself from those days. I thought those pictures would be especially interesting to our grandson and he was polite when looking at them, but he was far more interested in the pictures of his father when his father was a baby. It was amazing to our grandchildren to think that their father once looked like the baby in that picture.

As I looked at the pictures with our grandchildren, I had to admit that it is an amazing thing to remember when he was a baby. We had no clue at that time that he would grow up to be a father of three, be a respected professional in his field, and live in Northwest Washington. All of that seemed a very long way from the North Dakota town where he was born. We couldn’t have imagined how things turned out now that we are living in the 21st Century.

Sitting there, surrounded by three of our grandchildren, I realized that we can’t imagine what their future holds. They are likely to live into the 22nd Century.

I wonder if they will get to have flying cars. By that time the Space Needle might not look at all futuristic. The big Boeing factory in Everett may no longer be needed. We just don’t know.

I wonder where they will live, how they will travel, who they will meet, what kind of parents they will be. There are so many things about the future that are beyond my capacity to imagine, but it doesn’t keep me from thinking about that future.

The lives of my grandparents spanned from horse and buggy days to a moon landing. The pace of change has accelerated in our generation. The changes won’t just be in the form of transportation. A lot of other changes will occur as well. The planet will continue to be more crowded and new systems will need to be developed to keep the air and water clean enough to support human life and health. There will be plenty of really difficult challenges that require visionary imagination, creative thinking and capable engineering.

It is an awesome responsibility to be the link between my grandparents and my grandchildren. The collective memory of our people depends on sharing the stories from generation to generation. There are stories that will survive only if we take the time to tell them.

It makes me very grateful for the time I have with our grandchildren and the stories they are learning right now.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!