Paula Dahl (Jones) was just 6 years old when she became the nine-millionth visitor to Century 21, Seattle's 1962 World's Fair. She and her family were greeted at the gate and given prizes and a red-carpet tour of the fair and its attractions. In this People's History, Ms. Jones recalls what it was like to be a young celebrity for a day.
The Big Day
When I was 6 years old, in 1962, I attended the Seattle World’s Fair for a second time with my parents, Harold and Laura Dahl, and my 9-year-old sister, Nancy. Leann and Carol, my two older sisters, ended up staying at home that day and didn’t join us on our Sunday outing. My mother insisted that I wear my new red wool coat, even though I felt a little uncomfortable in it, because it was a little on the big side. My mom wanted me to look nice for the fair and she said she bought it a little larger, so I would be able to wear it throughout the fall and winter months!
After we arrived at the entrance, I tagged along with my dad to get the tickets, while my sister and mom waited by the turnstile. After mom and Nancy went through the turnstile, I followed behind. Before I knew it flashbulbs were going off and people were coming up to me and gathering around all of us. One person handed me a dozen red roses and another one put a big rectangular yellow neon 9,000,000th sign to wear around my neck. Someone else brought up a big stuffed purple dog almost the size of me. I also received $250 and a transistor radio. When I saw lots of people and cameras crowding around me, I remember being a little frightened. I thought perhaps I must had done something wrong, because I really didn’t know what all the commotion was about. When they told me I was the 9,000,000th visitor, which was the goal for the fair, I was still a little bit apprehensive as to what that all meant.
Once I realized I hadn’t done anything wrong I started to feel pretty excited, but when they told me I’d get to go on all the rides free, and be first in line for them, I was even more thrilled. My tour guide was named Erika, and I vaguely remember they told me she was from Germany, but I’m not really sure if I remember that correctly or not. But I do remember she was very nice, and so I ended up naming my stuffed purple dog "Erika" in honor of her.
As I was escorted around the fair with Erika, I was a bit embarrassed to have all the attention on me, especially as I walked around with the big 9,000,000th sign around my neck. In addition, I felt bad that I was being escorted to the front of these very long lines of people waiting patiently for their turn to ride.
At one point, along the way, I was led to the Plaza of States and was asked to give a speech. I remember being barely able to reach the microphone and I really was very unsure about what I should say to this very large crowd of people; but somehow I managed the courage to say very meekly, "Hello." The crowd followed my "mini" speech with the song, “For she’s a jolly good fellow!” Once again, I was pretty amazed that this was all happening to me.
After spending a day on the rides, they said there was one more prize for winning. It was a choice of going to the Space Needle for dinner with my family or attending the United States Marine Band Concert at the Opera House that night. My parents chose the concert and I must admit I was a kind of hoping for the dinner on top of the Space Needle, since I hadn’t been up in it yet. Once again, I was a little embarrassed to have to wear the sign around my neck as I walked into the concert, but everyone was very friendly and kind, extending their sincerest congratulations to me. It was a very special evening enjoying the fun music and going backstage to get my picture taken with all of the important people as well.
During the upcoming days, pictures and articles from the newspaper were sent to our family and when I returned to Hillwood Elementary School, in the Shoreline School District, the next day, I got my picture taken with my principal, Dick Sacksteder, and my first grade teacher, Barbara Breuer.
Being the 9,000,000th at the Seattle World’s Fair was truly a most memorable day for me as a little 6 year old!