From Spokane to Paris

Once the decision to host a world's fair had been made, the real work began. Members of the new Expo Corporation enlisted the aid of various contacts at home and abroad to get financial support and international recognition for the fair. The Bureau of International Expositions in Paris scrutinized the city's application, requiring the Spokane delegates to redraft the fair's regulations in order to meet new BIE guidelines. Back in the United States, a bill in the Washington State Senate to designate funds for Expo won approval, but funding from the local community proved harder to come by. After the defeat of a bond measure for Expo, Spokane's mayor, city council, and business community rallied around a business and occupation tax to provide the needed funds for the fair. Finally, perhaps the most dramatic efforts on behalf of the fair were made in the United States Congress by Washington's two powerful senators, Warren Magnuson and Henry Jackson, and a relatively junior congressman from eastern Washington named Tom Foley.

"A great idea"

"King Cole looked back twenty years later on the work that went into Expo '74 and the skepticism which had at first greeted the project. 'I read an article about big projects, you know, how there's three stages to them. And the first one is, 'You've got to be kidding!' The second stage is something like, 'My God the dummies are going to do it! They're going to ruin us.' The third stage is, 'They're doing it and it's working. Gee, that was a great idea that I had.'"

"Dirty money"

"Spokane was at first ambivalent about seeking federal renewal funds. Bill Fearn recalled that many citizens felt, 'Well, we aren't sure whether we want any of that dirty money in Spokane.' They feared that if they accepted such grants, they would be forced to accept federal control. Jim Sloane, later city attorney of Spokane, recalled that 'urban renewal was sort of a political tar baby at that time.' The attraction of federal and state dollars grew, however, with the defeat of bond measures during the early 1960s."

"A little old country town"

"Spokane's obscurity may have been an asset. According to King Cole, 'The other members of the BIE [Bureau of International Expositions] sort of had a love-hate relationship going with the United States anyhow, because their governments were always aware of the fact that the United States was the big one, and everybody had fun taking pot-shots at the U.S. But when we were involved, they never did this, because we were just a little old country town, and we kept our humility with us all the time.'"

"A thinly disguised civic improvement scheme"

"Senator Fulbright's criticism of Spokane's plans nearly ended their hopes to host a world's fair. In his dissent, he wrote: 'I believe it is time that the Senate stop compounding bad precedents. I have in mind the current gimmick of underwriting civic improvements under the guise of participating in international expositions....This is an insult to the taxpayer when we have to scrimp on many essential services to him....Much as I admire the enterprise and entrepreneurship represented in S. 4022, I ask the Senate to vote against it as a thinly disguised civic improvement scheme that is on the wrong track at the wrong time.'"

"The ecological heart of the city"

"Tom Foley...all but brought his hometown into room 2200 of [Congress's] Rayburn House Office Building. Spokane had taxed itself to the tune of $5.7 million; the local business community had committed another $6.8 million; the railroads were donating millions more in property....Foley described just how much his city had done without Congress. 'If you could come to Spokane, you would see great railroad trestles which formerly marred the downtown area being torn down by huge machinery to clear the Expo '74 site -- 100 acres comprised of riverbanks and islands on which two major railroad terminals were built in the early days of this century....Through the years the falls area became encrusted with business operations and railroad yards which destroyed the ecological heart of the city.'"

Return to the Part III contents.

Go on to Chapter Eleven.