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Originally published March 3, 2012 at 8:07 PM | Page modified March 3, 2012 at 11:18 PM

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1962 Seattle World's Fair: When modern living was ahead of its time

It's the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World's Fair, a time when the city was flying high with Space Age optimism. We're marking the occasion by revisiting The Seattle Times' souvenir edition published shortly before the fair opened April 21, 1962.

Seattle Times staff

1962 SPECIAL SECTION

When the world came to Seattle

Browse a gallery of ads

On April 21, 1962, the gates opened to a World's Fair in Seattle that left an indelible stamp on the city's image and future.

For 184 days, locals and visitors alike marveled at the Space Needle, the Monorail, the "World of Tomorrow" pavilions, and the "Spacearium."

Days before the opening, The Seattle Times published a 152-page "Seattle World's Fair Souvenir Edition" that was packed with information about the fair as well as predictions for the future. We're celebrating the anniversary by revisiting that section:

View selected pages from 1962 section

Browse a gallery of our favorite ads from '62

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This is the second of a five-part series on the 50th anniversary of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. The series revisits The Seattle Times' souvenir edition that was published before the fair opened on April 21, 1962.

OK, class. For our World's Fair lesson today, let's turn on our talking books and go to the land of "Modern Living," where everyone is healthy, wealthy and living in two-pool houses.

That's because so much stuff is automated, it's no work and all play!

Feeling hungry? Just pop a pill that tastes like a ham sandwich. Clothes get dirty? Toss 'em, they're disposable. It's time to get ready for your next trip to the moon anyway, in a pair of stylishly quilted and heated pants.

At least that's one picture of the future as presented in the 32-page "Modern Living" section of the souvenir edition of The Seattle Times that was published April 8, 1962 — 13 days before the World's Fair opened for its six-month run.

It's easy to poke fun at yesterday's far-out predictions, but they didn't seem so outlandish at the time when everyone was talking about the promise of paper, pills and technology. Nevertheless, the illustration on the cover of the special section is of a house that was a modern classic with its spacious, low-slung look, walls of windows and big yard.

Some predictions, however, weren't far off, such as the pill to curl straight hair for women (Rogaine with a twist?).

And long before the proliferation of Scandinavian furniture stores, a short story with photos about Denmark's exhibit raved about Danish furniture. The headline: "Danish modern has clean lines of Space Age."

Many of the advertisements in "Modern Living" tell a different story, that of the fragility of the retail business in a fast-changing time, as many of the stores are no longer with us. There were ads for the "World's Largest Penney's!" in downtown Seattle (which closed in 1982), and MacDougall's department store, "Serving Seattle Since 1875!" but was finished serving by 1966.

There also was an ad for the now-defunct Gov-Mart, "the Northwest's first and finest membership department store," that was a forerunner to Costco.

Amid all the sky-high visions for the modern world — such as houses with computers that would "program meals, balance the checking account and call the library and grocery store" and meals that were contained in a little white pill — were some down-to-earth forecasts, too.

One story was headlined "Homes won't change much, says architect." And columnist Tom Swint wrote: "Although food has kept pace with the times, we hope they will never get to the white-pill era. They could work on a grapefruit that did not squirt in your spouse's eye."

They already were working on easy, tasty "boil-in-a-bag" meals that would be served on disposable plates with disposable knives, forks and spoons.

No muss, no fuss, just punch a few buttons and you're fed and ready to lounge around one of your pools. You would have so much free time, thanks to the "predicted, shortened workweek that will arrive with full automation."

They weren't talking low maintenance; it was a future of no maintenance.

"Owners will have nothing to do with the care of their pools. They will be automatically vacuumed. A bell will ring when something goes wrong."

But what could go wrong? As the story went on to say:

"These extras that we consider luxuries will be quite common in the 21st century and cost very little."

Little did they know.

Bill Kossen went to the World's Fair as a child, but felt like a baby for closing his eyes on the "Flight to Mars" ride: 206-464-2331 or bkossen@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @BillKossen

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