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Originally published April 7, 2012 at 7:00 PM | Page modified April 11, 2012 at 10:20 AM

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6-year-old was 9 millionth visitor at Seattle World's Fair

SIX-YEAR-OLD Paula Dahl was rather excited to make her second visit to Century 21, the Seattle World's Fair, in 1962. It was in October...

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SIX-YEAR-OLD Paula Dahl was rather excited to make her second visit to Century 21, the Seattle World's Fair, in 1962. It was in October, the last month of the fair's sixth-month run, and the fair's publicists had boasted that the goal of having 9 million visitors would almost certainly be reached. Paula remembers her parents making this point after the Dahl family's most exciting day at the fair.

While her 9-year-old sister, Nancy, waited at the turnstile with their mom, Paula stayed with her dad to buy the tickets. Soon after the family was reunited at the turnstile, Paula was happily surprised. First came a bouquet of roses, then an oversized stuffed dog and the glowing yellow sign that numbered her distinction. Al Rochester — city councilman, fair booster and gregarious Democratic pol — hung the sign around her neck.

For the rest of their lucky day the Dahl family rode the fair's rides free and toured the grounds like royalty — always going to the head of the line. Their guide, a European named Erika, made such an impression on Paula that she named the stuffed purple dog after her. At the fair's Plaza of States, Paula was asked to give a speech. She recalls, "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!' "

While Paula wore out her purple Erika she saved her necklace sign with such care that it seems brand new in Jean Sherrard's repeat photograph. There, Paula Dahl Jones, now a fifth-grade teacher at Sunset Elementary in Issaquah, poses with her class. Appearing behind her students are two special teachers for the day. One is another Paula, Paula Becker, and the other Alan J. Stein, both lecturers on all things Century 21, and authors for the Seattle Center Foundation's illustrated history of the fair, "The Future Remembered: the 1962 World's Fair & its Legacy."

Authors Decker and Stein will be on hand Saturday, April 21, for the beginning of the Center's six-month Golden Anniversary celebration of Century 21. The opening ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. on the Center House Stage.

Check out Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard's blog at www.pauldorpat.com.

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