JOHNNY'S JOURNEYS: WORLDS FAIRS 1982-1984-1986
1982 – KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE
June 24, 1982 (Tuesday)
The Singles Sunday School class at Spring Hill Baptist Church in Mobile, AL has a very active
group of people. With much anticipation, 40 of us board a chartered bus for Knoxville, TN. We're on a
four day excursion to the Worlds Fair!! There will be two days for traveling... 510 miles each way... and
two full days at my first Worlds Fair. The Knoxville International Energy Exposition features exhibits
from 22 nations. Also, there are 90+ companies and private organizations that will take part. Officials
think there will be close to 11 million people that will visit here before the Fair closes in October.
Reservations had been made for us at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Restaurant for lunch. After eat-
ing, we had a little time to stroll around the rail station and peak into a few train cars. The Terminal
Station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Yes, there's a lot of history here... as I think
of the Glenn Miller Orchestra song and the
1941 song, Chattanooga Choo Choo.
We arrive later at Jefferson City at the Carson-Newman College. This is small Baptist affiliated
college, with an enrollment of less than 2000 students. The dormitories are available for Worlds Fair
tourists... like us. We settle into our dorm rooms to rest, then go downstairs for dinner.
June 25, 1982 (Wednesday)
Breakfast is served early today, then we return to our bus. It is a 30 mile trek to the Worlds Fair. The
theme is “Energy turns the World”. The most striking physical feature of the Fair, and its symbol, is the
266 foot tall Sunsphere. There's a hexagonal steel truss structure with a 75 foot gold colored glass
sphere. It's made of 360 panes of glass... with a total glass area of about 14,000 square feet. It offers a
360 degree view of Knoxville. The 4th
level observation deck is a great place to take in the beauty of
the surrounding Smoky Mountains. Nice! I may come back later to visit one of the three restaurants
I don't know how many thousands of people are here today, but
it sure is crowded. Our church group
of 40 split into several smaller groups. The first pavilion I wanted to see was the Peoples Republic of
China exhibit. There was a nice little wait, before entering. Nineteen bricks from the Great Wall of
China intrigued everyone there. Walking around, I'm fascinated by hundreds of elaborate carvings in
jade, ivory and soapstone. There is also hand painted porcelain, tapestries, silks, carpets and other
handicrafts. I did not wait around for a river ride in a 20-foot solar powered dragon-boat. It looks like
the Communist Chinese are having a successful foray into the world of Capitalism. And for $1, your
name can be written in Chinese on a small piece of paper.
For many years, I've wanted to go to Australia. Their exhibit featured a 12 screen video presentation.
It showed the Australian way of life. Yep, I wanna go! The 1988 Worlds Fair is scheduled for Brisbane,
Australia in 1988. Who knows?? A 75-foot tall windmill pumps water inside the pavilion to water
eucalyptus trees and ferns. They also showcased Energy – Down Under. The rock group, Men at Work,
will be here in a few weeks. And you could even buy a Vegemite sandwich.
A 148 foot tall ferris wheel offered great views. This is the tallest ferris wheel in the Western Hemis-
phere. The Coca-Cola Company debuted a new item / flavor: Cherry Coke. I think I'll have to buy some
of this... it's good! There was entertainment everywhere; not just at the Amphitheater. Basket-making
demonstrations, strolling magicians, mimes, jugglers, Appalachia folk-dancing, even marching bands. I
think my favorite was seeing the famous Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale horses. Hungry? There are 81
eating locations. I had to try some new dishes. So, by the World's Largest Rubik's Cube representing
Hungary, I wanted to try Hungarian goulash. I look up and see aerial gondola chairs. They are vibrantly
painted red, orange and yellow. The University of Tennessee's Neyland Stadium is right across the
street. I can almost hear the Volunteer fans singing “Rocky Top”. Surprise, I spot a $20 bill on the
concourse. This has been an amazing day.
June 26, 1982 (Thursday)
After breakfast, we leave Carson-Newman College and return to Knoxville. The U.S. Pavilion
the first stop for my small group. It is in a 6-story ultra-modern building with 5000 feet of solar panels
upon the roof. Plus, there was a waterfall to symbolize the potential of hydro energy. That provides
enough power to operate the ventilation system. There's an IMAX Theater with a 65-foot x 90-foot
screen. Wow! Video displays of energy topics covered coal, oil, gas, geothermal, wind power, biomass,
hydro-power and solar. The energy future looks green.
Another popular site was the Egypt Pavilion. There are treasures from the Pharoh dynasties, Greco-
Roman period, Egyptian Christian period (when Mary, Joseph and Jesus lived there for a short while),
the Islamic age and finally the modern day Egypt. The large gift shop offered King Tut style jewelry.
This was more like a museum experience, than an “Energy” display.
I enjoyed reading history from the very first International Exposition in London England in 1851. At
the Crystal Palace, Prince Albert proclaimed “nations must work together for the benefit of all”. Worlds
fairs allow visitors to experience first hand – to view, touch, taste and hear all that is new in
and products from every corner of the world. On one limited plot of land, the barriers of the world fall
and the family of man communicates. I grab a Belgian waffle for a snack.
At the Peru exhibit, there is a 3,000 year old mummy on display. Plus, there will be an unwrapping
of an ancient mummy, while visitors look on. (Only 50 mummies have been studied in the history of
mankind). There's displays of 250 golden treasures. These are from the Inca and pre-Incan civilizations.
They are ornately adorned with emeralds and date back to 1200 AD. I buy a souvenir tumi. It is a 6-
inch golden colored ceremonial knife, with a semi-circular blade.
By the German exhibit, I enjoyed watching folks doing the “chicken dance”. Later on today, I hear
an Oom-Pah band. Fun! The South Korean folk dancers were pretty impressive. And our time here is
coming to an end. We return to the dorms one last time for we will head back to south Alabama
tomorrow. But we'll leave with many wonderful memories!
1984 – NEW
I bought a Worlds Fair package last month. This includes one round trip bus ticket and entrance to
the Fair. I drive to Bel-Air Mall here in Mobile before 7 a.m. This will be a one day only trip to New
Orleans, LA for the Louisiana World Exposition. Coincidentally, New Orleans hosted the 1884 World
Cotton Centennial. The chartered bus is full and we eagerly arrive by 10 a.m. at the Riverfront. I'm on
my own. The theme is “The World of Rivers – Fresh Waters as a Source of Life”.
At the gate, King Neptune with his trident, a mermaid and a few alligators welcome us . Entering the
82 acre Fair grounds, I had the pleasure of seeing the official mascot. It was a large white costumed
pelican named Seymore D. Fair.
Where will I start? There are 13 international pavilions. Three countries are represented in the
Caribbean Pavilion. And the European Common Market represents 10 more countries. Eckerd Drugs
was a corporate sponsor of a Wonderwall Stage. Yes, I am an Eckerds pharmacist. A jazz band was
New Orleans, Louisiana
as I strolled by. Later, I heard a barbershop quartet.
The Egypt pavilion was my first stop. A decorative golden chair there was exquisite. What I had not
expected to see was a hand written copy of the Old Testament in Hebrew. The ivory carvings were just
In the Liberian exhibit, I saw a traditional costume and head-dress. Of course, the Peru exhibit
featured an ancient mummy. The South Korea exhibit featured a Turtle ship. I was most impressed with
the Louisiana Purchase Treaty. Yes, the one signed in 1803. There is a beautiful Taj Mahal tapestry.
After seeing the Japan pavilion, it was time for lunch. People enjoyed the “chicken dance” as I walked
past the popular German Beer Garden. I found plenty of Cajun food to choose from... and the shrimp
ettouffee was wonderful.
The most viewed attraction is the Aquacade. Seating 3500 people, we are anxious to see divers on
the two 94-foot high diving towers. “America Swims” was 45 minutes of synchronized swimming,
comedy, high dives, and lavish costumes. This was set to music from the 1920s to the 1980s. The grand
finale was Splashdance, described as a 1980s Aqua-Disco. Wow! What a show.
I could not miss the Louisiana Pavilion, the largest pavilion here. There's a 14 minute boat ride that
depicts sights and sounds of the Pelican State. With hundreds of pictures and videos, it offers realistic
swamps and bayous. And there is even a simulated hurricane. I hope to visit LA again and enjoy some
of their numerous festivals.
Next up is a gondola ride on the MART (Mississippi Aerial River Transit). This was my favorite
activity of the day. For a $3.50 round-trip ticket, I climbed into one of the 56 gondolas. There are two
360 foot tall towers on either side of the river. Crossing over the longest river in the country took about
5 minutes. Looking in all directions, I did my best to take it all in. And there's the Space Shuttle
Enterprise in front of the U.S. Pavilion. The Colossus is the largest ferris wheel in North America. It
holds 150 passengers and is 180 feet tall. The trip across the river covered 2500 feet. I was then in
Algiers at the
west bank Warehouse District. The views were stunning; just an amazing ride!
A monorail was the easiest way to see the fair. It slowly took us around the perimeter. And we also
traveled through the Great Hall / Convention Center. Most memorable in there was a 30 foot tall large,
red, pulsating human heart model. It was sponsored by the Ochsner Clinic. We saw the paddle-wheeler
boat called the River Road Queen. A 50,000 gallon salt water aquarium surrounded an authentic oil
derrick. And then, it was time to leave for home. It has been a wonderful & memorable day!
1986 – VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA
My college room-mate, Joe, and I left Great Falls, MT early this morning. We drove through Idaho
and Washington before reaching Canada. And we have finally checked into our apartment at 2:45 a.m.
Our big plan for this trip is to spend three or four days at the Worlds Fair. Vancouver, British Columbia
will be celebrating its 100th
birthday with a 5.5 month long party. 1886 was also the year that the first
Gondolas cross the mighty Mississippi River.
transcontinental railroad arrived. The theme is “Transportation and Communication: World in Motion –
World in Touch”.
Joe and I will see as much as possible, staying 12+ hours each day. There are 65 pavilions we can
explore. This represents 54 nations... and six continents. I had a photo taken at the worlds largest beer
stein, from Germany. What a gorgeous setting for this Expo... with so much water around. I picked up a
souvenir newspaper and it's headline was Expo's Royal Beginning. Queen Victoria started the World
Fair tradition in 1851. It was located in London, England. This newspaper was full of interesting tidbits
There were several side shows to get your attention. We saw unicycle riders; the largest watch in the
world (a Swatch from Switzerland); a fire-eating juggler; a woman dressed as the Queen of England; a
Conestoga wagon from the Oregon Trail; even two Japanese ladies wearing traditional snow-shoes and
playing harps. A volunteer from the crowd? Joe was up there in a flash!
I was quite impressed by the Thosakan statue from Thailand. 3,000 year old Egyptian artifacts were
in the Great Hall of Ramses II. I kept looking for Expo Ernie, but never saw him. “Spirit
Lodge” was an inspiring exhibit, which included holographs. We had lunch one day at a floating
Who would not be impressed with The Gold of Peru Museum? The Costa Rica exhibit featured
palm trees, blue water and lush green rain forests. Wow, I think I will have to visit there someday. We
saw several terracotta warriors in the China pavilion. Over 8,000 of these terracotta soldiers were
buried with the first Emperor of China... over 2200 years ago. Amazing!
Each day when Joe and I came to the fair, we passed a billboard. It touted “Vancouver World's Fair:
Don't Miss It For The World!” The existing bus and roadway systems were incapable of handling the
large crowds. They expect close to 22 million visitors by the time the fair is over. So, a state-of-the-art
inexpensive rapid transit solution was the SkyTrain. Surprisingly, these are driverless trains. After the
six-month long fair ends, the existing SkyTrain line will extend in a few more directions.
There were about ten pavilions
featuring Asian and Pacific countries. They all look so inviting. I now
know more about Brunei than I did last week. I wonder what will be my first Asian country to visit one
Maybe the most interesting item for me to see was a Million Dollar Coin. This display highlighted
the historic importance of coins and currency around the world. The giant coin measures over one yard
in diameter and weighs about 255 pounds. It is certified to contain over one million dollars worth of
gold. And it is believed to be the largest gold coin ever made. Several sharp-dressed Royal Canadian
Mounted Police were there. They seemed like good ambassadors as they posed for photos.
I kept my Official Expo 86 Site Map. A final tally shows that we went to, saw and experienced 45
exhibits, pavilions, rides and entertainment sites! A few of the rides / entertainment venues included
Space Tower, Cariboo Log Chute, Kodak Pacific Bowl, Expo Theatre, Scream Machine and Looping
Joe came back for a 4th
day. I dropped him off early and kept his car. There were 6 fun stops
wanted to do and see. This has been my favorite of the past three fairs I have attended. Well, Brisbane,
Australia will host the 1988 World's Fair. I'm going to give it some serious consideration.
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