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Pan Pacific International Exhibition 1915 San Francisco

Updated on February 9, 2018
Tower of Jewels on the right.
Tower of Jewels on the right.

The Tower of Jewels was actually covered with hanging colored crystal jewels that glinted in the sunshine and reflected electric light at night.


Race Betterment Booth at World's Fair

Sign Above Door:A Popular New Sederian Movement to Advance Life Saving Knowledge
Sign Above Door:A Popular New Sederian Movement to Advance Life Saving Knowledge

Athena at the Opening Day of the World's Fair

There was one united soul that day; the soul of San Francisco escaped no one, all races, creeds, and classes. Today's headlines read: WITHOUT DISTINCTION, OUR EXHIBITION, OUR CITY, ALL CITIZENS!

Athena stepped down the stair, and onto the street, where fifty or a hundred people were gathered in clusters, just standing around. Some had tubas, big drums, and other noisemakers at the ready.

Precisely at six am sounds of hundreds of sirens pierced the air and crowds shouted and rang bells. “Our fair! We did it! Look at us now!” Shouts and noises emanated everywhere.

Suddenly Van Ness Street became a living entity of its own as the group became one in its trek to the fair. Shouting, singing, dancing, hugging, there was no shyness on this street today where everyone honored their city and each other. Rich ladies and prostitutes, Chinese and Italian Catholics, politicians and the poor, suffragettes and businessman, with no distinction, just as they amassed in 1906, they amassed again today, in celebration of their triumph and survival over disaster, which was created by working together as one, as a city for nine years.

Athena stationed herself to be at the head of the opening gate, and after the sirens blew for a minute, the gates of the fair opened and she was swept in with crowd and after only a minute of hoopla, an awestruck crowd silenced and gaped at the wonderment of the scope and intensity of the buildings. Not many of the citizens experienced the beauty of anything like this and especially after the ugliness since 1906, the brilliance imbibed into the spirits of the individuals and inspired them. All enjoyed the greatness of the moment and wanted to continue to be the greatest that they and the city could be.

A benediction and a speech by the mayor and when he turned a a key, waters of the fountain flowed, fireworks exploded and the Pan Pacific International Exhibition began.

A huge tower stood right in front of their eyes, 400 feet up, glistening with thousands of jewels of all colors, the jewels swaying in the breeze, glistening with different colors with each movement. There was tall statuary of the earth’s sphere with a horse and rider atop of beautiful color and fountains of water spewing out, gardens on each side and buildings with greenish blue rounded domes reminiscent of Greek temples like hills in a landscape seen all around, each with some wonderment inside to explore.

The explosion that was the turning on of the fair calmed and patrons started milling. Going was slow and Athena was glad she was alone, no one to keep track off in the huge crowd.

“Millie, come on!”

“This way, Earl!”

“John, look out. The kids there. They’re so little, watch out for them!”

Athena speculated that most of the crowd would move toward the Tower of Jewels, so she had a different plan. Working as a reporter had its benefits and she knew the map of the grounds already. Too much to memorize but the general areas she knew well.

Let’s see, the Avenue of Palms, to the right, before the Tower. This must be it! It’s smaller compared to the large center areas. Oh, my heart, thought Athena! Its way too packed with people.

Athena had figured a short cut because she knew opening day would be busy. She back- tracked a few feet to the garden on the right of the main entrance. She decided she would take her alternate route through the garden by Festival Hall. There was a sidewalk all the way around to her destination assignment.

Assignment thought Athena! The children in the amusement zone! Oh, what an article she would write! The kids had fun! They rode on rides! They rode on a train! She was actually just being sarcastic with herself. Stop it, she told herself! How can I be sarcastic on such a gorgeous and joyous day? Besides, I’ll find my article, and it won’t be a women’s piece. Her destination in the Joy Zone had nothing to do with a mere ride.

I’m going to the Panama Canal, Athena thought as she walked along, more slowly than her normal gait. She couldn’t help being enamored with the gardens and structure of the fair.

Athena’s mental map lead her to the Avenue of Progress; she could see the train up ahead, but she made a left and then a quick right through the crowd on Joy street.

There it was! The Panama Canal ride! The actual canal was quite the engineering feat, but not without political complications and opinions. Here’s my first non-society page piece, she thought, and wait a minute, almost anything can have some aspect that is controversial. A train, working hours of the engineer! A pretend foreign village, something about the country! A children’s amusement paradise, the health of the child! Ha! Athena thought, this is easy.

A line of patrons was entering the Panama Canal Zone ride and Athena joined in at the end of it. She could have used her press pass to get right on, but part of her plan was to be a secret reporter; she figured she’d have a much bigger chance for any muckraking to be observed that she could report, and she had the advantage of being new in town, unrecognizable by just about everyone.

“This thing is supposed to be huge,” the man in front of her said to the woman he was with. “I heard it was an exact replica, smaller of course.”

“Look, John. They are going to charge us 50 cents! Goodness! That’s almost half of what you make in a day. Do you think we should go?”

“Sadie, we’ve been saving for this. And we’re not going anywhere else this year. Don’t worry about it. Let’s just have a good time. It’s one of the main things of the fair and the fair’s namesake.”

“Well, I hope everything else isn’t this pricey.”

Fair-goers talked excitedly as they waited in line to step up to a platform and enter the ride. Athena embraced and enjoyed her time in line in front of the huge building with wide columns and two lighthouses on top, observing the magnificence of the exhibit inside as it turned from night to day over the warship and canal in a tropical setting.

‘My goodness, John, it’s a whole new world with this electricity. How’d we ever get along without it. Look! Not only is it running the day and night feature, it must be running the moving cars.”

“Come on, hike up your skirt, get ready to ride!” John and Sadie were excited.

A chill and goosebumps went down Athena’s back. Great Scots, I am so happy that I’ve come here. This is incredible. She pulled at her skirt and pushed her San Francisco hat down on her head, not wanting to lose it in the water. Someone in the crowd said there were the two oceans, a lake, a river and the canal, all with real water. John and Sadie sailed off, and then Athena. Completely enjoying the moment, she gawked at the enormity of the display spewed out in front of her and then jumped as a voice squawked at her out of nowhere. “In front of you is the Chagres River and Gatun Lake, then on your right the first lock of the canal, ” the car was somehow wired with sound.

“Oh, my heart!” Athena said out loud. “This is overwhelming!”

“The entire exhibit covers an amazing five acres and is a ‘correct and faithful working reproduction of the Panama Canal and Canal Zone’, according to Major F. C. Boogs, Chief of the Washington office of the Panama Canal.”

Athena slid around in her half empty seat, craning her neck and grasping to see everything possible. The sounds of the moving water covered up everyone’s ooohs and ahhs.

Clank! Clank! Clank! The moving car slowed and Athena forced herself out of her Panama daydream. Wonderful, nothing will top that. She ran down the plank with excitement, then stopped quickly. I created a plan so I could keep on track. I’d better follow it. Now, let me remember. Oh, I can’t remember, I ‘d better look at my notes. She opened the little purse on her wrist and fished out a paper. Oh, yes, think about a story…. That’s my job. I need to just sit a minute and watch and think. Where’s the benches? They must want you to keep moving or go in and pay.

Two huge lime green elephants loomed up ahead of Athena as she back pranced back toward the Zone, and Athena thought, jungle exhibit! No, no, no, there’s so much to be distracted by, I’ve got to get focus. Oh, yeah, that’s just the Southern Pacific train. I wonder why fifty foot plaster elephants are holding up the track with their trunks?

I’ll go to Ghiradelli’s, Athena’s stomach growled. That was right at the beginning of the Zone, I’ll refresh and then just stroll down the entire zone and take in the whole thing. Women’s impression of the Zone is my point of view. I guess it’ll be just that easy. What color this is and how cute was that?

Athena’s plan to discover a controversial story drowned in the Canal Zone when the wonderment of the exposition took control of her.

After chocolatizing, Athena merged into crowd of the Joy Zone, a laughing noisy crowd with much movement and lots of women and children. Everything was giant size! Colors and noise and happiness swirled together like a kaleidoscope in Athena’s soul and it was like she belonged to this one big happy family of citizens.

A giant Uncle Sam held out a watch bigger than a wagon wheel and bent down to greet the crowd over the watch shop. The South Pole’s building floated a ship with three masts and fog, frozen in ice and a snow drift.. Building size Tweedledee and Tweedledum flanked the Bowls of Joy ride and on the smoke shop next door, a man’s head affixed to the top of the building smoked a cigar longer than an automobile. Tehuantepec, the Aztec village was striking in its dissimilarity with architectural design and color true to heritage. Creation’s Greek-like edifice had a huge beautiful angel statue with wings so large that they form the arched entryway to the exhibit. Athena loved the beauty of that statue and turned a quarter turn for another look. Then, she noticed how beautifully framed the Festival Building was in the entrance of the Zone. The ocean bluish color stood calmly over and above the end of the garishness of the Joyland Toyland. It took her breath away and she stopped, turned against the flow of traffic.

After a few sighs, she pirouetted back to her route and crashed right over a tiny woman, coming the opposite way. They both smashed onto the ground with Athena on top of the women, knocked out with bump on the head. The tiny women struggled out from under and Athena’s eyes opened in a flash. What? Athena reached out and grabbed at the woman as the lady got to her hands and knees and wiped tears and snot with her sleeve. Their eyes met for a moment that froze in time, then the woman pushed off the ground with her hands and put herself on her feet, then slowly rolled up to her full height. Her round stomach was bigger than any other part of her.

“I’m so sorry, are you hurt?” Athena felt horrible physically and mentally, but the woman’s pregnancy made her feel even worse.

The woman hesitated for a moment, sobbed a silent sob with tears, turned and ran. Athena was shocked and dazed, watchng as the girl disappeared.

“I’ll get her,” a man yelled and ran off, as Athena noticed she was the center of a crowd.

“Are you okay?”

“You hurt?

“We hardly saw the girl. Was she pregnant?”

“She was one of those foreign people.”

“Why did she run?”

“Oh, for heavens sake!” Athena muttered as she sat a little straighter on her derriere, and felt for damages. “My head hurts!”

“All right, break it up! What’s going on here?” A policeman smiled at everyone when he dispersed the citizens, then noticed Athena. “What happened?” He looked surprised and concerned.

“She fell.”

“A girl pushed her down. A pregnant girl, we think.”

“The girl ran away. She was a foreigner, a native, she had a grass skirt.”

“Are you all right, miss?” Joe looked over Athena. “Make sure you are all right before you get up.”

“Oh, my stars! She didn’t mean to push, it was an accident. I landed on her. I’m afraid I hurt her.”

“You do have a nasty bump,” Joe touched Athena’s chin as he looked at the bump. He got quite close to her face. ”Count to ten, please.”

“1,2,3,4, 5, 6,7…8,9,10,11,12,13,14.15. Do you want me to count in multiples?” Athena’s eyes twinkled at Joe.

“No, look at my hand. How many fingers?” Joe held up three.

“Three, but that would have been my guess, even if I couldn't see them. Don’t be so obvious.”

“How is that obvious, miss?”

“Well, you wouldn't do just one, that’s too easy. Five is too much like a hand. Two is to easy to see double, and so it would have to be three or four. I’d guess you’d pick three.”


“It’s in the middle. You look like you’d be in the middle.”

“I think you seem okay.” Athena let Joe help her up by pulling both her arms. She brushed herself off as Joe stood and watched. The crowd moved on when she got up. Joe got his notepad out of his pocket.

“Name, please.”

“Athena Wells.” Athena liked the policeman. He seemed nice. And she felt safe around him. “Do you want my address?”

“Just a telephone number, please, in case something else comes up and we have to ask you anything. And please describe the pregnant woman.”

A youngish man walked up to them, huffing and puffing. “Sorry, officer, I couldn’t catch that little woman. She could sure run, for being with child, that is…I can tell you she had a grass skirt and a white shirt with short sleeves. And her hair was long and all tangles.”

“It was an accident. There was no malice.” Athena chimed in.

“One never knows what’s inside a person’s mind or what motives they may have.” Joe arched one eyebrow at Athena. “Let’s get some ice for that bump.”


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