California Pacific International Exposition

CHAPTER FIVE: The Second Year – 1936

In the interim between first and second seasons, directors decided changes were in order. As Gold Gulch and the Midway — the most popular attractions at the Exposition — were considered too risque for families, they were abandoned. The directors did not renew Richard Requa’s contract. Instead they chose his assistant Louis Bodmer to be supervising architect. Bodmer embellished the grounds with moderne motifs that clashed with its Spanish-Revival character. The most glaring of these was his design of an antiseptic and orderly one-half mile Amusement Zone to replace the honky-tonk Midway of 1935. Streamlined buildings surrounded a rectangular plaza planted with grass and flowers, with a Fountain of Youth at the end of a longitudinal axis. Miles of fluorescent neon tubing tied buildings together. A “Days of ’49 Stockade,” with dining hall and dance floor, across the northern end of the plaza, replaced the notorious Gold Gulch. The infamous Gold Gulch Gertie was, however, nowhere to be seen.

In place of Midget Village, vaudeville impresarios Fanchon and Marco managed a Mickey Mouse Circus. Midgets had full-size elephants as playmates and dinner guests. In “Danse Follies,” another Fanchon and Marco enterprise, chorus girls sang and danced. Finally, in “Hollywood Secrets,” a third Fanchon and Marco concession, talkies were made and the secrets of synchronizing sound tracks with movements revealed. John Hix operated “Strange as It Seems,” a tamer version of Ripley’s gruesome “Believe It Or Not.” Other concessions included a Temple of Mystery, where a magician did sleight of hand tricks, and Merry-go-rounds, slides, and a loop-the-loop plane.

An athletic field put up on Avenida de Espana, west of the Zone, could hold upwards of 5,000 spectators.

Enchanted Land for children, another feature for 1936, stood on the site of the former Casa de Tempo. Animated clowns at the entrance beckoned youngsters inside where a miniature train and ferris wheel awaited them. The train ran into a Magic Mountain concealing spouting volcanoes, a candy land, and grottoes. Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack Spratt and his wife, Little Red Riding Hood, and various Mother Goose characters appeared and disappeared inside the Mountain.

Because the 1935 Indian Village did not generate the excitement of the original 1915-16 Village, Exposition directors returned the compound to the Boy Scouts. They also released the Pepper Grove to public use.

The City Council directed that 75 percent of the comfort stations be free, that Exposition employees be residents of the City; that gambling games be forbidden, that a $75,000 fund be set aside for park improvements, that the cost of police and fire protection be borne by the Exposition, and that parking be run by the Exposition and not by a private company or individual.

In December, gardeners removed the Blackwood acacias along Avenida de Palacios because they hid buildings and other plants. During the 1915-16 Exposition, the acacias had formed a rhythmic sequence along El Prado. As with the bignonia and bougainvillea that had climbed over arcades and walls, the high cost of maintenance mandated their removal.

Pioneer merchant George W. Marston, pastor of the First Methodist Church Dr. Walter Sherman, and president of the County Federation of Women’s Clubs Mrs. Karl Thompson protested the nudist show in January. Mrs. Walter Gatrell was not distressed by the nudity, but she objected to the barkers shouting “Beautiful women in the nude,” as the women were “neither beautiful nor nude.” The Exposition had already given up Gold Gulch and the Midway to placate bluestockings, but it drew the line where nudists were concerned. They were, after all, the Exposition’s most lucrative outdoor attraction.

The second season began February 12 in a torrent of rain. About 25,000 curious people sought shelter inside buildings and under arcades. Directors hastily transferred ceremonies from the Plaza del Pacifico to the House of Hospitality. Josephus Daniels, United States’ ambassador to Mexico, and Francisco Castillo Najera, Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, conveyed greetings from their governments. Then, President Roosevelt, at the White House, pressed a telegraph key that turned on the lights.

The Ford Company and other exhibitors had left to take part in the Texas Centennial held in Dallas. Others had taken their places. Names of some buildings had been changed. The Ford Building became the Palace of Transportation, the Palace of Electricity and Varied Industries became the Palace of General Exhibits, the Hollywood Hall of Fame became the Palace of Entertainment, the Palace of Charm became the Palace of International Arts, and the Palace of Photography became the Palace of Medical Science.

Dr. Rolland Butler gave lectures on the Bible inside a chapel in the General Exhibits Building. Gems mentioned in the Bible, a wax replica of the Last Supper, a model of the Milan Cathedral made of 100,000 tiny pieces of wood, and a sword worn by General U. S. Grant in the Civil War replaced the marvels of electrical ingenuity that appliance and utility companies had mounted in the building in 1935.

The Latter Day Saints put a shelter for church members in a sleek streamlined modern style next to a Christian Science reading room, in a style suggestive of the Spanish Renaissance. Being totally out of place, the Latter Day Saints building was torn down after the Exposition. The Christian Science Building survives as the United Nations Building. It is today, as it was in 1935-36, at odds with the informal Spanish-style House of Pacific Relations cottages nearby.

Reporters wrote copiously about the benefits of an X-Ray machine in the Palace of Medical Science, but overlooked the commercial possibilities of a television show on Avenida de Espana.

Alice Klauber, who had designed the Persimmon Room for the 1915 Exposition, designed the Flamingo Room in the House of Hospitality. The room took its name from two wall hangings of flamingo birds standing in ochre sunshine against a background of blue.

The Ford Motor Company continued to sponsor the picturesque “Roads of the Pacific,” beginning May 29, and concerts in the Ford Bowl by San Diego and Los Angeles Symphonies, beginning July 10. It sent pieces from the Dearborn Museum to replace pieces it had sent to Dallas.

The Santa Fe and the Southern Pacific Railroad Companies replaced the Ford Company as the main exhibitors in the renamed Palace of Transportation. Visitors found the C.P. Huntington engine, which in 1863 pulled the first Central Pacific train into California, to be of great historical interest. A 450-ft long mural by Juan Larrinaga on the inner wall of the main hall illustrated the history of transportation from prehistoric to modern times.

Chief of Police George Sears pulled the plug on flash wheels, slot machines and Darto games in the Amusement Zone five days after they opened. “As far as this administration is concerned,” he told reporters, “there is the same law against gambling north of Broadway as there is south of it.” The San Diego Herald, an advocate of an “open” city, sneered, “If people preferred the churches to the Exposition, there would not be so many vacant pews every Sunday, nor such large crowds at the Exposition when the weather is fair.”

To commemorate Leap Year, directors held a Bachelor Ball in the Palace of Entertainment on February 29. A committee of women chose 20-year old Clifford Judd, a marine attached to the USS Lexington, as bachelor king for the rest of the evening. He had to dance with any woman who tagged him.

Philip Gildred resigned as managing director, March 17. Wayne M. Dailard, who had been his second-in-command, took over.

Directors had to deal with a decline in attendance, gambling, bumping, grinding and stripping by female dancers, and complaints by the Zoo of a loss of revenue caused by people having to pay two admissions to get in. To bolster attendance, the directors continued Nickel Days for children, and offered parades, circuses, fireworks, rodeos, vaudevilles, talent nights, and ballets. They told Fanchon and Marco to control their dancers, and they allowed the Zoo to open a second entrance on Upas Street.

The U.S. Army’s 30th Infantry, consisting of 164 men, including officers and a band, came back from San Francisco. The regiment held its first retreat ceremony of the season in the Plaza del Pacifico, April 17.

Celebrities and tourists flocked to the Texas Centennial in large numbers, but kept a wide berth between themselves and San Diego. Writing many years later, H. K. Raymenton declared the season had the excitement of “warmed-over toast” or “a relit cigar.”

Managing director Dailard tried to put zip back into the Exposition by signing up fan and bubble dancer Sally Rand, the sensation of Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition. She danced two shows daily in the Palace of Entertainment, two in the evening in the Plaza del Pacifico, and shows as requested in the Cafe of the World, on the northeast side of the Plaza del Pacifico. Like “Sister” Aimee, Sally refused to visit the nudists. She claimed her dance was an art form that suggested flight and idealized the human body. Sally must have taken a peek at the nudists when no one was looking, for she opened a nude show of her own at the 1936 Frontier Exposition in Fort Worth and the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco. Reporters would not say what Sally was wearing, but, since Police Chief Sears allowed her to dance, she was wearing more than the white makeup she pasted over her body.

Reporter Lisle Shoemaker, who interviewed Sally backstage and who danced with her in the Cafe of the World, discovered that she had stubby hair and that the beautiful blond hair on her head during the shows was a wig.

The New York Times of April 16, 1936 carried the following item:

San Diego, Calif. April 15. Sally Rand, fan and bubble dancer, suffered bruises under her left eye and upon her left thigh from pebbles flung at her as she danced at the exposition last night. Bleeding at the cheek from the injury under her eye, she reappeared upon the stage after a brief retirement, with fans replacing her bubbles and completed her act. The management announced it would have guards in future crowds about the dancer’s stage.

Five months afterwards a San Diego Sun reporter referred to an occasion when a prankster startled Sally by breaking her bubble.

It is common for local newspapers to conceal embarrassing facts about expositions. Richard Reinhardt, for example, has described how the “parochial loyalty” of San Francisco newspapers kept them from informing the public that the 1939-40 Golden Gate International Exposition was “a financial flop.”

When she was not dancing, Sally gave interviews, attended church services, and looked at the sights of San Diego. T. Claude Ryan, of the Ryan Aeronautical Company, took her on a flight over San Diego in his S-T plane. She baked a cake as part of a home show in the Palace of Better Housing, blew a balloon in a contest at the Zone, and lectured women’s groups and teachers on the art of the dance.

Dailard booked popular entertainers for runs ranging from three days to two weeks. They included an all-girl band called the Ingenues; a ballroom dancer dressed in flowing chiffon; Ben Bernie, who smoked a cigar and joked while leading his “Lads” as they played music; a vaudeville act called Modern Varieties; slapstick comedians Olsen and Johnson, who were backed by 25 beautiful women; nudist Rosita Royce, who trained white doves to perch on her body; the Royal Samoans, who played the steel guitar and ukulele; the Janet Sisters, who did a highkick dance; Continental Revue, a parody of Ziegfield Follies; and the Old Pueblo Tipica (Mariachi) Orchestra from Tucson, featuring songbird Chiquita Montez.

While dancers and orchestras were performing for adults in the Palace of Entertainment, the Plaza del Pacifico, and the Cafe of the World, sports enthusiasts and children flocked to the athletic field. Here Dailard had scheduled appearances by the Al G. Barnes Circus, Frontier Days and International Rodeo, Victor McLaglen and His Horse Troop, Ken Maynard’s Wild West Circus, Lakeside Rodeo, and Coronado National Horse Show.

With such a profusion of performers, reporters had neither space nor time to list their schedules. They commented only on those entertainers who had established reputations. These were Victor McLaglen, Rosita Royce, Olsen and Johnson, and Ben Bernie.

Ely Culbertson, the bridge expert, was the most well-known of the lecturers who gave talks at the Organ Amphitheater, House of Hospitality, or Palace of Entertainment. During a talk in the Palace of Entertainment, April 20, he said, with becoming modesty, that “bridge is not the center of the universe.” He followed this apostasy by advising wives not to henpeck their husbands because they were too busy working all day to have the time to study bridge that their wives had.

The Globe Theater Players left May 3 for the Texas Centennial. A troupe from Chicago called Fortune Players took their place. Thomas Wood Stevens managed Shakespearean players at San Diego and Dallas, and at still another Elizabethan theater at the Great Lakes Exposition in Cleveland, Ohio. It took time for the actors to get accustomed to the weight of Elizabethan costumes and to the novelty of acting on an apron stage. Caliban reported seeing children holding their parents in fright, Henry VIII saw a gentleman looking at him through a mariner’s telescope, and Hotspur observed a woman reciting his lines ahead of him. This last must have been the greatest indignity of all!

On May 19, the Civilian Conservation Corps dedicated a ten ft. high plaster sculpture, painted in bronze, of a heroic youth at their camp near the Palace of Water. Sculptor John Palo-Kangas had used the sculpture as the model for a concrete replica that President Roosevelt had unveiled in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, in the fall of 1935.

A young women standing before the sculpture was asked if she would like to have its symbolism explained to her, “No-o-o,” she replied, “but I’d like to meet the boy who posed for the statue!”

The Civilian Conservation Corps sent the sculpture to Camp Soamis, near Camarillo, after the Fair. It has long since disintegrated into the plaster from which it was made.

Sixty young men stationed at the Civilian Conservation Corps camp showed how to fight forest fires, build roads, make trails, and plant trees. Another group of twenty-four young men in the Palace of Natural History explained how the Corps built roads, firebreaks and dams, put up telephone lines, saved natural resources, and curbed farm infestations. If this were not enough, the men showed the woodwork and carvings they made in their off-duty time.

Nino Marcelli conducted the San Diego Symphony in evening performances at the Ford Bowl from July 10 to August 10. Having shown what his musicians could do, Marcelli then yielded the Bowl to Alfred Hertz who conducted the San Francisco Symphony in concerts from August 13 to August 23. Marcelli had arrived in San Diego in 1920 to become conductor of the San Diego High School orchestra. He organized the Civic Symphony Orchestra of San Diego, the precursor of the San Diego Symphony, in 1927. Hertz was a conductor of German opera who broke with tradition by conducting Parsifal outside Bayreuth at the Metropolitan Opera in 1903.

The U.S. Army’s 11th Cavalry triumphed at the athletic field during the Coronado Horse Show, July 19. Riders and horses leaped over triple-bar hurdles spread to 10 feet. Pairs of horses galloped across the field as riders crouched on bars resting on their backs. By their adroit use of reins, riders got their horses to curvet, prance, and sidestep in time to a rhythmic accompaniment supplied by the cavalry band.

Following a vesper service at the Organ Amphitheater, July 26, five hundred Mormons reenacted a march of over 2,000 miles from Council Bluffs, Iowa to San Diego, California, during the Mexican-American War. The Mormons left Council Bluffs, July 18, 1846, and became United States soldiers when they reached Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on August 1. Three-hundred and fifty men and two wives of captains and two of sergeants, arrived in San Diego on January 29, 1847. While on the way, the men hewed a passage with axes through a chasm of hard rock in the Anza-Borrego Desert so their wagons could get through. American Major John Fremont and Mexican Commander Andres Pico had signed the Treaty of Cahuenga on January 13, ending the war just 14 days before the Mormons arrived.

President Lazaro Cardenas of Mexico sent the Tipica Police Orchestra of Mexico City for a series of concerts in July. At their last concert, on July 26, seven-thousand people crammed the Ford Bowl. The concert consisted of folk songs and dances. Violinist Higinio Ruvalcaca played a “Czardas,” by Menti. Its intricate and dazzling dance rhythms drew a standing and prolonged ovation.

Seventy-five ice skaters skated twice nightly at the Organ Amphitheater, from August 13 to August 25. They jumped over barrels, engaged in mock bull fights, and danced in ballets, fox trots, and waltzes. On being asked where the ice came from, a San Diego Union reporter answered, “Whatever it is the skaters skate on, it is kept glass-smooth, out in the open, in a Southern California midsummer.”

To mark the August 28 start of National Aviation Week, 326 Navy pursuit and observation planes and bombers, making up 18 squadrons, flew over the Exposition grounds in formations of stepped V’s.

The second season closed on California Admission Day, September 9, 1936. A parade, made up of men from the U.S. Army’s 30th Infantry, 2,500 U.S. Marines, and 1,000 sailors from the U.S. Naval Training Station, mobile military equipment, military bands, floats from civic groups, and equestrians from the Balboa Park Riding Club, started at the foot of Broadway at ten in the morning and reached the reviewing stand in the Plaza del Pacifico at noon.

In the afternoon, the Native Sons and Native Daughters of the Golden West presented a pageant, “California Under Four Flags,” at the Organ Amphitheater. After the pageant, a rifle team from the 30th Infantry executed a precision drill without spoken commands. Rather than watch the drill, thousands of people took their last rides on ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds, miniature automobiles, tiny trains, and the loop-the-loop plane at the Amusement Zone. At night people mobbed concession booths, trying to buy pottery, jewelry, linens, and souvenirs at bargain prices.

At 11:00 p.m., President Belcher sealed a book containing the names of Exposition employees in a wall behind the fountain at the Organ Amphitheater as the employees held hands and sang “Auld Lang Syne.” At 11:30 p.m., a great book at the Amphitheater, symbolizing the story of the Exposition, started to close as Father Time looked on.

Shortly before midnight, President Belcher in the Plaza del Pacifico told an estimated 60,000 people that the California Pacific International Exposition was over. The 30th Infantry took the United States flag down from the flagpole in the Plaza in a farewell retreat ceremony. Then, as Corporal Joe Galli sounded taps from the roof of the Palace of Fine Arts, a technician put out the aurora borealis lights on top the Organ. At the stroke of midnight, the book at the Amphitheater snapped closed.

Even before the Exposition had closed, Albert Mayerhofer, Deputy President of the Native Sons of the Golden West, tried to enlist support for expositions in Balboa Park in 1942 and 1950. Most people, however, were too busy remembering the past to give much thought to resurrections.