University of Nevada, Reno




The calm before the storm

By MaryLee


MaryLeeIt was early Autumn 1939, and my parents had allowed my brother, Bud and me, both teenagers, to make one last visit alone to the Golden Gate International Exposition (World’s Fair) on closing day. The fair was located on Treasure Island, a beautiful spot in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Mother had packed our lunches and given us money to buy a "Coke" and a snack; we had streetcar fare and ferry fare both ways. This was all pinned in our pockets for safekeeping.

We arrived early that Sunday morning and started one last visit to all our favorite exhibits—there were many; and, of course, my artist brother had to see all the museums one last time. At noon we sat near a beautiful fountain and ate our lunch, savoring our "Cokes," which were a huge treat. We were in the shade of the "Tower of the Sun" and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, very new at the time, loomed overhead in the distance. We hit the Gay Way, but only rode one or two rides—our money was running low.

As dusk fell, we finished off our lunches. It was nearly time to go. And we made our way to "The Sunken Garden"—hearing the beautiful symphonic music as we approached and stepped down into its glorious wonderland of fountains, lights and sounds.

The sun was setting near the Golden Gate to the West. I remember thinking that this was truly the nearest spot to Paradise on Earth. But strangely, I felt a chill and the thought engulfed me that something or some time was coming to an end. It was as if we were not only saying goodbye to our beloved fair, but to an entire era in time.

We made our way to the ferry landing and went on board. I remember looking back one more time and seeing the entire panorama: the bridge lights glowing overhead, the music in the background, and the majestic "Tower of the Sun" lighted for the last time; and I could not shake the feeling of sadness. It was as if our little spot of Heaven on Earth was about to disappear and would never return.

Thinking back on those times, within two years, the fair buildings on Treasure Island had been turned into barracks for the Treasure Island Naval Base (one of Bud’s murals hung in the mess hall). Bud would soon be in New Guineau, and we who stayed behind had blackout curtains hanging in our homes. Of course, in time, the war ended and we all returned to our normal lives—more or less. But I still think of that night when that innocent, peaceful era came to a close; and for me, at least, it has never completely returned.


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