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INTERNATIONAL EXPOSITIONS OFTEN have special features that remain after the expo itself has ended. Seattle’s Space Needle, built for that city’s 1962 World’s Fair, is such an icon. Brussels’ Atomium, built for its Expo 58, represents an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. San Diego’s Balboa Park, hosting both the 1915–1916 Panama-California Exposition and 1935–1936 California Pacific International Exposition, left a wealth of architectural landmarks.
But what about an entire island? Indeed, Treasure Island is an artificial island built in San Francisco Bay for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition.
SimanaitisSays friend Bill Rabel (his Traveller appeared in this website’s recent MORRIS MINOR feature) kindly sent me a Travel Tips magazine published in 1939. Its 95 pages include the Golden Gate International Exposition, extensive touristic information along the west coast, 1939 style, from Seattle to San Diego, as well as other Motorlogues from the coast to Lake Tahoe; Reno; Ensenada, Baja California; and eastward to Phoenix, Tucson, and as far as Carlsbad, New Mexico. Travel Tips is a treasure trove of what it terms “Authentic Information for the Traveler in the Great West.”
Bridging the Bay. The Golden Gate International Exposition celebrated San Francisco’s two newly built bridges: The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge opened in 1936; the Golden Gate Bridge, in 1937.
Forming a Treasure. The creation of Treasure Island took advantage of the Yerba Buena Shoals, a shipping hazard in the bay at varying depths of less than 27 ft. The island’s 400-acre geometrical shape was constructed from 260,000 tons of rock, followed by dredged bay sand and 50,000 cubic yards of top soil. Some 4000 trees, 70,000 shrubs, and 700,000 flowering plants completed Treasure Island, which opened on February 18, 1939.
A Journey Around the World. Travel Tips waxes eloquent about “more than thirty nations pledged to participate.” The Netherlands East Indies description is typical: “Copied from an ancient Hindu-Javanese temple, this presents a mass of intricate carvings suggesting the dark mysteries of the Orient, with all its fascination.”
“New Zealand,” Travel Tips continues, “will present a native Maori dwelling, with great pillars faced by carvings of Polynesian Gods, and native Maoris demonstrating their famous ‘haka’ dance, ancient chants, and other characteristic music.”
“From across the steaming jungles of Malaya,” Travel Tips says, “will come a most picturesque exhibit,” (with a surprise to come): “The Sultan of Johore presents on Treasure Island a replica of the ‘Johore Dowan,’ or Sultan’s Council House. The Sultan’s own world-famous bagpipe band will be one of the main attractions.”
Who would have guessed?
Genuinely International. “The largest foreign exhibit,” Travel Tips notes, “is that of France, covering 70,000 square feet. Norway presents a typical ski lodge. Other European nations lay stress on their tourist attractions.”
Where to Stay? Extensive lists of hotels accompany each of the Travel Tips Motorlogues. As an example, for budget travelers to San Francisco, the Hotel Virginia, O’Farrell & Mason Streets, was “Close to Shops and Theaters, $1 to $2.50 per day.”
The Hotel Californian, Taylor & O’Farrell, was evidently rather more up-market: “All Rooms Outside. All with Tub & Shower. All with Radio,” $3.50 to $5.00 for one; $5.00 to $9.00 for two.
How to Get Around. The Travel Tips Motorlogues suggest that many people would drive from home to San Francisco. On the other hand, maybe one could fly there and rent a Drive-Ur-Self car.
Treasure Island Fame Came Quickly. The 1939 Marx Brothers’ movie At the Circus introduced the song “Lydia the Tattooed Lady.” One of its lines is, “Over on the West Coast we have Treasure Island.” The rest of the ditty is as Marxian as its title suggests. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020