Tires at the World's Fair

The 50th Anniversary of the Seattle World's Fair is this year.  My dad, Jim Moninger, (aka Slim Jim, Slim Pop, Pop Pop or just plain Slim) performed as a water skier in the World's Fair in 1962.  There is a committee requesting memories and stories from people who were there.  We encouraged my Dad to record one of his stories so I interviewed him and thought I'd post it here.

When he arrived in Seattle after a 76 hour bus ride from Arkansas he saw the arena where he would be skiing.  They were building four foot high concrete walls around a football field where the running track was, planning to fill the 26 foot wide 3 feet deep space with water and driving the boat (and pulling the skiers) around the water filled track.  It was completely unfinished and they had 2 weeks until the start of the fair.

Dad and the other skiers (about 5 girls and 5 guys total) practiced their show in Lake Washington in freezing cold water due to melting snow running off mountains.  In the stadium there would be two ski jump ramps, 12 feet wide and 24 feet long.  There were no ramps in Lake Washington.  They needed to get to the performance space to practice and work out the details.

About 2 days before the fair was to begin they filled the "moat" with water.  The skiers were there to watch as they put a boat in it to see what would happen.  After circling the "moat" once, the boat had to come back to where it started and cross over the crazy waves it had made the first time around, which were crashing against the concrete walls and creating very rough waters and erratic waves.  Obviously there would be no skiing in those conditions.

T-minus 2 days and there were no ideas regarding how to solve the problem.

My dad had lived on a lake for the last 10 years.  He had noticed that where they had hung tires on the dock as a bumper for the boat, the tires would absorb the waves of the boat and make the waters still.

So dad suggested it.  Line the "moat" with tires.  But how do you fasten tires to concrete?  Well, Dad suggested attaching wood to the top of the concrete.

In a day workmen built a wooden cap on the inside and outside wall of the moat so they could have something to fasten a rope to and hang tires on.

Meanwhile, the skiers had been enlisted to help.  They went to a tire company and loaded up hundreds of tires on rental trucks.

They were down to one day until the fair and their show started.  So the skiers themselves and anyone else they could find who was able took hammers, nails, and rope and lined about 100 feet of the track of water with tires on both sides.  After running the boat through it they could see that the tires were going to work so they finished out the entire space.

The skiers were down to the wire to organize their show.  Their manager made a list of the events in order and they had limited time to practice in the arena.  But they started on time.

If you had attended the World's Fair for a day, you would have had 4 chances to see the ski show, three day shows and one at night.  When the skiers weren't doing their thing, in between each of their shows there was a full 3 ring circus going on inside the water track, elephants and all walking across a ramp and bridge to cross the moat.

That's not all.  While the circus was setting up, a daredevil motorcyclist/tight rope dude would ride his motorcycle from the top of the stadium up a wire that was attached to the top of the Space Needle.  He wouldn't get all the way, but he'd go as far as the motor would take him, stand on top of his motorcycle for some fanfare, and then ride back down backwards.

Dad performed for about two months at the World's fair and then had to leave due to an injury that happened right there in that tire lined moat.  But that's another story.

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