7/18/36 - Great Lakes Expo by Former Saltsburger - #2
2619 Eaton Rd., Cleveland, O., - July 18, 1936
My Dear Friends:
Here it is Saturday again, and I am just starting my letter to the Press. To tell the truth, I didn't have the courage to start until my copy of the Press arrived yesterday, telling me that my letter appeared. I almost expected a grease spot in that space, symbolic of the state to which all matter, including my gray matter, was reduced in the inferno which we passed, or more truly, in which we languished. Since writing you I have made two visits to the Exposition, one by day, and one by night. One has not really seen the Expo unless he has witnessed the brilliant illumination at night. The design of the main buildings and pylons is almost severely plain, its red, white and blue color scheme stirring one's patriotic emotions rather than the esthetic sense. But skillful lighting transforms it all into a fairyland of beauty. The electrical engineers set out to make this the best lighted Exposition the world has ever seen, and I am confident that they attained their goal. Each night they consume as much current as is used normally by a city of 50,000 people. I was strongly attracted to the Florida exhibit - the Georgian colonial house in its semi-tropical setting. But I saw it only by day, and they tell me its more interesting at night. So I've decided to wait until I get the full effect before describing it. It was great fun strolling about the "Streets of the World," pausing in the "Public Square" to listen to the Lithuanian Chorus, and watch the Belgian dancers in their wooden shoes. The dances were more robust than graceful. One learns that even as far back as the 14th century men and maidens used the dance as a means of securing a fond embrace. The "Kiss" dance was exceedingly popular.
The little houses are, they tell me, faithful reproductions of the homes in the native countries. All sorts of funny little turrets, winding stairways, queer roofs, and medieval fixtures. I went through the Swiss Tavern tucked in under the "Alps." I listened to two Slovenian accordion players, in native costume, play in their cafe, in which I ate real home-made apple strudel, and drank delicious coffee in the Serbian cafe across the "street." At the same time some Croatian men and women came out in costume to have their pictures taken with a movie camera. I never saw such elaborately embroidered dresses. One could spend a fortune in the little booths. All sorts of exquisite laces, rugs, pottery, and curios. For once I longed for that state of affluence we are always talking about, that I might buy souvenirs for all my friends. As it is, I am shipping two elephants to San Antonio, to a dear friend who unlocked the wonder of that enchanting city to me last March. One disappointing thing about the "Streets of the World": it is too commercial. These Old World people have caught the American frenzy for making money. Some of them complain that the Great American Tourist has no imagination; he comes to an Alpine Village and demands a "hot dog." So hot dogs are all mixed up with chow mein and Viennese tarts. If you like antiques and curios, be sure to visit Dickens' Curiosity Shop. It almost "smells" of musty books and bric-a-brac. I peeked into the Motordrome, the same one that was at Chicago, and saw "Red" Crawford and his wife, a very pretty young woman, do their dare-devil stunts on motorcycles. That is, I saw part of it; some of Red's stunts are too hair-raising for me. I did see him stand on one foot on the seat of his motorcycle, as that machine raced around the perpendicular wall.
My favorite concession, by far, is the "Parade of the Years," a dramatized story of the growth of transportation. I've seen it twice, and can hardly wait to take the children. The stage is a great open space, of concrete, to represent Cleveland's Public Square a century ago. Railroad tracks are skillfully laid; the huge back-drop is painted to represent Lake Erie. A retaining wall makes it possible for boats to "sail" or "steam" in at the proper moment. Every important type of vehicle and locomotive used in the last century appear in this drama. The locomotives come in under their own steam, too. I would love to go into detail, but I don't know how much space Mr. Walker can spare for this sort of thing. I realize that some of you can enjoy the Fair only by proxy; and if you enjoy the descriptions, let me know - or let Mr. Walker know. My favorite exhibit, so far, is the "Firestone." The singing fountains attract you from afar. These six or seven beautiful sprays are constantly changing color, supposedly as the music changes. The red, white, and blue lighting of this building at night is outstanding in its beauty. As you sit on one of the benches around the beautiful lawn, and listen to melodious music, and watch the fountains, you feel, with Longfellow, that "the cares of the day fold up their tents like the Arabs, and silently steal away."
The farm scene at the rear is true to life, and of course struck a responsive chord in my heart. There, in the barnyard lay a real cow, chewing her cud as if she were right at home; a sheep was cavorting around, half shy, half friendly; and a beautiful dog - shepherd, I think - lay outside the gate. There are chickens and ducks, but of course they had gone to bed when I was there. An amplified phonograph record keeps them cackling and crowing to all hours of the night. All kinds of farm machinery are shown, with labels for the ignorant city folks to identify them, and of course all farm machinery has Firestone rubber tires, even the tractors. A very clever marionette show and movies of the auto races at Indianapolis and various endurance tests convince you beyond all argument that you buy only Firestone tires. I went down to Radioland Tuesday night, to see and hear Ed Wynn. Radioland is our huge Public Auditorium, converted into a broadcasting station, included in the free shows of the Expo. Something worthwhile is going on there most of the time. I love good comedians, because most of them somehow seem to have caught the true spirit of Christianity - to "love one another." Ed Wynn is not a frivolous person; he is quite serious off-stage, with great intelligence and deep sympathies. He is the one to whom Mrs. Will Rogers turned in her bereavement. He talks of retiring from the radio this summer, but I doubt it. Graham MacNamee has gone stout, and looked as if he felt the heat even more than Ed Wynn in his (Ed's) funny brown overcoat. They carry their famous grab-bag out to the mike; and as Graham pulled out a letter from the "weatherman," Ed said, as he mopped his face, "Is he still alive?" Ed spoke of various attractions at the fair, and at one place where feminine pulchritude was on display, he said Graham reminded him of a peninsula - a long neck stretching out to see.
The greatest thrill came after the regular program was ended. Ed likes to give all due honor to his co-entertainers; and after making the male quartet, the "eight lovely girls," Graham, and Tom Manning come in for a bow and a verbal bouquet, he called, in his booming voice, for Lennie Hayton, the very youthful orchestra leader, for whom Ed predicts a great future, if Lennie will keep a level head. He asked Lennie to play for us; and he in turn asked Ed to play. So they compromised by playing a two-piano duet. That meant considerable shifting of stage properties, Ed calling out Mr. Walter Chrysller to help move the grand pianos, Ed rushing all over the stage, and doing nothing at all. But oh, what a treat was the "duet" - "Gypsy Love Song," with all the frills! Ed Wynn has proven himself a brilliant pianist, as well as having those qualities of mind and heart that endear you to him. I finished off a perfect evening by listening to the great symphony orchestra, under the leadership of Erno Rappee, and then watching the brilliant fireworks at the lake front. These fireworks go off every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday nights, at 10:30. I think they are great.
‘Tis mail time. Good-by until next week.
Florence B. Taylor
Next - 7/26/36 - Great Lakes Expo by Former Saltsburger - #3
By Ways Index