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Bill Cotter

The World's Fair that just never arrived

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The World's Fair that just never arrived

Joe Blackstock, Staff WriterCreated: 12/07/2009 12:40:50 PM PST

var requestedWidth = 0; if(requestedWidth > 0){ document.getElementById('articleViewerGroup').style.width = requestedWidth + "px"; document.getElementById('articleViewerGroup').style.margin = "0px 0px 10px 10px"; } A World's Fair of years past used to be like the Internet, cable TV and a trip to Disneyland, all wrapped up in a spectacular package.

These celebrations allowed the curious to see the wonders of electricity, radio and other inventions, taste new or exotic foods, and realize there was a big world out there beyond their neighborhood.

I remember a high school trip to Disneyland in 1964 where I talked with and viewed via AT&T telephone/television two girls who were at the World's Fair at New York's Flushing Meadows in New York. The technology then seemed such a miraculous thing.

As a result I feel a bit shortchanged that plans for World's Fairs planned for Pomona, Diamond Bar, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ontario just never got anywhere.

The earliest effort began in June 1959 when undeveloped Diamond Bar Ranch was listed as one of six locations in Los Angeles and Oranges counties for a fair proposed in 1963.

"I don't know of a better place in the world where a show could operate 365 days a year than right here in Los Angeles County," Spencer Monroe, a leader in the effort, told the Pomona Chamber of Commerce. He said $4billion would be spent by fair-goers.

But the idea died partially because plans were already under way for fairs in Seattle (1962) and New York (1964).

Things picked up in late 1964 when the fairgrounds in Pomona and today's Bonelli Regional Park were proposed for a 1968 World's Fair. The original site was to be in Long Beach, but city leaders there wanted no part of it. Unfortunately Los Angeles County's Board of Supervisors felt the same way, telling Glenn Watson, general manager of the proposed Pomona fair, it was not willing to support it.

Watson then moved the orphan fair idea east to San Bernardino, where a $100million World's Fair was proposed for 1969 at the Orange Show.

Things looks pretty positive for a while, especially after the county Board of Supervisors approved a sale of bonds for the fair. The Bureau of International Expositions in Paris was asked to give its endorsement.

If it was economically sound, noted Supervisor Nancy E. Smith, "it could be the greatest thing that has ever happened to San Bernardino."

But it quickly became the biggest thing never to happen in San Bernardino.

In August 1965, a rift erupted between the San Bernardino and Los Angeles County members of the Inland Empire Exposition Co. organized to hold the fair.

The Los Angeles County members "voted to dump San Bernardino Orange Show" for a site in the La Sierra area between Riverside and Corona, according to the San Bernardino Sun-Telegram.

In May 1966, ground was broken for a 1969 Riverside fair, but soon squabbles over the site and the always-questionable issue of funding doomed the plan.

The Inland Valley's final chance was Expo 81, a World's Fair at the then-failing Ontario Motor Speedway. It was to be linked to the bicentennial of the 1781 founding of Los Angeles which apparently had no place or seemingly much interest in holding such an event.

Plans went forward for the 1981 fair - President Ford in December 1976 gave federal recognition for the exposition. Union Pacific agreed to allow a Los Angeles-Ontario monorail to be built over its rail lines to serve the fair.

Things were so serious that it may have even spurred the incorporation of Rancho Cucamonga after Ontario hinted it might annex some land in Cucamonga north of Fourth Street for Expo.

Ah, but not everybody out here shared my enthusiasm for a World's Fair. City councils from Chino to Upland voted their opposition. The local Sierra Club and League of Women Voters hated the idea.

Gus Skropos, later an Ontario councilman and county supervisor, wondered to the Pomona Progress-Bulletin why everyone couldn't just get along.

"It would provide jobs from the construction worker to the hamburger flipper," he said in May 1977. "Retail sales will grow. We need to cast aside selfishness and pride and support Expo."

But that didn't happen, and when local Rep. Jim Lloyd, D-West Covina, came out in opposition, things started falling apart.

The final blow came in December 1977 when Secretary of Commerce Juanita M. Kreps refused to give the needed federal endorsement. She cited "serious concern about the potential for successful development of Expo 81."

And, as almost an ironic tribute, in July 1981, in the midst of what was to be Expo 81, the demolition crews began tearing down the city's failed speedway. Today, I just wonder whatever happened to those two girls from the World's Fair in New York.

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The local Sierra Club and League of Women Voters hated the idea.

Okay, one can rationalize why the Sierra Club would be opposed (there's not much that they support), but the League of Women Voters?

One has to understand California politics and who supports each others interests for political payback purposes.

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There's a connection here in L.A. between NFL teams and World's Fairs.

The Sierra Club and the League of Women Voters are opposed to both. :D

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The Long Beach Public Library has several volumes of information regarding the planned Planet of Man Exposition that had been scheduled to be staged in Long Beach during the winter of 1966-67. Several proposed site plans, theme structures, transportation facilities, etc. are covered along with newspaper clippings about the fair's progress (or lack of) during the planning stages.

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