On July 20, 1962, New Jersey Day is celebrated at the Seattle World's Fair. The event comes on the heels of a small brouhaha, after a caravan of New Jersey visitors traveled cross-country only to find their accommodations less than accommodating. Fair officials scramble to alleviate the situation, and in the end everyone is happy.
The New Jerseyans left their home state on July 5 in a modern-day wagon train of 33 cars and trailers, filled with 107 travelers, including 33 children. The most noticeable vehicle in the caravan was the state's "Historymobile" a 16-ton museum on wheels filled with artifacts and information about the state's upcoming tercentennial honoring New Jersey's founding in 1664 as one of America's 13 original colonies. The Historymobile also contained several thousand small containers of Atlantic Ocean water, to be given out as souvenirs at the Seattle World's Fair.
The caravan began its route in Salem, New Jersey, and the travelers stopped in every town called Salem along their path. Before reaching Seattle, they visited Salems in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Oregon. These and other towns welcomed the New Jerseyans, sometimes with picnics held at their campsites. Wagon master Henry Warnaar noted that they made 13 stops before reaching Seattle and were treated royally along the way.
But when they arrived in Washington at the campsite assigned to them by Expo Lodging -- the fair's clearinghouse for advance registration – the Garden Staters were appalled. Located just off Pacific Highway South in Federal Way, the "Century City Campsite" was a recently bulldozed patch of land littered with tree stumps and brush, accessible only by a rutted, rocky road.
The caravanners voiced their complaints to fair officials, and also to the press. Some of the party stated that they might just forego the fair, and visit Canada instead. David S. Davies, executive director of the New Jersey Tercentenary Committee told reporters, "As far as I can see, Seattle is nowhere, and this is 20 miles from it."
Not wanting to displease their guests nor suffer any more bad press, fair officials took immediate action. Willis Camp (1913-1993), director of Expo Lodging, quickly found trailer space at Brinster's Trailerama, located a mile south of Auburn. The caravan gladly made their way to their new campsite, although a handful of campers opted to remain at the stump ranch.
Folks in Auburn helped ease the situation further. On the morning of the New Jersey Day celebration at the fairgrounds, the Auburn Chamber of Commerce entertained the group at a free breakfast held at the Rainbow Café in Auburn. Afterwards, the town's automobile dealers' association drove the Garden Staters to the fair in a fleet of brand new 1962 automobiles. Honored by all the attention being lavished on them, assistant wagon master Leland Gilliland gushed that his group had "heard of Western hospitality and now they have seen it and hope that the people of Seattle and the fair can realize how appreciative we are" ("Wagon Trainers Get Fleet of Autos").
When the group got to the fairgrounds they were greeted by Willis Camp, public relations director Jay Rockey (1928-2018), and fair president Joe Gandy (1904-1971), hats in hand. Gandy told them that their admission was free, and that he'd even buy them lunch at the prestigious Club 21, the on-site private membership club for exhibitors and VIPs. Camp offered his apologies, noting that their original campsite was checked out in early June by his staff, but that the trees were uprooted in the meantime by the corporation that was developing it into an industrial site.
Davies also offered his apologies, confessing that "we did not handle this well. If you come in and use your mouth before your mind, you'll get in trouble. I'm sure everyone is happy today" (Fair, 'Wagon Train' Smoke Peace Pipe.
A Tempest in a Teapot
At 11:30 a.m., crowds gathered in the Plaza of the States to kick off New Jersey Day celebrations. Paul Troast, chairman of the New Jersey Tercentenary Committee joined Louis Bruno, Washington State superintendent of public instruction, in raising the New Jersey state flag to the place of honor beside the American flag and the seal of the state of Washington. Both men lit a fire font symbolizing the unity among states, after which Boy Scouts raised the flags of all 50 states one by one.
Joe Gandy welcomed David Davies to the podium, and both men laughed off the campsite incident, which Davies downplayed as "somewhat of a tempest in a teapot." Gandy replied, "Yes, but it's our teapot," to which Davies smiled back and said, "Yes, but it's our tempest" ("N. J. Caravan to Fair at Peace Again"). Sealing the deal, both men were joined on stage by Bill Heavyrunner, of the fair's Indian Village, who offered Davies a pipe of peace. He accepted it graciously, and with that the public relations blunder went up in a puff of smoke.
After a nice lunch a Club 21, the delegation from New Jersey spent the rest of the day enjoying the fair. They were happy to show everyone their Historymobile and its contents, which included their plans for mounting an exhibit at the New York World's Fair in 1964 -- the year of their state's tercentennial.