The Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island ran from February of 1939 to September of 1940 with a seven month break from October 1939 to May 1945. The fair closed over seventy five years ago, and the personal memories are fading out. Still, a lot has survived to remember it by. I have a few items myself; at top, is a coaster from the Fair, and below is one of the official guide books.
The guide book has a great fold out map listing the fair’s attractions.
In the opening scenes of Charlie Chan on Treasure Island, (1939) Chan, played by Sidney Toler, flies in to San Francisco from Hawaii, landing in Clipper Cove next to the island. There are great scenes of views from the air of the exposition. In the middle, is the Sun Tower, and at the bottom is the curved Administration Building, still there today.
Another survivor of the fair is the Palace of Fine and Decorative Arts Building, one of three original structures still on the island.
Ferry Boats ran to the island regularly during the fair from the Ferry Building.
In August of 1939, my seventeen year old mother took a train from Grand Forks, North Dakota to spend the summer in San Francisco. Here she is on the right next to her cousin Frances at the Court of Honor fountains on Treasure Island. Notice the first statue to the left of them looking at the picture; original statues from the Treasure Island Fair, including that one, are on display in front of the Administration Building. I’m clowning around here, but with respect; this guy, I think it’s a guy, met my mom long before I did!
One of the Premier attractions of the fair, (My mom better have missed this one!) was the Sally Rand Nude Ranch on the Gayway st the north end of the fair. The Gayway was the section of the fair with carnival rides and attractions.
I recently ordered a book of detective stories from the pulp magazines of the 1930’s and 1940’s at Amazon.com. I was delighted to find the story, ‘Murder on the Gayway’ by Dwight Babcock, written in 1939, in the collection. The story begins and ends, at the Treasure Island Fair, in particular, the Sally Rand Nude Ranch. It has vivid descriptions of the attraction, as well as the rest of the fair.
“The Nude Ranch was a long, low building with a rustic Spanish-type front. In the heart of the Gayway and its most popular attraction, the barkers out front were made up like copies of the Lone Ranger and didn’t have to work very hard to lure customers inside at two bits a crack. The exhibit was coining money.”