Dorothy was not in Missouri anymore

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

In 1933, my parents took me on a wonderful trip to The Chicago World's Fair. One of my father's colleagues from Columbia, his wife and son Jimmy Sid accompanied us. My father, who was a state senator from the 15th district of Missouri, drove his blue Pontiac with 1-581 on the license plate. It was an exciting day as we loaded up and headed north. I'm pretty sure we traveled the legendary Route 66 part of the way.

The first day we stopped in Bloomington, Ill. for the night. While we were dining in the hotel restaurant, I saw a beautiful lady with a big navy blue picture hat and navy blue suit sitting near our table. I was fascinated watching her smoke a cigarette in a long holder. As a 9 year old, I was duly impressed. She looked so sophisticated! I had never seen a woman smoke a cigarette and with a holder, except in the movies.

The following morning, we continued our drive. Passing through Cicero, Ill., someone said, "Duck your heads, we are in gangster territory!" Those were the days when the underworld was active with Al Capone, John Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd. I ducked and hoped we didn't get shot at.

Arriving in Chicago, we stayed at the downtown La Salle Hotel. My father gave me 25 cents to spend at the fair, which was the most "moolah" I had ever seen at one time. Chocolate ice cream sodas were my favorite treat, so I had already decided how I would spend a portion of my money. Ice cream sodas at home in Marshall were 5 cents.

The next day we went to the fair. Our first stop was Midget Village where very small ladies and gentlemen were rocking in chairs outside a tiny house. My major discovery, there was a soda fountain where I could indulge in my fancy. I ordered a chocolate ice cream soda. What a disappointment! It was tiny and it cost 15 cents. What was I to do? Now I only had 10 cents to spend. I didn't cry, but it really hurt inside.

Ripley's Believe It or Not was our next stop. There we saw many unusual things. One thing I recall was the "Rubber Man." He was so flexible, he must have been double jointed. Then we moved on to see a snake pit with a rail around it. Inside was a man from India surrounded by writhing snakes. It seemed that there were hundreds of snakes in the pit. To this day, just mention "snake" and I cringe.

Still having 10 cents in my pocket, I decided to purchase a real live chameleon, one of those creatures that changed color, depending on its background. He cost my whole 10 cents, but that was what I wanted. He came with a little string around his neck and a safety pin so that I could pin him on my blouse. My 10 cents was gone, but I was happy with little "Izzy."

The next sight was the planetarium. Having no idea what to expect, when the lights went out, and it was coal black, I grabbed for my dad. But then when the stars and planets sparkled on the ceiling of the huge dome, it was spectacular.

Evening found us at the Edgewater Beach Hotel for a dinner show. Sally Rand came on stage wearing lots of white feathers. Promptly, we two youths were sent out onto the pier on Lake Michigan, where we skipped rocks across the water. Luckily, we didn't fall in.

Tired but with our senses in overload from the amazing things we had seen, on the second day we headed back home. I'm not sure how it happened, but somehow along the way, Jimmy Sid's mother sat on my chameleon! She was not a petite woman and my chameleon was so little. It almost broke my heart to lose my little "Izzy," but then I still had my memories of attending The Chicago World's Fair.

This story first appeared in the Marshall Writers' Guild booklet, "The Wonder of it All" (2004) as, "Chicago World's Fair."

Dorothy Peterman was a member of the guild until her death in 2005.