The Electric Utilities pavilion provided one of the most interactive exhibits on the Fair grounds. Visitors entered the pavilion and suddenly found themselves walking through a gas-lit street circa 1893. After browsing through the wonders of yesteryear, they then exited through the electric company’s office into a modern-day street scene. Sound effects included horses on a cobblestone street and an untuned piano.
One elderly woman screamed that she’d gone blind, not realizing the special effects of the gas-lit street. To complete the scene, the tops of the buildings obscured by darkness.
Elderly people tended to linger on the gas-lit street, peering into the shops windows and reminiscing about the objects displayed. Older visitors, however, noted the lack of two typical institutions of the gas-lit era: a saloon with its swinging doors and a pawnshop with three balls. Younger visitors, however, rushed thought the cobblestone area and spent their time in the streamlined street of tomorrow.
Three women, two men and a boy, all professional actors, inhabited the 1892 venue. Niels Robinson, 14, spent his day playing throughout the street but was constantly at the beck-and-call of his “mother” (Minerva Courtnay) shouting “Tom-eee!” to do his homework. Occasionally she also threatened the youngster should take a bath, but promised to draw the curtains so onlookers would not be offended.
Viola Clark, who played a red-haired housewife, and her real-life husband, Trevor Clarke, who “worked” in the 1892 office of the Central Electric Co. joined up in their “home” for a brief respite, when the crowds thinned out.
Johnny Quigg, a veteran of the Ziegfeld Follies, played a mustached police officer. As the scene was supposedly set in the autumn, Quigg wore a heavy helmet and long, thick coat. One enthusiastic gentleman stopped “Officer” Quigg, describing how, as a former executive of Standard Oil, he once sold 65,000 lamps that were now on display.
The actors ate on the set every day, usually consisting of a tomato, potato salad, a ham sandwich, and an apple. When the one couple found itself without a table for lunch one day, they absconded with a set piece from a second house, only to hear, much to the delight of the pavilion’s visitors, “You’ve got one hell of a nerve walkin’ off with somebody else’s furniture.”
View the Press Release images collected by Vernon F. Clifford during his employment at the Electric Utilities Pavilion and donated by his daughter, Barbara Burns for display on this site.
The album contained photographs and press releases for both the Electrical Utilities Pavilion and the Electrified Farm
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