Amy Tries Again

The Best Thing At Expo and The Worst Thing at Expo
September 19, 2011, 10:01 PM
Filed under: Miscellanea, Things I Like

(UPDATE: pictures found! )

In 1988, I was five years old.  A very cool thing happened.  Seemingly out of the blue, a vast land of extreme interest just sort of appeared in the middle of Brisbane.  It was constructed in bright colours, which appealed to me greatly, and meant that people started, in my opinion, to finally behave sensibly.  Fireworks were held nightly.  Face-painting was rife.  Good!  It seemed my lifestyle preferences had finally started to influence society in general.  All I needed now was for Peter Combe to come to my birthday party and for a rollercoaster to be built in the junior school playground.


Sadly, I eventually learnt that Brisbane’s change of heart (also known as Expo ’88) was (a) not permanent; and (b) not entirely for my benefit.  Despite this disappointment, I still adored it, and remember a surprising amount about it.  I’m sure a lot of those memories were formed simply because it was shiny and fun.  I didn’t hoard similar memories of learning multiplication.

Still.  This might just be me retro-fitting the past, but I think that at the time, I got the message that this was important, it wasn’t coming back, and I’d want to remember it one day.  I was always being told how exciting it all was.  I obviously agreed, as 23 years later, I have a strange mental scrapbook of the event – odd, floating snippets that are never quite in context, like:

–  falling over and scraping my knee on a stepping-stone

–  an entertainer lady giving me a hologram badge outside the (West?) German pavilion when I sang a song into the microphone for the people in line

–  big fake trees you could climb inside.  They smelt good.  I don’t know what they smelt like, but they smelt really good.

–  an enormous piece of swiss cheese, viewed from a chairlift

–  the ‘Silo in the City’, and the milkshakes sold nearby (look, mostly the milkshakes)

–  fireworks!

–  a street entertainer who moved like a robot.  I thought he was a robot.

–  running to find the stamp booth in each pavilion and excitedly reporting back to my Dad when I did

–  the Queensland pavilion having mannequins with tvs playing videos of talking heads where their heads should be.  Mind = BLOWN.

–  a totem pole

–  having to let go of my mother’s hand when walking in a crowd when a mean lady pushed between us

–  a cardboard make-it-yourself toy I collected every single time I went that featured – I think – a boxing kangaroo

(Yep, I’ve descended into blogging via dot point.)

Anyway.  None of these are important compared to the absolute peak of all that was good about Expo, and the soulclenching terror of the worst thing it had to offer.  I wish I could find a picture of either of these online, but I can’t.  Mum, if you’re reading this, I’m coming over to rummage through old photo albums.  Also, thanks for getting season passes.

The very best thing in all of Expo was in the Japan pavilion.  This is the pavilion I remember most, and with good reason.  It was magnificent.  They had dancing robots, and that wasn’t even the best bit.  My favourite thing in the wide world at age 5 was a tiny little hologram carpenter man who lived in a tiny little old Japanese village.  He walked around and had adventures.  I think his name was Hachi.  I had no idea how they’d done it.  It was absolute magic.  (For the record, apparently it was done with a mirror (but of course) and a projector.)  Hachi was my one and only, and we had to visit him every. single. time we went.  I made up little stories in my head about his other adventures (he only really had one).  I still miss you, Hachi.

I wish I had a picture of Hachi.

However!  Such devotion is always tested.  To know the joy of the Japan pavilion, I had to brave the crowds.  I didn’t mind crowds.  I liked the parades a lot.  I thought the street performers were wonderful.  That is…except one.  A small float unto himself, the Beard Man was an enormous (to me) character suit.  His performer/operator was hidden inside a vast figure mostly made up of beard.  Out of the beard, at random intervals, would pop little animal puppets.  It sounds quite whimsical.  I believe it was based on a childrens’ book about (surprisingly enough) a man with animals living in his beard – a book of which I was not scared.  Beard Man himself, however, was the stuff of nightmares.  I don’t know why.  I knew he wasn’t going to get me.  I knew (even if I didn’t always believe it) that he was just some guy in a suit.  Nevertheless – absolute terror.  There were things in his beard.

I am glad I do not have a picture of Beard Man.  Okay, that’s a lie.  I’d love to see a picture of him.  I admit to the secret hope that one of the six or seven people reading this will email me in about 10 minutes to tell me that (a) their father/mother/aunty/second cousin was the performer operating Beard Man, and that they still have the costume at home; and (b) their father/mother/aunty/second cousin designed Hachi, and has extensive archival footage, including a deleted scene in which Hachi talks about how much he wishes he could live in Amy’s dollhouse.

I wait in hope.


8 Comments so far
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Sorry to say, no Beard Man costume or Hachi archives in my closet.
Expo 88 was the big drawcard for me to move from NZ to Brisbane with 3 mates back in, er, 88. Even back home, the nightly TV commentary breathlessly extolled the virtues of the event, and how one couldn’t Not have an awesome time attending.
Sadly, one of said mates turned out to be a bonafide psychopath in the making, and the remaining 3 of us returned with out tails between our legs to finish high school.
I never did get to see Expo 88, but now feel I’ve vicariously lived it just a little through the eyes of a 5 year old girl. Which, I’ll admit, is ever so slightly strange…

Comment by drej08

I’m picturing your adventure as pretty much like this:

Comment by Amy

Okay, I have two Expo ’88 books I picked up from garage sales ($1 each well spent!). Each have a picture of bearded man – 1 of just him and 1 with a puppet of a woman sticking out of his beard. I note the smiles and laughter of the children around him, so none of them are you.

Also, there’s a terrible small photo of Hachi. It’s not great though.

I’ll see if I take a photo of the pics with my camera, if it’ll work out. None of them are large pictures so not sure how well it’ll work.

Comment by Aaron Doyle (@aaronjdoyle)

Oh wow. A thousand times yes.

Comment by Amy

Okay, forget the fact I’m a lazy bastard and focus on the fact I came up witht he goods 🙂

Pic 1

Pic 2

Pic 3

Comment by Aaron Doyle (@aaronjdoyle)

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i’ve been trying to track down an image of an expo 88 t-shirt logo from the japan pavilion – I remember it as a flying saucer sort of character in pastel pink and blue, on a white shirt. i loved it 🙂
any chance you have come across it?

Comment by Min

I’m afraid not. I do, however, have a documentary about Expo I’ve been meaning to watch. It apparently has a bit of the Japanese pavilion in it – I’ll keep you posted if I spot it!

Comment by Amy

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