The Anchorage Film Caper

by Michael R Dougherty

McKinley Building

McKinley Building

There was someone just down the empty McKinley basement corridor... or was there?

With my 16mm film can clutched tightly under my left arm and a 357 magnum in my shaky right hand, I was ready for action as I nervously made my way to the KTVA channel 11 film processor located in Anchorage's all but empty basement of the downtown McKinley building following the 1964 Great Alaskan Earthquake.

At 18 years of age, I went to work at KTVA channel 11. It was after the 1964 earthquake and the downtown McKinley building, where KTVA and KNIK-FM were located, had been damaged. Following the quake, the building was unoccupied except for the studios and offices of channel 11 and KNIK-FM where both were located on the building's first floor.

Not long after the earthquake, homeless people and drunks would sometimes make their way into the building.

One night during KTVA's 10:00pm live news, an intoxicated man actually managed to make his way into the TV studio where he parted the curtains and stumbled onto the live news set. The man saw the lights and the cameras, said "huh?", then turned and left the same way he stumbled in. And all on live TV.

My Anchorage Film Caper began one late afternoon when Franklin Butte, the Chief Engineer, handed me a metal film can containing unprocessed 16mm news film and told me to take it to the film processor which was located in the basement.

I took the film can and started for the basement when Frank stopped me with "hold it Mike... you may need this" and with that, he handed me a holster and a 357 Magnum pistol.

Wide-eyed I asked "what do I need this for?"

Frank shrugged his shoulders and said "there may be drunks or burglars down there"

Later as I quickly walked the all to dark, dusty and vary vacant hallways, I held out my trusty 357 Magnum. And just like the all the detectives in movies and TV shows, I darted from side-to-side, pasted myself against the wall at each corner of every hallway, then I jumped out with my trusty gun raised.

Like an idiot I did that all the way to the film processing room where I quickly and nervously threw the 16mm film can on the counter.

Then I ran as fast as I could like the scared chicken that I was, until I was safely out of the basement and gasping for air back in the KTVA studios.

What a combination for disaster. An empty, dark, earthquake ravaged vacant building, a nervous, gun-toting 18 year old idiot and whoever the poor soul was that he might encounter.

Thankfully, I was never asked to return to that spooky basement again.

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Comments for The Anchorage Film Caper

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by: AlaskaGirl81

Had myself a nice laugh, when I realized you are the author of the Anchorage Memories website and other Alaska stories!

I didn’t make the connection.

I look forward to reading your other stories.

A Note from Mike


Always glad when a reader enjoys the stories we post here on Anchorage Memories.

And I appreciate you taking the time to tell me how much you enjoyed reading my story.

The Anchorage Film Caper actually happened and it's fun to look back now and laugh.

Thank you


Great Story!
by: AlaskaGirl81

I loved your story.

It really caught my attention and held me through the entire read.

You are a true writer and need to write more Alaska stories!

A Note from Mike


Thank you so much for your very kind words.

I'm glad you enjoyed "The Anchorage Film Caper" story and I hope you enjoy all the memories here on Anchorage

Anchorage Film Caper
by: Karla Fetrow

That was hilarious!

Very well written and so typically Alaskan.

A Note from Mike of Anchorage Memories


Thank you so much for your kind words about my story. I'm so glad you enjoyed it -


Brave Young Man
by: Mary Jane Dougherty

Thoroughly enjoyed this story.

After The Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964 a lot apparently had to change to keep businesses and their employees safe.

I can just imagine if their was a job interview that would ask a teenager "would you carry a fire arm for safety along with creeping around in a dark basement and get coffee?"

Way to go Mike!

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