The Anchorage Film Caper
by Michael R Dougherty
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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