Sunday, April 21, 2013

Concrete Washington's War of the Worlds

This morning I was reading Wikipedia's The War of the World's article about Orson Welle's Mercury Theater October 30, 1938 (Halloween) production of H.G. Well's War of the Worlds.

Orson Welle's radio version of The War of the Worlds is infamous due to the fact that it caused listeners across America, to panic, who thought they were listening to real time news about a Martian invasion.

The following blurb, in the article's section titled "Public Reaction" surprised me, due to the reference to a town in the Skagit Valley named Concrete. Growing up in the Skagit Valley I do not remember ever hearing of this interesting tidbit of Concrete history...

In Concrete, Washington, phone lines and electricity went out due to a short-circuit at the Superior Portland Cement Company's substation. Residents were unable to call neighbors, family or friends to calm their fears. Reporters who heard of the coincidental blackout sent the story over the news-wire, and soon Concrete was known worldwide.

The Wikipedia Concrete, Washington article has way more detail about the War of the World's incident.....

Orson Welles' War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast

On October 30, 1938, Seattle's CBS affiliate radio stations KIRO and KVI broadcast Orson Welles' now famous War of the Worlds radio drama. While this broadcast was heard around the country, some of the most terrified listeners were in Concrete.

At the point of the drama where the Martian invaders were invading towns and the countryside with flashes of light and poison gases, a power failure suddenly plunged almost the entire town of 1,000 into darkness. Some listeners fainted while others grabbed their families to head up into the mountains. Other more enterprising locals headed for the surrounding hills to guard their moonshine stills. One man was said to have jumped up out of his chair and, in bare feet, run the two miles (3 km) from his home to the center of town. Some of the men grabbed their guns, and one businessman – a devout Catholic – got his wife into the family car, drove to the nearest service station and demanded gasoline. Without paying the attendant, he rushed off to Bellingham (some forty-miles away) in order to see his priest for a last-minute absolution of sins. The distraught man reportedly told the gas-station attendant that paying for the gas "[wouldn't] make any difference, everyone is going to die!".

Because the phone lines (as well the electricity) were out, the town's residents were unable to call neighbors, family, or friends to verify that their fears were legitimate. Of course, the real story was not as fantastic as the fictional radio drama – all that had occurred was that the Superior Portland cement company's electrical sub-station suffered a short-circuit with a flash of brilliant light, and all the town's lights went dark. The more conservative radio-listeners in Concrete (who had been listening to Charlie McCarthy on another station), attempted to calm neighbors, reporting that they hadn't heard a thing about any "disaster". Reporters heard soon after of the coincidental blackout of Concrete, and sent the story out over the international newswire and soon the town of Concrete was known (if only for a moment) worldwide.

So, there you have it, The War of the Worlds in Concrete, Washington.

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