Tune In Next Time

An excerpt from Dermot Cole’s, Amazing Pipeline Stories: How Building the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Transformed Life in America's Last Frontier

In these days when scarcely a place on the planet is beyond the reach of live satellite broadcasts of CNN newscasts or Chicago Cubs games, it is worth noting the arrangements required to supply TV and movies for the pipeline camps.

There was not channel surfing. Tapes of television shows and reels of film had to be shipped by air for delivery to camps up and down the line.

The films, a different one each day, were provided on a regular camp-to-camp circuit and shown once in the evening for the day shift, and again in the morning for the night shift. Workers who helped out by running the projector in one camp received cards identifying the holder as a “certified exhibitionist.”

At Old Man Camp, there was a theater with seating for 180 and quadraphonic sound. Movies at the camps were, in many cases, more recent than those shown in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Action films drew the biggest crowds.

Jaws, the oceanic epic that made Americans afraid of going into the water at the beach, appeared in May 1975 on the pipeline, a full year before the shark saga appeared on the silver screen in Fairbanks.

On television, when Walter Cronkite ended his CBS news broadcasts with the catch phrase “That’s the way it is,” it should have been amended to “That’s the way it was two days ago.

TV broadcasts in the pipeline camps started in 1974 with taped syndicated shows and two-day-old national news flown in from Fairbanks and Anchorage, where it was broadcast as day-old news. In those days, the comedies and dramatic shows carried by the networks were shown three weeks late in Fairbanks, after first airing in Hawaii and Anchorage.

Taped shows in the pipeline camps included All in the Family, M*A*S*H, 60 Minutes, Cannon, and The Six Million Dollar Man.

Timely broadcasting took a step forward when part of the 1974 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland A’s was seen in the pipeline camps on a one-day delay. 

An Anchorage ad agency, seven advertisers, RCA Alaska Communications and NBC had arranged that year for the first live satellite telecasts in Anchorage and Fairbanks of the fall classic. It cost the sponsors $5,000 per game.

The deal came together only twenty-four hours before Game 1, but the TV stations in Alaska still didn’t have permission from Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn to tape the games for viewing in the pipeline camps. 

Finally, five hours before Game 3 of the series, the Alaska promoters received the official okay from the commissioner’s office. The balance of the series, which the A’s won for the third year in a row, was taped at KFAR in Fairbanks. The tapes of the games were flown to eleven camps within twenty-four hours of the last out each day.