Welcome to the first episode of Interesting If True, the podcast that’s interesting, if not always accurate though we do try to be. I’m your host this week, Jenn, and with me are our panel…
I’m Steve, and this past week has reinforced that I’d just about prefer to chew off my own arm than listen to another presidential press conference.
I’m Shea and this week I learned that in 20 years our world will be run by homeschooled kids taught by day drinkers. I
I’m Aaron and this week I learned that most of a project’s requirements will become apparent to you right before you hit record.
Now before I get into the first story of our inaugural episode, I want to give a brief intro of the hosts to bring you up to speed if you are just finding us from our previous iteration. I know it’s really hard to tell the difference in new voices, so maybe this will help. Plus, you’ll be in the know of the occasional inside jokes we affectionately jab at each other’s expense.
Starting with Shea, because Aaron has a complex about the double “AA”‘s in his name, not his bra, causing him to be called upon first. We call Shea the Yeti because he’s furry and furtively rarely spotted. Lucky for Shea, he found a mate in a real human woman, took his honeymoon to Ireland and Scotland and is completely colorblind.
Aaron is Canadian, has 7 sweettooths(teeth?) and an emergency travel pack of maple syrup, has a hard time with words and letters (both saying and spelling), and all roads lead to either Dune or Dr. Who. He started us on the podcasting path and will find any excuse for a Russian accent.
We all consider ourselves pretty skeptical towards the world and its mysteries, but Steve is the extra-pedantic Spock of the group. He has little to absolutely no time for nonsense, is the son of a Baptist preacher and Shea thinks he is older than the oldest dirt. He’s not really, but he did watch the 6 Million Dollar Man in its original run.
And I’m Jenn, a refugee from the Deep South and evangelicalism, grew up in a swamp and have a deep seated fear of space, space aliens and monkeys (weirdly, monkeys in space just makes me sad, not scared). Like the worst female stereotype I’m terrible at math and my voice is probably the easiest to pick out, unless Aaron is laughing really hard. It’s high pitched.
We all four currently live in Wyoming though none of us are from here, are varying degrees of nerdy, and like most all animals more than most all people.
So that’s us and now on to the story!
Jenn’s Recipe For Volcanic Pork
Possibly the greatest, or at least most potentially dangerous and involved, April Fool’s prank of all time.
I had a helluva time deciding on the first tale to spin, because like Scheherazade I’ve got 1,001 of ‘em. But I wanted it to be unique, relatively unknown, fun (or at least not too terribly gross or depressing), and give you all a general idea of the treasure to be found on this podcast feed.
So I decided on the true story of Porky’s Rising. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably not that.
Let’s begin our story in the Alaskan town of Sitka on April 1, 1974, an obviously more innocent time as you will come to see. The morning starts off clear and beautiful, and the little island city-borough was soon bustling about, but little did the residents know that trouble was a-brewin’. Or technically, a-burnin’.
Now the town of Sitka sits in the shadow of a large stratovolcano called Mt. Edgecumbe, which rises thirteen miles to the West. For those of you not in the volcanology trivia club, a stratovolcano is a conical volcano that rises out of the ground. Basically what you picture when you think ‘volcano’, vs an underground caldera. Which, another fun fact, we here in Laramie live next to the largest active volcano in the world, the Yellowstone Caldera. Thrilling! We’ll be the first to die.
So anyways, back to the morning of April 1, 1974. As residents began moving about some began to notice a black plume rising from their neighborly volcano. Now, Mt. Edgecumbe had been dormant for approximately 400 years, so this was a cause for some alarm.
Not surprisingly residents began to call in to authorities with reports of the ‘oh my god, are we going to die?’ variety.
The coast guard was alerted, bringing in the big guns (or at least a helicopter) from Juneau to do surveillance of the apparently awakening mountain. The pilot flew a few passes of the crater, then couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw what was causing the black clouds of smoke. He was staring not at smoldering lava but a huge tire fire and 50ft tall black spray painted letters spelling out April Fools! In the snow.
Now, I’m going to back this story up a bit, three years to be exact. That was when WWII veteran (and survivor of the Normandy Beach invasion) Oliver ‘Porky’ Bickar decided life in Sitka had gotten dull. He had lived in the town for 15 years and considered himself quite the prankster and showman. Per the Anchorage Daily News,
“He was in the logging equipment business, and his favorite stunt was to cut a tree so that it hit a target on the ground, usually a hard hat.”
So yeah, Porky then hatched a plan to convince the residents of his small town that impending doom was upon them. Fun!
He began to collect used tires.
For three years he schemed and acquired himself quite the pile of discarded rubber tires, roughly 70 or so, which he stored in an airplane hanger. When the morning of that fateful April Fool’s Day dawned bright and clear, he knew his moment had come.
“When he woke that morning on April 1, he looked out his window and could see right across the sound. So he looked at his wife, Patty, and said, “I have to go do it today.” She replied, “Just don’t make an ass of yourself.”
And weirdly, this seemed to be the sentiment throughout the day.
Now what’s a weirdly nicknamed veteran just itching to get 70+ tires up a volcano right meow to do?! Well, he hopped on the horn to several area charter pilots to help him haul his tire stash.
Again from the Anchorage Daily News:
“Porky rushed to his shop and, after calling multiple helicopter charters, was able to enlist the services of Earl Walker from Petersburg. Although Earl was fog-bound in Petersburg, he was excited by Porky’s idea and said he would be on his way to Sitka as soon as the weather cleared. While waiting, Porky made two rope slings about 150 feet long, each holding 50 old car tires. He also gathered oily rags, a gallon of Sterno, a whole lot of diesel oil, and a dozen smoke bombs– anything and everything that would emit thick, black smoke.
Upon Earl’s arrival, and with the help of their accomplices, Larry Nelson and Ken Stedman, Porky and Earl loaded the helicopter and off they flew toward Mt. Edgecumbe. They dropped the tires and incendiaries into the volcano’s crater.”
Now remember when I mentioned this was obviously a more innocent time? Well, Porky was responsible enough to alert authorities to his little plan, and not after it was over. Nope, in these ‘very obviously before 9/11’ times everyone thought it was a hilarious lark, even the FAA.
“When asking the FAA tower for permission to land back in Sitka, Homer Sutter, the air-traffic controller, said, “I’ll bring you in as low and inconspicuously as possible…and, by the way, the son of a gun looks fantastic!” Porky had notified the FAA and the Sitka Police Department, but had somehow forgotten the Coast Guard.“
And that is why the Coast Guard helicopter pilot was one of the first to realize it was a ‘gotcha’ moment.
In the most surprising turn of events, the stunt was viewed almost universally as a positive thing. The people of Sitka seemed to be delighted. Even the Coast Guard wasn’t too mad about the stunt. Porky met the Admiral years later at a Fourth of July party. As the Admiral walked over to meet him, Porky was afraid he was going to be chewed out, but instead the Admiral told Porky he thought the prank was classic. From sitkahisotry.com:
“News of Porky’s antics in Sitka even reached Jimmy Johnson, Vice President of Alaska Airlines, who called the Sitka station to instruct their departing plane to fly over the mountain, giving their passengers a front-row seat to the spectacle.”
Porky even designed his own Sitka, AK logo, a jacket with it is housed in the Sitka Museum.
The following year Alaska Airlines sponsored an ‘Alaska Brag’ contest, for native Alaskans to submit their biggest feats. Porky of course submitted:
“On April Fools’ Day, I hired a chopper and flew 70 old, kerosene-soaked tires on top of the dormant volcano, Mt. Edgecumbe, that looms over Sitka. I set the tires on fire, and the billowing black smoke created one hell of a commotion in Sitka. I dare you to top that April Fools’ joke.”
And because Alaska is nuts, he didn’t even win. The winner was The Raven, a bear attack survivor and one of Anchorage’s most prolific drug dealers.
But Porky didn’t need to feel too badly, his stunt gained worldwide attention and is still listed among the greatest hoaxes and pranks of all time. His personal favorite response of all came from a Denver attorney in 1980 who, upon the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, sent Porky an article of the event with a note stating “This time, you little bastard, you’ve gone too far.”
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Aaron’s Great Blue Eruption
Normally this story would be exclusive to subscribers at Patreon.com/iit,but we wanted to release the first few shows to everyone to give you an idea of what you can get for as little as a dollar a show.
WNAC-TV, your source for news in the Boston area and beyond… is how I imagine they say that. But it wasn’t the promo-spot they meant for it to be in the 1980’s…
Before we dive into the fake-news, we need to chat about the area around Boston. Unless you’re a certain Havaad yaard car-parking Yeti you’re probably not familiar with the surrounding geography. Specifically, the Great Blue Hill.
Great Blue Hill in Massachusetts, called “Massachusett” by the local Native Americans, is a wee-little hill (well, by our foot-of-the-Rockies standards anyway) measuring 635 feet (194M) above sea level. It’s located within the Blue Hills Reservation in Milton and Canton, about 10 miles southwest of downtown Boston.
Fun fact, unlike downtown Boston, Blue Hill doesn’t smell like molasses and consonantal drift when it gets warm. The pleasures of rural living eh?
The currently accepted name for the hill, Great Blue Hill, was of course given by early European explorers, because why use the name the locals already use AmIRight? The name came from the way the hill took on a bluish hue from a distance. The coloration is caused by the exposed granite faces. The hill gently slopes into the ocean. Isn’t that nice.
Now, all of this is a great geography lesson that I’m sure one’s of people will ever have a use for. But I say all of it to say that this is merely a low-lying, granite-based, hill.
Or is it?
Back to WNAC-TV and the 6pm news. Toward the end of the broadcast news broke that the Great Blue Hill was erupting!
The news broadcast cut in just as the regularly scheduled programming was coming to a close. Footage showed ash and fire spewing from the peak of the tiny hill. Reports of lava flowing down the hillside were clear—if you lived in its path the molten rock would envelop your home and self in a fiery hell-scape from which there could be no return.
As the broadcast continued remarks were heard from President Jimmy Carter and Governor Edward J. King sending condolences and asking the public to remain calm. Reporter Jan Harrison, said the “geological disturbances across the country, including tidal waves in the Great Lakes and erupting volcanoes in Massachusetts.” Local geologists confirmed through seismic analysis that the burning horror was indeed brought on by a geological chain reaction set off by the eruption of Mount St. Helens a week earlier.
Of course the news sparked immediate fear in the local population. more than 300 calls here logged to local emergency services and reports of evacuations were coming in from all over. One man, believing that his house would soon be engulfed by lava, had carried his sick wife outside in order to escape.
Unfortunately, in the chaos following the initial announcement, almost no one saw the final graphic of the report, a full-screen “April Fools” day sign.
By 11pm that night retractions had been printed in all the major news papers and a clarification was running on WNAC-TV. The channel received dozens of calls from angry viewers and more than a few angry calls from local officials.
The station issued an apology during its 11 pm newscast; the next day, the executive producer of the 6 o’clock news, Homer Cilley, was fired by the station for “his failure to exercise good news judgment” and for violating the Federal Communications Commission’s rules about showing stock footage without identifying it as such.
I’m Jenn, Thanks to all our listeners, supporters, and my co-hosts Aaron, Steve, and Shea.
Find out more about the show, social links, and contact information at InterestingIfTrue.com.
Music for this episode, Retro, was created by Wayne Jones and was used with permission.
The opinions, views and nonsense expressed in this show are those of the hosts only and do not represent any other people, organizations, or lifeforms. All rights reserved, Interesting If True 2020.
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