“Ladies and gentleman. You’ve heard the reports that enemy planes are approaching. In less than 3 hours, an H-bomb might fall over Portland.”
And so begins my new #1 favorite disaster movie of all time.
It’s called “A Day Called ‘X’” and it was filmed in Portland in 1957. It aired on CBS with narration provided by Glenn Ford.
There’s not much of a plot — essentially the entire city is evacuated in anticipation of a nuclear air raid, after Soviet bombers are detected by radar stations to the north.
But here are just a few of the other details that I loved:
- The film calls Portlanders “rugged and friendly”
- The radio station featured is KOIN
- All of the “actors” show extraordinary composure in the face of impending doom (i.e., they have virtually no reaction, whatsoever).
- Great shots of everything from SW Broadway to Good Sam Hospital to the Central Fire Station and the Steel Bridge.
- Turning away of Washingtonians at the border (Ha!)
- A reference to the 1955 Operation Greenlight city-wide evacuation (a photo of which is here)
- The Red Cross role as part of the Civil Defense Team and our work providing food and coffee, served in very familiar branded coffee cups
While the film might not convey the sense of realism that most of us expect these days, there were some good safety tips. They recommended that people keep listening to the radio to stay informed and they did mention a family heading to an out-of-neighborhood meeting place — still things we teach nowadays. If you’re looking for more terrorism preparedness tips, go here.
“The people of Portland are ready if there’s ever a day called ‘X’…how about you?”