an exploration of urban identity in the middle of Texas
Although our editorial board has mostly been concerned with changes confronting the Austin of the 21st century, a most violent end to Austin was anticipated half a century ago.
During the height of the Cold War era, local TV station KTBC produced a short film entitled Target Austin (1960), an anxious vision of Austin under attack by nuclear missiles. Narrated by local legend Cactus Pryor and featuring legendary Austin icons – Congress Avenue, Barton Springs, the Paramount Theater, UT Matt’s El Rancho – the film calls for taking civil defense imperatives seriously, lest the city fall victim to explosions, nuclear fallout, and certain death.
Although more than a little fear-mongering, the film reveals that Austin of the 1960s confronted some of the same problems that our Austin faces now that would have munged up any attempt to transcend this nuclear holocaust and its fallout, so to speak: from traffic (“The streets are jammed! Parents trying to get home to their children, businessmen trying to get to their families, panic-stricken people trying to get out of town”) to vague unease with state power (“She’s not frightened, only irritated. She’s convinced that this is just another practice alert”). The more things change, the more they stay the same.
For more information, see CONELRAD’s take on the film.