We go through life and are often unaware of historical events or tragedies in our own back yards. While researching the oil fields of Texas in the twenties and thirties for my time travel, A Way Back, I ran across the mention of the New London School Explosion.
Later at a book signing somewhere in Texas, I purchased a book titled TEXAS DISASTERS TRUE STORIES OF TRAGEDY AND SURVIVAL by Mike Cox. His chapter on the New London School Explosion detailed the horror in detail. Most of the information here is paraphrased from his words or quoted. Thank you Mike. I love your book.
The tragedy occurred on Thursday, March 18, 1937, in New London, a community about 120 miles east of Dallas in the booming East Texas oil fields. Their new school was three years old.
The band director, unharmed, loaded as many injured children as he could into his car and sped to Overton. He stopped at the Western Union Office. "The London school is blown to bits...hundreds killed and injured! Get help." Via Morse code and telephone, the nation's news services issued a "flash" on their wires, a term for only the most monumental events. Texas Governor Allred ordered all available highway patrolmen and Texas Rangers to New London. President Franklin Roosevelt asked the Red Cross and all federal agencies to stand by to offer assistance.
Even Adolph Hitler was touched by the tragedy and sent a telegram with his condolences.
By 6 P.M more than 2,000 men, many of them rough necks from nearby oil fields and fathers themselves were on the site removing debris and rescuing trapped individuals and removing bodies.
Martial Law was declared by Governor Allred at 8:30. The National Guard with fixed bayonets enforced a perimeter around the the school. Boy Scouts with unloaded rifles worked with them.
Walter Cronkite, a young press reporter from Dallas recalled, "It was dark and raining by the time I arrived. I'll ever forget the scene as I drove into the little town. I can still see those flood lights they had set up and the big oil field cranes that had been brought in to help with the removal of the rubble."
"Hysterical mothers fought over young bodies crushed beyond recognition, each claiming a dead child as her own."
In the last classroom, only body parts were found of the twenty-seven students. In total the bodies of 280 children and 14 adults had been found. "As the blood-covered volunteers filed away from what had been the school building, National Guardsmen stepped back and snapped crisp salutes."
A thorough investigation was conducted. It was discovered gas had been leaking from pipes under the building. At that time, gas had no odor so the leak went undetected in the 64,000 cubic-foot poorly ventilated crawl space. An electric spark from a sander in the basement industrial art triggered a flash fire that spread through the crawl space at 1,000 feet per second. "In a instant the pressure built up to at least ninety pounds per square inch, far more than any structure could endure."
After the tragedy, several laws were instigated, the most important was the requirement that natural gas intended for domestic or industrial use be odorized. Sillers and Clarke developed a device called a metering gas odorizer. It injected a precise amount of a pungent chemical into natural gas flowing though it into transmission lines. They filed for a patent on June 18 1939. (Peerless Manufacturing)
Here is a little about my time travel set in the oil fields of Kilgore. I can see the rough necks from the area on the scene doing their part to relieve the agony of parents, families, and people of the community of New London.
Amber Mathis, a Wall Street investment banker, returns to her office after burying her grandmother. Distraught, tired of the rat race, she's determined to make a career change. In the elevator she falls and rises to find herself in a vintage lift. The date is February 25, 1930, and a man stands on the window ledge in her office ready to jump.
Wellman Hathaway, owner and CEO of Hathaway Bank in New York struggles to pay his depositors half their losses. A woman claiming to be from the future appears in his office and involves him in a scheme that forces them into marriage. With Amber's knowledge of the financial history of the 1930s, they travel to the oil fields of Texas to recoup Wellman's funds.
Two people from different centuries are thrown together to survive a difficult time. Will they find more than A Way Back to prosperity?
Thank you for stopping by today and reading. I know this is a sad topic, but that so needs to be remembered.