Remembering the New London, Texas, Gas Explosion of 1937

John Davidson, head docent at the New London Museum, talks about some of the victims of the 1937 gas explosion at the school, including his sister, Ardyth. John was born three years after the explosion.

 

Twice a year, my mother and I visit my sister and her family in Texas, and we tour different areas of East Texas.  Last fall, I was fascinated to learn about the New London, Texas, school explosion of 1937, which killed more than 295 students and teachers. We visited the London Museum and cafe, which is across the street from the school complex that replaced the school destroyed in the explosion. It was so sad, especially to hear the story from John Davidson, a brother of one of the students killed in the blast. I can’t even imagine the pain that the community felt to lose almost a whole generation in one day.

On March 18, 1937, a natural gas leak caused an explosion, destroying the London School of New London, Texas, a community in Rusk County previously known as “London.” As of 2019, the event is the third deadliest disaster in the history of Texas, after the 1900 Galveston hurricane and the 1947 Texas City disaster. (From Wikipedia)

Northeastern Texas was a sleepy rural area until oil was discovered in 1930 in what turned out to be the second largest oil field in the United States outside of Alaska. The area suddenly boomed, attracting thousands of new workers and their families.  The area became very wealthy from oil, and a large new school complex was built to educate the children.

A model of the New London, Texas, school before the explosion.

By 1937, despite the Depression, the London Consolidated School District was very rich due to the “black gold” and provided well for its students, including sports uniforms, band instruments and buses.  Even so, despite this wealth, the school district decided to use a cheaper method to heat the school.

“Early in 1937, the school board canceled their natural gas contract and had plumbers install a tap into Parade Gasoline Company’s residue gas line to save money. This practice—while not explicitly authorized by local oil companies—was widespread in the area,” according to Wikipedia. “The natural gas extracted with the oil was considered a waste product and was flared off. As there was no value to the natural gas, the oil companies turned a blind eye. This “raw” or “wet” gas varied in quality from day to day, even from hour to hour.”

Natural gas is odorless and in 1937, natural gas was not treated with the “rotten egg” bad smell that is now added to make gas leaks noticeable. Gas built up throughout the school, and it’s thought that an electric sander ignited the gas, causing the massive explosion. The New London explosion prompted regulations to require a malodorant to be added to natural gas.  Carolyn Jones, a student survivor, led the crusade.

The gas explosion prompted the introduction of a malodorant in all natural gas. Natural gas doesn’t have a smell, which is why it can accumulate in dangerous amounts without warning.

Walter Cronkite, on his first major assignment, was one of the first to reach the scene of the explosion. He said of the experience: “I did nothing in my studies nor in my life to prepare me for a story of the magnitude of that New London tragedy, nor has any story since that awful day equaled it.”

Thousands from throughout the world expressed their condolences, including Adolf Hitler, who was the German Chancellor at the time. Hitler send a telegram, a copy of which is on display at the London Museum. Ironically, oil from the East Texas oil fields was essential in fueling the U.S. military’s fight against the Nazis.

Survivors and their families meet every year now after years of not talking about the event.  In October 2018, I met John Davidson, head docent at the New London Museum, whose sister Ardyth was killed in the explosion.  Davidson said his parents said little about how his sister died. John Davidson is quoted in some of the articles linked below. The New London Museum is a fascinating look at the town, the history as well as the explosion. It’s officially called the London Museum because that was the name of the town when the explosion occurred. The town rebuilt the school complex, perhaps like a phoenix rising from the fire. Be sure to check out the slide show of photographs, which includes additional photographs.

The New London, Texas, school complex and the memorial to those who died in the 1937 explosion.

 

New London Museum Website.

About the New London School Explosion.

A Look Back at the New London, Texas, Gas Explosion.

About the East Texas Oil Field.

‘People Didn’t Talk About This’: New London, Texas Remembers The Day A Generation Died

Click on any thumbnail to start the slideshow.

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Kansas City Ikebana 2019 Spring Exhibition

The Japanese Tea Room was open in conjunction with the Kansas City Ikebana group’s 2019 Spring Exhibition. The Loose Park Japanese Tea Room and Garden, dedicated in July 2006, was conceived as a cultural exchange between the Sister Cities of Kurashiki, Japan and Kansas City, Missouri.

Beautiful floral artworks were on display the first weekend of April in the 37th annual Kansas City Ikebana Spring Exhibition in the Garden Center in Loose Park in Kansas City, Missouri. The 2019 theme was “Branches & Baskets” in which many of the displays used branches “bestowed on Kansas City by this winter’s storms.”

The Ikebana exhibits are not judged ~ they are an exhibit of the art for its own sake.

Kansas City Ikebana, begun in 1978, is a group of people who study, teach and create displays of Ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arranging in Kansas City.

History of the Japanese Tea Room in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas City Ikebana Group

A tea tasting was offered in conjunction with the Kansas City Ikebana 2019 Spring Exhibition at Loose Park in Kansas City, Missouri.

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Please Stop Taking Pictures of This Sign While Driving

Sign on the highway heading into St., Louis, Missouri, from Illinois. You can see the St. Louis arch in the lower right hand corner.

 

PLEASE STOP TAKING
PICTURES OF THIS
SIGN WHILE DRIVING

A sign warns drivers on the highway heading into St. Louis, Missouri, from Illinois.
It’s Okay. I was a passenger.

You can see the St. Louis arch in the lower right hand corner.
#funny #StLouis #Sign

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Shark Attack

A shark chased a fish to the beach at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

I was standing at the edge of the surf on the beach at Cape Canaveral, Florida, looking for dolphins to photograph, when I heard thrashing sounds in the surf on the beach about ten feet away. It was a shark, about five-feet-long, attacking a fish. It was a ferocious struggle. Too close for comfort. Another reason why I never swim in the ocean!

I don’t know what kind of shark it was.  I’m guessing that it was a tiger shark, because of the shape of the head and because it was so aggressive. But I’m not a shark expert.

Here’s a list of sharks you might find off the coast of Cape Canaveral and nearby Cocoa Beach, Florida.  Seven Florida Shark Species.

A fishing site describes the seven shark species: Descriptions of Seven Florida Shark Species. 

About the Tiger Shark.

Click on this photo to see more details:

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The Turtle Hospital, Marathon, Florida

The Turtle Hospital is housed in the former Hidden Harbor Motel in Marathon, Florida. The Turtle Hospital opened its doors 1986 with four main goals: 1) rehab injured sea turtles and return them to their natural habitat, 2) educate the public through outreach programs and visit local schools, 3) conduct and assist with research aiding to sea turtles (in conjunction with state universities), and 4) work toward environmental legislation making the beaches and water safe and clean for sea turtles.

I love turtles, so I was glad to see The Turtle Hospital exists to help sea turtles in distress. My husband and I visited The Turtle Hospital while visiting Marathon in the Florida Keys.

The Turtle Hospital, 2396 Overseas Highway, was the first state-certified veterinary hospital in the world for sea turtles. Among the threats to sea turtles are monofiliment entanglement, rope and net entanglement, boat hits, oils spills and tar, intestinal impaction from eating debris, such as cigarette filters (which look similar to shrimp) and plastic bags, coastal development that can damge nests and disorients adults and hatchlings from artificial light, and fibropapilloma tumors that result from a virus. Also, turtles also can suffer from extreme cold when they don’t migrate to warmer waters soon enough.

The Turtle Hospital, which is housed in the former Hidden Harbor Motel complex, is funded entirely by donations and tickets sales to visitors, who take a tour. The motel owner Richie Moretti founded The Turtle Hospital. After a hurricane ruined the motel, Moretti decided to dedicate the motel entirely to turtle rescue.

Five species of sea turtles are found in the waters of the Florida Keys: Loggerhead (Caretta caretta), Green (Chelonia mydas), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), and Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii).

This Kemp’s Ridley turtle is recuperating in a tank in The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida. Every year Kemp’s Ridley turtles are found cold stunned on New England beaches. Volunteers will look for these cold stunned turtles on the beach and transport them to the New England Aquarium, according to The Turtle Hospital. Once they determine that they are stabilized and ready for transport, they get shipped south. They do not fly commercial, they get volunteer pilots from “Turtles Fly Too!”

 

Green Turtles

Green Turtles that have been hurt in accidents, been damaged from net entanglements, have ingested foreign materials or suffer from diseases are taken care of at The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida.

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High Plains Traveler

Welcome to Dalhart, Texas.

In 2014, a friend and I drove to Santa Fe, New Mexico from Kansas City, traveling on two-lane highways in April. We took a different two-lane highway route on our return, including Route 66 and the Santa Fe Trail.

I’ve lived in the eastern half of Kansas most of my life, have traveled throughout the world, but there were many areas within a day’s drive or two of my house that I’d never seen.  It was a very enjoyable and fascinating trip. Although our primary destination was Santa Fe, I found the stark beauty of the High Plains on our route to be an unexpected pleasure.

In book club we recently read Timothy Egan’s  “The Worst Hard Time” about the Dust Bowl in the 1930s in southwestern Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, northeastern New Mexico and southeastern Colorado. which prompted me to revisit my photographs from that trip, which was a journey through that region. Although the area experienced a very harsh time, there is plenty to see of beauty and history to see there now.  We didn’t stay long, unfortunately, so I’d like to return and see more of the area, including the museum in Clayton, New Mexico. Perhaps, I could book a room in the historic Eklund Hotel, where my friend and I ate a delicious lunch in the beautifully decorated 19th century dining room. Another museum to visit would be the XIT Ranch Museum in Dalhart, Texas.

Click here to see photos of beautiful Hotel Eklund.

For more about the XIT Ranch Museum, click here.

Clayton, New Mexico, Grain Mill and Elevator Poster

Clayton, New Mexico, Grain Mill and Elevator

Oklahoma Panhandle Barber Shop Poster

Oklahoma Panhandle Barber Shop.

You’ll probably wait a long time for a haircut at this Oklahoma Panhandle Barber Shop, which seems to be permanently closed. In the background is a grain elevator. The stand alone building looks desolate, but next door is a thriving full service gasoline station next door that serves a busy highway.

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Go Chiefs!

Neptune wears a football jersey in a fountain on the Country Club Plaza, Kansas City, Missouri.

A statue of Neptune wears the uniform jersey shirt of a Kansas City football team member in honor of the team’s advancement to a playoff game.

The Neptune fountain sculpture sits in the Country Club Plaza Shopping Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The sculpture depicts Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, holding a trident. Neptune sits in a chariot pulled by sea horses. Water gushes from the horses’ nostrils. This cast lead sculpture was built by the Bromsgrove Guild of Worcestershire, England in 1911.

Miller Nichols purchased the 8,000-pound cast lead fountain for its weight in scrap metal. It was found on the top of a train car full of scrap metal at a salvage company. Nichols transported the rescued sculpture from Great Britain to Kansas City, where it was refurbished and installed on the Plaza in 1953.

Miller Nichols was the son of J. C. Nichols, who established the Country Club Plaza shopping Center in 1922. The Plaza was designed architecturally after Seville, Spain. The Plaza was the first shopping center in the world designed to accommodate shoppers arriving by automobile.

Kansas City, Missouri, is known as “The City of Fountains.” There are 200 officially registered fountains in the metropolitan Greater Kansas City area. That number excludes the many fountains at corporation and sub-division entrances, office atriums, private gardens and homes.

One of the messages flashing on a Kansas City bus is “Go Chiefs!”as it drives through the Country Club Plaza Shopping Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

UPDATED: New Photo Added

Pomona Statue Wearing Dee Ford’s Kansas City Chief’s jersey on a fountain at a restaurant in one of the courtyards of the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.

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