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NEW LONDON SCHOOL EXPLOSION {1937, March 18}
The Handbook of Texas Online ^ | 1938, 1977 | Irvin M. May, Jr

Posted on 03/18/2013 5:59:33 AM PDT by thackney

NEW LONDON SCHOOL EXPLOSION.

In 1937 New London, Texas, in northwest Rusk County, had one of the richest rural school districts in the United States. Community residents in the East Texas oilfield were proud of the beautiful, modern, steel-framed, E-shaped school building. On March 18 students prepared for the next day's Interscholastic Meet in Henderson. At the gymnasium, the PTA met. At 3:05 P.M. Lemmie R. Butler, instructor of manual training, turned on a sanding machine in an area which, unknown to him, was filled with a mixture of gas and air. The switch ignited the mixture and carried the flame into a nearly closed space beneath the building, 253 feet long and fifty-six feet wide.

Immediately the building seemed to lift in the air and then smashed to the ground. Walls collapsed. The roof fell in and buried its victims in a mass of brick, steel, and concrete debris. The explosion was heard four miles away, and it hurled a two-ton concrete slab 200 feet away, where it crushed a car.

Fifteen minutes later, the news of the explosion had been relayed over telephone and Western Union lines. Frantic parents at the PTA meeting rushed to the school building. Community residents and roughnecks from the East Texas oilfield came with heavy-duty equipment. Within an hour Governor James Allred had sent the Texas Rangersqqv and highway patrol to aid the victims. Doctors and medical supplies came from Baylor Hospital and Scottish Rite Hospital for Crippled Children in Dallas and from Nacogdoches, Wichita Falls, and the United States Army Air Corps at Barksdale Field in Shreveport, Louisiana.

They were assisted by deputy sheriffs from Overton, Henderson, and Kilgore, by the Boy Scouts, the American Legion, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and volunteers from the Humble Oil Company, Gulf Pipe Line, Sinclair, and the International-Great Northern Railroad. Workers began digging through the rubble looking for victims. Floodlights were set up, and the rescue operation continued through the night as rain fell.

Within seventeen hours all victims and debris had been taken from the site. Mother Francis Hospital in Tyler canceled its elaborate dedication ceremonies to take care of the injured. The Texas Funeral Directors sent twenty-five embalmers. Of the 500 students and forty teachers in the building, approximately 298 died. Some rescuers, students, and teachers needed psychiatric attention, and only about 130 students escaped serious injury. Those who died received individual caskets, individual graves, and religious services.

Three days after the explosion, inquiries were held to determine the cause of the disaster. The state of Texas and the Bureau of Mines sent experts to the scene.

Hearings were conducted. From these investigations, researchers learned that until January 18, 1937, the school had received its gas from the United Gas Company. To save gas expenses of $300 a month, plumbers, with the knowledge and approval of the school board and superintendent, had tapped a residue gas line of Parade Gasoline Company. School officials saw nothing wrong because the use of "green" or "wet" gas was a frequent money-saving practice for homes, schools, and churches in the oilfield. The researchers concluded that gas had escaped from a faulty connection and accumulated beneath the building. Green gas has no smell; no one knew it was accumulating beneath the building, although on other days there had been evidence of leaking gas. No school officials were found liable.

These findings brought a hostile reaction from many parents. More than seventy lawsuits were filed for damages. Few cases came to trial, however, and those that did were dismissed by district judge Robert T. Brown for lack of evidence. Public pressure forced the resignation of the superintendent, who had lost a son in the explosion. The most important result of the disaster was the passage of a state odorization law, which required that distinctive malodorants be mixed in all gas for commercial and industrial use so that people could be warned by the smell. The thirty surviving seniors at New London finished their year in temporary buildings while a new school was built on nearly the same site. The builders focused primarily on safety and secondarily on their desire to inspire students to a higher education. A cenotaph of Texas pink granite, designed by Donald S. Nelson, architect, and Herring Coe, sculptor, was erected in front of the new school in 1939.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Lorine Zylks Bright, New London, 1937: The New London School Explosion (Wichita Falls, Texas: Nortex, 1977). R. L. Jackson, Living Lessons from the New London School Explosion (Nashville: Parthenon, 1938). U.S. Senate, Explosion at Consolidated School, New London, Texas (Document 56, 75th Cong., 1st sess., 1937).


TOPICS: History
KEYWORDS: pe; texas


1 posted on 03/18/2013 5:59:33 AM PDT by thackney
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On May 28, 1937, the State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers was created by the 45th Legislature. This occurred in the aftermath of the tragic New London School explosion which took the lives of over 300 students and teachers at the New London School in New London, Texas.

http://engineers.texas.gov/anniversary.htm

Community residents and roughnecks from the East Texas oilfield responded immediately with heavy-duty equipment. Within an hour Governor James Allred had sent the Texas Rangers and highway patrol to aid the victims. Doctors and medical supplies came from Baylor Hospital and Scottish Rite Hospital for Crippled Children in Dallas and from Nacogdoches, Wichita Falls, and the United States Army Air Corps at Barksdale Field in Shreveport, Louisiana. They were assisted by deputy sheriffs from Overton, Henderson, and Kilgore, by the Boy Scouts, the American Legion, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and volunteers from the Humble Oil Company, Gulf Pipe Line, Sinclair, and the International-Great Northern Railroad. Workers began digging through the rubble looking for victims. Floodlights were set up, and the rescue operation continued through the night as rain fell.

Within seventeen hours all victims and debris had been taken from the site. Mother Francis Hospital in Tyler canceled its elaborate dedication ceremonies to take care of the injured. The Texas Funeral Directors sent twenty-five embalmers. Of the 500 students and forty teachers in the building, approximately 298 died. Some rescuers, students, and teachers needed psychiatric attention, and only about 130 students escaped serious injury.

In response to this tragedy, the 45th Legislature created the Board to regulate engineering. The Legislative intent, as specified in Section 1.1 of the Act, states in part, “ . . . in order to protect the public health, safety and welfare, that the privilege of practicing engineering be entrusted only to those persons duly licensed and practicing under the provisions of this Act and that there be strict compliance with and enforcement of all the provisions of this Act.”

In 1997, the 75th Legislature changed the name of the agency to the Texas Board of Professional Engineers. All language pertaining to “registration” and “registered” was changed to “licensure” and “licensed.”


2 posted on 03/18/2013 6:01:27 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney
The most important result of the disaster was the passage of a state odorization law, which required that distinctive malodorants be mixed in all gas for commercial and industrial use so that people could be warned by the smell.

I once replaced a house gas line that was all beautiful L copper 1" and 1&1/4", it was gorgeous but was full of flaky black debris inside. I knew that we had replaced copper supply lines (the flex lines at the appliance itself) which had been the normal supply line material in the distant past, but had never seen an entire copper gas line.

The best that I could figure was that perhaps copper was OK before the malodorants were added to natural gas and that it was the malodorants which caused corrosion, on the other hand, it doesn't seem smart to use soldered copper that looks just like water pipe for NG anyway.

Does anyone know the official answer for why we got away from copper for natural gas?

3 posted on 03/18/2013 7:21:19 AM PDT by ansel12 (" I would not be in the United States Senate if it wasn’t for Sarah Palin " Cruz said.)
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To: thackney

***School officials saw nothing wrong because the use of “green” or “wet” gas was a frequent money-saving practice for homes,***

Gas drilling camps often use this in the remote drilling areas of the west.

Our house in one of these camps blew up, burning my mom back in 1956. It was caused by a leaking underground gas line. It missed me by about 1/2 second. our lives were never the same after that.

Another disaster near where my dad was born...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babbs_Switch_fire


4 posted on 03/18/2013 7:40:08 AM PDT by Ruy Dias de Bivar (CLICK my name. See the murals before they are painted over! POTEET THEATER in OKC!)
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To: ansel12

***Does anyone know the official answer for why we got away from copper for natural gas? ****

Some states do not allow galvanized iron pipe to be used as the zinc reacts with the gas. Black iron is OK.


5 posted on 03/18/2013 7:42:28 AM PDT by Ruy Dias de Bivar (CLICK my name. See the murals before they are painted over! POTEET THEATER in OKC!)
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To: Ruy Dias de Bivar

California requires galvanized pipe for outside while black can be used indoors, and New Mexico seems to require black pipe.


6 posted on 03/18/2013 7:46:11 AM PDT by ansel12 (" I would not be in the United States Senate if it wasn’t for Sarah Palin " Cruz said.)
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To: ansel12

When the gas company ran a line to my NM house in 1974, they used black pipe covered with a tar-asphalt and a paper outer coating.


7 posted on 03/18/2013 7:50:32 AM PDT by Ruy Dias de Bivar (CLICK my name. See the murals before they are painted over! POTEET THEATER in OKC!)
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To: ansel12

Copper Tubing Installations for Natural Gas
http://www.copper.org/applications/fuelgas/pdf/Official_Copper.pdf


8 posted on 03/18/2013 8:17:03 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: Ruy Dias de Bivar

That sounds like wrapped pipe for underground use.


9 posted on 03/18/2013 9:38:39 AM PDT by ansel12 (" I would not be in the United States Senate if it wasn’t for Sarah Palin " Cruz said.)
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To: thackney

That surprises me, I don’t think it is a good idea to use copper for gas.

I will read that article later, thanks for the link, it looks very interesting.


10 posted on 03/18/2013 9:44:12 AM PDT by ansel12 (" I would not be in the United States Senate if it wasn’t for Sarah Palin " Cruz said.)
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To: ansel12

It talks of three specific problems. The worst is hydrogen sulfide in the gas creating internal and not seen corrosion


11 posted on 03/18/2013 10:06:06 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney

I could cut a foot of that pipe, tap it, and get an ashtray full of flaky sheets of corrosion of a scale like something similar to ash, that adhered to the interior of the pipe like a lining.


12 posted on 03/18/2013 10:13:25 AM PDT by ansel12 (" I would not be in the United States Senate if it wasn’t for Sarah Palin " Cruz said.)
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To: ansel12

The article describes such for H2S. It can also then plug/restrict burner tips or pilots.


13 posted on 03/18/2013 10:16:32 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: thackney

The effect on valves and jets is why we used to replace every copper tubing ‘flex’ that we came across, it is extremely rare to see them today, of course galvanized water pipes are almost all gone as well.


14 posted on 03/18/2013 10:32:06 AM PDT by ansel12 (" I would not be in the United States Senate if it wasn’t for Sarah Palin " Cruz said.)
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To: ansel12

The article describes such for H2S. It can also then plug/restrict burner tips or pilots.


15 posted on 03/18/2013 10:39:47 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: ansel12
Does anyone know the official answer for why we got away from copper for natural gas?

It may have more to do with the requirements of gas companies to protect service lines up to the meter from corrosion. A copper to steel main (or old cast iron) would create a galvanic corrosion cell, and damage the main.

Gas distribution companies prefer to electrically isolate their system from other underground utilities for this reason. Best practices is to install an insulating (di-electric) union at the service riser to the meter.
16 posted on 03/18/2013 11:29:34 AM PDT by PA Engineer (Liberate America from the Occupation Media.)
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To: ansel12
California requires galvanized pipe for outside while black can be used indoors, and New Mexico seems to require black pipe.

Wisconsin Energy Co. uses nothing but black iron from the meter (outside) to the appliances inside. From the pressure reducing valve at the meter to the main (tared and paper wrapped welded steel pipe, buried about eight feet down along side the rural road) they run a plastic semi flexible pipe. The joints are made with an electric heater which heats the plastic pipe to the point of softening after which the joints are more or less swagged together. The resulting pipe is pressurized with compressed air to 100 psi and all joints are bubble tested with a soap solution. The pipe is left for about an hour while monitoring the pressure, if it remains constant at 100 psi the pipe is vented and then the tap into the main is opened. I've seen that yellow semi flex pipe used all over on new construction and retrofitting old.

Regards,
GtG

17 posted on 03/18/2013 3:37:45 PM PDT by Gandalf_The_Gray (I live in my own little world, I like it 'cuz they know me here.)
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To: Gandalf_The_Gray

Wisconsin eh? That yellow flex is becoming common in California also.

Something different between San Diego and Wisconsin, is being able to run a 1/2 inch copper water line, or any and all copper water lines, naked and above ground without a care in the world.

I lived in Wisconsin and Minnesota for a time, they have a season called winter there, it is kind of an eye opener to some visitors.


18 posted on 03/18/2013 5:37:36 PM PDT by ansel12 (" I would not be in the United States Senate if it wasn’t for Sarah Palin " Cruz said.)
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To: ansel12
I lived in Wisconsin and Minnesota for a time, they have a season called winter there, it is kind of an eye opener to some visitors.

We actually have four seasons just like everybody else.

There is: Almost Winter
Followed by: Winter
And then: Still Winter
Finally: Three months of very bad skying conditions (aka Road Repair)

Actually driving in winter is a lot easier as the pot holes are all filled with snow.

You just might be from Wisconsin if you have more miles on your snow mobile (snow machine) than you do on your car!

You just might be from Wisconsin if you can drive 65 mph through 2 foot drifts in a raging blizzard without flinching.

Regards,
GtG

19 posted on 03/18/2013 8:25:37 PM PDT by Gandalf_The_Gray (I live in my own little world, I like it 'cuz they know me here.)
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To: Gandalf_The_Gray

I remember in Minneapolis, first waiting for summer so that I could do a hundred chores and repairs on a friends house to spruce it up, and then just as summer appeared, it disappearing before it actually even unfolded, you could sleep in for a couple of days and miss the whole thing.

The other was a day warming up to 17 above freezing, and me taking advantage to go tune up my old truck so that it would continue starting, and knock the ice and snow out from under the fenders, and looking up and down both directions of the alley, and seeing everyone else taking advantage of the warm weather to do those kind of duties as though it was spring time.


20 posted on 03/18/2013 10:09:25 PM PDT by ansel12 (" I would not be in the United States Senate if it wasn’t for Sarah Palin " Cruz said.)
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To: Gandalf_The_Gray

On a tour in Denali National Park (Mount McKinley) the tour bus driver said they have 4 seasons just like the lower 48. Winter of course is the predominate season. Locally the other three are known as June, July and August.


21 posted on 03/19/2013 7:08:48 AM PDT by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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