Monday, May 2, 2016

Tragedy in New London

Tragedy struck the small East Texas town of New London when a freak accident caused a massive explosion that destroyed the New London School and took the lives of over 300 students and staff.  Today, in the center of town, visitors can see a monument to the 1937 catastrophe:


The giant cenotaph was constructed two years after the explosion.  Composed of granite, it stands 30 feet tall and sits across from the current New London school.  There is also an official Texas Historical Marker commemorating the event:

The Marker reads:

     "On March 18, 1937, a massive explosion destroyed the New London Junior-Senior High School, instantly killing an estimated 296 students and teachers. The subsequent deaths of victims from injuries sustained that day brought the final death count to 311. The explosion was blamed on a natural gas leak beneath the school building. Within weeks of the disaster the Texas Legislature passed a law requiring an odor to be added to natural gas, which previously was odorless and therefore undetectable. This memorial to victims of the explosion was erected in 1939."

Across the road is the London Museum Cafe & Soda Fountain that serves old fashioned breakfast and lunch:

I got there little after lunch so the kitchen was closed.  Thankfully though, the Museum portion was open.  It contains an exhaustive collection of antiques and memorabilia about the explosion, the school and the town itself:

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Two of my personal favorites were personal keepsakes of the students.  On the left is a text book and pocket knife belonging to student Perry Lee Cox.  On the right is a bar of soap carved into the shape of the Alamo belonging to sixth grader Glendell Sutherlin:

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The explosion was covered on a news reel at the time which you can watch below: