Contest #671 — Memorial to the New London School Explosion, Rusk County, Texas

March 18, 1937. Estimated death toll 295, majority students. At least 300 injured, many for life.

The school board of Rusk County, Texas tried to save some money. Instead of paying the local gas company for natural gas, they tapped a waste gas disposal well coming off of production wells in the East Texas oil fields. This waste gas is essentially the same thing as what they had been paying for, except it was “raw”, meaning it had no additive to give it a noticeable smell as required for gas that was being sold. There were leaks in the pipes that ran the crawl space that ran along the entire building, and gas had been accumulating in that space for some time, no one really knows how long.

On this fateful day, with school let out early, most of the students, and a large number of the parents were still in the building because of a Parent-Teacher Association meeting. It is thought that the vocational education teacher plugged in and turned on an electric sander about 3:15 in the afternoon.

The explosion lifted the entire building and dropped it hard. The structure collapsed on top of the more than 700 people inside. There was no fire, or the death toll would have easily exceeded 500 or more.

Those who found the site before the hint were:

  • hhgygy
  • Paul Voestermans
  • Garfield
  • Eloy Cano
  • Luís Filipe Miguel
  • Phil Ower
  • Lighthouse
  • Martin de Bock
  • Kiribatian Jacob

And after the hint:

  • Robin Giles
  • Gillian B
  • Graham Hedley

For those who want to know how they were supposed to find it via the hint: A direct copy of the hint into the google search would not have found it — don’t ever expect it to (it might some times, but again, don’t expect it to). You would have to apply some deductive reasoning. Cronkite was born in 1916, so he was 20 in 1936 and 1937. A google search of “Walter Cronkite 1937 UP Story” would net you a hit (about halfway down the first page on mine) leading you to the New London story.