1936 London School yearbook

Yearbook belonging to a London School survivor shows tragic loss

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On Thursday, March 18, 1937, the school day was winding down at the consolidated school in New London, Texas. At 3:15 p.m. an explosion lifted the building into the air. Instantaneously, the school collapsed onto itself, trapping and crushing the students and staff inside. Nearly 300 students and teachers died that Thursday. Elbert Box, owner of this yearbook, was critically injured in the explosion but survived.

A senior, Elbert Box (1918–1985) was in geometry class when the school exploded. Of the 22 students in the classroom, only four survived the blast. Box received numerous injuries, the most serious of which was a broken right femur complicated by an infection of gas gangrene. His condition worsened to the point where he required advanced medical attention at the Orthopedic Clinic in Shreveport, Louisiana. Because of the infection, he developed a fever that his immune system was unable to fight. Doctors had to quickly amputate his right leg on April 26. Box was still in the hospital when he received his high school diploma in May.

After the tragedy, Box went back to his 1936 junior yearbook and placed a small "x" near the pictures of the students who died during the school explosion. London School did not publish a yearbook in 1937, instead substituting a memorial book that recognized all of the students and teachers who had died during the disaster.

In the days following the tragedy, investigators determined that the explosion had been caused by natural gas leaking beneath the building. The odorless oxygen-gas mixture accumulated undetected until a spark in the school’s industrial-arts shop triggered the explosion. As a result of the explosion, the Texas Railroad Commission approved an order that all natural gas intended for domestic or industrial use had to be odorized.

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1936 London School yearbook Artifact from New London
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