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  This is the family story passed on to me regarding the school explosion:

My grandmother, Ola Parlee Ware Grosdidier, and my mother, Juanita Mae Grosdidier, who was 5 years old at that time, were at the school attending the PTA meeting. Mother said they normally met in the auditorium, but because of construction work being done in the auditorium, the mothers were moved out to the Field House.

When the school exploded, my grandmother was frantically searching for her 6y/o son, Leon Grosdidier, but eventually learned that Uncle Leon was on a school bus that had just left the school property a few minutes earlier.

Although our immediate family was spared, the overwhelming tragedy affected everyone deeply. Mother always said that it would have been even worse for the community if the mothers had been in the auditorium that day.

Thank you for the opportunity to share our story.
Lynn Brooks
  My mother who is now 80 yrs old, was a child when the tragedy happened, She remembers going to the school once with her aunt, whom she had not had the opportunity to visit much. (before the explosion) and that is was huge school. My mother's Maiden name was Majrorie Rhu Molsbee; daughter of Pearla Bynum and A.D. Molsbee of Terral, Oklahoma. Her aunt Euda Alice Walker (Mrs. Alvin Walker) who had come for the PTA meeting and 2 of her children - Herman Lawrence Walker and Annie Morine Walker were all killed that day.

My mother also said another cousin - Alice Walker was seriously injured and was hospitalized for a long time after. She said she had a significant limp after that and was not very involved with family after this incident. Alice had lost her mother and 2 siblings (?) My mom is uncertain why Alice was not with her mother at the time of the explosion.

What many of the survivors and families lived through is now referred to as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) - dealing with the memories and feelings as they forever changed there lives ,actions and souls. (PTSED is what is often referred to as what veterans experience) Now we know and train helping professionals to deal with the emotional wounds as well as the physical, Back then that was not available - leaving so many devastated souls in ash and ruin along side their beloved children. No amount of caring support can ever take away the pain or devastation it is merely offered as a tool in the healing process I think my mother's cousins could very well have been so desecrated (an example of sever PTSD) "leaving" may have been a way she coped.

There are a great many other examples found in the pages of your site as well. All of the awe inspiring dedication that has gone into your site, the museum and memorials are also a key to the healing process.

There has been some good to come of this tragedy - the odor put into natural gas created by a survivor of the tragedy; the knowledge gleaned to help deal with such tragedy on a number of levels all now goes to save thousands of other lives. However, May we never lose site of those in so many ways did pay the cost of this wisdom.

When mother talks about her childhood growing up in Southern Oklahoma and many of her family and friends in East Texas she always mentions with some sadness the New London explosion and her mother's sister and her children who died there.

Thank you so much for your tender care and efforts to preserve this peace of history so those can be remembered.

Katy Marty
  I was born in Wright City, Texas in 1938 where my mom and dad were living when the New London School exploded in 1937.

My dad ( Harry H. Stiles ) was working in the East Texas oil field, driving an oilfield winch truck near New London when the school exploded.

My dad would only tell me that he had gone to the school and assisted in the rescue by using his truck to move the debris to reach the injured children. He refused to say anymore about the explosion and rescue of the children.

One of the photos of an oilfield winch truck in one of the photos at the scene might possibly have been his truck.

I remember having been told by an Aunt that she and other students from another school had been to the New London School earlier in the morning but had left prior to the explosion.

I attended and graduated from Arp High School.

I learned of the web site recently of the New London School explosion from my son Harry H. Stiles III.


Harry H. Stiles Jr.
Freeport, Texas
May 9, 2006
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  I have been reading your guestbook and have found several saying their relatives played hookey the day of the explosion. That reminds me of a story.
When we lived in New London, we had a neighbor named Carl Byrom. He had a son, Owen, who died in the explosion.
Mr. Byrom told me several times that the day before the explosion, Owen came home complaining about a headache and sick stomach. The next morning, Owen got up to go to school but told his parents he was still feeling bad. Since he had done this before, they got him up and forced him to go to school where he died. Mr. Byrom blamed himself for Owen's death.
Mr. Byrom said several of the students had complained the day before about headaches. Others left for school but didn't get there or played hookey. He believed the gas in the school was not confined to the crawl space but had been leaking into some of the rooms making some of the children sick. I remember Daddy saying he heard about children getting sick in the building before the explosion. Maurene Lancaster who taught history in London Junior High for many years told us she had left the building and was getting into her car. She said she heard the explosion, and suddenly, a big piece of concrete hit her car. She wasn't hurt. That could be the 1936 Chevrolet in the photos on your site. By the way, Maurene Lancaster was first cousin to Jeanette McDonald, the singer and movie star in the 30's, 40's and early 50's. Jeanette McDonald was in a movie called "San Francisco" about the earthquake and fire, with Eddie Albert. Mrs. Lancaster was a McDonald.

Melvin Vinson
April 2006
  From a posting in the NLSE.ORG Guestbook:
I've lived in Henderson, TX all my life and my parents lived in Wright City, TX when the explosion occurred. Dad worked for The Texas Pipeline Company (Texaco, now). I wasn't born until 1944, but I had 2 older brothers. The oldest, Wesley, luckily, was going to Gaston at that time. My 2nd brother, Jimmy was just 3 years old.
I was told about it. My dad helped in the rescue, as all the oilfield people did. He never talked about it, ever. I only learned more in depth things of it later, but, not like I've learned reading about it here on the web site.
We knew the Emberlings. I can remember going with Mamma and my older brother to visit them when I was about 12. Mrs. Emberling was the sweetest lady you would ever want to meet.
I didn't know then the tragedy she and Mr. Emberling had endured.
I'm so glad there are people who want to keep their memory alive.
I thank you, Bill for this site.
I've had a hard time getting it off my mind since reading and seeing all the pictures yesterday. I can't ever imagine what those parents had to go through. I cried.

From a follow-up email:
I've been to Pleasant Hill Cemetery and I've seen the Emberling children's graves. It touches your heart so to see all the children's graves and what are on them. What caught my eyes, and I won't ever forget are the little marbles around some of the little graves.
I've taken my daughter there and my Mom, before she passed away. My Mom has told me many times about the day the explosion happened. They were living in Wright City, but, for some reason my brother was going to Gaston. Thank you, God.
Wes, my brother, rode the bus, and Mom had to drive/walk to end of their road to meet the bus every afternoon. She had just picked Wes up when she met all the fire trucks, ambulances, she started to follow them but, when she got down toward the New London school, they told her she couldn't go down there.
My Dad worked in the oilfield (of course) for Texaco and he helped with the rescue/recovery. He never ever mentioned that horrible sight to me. There was no talk about it, ever. What I told you is all I ever knew until your wonderful web site to honor all those precious souls.
They paid a unbelievable price, but, not in vain, we have to hold on to that. It saved countless lives, we'll never know.

Sharon (Reeves) Collins
Henderson, TX
February 17, 2006

Pleasant Hill Cemetery, near New London. Is where the Emberling children " George Lee Emberling" & " Wanda Louise Emberling" are buried.
When you are entering the main gate and are looking straight up at where the pollution is, their graves are about half way up between the gate and the Palladian on the left. And they both stand out from all the rest. They are both covered in white seashells.
I was reading a book this evening about Burring Rituals. And it mentions graves covered with Seashells. I found it to be very inters testing.
One belief for using shells over a grave is that the departed was being compared to the sea, with it's waves continuing through eternity. White seashells covering the grave symbolize everlasting life. Frequently, the barrow had large shells neatly arraigned in horizontal rows or in an artistic pattern.
The use of shells on burial sites is considered African in origin. In parts of Texas the shells are usually whitewashed and arraigned on a concrete mound covering the grave.
you can see them here---->
  My dad is the youngest of 8 kids, and they were going to New London at the time (at least the ones old enough were). The details are fascinating to me...
Uncle Bud (Francis Myers) was in a room on the lower floor (my mom thought it was the shop class but I haven't verified that) and was blown out of a window. He remembers landing on the ball field I think. He was banged up but was ok. Some friends took him home so he'd be safe, though, and it was a couple of days before his mom found him.
Mae Belle and Margie were twins, about 5th or 6th grade. They had both been sick and Mae Belle stayed home. Margie went to school to get make-up work. She and her older sister Shirley were somehow in the same room when the explosion occurred. No one in the room survived.
Mary Ann was in 3rd grade. She was sitting outside the Grammar School building waiting on the bus and playing jacks, and saw the building explode "like a big bomb went off." The others (Florence, David and my dad, Robert McChesney, or Mc they called him) were home too young to be in school and were home along with Mae Belle. They lived out on a farm and didn't have a phone, so it was hours before my grandmother (Agnes Myers) found out what happened and was able to contact her husband Francis who was out of town on business. It was something like 2 days before they found out what happened to everyone. She had scraps of fabric from the clothes that Margie and Shirley were wearing (she made all their clothes), and used that to identify the girls.
This is all 2nd and 3rd hand info, but all the surviving siblings are still alive. Uncle Bud and Aunt MaryAnn are the big story tellers.
(Uncle Bud went on to join the marines and was in the pacific in WWII, I think at Iwo Jima but I'm not sure... ya think he has 9 lives or what? He's a trip, still going strong!)

Rachel Myers Campbell
February 4, 2006
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