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  I grew up hearing the whispers, and seeing the tears shed over this tragedy. My Mother, Joyce Earline Pyle, who was 10 yrs old at the time, would tell me bits and pieces of the story along with a comment of kin folks perishing. Unfortunately, I do not know who these persons were, and until now never knew the entire story. What a lovely site to help keep these persons, and their families in remembrance.

April 30th 2004
Kristina Galipp
Dallas, TX but living in Washington State
  My late Father, Loyd Richardson was a fifth grader at New London on the day of the explosion. It was an event that haunted him his whole life. One of the ways he made peace with the event was he and my late Mother (along with many other survivors and their spouses) worked to make the New London Tea Room and Museum a reality. I encourage anyone who has an interest in this tragic event to visit the tearoom and museum. The survivors are now in their late seventies and early eighties, so we are slowly losing this generation of survivors. They are great people, worth getting to know.

April 21st 2004
Bill Richardson
Dallas, Tx
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  My mother, Marguerite (Eakes) Roach was a student when the explosion happened. She and 3 other girls, including Sylvia Scott (actress Sandy Duncan's mother), had just left the school a few minutes before and arrived in Henderson for a typing competition when they began to hear whispers that the New London School had exploded. The teacher brought the girls back to the school and just let them out of the car. The sight was horrific and they all began to wander away from each other in shock. The first person Mom saw was my Dad, Marshall Roach and his mother & sister who had driven over from Henderson...Mom talks about how she nearly lifted a sheet that was lying on the ground and thankfully, something stopped her. Her little brother, Forrest Eugene Eakes who was in the 6th grade died that day. He had begged his mother to let him stay home that morning, but because he often wanted to skip school she wouldn't let him. She always lived with pain that she made him go. Sylvia's parents, who also lost a son that day, took my mother home, but they couldn't find Sylvia. Mother said that even though she only needed to cross the street to be home it took what seemed like hours because the cars and ambulances were bumper to bumper, sirens & horns blaring, and she couldn't get across! The typing class was destroyed and had she been there that day, I would not be writing this! At the 50 year reunion which I attended with my mom, she and Sylvia sat and talked for the first time about what had happened that day, Sylvia said she had started wandering down the railroad toward Overton. They finally found her. Many of the other survivors opened up and started telling their stories that day...many of them had never been able to speak about it before. I was amazed at the miraculous escapes and near misses, and very saddened by the accounts of those who didn't make it. My aunt Lorena Eakes was home sick. My daughter, Lindsay just completed a scrapbook of the old news clips Mom had saved.

April 15, 2004
Nancy Gillespie
Spring, Texas
  I was 10 years of age and had 3 1st cousins killed. When the news came to us, my oldest brother drove all of us to New London to be with the families of my mother's two brothers and one sister who lost sons. The funeral was in Joaquin and all three caskets were placed side by side and one can imagine the grief that was present there that day. I will place a link to this site on my site.

April 6th 2004
Lannie G. Walker, Sr.
My cousin Sharon Rea, whose half-brother died in the explosion.
Fort Worth, Texas
  My mother, Irene Brown, had first cousins that were killed in the explosion. I am trying to find out their names. She told me that one of them was identified by a ring on her hand.

April 3rd 2004
Virginia L. Wheeler Mucklow
Paris, Texas
  I am currently a student at New London High School and I can't begin to explain how difficult it is for me to walk up and down these halls each day knowing what happened here. Though the school was rebuilt the memory of that tragic day still remains embedded in the walls and in the ground. The memory of that day lives on. It will forever remain in the hearts of the families, and the friends of those who lost their lives. As well as in the hearts of the people in the world who experience the tragedy through reading and learning. But especially in the hearts of the students who attend this school each year. Knowing that those poor, innocent children and teachers who lost their lives once use to walk the same paths that we do now, makes it hard on us not to think about them as we sit in class. I wish that everyone could come experience the feeling and the sadness that comes from this area. It was tragic and those victims did not deserve to die. It was really hard for me to stare into the faces of those children in the pictures and to think about how they must've felt, sitting here that day in their desks just wanting a chance to live their life. To imagine the dreams and hopes that they must've had, and never knowing what was going to happen or that all their dreams, hopes, and ambitions were to never come true. I can't help but feeling pain for each individual that died here. I hope that as the days continue forward that others around the world will read and learn about what happened. So that the children, the teachers, and the story will never be forgotten. They deserve a chance to live.

March 30th 2004
Amanda Walters
New London, Texas
  My mother-in-law lost two first cousins in the explosion from her father's youngest sister Lucille. She remembers one of them as Marcelene (sp?) but does not know the last name. I am doing genealogical research and hoped to find more of her father's people. Unfortunately the list doesn't match the name. I gave her the list to study and she believes she has a photograph of her mother's from a family function that includes the girls.

She was 7 at the time living 7 miles the other side of Kilgore. She remembers her father and mother dropping everything, grabbing her two older brothers and taking off for New London. If anyone knows of Marcelene(?) or her mother Lucille (maiden name Tudor), I would love to hear from you.

I think this is an excellent website very well done on a horrible tragedy. If my mother-in-law is able to offer any information or corrections, I will contact you. Thank you.

March 8th 2004
Beth Thompson
Reno, NV
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  My grandfather and grandmother were both teachers at New London. They both survived but lost their niece, Ruby, in the accident. My grandmother had a quilt with the victims names on it. I remember asking her about the quilt as a child. She never explained what happened that day, but she looked so sad, I didn't question her more. My father later explained what happened. It was a horrific accident. My understanding is that this is one of the reasons natural gas has an odor to it now.

March 8th 2004
Karen Sory Dunbar
Beaumont Texas
  My mother, Gloria Gay Henson (Maiden name Davis) was a survivor of the explosion, although she had such extensive injuries she was not expected to live. Obviously, she did, although her sister, June Davis, was killed. My mother went on to have four children, of which I am the youngest. My Mother had her first child on March 18, 1949. I have always thought that this was a blessing given to my Mother and her parents to soothe their memories of that day. My Mother's Mother, Vivian Davis, will be 100 years old in March. I would like to bring her to East Texas, but I don't think that she would be up to it. I do plan to take my Mother to any memorial service or event, this year, as I have never visited this site. I hope that I have the honor of meeting other survivors that my Mother may or may not remember. I feel certain that my visit will be an important date in my life.

January 23rd 2004
Walter Henson
Houston, Tx.
  I have visited before but I would just like to comment that the site just gets better and better. In an earlier post I mentioned how my grandfather and great uncle, Joe & Jim Nelson (who worked for Humble) were part of the rescue. What I didn't know is that my future husband's grandmother lived near by and lost a cousin and many friends in the disaster. She said she heard the explosion and was scared to death. I was surprised by her experience because my husband and I both grew up in San Antonio Tx, we knew we both had family in East Texas, but didn't know just how close they were. Our families share a very sad but interesting connection.

January 22nd 2004
Laura Nelson Boles
San Antonio, Texas
  I was attending London School and had just left the gym and was about to board the bus when I heard the explosion. I turned around and saw the devastation. At my young age, it left memories I will never forget. I was a campus survivor!

December 12 2003
Margie (Gilstrap) Johnson
New London, Texas
  My Paternal Grandmother, Earline Bailey Barberee was in the school explosion. She was not injured because she had, as she told us "made a dart to the outhouse" only moments before the explosion. Her cousin, Claude Kilgore was killed in the explosion. My Maternal Grandfather worked many years for Delta Drilling company & he & many of his coworkers helped in the clean up. There is a picture on this website of some kids going to Sunday school on a school bus. I think the girl 8th from the left might be my grandmother, although I'm not positive. She would have been 13 at the time of the explosion. If anyone has a yearbook with her picture, I would love to see it!

I also remember a story she told when we visited the graveyard where many of the victims were buried. She said that (maybe her cousin) a boy's arm had been torn off in the explosion & later found & buried next to him. I don't know how true that was, maybe a small town rumor? Anyway, my grandmother &grandfather eventually returned to New London & my dad even went to school there as a boy.

November 12th 2003
Gina Latham
Grand Saline, TX
  My mother's Aunt Inez whose maiden name was Chance married Johnny. I had just heard of them as Aunt Inez and Uncle Johnny. My mother was suppose to enroll in school there but she moved in with another relative. But both of my mothers cousins which were Aunt Inez and Uncle Johnny's daughters died in the explosion, but I don't know there names. If any one has any information please email me at

October 23rd 2003
  My dad, Alf Shaw, was the handsome devil who ran the hamburger stand at the New London School both before and after the explosion. He was the nephew of W.C. Shaw, the superintendent of London Schools, and he lost 3 first cousins in the disaster. Daddy knew almost every child in the school by name, and like many others, would never talk about the events of that day.

The year after the explosion, my mom, Ann Parish Shaw, came to the school to be the kindergarten teacher. She taught there from 1939-1941. Years later, when I was a child, I remember my parents playing lots of bridge with Felton Waggoner, principal of the grammar school, and his wife, who by then lived in Deer Park, while we lived in nearby Pasadena.

If anyone out there remembers my dad, I'd love to hear your stories.

My mom is 89 now, lives in Houston, and is still perking right along. We would love to hear from any of Miss Parish's students!

BTW, I have a Londona yearbook from 1936. It may contain pictures of students other than the ones on this website, and of survivors.

October 8th 2003
Marjorie Shaw
Grew up in Pasadena, Tx; now living in Dallas
  My mother, Ruby Barber, was in the school explosion. She was 16. She broke her back in 5 places. She lost a brother Ollie. Ruby was supposed to be in typing class with her sister, Helen, that day, but since Helen stayed home that day, Ruby went to Study Hall instead...everyone in the typing class was killed. Her cousin Burton Barber was in the shop where the explosion happened, but survived, his brother Arden did not. Most of our family is buried at Pleasant Hill Cemetery. My mother has learned a great deal from your web site.

August 26th 2003
Reba Miller
Tyler, Texas
  I went to New London from the early 50's to 1959. My dad was a pumper for Delta Drilling out of Kilgore and we were transferred to Louisiana. I started Kindergarten there and I think my teachers name was Ms. Morris. One of the articles I read here mentioned Mollie Ward. My family lived just down the hill from her and her family. She had 2 daughters, Judy and Joanne. When the bluebonnets bloomed in the spring, my Mom would take my brother and sister and me to the monument and take pictures with the blue bonnets in the background. The pictures were in black and white. Going to school there memories where everywhere of the disaster. I haven't been back in a while but plan on coming home soon. Thank you for your wonderful website, brought back allot of memories of that special time of my life in a small town of New London.

August 28th 2003
Sandra Bishop Satcher
Ruston, Louisiana
  I was born in 1935, so have no memory of the explosion. However, when I was in high school, about 1951, I worked for a few months as a soda jerk at the High School Drug owned by Charlie McConnico.

A very pleasant older gentleman (can't remember his name) used to come in for coffee, ice cream, etc. I commented to Charlie one day, "Mr. (?) frequently talks about his wife, but she never comes with him." Charlie responded, "She never will. They had three children, and all were killed in the explosion. She's been in the Rusk State Hospital (for the insane) ever since, and probably always will be."

August 24 2003
Don Nix
San Antonio, TX now....grew up in New London
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  My mother Mary Ann Burkett Jordan was an 8 year old that had just performed in a school play in the gym. She and her mother left early to go to her dance lessons. She told us they missed the explosion by 3 min. Her dad thought they had died and when they showed up at a local store later that afternoon he was white with shock. Recently my mom, sister and daughter visited the school. It was very moving. The impact on that small community must have been devastating! I told my daughter that if she every doubted that God had purpose for our lives we just needed to look at this and see His sovereign hand.

July 15th 2003
Pamela Bettis
Andrews, TX
  My Grandfather and his brother skipped school that day. My grandfather was Robert Lee Williams Sr. It was his brothers birthday that day so they decided to skip they were playing on a hill close to the school when it happened, I have no records of what grade he was in as he died before I was born.

July 5th 2003
Robert Lee Williams III
Houston, Texas
  My grandmother was in the 11th grade that day. Her name was Ruby Virginia Mitchell. she never went back to that school again. she later went on to be a nurse. My uncle and my aunt said she never spoke of the event. I can't say as I blame her. although I do wish I knew more about what happened to her that day. I am 30 yrs old, I try to tell my children the story and how lucky we are she lived that day because none of us would be here. she had 3 children, 2 boys and a girl, my dad had 5 boys, my uncle had no children, and my aunt had 2 girls. If any of the survivors remember her I would like to know. my mother used to stop at the memorial sometimes on the way to my maternal grandmothers house in Carlisle, Texas. later renamed price Texas.

July 5th 2003
Scott D Jones
Kilgore, Texas
  My dad, Alton Beard was in the library browsing through a war book when the explosion happened. He jumped out the window, becoming aware of what had happened and began looking for his two sisters (Helen & Marie Beard). He reflects back on it from time to time. Interesting note...Since he is a fiddler, he made a homemade fiddle case that I have in my possession now which he lined with burgundy velvet that was from the London High School Auditorium curtain. George Alton Beard will be 83 on His next birthday, God willing.

June 30th 2003
Dennis Alton Beard
Houston, TX
  This is a very nice tribute to those lost in this tragedy. My family lost several members (Shaws) in this explosion. It was particularly devastating to one of my uncles I never had a chance to meet. My Grandmother and my father tell me that he felt personally the loss since he was superintendant of schools at the time. He was never the same after the explosion according to them.

June 26th 2003
Marshall Bryant
Orange, Texas
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  My great grandfather who was quite elderly at the time went to the explosion and served coffee for the Salvation Army. My mother talked about it she said they had beds all up and down the hallways at Mother Francis, which had just opened.

June 23rd 2003
D Marshall
Tyler, TX
  My granddad, Will Barton lived in Overton at the time and helped to carry out victims. I also had distant cousins who died in the explosion. I have visited the site and it is hard to imagine the magnitude of this. There is a nice museum across the street from the new school filled with pictures and stories.

December 29th 2001
Eric Barton
San Jose, CA
  As I sit and think about that day, March 18,1937 so many years ago, I wonder how many of the kids got up as usual, getting ready for just another day at school. How many of those children had plans for the inter-scholastic meet in Henderson the very next day? But today who was planning on skipping their chores and maybe going hunting with a pal, or hoping mother would have a warm plate of cookies sitting on the table when they got home? The wonders I have are endless.

How many would have stayed in the area after graduation to become pillars of the community? Farmers or ranchers, doctors or workers in the oilfields? Marrying a sweetheart from school, going on to raise a family, kids, later grandkids?

Or going off to join the military, to fight in WW2? How many would have returned safely from the war? The possibilities are endless of what might have happened had that explosion never occurred so many years ago.

I wonder.

[name withheld by request]
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