It has been said that the tragedy that occurred seventy-seven years ago on Thursday, March 18, 1937 was the “day a town lost its future, the day a generation perished, the day when angels cried.” (Gone at 3:17). On that day, just minutes before school was to be dismissed for a much-anticipated three-day weekend, Lemmie R. Butler, a manual arts teacher, turned on a sanding machine and a spark escaped into the air, which unbeknownst to anyone was also mixed with gas.
The school had been built three years earlier and it was a show place, built not with taxes from the hard-working oil field families, but with money from the oil companies. It was possibly the wealthiest school district in the country, if not the world, at that time. Superintendent William Chesley Shaw was proud of his school, and even though the school was well-funded he still fretted over cost-savings – something that would prove fatal on that day in 1937.
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