At the 2005 reunion of the New London School Explosion families, Carolyn Jones Frei reads the March 25, 1937 speech she gave as fifth grader Carolyn Jones to the Texas Legislature. She is standing in a corner of the London Museum being recorded by filmmaker Reva Goldberg. At her side is the machine that adds mercaptan, the warning smell to natural gas.
Mr. President, members of the house of representatives, and friends of school children, I’m here today as a representative of the London school and as a survivor of the school explosion that took the lives of nearly 500 pupils, teachers, and parents.
Last Thursday afternoon while my colleague and I were studying spelling for the interscholastic meet in which we were going to represent our school the next day, our teacher Mrs. Sory saw some pictures fall from the wall and several vases crash from the desk.
In an instant she had jerked open two nearby windows and said get out of here. We were clinging to her when we heard the first awful rumble that in a few seconds caused the room to collapse.
Mrs. Sory helped us out of the window and in another few seconds we were separated by the dark cloud of dust that blinded us.
When it got so I could see again I ran home as fast as I could. My teacher and friend were not killed, but I did not see them again.
My sister Helen Jones, an honor student and member of the high school champion debate team, was not so fortunate. She and my uncle, Paul Grier, a senior who planned to study medicine, were both taken from us in this awful explosion that killed so many of the future generation of East Texas.
When the announcement was made a few hours earlier by our principle that school would be dismissed for the county meet, the usual joy and excitement of a holiday prevailed. Little did we realize that we soon would be searching in the ruins of our beautiful school building for the bodies of our sisters and brothers and teachers.
First, as a representative of these school friends and teachers of mine, both living and dead, I am here today to express our appreciation for all that you and our governor have done for the relief of the suffering people of this community.
Second, let us suggest the legislature of Texas set aside a special day each year to be observed as a memorial day on which tribute will be paid to the children and teachers who died in this catastrophe.
We want to thank you for the memorial fund to which many of you have already contributed and which people all over the world are sending donations. We believe if those students and teachers who died would speak they would want a living memorial instead of a stately building.
By all means, we should have an appropriate but simple structure on which will appear the names of each pupil, teacher, and parent who died. With the remaining portion of money, our teachers suggest an endowment fund, to be used for the future education for the surviving children so that each might be assured of a college education if they so desired.
In conclusion, let me urge you, our lawmaking body, to make laws of safety, so it will not be possible for another explosion of this type to occur in the history of Texas schools.
Our daddies and mothers, as well as the teachers, want to know that when we leave our homes in the morning to go to school, that we will come out safe when our lessons are over.
Out of this explosion, we have learned of a new hazard that hovers about some of our school buildings. If this hazard can be forever blotted out of existence then we will not have completely lost our loved ones in vain.
We need say nothing more on the point of safety legislation because we as children of London school know that our faith in our government will not be betrayed. We will have safe school buildings in the future.
All of us who were spared will try to show our appreciation by striving to become the finest of citizens to carry on the work of this wonderful land of yours and mine.
This is our plea, thank you.
... As a result of the New London tragedy, the 45th Legislature enacted House Bill 1017 which amended Article 6053, Texas Revised Civil Statutes, 1925, giving the Railroad Commission the authority to adopt rules and regulations pertaining to the odorization of natural gas or liquefied petroleum gases. On July 27, 1937, Gas Utilities Docket 122 was adopted and the Commission began enforcement of odorization requirements for natural gas.