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Thread: Bond Dance Hall Explosion, West Plains Missouri 1928

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    Bond Dance Hall Explosion, West Plains Missouri 1928

    Here is something from my old neck of the woods

    On April 13, 1928,[13] for reasons still unknown, a violent explosion occurred in downtown West Plains. About 60 people had gathered in the Bond Dance Hall, which was on the second floor of a building on East Main Street. The explosion was reported to be felt for miles, even in Pomona, which is approximately ten miles from West Plains. Windows were shattered throughout the block, and cars were also warped on the street. The explosion also damaged the nearby Howell County Courthouse so badly that it was vacated and left until late 1933, when it was demolished by the Civil Works Administration.[14] 37 people were killed in the explosion, and 22 people were injured. 20 of those killed were never positively identified and buried in a mass grave at Oak Lawn Cemetery in the southeast part of town. Today, they are memorialized by the Rock of Ages monument, erected on October 6, 1929.[15] The explosion has also been remembered in a folk song recorded 30 years later.[16]
    The cause of the explosion is still a topic of controversy nearly a century after the blast. Numerous causes for the explosion have been offered, but a definitive story has never been proven to be true. The most widely accepted theory is that the explosion somehow originated from leaking gasoline in a garage owned by J. W. Wiser, which happened to be on the floor below. Because Wiser was at the garage at the time, some have speculated that the blast was intentionally caused by Wiser as a suicide attempt, which his wife reportedly refused to acknowledge. In addition, the late West Plains native Robert Neathery explained in his 1994 book, West Plains As I Knew It, that a truck containing dynamite parked in the garage may have been the cause, indirectly part of a crime in which someone shot Wiser and set a fire to cover up the crime, and the dynamite exploded.[17]
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Plains,_Missouri





    I just ordered the book called The West Plains Dance Hall Explosion,

    https://maxhunter.missouristate.edu/...on.aspx?ID=113
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1orwIFOn3A The last song they heard before the explosion, right in the middle of the song is when the explosion happened.
    Last edited by pkstracy; 10-10-2017 at 12:02 PM.
    "My Darling Girl ,when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage." ~Aunt Frances~
    And It Harm None Do What ye will. Wise Intelligent Teacher Courageous Healer.

  2. #2
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    WOW.............................

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    Wow is right - great story that I've never heard about before.

    I'm guessing it was radical Confederate sympathizers still sore over losing the war.
    That or maybe Baptist extremists; what with it being a dance hall and such.

    Seriously, if there actually was a truck containing dynamite in the garage; that would have to be my first guess (after the Baptist extremists).
    What do we want!?
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    Yeah Jim no one knows what happened, was it a gas leak? Was it a murder cover up? Was it a revenge thing, who knows, I am getting the book tomorrow, give me a moment and I'll post some pictures of the victims I found,

    17 year old Beatrice Barker, Victim

    Mary Violet Adair 18 Year old Victim.
    Frances Drago 21 year old victim
    Paul Evans Jr 24 Year old victim. I'll post more in a bit have to wait 30 mins in between posts, Also for the longest time afterward dances were banned in West Plains, due to this event.
    Last edited by pkstracy; 10-11-2017 at 08:05 PM.
    "My Darling Girl ,when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage." ~Aunt Frances~
    And It Harm None Do What ye will. Wise Intelligent Teacher Courageous Healer.

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    Ruth Fisher 19



    Olis Holestine 22 years old date of Beatrice Barker.

    Kitty McFarland 31 years old
    Last edited by pkstracy; 10-12-2017 at 03:23 PM.
    "My Darling Girl ,when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage." ~Aunt Frances~
    And It Harm None Do What ye will. Wise Intelligent Teacher Courageous Healer.

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    Soula "Dimples" Martin 21 years old
    "My Darling Girl ,when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage." ~Aunt Frances~
    And It Harm None Do What ye will. Wise Intelligent Teacher Courageous Healer.

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    http://www.robertsondrago.com/our-heritage/

    About Kitty's Funeral home business and what it is today, wonder if they are related to frances drago listed in above post?
    "My Darling Girl ,when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage." ~Aunt Frances~
    And It Harm None Do What ye will. Wise Intelligent Teacher Courageous Healer.

  8. #8
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    Wow - fantastic pictures.
    What do we want!?
    Evidence-based science!

    When do we want it!?
    After peer review!

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    Thank you I'll post more at a later date and sorry for the oversized ones, I can't get get my editing software to work.
    "My Darling Girl ,when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage." ~Aunt Frances~
    And It Harm None Do What ye will. Wise Intelligent Teacher Courageous Healer.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by pkstracy View Post
    http://www.robertsondrago.com/our-heritage/

    About Kitty's Funeral home business and what it is today, wonder if they are related to frances drago listed in above post?
    I noticed her pic - she looked like a fun person in that outfit and in that pose.
    You would (or I would) tend to think they are related. That's not a common name, at least not where I'm from.
    According to a name stats website I just found; in the US, 1.16 people per 100,000 have the last name Drago.

    Quote Originally Posted by pkstracy View Post
    Thank you I'll post more at a later date and sorry for the oversized ones, I can't get get my editing software to work.
    No worries.
    Here's a link to a free one I use a lot called PicPick. I mainly use it for screen caps but it has some OK editing features for free:

    http://ngwin.com/picpick
    What do we want!?
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    Thanks Jim, I check it out in the meantime, Here is the list of the victims, I am slowly finding pictures but it is taking awhile.

    Identified Dead:
    John Bates 20, single, son of the Revered J.F.E. Bates, 1926 graduate of Chaffee High School, He was to attend the University of Arkansas to study civil engineering.

    Clinton Clemmons 23, single, Son of Mr. and Mrs. T.D. Clemmons worked at Davis Grocery store

    Paul Evans Jr. 23, single Graduate of University of Missouri. Son of Dr. and Mrs. Paul Evans.

    Charles Fisher 20, single was going to college to be a teacher, only son of Mr and Mrs. A.P Fisher.

    Carl Jackson 19, single, high school senior, Mountain Grove High School (my mom's alma mater.) Buried in double funeral with best friend Charles Fisher.

    Jullius C. Jeffery, single. (no other information about him as of yet, still doing research )

    Ben Jolley, 68, Employee of McFarland Undertaking Company.

    Robert G. Martin, 54, Ford Dealer, Masonic leader, husband of Soula Maxey Martin and father of Soula Gaines "Dimple" Martin, cosponsor of the dance.

    Soula Gaines "Dimple" Martin 21, daughter of Mr and Mrs. Martin, Crushed by piano she had been playing at the time of the explosion.

    Soula Maxey Martin wife of Robert Martin, Mother of Soula Gaines, prominent businesswoman and socialite in West Plains, cosponsor of the dance. Daughter of Colonel Robert Maxey, Prominent Attorney, she was a member of the Daughters of the Confederacy and The Daughters of the American Revolution.

    Mary Katherine "Kitty" McFarland 31, widow, mother of 12 year old Jack, she was rumored to have been engaged to Major Robert Mullins. First Female Embalmer in the State, she got her license in 1914 or 1915.

    Charles Merk, 17, high school student, son of Arnold Merk, contractor.

    Naomi Reeves Mullins, 19, pregnant wife of Carl Mullins, Sister in law of Major Robert Mullins. Carl was his brother.

    Major Robert Mullins, 34, veteran of World War 1 rumored to be engaged to Kitty McFarland. Also in 1916 he fought in the Mexican Expedition in pursuit of Pancho Villa, in Company D. In WW1 he was in the 140th Missouri Infantry. Brother of Carl Mullins, brother in law of Naomi Reeves Mullins.

    Lev Reed, 26, head of legal department of Reed-Harlin Grocer Company, owned by his father John R. Reed.

    Mable Daum Riley, 25, wife of Esco Riley

    Hazel Slusser, 23, single school teacher, Willow Springs.

    Elbert White 19, Singer at Presbyterian Church, member of National Guard, son of Mrs E.N. White, along with his brother operated the West Plains-Popular Bluff bus service, he died a week after the explosion of his injuries.

    Joseph M. "Babe" Wiser, 46, husband of Clara Wiser, owner of Wiser Motor Company.

    Missing and Presumed Dead:
    Mary Violet Adair 17, Single, daughter of Mr. and Mrs Charles H. Adair.

    Beatrice Barker 17, single, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. I.B. Barker of Mountain Grove, her dentist tried to identify her body through dental records, but could not.

    Evelyn Flo Conkin,20, Single, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Houston Conkin, sweetheart of Mo Ashley, Cousin of Lev Reed, niece of Mayor Jim Hardin.

    Frances Wilhelmina (Billy) Drago, 22, single, manager of Western Union, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Drago.

    Ruth Fisher,18, single, daughter of Mr. and Mrs Fred E. Fisher, Ruth was attending her first public dance.

    Boyd Gardner, 21.

    Marvin Hill, 19, member of the National Guard, Son of Mr. and Mrs Ed Hill.

    Ruby Hodkinson, 22, Married to Clifford Hodkinson, mother of a three year old son, she was visiting a cousin and they decided to go to the dance.

    Olis "Chester" Holestine 22, son of J.F. Holestine, he was playing the saxophone at the time of the explosion, date of Bea Barker.

    Juanita Marie Laws, 27, single.

    James Loven, 22, single

    Carson McLelland, 25, single, state department employee, son of Mr. and Mrs Wellington McLelland.

    Nellie James Murphy 24, wife of Robert Murphy, Springfield Missouri, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Pleas "Dutch" James.

    Robert Sholten Murphy, 30, Springfield, owner of Murphy Tire Company, son of Mr. and Mrs. Steve Murphy, husband of Nellie Murphy.

    Esco Riley, 27, head of sales at Allen Grocery, son of Mar and Mrs. E.L. Riley, member of National Guard, worked at Allen Grocery.

    Icie (Icy) Risner, 23, single, elementary school teacher in Thayer, daughter of J. Willard Risner.

    Susan Virginia Drago Rogers 19, wife of Wallace Rogers, mother of one year old daughter, Patricia, daughter of Mr. and Mrs C.H. Drago,

    Hugh Sams, 19, single, member of the National Guard, son of Mr. and Mrs. Sid J. Sams.

    it was noted that every member that was killed in the explosion were all prominent members of society and wealthy, so another speculation is did someone do it for revenge, bad deals that went wrong? So many theories about what happened or did happen, me personally I feel it was just a gas leak and a spark from a match or something caused it, but who knows. A lot of these people on the list, my mom went to school with some of their relatives, and knew a lot of the families of some of these victims.
    Last edited by pkstracy; 10-14-2017 at 10:09 AM.
    "My Darling Girl ,when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage." ~Aunt Frances~
    And It Harm None Do What ye will. Wise Intelligent Teacher Courageous Healer.

  12. #12
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    Wow - that's quite a list.
    So many young people with their lives ahead of them, and some families suffering multiple losses.

    I've never heard the name "Soula" before; that's a lovely name.
    What do we want!?
    Evidence-based science!

    When do we want it!?
    After peer review!

  13. #13
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    I agree Jim, Soula is a lovely name, also Kitty, had lost her husband a couple of years before the explosion and then a week later her in laws.
    "My Darling Girl ,when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage." ~Aunt Frances~
    And It Harm None Do What ye will. Wise Intelligent Teacher Courageous Healer.

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