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Richards R-V Student Stories: West Plains Explosion

Student Stories: West Plains Explosion

While studying the history of the West Plains area, we learned about the "Great Dance Hall Explosion" which occurred in West Plains, Missouri, on Friday, April 13, 1928. The students better understood the magnitude of the event by being involved in a creative writing activity. The writing prompt encouraged each student to find the cause of the accident along with a way to rescue the people who might have been there. Besides the creative writing activity, we also worked together on a class mural that depicted West Plains court square at the time of the "Great Dance Hall Explosion."

Listen to a clip from the last song people were dancing to before the explosion!
At Sundown
by the RazzmaJazz Dixieland Jazz Band

The Great Dance Hall Explosion, by Mackenzie

Renea Saves the Day, by Stephanie

Mystery Blast, by Michael

Mystery Blast
by Michael

It all started in West Plains at 11:05 p.m., Friday, April 13, 1928. It was at the Bond Dance Hall on the 2nd floor of the Wiser Motor Company on East Main Street. The people that were on the 2nd floor had no clue that gas was leaking from a car and a lit cigarette was on the floor where the gas was.

The last song the people were listening to was "At Sundown." Right in the middle of the song the lit cigarette and the gas got close together. Right then the building exploded, and all of the windows in all of the buildings on the West Plains square broke into little pieces on the ground. The very next day, the newspaper said, "West Plains Weekly Quill, 37 Killed in Mystery Blast: 22 Injured."

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Renea Saves the Day
by Stephanie

In 1928 in West Plains there was a big dance at the Bond Dance Hall on East Main Street. The dance hall was over the Wiser Motor Company. Almost everybody was at the dance. Renea, who was across the street, saw the fun and went over. Renea was offered drinks and snacks. As Renea was dancing she smelled something. She went into the Wiser Garage. An old man was fiddling with something. Renea was trying to see what it was, but the man closed the truck. As he left, Renea went over to the truck. She lifted the truck lid and spotted the bomb. Renea saw that there was only five minutes left. Renea was trying hard to think when she remembered the pawn shop. The owner of the shop could stop the bomb. Renea carefully picked up the bomb and snuck it into the store, but no one was there. Then Renea ran home and found a shovel. She started to dig. She finally found the door to the cellar. Renea opened the door and threw the bomb into it. She closed the door, and covered it with dirt. Renea's father was a cement trucker. She found a big bucket of the cement and dumped it over the dirt. Then she ran back to the dance and told everyone about the bomb. About two minutes later a big boom awoke the town. Luckily, no one was hurt, although the bomb did shatter the windows in the cellar and in Renea's house. Renea was rewarded with money and a certificate. That night at Renea's grandma's, everyone celebrated, and Renea was happy she had saved her town.

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The Great Dance Hall Explosion
by Mackenzie

It all began on April 12 at 11:05 a.m., in the year 1928. I'm Miss Christy Colls. I'm nineteen years old. I guess you could say I'm a bit young to be trying to stop something that I'm about to try to stop. See, there is going to be a huge explosion in the Bond Dance Hall. For some strange reason, when something horrifying is going to happen I get my West Plains Weekly Quill a day early, so I can try to stop what's about to happen.

I have a boyfriend named Bryan Ball. My boyfriend was the one to tell me about the West Plains Explosion. The dance will be at the Bond dance Hall that is down East Main Street on top of the Wiser Motor Company. I was the star singer that night. I had a plan that might save the lives of many people. The night of the dance I was dressed in my blue dress that had fringe down from below my waist to just above my knees. At 5:00 I waited for my boyfriend to arrive in the beautiful white limo. When he finally arrived, we had to hurry because we were late for the dance. The song they were singing when we arrived at the dance hall was called "When You Arrive." Usually we take a break at 12:00, but instead we sang one more song. It was the song I would be singing too. It was called, "At Sundown."

Before we started the song I smelled a pungent odor around the dance hall and the Wiser Motor Company. I ran out to the limo to tell the driver to get away from the building just in case an explosion occurred. I was right in the middle of the song "At Sundown" when immediately I had to go down to the garage. There had been an open can of gas that had evaporated in the garage. I opened a window and went back upstairs to the dance hall. About an hour later I kept smelling the same gas that I smelled earlier. I ran like the wind to the microphone and told everybody to get out. "OUT! OUT! OUT!" I said to everybody.

When almost everybody got out, someone was still inside smoking a cigarette. They threw it on the ground. He jumped from the window just in time. I told everybody to get away from the building because it was going to explode. Just minutes after everybody got away from the building, it exploded. Instantly after the building blew up, there were flames that went a hundred feet into the air. It was a huge disaster because the whole building collapsed on top of my great, great Uncle Greg. I loved him so much that I thought my heart would never mend, but there was still Bryan. Bryan and I were very sad, but we kept working on it. Finally we made it through. It was very hard losing my great, great, Uncle Greg.

All of the windows in every building on the square were blown out. In the middle of the square was a big beautiful brick courthouse. The explosion was so big that it tore off one of the walls on the courthouse. The people had to prop up the wall with two by fours. Down East Main Street all that was left of the Bond Dance Hall and the Wiser Motor Company was wood and instruments that had been smashed.

Nine people were seriously injured. Five died from being badly burned, but 37 people were saved. The grave has a big, beautiful grave stone with everybody's name on it. The West Plains cemetery is on the north side of West Plains.

It was a very sad time then, and many families lost loved ones that were very special to them. Some families were so happy their children did not get killed in the explosion that happened just days ago. The parents that lost their kids were very, very, very sad. They knew they would never be able to replace them. The people that knew the teenagers who were killed were very sad too. There were only five graves that were ordered, but more than 5 died in the explosion. Well, I guess that's where my story will have to end. Maybe someday you can go to the West Plains Cemetery to see the grave, or maybe you can find out more about this huge explosion. Maybe you can hear the song "At Sundown" sometime too.

Source: At Sundown music clip provided courtesy of the RazzmaJazz Dixieland Jazz Band, "Havin' Fun Playing America's Music."