I’m at a loss for decent adjectives for describing how well Lin Waterhouse has written this moving, dramatic tragedy in a midwestern community, West Plains, MO. The book takes readers along the path directly into the flames and back out into real sorrow and pain.
Readers become acquainted with the people who were looking for a convivial gathering that was typical of their community along with the people who were living nearby and those who lived with the nightmare of survival. The class differences in terms of economy, but apparently not such divisive social terms as were prominent in much of society still in the decade of the 1920s.
Using family memories, notes, testimony and photos from the community, Lin Waterhouse puts seriously realistic faces on the people (not characters, but real life people) who where living in West Plains, Missouri that night.
A true cold case, there has been no determination of cause or identification of perpetrators for the West Plains Dance Hall Explosion. But, it wasn’t a bad dream — it really happened and 39 people died. Some never knew what hit them; many knew it more than any soul can endure.
The author includes some basic foundational history of West Plains, including Civil War troubles for many residents. Today, we think of West Plains and think of the fine Missouri State University there, the thriving business community and happier history as a center for Country Music with native resident, Porter Wagoner who was a babe in arms (8/1927 — 10/2007) on that terrible spring evening. Some people still stop for a quiet moment at the memorial headstone marking the grave field sheltering the victims that could not be identified. I admire the spiritual bravery of their survivors who simply committed them to hometown soil together from the tunes of this plain until the music of eternity.
I highly recommend this book and this author. I’m proud to be personally and professionally acquainted with her and look forward to reading everything she writes.