Random Memories - Part II.


Two Experiments in Chemistry Class - 1963

By Brian V. Brunner('64)


Experiment # 1 - Smell This!

     In the story called "I Smell Something Burning!" it was implied that COL Hovey could easily smell the smoke of a burning paper airplane in the Chemistry lab from inside the Dean's office. The Dean's office was directly over the Chemistry Lab / Classroom, no wonder he could he smell the smoke!

     In the second semester of 1963, the Dean was Major Teel, and I was in Captain Killingsworth's Chemistry class in the same lab. One day we were about to start an experiment that generated a gas called sulfur dioxide. (I think that's right. Some of you chemistry experts will have to correct me on that if I'm wrong.) I don't remember who, but someone said that we should look at our watches to see how long it tool MAJ Teel to come down the stairs from the second we stated the experiment. The sulfur dioxide smelled just like everyone in building had just passed the worst smelling gas that they ever had! (Rotten eggs smell the same way.)

     I do not remember how long it took MAJ Teel to get down the steps, but it wasn't much past thirty seconds! I wish I could remember the look on his face.

Major Teel
Major Teel
LWMA Dean 1961-1964

     The best thing about this little story is that this was not a prank. It was part of the Chemistry course and no cadet could be faulted.

     I wonder how this experiment works in lab below the library in the Martha Dixon library in 2003. I guess that is one reason why there is no staircase between the labs and the library over them.

Experiment # 2 - Nobody Seriously Hurt.

     This was later, near the end of the school year. Capt. Killingsworth had set up distilling tubes set up in the lab. We were in working in teams of two boiling and distilling an acid.

     A short time after we started cooking this stuff with our Bunsen burners, I was waiting for ours to do something, when Capt. Killingsworth called out, "Everyone, come look how well this one is doing." I moved over behind Capt. Killingsworth, who was standing near the end of the tube where the Bunsen burner was. I could see the end of the tube was pointing away from Capt. Killingsworth, and the inside of the tube was seemed have lot of boiling acid moving in it and dropping out the other end. I believe it was working so well, because the Bunsen burner was too hot. The pressure of the acid steam in the distilling tube built up so much that the tube exploded just after we had all gathered around it.

     I was very lucky to be where I was, but I was still hit on the right side of my face and neck by tiny acid drops. I was able to move to my right where my lab table and sink were located and wash the acid off of my face. I don't know what everyone else was doing at the time, but I'm sure we were all turning off the Bunsen burners and trying to get acid off us and the other guys who were worse off. One cadet, who was standing in front of the distilling tube stopper, received the full force of the blast of acid in his face. I believe he was in the infirmary for a few days. As I remember, no one was permanently scared.

     I talked to Mrs. Killingsworth at a function at LWMA on December 7, 2002. We discussed this story, and I told her I was trying to have come up with a good ending, and she agreed the next paragraph might work.

     The results of this accident lived with most of the affected cadets for a while because those uniform shirts had tiny holes in them from the acid drops. I know I did not have the money to replace that shirt, so I wore it the rest of the year. I don't think anyone bothered us about the shirts; we just lived with holey shirts. I still have that Chemistry book, and when I open to the page where it was lying open in lab that day I see there are about a hundred tiny holes in those two pages and few pages before and after. This book was on a different table and about ten feet away from the shattered distillery tube.

     Please, remember this is one of those exciting things that happened that we tend to remember. It was just an accident.

Capt. Killingsworth
Capt. Jerry D. Killingsworth
1963 Yearbook Photo

Mrs. Killingsworth
Mrs. Doris Killingsworth
1967 Yearbook Photo


Note: Capt. (Later Major) Killingsworth was also the school band director and later taught mathematics. Mrs. Killingsworth was the school librarian for a few years after my time at LWMA.

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