Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Terrible Blast

February 21, 1947
Los Angeles

The city continues to reel under the horrific impact of yesterday's chemical explosion at the O'Connor Electro-Plating Company, 926 E. Pico Blvd., which leveled the factory, damaged 116 homes, injured hundreds and killed more than a dozen persons.

City officials scattered rat poison around the blast site to deter vermin, while others condemned the contents of local restaurants and bakeries, lest glass fragments find their way onto plates. And into the night, the bulldozers made their silent, constant grab at the debris, dislodging severed limbs, dead cats and dogs, and the ruins of countless lives.

The aftermath of the explosion was carried live on local television station W6XYZ, with narration by reporter Dick Lane.

It is believed that staff chemist Robert Magee was experimenting with using volatile perchloric acid to polish aluminum when the blast occurred. The formula was his own secret recipe, and a patent had reportedly been applied for. Magee and his newly-hired assistant, Alice Iba, are both missing and presumed dead.

2 comments:

joe d said...

This devastating explosion is mentioned in both Will Fowler's "Reporters" and Aggie Underwood's "Newspaperwoman", two excellent reminiscences of life on an LA paper.

Larry said...

I say this as someone who knew Will Fowler for years and considered him a friend. Will’s recollections in "Reporters" are vivid if not scrupulously accurate—and some of his book is nothing but tall tales.

Aggie Underwood's "Newspaperwoman" is somewhat more reliable—but was written with the heavy involvement of Foster Goss, who is listed in the acknowledgements, and it also contains errors.

Like all autobiographies, neither of them should be accepted without skepticism. That also goes for Examiner City Editor Jim Richardson’s “For the Life of Me.” Richardson is fairly accurate, but trusts his memory too much and wrote with the philosophy that: “I was a better reporter dead drunk than you guys were sober and don’t ever forget it.”

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