Cape Central Evacuation


Looks like everybody has been evacuated from Central High School. I thought it might have been a fire drill, but there are photos of officers searching the building., so I’m leaning to bomb threat. Click on the photos to make them larger.

Did the lockers have combination locks?

I was trying to figure out how they would have gotten all the lockers open if every student had an individual padlock. I seem to remember that there was a round, black combination lock on the front of the door that you turned right-left-right to open the locker. They also had a key slot that the administration could use to open them. That must have been how they did it so quickly.

Leaving no place unchecked

So, why am I inside when everybody else is outside?

I’m playing the odds that there’s no bomb. Plus, it’s cool to run around in the empty building.

Bomb on an aircraft

One night in the late 70s, we got a report of a bomb on an aircraft at Palm Beach International Airport. They unloaded the plane to search it, then blocked all but ticketed passengers from the terminal. No problem. I called the travel agency that handled our business and had them issue tickets in the name of a reporter and photographer, telling them that we had no intention of actually using them. We did enough business with the agency that they were happy to work with us.

After about an hour, the photographer radioed back that the plane has been given the all clear and that they were going to start boarding passengers soon. I was all set to tell them to come back to the office when the guy working the city desk said, “Tell them to get on the plane.”

“Get on the plane?”

“Get on the plane? That makes no sense. If there is no bomb, then there’s no story. If there IS a bomb, they’re going to be dead and they’re not going to be able to file.”

He insisted. So, saying that I wanted it on the record that this was a bad idea, I broke the news to the team. “You’re going to Pittsburgh (or Philadelphia, I can’t remember).”

“We’re broke. We have no money,” he replied. This was in the days before everybody carried plastic. We quickly took up a collection and got them a handful of cash and change.

Their conversations with their seatmates was interesting. “Let me get this straight… Your editor thinks there’s a bomb on the plane and he tells you to get on it? And, you DO it?” When you put it that way, it does sound a little strange.

They arrived in one of those P-towns to find out that there wasn’t a room to be had. There was a Shriner’s convention going on. Not only were there no rooms, every eating establishment and bar in town was full of drunks wearing funny hats. They did NOT have a fun time.

It’s all over

There are folks holding umbrellas, the concrete looks mottled and the sky is overcast. It may have just started raining. I see Calvin Chapman on the right in the first wave of returning teachers. Mrs. Muegge might be in the back of the group. Typing teacher Mr. Gockel might be leading the charge, but I’m less sure about her.

I wonder who had a test scheduled or a paper due?

The Missourian, like most papers, had a policy of not running bomb threats if nothing was found. They didn’t want to encourage copycats, so these were never published.

13 Replies to “Cape Central Evacuation”

  1. There is a good bomb scare story, but paranoia of Homeland Security prevents its telling on a monitored site. Here’s a brief explanation of how somme of the fire evacuations were caused.

    The Central IED

    Some may recall the serendipitous occasions in the mid-60s when Central’s fire alarm would sound just as the person in the desk in front passed back a test for which the receiver was totally unprepared. The fortunate suddenly non-test takers would get to their feet and shuffle out the door joining the stream of others clogging the hall headed for the front lawn, returning to the classroom 20 or so minutes later after the fire department “All Clear.”

    Certainly Central had its mandated fire drills for which teachers had advance notice, but there were also several seemingly unplanned events occurring 5 to 10 minutes after class began. No administrator ever bothered to look for correlations, as there were no obvious culprits. Had they done so, they might have been surprised with the results.

    At the time the military had yet to coin the acronym IED, but the concept was not new even then. As practiced at Central, the device consisted of the fuse of a Black Cat jammed into a Camel. Using gum or similar substance, the saboteur then stuck the combination to the glass rod on one of the fire alarms conveniently located around the school. When the second bell rang, he (I know of no shes) ignited the end of the cigarette and headed for class. A few minutes later the tobacco fuse burned down to its Chinese counterpart. It quickly conveyed the spark to the black powder that caused the explosion which shattered the glass that set off the alarm.

    The device’s use was reserved for special events, such as major tests, to lessen the “cry wolf” effect and the intensity of any investigation. Nevertheless, by Spring the adults were tired of such shenanigans, and it was not uncommon to find the more remote alarms out of order. When an unplanned alarm did sound, building evacuation became less automatic as the staff first searched for the cause of the clang.

    If memory serves no one was ever identified as all potential perps were seated at their desks in full view of teachers and classmates when the commotion began. No doubt now security cameras and anti-smoking campaigns have accomplished what the administration could not. What has become of serendipity?

    1. Not everybody managed to escape the consequences. Shy Reader passed on the story about a former student who was busted for calling a “bomb in the gymnasium” threat “just for fun.”

      He made the mistake of making several crank calls to the school with three of his buddies listening in the background. Authorities recognized his voice and that of his cronies. He spent the night in jail, but the story said that no charges had been filed yet.

  2. The lockers at Central had no combination locks or key lccks on them. The position for the mechanism can be seen in the second picture. There is a blind cover that fills the spot; the rectangle with the dimple in the center that is bolted to the door. Additionally, the location for padlocks can be be discerned in the door handle just under the arm of the gentleman in the second picture. I don’t recall that anyone used locks.

    1. Student owned padlocks, keyed or combination, were not allowed, and they would be cut off as soon as they were discovered. The embedded combination locks were reset (or maybe shuffled) every summer so the previous occupant couldn’t get into the locker. The embedded locks did open with a master key.

  3. The worst bomb threat I was aware of as a staff member was when someone called one in, but we were pretty sure it was one of our unstable students who had previously made threats to shoot students and staff. The administration in conjunction with the police decided the kids were safer with an unlikely bomb than being sitting ducks for someone with a rifle. The person calling in the threat was who we thought it was, but fortunately was not armed.

  4. Ken,
    Thank you for yet another interesting blog.
    I do remember when at least the Class of ’64 had some kind of lock on our lockers the year we had lockers on the main floor.
    Our halcyon days of growing up in the fifties and in high school sometime in the sixties didn’t mean it was always safe enough to leave a locker, a house, a car unlocked.
    Be safe,

  5. I wonder if this is the bomb scare from my senior year. I remember it was the day before a home football game, early in the season. That would date the event to a Thursday, in September of 1965. That’s the only bomb scare that I recall from my Cape public school days.

  6. Locks on lockers? I didn’t lock mine for several reasons… was in a great location, so was shared by several friends…..and who would steal books?

  7. I definitely remember having locks on Central’s lockers, but if a bomb scare happened prior to graduation in 1964, more of my memory has disappeared than I thought.

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