Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Shot Heard ‘Round the Ball Building

In 1947, when the city gave MBA a pair of Civil War cannons, it ought to have known what would happen next. To sophomores Jack Todd and Lew Wood, at least, the installation of the relics on the front lawn was an invitation to mayhem. Wood recalls that soon after the cannons were installed, Todd (now deceased) started paying regular visits to Clark Hardware, on Broadway around the corner from his family’s car-repair shop, Vogeley and Todd. There he bought black powder, in small quantities each time so as not to raise suspicion. On Saturday night, January 10, 1948, the boys and their dates rolled onto campus in Todd's Dodge coupe. After packing a cannon with about five pounds of powder, plus sticks, leaves and newspaper, they realized they had nary a match or Zippo among them. They pulled the car onto the grass, as close to the cannon as they could get. Todd sat at the wheel as Wood dashed toward the fuse with the car's glowing cigarette lighter, then jumped back in the car as Todd floored it. They had made it only to the edge of the parking lot when the explosion went off, shaking the car violently. Through the rising smoke, they saw lights turning on all across Cherokee Park. “West Nashville Area Rocked by Mystery Blast,” blared the front page of the Tennessean on Sunday morning. Hundreds of calls from concerned residents had flooded into police switchboards, and in a time of mounting fear about the Soviet menace, many said the blast sounded as though it were “directly overhead.”

submitted by E. Thomas Wood '82