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1968: Homecoming Dance halted by gas bomb in elevator

Editor’s Note: This article originally ran in an October 1968 edition of The Collegian. Small edits have been made for ease of comprehension, but the original grammar, AP style and content of the article has been retained.

Written by Tim Norris in October 1968

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The Homecoming Dance was cancelled and several policemen and firemen were overcome by fumes when gas was released at 8:45 Saturday night in the elevator in the Student Center, said Burl Shaw, Center night supervisor.

Units from all Fort Collins fire stations and police arrived at the scene almost immediately, Shaw said. “Our alarm system, activated by the gas, responded almost instantaneously,” he explained.

The gas, a choking and vomiting-inducing type technically called “CS,” may have ruined up to $4,000 (more than $29,000 today) worth of food, according to the Student Center Director William Weddel, though total cost of the incident has not been determined. Shaw said that because of possible contamination the Student Center cafeteria and menu dining room will be closed today, though the Ramskeller will remain open.

Treated at Poudre Valley Memorial Hospital for inhalation of the gas and released were Lt. Robert Gilbreath of the Fort Collins Fire Department, and Sgt. Donald Banks, Dale Owens, Steven Edwards and Gale Bauldin of Campus Police.

Shaw described the canister as “like an old army tear-gas cartridge,” and said that it was placed above the false ceiling after one panel of the ceiling had been removed. “Fortunately the gas was contained pretty well within the elevator itself,” Shaw said: “As it was, the gas was extremely strong.” Shaw said that an estimated 150 persons were driven from the Student Center by the gas, which he said spread very quickly.

The canister itself was to be taken to Denver by police yesterday for fingerprint examination. According to John Monahan, information service director, no suspects have been named.

The Homecoming Committee was to have met last night to determine what would be done about money from the purchase of tickets, said Committee Chairman Karen Asp. “We have two alternatives,” said Miss Asp: “We will either refund the money or set up a dance for Saturday night where Homecoming tickets will be honored. Personally, I think the choice really depends on the students,” she said. “If they don’t give a damn I sure don’t,” said Miss Asp of her Saturday night visit to the site of the gas release: “I couldn’t believe anyone would deliberately do this.” 

Losses from the dance cancellation have not yet been determined, said Jasper French, a member of the Alumni Association, which handled the business end of the dance. “The band alone, though, cost us $600 (more than $4,300 today),” French said, “and I can’t say at this point how much more will be lost on such things as guards and decorations. The cancellation was unfortunate,” he said.

Students driven from the Center by the gas and police had several comments. One male student said, “I was playing pool and this cat with a whistle came in and ruined the whole shot.”

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Another said, “Don’t look now, but the Campus Police are ‘liberating’ the Student Center for themselves.”

One of the musicians summed it all up when he said, “This is almost as bad as the time it rained on Memorial Day.”

Ravyn Cullor can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @RCullor99.

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