Story by Neil A. Lieb and photos from the Neil A. Lieb Collection
I do not know exactly when the Alta job started, but I think it was in March or early April of 1950. At that time of the year the ground in Iowa is frozen two to three feet deep. Since the ground was frozen, the bulldozer could not dig the hole needed for the slab. So it was decided they would use dynamite to loosen the soil. I guess Superintendent Bill Russell had this approved by the town fathers and the police and fire chef.
Now, remember, Alta is a very small town, maybe 900 to 1000 residents then.
It was decided to use one-quarter stick of dynamite at a depth of 18 to 24 inches. The first charge was set off and it loosened about six to seven feet of dirt so they repeated this procedure every six to eight feet.
After setting off several charges, someone decided that if one-quarter stick worked so well, one-half stick would loosen a bigger area. So they used one-half stick for the next charge. When it was set off, the explosion was so loud that Bill came charging out of his office to find why at about the same time as the woman across the street came out of her house screaming that her china cabinet had fallen over and all her good china had been broken.
Within a few minutes the mayor, fire and police chiefs, and most of the town council members showed up. I guess Bill was very busy trying explain. Once he’d calmed everyone down, they all left.
That was the end of the dynamiting. The next day everyone was swinging a pick.