Posts Tagged ‘Bwana’

High School Reunion 5: The Colorado Academy Gun Club and the “Bill Jones” incident

June 3, 2018

A math instructor named Bill.

The headmaster noticed his skill.

He didn’t stay

Past the very first day

For he went about armed, for the thrill


Synopsis: I’m a Family Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. In 2010 I danced back from the brink of burnout, and honoring a 1 year non-compete clause, traveled and worked in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. I followed 3 years Community Health Center work with a return to traveling and adventures in temporary positions in Alaska, rural Iowa, suburban Pennsylvania and western Nebraska. 2017 brought me adventures in Iowa, Alaska, and northern British Columbia. After a month of part-time in northern Iowa, a new granddaughter, a friend’s funeral, and a British Columbia reprise, I took a break from Sioux City for my 50th High School reunion.  Any identifiable patient information has been included with permission.

I graduated from Colorado Academy in 1968, having started 6th grade there in 1962.  In my high school years, we had a number of student organizations I wanted to explore but never did, among them the Gun Club and the Archery Club.

The Gun Club emphasized shotguns. They met after lunch to shoot clay pigeons, and reloaded shells in the Biology Lab.  The biology teacher overseeing the operation we fondly referred to as Bwana because he loved to hunt.

The Archery Club also met after lunch; in the days before compound bows and bow sights they made their own cedar shaft arrows.

Boarding students, during season, could check out their shotguns first thing in the morning, and go down to the pond to hunt ducks and geese. The dining hall staff would prepare any birds harvested.

We never had problems with violence or misuse of firearms. Nor did we have a single accidental shooting, though we suffered through a disturbing number of other accidental deaths.

The school required we take Hunter’s Safety in 9th grade as part of the biology curriculum.  The textbook, BSCS Green Edition, emphasized ecology.  Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was required reading.

From the beginning we learned to respect firearms as tools, with proper rules of use.

I do not know when the Colorado Academy Gun Club ceased to exist.

When we returned for reunion, we carried awareness of the Columbine and Parkland tragedies, and we asked the Alumni liaison about plans for an active shooter. The school added a “welcome center” (really, a guard hut) shortly after Columbine, and two non-faculty staffers carry firearms.

Many years after I graduated, when Because the Rivets Will Scratch the Seats, a school history by John Sullivan, came out, I read with alarm about the “Bill Jones” incident.  The Headmaster had hired a new math teacher about 1962. On the first day of school, the instructor greeted the students normally at the bus.  In the classroom, he took out his .45 and laid it on the desk. Within hours the headmaster had the armed teacher in his office.  He separated the instructor from the firearm and eventually succeeded in getting him back to his psychiatric hospital.

The incident puts a different spin on the move to arm teachers.

I never heard anything about “Bill Jones” during my primary and secondary education, nor had any of my classmates. They hadn’t read the book.