Blast from the Past: Blue Valley history teacher discovers World War I artifact in backyard

Bridget Howard, Staff Writer

Pulling shrubs in the yard of his 100-year-old house, history teacher Tony Scardino was enjoying his normal Saturday afternoon.
While digging, his shovel hit a piece of metal he later discovered was a 1917 artillery shell.
“I found it about [seven] weekends ago,” Scardino said. “I was out removing some shrubs — I call them ‘old lady shrubs’ — that were out front. I was digging out one of the roots and hit part of the shell.”
Scardino said he was in shock as he pulled the missile out of the ground.
“As I worked, I had found nails from the roof and extra downspouts hidden under the dirt,” he said. “When I looked down, it was round, not like a downspout, so I reached for it and realized what it was.”
After carefully laying the missile down across from where he was working in the yard, Scardino ran inside to inform his wife. After explaining what he found, they mutually decided to call the police.
Before the police came, Scardino decided to get a better look at what he actually found.
“It was brass-colored, kind of mud-encrusted because it’s been there since 1917 — that’s a long time,” he said. “It was also corroded in places and was about 20 inches tall. One policeman pulled up and then three police. Then they had to call the bomb squad, and this big RV showed up with ‘bomb squad’ in huge letters written on the side.”
The bomb squad determined that the missile was still active, so the surrounding neighbors and the Scardinos themselves were told to evacuate the vicinity immediately.
“Before leaving, I asked what was going to happen when we left,” he said. “They said they called the army in from Fort Riley, [Kan.] out by Manhattan, [Kan.], and the FBI was coming, too. After four and a half hours, I thought surely they must be done. So, we went back around 8:45 [p.m.] As we pulled into our neighborhood, our house was lit up with firetrucks, medics, police cars, the bomb squad and tons of people — it was unbelievable. My house had spotlights on it like there was a killer inside. Finally, after about 30 minutes, I saw guys in bomb suits pick it up and gingerly carry it across the yard and put it in the trailer. And then everybody just kind of disappeared.”
Being a history teacher at BV, Scardino said he found it ironic he discovered this huge artifact revolving around a subject he teaches everyday.
“The house itself is historical,” he said. “I always thought, ‘Wouldn’t that be cool to live in a historical home?’ But never in my wildest dreams did I think I would.”
Although Scardino is not planning on doing any additional digging, he said he believes the house still has some things to give up.
“We’ll keep digging,” he said. “I’m digging — not literally, but figuratively.”