Boom!: The Coolest Thing I’ve Seen in Quite Some Time

I hd intended to write about something else today but looking through some old Public Affairs files I came across the coolest thing I’ve seen in quite some time.  The first image in the packet was this intriguingly rigged up vehicle:

Mobile recording lab exterior

Hmmm . . . that certainly looks like a lot of fun, doesn’t it? But what is it for? A bit more digging turned up an interior shot of the truck along with—a miracle–an explanatory caption:

Mobile recording lab nd

Wow! It’s an early, less insane version of Storm Chasers. The project belonged to Arthur Few, who started studying thunder as a grad student in the Space Science department, working with my old friend, Alex Dessler. Here’s young Dr. Few explaining the benefits of his research, I would guess for some sort of article (although if there was one I couldn’t find it):

Mobile recording lab research

Oddly enough, given all those nice captions, the only way I could come up with an approximate date for the photos was from a Houston Post piece about the project, which kind of gives you the gist of what he was up to:

Mobile recording lab Post March 23 1969


If you want to know more, just ask. There’s lots more–this folder was full of dry, technical matter that I could not understand. There was even a picture of what I imagine was how the machine read thunder:

Mobile recording lab thunder





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Summertime Blues

It’s really hot. And lonely too. Everybody who could get out of town is now out of town. Walking out to my steaming car this afternoon I gazed longingly at the fancy palm-shaded outdoor pool at the Rec Center:

Palm trees by pool 2014

Happily, it gave me a chance to revisit the berserk charm of the old Grad House on Main and University with it’s earlier incarnation of palm and pool glamour:

Grad House pool c1993

Thresher files, c1993

One more just because I like it:

Grad House back gate c1993

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Friday Morning Follies: Lathered Up

I’m calling this circa 1990s but it’s hard to tell under all that shaving cream.

Pub wall c90s shaving cream

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Always Look On The Back

Things have calmed down substantially this afternoon and I am relishing the opportunity to write with a bit more calm. In fact, I’d like to just meander around a little this time. Let’s start with this very old photograph of Edgar Odell Lovett that I found in the Lovett Family Papers. I don’t know what process produced images like this but there are several in our collections, all very moody:

EOL at his desk Scanlan Building Byron

Happily, this picture is labeled on the back: “EOL in his office at the Scanlan Building, 1909.” The Scanlan Building was Rice’s headquarters until the campus was built, the site of all the meeting and planning for what was to come. It remained the home of the Institute’s business office for quite some time even after Dr. Lovett moved into the Administration Building–there was precious little space for non-academic offices on the campus for many years.

One day at lunch in the Woodson I mentioned that I was longing to have an image of the Scanlan Building and my colleague Rebecca almost immediately produced one. It’s a postcard and it’s dated 1909, the same year as the photo:

Scanlan Building 1909 Autrey Collection postcard

If you turn it over, on the back you’ll find a charming note to a little girl named Allie May Autry from her friend Max, who sounds bored and lonely with all his pals gone for the summer. Allie May would have been in Corsicana visiting her mother’s family:

Scanlan Building postcard verso

Allie May eventually enrolled at Rice, graduating in 1925 after having been very active in student government and social life–she was Queen of the May Fete her senior year, which was a very big deal indeed. Here’s her Campanile picture:

Allie May Autry 25 Campanile

But here’s a picture of her I like a lot better:

Allie May Autrey class of 24 c 1922 Mrs Edward Kelley

Allie May Autry Kelley remained a loyal supporter of her alma mater her entire life. Her gift made possible the construction of the Gymnasium in 1950 and she named Autry Court in honor of her mother, a passionately devoted fan of Rice athletics. We have her college scrapbook in the Woodson and I use it often. We also have a magnificent collection of Autry Family papers, which I believe is the source of the Scanlan Building postcard.



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Genuine Laughter, 1993

It’s starting to look like this whole week is going to be “interesting.” I feel like George Rupp and former Dean of Engineering Michael Carroll have got the right idea in this 1993 photo. My best guess is that there’s white wine in those plastic cups:

Rupp laughing and Carroll 1993

I don’t have any idea what this event is all about but I can tell you that Michael is both a wonderful man and a very funny one.

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The Big Hole in the Center of Ryon Lab

My day today was marginally calmer than yesterday but it still contained much more excitement than I’d prefer. So again you’re going to get pictures without much commentary; this time, the big hole at the heart of Ryon Lab, which I believe is technically and boringly called a “bay.” First, a construction photo from probably early 1964. Take a good look–that’s the last time you’re going to get a clear view of that side of the Mech Lab:

Ryon negatives 3


The next shot was taken right before the building opened in 1965 and you can see how big and deep this area, which was used for large testing machinery, really is:

RyonInterior2 copy

And finally this one, which I took about a month ago:

Ryon lab 2014


Just for the heck of it, here’s a rendering of the building’s exterior. It’s quite bland. The most remarkable thing about Ryon Lab to me, in fact, is where they chose to put it, which I can’t understand for the life of me.


Bonus: Sophisticated librarian humor.P1090236

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The Creators of the Modern Rice University

There’s really no such thing for me as a typical day but even by my standards this one was lunatic. I’m worn pretty slick but I do have a couple of wonderful images I hadn’t seen until a few days ago. They capture what was truly a momentous transition in the history of the institution, at the beginning of a decade that saw a major transformation in both the physical campus and our intellectual ambitions.

I found them in the records from Rice’s semicentennial celebration in October, 1962. Both were taken at the inaugural ceremonies for Ken Pitzer. The first one is the more important, by far the best and most evocative image I’ve ever seen of George Brown and Pitzer together. More than anything else it was their successful partnership that made possible the dramatic changes of the 1960s:

Semicentennial Brown and Pitzer

This next one is just fun to look at. There’s a lot going on here and I have many more questions than answers. The only person I think I recognize is the guy sitting at the keyboard, who looks to be none other than Roland Pomerat (more here):

Semicentennial stands and crowd

Bonus: Summer cleanup.


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