The only excuse I have for this post is that the women all remind me of what my Nana looked like when I was in high school:
Well, I guess it’s also an interesting view of the entrance to Cohen House before the 1976 renovation.
BONUS: More evidence in support of my theory that everyone at Rice either has had or will eventually have office space on the fifth floor of Fondren.
Just home from some minor surgery this morning–everything went fine but I’m feeling weirdly (although not unpleasantly) disoriented. I’m still alert enough to have remembered this off kilter picture, though. It’s actually not the photo itself, which features the great Eddie Wojecki taping ankles, that’s out of whack. (This is quite a popular scene for photographers, by the way. We have many versions of it in the files. There must be something irresistible about all those partially dressed athletes lying around in casual poses.) Rather, it’s the caption. Zoom in for a look:
If I were compos mentis I’d look up the year, but I’m not so I’m going to take a nap.
I’m not even going to try to recount the deeds of one of the greatest football heroes in Rice’s history, the captain of the great 1949 Cotton Bowl team and to this day the Owls’ leading scorer. You can and should go read about these things here.
What I do want to talk about is the Froggy I knew, a regular and beloved visitor to the university archives. As many of you know he was a wonderful storyteller and on every visit he drew a crowd as we all dropped what we were doing to listen. He loved Rice so very much and he understood why it matters that we save as many of those stories as possible. Universities are strange places in many ways, combining some of the characteristics of small towns with those of large (sometimes dysfunctional) families. It’s these stories that help us make sense of our own place in the life of the institution and sustain our commitment to the place and to each other.
Froggy never forgot that and he backed it up with real effort. He was a strong supporter of the Rice Historical Society, a writer and recorder of tales and wonders, and a donor who hustled up all manner of Rice athletics memorabilia for the Woodson. Here’s a photo I love–Froggy hanging with his boys in the R Room at a party for Red Bale in 1998–that came in a box of photos and news clips that he retrieved and brought to the archives after Coach Bale passed away:
Froggy Williams, RIP.
One more thing: go watch this video. It’s only a minute long, the film is grainy and almost seventy years old, but you can still see that he was glorious. Thanks to Rice’s SID, Chuck Pool, for putting it together.
Rustling through some oversized materials yesterday I came across this great shot of what seems to be more than a groundbreaking yet much less than an opening of Autry House. A dedication, I’m guessing. It’s dated June 5-6, 1921, which coincided with Rice’s baccalaureate service and commencement. I like the view of the Institute in the background. Without any sizable trees in the way you can really tell how close Autry House is to campus: I recognize William Ward Watkin, the architect for the building, and of course Dr. Lovett but I don’t know who the other men are. There’s one other thing I recognize as well–the sort of channeled tiles that make up the wall behind them. I’ve seen those before, inside the walls of Baker Commons when they renovated in December, 2011: Bonus: I don’t know what they call this new style of lamp post but I like them.
UPDATE: I have this from a generally reliable source.
The man in the center was the commencement speaker for 1921. (Editor’s Note: If I had five minutes I would look this up but I don’t. Also, there is no editor.)
To his right is the Rev. Harris Masterson, Jr., (uncle of Harris Masterson III), who began the Episcopal church’s ministry to Rice and was responsible for building Autry House.
To Fr. Masterson’s right is the Rev. Peter Gray Sears, rector of Christ Church, who would become the first rector of Palmer Memorial Church after it ceased its short lived function as a student chapel, the Edward Albert Palmer Memorial Chapel, and became a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.
Further, and just as interesting in my opinion: The building material is hollow tile block, the most commonly used load-bearing masonry material for building construction in Houston in the 1910-1940 period.
One of the small treasures in George Miner’s things is a tidy little notebook he used for Engineering 250, Plane Surveying, in the fall of 1947. One page is of particular interest. On a warm and cloudy October 8th, he and his lab partners surveyed the northeastern edge of campus:
It took a moment to orient myself–the “A.B.” at far left is Lovett Hall, off to the right is Entrance 1–and then I started learning. I had not known that the road from the main entrance to the Power House was made of shell. More tantalizing were the dirt piles just south of that road. What could this possibly be about? The first thing I found was an aerial shot of just this area from 1946. You can see the parallel lines of crepe myrtles (I didn’t know about those either) that extend along the side of the parking lot where Duncan Hall is today to the shell road–but no dirt piles:
A bit of inspiration sent me to the Fondren construction files and this image from December 2, 1947, just a couple months after the map was drawn. There are the piles and even more behind the Chemistry Building to boot:
At first I thought the crepe myrtles were gone, but they’re still there. It’s winter so they’ve shed their leaves but if you zoom in you can see what look like two dotted lines. Those are their shadows. I’m guessing the dirt piles must be construction related, maybe from digging the basement of Fondren.
So the weekend before last I did something I’ve never done before: I met up with a complete stranger in a parking lot in order to get some Rice memorabilia. Ann Pound Hopkins, the a granddaughter of J.H. Pound, (also here) one of the earliest Rice faculty members, and Ruth Robinson, a member of the class of 1916, had contacted me about some materials that had come down to her from her grandparents. We met up in the parking lot of the HalfPrice Bookstore at Montrose and Westheimer and she graciously donated Mr. Pound’s copy of the Book of the Opening to the Woodson. She also brought along a couple of examples of the kind of things that are in the rest of the collection, which sounds like it will be of great historic value to Rice.
There were two pictures of the early campus, including this one that I’d date about 1917 or so just based on the size of the cedar elms:
The other thing she handed me was a dance card for a party that was held in the Commons in June of 1916, right near the very end of the school year:
It was raining so I didn’t look closely at it until I got home, but when I did I couldn’t help but smile. Mr. Pound certainly got plenty of dances:
I found this sequence of four shots at the very end of the collection of construction negatives in William Ward Watkins’ papers. They were completely unexpected and I nearly wept when I understood what they were–the immediacy of the images and the homeliness of the task they depict felt overwhelming. I’m tearing up a bit now just thinking about it.
This day was October 8, 1914 and these men were unloading a new gas tank from a railcar and moving it onto a mule drawn wagon:
That’s just so good.
A Little Note: I’ve got a bunch of family obligations the rest of this week–all happy ones–so I probably won’t be back until Monday. Feel free to talk amongst yourselves.