“I have no recollection of what I used these for,” circa 1918-20

I’m at a conference the rest of the week and will return on Monday. In the meantime here’s something for y’all to ponder. I have no idea what they could be either and all I can add is that whatever they are, they weigh very little:

Bonus: You can see almost all the history of chemistry at Rice from this window.

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Coach Philip Heckman Arbuckle

I’ll put aside Coach Arbuckle’s slightly off kilter training regimen for the moment and talk instead about the fine job he did for Rice under difficult circumstances. Arbuckle had been recruited as our first AD as well as the first coach of all the sports offered when we opened in 1912–baseball, track and basketball in addition to football.  We stole him from Southwestern in Georgetown, where he had made that small school into a Texas athletic powerhouse. This recommendation letter from the UT coach is characteristic of the sorts of things people said about Arbuckle:

Several years ago I ran across this vivid evidence of the good manners he expected (and got) from his athletes:

There was a lot of excitement surrounding Arbuckle’s hiring in Houston at large, where hopes of building a football powerhouse of our own ran high, and his arrival was noted in the local papers:

And in truth he did a very good job, compiling a record of 51-25-8 from 1912 to 1923 and earning the trust and respect of the students while teaching both English and History. He was replaced by John Heisman in 1924, becoming the first in a long line of Rice coaches who fell victim to unrealistic expectations.  (Heisman failed miserably by the way and was gone himself after the 1925 season.)

Not long ago I found this poignant compilation he made of his record as Rice’s football coach. I’m pretty sure the handwritten numbers along the left column are the enrollments of the schools we played against:

This is my favorite photograph of him:

Rice fight never dies.

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“Too much milk tends to slow a man up,” 1920

Every once in a while I chance upon something that almost smashes me in the face with the understanding that the past really is a foreign country. These pages are an excerpt about training that come from a very, very long document written by Rice’s first coach and Athletic Director, Philip Arbuckle, about how to coach track and field athletes. There is pretty wild theorizing going on in here. Some of it makes sense but some of it sounds like the stuff my three year old granddaughter says.

But that thing on the second page about “staleness’? I think I’ve got that, especially the irritability and bad temper part! Note that the remedy is absolute rest and a change of diet. I’m thinking more doughnuts might help.

Here’s a nice picture of Arbuckle, who was a wonderful man and a good coach too. I’ll have another post about him tomorrow.

Bonus: From the windows of the new office building/parking garage. The views are spectacular.

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The Flopping Galosh Fad, circa 1920

One intriguing thing that the ARA Historical Commission of the 1970s organized was the “Self-Interview.” This was really just a questionnaire with a fancy name but when they sent it out to early alumni it got a great response. This one came from Margaret Blackwell Davis ’22 and it’s generally representative of what all the answers are like—until you come to the last paragraph. That’s where things get interesting:

The galoshes fad of the early 1920s was one of the goofier fads of a pretty goofy era but I was especially surprised to see it turn up down here–it was more associated with the north east. Here’s the New York Times description from early 1922:


And an ad for the very thing:

I’ll deal with the swagger sticks later.

Bonus: I don’t know what they’re doing up there but I liked how it looked from underneath.

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Friday Follies: “Rice Institute athletes practice fly casting,” 1938

The more you look at this, the funnier it gets:


The guy in the middle just slays me–he looks like he’s never seen a fishing pole before. As for the rest of them, well, I don’t even know where to start.

Many thanks to Bill Visinsky ’79 for sending this in!

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Boulevard Service

Speaking of transportation along Main Street, one of the odder ways students managed to get from one place to another was a quasi-official institution referred to by all as Boulevard Service. This was essentially a loosely organized sort of hitch-hiking wherein those needing to get to town stood, sometimes in a line, along the median of Main Street Boulevard and begged rides from passersby. (They also came from town to school but I’m less clear on what spots were commonly used for pick up.) Boulevard service lasted for a long time but its heyday was the 1920s. This snippet from the 1925 YMCA Freshman Guide lays out the basics of the deal:

The whole thing is really fascinating, especially the willingness of so many strangers to drive these kids around. This piece from the 1922 Thresher reprints a Post editorial that urged Houstonians to give Rice students rides:

And note that at the end the Thresher urged Rice students to show good manners and gratitude to the folks who picked them up. What did the students think? This, from the 1923 Campanile:

Bonus: I love stuff like this. It is, naturally, taped to the door.

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H.A. Wilson Driving Down Main Street, circa 1920

Speaking of H.A. Wilson, one of the many charming letters that have turned up in the ARA collection describes his means of transportation to and from campus. I’ve come to understand that the dramatic flourish of the long gloves, much like his walking out on a misbehaving class, was typical of Wilson:

I had assumed that these long gloves were laboratory equipment but now I’m not sure:

I’ve seen the Oakland described as “aimed at those who could afford more than a Chevrolet but less than a Buick” which sounds about right for a Physics professor at the time.

Bonus: An alert colleague noticed this intriguing note in Tudor field house yesterday. Am anxiously awaiting details.


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