Friday Follies: The Only Thing I’m Worried About Is Running Out

I believe psychology professor Ken Laughery was studying warning labels:

Bonus: Missy says “wake me when it’s over.”

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Social Distancing, 1915

Our first biology professor, Julian Huxley. It’s labeled “standing in a field near Houston.”

I did the same thing today except the field was a golf course.

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“You Think it Will Go In If I Kick it?,” 1985

Here’s something from the inner depths of my laptop, a scrapbook that records the 1985-86 Central Plant Expansion. I was mainly interested in this because of the list of names of people who worked on it, both from Brown and Root and from Rice. It gives me real pain that so many of our staff over the decades just disappear without much of a trace and I try, as I go about my daily business, to save as much of their record as possible. Without their efforts none of the rest of us could do our work. This scrapbook  in particular caught my attention because it reveals the obvious camaraderie and pride in their work that accurately reflects my experience with the men and women who have worked in facilities over the last thirty years.


Spoiler: It went in.

Bonus: They closed the gyms, stuck in my garage.

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Brennan’s Gate, 1940 and 2019

Finding myself with some time on my hands I’ve started trying to organize all the pictures I’ve saved in various places over the ten years of this blog. It’s not going well, mostly because I keep getting interested in things I’d forgotten for one reason or another. Here’s one of those things, from way back at Homecoming in October. I had a lot of visitors at that time and I was in the back with three of them–Walter Underwood, Mike Ross, and Grungy–just flipping through Neil Brennan’s scrapbook for no particular reason other than sheer entertainment. He’s got a page of images of the gates, like this one:

It was the one below that suddenly stopped me cold. I’d looked at this scrapbook maybe a dozen times but had never noticed this. Those steps! Where could they be?

I was too busy receiving visitors to go out looking but first Mike, then Grungy trekked around the edges of campus and sent back scouting reports, both locating it as the southern part of the front gate. Grungy made a time lapse that shows the spot with and without the steps and I hope it works here, but even if it doesn’t you can see where it is:

Note: It does work if you click on it. Thanks, Grungy!

Bonus: I’m getting very homesick for the Woodson.

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“It is really splendid!,” 1925

This is, I suppose, really a post about the University of Texas although it started with one of the letters Radoslav Tsanoff wrote to his wife during the summer he spent teaching in Austin. During those six weeks Tsanoff spent a great deal of time in the UT library and frequently noted in his letters books that they held in their collection that Rice did not have and vice versa. His real enthusiasm was for the Wrenn Library and he included a brochure about it in the short note he sent to Corrinne on July 31. This is what caught my eye:

It really does sound splendid, both the books and the room that held them:



I naturally wondered what had become of the Wrenn Library. It turns out that the acquisition of this collection was the first step in a journey that led to the foundation of the great Ransom Center at UT. Here’s a short 2018 piece from the Ransom Center Magazine about the genesis of the collection and its use for scholars today.

And the room, well it’s glorious. Sadly it doesn’t hold books any longer but only administrators– it’s become part of the UT President’s suite. You can see pictures of it here, at a website devoted to Peter Mansbendel, a Swiss woodcarver living in Austin who did the beautiful carvings. I poked around the site a bit and discovered that Mansbendel also carved the dedicatory plaque for Cohen House, over Norman’s head here, so this is a Rice post after all:

Bonus: I couldn’t go to church yesterday but I could start rolling grape leaves for Easter, which is not subject to cancellation.

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Friday Follies: Oh, For the Good Old Days!

When people could just fling toilet paper around like it was nothing:

I’m guessing late ’80s based on the fact that the player’s shorts are still actually short.

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Construction, 1956

After almost two decades of stagnation–two world wars and the Depression didn’t help– new construction on campus exploded after World War II. Unlike current times when building projects are more or less constant this post-war construction came in several bursts. The first was right after the war and gave us Abercrombie, Anderson Hall, Fondren, and the president’s house. Then came the remarkable transformation of campus living quarters in anticipation of the adoption of the college system. This picture is of a piece of that change:

By May, 1956 there were three dormitories, three dining halls, and four master’s houses being built at the same time. Major remodels were also underway, including the commons here at right.

It must have been an unholy mess for a while.


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Slime-Soph War, 1924

What on earth is going on here? I scanned these images a couple of years ago then, confused, forgot about them:

The answer is in the 1924 Campanile, which I am still looking at today. This was an actual fight, part of a nearly week long tussle between the new freshmen and their would-be sophomore overlords. The freshmen came out on top in the end, led by their clever class president William McVey:

It’s hard to know where to start with McVey, one of the most interesting characters of this era. He was both a football player and an artist while at Rice and he went on to a long and productive career as a sculptor. Here’s his entry in the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History (yes, that’s a real thing). I’ve got some good stuff about his pieces on the Rice campus which I will dig out for tomorrow.

Bonus: Fondren is closed as of this afternoon but I would like to say that we’ve been washing our hands in there since before it was cool.

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Sketches, 1924

I was lounging around my office at home this afternoon, sipping some coffee and leafing through the 1924 Campanile just for the fun of it. I’ve spent quite bit of time with this  book but I caught something today that I’d never noticed before. Tucked inside are several charming sketches by John Clark Tidden, a member of the early art and architecture faculty, who I’ve written about here. Here’s the Chemistry Building under construction:

This next one is my favorite. I had to think for a minute but it’s the door that goes down to the basement of the Administration Building, just inside the Sallyport:

For comparison:

This one is easy but it contains some exotic vegetation:

And finally a mysterious figure. This likely meant something in 1924 but whatever it was it’s long gone:

Bonus: I made a quick trip to the Woodson today and came home with another box of Tsanoff letters to organize.



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“this man Neely,” 1940

It really was an auspicious moment when the Rice Institute hired Coach Jess Neely away from Clemson on January 11, 1940. I can’t help but wonder why Neely took the job, which didn’t obviously look like good one, but here he is with J.T. McCants, then chairman of the powerful Committee on Outdoor Sports, having agreed to take over a struggling program:

In the way of things back then they held a dinner for Neely and the assistants he brought with him. It was held on February 7th in the Rice Hotel ballroom and of course Dr. Lovett spoke on this occasion. To modern ears it might sound simply corny but I’m not embarrassed to say that I find comfort in the order of it. We begin with the expected joke and end with the expected welcome:

Bonus: A colleague unearthed a relic–a kit distributed across campus during an earlier, less serious epidemic, containing hand sanitizers, wipes, and lozenges.

Note: I’m more or less at home for an undetermined amount of time. I plan to keep writing here but just be warned that it could get a little weird.

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