Election Central, 1978: Help Wanted!

From the October 5, 1978 Thresher, a temporary job offer that includes a free po’ boy as inducement:

I’m sure you all remember this six-year-old post about a set of images that I had trouble deciphering, including this beauty:

They turned out, of course, to be the only pictures I’ve seen of Election Central, the project which is succinctly described in the want ad above. We’re now working on a short film about it and if you participated in it in any way I’d love to talk with you. Think of it as one more chance to be part of the behind the scenes action! If you’re willing either leave a comment here or email me at kean@rice.edu. It will be fun, I promise.

Bonus: Ten extra credit points to the first Election Central veteran who can identify what this was used for. Hint: that’s not a date on there.

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“the place is really coming to life again,” 1932

In addition to his matriculation address to the incoming freshmen, Dr. Lovett usually  penned a little welcome note for the first issue of The Thresher each fall. This one is from September, 1932 and there is a lot going on here. From his choice of summer reading materials, to his dubious assertion that the summer break is dreary because there are no students around, to the little disquisition about celestial routines, well, I hardly know how to react. He does end on a cheery note, though:

Lovett new fall semester remarks Thresher Sept 15 1932727

Bonus: Things really have sprung back to life on campus and it’s not just the new students either. There’s so much construction that you can detect a small whiff of chaos in the air. This creepy scene–trees being removed(slowly) for the new Sid–doesn’t help.


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Friday Follies: Matriculation, no date

For a long time the matriculation ceremony was held in the Physics Amphitheater, then at some point moved to the Grand Hall of the RMC. I don’t know when this was taken but I’m interested in the young man who felt compelled to wear camouflage pants. And the guy next to him, just out of the frame, seems to have on white bucks! I mean, sure, why not?

Bonus: I parked in the Cohen House lot the other day and as I turned to walk over to Lovett Hall I was suddenly struck by this:

There used to be posts there, from which they would hang chains in order to close off part of the lot. In that instant I understood that loyal reader effegee’s comment to this post about the front gate was correct. I don’t know why they put up chains when there was a gate right there but I’m pretty confident that’s just what they did.

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Baker Comes Last, 1957

“B” comes before “W” (and “H” for that matter) if you’re simply arranging things in alphabetical order but if you want to know which residential college was actually the first to open, the answer is Will Rice. Baker was in fact the last of the original four to begin operation.

It was a logistical problem that produced this result, an obvious one at that. But it’s exactly the sort of thing people don’t enjoy or don’t bother thinking about. The problem was this: when the switch was made to the college system there was only one operational commons on campus, the one that had always been there. Carl Wischmeyer, the first master of Baker College, explains in this letter, which invites English Professor Will Dowden and his wife to the inaugural celebration:

This Thresher article from the end of March, 1957 explains the complicated sequencing in detail:

Bonus: Rice fight never dies! (With thanks to David Pillen, Assistant AD for Marketing, who gets things done.)

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“Many of you were surprised to get a damage deposit refund last year,” 1984

Today was the first day I felt the stirrings of the new school year, something that I greet every time with the exact same mixed feelings I had as a second grader. It reminded me of this “back to school” letter from the summer of 1984 that I’ve long admired for its unbridled optimism and unintentional comedy:

They did not, it may surprise you to learn, win Beer-Bike that spring.

Bonus: I’m pretty sure that’s not a toilet.

For a moment I thought it was some cryptic message about the lights in the bathroom.

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The Deed to the Campus, 1908-10

While I was on vacation this summer the Rice Management Company was getting ready to move off campus. As so often happens this led to the rediscovery of things long filed away and forgotten. This time, gloriously, what bubbled up the the surface were the deeds by which Rice acquired the pieces of land that became our campus.

Well, this is just fantastic. There’s nothing like a land deed for details, details, and more details, allowing me to check what I think I know against the actual documents. They’re all there except one, which I’ll get to in a minute.

The big purchase, of course, was a 95 acre tract belonging to George Hermann:

And the smallest was eight acres from Charles Weber and his wife, Johanna, who signed with an X. She was questioned alone by the notary to be sure that she freely consented to the sale. I’ve talked about this sale before here, basing my numbers on the recollections of longtime bursar John McCants, which turn out to have been very close.

Weber’s price works out to $6,350 per acre; Hermann’s comes to $217 per acre.

These deeds also gave me clarity on something that I had mixed up. The last major piece of campus land that Rice acquired (for which there is no deed in this file) was the five acre Fraternity Home Addition Property, which we bought in 1921, For some reason I had been thinking that this was the site of the gunpowder factory. That’s just plain wrong, as we can see from this deed from the Equitable Powder Manufacturing Co. (a precursor of Olin Corporation), which transferred just over two acres to the Institute in 1909:

This is a great find and I’m grateful to the Rice Management Company folks for bringing these to their proper home.

Bonus: Cohen House kitchen.

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“I remain my parents’ agent on earth,” 1958

I’m very grateful to my friend Judy Weidman at the Congregation Beth Israel library, who sent this remarkable letter a while ago. It’s classic George Cohen–his devotion to his parents seems to have been rivaled only by his devotion to Rice. And he makes reference here to something that isn’t as widely known as his gift to Rice of Cohen House–his support of Rice athletics, which was considerable.

Speaking of Cohen House, I got the first peek at the newly renovated restrooms this afternoon. Wow!

Bonus: I was all ready to make a snarky comment about planting grass in deep shade when I took a close look and discovered that this is some completely different kind of grass.

I don’t know exactly what this is–it’s very thick with long, thin blades– but I do know that you can’t snark at people who are trying to do better. I hope it works.

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