The Rise and Fall of That Tree on the Quad

I was chatting with a colleague right after lunch about the water oak out by Rayzor Hall, which was reduced to this the last time I looked:

She asked how old it was and I said about fifty years. But all afternoon I’ve been bothered by the fact that I don’t actually know this. The only practical way to figure it out is to start with aerials of the quad and hope for the best.  This worked out as per usual–lots of photos with this spot just out of the frame or covered in shadow. But I was sure I could see the tree in this 1967 shot. (Allen Center, which opened in 1966, is just about finished and Herman Brown, which opened in 1968 has recently begun construction.) Zoom in and see a surprise bonus second tree right next to it:

Next I went looking for pictures of the front of Fondren. There are a lot of these and many include broad views of the quad. This is where I hit pay dirt. Those trees are not there in the construction photos of Rayzor but they do appear in the pictures that were taken of the area after the building was finished. If you look closely you’ll see several other unaccounted for trees:

They’re in this one too but you have to squint:

So if it was planted in 1962 it was 57 years old when it came down. That’s not unreasonable for a water oak and it was reasonably close to my guess.

Bonus: Here we go.

One of my favorite things, by the way, is ducking under caution tape.

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“What Rice is to become will depend upon our common labors and devotion,” 1914

I’ve been trying to track down a copy of Dr. W.E. Garrison’s remarks at the 1965 dedication of the Bethany College plaque honoring Dr. Lovett, which I am reliably told were very amusing. I haven’t had any luck but I was quite taken by another short talk given that day, this one by Radoslav Tsanoff, Rice’s first professor of Philosophy. It rightly praises Dr. Lovett of course, but also provides a clear reminder of who we are supposed to be and what exactly we are supposed to be doing here. Such occasional reminders, I think, can be quite tonic:

Bonus: It was busy but awfully quiet.

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Obsolete Technology: “our policy on TV sets in student rooms,” 1952

File this one under “Things That Never Crossed My Mind.” I am fascinated with the idea that the major problem with televisions in the dorms was the antennas. But of course that’s right–absent adult supervision the buildings would have been bristling with them. I’m not sure how or when this problem was solved.

I’m also fascinated that the correspondent from Texas Tech addresses the Rice Dean as “Sir” but McBride addresses him in return as “Jimmy.” There’s got to be a reason.

Bonus: RIP water oak. It had been looking raggedy for some time and its demise was ensured by the big storm a couple weeks ago. In a fit of arboreal common sense, it will be replaced by a live oak, which has a significantly longer life span.


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Pre-Easter Service, circa 1965

For close to twenty years after it was built the RMC chapel maintained a pretty robust program of religious and cultural events, including many mainstream (but carefully non-denominational) worship services. This is the program for a beautiful Holy Week service, undated but it must be 1964 or ’65 based on the graduation dates of the student worship leaders. My sense is that these things were well attended. There was certainly a lot of work put into this one:

Bonus: No post tomorrow for Good Friday. And no post next Friday  for Good Friday either.

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Campus from West Hall, circa 1915

This morning I was gazing at this picture, which I had scanned on March 20, 2014 and labeled “Glass Campus from West Hall, circa 1915.” (The “glass” is so I would remember that I found it with the glass plate negatives.)

Five years later I realize that it had to have been taken in 1916 rather than 1915. Can you see why? Oh what the heck, I’ll just tell you. It’s because the academic quad is set up for commencement, the first one of which did not occur until June 12, 1916.

This reminded me of something else that I scanned even earlier (December 12, 2012 to be exact) but never used here. This is a minuscule accounting correction, properly allocating the ninety-five cents spent at Teolin Pillot for a Bible to place in the cornerstone of the new West Hall. We have mountains of similar documents, by the way,  and they are so potently and blissfully soporific that they can only be approached a few at a time. I’m not sure that I’ve seen them all even now.

Although the Rice Institute library used the services of various New York and London book dealers, Teolin Pillot was our local supplier and probably the only serious bookstore in Houston during these early years. Here’s their ad in the 1916 Campanile:

Longtime Houstonians will recognize the Pillot name from the Henke and Pillot grocery stores. Teolin was part of the same family.

Bonus: The beginning of the end.



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The New Gym, 1950

After spending many months digging around the gym before they did the big renovation about fifteen years ago I grew quite familiar with its spaces. But that was the building after fifty years worth of additions and rejiggering and I never came to any real understanding of what it was like when first built. So I was delighted to come across this little drawing the other day:

It’s recognizable but only just. Here’s a construction photo that helps clarify the drawing:

And I even have a few interior shots from the early ’50s that now make more sense. Here are the men’s showers:

The recreation area:

And the locker room:

I realize that this is not an especially glamorous or exciting thing but I’d say it’s a solid find. I’m officially pleased with it.

Bonus: When they replaced the chairs outside the Brochstein Pavilion they quite sensibly took the old ones over to Valhalla where they were badly needed.

They’ve now begun migrating. I love this.

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Guidance for Girls, 1956

I found this in the Dean of Undergraduates collection:

I can hardly imagine a worse introduction to the life of higher learning. I would have been hiding in the library the entire time.

There’s a lot of interesting and sometimes comical material in this collection, by the way, but the most important thing about it is a broad change that took place during the 1960s. Discipline at Rice in the late ’50s and early ’60s might best be described as both petty and merciless but by the end of the decade the Rice administrators in charge of student affairs were spending much of their time in an effort to keep students out of the grasp of their local draft boards.

Bonus: Rose petals in the Turrell Skyspace this morning.

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