HMRC Thursday: Aerial with Old Stadium, October 1961

I found this interesting image today in the Harper Leiper Collection (MSS 0287, 12795) at the HMRC. It’s not a great picture–in fact it’s quite blurry, unusual for a Harper Leiper photo–but it makes up for that by being a shot I’ve never seen before in this time period, so there’s that:

It looks like this corner of campus was still a bit of a mess. Look at how torn up the area where the field house had been still is.

It made me recollect another picture that makes a nice companion, this one taken from those wooden stands at roughly the same time, circa early 1960s. You can see that semi-circle of shrubs in both images. I may be mistaken but I think that’s Bobby May getting stretched out by a teammate:

Bonus: This doesn’t really have anything to do with Rice but I liked it. It’s also from the Harper Leiper materials– freeway construction, dated January 1, 1962.

Extra Bonus: It’s Christmas at the Julia Ideson Building.

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“the holiday spirit is creeping upon us,” 1932

This is the last week of classes and I have to say that faculty celebrate the end of the semester even more than the students do. This invitation to a swinging end-of-fall-semester party right around this time in 1932 demonstrates that it has always been so. I like everything about this invitation, by the way, from the offer of strong coffee to the reminder to tell your wife:

Bonus: The holiday spirit has ceased to creep and has actually arrived in full dress at the Fondren Circulation department.

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“Do you think I wasn’t going to be up for this game?” 1992

I’ve started reading the voluminous Radoslav and Corinne Tsanoff correspondence in earnest recently and it has turned out to be both magnificent and exhausting, covering everything from Klan and anti-Klan parades to little Katherine’s ear infections. (I’m just thankful that both had clear handwriting.) So for a break from the 1920s this afternoon I turned to things of more recent days and my attention was caught by this joyful image, dated 1992:

It didn’t take long to discover the cause of this happy moment. From the March 13, 1992 Thresher, a description of the Owls season ending victory over the University of Texas. Note that Dana Hardy, the source of the title quote, was playing in front of his mother:

If I’m counting right this was Rice’s first 20-win season since 1954. That’s happened twice since then, first under Willis Wilson in the ’04 season, then pretty recently under Mike Rhodes in ’17.

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Lunch with Ralph O’Connor, 1970

This memo from Bob Parks ’73, who was the incoming Student Association President in the summer of 1970, turned up when one of our Fondren Fellows was investigating the Abbie Hoffman brouhaha that unfolded in April of that year. (Much more on this when she finishes that project.) It brought a smile to my face not because of Abbie Hoffman but because of its rather brilliant summing up of Ralph O’Connor, noted beer drinker and straight shooter:

Sorry this is so small–I don’t know why or how to fix it. It blows up nicely if you click on it, though.

Bonus: Would you be surprised to learn that the hanging lamps in the gallery that links the main part of the old Physics Building to the amphitheater are completely different from any of the others? Because they are.


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Thanksgiving at Cohen House, 1927: “The Past is Prologue”

The official opening of Cohen House took place the day after Thanksgiving in 1927 but a smaller private dinner the evening before marked its true inauguration. Last year I talked about Dr. Lovett’s remarks at that dinner and this year I’d like to share George Cohen’s recollections of it, written, I would guess from context, in 1956 or’57. In particular Cohen expresses his pride in the reliefs of the sixteen early faculty member that were carved into the pillars that today separate the lounge from the main dining area. The Woodson still has the guest register he mentions here:

I’m fairly sure that Mr. Cohen’s predictions about an increase in people wanting to know about the faculty members whose likenesses were carved on the pillars turned out to be wrong, but I can also tell you that I never walk past without looking at them and saying a small prayer of gratitude for the work of those men who made our own work here possible:

This drew a chuckle from me. I’m certain this wasn’t the first time McCann and McCants were mixed up.


Bonus: The carvings got media coverage.

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Pre-Thanksgiving Chapel Service, 1959

Three nights in a row! I wish I’d been able to hear the one entitled “Constructive Fanaticism.” I’m pretty dubious about that.

At first I mistakenly thought these were delivered by Rice biology professor Charles Philpott, but that immediately felt wrong. The answer, as usual, is found in the Thresher. (Surprise of the day: The Thresher had a Religion Editor.)

Note: I’m taking the rest of  the week off, although I do have something squirreled away for Thanksgiving Day.

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Friday Follies: All I Have Are Questions

What the heck?

When is this? Where is this? And why does Kinkaid get top billing?

Bonus: The ghost of 204.

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HMRC Thursday: The Roost, 1948

I’ve lamented at least a couple of times that I’ve never been able to find the original layout of Fondren’s basement. We have several pictures in the Woodson of the basement interior but I could never get a clear sense from them of where anything was. When I saw this photo from the Wood Allen Collection at the HMRC at least one piece of the puzzle, the location of the student lounge called The Roost, snapped into place:

Wood Allen MSS 1459 CM64

There have been multiple renovations between 1948 and now, but those windows and the doorway are still there. I know this because I’ve used the current facilities several times this semester.

Who’s there now? These rascals:


Just to confirm I went back to the pictures in the Woodson files, most of which are as unhelpful as I remembered, but this one caught my eye:

Those appear to be the same windows but even more interesting is the elevator door at left. The first floor map in the 1952 Fondren Handbook shows one elevator, exactly where it ought to be if my location is correct:

Bonus: The entrance to the stairs.

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The Lights in the Mech Lab Cloisters, Part 2

About a month ago I got a question about the original light fixtures in the cloisters in front of Mech Lab. With typical overconfidence I thought it would be a snap. I was quite wrong about that.

Still, after the initial disaster I pretty quickly found a photo of the building entrance with a clear shot of a hanging light, one of only five  that were originally installed:

This, however, was not the end of the story. The next problem was two-fold: what happened to them (in their place we installed some deeply unattractive flush mounts) and (get this!) where did we buy them back in 1912?

Unexpectedly the second question was the easier one. Edgar Odell Lovett’s Presidential Papers contain quite a bit of documentation of the construction of the original buildings and there I discovered that the specs called for the light fixtures to be purchased from “Westinghouse Electric–Hunter Mfg. Co.” I learned long ago, though, not to stop until I read everything in the file. Sure enough, there was a change order dated June 5, 1912 (only four months before the Formal Opening) instructing our electrical contractor, F.E. Newbery Electric Company of St. Louis, to instead purchase the Mech Lab light fixtures from the Pettingell-Andrews Company in Boston. I wasn’t even surprised to find one of their catalogs on-line. It’s from 1924 but you get the general idea.

So what became of these fixtures? I went down so many blind alleys and through so many contortions in this process that I can’t possibly explain it so I’ll just skip to the end. I’m fairly sure that they are now hanging on the Sewall side of the Lovett Hall cloisters. First take a look at this:

Those are the fixtures that hang in front of the old Physics Building. The same fixtures wrap around the corner and hang in front of the north side of Lovett. Note the fancy decorative top, which is identical in both places:

But on the other side of the sallyport, much to my surprise I found these:

Not the same at all, not even close, but from what I can tell they do look quite like the one in today’s first photo. There are only four of them which makes me suspect that one was hopelessly broken somewhere along the line.

If you turn this corner, by the way, and look at what’s in front of Sewall you will find these, which totally fulfilled my expectation that they would be bland:

I’m reasonably confident that this is correct but I’m also desperately missing Big John Laxen, who would have laughed at my questions and told me the whole story, which is almost certainly a ridiculous tale involving cost-cutting measures.

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March 22, 1988: Part 2

I spent most of my day on a fascinating light fixture puzzle and I am sore tempted to write about that tonight. But I’ve already scanned the rest of the March 22, 1988 slides so that’s what you’re going to get.

The startling thing about these pictures are the trees. 1988 was just before I got to Rice and I can’t fathom how the saplings in these images could have gotten so big during my time here. Clearly it isn’t simply the growing number of buildings that make the campus feel so much more enclosed these days, but also the growth of the canopy:

Bonus: That last one is now the future site of Cannady Hall.

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