Rice Fight Never Dies, c1934

Also from Mary Jane Hale’s scrapbook, an always timely reminder: there’s an “s” on the end.

This was taken at the University of Arkansas and I suspect it’s from that great 1934 season, although we did play there again in 1936.

Does the Mob still use The Old Grey Bonnet? I hope so.


Note: I’m just delighted to have a whole bunch of new readers–thanks Tom Sommers! Don’t hesitate to chime in in the comments section. I’d love to hear what you have to say. Many thanks!

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Byron’s Rose, 1934

In the fall of 1934 the Rice campus went wild for football. They did this because we had a winner for the first time in a very long time. (This squad won the Southwest Conference championship and I wrote about the strange story of their trophy a few years ago.) Human nature being what it is, everyone became a fan. Here’s a nice image from Mary Jane Hale Rommel’s scrapbook showing the victorious Owls at the downtown train station, returning after their win at Purdue. This early season win was the one that created the tantalizing possibility that they might be good. Their homecoming drew a big crowd:

What I really got a kick out of, though, was another souvenir of this win. It was several pages away from the photograph and I didn’t notice what it was until my third time through the book. It’s not easy to read the caption but it says “Byron’s rose from Tony, Rice gardener, upon his return from Purdue.” And that’s exactly what it is:

I’ve talked about Tony Martino several times, both as a fanatical Rice athletics booster and as a gardener. I’ve caught a few glimpses of his famous rose garden over the years, including this one, but it never occurred to me that I might one day wind up with one of his roses:

It’s not hard to imagine how happy Tony must have been after so many rotten seasons and I’d guess he handed out a rose to each of his boys. Here’s Byron by the way, a handsome lad:



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“Throw away anything you don’t want.”

This morning I opened a box I’d never seen before and my heart skipped a beat when I looked inside:

I was right to be excited. There were several things in there, all of them related to Rice in the 1930s and all of significant historical importance.  It didn’t take long for me to become overwhelmed, by both the large amount of new information and the emotions it gave rise to. That blue volume in the middle is especially poignant: it chronicles the Class of 1932 from the Final Ball of their senior year, through decades of reunions, ending with pages filled with obituaries.

On the bottom was a scrapbook–you can see the edges of some pictures–that belonged to a member of the Class of 1937, Mary Jane Hale Rommel. Underneath it was the note that accompanied her gift:

Mary Jane Hale was a popular beauty, active in campus social affairs, a member of the Pallas Athene Literary Society, and a May Fete Duchess. Here’s a newspaper clipping I found among her things that comes from a radically different time–it’s from the Wilmington, North Carolina newspaper in the summer after her sophomore year at Rice:

The scrapbook itself is pretty spectacular. Miss Hale had a good camera and used it. One example is this aerial glorious shot (how did she get this??) of the old stadium and field house:

There’s much more to come, although I’m not sure exactly how to handle all this material.. I’m still kind of flabbergasted. I had planned on a whole week of posts about Abercrombie Hall, which obviously must be postponed.


Bonus: Old field house.

Extra Bonus: I got this great shot the other day from Carol Lewis over in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. It’s hot as all get out now but still brilliant green.

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Friday Follies: Tilt, c1970

I didn’t understand what this was when I looked at the first picture:

But it became clear when I saw the second:

Bonus: We are the masters.


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“to discover onward things,” 1947

I stumbled across this list of “objects representative of the time” that were placed inside the cornerstone of Fondren Library in 1947. I was immediately struck by how bland these objects were. See for yourself:

I’m sorry but that’s just dull. I feel like if I could do it today I’d make more interesting choices. But there’s no denying that the choices fit well with the dignified tone of the short speech that President Houston, who’d only been at Rice a bit over a year, gave at this occasion. It’s clear from his words how much this new library meant to the campus and he advances a vision of the role of the library in the intellectual project of the university that I find still compelling:

One last thing: I’ve been getting some backtalk recently from a couple of readers who want to know why it seems like I never find the things I’m looking for in the place I expect to find them. Well, my answer to this sassiness is up in the top left corner of the first page of this speech. That’s Miss Alice Dean‘s handwriting, instructing that the documents should be filed under “Cornerstone.” Wh–?? Why? How would anyone ever know what’s in there? This is what makes it all so exciting, of course. I’m surprised very nearly every day.

Bonus: This view of Reckling (and beyond) came today from loyal reader John Wolda, who took it from the window of his doctor’s office.



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There’s A Hole in Brown College

Right at the end of last spring semester I got an intriguing email from one of FE&P’s project managers:

We have just begun another summer renovation, this time in the Brown College Tower. Last summer, we noticed what looks like a concrete patch in the ceiling in room 711. Well, it turns out that this patch is in the floor and ceiling of every one of the x11 rooms from what we can tell. The patch appears to be for what was once a 4’ x 4’ hole from the roof to the first floor.

This I had to see. I went over and sure enough, this is what it looks like all the way from the bottom to the top:

A search of the drawings for the building showed no such shaft and there isn’t a file with construction photos so we were stumped.

Then today she came over to look for images of Brown that might be used to decorate the refreshed space and lo and behold, look what turned up:

It certainly looks like that crane is inside the building, doesn’t it, and at the right spot too.

This gave me an idea and I went digging and found another shot from a different angle:

So now my question is: why?

Bonus: It’s definitely full blown summer around here but there’s been so much rain (another downpour this afternoon) that the grounds look remarkably lush. Usually by mid-July it’s pretty crispy, but look at this beautiful grass.

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Thomas Langdon Haskell, 1939-2017

Rice’s History Department lost Tom Haskell last week to complications from Alzheimer’s Disease, a terribly sad loss. His Chronicle obituary is here and the accompanying photograph is wonderful, by the way.

It’s hard to know where to start about Tom Haskell but I’ll begin with this: he could be absolutely maddening. To the best of my recollection the only time I’ve ever lost my temper in 26 years at Rice it was with him. But at the same time I cherish the memory of his kind and generous help in untangling some knotted up problems in my own research.

He was an excellent teacher and held students to the highest standards. I once heard him read Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” to a roomful of undergraduates (in his black academic robe, no less). Edwards’ words, combined with Haskell’s passionate delivery and formidable bearing, left the room in stunned silence. You couldn’t even hear anyone breathe. I still think about this from time to time, always with a small catch of fear as I dangle over the fiery pit.

Tom was a committed believer in the intellectual values of the academy and in the faculty’s responsibility to protect those values. I could write about this at length, but rather than recount old battles I will only say that he fully did his part to preserve what is worthy in our institution, especially in regard to faculty governance and accountability.

Perhaps above all he was a brilliant historian, clear, subtle and fearless, whose work in American intellectual and cultural history will remain to be reckoned with for many years to come.

When convinced he had gotten hold of the truth Tom would not let go of it for anyone or anything. This was not free. This cost him, and it cost him things of real consequence.

There are few pictures of him in the Woodson. One contact sheet shows a young man in a bad sweater who very clearly did not like having his picture taken. The only other set of images is more fitting. Here is Tom in 1999, speaking on academic freedom as part of that year’s Scientia program on “Rethinking the University”:

Thomas Haskell, rest in peace.

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