Friday Follies: “sadly ignorant of the ways of modern youth,” 1928

I’ve read a lot of Thresher editorials over the years (painful) but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen such hard hitting commentary about underwear before. Truly, the mind reels:

Bonus: Nobody does holidays like those maniacs over in Circulation.

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Not Lee’s Owls, 1924

Back in 2017 I wrote a quick and dirty post about this picture, memorable mostly for the discussion in the comments about the instrument sitting on its side in front of the banjo player, apparently a Chinese lute:

But then after all this time out of the blue last week came another comment from someone I didn’t know named Kevin Coffey:

I am pretty certain that this photo is NOT Lee’s Owls. That certainly is not Lee Chatham on trombone. There are several early photos of the group, in yearbooks and elsewhere (here is a photo of the band from a 1926 Valentine’s Dance ) and the personnel remained fairly consistent, with some non-Rice ringers and a few guys leaving upon graduation. The above photo appears to be from earlier than 1925 and I wonder if it might depict Eddie’s Syncopators, who are mentioned as predecessors of Lee’s Owls in the 1925 article quoted above (the article above misidentifies Joe Jarrett as a tuba player — he played trumpet).

This was quite surprising, especially considering what was written on the back of the picture:

Still, that comment had the unmistakable air of having been written by someone who knows what he’s talking about. So I wrote him back, and thus began a couple of happy days of working out the solution to the problem of who those guys are were. The credit all belongs to Mr. Coffey, an amateur historian of the best kind, meticulous, knowledgable, motivated by love and curiosity. It was a pleasure to give him what little help I could. Watch him working his way through it and learn a lot about Rice dance bands of the 1920s, an otherwise totally unexplored topic:

October 23:

Have had a go at the photo. After cross referencing the names, including Heyck’s, with faces from yearbooks, etc., I’ve concluded that my initial feeling before I knew that the photo was in some way associated with Joseph Heyck, that it was earlier than the mid-20s was in fact correct — and that it’s not only not Lee’s Owls, but not the Rice Collegians or Eddie’s Syncopatrors, either. I’m not sure if Joe Heyck is even in the photo, which might be why his widow was glad to part with it. His brother Theo might be, but the one person I can ID for certain at this point is the pianist, who is Neal Dargan, a 1922 graduate of Rice who was apparently in the Engineering school with Theo Heyck. And I think the photo probably comes from around that time. WIll keep digging and let you know if anything interesting comes up.
October 24:

I have the answer to the photo mystery. I was right about some things — that it preceded the Rice Collegians and that that is Neal Dargan at the piano — and wrong about others — Joe Heyck is in the photo and it’s from 1924 rather than earlier, as I had thought it might be after identifying Dargan.

Anyway, the photo and description shows up in The Thresher, May 3, 1924, page 3

The band is the Rice Troubadours, a recently organized dance orchestra which had even more recently been expanded from five to eight pieces.

They are, front row, L-R: George Wright, trombone; Joe Taylor, trumpet; Eddie Shearer, banjo; Joe Heyck, saxophone; Charles Pace, saxophone. Rear, L-R: R.T.T Wilbanks, brass bass; Wilmer Fischer, drums; Neal Dargan, piano.

I love it when things come together, when a mystery item can actually be fully documented.

I love it too. And we’re still not quite finished. This is me to him, October 26:

Just fyi, I was going about it in a completely different way. Looking at the picture I wasn’t sure where it was taken, but there were only a limited number of options in Houston in the mid-20s. I’m still not certain but in searching the venues I thought I might find who was playing in them. Based on Neal Dargan’s graduation date I started by going backwards. I didn’t find the Rice Troubadors but I did find something else—the Joy Spreaders!

And Mr. Coffey back to me, also on the 26th:

I did the same thing, also basing it on Neal Dargan’s graduation date. As always happens with any search engine, some important hits slipped through the search and it was only when I did an alternative search (I think the term I used was “dance orchestra”) and started looking a bit after Dargan’s graduation that I bumbled into finding the Troubadours photo in the Thresher. However, as I said, my initial search was similar to yours and I did find numerous references to the Joy Spreaders, from the fall of ’21 into 1924.

My search wasn’t exhaustive and I might have missed some blurbs that listed the personnel of the group, but the only one I found that directly mentioned band members was an early one that listed them as Humason, piano (presumably Lawrence Humason), Campbell on drums (presumably the ubiquitous J.I. Campbell), and Jarrett on saxophone. I didn’t do a cross-reference to find Jarrett’s first name, but I will. I’m assuming that the personnel changed over the next couple of years, with possibly Campbell as the unifying factor, but that’s just a guess. There were programs that the Joy Spreaders were on in 1923, for example, that also featured solo spots by Arthur (Slime) Zucht, piano and W.L. (Lindsey) Hale on saxophone and they may have become members of the Joy Spreaders in that period (both they and Campbell would graduate to subsequent Rice dance/jazz bands after the Joy Spreaders petered out of existence in the first half of 1924.

Did you find any listings for the Joy Spreaders that listed the musicians? It’d be great if a photo surfaced. I haven’t looked to see if any are in the yearbooks of 1922-24 period.

It was fun to see the occasional snide remark here and there about jazz music in the columns (there was a great reference, I think from very early — maybe 1920 — criticizing SMU for using a “third-rate jazz band” as their band at the football games while Rice already had a true marching band (I don’t think SMU got a bonafide and permanent marching band until Cy Barcus came along in about 1924). There was also an opinion piece that criticised the marching band for playing some jazz, saying there should be a clear demarcation and that the jazz should be left dance bands like the Joy Spreaders.

This is so fun.

Bonus: And while we’re talking about fun, I made Mr. Rice History Corner drive me over to see Placido Gomez’s house the other day. It’s tucked in a back corner of the neighborhood and didn’t look occupied but my heart sang when I saw the basketball hoop right in front of it. It’s actually out on the street.

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Friday Follies: Football, Finally

It sounds like they’re actually intending to play tomorrow but since they won’t be letting anyone into the stadium to watch I guess an old fashioned pep rally is out of the question:

I’m think that was taken in 1927 but since I’m not certain I’ll just weasel and call it circa 1927. This is quite a picture, worth a couple moments of your time for a closer look.

Bonus: Spectators or not, Rice fight never dies.

Extra Bonus: A year ago I would have climbed this just for sport but today for some reason I couldn’t be bothered. I must be slipping.

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“He can be a help to Rice,” Placido Gomez, ’42

One of the comments on last week’s post about Hispanics at Rice came from Tomas Molina ’68 who talked about being one of the very few Hispanic athletes on campus. This brought back to mind an earlier Mexican-American athlete, Placido Gomez ’42. I first found about about him when I came across this arresting photograph on eBay, which I immediately purchased:

The only words on the back are “Placido Gomez.” Well, now you really have my attention. I started poking around in the best source for this kind of thing, the gigantic alumni scrapbooks, and found what I was looking for right away:

Jeff Davis High School! Remember I just told you last week that the vast majority of Hispanic students at Rice in this era came from very high socio-economic backgrounds? That doesn’t really square with what I was seeing here. So when I get really interested in someone like this my next step is usually to see if I can find their Rice application, which often yields a small tidbit or two worth pursuing. This one did. Can you see what caught my eye here?

It was his address. For complicated reasons of my own I immediately recognized the area–north of Buffalo Bayou, east of 45. Placido Gomez, I can tell you with assurance, was not the son of a Spanish diplomat. The house is still standing, by the way, as are almost all the houses in that neighborhood:

Gomez was a phenomenal athlete. As near as I can tell he was actually recruited to Rice to play football but also became a key player in Rice’s strong basketball program in the late 1930s and early 1940s. When Rice went to the NCAA tournament in 1940 Gomez became the first non-white player to participate in that event. He enlisted in the Marines after graduation and fought in the Pacific during World War II. Afterwards he continued his education, first earning a Master’s at Columbia, then a doctorate from NYU. He spent the next 35 years at Brooklyn College as a professor of physical education and variously as head basketball coach, golf coach, and assistant football coach and passed away in 2000.

Bonus: Is there such a thing?

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Unidos Podemos, 2020 and 1972

I was walking on campus yesterday and saw a banner celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, which I hadn’t known about before. It turns out that Hispanic Heritage Month isn’t a single calendar month but actually crosses  from September 15 to October 15, so today is the last day. I’m happy I can squeak this in!

There has been a significant Hispanic presence at Rice dating all the way back to before the opening. We have payroll records in the Woodson that make it clear that much of the hard manual labor of site preparation and landscaping was carried out by crews of Hispanic workers, the kind of hard work that they have continued to do here over the decades. (Go here for one remarkable example and here for another.) There have also been Hispanic students at Rice almost from its very beginning, although in very small numbers and for many years nearly always from quite high socio-economic backgrounds, often the children of diplomats. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the numbers began to grow, slowly at first, and Hispanic students from a broader variety of backgrounds were granted admission in more significant numbers.

This article from the September 20, 1972 Houston Post marks what I believe is the formation of the first organization for Hispanic students at Rice:

And a glorious picture of a very young Professor Richard Tapia meeting near Lovett Hall with the officers of the group. Beautiful 1970s hair all the way around:


Bonus: Unidos podemos, y’all.

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Friday Follies: Easy Rider, no date

Sometimes I can’t even fathom why someone took a particular photograph. This is an especially grim scene, possibly somewhere deep in the library by the look of the tile underneath the stained carpet remnant:

The reason for memorializing this vista seems elusive. Maybe the poster, I guess, maybe a demonstration of the need to remodel, maybe just grad student angst.

Bonus: Even this skeleton is more cheerful.

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Attention MOBSTERS and MOB Adjacents!

Just in time for the online Homecoming we have an attempt to capture some of the unrecorded (and likely extremely checkered) history of the famous (infamous?) Rice Mob. For some reason I agreed to cooperate with this:

Hey MOB, MOBalums and MOBfriends!

Tl;dr– send us a 15s video of what the MOB means to you and/or a 1-2 minute video telling one of your favorite MOB stories! Submit here:

In honor of Homecoming and the MOB’s 50th anniversary as a scatter band, we’re putting on MOB History Night, a guided tour through the MOB’s past, present, and future!

We want to tell the story of MOB from the perspective of current MOBsters, MOBalums, and the Rice community as a whole, and to do so we need YOUR help! We’re looking for anyone who’s willing to share their MOB memories to send in a short 15 second video about what MOB means to you, or a 1-2 minute video telling your favorite MOB story, to be featured at MOB History Night.

Fill out this formby October 24, 2020 at 11:53:30 PMto submit your MOB stories, and contact Amanda Suarez ( or Xiaoyao Gao ( if you have any technical difficulties or questions about the event. Thank you so much for participating!

I for one would like to hear what these people have to say for themselves:


MOB walking on sidewalk with instruments, fedoras, sunglasses and (toy) guns

Bonus: I caught campus photographer Tommy Lavergne on campus the other day, fully compliant with all coronavirus regulations.



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Friday Follies: So It’s Not Just Me, 1941

This really brought a smile to my face. We actually own stationery that says “Sorry for the delay . . . ” but this was an entire year! It must have been at the bottom of some enormous pile.

They let him in, by the way.

Herb Allen ’29 is one of my favorites. He was a good guy and a good trustee. Here’s an undated picture of him, probably not too terribly far off from the date of this letter:

Bonus: I’m not sure what they’re trying to get at here. All I can think about is guacamole.


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“Trashed for a Week,” 1991

I recently ran across this rather arresting photo, labeled “Trash Haul, November 1991”:

I assumed it must have been some sort of environmental thing and with that as a keyword and a narrow date range it was easy enough to find the Thresher article about it. It seems they carried their own trash around for a week to demonstrate how much garbage we all generate. I’m actually a bit surprised at how little there seems to be. I’m including the whole front page here because who doesn’t love a big crackdown:

Bonus: Inside the tent by Fondren and Anderson Architecture.

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“A new sport was introduced to the campus,” 1929

We got a good bit of rain from Beta over the last couple of days, enough to cause street flooding and keep a lot of trepidatious eyes on the bayous. On campus today in addition to the ghost town vibe it was also what I would have to call “soggy.”  In the olden days before all our advances in drainage it would have been much, much worse. Witness this from the 1929 Campanile. It’s all happening on Main Street, by the way:

I love how casual this guy is:

Those guys had all the fun.

Bonus: Clogged.

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