“This flying field was right next to the Rice fence,” 1918

Over the years I’ve come across a number of tantalizing hints about an airport or maybe just a landing strip on or very near the Rice campus back in the late teens and 1920s. Here’s one of the most interesting, a page from the 1920 Owl Calendar. We talked about this a while back but unsurprisingly never could reach a conclusion about the location of this particular facility or whether there had ever been any landing field close to campus:

A couple days ago I accidentally found the answer. I was looking at the transcript of an interview done by Ray Watkin Hoagland (later Strange) with Gaylord Johnson ’21 ’23 ’25 back in 1978, just kind of happily reading along about the streetcars and Tony Martino and all the usual stuff about the early days. Then I saw this:

So there you have it. And don’t even get me started about that stubborn Captain Baker.

It also somewhat belatedly dawned on me that the incredible Anderson Aeronautical Collection located just steps away from my desk might also be of some help. And indeed here is a little snippet from the April 15, 1924 Aeronautical Bulletin Route Information Series–essentially visual directions–that explain what to look for if you’re trying to fly from Dallas to Houston and back. So, is this the same field or a different one?

Bonus: Now this is clever.




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Rice Village Aerial, 1948

Check out this beauty from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center at the Houston Public Library:

It’s a nice crisp shot taken in the fall of 1948, more or less directly over the top of the Village. I wouldn’t have been able to place it if it weren’t for the western edge of the Rice campus over there at the right. Both of these things are highly interesting. Views of that northwest corner of campus are few and far between and it would soon all be paved over. Zoom in on that area and you can see that there are still some woods on the far side of the diagonal shell road.

The Village looks so open but it’s basic shape is already recognizable. One thing that caught my eye is a white house just west of the corner of Rice Boulevard and Greenbrier. During the 1940s both Miss Pender Turnbull, who worked in the library, and Miss Ann Wheeler, who worked in the president’s office, had apartments in that building. I think it later became the Maryknoll House and is now the site of Hungry’s restaurant. I also think I can see Kay’s off in the distance.

Bonus: That’s a Tommy Lavergne photo.

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Friday Follies: Bonkers

I have no data about this picture, which I found in a small box labeled “Unsorted Slides” but it made me smile. My first wild guess is late ’70s:

Bonus: I thought about touching it anyway. I didn’t but I might when I go back to the parking lot.

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Residential Hall Regulations, 1948 Plus Rice Through a Crystal Ball

I suspect that many of these rules were more honored in the breach but I’ll bet they really did keep it quiet after 7:30. It was all too easy to flunk out back in these days:

Bonus: I’ve seen so many pictures of Lovett Hall I didn’t think it was possible to be surprised by one–but I was mistaken. This was taken by Stephanie Rudd ’76 ’78, who says “I used a crystal ball set on my tripod and then shot it with a 200mm lens at side aperture to create bokeh in the background.” Many thanks to Stephanie and also to Alan Shelby for bringing it to my attention.

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“Their friends wondered why Autrey wore a hat to class that day!”

In retrospect I probably shouldn’t have scheduled moving out of our house for remodeling during the first week of the semester. This is a reasonable approximation of how I feel right now:

That’s Autrey Lewis, by the way, class of 1935, who is handling her woes better than I am. I lifted this story about her from the  1994 newsletter of the Concerned Citizens for Washington Cemetery Care Inc. and Washington Cemetery Historic Trust. (The newsletter is actually interesting in its own right so if you’d like to read the whole thing it’s here.)

Autrey was born in Bay City, Texas on December 20, 1914 to Richard R. Lewis and Selma Autrey Lewis. The family soon moved to Houston, to be near Mrs. Lewis’ family. Dick Lewis practiced law in Houston for many years, and at one time was the City Attorney. The Autrey family owned the Brazos Hotel as well as the Magnolia Brewery, which produced Southern Select Beer, before being sold to the Falstaff Brewing Company in the 1960’s.

Autrey attended San Jacinto High School. She met Dick Ballanfant while both were students at Rice University, and they eloped during lunch break at Rice in 1934. (Their friends had wondered why Autrey wore a hat to class that day!) They graduated from Rice together in 1935. Later, she attended graduate school in Mexico City.

Dick Ballanfant served with the First Special Services Forces during W.W.II. In 1947, Autrey and Dick opened a Boys’ Camp in Junction, Texas, where her family had a ranch. Although the camp was successful and all of the Ballanfant family enjoyed life in Junction, the terrible drought in the early 1950’s forced them to leave the Hill Country and move to California for 5 years. In 1959, the family moved back to Houston, where both Autrey and Dick began teaching school in HISD. Autrey taught elementary school Spanish, then moved on to McReynolds Junior High to teach Spanish and English. Dick taught Science at Furr High School. Both retired from teaching in the early 1970’s.

One of Autrey Ballanfant’s proudest achievements was hosting in her home the initial meeting of concerned descendants of people buried in Washington Cemetery. CCWCC was formed as a direct result of that January 1975 meeting. Dick Ballanfant passed away in October 1981. Autrey died on July 3, 1994. Both are buried in the Autrey/Lewis family plot. Alongside them is their first grandchild, Christopher Louis Voss, son of Anne Ballanfant Voss and James George Voss.

Autrey touched many lives, and will be greatly missed. However, we are very grateful to her many friends and relatives who honored her memory by making donations totaling over $1000 to WCHT.

Bonus: It was a beautiful winter day on campus today.

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The Cotton Bowl Classic, 1958

Update: You have to read the comments to this one. I got every possible date wrong and even which anniversary it was. It’s absolutely epic. The pictures are still awesome, though.

You may remember that after his death I posted some undated pictures of President Bush at a Rice football game:

After seeing them loyal reader John Wolda ’57 sent me some of his own shots of Bush at that game. Here’s one with former Rice Board chairman Charles Duncan ’47 and Elizabeth Gillis:

John also explained that the game, which was played on October 18, 2003, was a special one, honoring the great 1957 team on the 50th anniversary of that season. (Yes, I know it wasn’t really 50 years. But it was close enough and we were playing Navy. Who beat us again.) I wrote about this season game by game back in 2012 (here’s a link to the post about the A&M game) but I never got to the last one. This was the Cotton Bowl, played against Navy on New Year’s Day, 1958. The Midshipmen gave us a pretty good beating, winning 20-7, which makes writing about it not so much fun.

What brings this to mind right now is that among the images that David Davidson ’58 sent us are several he took up in Dallas at this game. There are some real beauties:


This last one is quite interesting. Rice’s Homecoming Queen that year was Penny Blackledge who also became the Cotton Bowl Queen. When the all-male Naval Academy found out that she had a twin sister, Patti, and that their father was a 1920 alumnus of the Academy, they asked Patti to be their Queen for the game. So I don’t know which one this is:


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“A very profitable term of work is being predicted,” 1923 plus Christmas Break Roundup

Spring semester starts today and I’m officially back at it. I’m not feeling quite as optimistic about my prospects as this Chronicle article from 1923 would suggest but neither have I “busted out” after the first term.

I did, predictably, come back to wander around campus over break. Because I don’t know what else to do. I saw the usual maintenance and construction workers, grad students, and families riding bikes but it did indeed feel tranquil. Here’s an image of a similar day over Christmas break in 1976. Not much is different except the size of the trees:

Photo credit: Houston Chronicle

I did see an unexpected sight in front of Lovett Hall. It was cold and raining hard at this point and yet several groups gathered there for the campus tour. I would admit any of these prospective students based purely on their tenacity:

 I also spent some time over break sorting through photos I took during the centennial celebration in 2012. Much to my delight Jim Kinsey popped up again, almost 60 years after the last time we saw him here. What I remember about this moment is how happy he was that as a retiree he didn’t have to sit in the sun in academic robes during this event. It was hot!


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