The Administration Building Cloisters, plus My Keystone Kops Routine

Usually when people ask me what my job is like I tell them that its always interesting because there’s no such thing as a typical day for me. That’s true as far as it goes, but it occurred to me just now as I was racing back to campus in a cold sweat, fearful that I had lost one of my flash drives right before leaving town, that while every day is different, they all share a sort of magical Keystone Kops quality. I get going so fast and in so many directions at once that something is always out of alignment somewhere.  At about 4:00 this afternoon it dawned on me that I didn’t have my current favorite flash drive. I staved off panic long enough to conceive an idea–I had given a talk late Friday afternoon at Duncan College and I might have left it in the computer there.  I tore back over there and  headed straight for the office of Vicki Woods, the Duncan College Coordinator. This was, by the way, the second time I’d presented myself in her office.  Both times I was a mess and needed her help.  And both times she helped fix my problems. (She’s a real gem, kind-hearted and good natured.) So now there will be pictures to look at while I’m away from the Woodson.

Let’s start with this one. One of the things I mentioned over at Duncan on Friday afternoon that seemed to surprise people was that the cloisters in front of the Administration Building were once a main gathering place for students, where business got done, elections were held and general laying about took place. This photo was taken in the cloisters at the Garden Party, an annual commencement event, in 1940. There are several things I really like about it–Lovett’s straw boater and his big smile especially–but notice over his shoulder the display board hanging on the wall. This was where notices, etc. got posted so everyone would see them. I hadn’t really thought much about this before, but I think I have more good photos of cloister behavior that I’ll post later.

Bonus: A week or so ago I was up in the Anthropology Department. I could not have been more surprised to see this in their library area. Still works. It has to be the last one on campus.

I could tell some tales, but I won't.

I’m totally confident that I’ll get it together tomorrow.

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14 Responses to The Administration Building Cloisters, plus My Keystone Kops Routine

  1. Don Johnson says:

    And I am SURE you know the significance of the “ROLM” tag. ALso, the phones were not installed by ROLM. They were re-used and came from (now defunct I believe) Fisk Telephone. All ROLM did was replace the campus phone switch.

  2. effegee says:

    Actually, this phone was probably installed by the Rice telecomm department. The original TouchTone-style phones installed by Fisk had a cardboard faceplate installed instead of the plastic stick-on labels like the one shown. The supply of cardboard inserts ran out after Rice created a telecomm department in (what was then) Finance and Administration.

    A few of the TouchTone-style phones, initially installed by Fisk and later by Rice’s telecomm department, were left behind when the ROLM switch in the basement of Allen Center was replaced with a Nortel system located on the first floor of Mudd Lab during the last two weeks of December 1999. Phones were replaced with the Nortel electronic sets at any place occupied by a faculty member or staff member unless the department insisted otherwise.

    Prior to the installation of the ROLM switch starting in late 1982, Rice campus phones were all provided by Southwestern Bell. Neill Binford (then Asst. to VP-FA and eventually Assoc VP-FA) oversaw the ROLM installation and fairly soon afterward created the telecomm department reporting to him. Telecomm moved to Information Technology in 1997 as part of an organization change that moved the BANNER system to F&A.

    • Melissa Kean says:

      Wow, thanks for this great comment. I’ve never seen such a succinct chronology of this.

    • George Webb says:

      As I recall, until the mid-1990s, the phones in college rooms* were Southwestern Bell lines independent of the campus network. They all had 630 prefixes, whereas the campus switch was 527. Whether as a courtesy or for their own convenience or what, SW Bell kept the same phone number for each student room year after year, even as the lines were disconnected each summer and then re-activated for the new account holders in the fall. So you could know a person’s phone number just by knowing their room number. Conversely, you could dial a room and know exactly which room you were calling, even if you didn’t know who lived there.
      The only other place I knew of in Houston that had a 630 prefix was Keneally’s Irish Pub up on Shepherd – not exactly next door. They still have it.
      I had heard that this practice of the legacy Bell company reserving specific phone numbers for specific locations violated some aspect of the AT&T antitrust judgment, and was discontinued for that reason. But perhaps it just disappeared when the student rooms were rolled into the campus network.

      *However, the college offices were on the Rice network, as were the public phones in the commons. And I seem to recall that the college Masters also had Rice network phones in their homes. I don’t recall one way or the other about the RAs.

      • Grungy says:

        Ahhh, the JAckson Frame.
        The 52X (JA on the dial) numbers were based out of the Ma Bell building at Richmond and Graustark. Rice had a LOT of the 52X numbers. I had a couple of them in two different museum-district apartments. Use of the frame must not have been all about proximity though – another large chunk of them was at the Sears store in Memorial City.

      • effegee says:

        The numbers in the colleges were “reserved” for quite some number of years. Bell put them on vacation at the end of an academic year until the next occupant(s) asked for the line to be reactivated in the fall which, being before cellphones were affordable, happened almost without exception. They also charged a reduced rate for reactivating the suspended line which lowered the cost to students compared to the normal installation charge. Of course, it saved Bell all of the field work costs, so everybody won.

        With the advent of “number portability” in the late 1990’s, this convenient practice had to be discontinued due to FCC regulations. When Bell advised Rice that it had to discontinue “parking” the college numbers, Rice was in the process of replacing the ROLM switch. The new Nortel PBX was purchased with the capacity to add the college rooms; the conversion occurred in the summer of 2000.

        The college masters’ residences and college office, along with a few convenience phones, were part of the ROLM PBX installation. So they were converted to the Nortel at the end of 1999 along with the rest of that system. Many of masters maintained separate Bell lines in their residences along with the “house” phone attached to the ROLM, This was, in part, because the Rice switchboard was not operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and because of a couple hundred “direct inward dial” numbers configured in the ROLM system that allowed “off-campus” numbers (such as the college rooms) to call an extension without campus operator intervention. These “DID” numbers became the norm when Rice migrated to the Nortel which included reserving the 10,000 number block 713-348-xxxx.

  3. Deborah Gronke Bennett says:

    The phone is very clean for one that is 30 years old. Does it get any use? I would be curious what any ownership tag on the bottom would say – Fisk, Southwestern Bell, or something else?

  4. David M. Bynog says:

    If you have not tried out Dropbox, I would highly recommend ( Unfortunately, you only get 2 GB worth of space free (though you can purchase more), but it can totally replace your flash drives.

  5. wunderwood says:

    You can tell that the cloisters got a lot of traffic because the grass is worn down at the edge of the sidewalks.

  6. Matt Noall says:

    I remember (vaguely I admit due to the intervening decades) that correct. During my tenure at Rice in the 70’s all the rooms and the campus were on the Jackson exchange. Not the most modern switch even for that era. Interestingly enough (if you are a total geek) is the use of the term “frame”. Telco gear, even today is not packaged in boxes (chassis, for geekdom), but rather is in open units held vertically in a frame. This allows heat to radiate into the room. The rooms tend to be airconditiomed pretty well as a result. May also help keep the battery room next door cool since all phone gear runs on -45 VDC. Kind of ugly looking but only telco folks see it

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