I found some really unusual pictures today. (Not the upset of the year, I suppose.) They were on a contact sheet that I could tell at a glance was bizarrely filed in a folder called “Campus, no date.” This was the first shot on the sheet:
Wh-? A guy with a movie camera filming straight down Main Street–you can see the Rice campus off to the upper right. Once I got past the nausea this image made me feel I started working out where and when it was taken. It’s all too clearly on a roof, and too close to the edge if you ask me. I think it’s the Warwick.
Looking the other direction up Main towards downtown, it’s clear that they are indeed on the roof of the Warwick. The big lawn with the fountain is where the MFAH’s Audrey Jones Beck building is today and the church across Binz is, of course, St. Paul’s Methodist. (Rice used to hold it’s rainy day graduations there back in the day.)
For purposes of dating, here’s a pictures straight down. The key piece of information is that the island in the center of the roundabout has fountains in it rather than a rose garden. I don’t know when that change took place, though I suspect it can be hunted down:
But why was this filed in a “Campus, no date” file? Because when they came down from the roof, they all went over to Rice and continued filming (and photographing the filmers):
This was taken in a somewhat unexpected spot–in between Jones College (and maybe Brown?) and the engineering quad. That’s the back of Abercrombie there on the left.
So I have two problems: when was this taken and what were they filming? If you zoom in on any of these pictures you’ll see from my labels that I guessed 1962. This is clearly wrong. I guessed that because my first instinct was that this might have been part of making the film called “Golden Years,” a very sentimental movie about Rice’s first fifty years. I watched it this afternoon and quickly realized that I was mistaken–these pictures were certainly taken later than 1962. But not necessarily a whole lot later. The difference in clothing between 1962 and, say, 1965 is stark. I’d say we’re more like mid-60s than early 60s here.
A satisfying solution to the dating problem will emerge, I believe. The photographer, in an act for which I bless his memory, decided to use up the last few pictures on his roll of film by turning around and taking a picture of a building under construction. I feel sure that this is the Space Science building, which broke ground in 1965 and opened in 1966. And because I have Alex Dessler’s photo chronology of the building’s emergence I think I can date these photos almost to the week. I just didn’t have time to do it today.
I have no idea why they were filming though.
Clarification: I got a nice email today from a reader about my post on obsolete technologies, clarifying what the microphone was all about. I didn’t have a chance to write back and ask for permission to share it so I’m leaving his name off, but I thought this was interesting enough to share:
You’re kidding about “…I don’t understand what they’re up to here,”
right? Well, in case you aren’t, I’m pretty sure that they’re cutting a
record. The disk on the turntable looks like a typical 8″ recording
blank from the 50’s. They were thin aluminum with a polymer coating
that was cut by a stylus similar to a regular phono needle. No mistakes
allowed, and what you got was the only copy.
It’s also possible that they’re playing back a freshly-made recording.
And a clarification of my own: 70% of the time I’m kidding and 30% of the time I’m bewildered. I’m not sure which is which.
Bonus: This post is already way too long, so I’ll save the bonus for tomorrow.