Back to the 1930s: Texas National Guard Photos

I’ve been spending much time in recent months thinking about the 1930s at Rice (hence my delight in all those Maxwell Reade photographs). It was a difficult time, what with the Great Depression and all that entailed. Enrollment growth ended as did new campus construction, faculty salaries were reduced and the Institute lost several important faculty members to other universities. As bleak as that sounds, it wasn’t all bad. Lovett basically held the place together and the students, well, they acted like students always do.

I’ve also been closely studying a series of aerial photos taken in 1933 by the National Guard. They’re all stamped on the back with “11th Photo sec AC TX National Guard.” I’m not precisely sure what that means, but I do know that these are very good pictures–crisp, clear, high quality prints. There’s a lot to be learned from them. I’ll start with this one, a straight ahead campus view from the south, including Hermann Hospital, Palmer Church and Autry House:

First, there’s a wonderful view of the Engineering Annex just to the west of the Mech Lab. It was built to house Chemistry very early on and then turned over to Engineering when the Chemistry Building was completed in 1928. You can also see how much of the western part of campus seems to have been under cultivation. I don’t know what they were growing. And if you zoom in all the way and squint real hard, on the right side of the road that cuts the cultivated area in two you can just make out that single pine tree that still stands by the Geology Building.

Most interesting to me here are the double rows of trees along the entrance road that runs between South Hall and West Hall. They were clearly planted not all that long before the picture was taken, much more recently than most of the other oaks on campus. That road is gone, of course, but the trees are still there. Here they are in one of Joseph Davies’s photos circa very late 1950s, with a beautiful lawn where the road had been:

And here they are last fall, with the lawn replaced by a gravel walkway. Too much shade and too many feet, I suppose:

Bonus: Also from last fall here’s this little fellow, a Downy Woodpecker I believe, in one of the trees on the quad side of Rayzor Hall.

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4 Responses to Back to the 1930s: Texas National Guard Photos

  1. Deborah Gronke Bennett says:

    I lived in Hanszen old section (west hall) for 3 years. I loved those trees, and the line perpendicular to them which led up to the street, and then continued behind Fondren Library. Morning noises in the trees were squirrels chattering. Evening sounds in those trees were cicadas singing, then stopping all together, then singing again. I had never lived near live oak trees, so both sounds were new to me.

    • Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT, Institute Class of '56 says:

      I don’t know your years at the Institute / University.
      Mine were 1952-56.
      I also lived in West Hall.
      We also heard the cicadas — and everything else — outside, because the windows were essentially always open I think, as there was NO air conditioning. However, I can’t remember there being any screens. But we did NOT have mosquitoes in the rooms. I do remember that there were NO window screens for the common toilet- shower room*, as we used to lean out them and look down.

      * What is the proper name for that common room with toilet stalls, lavatories, and showers. And I can NO longer remember (fancy that!) if their were wall urinals for that All Male dormitory.

      • Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT, Institute Class of '56 says:

        BTW, Deborah, did you ever notice how the cicada symphony appears to begin in one area (? 1 tree), with other sections picking up the production until they all fade out? And how was that cessation handled?
        Then when the sound resumes, it seems to originate from the same dominant area.
        I often wondered how that cicada director was chosen, and what he did to any subordinate cicadas who tried to usurp his role.
        Just wond’ring still.

  2. “AC” is probably for Air Corps.

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