Whence the Orange Scooters?

I’ve made myself weepy at work quite a lot recently so I was relieved to find something ridiculous to look at. This must be a Beer Bike, but I don’t know when–maybe early 70s–and I don’t know what those things are or where they came from. I can’t imagine that a student owned them, but surely no one was foolish enough to rent them to that bunch. Love the color, though, and there’s a kind of “Ride of the Valkyries” vibe that makes it all sort of hang together nicely.

Bonus: I like signs in general, and especially if they tell the reader what they are expected to do in no uncertain terms. I also favor the use of music stands to hold signs. I see this fairly often when I trek out to my car in the stadium lot–that’s where I found this leftover early Monday morning. It’s not the sort of direct command that I really enjoy, but it certainly bears cheerful news:

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14 Responses to Whence the Orange Scooters?

  1. C Kelly says:

    The Rice maintenance and grounds crews used those kinds of carts back in my day. Not sure how they got in a beer-bike race. They may have been ‘requisitioned.’

    CK (’72)

  2. effegee says:

    I think the mail room used them too back in the ’70s when it was located in Allen Center basement.

  3. Doesn’t look to me like there’s enough people present to be Beer Bike. I’ve never seen a gnome cart like that, but the pictures are before my time. Looks like a one-off race.

    • Richard Miller (Hanszen '75 & '76) says:

      It looks to be Beer Bike in the ealr 70’s. It is on the east lot of the stadium (where they were held in that period) and they are holding the 24 oz cans used in the beer portion. Probanly one of the beer teams since none of the bike people seem to be present.

  4. mjthannisch says:

    Is the word gnome still used? If not, they were the custodial staff, many of whom spoke little or no English.

  5. marmer01 says:

    Probably gas-engined Cushman type three-wheelers. We used to see them a lot back home with a freezer box on the back, selling ice cream. Yes, they look like gnome or mail-delivery carts but I’ve never seen an orange one at Rice from 1980 on. Always Rice blue or sometimes yellow. I tend to agree that it was an un-official-ish event and the scooters were probably “borrowed.” I’m a little surprised that numbers or other identifying marks aren’t present on the scooters. It’s also certainly possible that the scooters were actually used with permission. Back in those simpler and less litigious times you could get approval for surprising things just by asking and you wouldn’t necessarily get in much trouble if you didn’t ask.

  6. Joseph Lockett ('91) says:

    I can say, from conversations with current Rice students, that the term “gnome” for custodial / maintenance staff has indeed completely disappeared from campus vocabulary.

    The name was still used in my day; I believe I remember a campaign (a *Thresher* editorial?) in the “aughties” to discourage the term, though I wasn’t paying much attention at the time.

    • Richard Schafer (Lovett '73) says:

      Actually, the push to discourage the term “gnome” started much earlier than 2000. It was being discouraged at least in the early 90s, and I think probably sometime in the 80s, although I can’t remember for sure when someone started thinking the term was offensive.

  7. marmer01 says:

    Chepe, I remember that too, although it didn’t seem like that big of a deal at the time. It wasn’t used in a negative way and most of the students treated the maintenance staff well.

  8. mjthannisch says:

    And yes, they did use the orange scooters, at least from 74-79. And yes, times were simpler. I rented and arranged to bring horses from the Hermann Park Stables to Rice to stage a hanging for parking violations (See the 1974 year book pictures). It wasn’t much trouble, and it was kind of interesting crossing Fannin and Main and riding briefly around campus by horseback.

  9. Barney L. McCoy says:

    “Gnome” was neither a racist nor derogatory term but merely a colorful way of describing maintenance personnel who often mysteriously disappeared into the labyrinth of the tunnel system.
    Barney L. McCoy, Hanszen 67

  10. marmer01 says:

    I think the effort to discourage the use of “guh-no-me” more or less coincided with the publication of an unofficial newsletter called “The Gnome Gazette” by F&E personnel and I’m thinking pre-1990. There were, apparently, some F&E personnel who did object to the term. Perhaps some University Historian with access to the archives could find out more information…

    Or just look in Thresher archives…

    or even here to see it used much earlier:
    (enter “gnome” in the search box.)

    Has anyone ever heard of the three-syllable pronunciation being used anywhere but Rice?

  11. Bill Allison says:

    The use of “Gnome” was an issue in the 1970s. I recall Prof. Al Van Helden raising it in letters to the Thresher while I was there, but without any noticeable change in usage by the students.

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