The Man in the Middle or Sometimes You End Up Somewhere You Didn’t Know You Were Going

An instinctive if untrained archivist, Pender Turnbull habitually labeled her photographs.  With a quick look at the back of yesterday’s picture, I learned that the name of the man in the middle was Walter Malloy.

At that moment it seemed as though it was going to be easy to find out who he was—I had his name, for heaven’s sake. But surprisingly I immediately hit a roadblock. For many decades the campus directory listed only faculty and students, and he seems to have been neither. Was he Rice staff? Maybe just a friend who had nothing to do with the Institute at all? The former seems more likely, as Miss Turnbull and Miss Wheeler both led lives that revolved around their work at Rice.

So I let this sit for a while, content to wait and see if something would turn up on its own. And then it did. Here’s a photograph that was taken in the spring of 1952 at a Fondren Library staff picnic. It was held in the backyard of William Dix, then head of the library.

If that’s not Walter Malloy sitting on the ground, it’s someone who looks a whole lot like him. This isn’t much to go on, but there are many boxes of library records and there’s a reasonable hope that something more might turn up in one of them. I’ll have a look, probably after the centennial, if I live through it.

But as long as we have this nice photo here, why not take a closer look at it? I immediately note that there’s Pender Turnbull herself in the center, standing with her cup and plate and looking at the photographer. And her notes on the back of the picture indicate that the young woman directly behind her in the plaid dress is named Fofo Catsinas. I don’t know about you but I don’t know too many people named Fofo. I do know one, though, Fofo Lewis, who married a young Rice chemistry professor named Ted Lewis. Is this her? Another image taken at this same party gives us a closer look. That’s her alright. It turns out that she graduated from Rice in 1951 and went right to work in Fondren.

But there’s still something more here, and fairly remarkable too. Right over Fofo’s shoulder sits a white-haired woman next to a grey-haired woman. I like the way their hair is blowing around in the wind. They are Alice Dean, ’16, the Institute’s first librarian, who served from 1914 until 1947, and Sarah Lane, ’19, who worked in Fondren from 1920 to 1962. It’s the only picture I’ve ever seen of them together.

Bonus: He was up on the Turrell skyspace, eating something.

(Many thanks to Emily Stein!)

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6 Responses to The Man in the Middle or Sometimes You End Up Somewhere You Didn’t Know You Were Going

  1. Wendy Kilpatrick Laubach '78 says:

    I knew Fofo quite well as a child, since Ted Lewis was a good friend of my father’s. Ted and Fofo were both awfully kind. If I recall correctly, my father told me Ted was a late-talking child. He said not a word until he was four or five, then suddenly came out with “Look at the little birdie up in the tree.” — But I have to say, I couldn’t have recognized Fofo from that photograph.

  2. We’re all a little worried that the Skyspace Hawk might be snacking on some of the cuter fauna out here by Alice Pratt Brown. The long-eared kind. 😦 Let’s hope not!

  3. Ron Sass says:

    Yes, that is Fofo Lewis. Ted used to spend a lot of time in the library and told me one of the reasons was that Fofo worked there. It was almost love at first sight (for him at least).

  4. Pat Martin says:

    Are you sure Fofo is wearing the plaid dress? In the second photo, the woman second from the right on the bench looks markedly like young Fofo to me.

    • Melissa Kean says:

      You know, on close inspection you might be right. It’s hard to imagine Miss Turnbull misidentifying a photo but who knows. I’ll look up Fofo in the Campanile and see how it looks.

  5. ed summers, Baker, 1959 says:

    Thank you for the pictures of Alice Dean, my great-aunt, and Sarah Lane (after whom SLLS was named) and Pender Turnbull. Aunt Allie once told me that her wisest decision as librarian was to adopt the book-identifying system – Dewey Decimal, I think, as opposed to some other system popular at the time. Until Fondren was built, the library was in Lovett Hall- in, I think, the room originally built for faculty meetings.

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