In the same file folder where I found the pictures of Dr. Baker teaching I also found, logically enough, some wonderful images of the Bonner Lab.
These are a great find, the kind of images that I love the most. I realize that they may seem mundane to other people but photos like these, ones that show us the sides and backs and loading docks of campus buildings, are what help me understand imaginatively the day-to-day context of the university’s evolution. I know what it feels like to walk from Fondren to Duncan Hall, what I’m likely to see and who I’m likely to encounter, in 2013 but how did that walk feel for someone going from Fondren to the Bonner Lab?
These aren’t dated (it seems like everything I find lately has no date on it) and I don’t know what the fence was doing there. The lone car in the parking lot looks relatively recent, though, so it’s possible that this was fenced off in preparation for the demolition.
There was one glorious kodachrome slide in the folder and when I blew it up I found something unexpected:
The building had a sign in front of it! Zoom in and you can see it says “T.W. Bonner Nuclear Research Laboratory.” Back in the day signs were extraordinarily rare–they were not the Rice Way. I wonder why this exception was made.
Bonus: I got several very nice emails over the last few days from people reminiscing about Stephen Baker’s classes. One of them ended with this, which I reproduce here because I know it to be true: Stephen is a kind, thoughtful, and intelligent man. He is a credit to the faculty and to the institution.
The crepe myrtles that frame the fourth and final black-and-white shot were transplanted to the road behind Cohen House. There were several holes in that row of crepe myrtles and we quietly filled them in with the ones from the east side of Bonner Lab.
Those are beautiful trees! I used a picture of them as a bonus, I think, just a little while ago.
The car is a Honda Accord from about 1990. I’d forgotten what a nice modernistic building that was. ’90-91 was the last time we used the old cyclotron room as a performance space. Looks like in Google Earth that it was gone by ’95.
About 1986 or so I was moving a harp in a trunk out of the side door of the old Rehearsal Hall, and I broke a window in one of the offices over there. I had to go find Department Administrator Helen Viereck (whose daughter Ann was a crony of mine in the MOB) and apologize and get the SSM to pay for the glass.
Did they give you a hard time about it?
No, Helen couldn’t have been nicer. She was probably happy that someone admitted to doing it and took responsibility. (it happened after office hours)
There is, occasionally, a certain unfamiliarity about the nuts and bolts of the classical music world among non-musicians. This lends to our mysterious doings an amiable exoticism which we can use to our advantage. Breaking a window with a harp trunk is much, much more interesting than breaking it with a baseball or a rock, you see.
The place looks abandoned, grounds unkempt, doors ajar. With the fence, I’d say demolition was imminent. In the photo showing the car, do you see an angel’s face in the clouds on the left edge?
I think the Bonner Lab got a sign because it was the destination of so many campus visitors. That was the only building sign I ever saw on campus until recently.
The fence dates the picture as within a month or two of demolition (before the start of construction on Duncan Hall).
We’ve had discussions before about the denouement of that sign.
It was sitting behind Central Kitchen, pre-OEDK, the last time that I saw it.
Did you ever find it?
The RMC has had a sign as long as I can remember.
The MOB rescued the special acoustical tiles from the ceiling of Bonner’s SSM rehearsal space, to use in their “new” bandhall (’95). We are once again rescuing those ceiling tiles to be used in the next new bandhall (if we can ever find the funding to build it out).
I remember going over there to Bonner three or four times in 1991 when the old rehearsal hall was converted back to a computer lab. That was strange.
Are there any photos of the interior, of the Van de Graaf particle accelerator?
I’ve never seen one.