I’ve got a full plate today but I have a few minutes to myself right now, sitting in the worst run Starbucks I’ve ever come across and getting ready to go back out into the rain and snow. (Yes, both.) I’m reminded, though, that stifling heat in the winter is the Yankee equivalent of our over-airconditioning in the summer.
Maybe perversely, this reminded me of a strange contact sheet I found in the Woodson’s photo files. The sheet is unlabeled and undated, but even in their tiny form the images caught my eye because of their seeming randomness.
I scanned quite a few and looked at them for quite a while before I hit on the one that I believe explains the others.
So the RMC must have caught on fire, maybe sometime in the early ’80s. I freely admit that I don’t know anything about this but I’ll bet some of you do.
Rain and snow? I thought you were in Hawaii! It’s a sad story. In April 1995, Will Rice junior Alberto Youngblood set the Pub on fire, causing a lot of damage to the Band Hall, the Campus Store, and the rest of the RMC. In September of that year, he was charged with arson. Thresher stories here: http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth246510/?q=arson
Here’s a Fifth Circuit opinion that has a short factual summary of the case:
I think that it must be later than that based on the Apple Performa computers. Say mid 1990s.
Weirdly, I was already at Rice when this happened but I have no memory of it. I was a graduate student at the time, though, so there are probably a lot of other things I failed to notice.
Searching rice.edu for “Rice Memorial Center” and “fire” turned up a list of Woodson audio-visual materials including this VHS tape located in Box 19 (Item 3): “Rice Memorial Center Fire” local Houston coverage; April 6-7, 1995″ (http://library.rice.edu/collections/WRC/finding-aids/university-archives/audio-visual_UA151)
Yep, that would be the Willy’s Pub Fire of April 1995 (my sophomore year). A disgruntled student set a very late-night fire in (or near) the pub in the RMC. The stairwell of the bookstore ended up acting as a chimney, and everything in the store was declared a loss due to smoke damage, I believe.
Hopefully Grungy will weigh in soon. I’m sure he remembers it well.
They appear to have “basement of the RMC” in common.
The Campus Store storeroom, possibly the hallway from The MOB’s office door into the basement of Sammy’s (showing the fire suppresion water on the floor), Sammy’s downstairs storage, and a counter in the Campus Store with a note written in the soot.
You have nailed the event.
Would you like some soot?
I still have quite a bit of it…
Are you serious?
About which part? There’s plenty of soot on the FirstFedora uniforms, and quite a bit of the paper MOB records that I have.
And I still have half of a closet rod full of sooty ’82-’95 MOB uniforms in my master closet, 10 years later.
Quite a bit of the sooty stuff has been laundered, dry cleaned, or hurled into the abyss, but there’s still some that turns my fingers black when I handle it.
The offer stands.
I think Melissa’s archives need a little packet of RMC fire soot, don’t you?
I didn’t save any as a free-standing item.
It’s very clingy, although it has an affinity for skin.
Ah. Soot is approximately equal to toner.
Carbon black (basically: soot) is the color in black toner, carried by tiny bits of plastic and rust. Soot is harder to remove from skin than toner.
The pub itself was locked. The student poured lighter fluid on the outside of the pub’s wooden door and ignited it. Because of a lack of fire suppression and notification systems in the RMC at the time, the fire spread uncontrolled through the pub and other parts of the basement. Parts that didn’t burn still received significant smoke damage. After this fire the RMC and many other Rice buildings were retrofitted with fire sprinkler systems.
I think the Rice Conn bass sax died in that fire. A shame, too, as those things are fairly rare.
“Stifling heat in the winter” — very true! I’ve had many business trips to NYC and Boston when I’ve had to step outside the building in the middle of the cold, just to get a few minutes of relief from the near-80 heat indoors. Obviously outdoor temperatures in the 80s don’t bother me at all, but that kind of heat indoors makes me ill.
In its effect on campus life, the burning of the Pub was one of the worst events in Rice’s post-war history.