Today I will share a sparkling example of archival randomness. A while ago, maybe six or eight months, I stumbled across an interesting photo in a little used box from the Athletics collection that a researcher was using. As I think I’ve mentioned before no matter what I’m working on myself, it’s my habit to take a good look at whatever materials are around for other people. (This is precisely how I came to have so much random information about the university.) Here’s the picture, which is undated but labeled “Rice football players in U.S. Marines stationed at S.L.I.”:
That’s a pretty interesting picture, not least because it’s got to be a really large chunk of the team. But I didn’t know anything about the image and a quick look in the obvious places yielded nothing. So I filed it away and waited. Sometimes when you wait nothing happens but other times something does. Today a researcher was looking at several boxes of Congressman Albert Thomas’s papers, about as far from the Athletics collection as you can get. I opened the first box and nearly died of boredom, but in the second I found this:
It seems to be a clipping from a Wichita Falls newspaper, helpfully dated June 1943, which provides a nice explanation for the photo. Why was this in Congressman Thomas’s papers? Who knows. He did generally take a close interest in military affairs at the Institute. He helped secure the naval ROTC unit for Rice and was also instrumental in bringing the Navy V-12 program here. This program, while rather disruptive in some ways, kept up a steady flow of students and funds during the war, a time when other universities were struggling badly. Rice still struggled, but it never became desperate.
S.L.I., by the way, stands for Southwestern Louisiana Institute, today known as the University of Louisiana-Lafayette (or Ooh La La).