You know what always makes a great picture? Pole vaulters, that’s what.

This first shot is very early, probably 1916. I think it’s one of the five or six best images that I’ve come across in Rice’s collections. Do yourself a favor and click on it–it has a rare sense of immediacy, made all the more remarkable by the fact that it’s a scan off a glass plate. (This is from the batch that Rice photographer Tommy Lavergne brought in a couple of years ago.) It’s hard for me to look at it and not anticipate what must have been a difficult reconnection with the earth.

Pole vaulter

This next one is also undated, but from the look of the background I’d guess it was taken in the early 1930s:

Track meet nd 7

And finally this one from the very late ’60s or early ’70s–even when they aren’t in the air they still manage to look interesting. Note that they finally have something softer to land on and that there had been some advances in pole technology:

Track nd c60s pole vault

Bonus: A surprisingly alert faculty member pointed out these benches over by Huff House this afternoon. I’d never noticed them before and have no idea how long they’ve been there.Benches Huff House

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17 Responses to Photogenic

  1. Irving says:

    You should do something about the supposed “tie rule” at Valhalla.

  2. Pic 1: Ouch! Did they train by jumping out of second-story windows?

    • Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT, Institute Class of '56 says:

      BTW, Melissa, as I recall (caution with that), the new fiberglass poles arrived at the time our Rice polestar and Olympian set the world record.
      Fred Hanson maybe?
      Undoubtedly, John Wolda will correct me, but that’s okey doke* with me.

      * And who remembers where that came from?

  3. almadenmike says:

    In the bottom photo, that’s future Olympian Dave Roberts on the left. He looks rather young in the image, so this might have been taken in his freshman year, when he joined two other accomplished vaulters, Dickie Phillips and Larry Curtis.

    A front-page report on the upcoming Southwest Conference championship track meet (to the held at Rice) in the April 30, 1970, Thresher said: “Rice should also pick up a lot of points in the pole vault, where three of their vaulters, Dickie Phillips, Larry Curtis, and freshman Dave Roberts, have already gone over the SWC record of 16 feet even. Phillips has a season best of 16-7, and has barely missed 17 feet on two occasions. The poIe vault finals will be at 2 pm tomorrow in the Rice track stadium.”

    • almadenmike says:

      Roberts is on the far right in the photo, not left.

    • Gary Baldwin says:

      It rained all night at Rice stadium, flooded the track and the 1970 SWC finals had to be moved to San Jacinto JC. Rice vaulters Dickie Phillips and Larry Curtis did wrack up a bunch of points in the conference championship, but freshman vaulter Dave Roberts no-heighted allowing Baylor’s Gary Baldwin to take bronze medal.

  4. almadenmike says:

    Two pole vaulters mentioned in 1916-17 Thresher reports are Alexander Cylde Houck and Francis Tarrant Fendley.

  5. David M. Bynog says:

    With the upcoming Winter Olympics, perhaps you can feature some of Rice’s Olympic athletes. Or at least talk about Fred Hansen in your next pole vaulting post.

  6. john wolda says:

    Fiberglass poles were introduced in the US in 1956. Fred Hansen broke the World record 3 times in 1964 and won the gold that year.He was a Bob Quin Award winner.

    Okey doke was first introduced in print in 1932 and is spelled many different ways.

  7. Kenneth Weiss says:

    Hi Melissa,

    I pole vaulted my freshman year of high school. I then realized I wasn’t very good and switched to distance running. What’s interesting about the photos is to consider that the poles were very stiff until the early 1950s. At that time flexible poles were introduced.


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