Some Answers!

Things are looking up. First, in the comments from yesterday’s post is this nice piece of work from Cameron Cooper, who I believe has located the handball courts in the 1946(7) aerial:

There’s definitely an elevated rectangular structure about where the handball court is shown to be. Look just above and to the right of the bridge (on “the road back”) that passes over the gully (“the blue danube”) right outside the old stadium. A pale rectangle casting a shadow. Hard to say with the overexposure, but probably a flat roof. Matches perfectly with the handball courts.

Doesn’t look that big next to the stadium, but it’s a decent-sized building. About as wide as the Baker old wing. Appears to be a light-colored path (gravel?) going down to the main path, a little left of center. There also appears to be an ad hoc path running to it from the “West Hall”.

Next, looking through old Threshers I found this fall 1945 article about the rifle range that is so perfect it almost can’t be true. It not only tells us exactly where it is–hidden, as we suspected, in the trees just north of the handball courts near the top curve of the stadium–but also describes the interior and the activities that took place inside it:

Firing Range August 1945

I kept turning pages and up popped this article from February 1945, evidence that all that practice paid off:

Rifle team February 1945 1Rifle Team 1945 2

Finally, between Grungy and Marty I think we’ve established that the mysterious oval where the BRC is today was indeed a pony ride. I’d be able to rest easy if I only knew who Mrs. Hardy was.

I’ll show you the 1956 aerial next week. I didn’t expect so much progress in one day–it’s not normal.

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20 Responses to Some Answers!

  1. marmer01 says:

    I agree about Mrs. Hardy being a cook. Didn’t there used to be a staff list somewhere where you wouldn’t reasonably expect it, like the General Announcements? I just looked in ’46 and didn’t see one.

  2. almadenmike says:

    Mrs. Hardy was the wife of W.C. Hardy. The Thresher story of their retirement in 1956 (11 May 1956 issue, p.1), said he managed the Rice residence halls since 1919, and she had been in charge of food services since 1943. In the photo, she looks much younger than her husband. (Might she have been his second wife? A list in the Sept 27, 1929, Thresher (p.6) lists a Mrs. Hardy as librarian in the Chemistry Department.) An article in the Oct 6, 1961 Thresher (p. 7) said Mrs.W.C. Hardy was then director of food services for Sammy’s and Cohen House.

    None of the articles included a first name for Mrs. Hardy.

  3. effegee says:

    I wonder if the “pony ride” is an earlier home of the old “Kiddie Wonderland” that was further out Main Street from the mid-1950s until the early 1990s? IIRC they were near the corner of Main and Kirby where Kroger is today. They had a pony track of roughly that shape along with a bunch of carnival-type rides — train, boats, Buck-Rogers-type spaceships, cars.

    When my children were riding on those rides in the late 1980s, I mentioned to a former Rice colleague that I recalled riding the ponies and rides in the second half of the 1950s. She told me that she had ridden them when she was a child. With the roughly 20 years difference in our ages, that would have been in the 1930s. At that time, Main and Kirby would have been waaay out in the country if indeed the intersection even existed yet. I wonder if they then occupied the land where the Tidelands and BRC would eventually be built?

    • I am inclined to believe the same thing. Probably they moved when the Tidelands was developed. But the oval was still there in ’57, and I wonder if KW was already out by Kirby by then? Of course the old pony track might still have survived a few years until the land was cleared for the Tidelands.

    • Mark Williamson says:

      The narrator of the Ham Slice 21A video linked earlier clearly thought that Kiddie Wonderland had been down past the bayou from the 1936 beginning. “…it was a drive of a few miles back to where the city ended near Rice…”. Of course, he said “Rice University,” so his timeline may not be all that reliable.

      • Richard Miller (Hanszen '75 & '76) says:

        no sign of it in the 1944 photo. nothing on the north side of the intersection but it looks like the resturant is on the south side (Guido’s I think)

  4. marmer01 says:

    In Google Earth, the view labeled 1944 clearly shows the “pony track oval” and one carousel or other round tent. And maybe a filling station building.

    • effegee says:

      I think Rick was talking about the future intersection of Main and Kirby. In the 1944 view, the future Main/Kirby intersection has a building with a parking lot. I think that was Kaphan’s… at least that was where it was located in 1973. (Gaido’s was further out Main in both the 1944 and 1953 images where Murworth eventually would be cut through between Buffalo Speedway and Kirby (Astrodome).

      The 1953 image of the still future Main/Kirby intersection shows a small oval track on the NW corner about the same size of the one still existing on the SW corner of Main/University. The Main/Kirby site does not appear to have as much development as the Main/University site.

      My earliest contact with Kiddie Wonderland would have been after the middle of 1955 when my grandparents moved to the Willowbend area (further out Main). I definitely recall going there before my parents moved to a neighboring subdivision in 1958 and a few times thereafter.

      What’s really interesting is the number of oval tracks in the Main/Kirby area in the 1953 image. They’re all over the place in all sizes.

      • Richard Miller (Hanszen '75 & '76) says:

        Right, Kaphan’s (Guido’s was a bit south of there.). I am thinking that Kiddie Wonderland appeared sometime betweeb 1944 and 1953.

  5. marmer01 says:

    Upon further review, you’re right. My apologies to Rick for misunderstanding. What could the ovals be? Playland Park, maybe? Go-kart tracks? Was there cut-throat pony ride competition?

    • effegee says:

      Dunno. My recollection was that there was some kind of auto racing track associated with Playland Park but I’m having trouble placing it on the east side of Main. I think I see the trailer park that was on that side of the street south of 90-A/O.S.T. But I thought Playland was south of the trailer park.

      What’s really striking is the large oval immediately south of Kaphan’s on the west side of the street. Unlike the even larger oval-ish structure a little further south, the one behind Kaphan’s looks like a racetrack.

  6. A little searching on HAIF makes it clear that there was a lot of auto racing out South Main way. Arrowhead Park at Main and OST (originally a horse track), Meyer Speedway, and the track at Playland Park, which closed down in 1959 after the owner was killed in a racing accident. There may have been others.

    • loki_the_bubba says:

      Meyer Speedway was way out at Main and Hillcroft. I could listen to the races through my window in Westbury South back in the 60s. You can still see a faint outline on google maps between Butler Stadium and Hillcroft.

  7. I don’t know Mrs. Hardy’s first name, but she was known to us students as “Ma” Hardy (whether this was a term of affection or wry irony I don’t know). She was in charge of the food service during the one year I lived on campus (East Hall, 1954-55). I have always had a good appetite, but the Commons food was just barely edible, and I lost about 10 pounds during my freshman year. The only good meals we had were on Sunday evening, when the Commons did not serve. It was during my freshman year that there was a massive outbreak of diarrhea in the dorms, which led to a food riot when the official excuse was that students were just over anxious because it was just before mid-term final exams. One of the more spectacular dishes was jello, so elastic that you could throw a chunk of it into the air and it would bounce back up several feet when it hit the floor.

    • effegee says:

      Ah… then the stories in 1969 about that paneling in the Baker Commons hiding stains on the walls from food “riots” were true and not just an urban legend.

      • Indeed they are true. Rice was a pretty wild place at times back in the 50s.

      • almadenmike says:

        Food riots have a very long history at Rice.

        There’s this account in a letter postmarked January 15, 1916 ( from Otto Eisenlohr to his girlfriend (and future wife) Gainor Roberts:

        “We had a grub fight tonight. They didn’t give us anything for dinner but chile, spuds and beans.Things were quiet until everyone got a taste of the chile and then spuds began flying freely. Everybody even some of the profs crawled under the tables. Finally they started waving their napkins as a sign of truce. Maybe we’ll get something to eat tomorrow.”

        The May 25, 1918, Thresher (page 2) ( featured a long indictment of the Commons kitchen sanitation and food quality, including this small section:

        “… a segmented specimen of worm was found in some pudding, a chicken feather four or five Inches long was found in a piece of apple pie; black specks of dirt, pieces of paper or straw, and other foreign materials are commonly found in the sugar and the salt; potatoes that are moidy have often been served: rancid butter …has become a practice for several days past; the meat is often not freed from parts that are removed by even the most careless market-men; unwashed glasses, pitchers, and silverware are a regular part of the program; potatoes baked with cheese always have a blackish iayer of material at the iower portion; the “milk” is a watery joke. … Do you wonder that even well ordered college students have twice been driven to inexcusiably destructive food riots?”

        A Dec. 9, 1955, Thresher article about the venerable George R. Brown ( even mentioned his possibly involvement: “Rumors have appeared from time to time which have asserted that he also started the first Rice food riot. But while he doesn’t lay claim to that distinction himself, he admits that he probably didn’t do much towards stopping it.”

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