Telephone Booth, 1930’s

Here’s the picture that led me to drag my bemused family all over campus on New Year’s Day. I know from context that it was taken sometime in the early to mid-1930s. It’s not a very good photograph–it’s a bit of a blob–which allowed me to overlook it in the past. When I ran across it again right before Christmas break, however, it stopped me cold.

Phone booth mid30s

What the heck? I’ve never seen that phone booth before. Where could it possibly be??

At first glance there doesn’t seem to be much to go on, but that first impression turns out to be wrong. It’s clearly in a corner and that corner is right next to a doorway. That still doesn’t sound promising, but let me tell you something I learned while looking for this spot: when you go out and inspect every building that was standing on campus in the 1930s, you will find that there are almost no two doorways the same. The patterns of stone and brick and the material and cut of the door jambs and headers vary wildly even on the same building. (Again I marvel at the Physics Building. Next time you have a chance go look at the three doors that face the quad.) The problem, though, was that while I could eliminate doorway after doorway, I couldn’t find the right one.

By Friday I was nearly berserk. Sadly, I could hardly think about anything else. I went back and started again from the beginning. Finally, in desperation, I began to look inside the buildings even though I was sure it had been taken outside. You just don’t see stone like that on Rice interiors. (This was kind of amusing, by the way, as most of the buildings were locked and I had to work hard to get in.) Nothing, nothing, nothing. And then there it was. I took this next picture through a back window of locked South Hall (aka Will Rice):

Will Rice through window

Luckily, Joyce, the Will Rice Coordinator, was in her office and she graciously unlocked the door for me. Here’s a close-up of the corner:

Will Rice phone booth spot

Trust me; it’s the same spot. Every single crack is in the right place.

Of course, I immediately began to wonder if there’s any other shred of evidence that there had been a phone booth in South Hall in the early 1930s. In fact, there is. Here’s a charming glimpse of student life from the December 21, 1934 issue of the Thresher:

South Hall phone booth

Now I can rest.

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10 Responses to Telephone Booth, 1930’s

  1. Bill Peebles '70 says:

    Are the phone booths in the RMC still there?

  2. Karl Benson says:

    Melissa, I could have saved you a lot of time! When I opened your post I knew instantly where that photograph was taken. I made many calls home (reverse the charges, please) from that very booth during my ’58-’59 freshman year before we got a phone in our room (a real luxury in those days.)

  3. My parents were at Rice then, and my dad lived in West Hall. Knowing him, he was probably in on all of the exciting action.

  4. That looks like the side of the building towards Baker. If so, that’s a bit odd, because when I was there (1975…), the phones were on the side towards WRC new dorm.

    • Mark Williamson says:

      I agree, that’s the side toward Baker, but I think there was still a phone booth there in the mid-late 1960s. Not sure whether the phone worked, though.

  5. Bill Johnson 57-58 says:

    I also immediately thought of the phone booth in South Hall which I used occasionally.

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