The reason I was so taken with Neil Brennan’s scrapbook in the first place was the quality of the photographs. They’re quite artfully composed but beyond that they are just flat out interesting. He took pictures of things that other people didn’t, he hung out windows and turned around and photographed what was behind him. Here’s one that left me slack jawed. It’s labeled “Hooper’s trail to Rice”:
I have looked at this for quite some time now and I almost think I understand it. He was not on campus when he took it, but rather across Rice Boulevard walking towards school. That’s the back of the Power House at left and the Chemistry tower at right. If you zoom in you can see what look like the roofs of two cars just to the left of where the trail disappears–that must be Rice Boulevard, no? And the line of trees are then the oaks on the south side of the street.
I had to scour a ridiculous number of aerial photos before I found one where I think you can see the path. It always seemed to be tantalizingly out of reach. This one came out of Jim Sim’s papers and it looks like it was taken in roughly the same era as Brennan’s shot–late ’30s to early ’40s, when Sims, ’41 was also a student at Rice. You can see it even without zooming in, right off the back of the power house across the street. Even the telephone poles in the first picture, which had initially bothered me, are just barely visible here if you do decide to take a closer look:
So why was it called Hooper’s Trail?
I don’t have the first idea.
Bonus: For more musing about the career of Neil Brennan, try this post by my friend Patrick Kurp. It’s good.