In the fall of 1934 the Rice campus went wild for football. They did this because we had a winner for the first time in a very long time. (This squad won the Southwest Conference championship and I wrote about the strange story of their trophy a few years ago.) Human nature being what it is, everyone became a fan. Here’s a nice image from Mary Jane Hale Rommel’s scrapbook showing the victorious Owls at the downtown train station, returning after their win at Purdue. This early season win was the one that created the tantalizing possibility that they might be good. Their homecoming drew a big crowd:
What I really got a kick out of, though, was another souvenir of this win. It was several pages away from the photograph and I didn’t notice what it was until my third time through the book. It’s not easy to read the caption but it says “Byron’s rose from Tony, Rice gardener, upon his return from Purdue.” And that’s exactly what it is:
I’ve talked about Tony Martino several times, both as a fanatical Rice athletics booster and as a gardener. I’ve caught a few glimpses of his famous rose garden over the years, including this one, but it never occurred to me that I might one day wind up with one of his roses:
It’s not hard to imagine how happy Tony must have been after so many rotten seasons and I’d guess he handed out a rose to each of his boys. Here’s Byron by the way, a handsome lad:
My father-in-law, Dr H ONicholas was the Rice Athletic Director in 1934 when the Owls won their first SWC football championship.
1934, the year in which I and probably John Wolda were born.
(P.S. John, Henry Aaron was born that same year, I think [?])
Byron Williams was my father-in-law. I matriculated at Rice with the Class of 1963. At Rice I met Byron’s daughter, Mary Byron Williams ’64. We married in 1965. Our daughter is Leigh Byron Peden Straughn Rice ’95. Whether one of Leigh’s four sons becomes a fourth generation of the Byron Williams family at Rice may depend on what happens to Rice tuition over the next 5 or 6 years. Their father is an Aggie.
Thanks so much for writing, Jim. Any idea why his nickname was “fashion plate?” I’m assuming that since he was an engineer, it was ironic.
I am told it was because he was so well dressed and photogenic in all of his pictures. You can confirm this from the annuals for his years at Rice. Class of ’37, I believe
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