A Mystery From the Vault

The mysterious dark doorway down at the end of this row is the entrance to the Woodson’s vault:

What’s in there is top secret, of course, so secret that sometimes even we don’t know what’s what. Here’s a current head scratcher, an artifact discovered just the other day in an unlabeled box:

A closer look:

I know one of you knows what this is. Tell, please.

Bonus: Death watch is on. The rest of them, I must say look remarkably good, as healthy as I’ve ever seen them. Fine work by the Rice arborist!



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35 Responses to A Mystery From the Vault

  1. Sandy Havens says:

    I have long been intrigued by the existence of two healthily groves of Italian cypress in two small Texas towns, both in cemeteries. One is on the north bank of the Rio Grande in Del Rio; the other is in San Saba.

  2. Grungy says:

    The label in the dial doesn’t map to my (perhaps faulty) memory of it in action.
    Pretty sure only Chris Reed used hot glue in such an elegant way.
    It doesn’t look like Bob Puckette’s writing.
    How do we get Chris’ attention to ask?

  3. grungy1973 says:

    Unlabeled? Surely not…

  4. William says:

    To fill in folks who might not recognize the pieces, this just looks like the guts of a standard-ish 500-series dial telephone, albeit with the receiver hook of a princess ™ phone. The label on the dial says “RMC Desk” and Grungy identified the hot glue as in the style of Chris Reed. That dates it to perhaps the early 1970s. The handwriting certainly did not come from Bob.

    FYI: Several engineers who passed through ktru had their preferences in adhesives. Evidently Chris Reed was Mr. Hot Glue. Someone else was Mr. Silicon Seal, and I think Bob may have been Mr. Dual-tube epoxy. I didn’t have an adhesive of choice.

    • grungy1973 says:

      A regular wall phone switch-hook, not Princess.
      I thought all of the Princess phones were desk units, an elliptical base.

    • Matthew Noall says:

      Did anyone like the Dow Corning rtv ( the electronics grade version using alcohol rather than acetic acid as the vulcanizing agent)? I am partial to that (geek time here)

      • grungy1973 says:

        The first-gen Shuttle SEMU’s (translate: space suit) blue glove finger caps and boot soles were made of RTV-630. It’s two-part, cures a lot better above room temperature, may not cure at all if it is contaminated with anything, and off-gasses basically nothing during cure and in a hard vacuum.
        NASA moved on from it, because we were always having to repair little nicks and cuts.

  5. Tom Hix says:

    Treichler would know

  6. Christian Castellani says:

    Frustrating that you can’t read the full phone number… it’d be fun to dial it and see who picks up!

  7. Marie Brannon says:

    It looks like the remnants of an old wall phone. We had one like that behind the circulation desk at Fondren in the early 1970s. I think it was on the wall next to the door of the room where the book shelvers picked up their daily book trucks. That room was just across the ‘hall’ from the keypunch machine. Reminds me of Mr. McCool who worked in the book bindery on the fifth floor. Great memories.

  8. Richard Schafer says:

    Isn’t the real question why this patched together phone was considered worth preserving in the vault?

    • grungy1973 says:

      It displays the ingenuity of students to craft a communications tool in an era when we were not the owners of communications tools. Back then, telephones remained the property of the Western Electric and the Bell System, and we were only allowed to rent them. This was built from the remnants of a phone that the Bell System discarded.
      That, and the Woodson staff found it amusing.

  9. Chris Reed says:

    Ramsay Elder saw this thread and forwarded it to me.

    This does look vaguely familiar. I am pretty sure it is my handwriting. In 1975 +/- 1 Rice changed from MaBell equipment to the recently deregulated Fisk telephone company. It upgraded the switch as well as the desk sets, so it replaced the interrupter dial with true touch-tone dialing. MaBell abandoned the old equipment and a few enterprising students grabbed some of it (it saved Rice/Fisk the trouble of uninstalling and disposing it).

    I worked at the information desk at the RMC and maintained the soft drink machines in the basement on the way to Willy’s Pub/KTRU. If I recall, the plan was to install an extension phone from the desk inside the drink machine so that if the phone rang while filling the machine it could be answered. A standard wall phone did not fit, so it was ‘re-packaged’. Just for fun it also had to be made from junk parts. I don’t remember if I ever got around to installing it. I don’t recall who else was involved in the project, possibly Phil Walters, Bob “Momo” Mosely, and/or Robert Barnwell Elliot Puckette. I am pretty certain it was fully functional.

    I also don’t remember being excessive with hot glue. It is a nice material; but I only ever used it in a non-glutinous manner and very responsibly. In this case it was so if you were brushing up against it while filling the machine and a call came in one wouldn’t get blasted by the ring signal (not fatal, but it did get your attention). Maybe I am remembering installing it…

    FYI, I also built another minimal phone. It had both rotary dial and a touch tone pad. The bell was a flashing neon light (attached with hot glue) and a rocker hook switch. I still have this today and it still works. I mostly used it at Rice in the steam tunnels or doing other things that I am sure I was not supposed to be doing.

    I have pictures of it but I can’t seem to post them in a comment. I sent them to the last known address I had for Grungy. If he gets them and can do it he can post the pictures.

  10. marmer01 says:

    The improvised belt phone is genius.

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