Familiar Faces, 1948

Many times I’ve lamented the way that loyal and long-serving staff members quietly disappear from the records and memory of this university. Even putting aside the fact that we can only do our work because of theirs, staff members are often the very people who bring kindness and humanity to the experience of students in a setting that can sometimes be rather harsh. So when I find something that brings some of them back into our view I feel obligated to share it. <end of rant>

This is a page from a publication that ran during the 1940s called The Owl and these three gentlemen seem to reflect exactly the kind of warmth and friendliness that I’m talking about. (Although I know better than to apply today’s standards to yesterday, I am slightly grieved that they didn’t mention Tony Martino’s last name.)

Based on the dates and the job description I believe Mr. Foster was the replacement for George Perkins, who was eulogized by Dr. Lovett here. In particular I’m interested in Foster’s role as carrier of university mail, which is something I’ve wondered about for a long time. (See here, for example.) Another interesting thing to note is the reference to Tony’s sweet potatoes–he really did grow sweet potatoes and many other vegetables as well as flowers out on the western part of campus. Most of these were sold in town, which would probably be some sort of heinous tax violation these days.



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“Duly received in good condition,” 1910

Here’s another bit of arcana that turned up in Ray Strange’s collection, a letter from Dr. Lovett’s secretary acknowledging receipt of some trees:

It seems like a rather odd list, nothing native, perhaps all meant as experiments. Aside from the doomed Italian cypresses there are some fairly exotic cedars, some palms, and bamboo. I’d wager that this shipment was the source of the palms that thrived behind the Physics Amphitheater for many years:

Otherwise, though, I have no recollection of seeing any of the others on campus. Maybe someone at the Lynn Lowrey Arboretum could chime in.

The real mystery here, though, is this: who on earth was Mr. Gillespie and why would he send us trees from California? I don’t have one single clue.

Bonus: MFAH original building, designed by Rice professor William Ward Watkin.

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Friday Follies on Thursday: All Hope Abandon, circa 1970

I’ll be out tomorrow so we’ll have to have our foolishness today. This is from a spectacular collection that we recently received from a former Campanile photographer.


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Me and My Mom, Both on the Roof

My mom passed away one year ago and I’ve been slowly making my way through the photographs she left behind. This has been wonderful, although mixed with the certain knowledge that the owl of minerva does indeed take flight at dusk, that we only acquire wisdom at the moment it’s too late to do anything about it. One of the great blessings of this process is that my mother not only labeled but also annotated many of the pictures, often noting what I good little girl I was. (Editor’s Note: I still am!) I was taken aback, however, by a series of pictures of her and her rascally friends unexpectedly up on top of a house sometime in the mid-1940s. Here she is, obviously full of mischief:

This seized my attention for a particular reason. When I was a (good) little girl, the house my family lived in was put together in such a way as to make it easy for an energetic lass to scale the side and get up on the roof. Every time she caught me my mother yelled, vigorously, insisting that my recklessness would lead directly to pain for me and inconvenience for her when she would inevitably be forced to drive me to the hospital. (This warning was not completely without merit, by the way.)

So you can see why I would be surprised to catch her up there herself.

Must be something in the gene pool.

Keep climbing, y’all.


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The Rice Hotel, c1909

There’s a pretty good sized collection back in the vault that consists of materials gathered by Ray Watkin Hoagland Strange ’36 about the career of her father, William Ward Watkin. I kind of knew those boxes were back there but I assumed they were full of copies of things we had elsewhere in the original. It turns out I was wrong, at least partly. There are copies to be sure, but also much material I’d never seen before. (Ray was nothing if not thorough.)

One of the surprises I encountered there was this photograph of a downtown street scene in front of the Rice Hotel:

It’s labeled “1909 or 1910” which if accurate suggests that it was taken by Watkin in the very early days of what would become his life-long association with the Rice Institute.

The only way I can think to date it is the cars.

Calling Marty Merritt!

Bonus: The campus looks just wonderful right now. It’s always well manicured but recently there’s been a lot of rain and the heat of summer hasn’t yet set in so every walk is a joyful experience of lovely lush greenery. You’ve got to enjoy it while it lasts.

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The Dedication of the George R. Brown School of Engineering, 1975

These two images came out of the same file folder, entitled “George R. Brown School Dedication.” Both are odd and I’m struggling to see how they might relate to each other.

First, this looks like Mr. Brown is leading a game of musical chairs or possibly someone has lost a contact lens:

And second, I don’t even have a good guess:

I thought at first it might be a protest (which were still current in those days), then I saw the trombone. So it’s the band, in street clothes, a guy in uniform with a bullhorn and the fellow in the plaid sport coat. They don’t look to be anywhere near engineering.

I don’t have a theory and am open to the idea that this second one was misfiled years ago.

Bonus: I caught one of those herons in flight over by Brown today.



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Friday Follies: Build That Wall? 1917

I’m pretty aggressively uninterested in domestic partisan politics but when a researcher showed me this picture from Jimmy Waters’ (’17) scrapbook I couldn’t help but laugh:

It wasn’t on the border, alas, but at Ft. Bullis near San Antonio.

Bonus: A small scene from the cleanup of Space Science.


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