HMRC Thursday: RFK at Rice, 1959

We’re all familiar with the pictures of John F. Kennedy delivering his moonshot speech at Rice stadium. They’re iconic images. But today in the Houston Post photo archives at the HMRC I was surprised to find pictures of his brother Bobby visiting campus in the fall of 1959. He was best known at the time as the chief counsel for the Senate Labor Rackets Committee, a post he would soon resign to work on his brother’s presidential campaign. He was on campus to speak at the Rice Associates dinner, which was held that year in Cohen House. Before the dinner he visited with President Houston in what was then the president’s conference room:

(I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t mention that I’ve talked about those chairs before.)

And of course you have to have your picture taken by the fireplace in Dr. Houston’s office:

Media coverage:

Bonus: The Julia Ideson Building lampposts are similar but not identical to ours. I wouldn’t be surprised if they came from the same manufacturer. It might be possible to figure that out.


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Pajama Time, 1960

I had a very busy day today, full of fun but exhausting. I’m going to turn in. Catch y’all in the morning.

Bonus: From the printmaking studio.

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The First Studio Art Building, 1966

The Woodson recently received a painting by Peter Sartorius ’68. We are very grateful to him. It’s a lovely little work and it’s notable because it depicts an important and almost completely forgotten piece of Rice history:

This is the first home of the studio art program and the haunt of David Parsons, who taught many classes there. I’ll let Mr. Sartorius tell about it himself:

My contribution to the Class of 1968 Golden Reunion commemorative publication included mention of a small watercolor/ink drawing I did in 1966 of Rice’s original art studio. It was located in a small, rickety steel building tucked among the trees near the Old Rice Stadium. I was an architecture student at the time and the art courses were then a part of the School of Architecture. All the drawing/sculpture courses I took from Professor David Parsons were located in this building. I also took many of the art history courses taught by Professor Katherine (Tsanoff) Brown. I soon discovered that I enjoyed the life drawing and art history courses, as well as doing renderings of campus buildings, more than the courses required in the architecture curriculum. Long story short, a few disillusioned architecture students began discussing the possibility of establishing an art major at Rice. Soon thereafter, a curriculum was developed by Professors Brown and Parsons, with input from several “archi” students, including myself, interested in an art major option. Once the curriculum was accepted by the University, I believe I may have been the first to declare an art major at Rice.

When I originally contacted Professor Karin Broker, then chair of Visual and Dramatic Arts, she said “This period [of the art program] is sorely missing from our archive of memories.” Recently, Lee Pecht, University Archivist and Director of Special Collections, indicated that my little painting could be the only historical record of this original studio building. Anecdotally, this painting was done on a whim after a life drawing class, spurred by the consistent interest of the cross country track team in running past the building during our life drawing sessions. Go figure!

To the best of my knowledge there exist a couple of pictures where you can see one or another corner of this building but this is by far the clearest view of it we have.

Bonus: I can’t tell you how happy I am that we’ve honored Ralph O’Connor by naming the street by the tennis center for him. I also have to admit that I think Entrance 17 Drive is a pretty snappy name too. I wish I’d thought of it myself.

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Through the Foyer

Regular readers will surely recall that from time to time I will whine about how people take the same pictures over and over again. Through ten decades there’s been an uninterrupted stream of images of students and their relatives posing in front of Lovett Hall, etc. Only rarely does someone do something interesting like turn around and take a picture of the loading dock, which is exactly what I’d like to see. When that does happen (see for example David Davidson ’57, Maxwell Reade ’40, and Neil Brennan)  I use every bit of it, like a hunter who uses every piece of the buffalo.

Another example is the entry to Fondren. There are a few pictures in the Woodson of the outside of the front door and multiple images of the main circulation area taken at pretty regular intervals over the years. I believe a while back we decided that this one must have been taken in the mid-70s:

What’s been completely missing, though, is the piece in between, what I guess you’d call the foyer, where the front desk is today. The only pictures of it I’ve ever seen were the ones I took myself. Then last week I was trying to find some construction shots of the back wing of the library and this slipped out from between two larger prints:

It’s undated but based on the material it was with I believe it was early in the building’s life, maybe let’s call it circa 1950. It looks rather barren, no?

Bonus: In a real upset it wasn’t an Italian cypress that fell over today.

Extra Bonus: Willy got re-laquered and I had a chance to renew my acquaintance with the guys who did the work, the same lovely guys who did it seven years ago. As I’ve said before, if you stay around here long enough you’ll see everything twice.

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HMRC Thursday: Tidelands, 1958-59

When I arrived at Rice in 1991 the old Tidelands Motel had been the Graduate House for some time already. A grim, ill-lighted building, it also had a weird, scruffy sort of charm. I’ve heard people talk about its early days as a fashionable place but it seemed hard to credit. This picture makes it look better than it was:

But pictures in the Houston Post photo archives at the HMRC do reveal a Tidelands that was actually–of all things–glamorous! Here, with the motel sign above them, are the Miss Photoflash contestants at the Tidelands pool in October, 1958. It doesn’t look like it was too cold:

There was a different sort of entertainment inside the building. I recently came across negatives of Jonathan Winters performing at the Tidelands in January, 1959:


Bonus: The outside of the Julia Ideson Building at the downtown library. This is where the HMRC is located. It’s a pleasure to work there.

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“the invisible value of sewing” 1958

I was quite tickled when I came across this little invitation to a needlepoint exhibition and a tea in the faculty club to meet the artist. What, I thought, could possibly be sweeter, or more old fashioned?

Knowing Mrs. Owen, though, I should have thought twice. I certainly did not see needlepoints of steel mill blast furnaces coming:

A wonderful article about Mrs. Johnstone and these needlepoints in particular can be found here. It’s quite a story.

I once again find myself admiring the willingness of the Rice community and especially Fondren to embrace an ambitious, curious, and forward-looking program of cultural exhibitions during the middle decades of the century. Once we had the new library building in place they used that Lecture Lounge hard.

Bonus: I don’t know what this is about. The statue was cleaned and refinished not that long ago, just before the centennial if I recall correctly.



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Horn Section, no date

No identifications either. And it doesn’t seem right that such good looking horn players should be without names. I’m hoping someone will know who they are and when this was taken:

Bonus: Faithful reader Alan Shelby sends this great picture of sleek, healthy Italian cypresses in Charleston, South Carolina. Note that they seem to be growing out of little patches of dirt in the middle of a sidewalk rather than a heavily watered lawn.


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