Ray Strange

Duration: 57Mins 21Secs
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Uncorrected Transcript

Interview with:  Ray Strange
Interviewed by:  Barry Moore  
Date:  March 4, 2009




BM:     This is March 4, 2009.  We are interviewing today Mrs. Ray Strange in her residence in Houston, Texas.  My name is Barry Moore.   Well, Ray, I wanted to ask you about some of your earliest memories of Houston when you were living at 5009 Caroline.

RS:       Houston, when I was a little girl, was just about a 10 block square around 5009 Caroline Street and in that neighborhood were many Rice professor families.  When Rice opened, all the faculty families were young and many of them having recently married, they all began to have children, so all the faculty children sort of grew up together in that neighborhood.  The McCants lived across the street and the Sanoffs (sp?) lived around the block.  Dr. Griffith Evans was a mathematician.  Albert Guerrar (sp?) lived in that neighborhood.  I had lots of playmates from the Rice faculty children.

BM:     Well, that sounds like a wonderful place to grow up.  That is close to the neighborhood now known as the Binz.  The Binz neighborhood, right around there.  The Claytons were close by.

RS:       The Claytons were 2 blocks away.  Julia Clayton was a playmate of ours.

BM:     But then you spent a lot of time on the Rice campus.

RS:       Well, not . . . unless I was taken by Daddy and Mother but other events . . . when they would have graduation commencements, a graduation parade, the faculty coming in – Mother would take me as a little girl to sit there to watch Daddy come marching in with the faculty.  So Rice very quickly became familiar to me as a child.  It, of course, was much smaller then but at that time, it looked quite big.  The Faculty Club had not been built but the faculty members met, had meetings, at faculty homes.  They went from one home to another.  The McCants family was the closest, right across the street on Caroline.  How much do you want me to tell you?

BM:     I also wanted to ask you . . . I had read in the wonderful book that you had a lot to do with, William Ward Watkin and the Rice Institute written by Pat Nicholson that . . .

RS:       Well, I told him everything . . .

BM:     You told him everything he put in the book; that your father was instrumental in starting archi-arts in 1922.

RS:       Well, of course, I was a child then and I did not see that but Stayton Nunn became a student, architectural student and then a professor at Rice.  He was the first king of arch-arts and it was 1922 at the Autry House.

BM:     At Autry House?  I want to come back to Autry House but then later when you attended Rice, I read that you were queen.

RS:       Oh, that was very miniscule and not important.  It was one of the archi-arts balls and I was a senior and I did not know all the architects but I think more or less it was an honor they made me queen.  It was a very short-lived honor.

BM:     Also, I know you knew all these people very well but your father had long relationships and fine relationships with his students who then graduated and became practicing architects in Houston.  You mentioned Stayton.

RS:       Yes, especially those who went for 5 years and 1 or 2 for master’s degrees.

BM:     And Stayton Nunn was one of those?

RS:       Stayton Nunn was one of Daddy’s closest friends.  Stayton got on the faculty at Rice.  Daddy asked him to come.

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BM:     And then, Milton McGinty.

RS:       Milton McGinty was another one.  They were the class of the 1920s, I think, the late 1920s.

BM:     Your father started a traveling scholarship at Rice on design competition for architectural students and . . .

RS:       The traveling scholarship was started just as the Depression was starting and the first two winners went abroad for nearly one year each.  I think it was Claude Hooton and Milton McGinty.  Or maybe Milton McGinty first.

BM:     And then Claude Hooton.

RS:       The Depression did finally slow down the traveling scholarship.  I think they had to skip a few years and then go back and continue it.

BM:     You also mentioned to me that growing up, your family often would go to Europe in the summertime.

RS:       Well, I went twice in 10 years.

BM:     Oh, twice in 10 years?

RS:       Well, really, from the time we were all born . . . the youngest of us, my brother, was born in 1919 and as soon as my brother was about 4 years old, we went out to Europe the first time and stayed for 3 months with a lady who had a house in Normandy.  We placed on the beach all summer while Daddy and Mother traveled.  That was very much fun and it helped us learn French.

BM:     That sounds perfect.  Do you have any memories of the ______.

RS:       No, I am mistaken. That was before Daddy . . . well, Daddy did not go to that after he married.  That was before Daddy married.

BM:     That’s right. And as a matter of fact, I think your mother was . . .

RS:       He may have met her . . .

BM:     He met her at the _______.

RS:       She was a debutante from San Antonio.

BM:     What was Kincaid School like when you were going?

RS:       That is a good story.  I went to Mrs. Kincaid’s School when she was still in her old house on Elgin or Austin – about that neighborhood, and it was a two story house and a dirt playground all around it and I was entered in a high second grade.  Mother had taught me the first grade at home and I guess she thought she had taught me part of the second grade but they took me in, in a high second grade and I was 7  years old.  I stayed there . . . how old was I then?  I was born in 1915.  That would be in 1922, wouldn’t it?  Seven years old.  During my years at Mrs. Kincaid’s old house, she was encouraged to build a new school by the trustees – Mr. Blaffer and others – so my father volunteered to be the architect for the new school.  They built the new school on Richmond Avenue and Graustark and it opened about 1924. We all then moved, all 3 children, into the school in 1924, we went to school there.

BM:     I remember that building.

RS:       Yes, it was considered quite elegant in 1924.

BM:     Which reminds me of some of the other commissions of your father in Houston.  I wanted to ask you about Trinity Church.  That was your church?

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RS:       Well, I was first born and raised at Christ Church.  Trinity Church did not exist.  Christ Church was the biggest Episcopal church.  Daddy had me christened there.  They had may fates (??) and things like that and I was in those at Christ Church.  But then, as time went by, the need for another Episcopal church became obvious and by 1919, Daddy had finished building – he got a contract to build Trinity Episcopal Church on Main and Holman and it opened in 1919.  After that, when I went to Sunday school, it would be there.

BM:     And then after that, he designed Palmer Church?

RS:       So then in 1927, Mrs. Neville – they already had the Autry House – that had been built before, but in 1927, Mrs. E.L. Neville who had lost a beloved brother, was persuaded or decided to give money to have a church built in memory of her brother to be called Palmer Chapel right next to the Autry House on Main Street and Daddy designed that.

BM:     Was that your church then?

RS:       By that time, we were going to Trinity Church.  Palmer Chapel opened . . .

BM:     1927 sounds about right.

RS:       1927.

BM:     That sounds right. 

RS:       I was at Trinity Church then.

BM:     I wanted to ask you about the Houston Central Library, the Julia Ideson Library.

RS:       Do you have a date that that was built?

BM:     Yes.  The architects were selected in 1923 and the building opened and was dedicated in October 1926.

RS:       He worked on it the whole time and he enjoyed it.  Of course, it was just called the Houston Public Library then.  You could see his touch in the fact that it was sort of Italian Renaissance style.

BM:     I wanted to also ask you – this was part of a long association with Ralph Adams Cram?

RS:       Well, that came from his college days that he graduated University of Pennsylvania, I believe it was 1906 or maybe 1907, and when he applied, Ralph Adams Cram was one of the largest firms of architects in the country.  It was about 1907 when, on his own, he took a little architectural trip around England looking at churches and when he returned, Ralph Adams Cram went for an interview at Cram’s office in Boston and Cram employed him right away by 1908.  And one of the first jobs he got was working on the plans for Rice University.

BM:     What luck!  Did he accompany Cram on some of those early trips down here?

RS:       Cram made very few trips.  He made some trips but he never stayed long when he was . . . he came for the opening of Rice, yes, and after that, short trips but he never stayed long.  Cram liked living in Boston.

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BM:     Do you remember meeting him?

RS:       I probably did as a child but I do not really remember.  I was pretty young.

BM:     I heard you mention recently that on the Library, Cram just did a few drawings but I believe you said Daddy did most of the work.

RS:       When Daddy would design a building, ____ Cram with him, Cram just let Daddy take over the building of the building and seldom came for many visits.

BM:     Well, that speaks well to both of them because they trusted each other and knew the mind of each other as well.

RS:       Of course, the big building, of course, was Daddy coming to build Rice and that was in 1910 from Cram.  The plans were all drawn under his arm.  I think I told you – his first nice, he slept in the Rice Hotel which had lots of mosquitoes and only ceiling fans to keep you cool.

BM:     The old Rice Hotel.

RS:       You left the window open to stay cool, so the mosquitoes came in all night and you had mosquito nets on the bed.  So the first night Daddy was in Houston, he was a little uncomfortable, and the next morning early, 7:30 in the morning, Dr. Lovett came in a horse and buggy driven by himself, by Mr. Lovett, to pick up Daddy at the Rice Hotel and take him out to see where Rice would be built and as they went out towards the end of Main Street, of course, it got more narrow but it was paved.  I think it was paved somehow or another and deep ditches on each side, Dr. Lovett drove the horse and wagon and finally, when they got to the spot and stopped, it was August . . . Daddy came to Houston in August of 1910 . . . they had had several thunderstorms.  The entire land on which Rice was to be built was covered with water.  You could not see even any streets around it.  And, of course, there were no buildings around it much at all so it just looked like a big prairie.  And Daddy went back to the hotel and cabled as they did then, “Impossible to build this college in the middle of a lake.”  And Cram said two words back by telegram, “Drain it.”  It took about 1 year to really drain it properly but they went on with the construction.

BM:     That was a perfect rice farm.

RS:       Really started the construction in September.

BM:     But your grandmother came sometimes . . .

RS:       Well, because Daddy was a bachelor.  He had lived at home.  His father had died when Daddy was only about 6 years old so he lived with his mother and she lived with him.  They lived with aunt and uncle in Danville, Pennsylvania where Daddy was born.  Daddy then went to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and went on to live at _____, took a job in Boston and after that, he went to Houston.  He was an only child.

BM:     An only child?  But you knew your grandmother, I believe?

RS:       Oh, Grandmother came with him and we children all loved our grandmother.  She was quite a sweet, dear, old-fashioned grandmother.  Very content to be quiet.  She would tell us stories about Danville, Pennsylvania.  My father’s family, the Watkin family, came from England and settled in New York.  Grandmother met her husband in New York.  I think she had been there . . . they went for a visit.

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BM:     I have heard from some of his former students . . .

RS:       His father was named Frederick Watkin.

BM:     I have heard from some of his former students that your father never learned to drive.  Is that right?

RS:       My father, just like Dr. Lovett, drove a Model T Ford and so did Dr. Lovett.  But after they changed to the more modern car, neither Dr. Lovett nor my father ever drove a car again.

BM:     It was very different, yes.

RS:       The gear shift.

BM:     Yes, I used to have one.  They are different.  That is fine.  Let me skip to more recent days.  You have been very instrumental in starting the Rice archives and the Rice history . . .

RS:       Well, that started around 1950.  I had time . . . well, I made frequent trips to Houston and I became interested in the . . . I had always been interested in Rice’s history so whenever we would come and visit my stepmother who was a widow living here . . . Daddy died in 1951, and I came to visit her, stayed with her, but my days were spent out at Rice, and I could see the need . . . there was no one collecting Rice’s history as a project.  So, in an alumni office at Rice, they gave me a room where I could begin to collect books on the history of Rice and we could have meetings and save archives for the Rice Library.  That room got to be pretty full.  But finally, it all went over in a couple of years. We finally took it all over.  What year did the library open?

BM:     Fondren Library opened in 1948 or 1949, and I think everything was there because they . . .

RS:       Well, before it opened, we had started this collection so it must have been in the 1940s I started the collection.  And then, when it opened, of course, I gave it to Rice as the Watkin collection.

BM:     And that was sort of the large, big starting collection . . .

RS:       Well, of course, I worked with Pender Turnbull and she loved history, too, so she very carefully put Dr. Lovett’s books and my father’s papers in a specially secluded safe place and I kept adding to them.  They are there now.

BM:     I got to know her.  She was still working there.

RS:       Oh, she lived a long time and her whole life was the love of the Rice Library and books.

BM:     Yes, she gave me for a graduation present volume 1 of the Campanile, 1916, because she knew how much I liked it and it belonged to either her or to _____.

RS:       Oh, she treasured the history of that.  She was a jewel.

BM:     She was a wonderful person.

RS:       And finally, when it came time, Dr. Lovett retired and a new president came.  It happened so fast.  Dr. Lovett was moved into an office just below the president’s office and all of his books had been so beautifully kept – they would not let them keep the bookcases so, of course, it was decided that they should go to . . . had to wait until the new library was open but they gave the books to the new library.  What year did the new library open?

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BM:     I think 1948.  He retired in 1947 and that is when . . .

RS:       About 1 year.  That is right.  And for about 1 year, they kept them until the new Fondren Library was opened.

BM:     And then they moved there at the Lovett Library.

RS:       And that was a time I was doing a lot of volunteer work there.

BM:     And I think now, the Woodson Research Center – is that the same place where the Rice archives are kept in the library?

RS:       Yes, it was named the Woodson Research Center.  Most people did not know who Mr. Woodson was.  It was named for him, and there it still is.

BM:     Yes, and then, I remember the Rice Historical Society.

RS:       I helped start that.

BM:     I knew you helped start that.  You always wanted that.

RS:       Well, I started a little Rice historical . . . I started collecting Rice history and putting it in a room in the alumni office and that room became full of lots of Rice’s history, just Campaniles and old things, until the Fondren Library opened.  And then, it was decided to move it to the Fondren Library.

BM:     It is very active, the Rice Historical Society now.

RS:       All this time I was doing this work from 1960 on, I was living in Boston but I came home frequently and would stay a week or two and continue.  I was always going up and continuing to work with the Rice Library.

BM:     Have you visited the collection lately?

RS:       Well, is it sort of isolated?

BM:     Well, no, I think it is on the first floor of Fondren  Library.

RS:       Well, of course, I know Lee Pecken and he _____ Watkin.  He has those collections safely kept.

BM:     I want to go out and visit with him.  I have some things that I would like to give him.

RS:       He takes very good care of the history of Rice.

BM:     I wanted to ask you a little bit because I know nothing about him – what Nolan Barrick was like.

RS:       Well, he had gone to Reagan High School.  Of course, Nolan was there with all of us during the depths of the Depression but he lived at home and came to college and was an exceptionally good student and very honored to be able to get . . . Daddy was the one encouraging him to get their graduate degrees or a B.S. in architecture for 5 years and then later, a masters, and Nolan did that but meanwhile, while he was in school, he met my sister and he courted, I think from the time she was a freshman.  They were married in 1938. 

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BM:     From my point of view, that was a difficult thing about Rice – all the real nice and real pretty girls all got booked up when they were freshmen so the rest of us did not have a chance!

RS:       Rosemary finished her bachelor’s degree.  She was the class of 1938 and she married right after she graduated, right after her senior year.  Then, I guess, after the war is when they moved to Lubbock, after the war?

BM:     Yes, well, when he married her.  He was living in Austin, Texas, for a while.  He was teaching at University of Texas from there and then he went to war.  And then, he came back.  His job was with the University of Iowa.  He went on the faculty of the University of Iowa and stayed 2 or 3 years.  That is when they decided to adopt a baby and they adopted Bruce Barrick as their first child.

BM:     But then, he had the opportunity to go to Texas Tech?

RS:       Yes.  He wanted to come home to Texas.  I think he really missed it then.  He may have come home briefly to University of Texas.  And yes, then he went directly to Texas Tech and stayed the rest of his life.  He is still living in Lubbock.

BM:     Well, he accomplished wonderful things at that school.

RS:       Yes, he did.  He was very successful.  He built a big architectural school.

BM:     I would like to ask you just a little bit about the personality of your father, what he was like because from my point of view, my father was a student of his and I think he was kind of afraid of him all the time.

RS:       Well, my father had an interesting personality.  He was very quiet, he was a good listener, he took in everything you said and when he answered an important question, he would answer it in rather brief words but very well answered.  He was devoted to his students.  I am rereading this book.  Every other word during the Depression about his relations with the students, he was finding jobs for them even when they were working in college and particularly Milton McGinty.  He helped with so many of these men to get them . . . he knew that they were good and he did not want them to . . . and Rice was tuition free but still they had to pay board or something.  They had expenses.  There is a lot about that in this book about how Daddy found jobs for his students, especially during the Depression.

BM:     It sounds like he had what we would think of maybe as a New England personality.

RS:       Yes, he had a New England personality.  Very nice-looking.  He grew to love Houston and the south but his roots were still always in Pennsylvania.  Mother was a beautiful Texas girl, Annie Ray Townsend, and the Townsend family, in 1828, got Texas land grants and came to Texas from South Carolina and they were given land grants.  The little enclave of Townsend was called Townsend, Texas at first but then it was changed to . . . I have forgotten . . . Winedale was where the property of the Townsends was but it was . . . what is the town?

BM:     Round Top?

RS:       Yes, then it was changed to Round Top when the town became bigger.

BM:     That’s right because the Townsend name is on all of the titles.

RS:       On the early land grants. The first ones were the Townsends.

BM:     In fact, real estate around that time . . .

RS:       I think there were about 3 Townsend brothers.

BM:     And the Townsend name is on all the real estate up there, all the real estate title because that was the original . . . it goes back to that original land grant.

RS:       I don’t know.  I never looked at any real estate titles.

BM:     I knew it was familiar when you said that because I have seen that.

RS:       Five of them were in the Battle of San Jacinto.  There were 7 Townsend brothers and 5 of them were in the Battle of San Jacinto.

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BM:     Do you have memories of visiting your family in San Antonio?

RS:       Yes, I have happy memories of visiting my mother’s mother’s home when she was alive.  Mother had a sister living there, younger, that was not married.  When I was a little girl, I was taken there to visit by car.  But the Townsend family had lived in Columbus, Texas.  My mother’s father, Marcus Townsend, was one of the early settlers of Columbus, Texas and so the history was very much tied in there.  The other family, they married with the Burford family.  Annie Ray Burford married Marcus Townsend.  That was mother’s mother and father, Annie Ray Burford and Marcus Townsend.  But as it turns out, in the years past, the Burfords and the Townsends were related.

BM:     I wanted to ask you what are your impressions of the Rice campus today?

RS:       Well, I am proud.  I think the best thing that has happened to Rice was the hedge that Tony Martino planted around the campus and it has flourished, because it gives Rice privacy from the overpowering buildings of the Medical Center.  It gives it some privacy.

BM:     And a sense of place.

RS:       I think Rice has continued to be very pretty.  Now, I think they are going to have 5,000 students next year.

BM:     Is that right?  There were 2,000 . . .

RS:       It only had 2,000 when we were there.

BM:     My goodness!  I wanted to ask you about social life at Autry House.

RS:       The Autry House was built in 1921.  It had a chapel in it.  It was in memory of the Autry family.  It also served lunch and so it was very much used by the faculty before we had the Faculty Club.  That was somewhat substituted as a faculty club and a gathering place for Rice students.

BM:     Because there was no other?

RS:       There was only one.

BM:     It was built by the Diocese, by the Episcopal Diocese for Rice?

RS:       I think so, yes.

BM:     Looking back through old Campanile yearbooks, every social activity seemed to take place at Autry House – the dances . . .

RS:       Yes, because we did not have any place to have parties except the Autry House.  In 1927, the Faculty Club opened and some parties began to be there but Autry House was the only place that if you were going to have a Rice party, it had to be either in a private home or at that place.

BM:     No where else?

RS:       What do you call that room on the second floor of the Administration Building, the big room?

BM:     Oh, is that the Founders Room?

RS:       The Founders Room.  That was always there but seldom used for parties.

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BM:     Is that where the library was?

RS:       No, the library always was on the first floor right as you walked through the arcade, you turned right.  It was the first rooms on the right-hand side as you went into the cloisters of Rice.  The first doors to the cloisters were into the library if you turned to the right.  If you turned to the left, those are the offices of the Rice administrative group.  Mr. McCants and another one.

BM:     Mr. McCants was very well-liked.

RS:       Mr. McCants was very popular.  He lived across the street from the Watkins.  He had a very outgoing personality and he worked well with the students.

BM:     I am so interested in libraries. I always have been.  I am also interested in librarians.  Ms. Sarah Lane was librarian forever.

RS:       She was a graduate of Rice.  When the library was still in the Administration Building, Sarah Lane was there.  Alice Dean was the first but Sarah Lane worked with Alice Dean and later . . . Alice Dean was older and then Sarah Lane . . . after we moved into the new Rice library, Ms. Dean died.

BM:     I think it is an overwhelming idea to think of starting a library for a brand new college.  It is just an overwhelming idea.

RS:       Well, they had the library in the first building in a permanent place but on the first floor.  I do not think it was very large.  And then Rice . . . you must remember, in that Administration Building, underneath it, was a very large basement the whole length of the building.

BM:     I did not know that.

RS:       And there was a lot of storage place down there where they could keep things.

BM:     I see.  I never knew that.  So that would be just for the library as well, I am sure, right?

RS:       There was an underground tunnel that went from the Mechanical Engineer Building where the heating and everything came and they brought it over to the Administration Building.  I never went there.

BM:     It was considered a daring thing to explore.

RS:       Nobody was invited to go.

BM:     It is also where the mosquitoes spent the winter so they did not have to die.

RS:       They could repair any broke pipe.

BM:     That’s right.  We mentioned this before but I would like for you to . . .

RS:       One thing I want to add about the Administration . . . in the original building, especially the Administration, the walls were so thick that the heat of the outside air was not bad because there were ceiling fans and the thick walls kept the interior cool.

BM:     Which was well understood by the Boston architects.

RS:       And a little cross-ventilation through the windows.

BM:     Right.

RS:       The upper floors of the Administration Building, there was no hall that . . . you went up steps to these rooms.  There was no long hall that ran the whole length so, therefore, there were windows on both sides of every room.

BM:     That is why there was no corridor.  It was for the cross-ventilation.

RS:       That’s right.  They did it on purpose.  They left out the corridor for cross-ventilation.

BM:     I never made that connection.  I would like to ask your memories of the gardener at Rice, Tony Martino.

RS:       I have a lot of memories.

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BM:     I think I read in the book that he originally worked for Captain Baker.

RS:       When he first came to Houston, Captain Baker had a big garden, about 4 acres, and he hired Tony.  I do not exactly know he came but Tony had just come over from Italy and it wasn’t too long after he had been working there that Rice opened.  It was before Rice opened.  And when Rice did open and they needed a gardener, Captain Baker volunteered to give Rice Tony.  Daddy was Chairman of the Building and Grounds Committee and he became Tony’s boss.  And one of my best friends – this is a sad note – all my life from Kincaid School on was Alice Baker Meyers, Captain Baker’s granddaughter.  She was raised as a little girl in Captain Baker’s house.

BM:     Tony Martino kept that campus looking absolutely beautiful for years and years.

RS:       He had a crew of some relatives and others – not many of them spoke English.

BM:     It is wonderful that aside from designing so many of the buildings at Rice, he could also continue to have an influence through building some grounds because that has to do with landscape, with maintenance.

RS:       Who?

BM:     Your father.

RS:       Through what company?

BM:     It was wonderful that he could continue to have an influence on the campus through the maintenance of the . . .

RS:       Oh, yes.  It was very odd that Daddy was in charge of the grounds but he was for years and years and years.

BM:     Well, in so many cases, architects finish buildings and then other people come up and landscape and ruin everything.

RS:       Well, in those days, landscape was part of the architecture.

BM:     That was part of the architecture, yes.

RS:       And keeping those many, many hedges cut took a lot of employees.

BM:     Well, I remember when I was at Rice 50 years ago, there were many rabbits that lived in the hedges.  Cottontail rabbits that lived on the west side of Lovett Hall in the maze of hedges.  You could walk down there in the early morning or evening and these little rabbits would just . . . they are gone.  I do not think they have rabbits anymore.

RS:       What year was the statue of William Marsh Rice built?

BM:     I believe it was 1952.

RS:       Well, my father had a big part in choosing the sculptor.

BM:     Or 1948 but it seems like it was about the same time as Fondren Library.

RS:       Daddy played a big part in choosing the sculptor.

BM:     Was that Bill McVey?

RS:       No.  It was John . . . a very famous man.  We could look it up.  From New York.  Gosh, I have to look it up.  John Angel, I think his name was.

BM:     I got confused.  Bill McVey was a student of your father who then became a sculptor.

RS:       Yes, that is true.  That is exactly what happened.  He may have been interested in it as a student architect.  He may have been taking some on the side but it was after he graduated, he became a sculptor.  He lived in Paris.  After he graduated from Rice, of course, there was the Depression but he was one of those who went to Europe and worked for a living and studied sculptor.

BM:     I believe when the Faculty Club was enlarged by George Pierce . . .

RS:       When was that?

BM:     In 1960.

RS:       Well, of course, that was after my time.

BM:     But I think Bill McVey was commissioned to do portrait medallions of faculty.

RS:       In 1960?  Was he living in Houston, Bill McVey?

BM:     No, he was not living here.

RS:       I was going to say – he was up in Michigan.

BM:     That’s right.

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RS:       At Cranbrook.

BM:     He was at Cranbrook, wasn’t he?  That’s right.  His old friends from school arranged it so that McVey would be commissioned to do these portrait medallions.

RS:       Oh, McVey was very likeable and many, many friends.  And then, of course, he was very important in designing the main building at the Battle of San Jacinto.  I mean, not designing the building but ornamenting the building.

BM:     Oh, that is with the freezes around the . . .

RS:       All the freezes around it.  Daddy got him that job.

BM:     That’s right.

RS:       That is all in this book about the freezes.

BM:     It would be interesting to sort of track the commissions of Bill McVey and where they are.

RS:       Oh, he had a lot.  As I said, the rest of his life, after he moved up to Michigan – I guess it was some university in Michigan.

BM:     Cranbrook is its own school.

RS:       Is that his school?

BM:     Yes.

RS:       Well, he was very famous and he stayed there until he died.

BM:     Oh my, yes, that is right.  I want to talk a little bit about . . . I do not want to go on too long with our conversation but one of the wonderful things about the Rice plan of the campus that goes back to 1909, 1910 . . .

RS:       Of course, that was in Boston.

BM:     Yes, down in Boston . . . is that it is one of the most successful campus and university plans in the whole world.

RS:       The way they laid it out with the shape of the campus was very interesting.

BM:     The other thing is that a lot of colleges started out with a really good plan but things got off the track.

RS:       Well, when it opened, the day it opened, it already had two college buildings finished.  Then, of course, the main Administration Building and they had started working on the Physics Building.  It was not finished yet.  Of course, they had finished the Mechanical Engineering Building and all of the important apparatus was there that they needed to run the college.

BM:     But there are a lot of other colleges that started out with really elegant master plans but they would run off the track and they would get all . . . University of Texas is a really good example with the plan by Paul Phillip Cray and it is all like ingrown teeth up there until you cannot even see things.

RS:       I am sad to see Rice getting so crowded and the new buildings will squeeze it but they are building two new dormitory buildings over near Rice Boulevard and the Tutor Building.

BM:     But it seems to me that the organizing thought about that original plan from 100 years ago is still obvious when you go to the campus and I think . . .

RS:       You can see the plan.

BM:     You can see the plan, and you cannot do that anywhere else, and maybe one of the reasons is because William Ward Watkin was head of Buildings and Grounds.

RS:       They planned for the future.

BM:     They did.  And so, for the first 40 years of the whole institution, nothing got put anywhere that he did not approve.

RS:       The space was saved.

BM:     It was sort of like he was the champion of the plan.

RS:       He saved the space.

BM:     That is my thought.

RS:       I have been waiting and watching. Of course, the Faculty Club was well needed and pretty . . . as you come in the front entrance of Rice, the first gate, that space on the left is still like a park.  I wonder if they are ever going to put anything there.
BS:       No, I do not think so.  I think we have covered so many kinds of topics.  Is there anything else that crosses your mind?

RS:       Daddy built the Art Museum which is within walking distance of Rice.  Rice does not have an official art museum, does it?

BM:     No, it is just temporary galleries in the Fine Arts Building.  But then also, the Museum of Fine Arts was run for so many years by his professor, Jimmy Chillman.

RS:       Yes, that was Daddy’s professor for the original, for about 10 or more years, director of the Houston Fine Arts Museum.

BM:     Yes, he was a teacher of mine as well.

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RS:       Well, I enjoyed talking to you.

BM:     So did I.

RS:       I guess it is such a big subject.  We could fill in more but there is not time.

BM:     I will call you next week.  This has been absolutely wonderful.  Thank you so much for your time and especially for your preparation and for your memories.

RS:       If there are any more questions . . . sometimes I feel my life has really been so dedicated to my father and my mother that I did not have one of my own but I did.  I had a separate life living in Boston.  Houston was always home and I came back to it.

BM:     Well, I think it is a great credit to the family that it has been so important and so wonderful for you all this time.  I always knew you because of your own separate life.  It is only just now that I have kind of really been able to make an intellectual connection with your father and all.

RS:       You did not think of me as my father’s daughter?

BM:     No, I didn’t, not really.  I just thought of you as a . . .

RS:       My poor father has been dead so long.

BM:     I just thought of you as a great supporter of the school.

RS:       I want to say, on my volunteer time, 90% of it has been given to Rice and Rice’s history.  I headed up collecting Rice history for a long time.  Of course, when the Historical Society, Karen Rogers, started it, which was good, I was then living in Boston, too.  I am very proud of what she did.

BM:     That is wonderful. Well, Ray, thank you so much.

RS:       I enjoyed being with you.

BM:     Such a wonderful experience for me.