It seems that the default httpd.conf in the apache rpm has php3 stuff enabled.
If you have no php3 on the computer, and do an upgrade of an older rpm, the configuration file will be incorrect, since no php3 module exists on the system
On a fresh install, removing php3 seems to comment the lines in httpd.conf.
A check of the default httpd.conf file in apache-1.3.12-2 shows that the
lines in the configuration file that load the PHP modules are commented out.
There appears to be some oddness stemming from the new php's upgrade triggers,
php WAS installed on my system after all.
rpm -qa | grep php3 did not report something, so I assumed php3 is not
installed. I forgot the package was renamed.