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UCLA

Disappearing Acts

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By Sandy Siegel '72

Published Oct 1, 2014 8:00 AM


How many of these vanished campus landmarks do you remember?

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The dearly loved but long-departed Bruin Bowl offered 10 lanes in Ackerman Union — and even a half-unit of credit if you took the class in bowling technique. Photo courtesy of UCLA: The First Century.

Gypsy Wagon, Bombshelter, Bruin Bowl. If we were playing The $100,000 Pyramid, the category would be "Things That Aren't at UCLA Anymore." These golden oldies aren't the university's only faded memories. In its 85 years in Westwood, UCLA has seen many campus landmarks come and go.

One early casualty was the Open Air Theater. Built in 1941 with the help of government relief funds, the semicircular, sloped venue could hold as many as 18,000 people on folding chairs. Among the events held in the theater were commencement ceremonies. In 1952, the university bulldozed the theater to make way for the medical center.

Lasting two decades was the "Big C." Located on the hillside west of campus, the 40-by-100-foot, blue and gold cement "C" — for "California" — debuted in fall 1939. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the landmark, too easily spotted from the air, was buried under a layer of dirt for nearly two years. At times, the Big C fell victim to unsolicited paint jobs — some by Trojans making cardinal statements before UCLA-USC games, others by Bruins sending their own messages. The "C" came down in 1958 for the construction of Sproul Hall. Another "C" went up on the bluff below the dormitory, but it bit the dust in 1967 for Drake Stadium.

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Mardi Gras? Just one of many things that aren’t at UCLA anymore. Photo courtesy of UCLA: The First Century.

Sports venues have been fair game in campus makeovers. Remember Trotter Field, east of Pauley Pavilion? They paved it and put up a parking lot. The old tennis courts north of Sproul Hall? Tennis greats Arthur Ashe '66 and Jimmy Connors, both NCAA singles champions while student-athletes at UCLA, once perfected their shots on those courts. Now, Covel Commons sits on the site.

Years earlier, the off-campus Tropical Ice Gardens, a year-round outdoor ice rink built in 1938 at the corner of Gayley and Weyburn avenues, hosted hockey games as well as ice shows, figure-skating clubs and recreational skaters before it was demolished in 1949. The late John Anderson '40, for whom UCLA's management school is named, came to UCLA from Minnesota on an ice hockey scholarship and played at that very rink.

Remember the Bruin Bowl? Opened in Ackerman Union in 1962, the 10-lane bowling alley was a place to hang out with friends and even score a half-unit of credit for a one-term class in bowling technique. The venue closed after 30 years because of rising upkeep costs and changing student interests.

Other campus haunts have also vanished. The Gypsy Wagon, a popular North Campus meet-and-eat hangout — film students Jim Morrison '65 and Ray Manzarek M.A. '66, who later formed The Doors, were among its regulars — disappeared in 1976, replaced by vending machines and the less intimate North Campus Student Center. South Campus experienced a similar fate when the aging Bombshelter shut down in 2009 and morphed into the modern, environmentally green Court of Sciences Student Center.

And the campus continues to upgrade. Last year, the Parking Structure 6 site was cleared to make space for the new Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference and Guest Center, which will welcome a new generation of visitors to UCLA.

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