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Hunting Hidden Treasures

By Sandy Siegel '72

Published Apr 1, 2015 8:00 AM

Take a different kind of campus tour by scoping out lesser-known landmarks you may never have noticed.

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Photos: Jesy Odio '15

What better way to spend a spring day than exploring your alma mater? Sure, the big landmarks — Royce Hall, Janss Steps, Bruin Walk — are etched in your memory, but have you discovered the hidden jewels that dot the UCLA campus?

Start your treasure hunt in Ackerman Union on Level 1, near Panda Express. Note The Black Experience, a mural created in 1970 by seven black art students, depicting momentous struggles and achievements in African- American history. During floor renovation in 1992, the artwork was covered by a false wall — and remained hidden for two decades. But thanks to efforts by the Afrikan Student Union, the 10-by-27-foot painting was uncovered and restored in 2014.

Next, head to Boelter Hall and go down three flights of stairs to the second floor. Eagle-eyed South Campus Bruins will detect that the seemingly haphazard arrangement of the floor tiles in front of room 2714 actually spells out “Lo and behold!” in binary code. Secretly added by UCLA architect Erik Hagen during a construction project in 2011, the hidden message is a tribute to Leonard Kleinrock, the UCLA professor of computer science whose team of scientists sent the first-ever Internet message in 1969. It was supposed to be “LOGIN,” but the system crashed after the first two letters. So the first message on the Internet was “LO,” as in “Lo and behold!”

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Continue to the center of campus to the flagpole, which was donated in 1937 by Jacob Gimbel, of the Gimbel department store family. You’re in “Bruin country,” so why the fish on the pole’s base? The “electric” fish depicted on the plaque was found in South America during a Gimbel-financed expedition. Brought back to the United States, it was scientifically catalogued Porotergus gimbeli in honor of Gimbel, who marked the feat with the bas-relief on the flagpole base.

Proceed to the east side of Powell Library. Enter via the lower door to discover the Ray Bradbury commemorative plaque outside room 60. There, in the early 1950s, in what used to be the library’s typewriter rental room, the author found his muse and, in nine days, penned a novella called The Fireman — at a cost of $9.80, or 10 cents a half-hour. Bradbury later returned to Powell to rework his story into the now classic novel Fahrenheit 451, relishing the thought of writing a book about book-burning in a library.

Next stop: Stone Canyon Creek — or what’s left of it. Once a prominent campus feature, the creek was routed underground as the university expanded, leaving only a small section visible. Nestled in a forest-like area behind UCLA Anderson School of Management and running through the UCLA Lab School (ULS) campus, it now serves as a “living classroom,” as volunteers from ULS and the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation work to restore the area’s ecosystem.

Finally, check out the pillar in the Anderson courtyard that honors J. Clayburn La Force M.A. ’58, Ph.D. ’62, the dean who spearheaded the construction of the six-building red-brick complex, and treasure its not-so-hidden message: “May La Force Be With You.”