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UCLA

If This Walk Could Talk

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By Sandy Siegel '72

Published Jul 1, 2013 8:00 AM


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Pedestrians and a bike take a Bruin Walk stroll circa the 1970s.

What do near-naked performance artists, flag-burners and an elephant have in common? They've all been spotted on UCLA's Bruin Walk, a place of bustling activity that echoes with a history as varied and innovative as the university itself.

Stretching from Powell Library to the residence halls, the energetic corridor was christened Bruin Walk in 1962. The next year, a senior fine arts student devised a plan to build a monorail over the length of the pathway. The class project generated some discussion but never took off, making the proposed elevated cars about the only thing Bruin Walk hasn't seen. After all, the campus "memory lane" has been the site of everything from political protests, student electioneering and theological entreaties to "Beat SC" rallies, Greek Week soapbox derby races and cyclistpedestrian clashes.

Inevitably for such a lively thoroughfare, there also have been not-so-usual sights and sounds. In the late 1960s, a UniCamp fundraiser turned the path into "Penny Lane," pitting residence hall dwellers, Greeks and independents against one another, with bragging rights going to the group donating the longest line of coins. "California Happiness Day" came to the walk in May 1970, with 30,000 pieces of bubble gum handed out for a campus "chew-in." In early 1975, to celebrate the newly formed Undergraduate Student Bicentennial Committee, a trio attired in American Revolutionary garb—as a drummer, flagbearer and flutist—marched down Bruin Walk and dubbed one of the bulletin boards "Ye Olde Grievance Board."

And during a 1983 show on and around the walkway, performance artists the Kipper Kids stripped to their jockstraps, perhaps proving that Bruin Walk had seen it all. Until the next year, when an elephant paraded up the walk to Meyerhoff Park for a "Reagan-Bush All-Star" campaign rally, in a stunt orchestrated by a Bruin Republican.

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The wooden podium in Meyerhoff Park—UCLA’s free speech area located right next to Bruin Walk on the Kerckhoff Hall lawn—was the campus soapbox for all sorts of causes. In the background is the former Campus Corner snack bar.

Most alumni probably never witnessed these circus-like sideshows on Bruin Walk, but undoubtedly remember the "barkers" who bombarded them daily with countless handouts, verbal appeals and handmade signboards. In a nod to tradition, this old-school practice lives on, even in today's world of Facebook, Twitter and—what else?—bruinwalk.com. Campus organizations such as the Association of Chinese Americans value "having that faceto- face connection," says second-year student and ACA marketing chair Ian Wong. Though the group has a website and Facebook page, it regularly hosts a Bruin Walk table, not only to dispense information but also to provide "a place to hang out."

Perhaps the biggest testament to Bruin Walk's standing came in 1983 when the university announced plans to update what was then an asphalt pathway. More than 3,000 students, alumni and faculty signed a petition decrying the proposed revamp, claiming in the Daily Bruin that its modern design "would clash with the pastoral and traditional atmosphere created by Meyerhoff Park and Kerckhoff Hall." Construction was delayed while design changes were made. The renovated walkway, with interlocking stone pavers, steps, handicapped-accessible ramps and new landscaping, reopened in June 1984.

Order, or perhaps beloved disorder, was restored to Bruin Walk.

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