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Westwood: Opening Day


Published Oct 1, 2011 12:00 AM

From the files of the UCLA History Project


On September 20, 1929, students wait outside the brand-new Library to sign up for the first fall term at the Westwood campus.

On May 31, 1929, Ernest Carroll Moore, UCLA's first chief executive, declared a half-day holiday so that students, faculty and staff could join in "taking possession" of the new campus in Westwood. Classes were dismissed in the early afternoon and everyone gathered at Heliotrope Drive for the 10-mile drive westward from the Vermont Avenue campus.

Police led a motorcade of more than 500 cars and trucks loaded with books, furniture and laboratory equipment. The Rally Committee had decorated cars with blue and gold streamers. Moore met the group as it entered campus, and the marching band played from the steps of the newly constructed Royce Hall.

"It was a thrilling sight to see 2,000 young people pour themselves among the buildings and into them," Moore said. While May 31 was known as "Moving Day," the move continued throughout the summer. The bulk was transferred during a three-day period, beginning in August, under the direction of University of California Assistant Comptroller Robert M. Underhill and a staff of 300 students.

Registration began September 20, 1929, for the fall semester on the Westwood campus. The grounds were not yet graded, and lawns and shrubbery remained to be planted. Rain had fallen, turning dust to mud. Construction materials brought by mules were piled nearby. Charles H. Rieber, dean of the College of Letters and Science, suggested two new courses: one on whistling to keep up courage and another on nettle grasping. Classes officially commenced on September 23, 1929, with an enrollment of 5,500 students.

"Thus do long dreams come true," Moore wrote in a handwritten greeting published by the California Daily Bruin. "Your University welcomes you to her new house. It smells of plaster and new paint. It is not finished yet and there is much dust and confusion about it. No other class will ever enter here without finding grass between these buildings. But then, no other class will be the first class."

Adapted from UCLA : The First Century, by Marina Dundjerski '94.