Anchors Aweigh

Anchor painted in bright blue and pink with letters UCSD.By the spring of 1968, our group of Argo Suite 410 dwellers was bored with our studies and all that reading, so we had the idea of creating a campus anchor monument, one that could never be stolen by Muir College, unlike the lightweight anchor stolen many times from the PSA Revelle Quad Fountain. (Yes, PSA stands for Pacific Southwest Airlines.)

The effort was a month in planning. My roommate, Jay Gillette ’71, a member of the UCSD cross country team, spotted the ideal relic anchor on a run through the former Camp Matthews. Among the eight accomplices with me that night, Michael Jones ’72 was appointed forklift driver because he was also skilled at hot-wiring. (The forklift belonged to a private contractor working on the new Veterans Hospital). Jones deftly got it running and hoisted the ¾-ton anchor into the bed my dad’s ½-ton pickup truck. Luckily, the Chevy didn’t break an axle.

Everything went quite well, actually, right until we reached the open quad west of Argo, where we were stopped cold by a university cop. To our delight, he only informed us with a wink that he would soon take his midnight lunch break. By 3 a.m., the deed was done, and we celebrated over a pre-dawn breakfast at the 24-hour cafe in La Jolla.

But alas, later that week, we were hauled in to see Residence Dean Ann Conklin, who said the anchor would be a nuisance unless it was mounted on a concrete foundation. Eighteen months later, we’d mounted it on the base where it remains to this day, north of Revelle Cafeteria, with countless coats of paint.

The Revelle anchor may be our most enduring caper, but it was far from our last. In fact, we get a chance to marvel at our campus handiwork every year when we return for our annual Easter Beer Hunt. For 50 years, right up until his death in 2018, Jones and his partner, Alice McCreery ’73, kept us all apprised of the day when beers would be hidden around the eucalyptus grove, awaiting our faithful contingent of six to nine suite dwellers to show up and spend the morning hunting around the woods, reuniting with old friends and talking about our lives. And some things never change—in 2016, our party was noticed by a campus police officer, who quickly realized we were just a bunch of old farts hanging out over some brewskis.

As for the anchor—why did we do it? Partly due to boredom, and partly to create a sort of memorial to our residence there. The story told in Jones’ obituary says: “The eventual accomplishment of those enterprising young men is a standing testament to hardworking students everywhere,” and I think that’s true. And with Jones’ passing, the anchor is a memorial in a whole other way, one I’m sure most students won’t know anything about. But if they happen to come across some old farts staring at that anchor some Easter morning, they just might.

—Lance Johannsen attended UC San Diego for a year but bailed out due to bad grades, ultimately earning his bachelor’s at UC Riverside in 1972.