A True Story: The Installation



“How to Make a Superior Presentation”

By Ed Keyser, SLAC (ret.)


Dedicated to the late Ray Robbers
My long time Associate, Confidante, Drinking Buddy, Partner in crime and Friend.



I am indebted to many people who joined in the spirit of this endeavor and gave of their time, talent, ideas, assistance and above all, their approval. Thank you all. Any omissions or errors are mine.

Mr. Bill Davies-White
Mr. Jose Trevino
Mr. Alvin Gallagher
Mr. Ted Fieguth
Mr. Roger Gearhart
and the members of my T&M Ironworkers crew.


By Ed Keyser

            This is the saga of “The Rock.” It began in the early years of 1980 when a rather large almost perfectly round rock, weighing about 800 pounds, was unearthed in an excavation site at the West End of the Klystron Gallery. This specimen was cast aside in the brush and little attention was paid to it. Over the months that followed Al and I had noticed the rock. It striking no particular chord in our minds, we wandered off to do other things.

            One afternoon, a year or so later, after the close of the day’s work, a few beers and some idle conjecture, Al and I decided we may have on our hands the world’s largest geode. We pictured the rock split in two and containing all the beautiful crystals that one finds in geodes. We wondered about the potential notoriety attendant with such a find. Ah! Our fifteen minutes of fame seemed destined. To that end we transported the rock from its lonely spot at the end of the Klystron Gallery to the work area near the BSY adit to the SLC tunnel.

            At the time there were several crews drilling holes in the floor of the SLC tunnel for equipment anchors. On occasion these drills needed service. It came to pass that when the next drill rig came up for maintenance we had a hole drilled into the rock to see what might be in the center. Alas! To our disappointment the rock was solid sand stone all the way through. No geode. No shimmering crystals and certainly no fame. (Not yet.)

            The rock was rolled out of the way and forgotten. Some months later the adit to the SLC tunnel required a shielded cover. The cover consisted of a large 2-inch thick steel plate supported on concrete ledges with a crib on top of the steel, about 2 feet deep, filled with earth the purpose of which was to contain any radiation that might find its way out of the tunnel. One thing SLAC has is plenty of top soil. We acquired this soil from just across the road from the entrance to the Magnet Yard. The crib was filled and all was well. BUT: In the spring we were surprised to see grass and wild flowers sprouting and growing atop the crib. SLAC, being ecologically proper, had at some time seeded the area with wild flowers. As spring progressed the flowers bloomed and in a flash of inspiration I had the rock moved to the middle of this idyllic spot. Beautiful!

            Alas, it was not to be. Enter our intrepid Technical Director, the TD. Every morning the TD would walk the pathway along the BSY cable tray run to MCC. There being, every morning at 8:30 AM, a Dog and Pony show of which he was Ring Master.

            At some point the TD noticed the rock. He would stop and peer at it and move on. It is not clear whether there was ever any communication between the TD and the rock. I suspect he tried but the rock being older and wiser didn’t respond. He began to take a disliking for the rock. His increasing pique resulted in an order to get rid of the rock as it presented a seismic hazard. (Whatever the hell that meant.) I got word of the plan to dispose of the rock and caused it to be moved to a location next to my office trailer and covered with a tarp. Several months later, during a routine inspection of the site, he again discovered the rock and again ordered the rock removed and buried. Again I relocated the rock to a spot under my office trailer. And I covered it with a tarp and some cabinets placed so that it could not be readily seen.

            Time passed and the SLC installation project came to a close. I left on a short vacation. Upon my return I found that my trailer had been relocated and the location of the rock again was exposed to the wrath of the TD. This time however, he ordered the rock moved, smashed to gravel and spread out over the site. My God! The situation was becoming very serious. Once again the rock was rescued for by this time it had become very dear to me. That rock must be saved. It was becoming obvious the rock was destined for greater things.

            Fortunately, aided by Joe, a first class rigger and equipment operator, we moved the rock to a brush covered ravine a mile or so out along the Klystron Gallery. Joe took an oath of secrecy so it wasn’t necessary to dispose of his remains, and the years passed. The TD smiled again, as he walked, secure in the knowledge that he had rid SLAC of a terrible threat and monstrous hazard. I did pay a visit to the ravine, from time to time, to see if the rock was comfortable.

            In 1991 the University offered early retirement for those who, by age and length of service, qualified. I qualified and with 3 nanoseconds of consideration applied for retirement. The problem that occupied me then was what to do with the rock? Several scenarios came to mind. Nothing I could think of seemed to be just right and make the statement I desired.

            One day as I was walking across the lawn towards the A&E Building it struck me. The perfect place for the final resting place of the rock: On the concrete walkway in front of the A&E, centered on the two stairways leading to the second floor and directly in front of the TD’s office. What symmetry!

            In the months preceding my retirement date the rock was moved from the ravine to the Research yard. A stand was fabricated. A placard was made and the whole assembly covered with a big cardboard box to keep it from view. I retired on Friday, May 15, 1992. The following Tuesday evening a small group of faithful gathered and, with the video camera rolling, we transported the rock to its new home. It was placed on the concrete walkway. The placard was attached so it would be visible from the TD’s office. We adjourned to the Velvet Turtle where I bought a round of drinks for the participants.

            The rest of the story is related only on hearsay as I departed for Lake Tahoe to go fishing. The following morning several of the group made an effort to be nearby when the TD arrived for work. As usual, he rode his bicycle up to the stairway to his office. He was seen to stop, look at the rock and go up to his office. He then stood for a long time looking down upon the rock. (It still wasn’t speaking to him.) He then arrived at the perfect solution. He drew the drapes across his office window. The rock disappeared from his view and all was again well in his world.

            It was fully expected that the rock would be removed with great alacrity. However, before the orders could be issued a rally to “Save the Rock” had gotten underway. People milled around the rock. Word of the rock spread and by noon it was far too late to remove the rock without a protest of some proportion. Some flowers were placed in the small abandoned drill hole. Later on T-shirts with the rock pictured appeared and, I was told the morale at SLAC was raised several orders of magnitude.

            It’s now early 2004. The rock is still in its place and the Technical Director of that time is not. I am happy the rock provided some joy to those who were around when it was placed. It is also a pleasure to know that many tales of how the rock came to be in its present location have been invented and told and retold.

            I was further personally pleased when receiving a beam tree for 30 years service, SLAC Director Burton Richter thanked me for the rock as he presented the tree.


            Somewhere the now retired TD learned the lesson that it is very difficult to win at a game when your opponents are a group of dedicated SLAC staff members.


Posted April 1, 2004 by Nina Adelman Stolar