Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Mountain Monograms

Bingo! Wish I could take credit for that phrase, but I came across it when consulting with The Google on the subject of just why all those letters on mountainsides near Western towns. Such as Prescott. And Jerome. And Coolidge. And Tempe. Among many others, apparently.

I discovered a fascinating web site called Deuce of Clubs; Doc, who maintains the site was asked "how come?" His answer, "I do not know that answer. I would like to know it. Having grown up in a tiny desert town with a C on the mountain, I'd accepted it as normal behavior to put town initials on mountains. Can someone really smart tell me how this behavior started?" My early experience was pretty much the same -- when the family went on a road trip, I always anticipated the initial on the mountainside at each little Arizona town.

Doc may have been talking about Coolidge (above) or Tempe, where the ASU "A" regularly gets a repaint job (below). Both pictures from the Monogram Mountains site.

However, go visit Doc to see Western mountain monograms from A to Z. And to read the full explanation -- by a professor, yet. It appears that "The 'Big C,' constructed on the Berkeley Hills by students of the University of California in 1905, seems to be the first of all the hillside letters in the West. It still occupies a commanding site overlooking the San Francisco Bay area, but eucalyptus trees now obscure it from all but direct view."

Writing in 1986 in a journal called "Landscape," James J. Parsons also noted:

"Hillside symbols have a surprisingly respectable history dating back some eighty years. To a remarkable extent the letters can be traced to a single decade, 1905-1915. They have almost always been built and maintained by college or high-school student groups. The earliest letter-building projects were devices for defusing increasingly violent inter-class rivalries, which college administrators and faculty found difficult to control. It apparently worked. Making a letter was often a gala community event, an organized "men's workday" declared a formal school holiday, with picnic lunch and supper provided by campus women."

So there you have it. Our own "P" is a legit part of the package, according to the arrangement that might give/lease or sell Badger Mountain to the city or some other conservation group.


Anonymous said...

I visited his site. Intersting photos and places. Must be manny more out there.

Granny J said...

Apparently a lot more than I had ever guessed. BTW, the Doc has other interesting interests, if you explore his site...

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