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More Light on the ‘S’

Mike Granberry’s story on the big “S” (“Theories Abound on Origin of Big ‘S’,” March 7) was most refreshing. Last year’s fire that re-exposed the big “S” wasn’t all bad in that it reminded us of this historical landmark. As an alumnus (class of 1950) of what was then called San Diego State College, however, I wish to lend further clarification in separating theories from facts on this very important matter.

The “S,” created during the 1930s and short for “State” not San Diego, was painted annually as part of the freshman indoctrination during registration week in September. Actively supported by Greek organizations on campus, this ritual was carried out by the frosh boys grunting buckets of whitewash up the mountain to resurface the rocks comprising the “S.”

The frosh girls, not to be outdone, were obliged to lug Thermoses of ice-cold lemonade up the the hill to provide desperately needed refreshment for the boys. One had to dodge the rattlesnakes during this hike, so arduous that it caused some of the lemonade to taste like beer. It was important that the “S” wore a fresh new coat when the alumni arrived for fall homecoming.

At one time, students at the newly established Grossmont Community College created a nuisance when they attempted, unsuccessfully, to change it to a “G.” By the early ‘70s, the big “S” was as good as dead with the almost total demise of campus Greek organizations.

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Now, Granberry writes, the “S” is contained within the Mission Trails Regional Park, that is, it belongs to the people of San Diego. He quotes a Park and Recreation Department spokesman, who, when referring to repainting the “S” without city permission made incredibly naive statements such as “that would be an act of vandalism . . . We would like to totally get rid of the stupid thing.”

This spokesman sounds like some displaced East Coast nerd who probably flunked the SAT, headed West and hasn’t made it across Interstate 5 yet.

Indeed, the big “S” is a significant San Diego historical landmark.

CHARLES McGEHEE

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