Sunday, November 04, 2012

How the letters got on the mountains

"On the cool morning of April Fools' Day in 1920, the roughly 150 students of the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts gathered at the base of Tortugas Mountain and began mixing the lime-- for the whitewash. "For the rest of the day, they passed buckets full of the stuff to each other up a half-mile of rocky slope, crafting a crude, 100-foot letter 'A' on the west side of the mountain. "When it was done, everyone seemed pleased with the result. " 'We now have a large "A" which can be seen for miles in every direction,' the editors of the student newspaper the Round Up wrote. 'It will be the duty of the incoming freshmen to keep the "A" painted, and is thus handed down a tradition.' "Every year since, groups of Aggies have maintained that tradition, though it's been generations since the entire student population took part. "Yet in its early years, the 'A' served to identify Las Cruces as a college town, and to bring a genuine sense of school pride to the fledgling state college campus. "The first 'A' the students made in 1920 was reportedly a little crude, and was 'redrawn' the next year. " 'The letter inscribed this year probably will be permanent, it being more accurately surveyed than last year, and looks very similar to the football monogram worn by the lettermen,' the Round Up reported April 1921. "Many rocks had to be moved for the new 'A,' as well as hundreds of gallons of fresh paint applied, but apparently it was worth the effort. " 'It was so laid out that it looks much better from the college and surrounding country than the letter of last year, and is in direct line over Hadley Hall with the road from Mesilla Park to the horseshoe,' according to the Round Up. "By the early 1920s, the local newspapers were proclaiming the painting of 'A' Mountain a 'tradition.' "The Class of 1922 laid down the rules that would carry on for decades: freshmen, often called 'fish,' were to wear green skullcaps emblazoned with the Aggie 'A' the week prior to 'A Day,' and were responsible for cleaning the whitewash containers, as well as carrying them, half-filled up to the 'A.' "By the 1950s, the sororities and fraternities had begun to take a larger role in organizing the 'A' Day festivities, but it still brought out a large percentage of the school, a fair number of whom were locals who'd grown up with the big 'A.' "

The rest of the article is about the M on Franklin Mtns. 

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