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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


‘A’ Mountain of a birthday: One of UA’s oldest symbols turns 100 today

Jesus Barrera
“A” Mountain on Sentinel Peak on Friday, Feb. 27. The whitewashed “A” on the mountain’s top celebrates its 100th birthday on Friday, March 4.

One of the oldest symbols of the UA celebrates its 100th birthday today.

The bright, whitewashed “A” on the side of a mountain southwest of campus, was completed on this day in 1916 as a symbol of UA pride.

Found on Sentinel Peak, the mountain earned its nickname of “A” Mountain following a UA football win against Pomona College in 1914. Football player Albert Condron, a civil engineering student, started the idea of surveying the mountain to find a spot for an “A,” according to a UA website detailing the history of the mountain.

While construction began at an earlier date, the actual whitewashing of the “A” on the mountain was completed on March 4, 1916, according to Jill Hall, the vice president of alumni engagement and innovation. It was then that the mountain earned its current name.

After Condron completed the survey and selected Sentinel Peak as the location, students cleared the area of shrubbery and dug trenches for the outlines of the foundation of the “A,” according to the website. After all the work was done, the “A” measured 160 feet tall and 70 feet wide.

The cost of the project in total, including the transportation of the water that had to be pulled up the mountain by teams of six horses, was $397, the website said.

The maintenance of the white paint on the “A” was kept up in part by a tradition known as “A” Day, which used to occur every fall. According to Hall, each year the Blue Key Honor Society bussed freshman students to “A” Mountain to repaint the “A” on the mountain.

The tradition is no longer happens though. Hall said she doesn’t know the exact reason why, but it might have to do with the cost of the event.

“They had to buy the paint to do it, so it might have just gotten too expensive for them to have to do,” Hall said.

The tradition lasted for at least 86 years and was carried out as recently as 2010, according to the 2010 Blue Key National Honor Society OrgSync website.

While the tradition of painting the “A” may not have lasted, the memories have for those alumni who were able to experience it.

“I think ‘A’ Mountain, to most of the alums, they’ll remember it as part of painting the ‘A’ as a freshman,” Hall said. “‘A’ Mountain is Tucson and that is why I think alumni love it. It reminds them of home and for a lot of them, they painted the ‘A’ as a freshman, which was a rite of passage for them.”

Even though the tradition may be extinguished, the tradition of the lighting of the “A” for Homecoming week still burns bright. Every Sunday before Homecoming week starts, the pep band, cheerleaders, Homecoming royalty, alumni and others gather atop the Main Gate Garage for what Hall called the “biggest tradition” involving “A” Mountain.

Set against the backdrop of the sunset, the Bobcat Senior Honorary lights the “A” on the mountain with flares so it can be seen by the viewers on top of the parking garage.

“At a certain point, they’ll turn around because you can see the ‘A’ perfectly and the ‘A’ will start to glow,” Hall said. “It’s really pretty.”

As for the centennial of the mountain, Hall said the Alumni Association has no plans for any party-like celebration for the mountain’s milestone. The association will make posts about the centennial on its social media accounts, according to Hall.

“It’s pretty exciting,” she said. “It’s kind of neat that things are starting to turn 100.”

Follow Ava Garcia on Twitter.

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