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So, here's how it happened...

A friend wrote one day:
Date: Mon, 24 Dec 2001
From: Lara Seven
Subject: a new mountain monogram?

found this while searching for Corn Palace pics:

http://geoimages.berkeley.edu/GeoImages/Starrs/COSTILLA.html. this guy's a professor, so maybe he can uncover the mystery?

I was dubious, but I wrote him anyway:
From: doc
To: Paul Starrs

hi, there

a friend of mine pointed me to your Costilla image.

"It is recognized that there are other, more specialized, educational uses that may require using them in other contexts."

which makes me think of a quotation from lawrence of arabia: "it is recognized that you have a funny sense of fun."

in this context, here is a context in which i would like to use your photo.

what do you think?

It was late on a Friday evening, but his response came right back:
To: doc
From: Paul Starrs

Doc --

You're welcome to use it! And, as it happens, I also know the answer to the question at your Website, which inquires how this all began -- it's a wonderful story.

My doctoral dissertation advisor at UC Berkeley did an article for *Landscape* magazine in 1988 that identified the origins of the "hillside letters" phenomenon -- the citation is below. (Let me know if you have trouble finding it; I'll be happy to send you a copy if you want to get back to me with your postal-mail address (it'll take a while, 'cause I'm away from my office for the next couple of weeks).

The citation is to:
James J. Parsons. 1988. Hillside Letters in the Western Landscape. Landscape 30 (1): 15-23.

-- turns out, it's all tied to UC Berkeley, 1906, and fraternity hazing.... and the phenomenon is incredibly widespread in the western U.S.. (There's a fine map included with the article, which was actually published in *Harpers* sometime in 1989, if memory serves.)

Best of luck --
Paul Starrs

And how geeked do you think I was?
From: doc
To: Paul Starrs

the person who sent me the url to your photo had included this: "this guy's a professor, so maybe he can uncover the mystery" -- quite a prediction

i also ran across this just now. i'm so sorry to hear that prof. parsons has died. i would certainly love to have talked to him...

I also asked about the Reno mountain monograms, of which I have none yet. You'd never know I was in Reno 3 out of 4 years that I went to Burning Man...
To: doc
From: Paul Starrs

You can feel free to use my name -- but I'm just a conduit in your search for "hillside letters"! There are, incidentally, a pile around Reno -- the "R" behind the university, the "S" in Sparks, the large "G" above Galena high school -- and nearby still others...

Jim Parsons was just a great prof -- the best.

Your site is just a terrific one -- it's sites such as yours that make the Internet so interesting and of such lasting value...

Keep it up!
Paul

Turned out that the University of Arizona's architecture library wouldn't be open for several days but the wait was worth it, because now, thanks to Paul, and Lara Seven, and -- of course -- special thanks to the late Prof. Parsons, I finally know:

Why there are Mountain Monograms...


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