Hey Look at the A!
Panther Association, 1955/56 - How We Lit The “A”
For all you ladies and guys who were
too busy studying to get involved in lighting the
“A”, or were preparing for battle on the football
field, this is a fifty-year-old recollection of
what we in the Panther Association had to do to make
the “A” light up on football game nights.
On Thursday afternoon
before a Friday game, we hooked up a trailer to
someone’s old pickup and went to the local sawmill
for a trailer full of sawdust. We had a deal with
the cafeteria ladies to save all the empty large tin
cans from lunch preparation, and these we loaded
into someone’s car. We ordered a 55-gallon drum of
kerosene to be delivered on Friday to a designated
spot on a road above Piedras street at the base of
the mountain, and we all met there after school
Friday with the sawdust and tin cans. We had a
bunch of 5-gallon jerry cans that the kerosene was
transferred into, and burlap sacks to carry the
sawdust and tin cans.
The trek up the path to the “A” was
difficult, especially lugging those 5-gallon jerry
cans, but with a lot of effort, some shouting and
much cursing, the ingredients arrived at the “A”
site. It was usually about 5: or 6:00 p.m. before
we got all the stuff up there. Next was the job of
arranging the existing and new cans around the "A"
outline, and filling each can about three quarters
full of sawdust, following with a half gallon of
kerosene into each tin can from the jerry cans.
This usually took a couple hours so it would be
close to 8 o'clock by the time everything was ready.
We each had a certain part of the “A” outline we
were responsible for lighting, and we each had
torches made of sticks with cloth wrapped around one
end soaked in kerosene.
From our vantage point on the mountain,
we could see the stadium lights, see the crowd
forming and hear the preliminary cheering. I will
never forget the excitement of the moment when our
leader would yell “Light 'em up”, and each of us
would light his torch, then quickly light his
designated cans. In a matter of seconds the outline
appeared and we could faintly hear the roar of the
crowd in the stadium. Something like “Hey, hey,
look at the “A”. My sisters, and others at the
football games, said there was an air of excitement
in the stadium similar to what we felt on the
mountain. Maybe you remember what it was like, and
would like to comment about it too.
The stumbling jog down the mountain was
quick, as we wanted to get to the game, and I can
remember proudly coming into the stadium during the
first quarter of the game, faces smeared with soot,
wearing our Panther Association jackets.
I can’t remember where
the money came from to buy the supplies. We must have had fund raisers or something.
I finally made the varsity football
team our senior year, so I missed the excitement on
the mountain that year. (Yes, I was on the team.
OK, OK, third string center, but I WAS on the team.
You got a problem with that?)
I don’t think the wind was ever a
concern. At light-up, the cans never blew out, and
it was all rocky up there so we never had threat of
brush fire, and with all the danger involved, we
rarely had an accident or injury. I’m sure our
parents would have had a fit if they had known what
was really going on.
Someone asked about the beer. Yes,
some would bring a six pack, but many of us chose
not to drink, taking our job quite seriously.
longer, but the outline only stayed lit a little
while, 5 to maybe 10 minutes at most.
Click here for the
50th Reunion "A" Lighting
(Friday night September 29, 2006)
EXCELLENT PHOTOS by ADRIAN PEREZ
(Class of '96)
The "A" on
Mount Franklin is one of Austin High School's oldest traditions. In the fall of 1931, Gordon Gunn and John Clary outlined and
painted the "A" on the mountain. This wasn't
sponsored by the school, but the student body approved and
of the Panther Association were the original keepers of the "A,"
and took on the responsibility of maintaining the "A"
and lighting it
during all home football games.
When the Panther Association was
dissolved, the "A" Club continued the tradition of lighting and
maintaining the "A." In 1963, Phi Chi, under the sponsorship of
Mr. Donald Hutchings, took over the responsibilities of
maintaining the "A."
This tradition has become
difficult to keep alive because the school cannot sponsor the activity. Randall
(Randy) Gschwind, class of 1976,
started the "A" project in 1999, obtaining permission from the owner of the land and from the El Paso Fire
Department to light the "A", but the greatest hindrances to this endeavor
cost and manpower. Kerosene could be purchased for $.29/gallon in the
1970's -- two 55 gallons were used until Randy redesigned the containers and
method, enabling the "A" to be set ablaze with much less
kerosene -- but the cost is now $7.00 a gallon, and
30-35 gallons are needed for each lighting, so even with donations
of the cans and sawdust needed, the expenses total about $250 each time the
"A" is lighted. If you want to help sponsor "A" lightings for
home games, contact Randy at
who is on the AAA board. Randy can also answer any
questions about the "A".
You may also
contact the Austin
if you'd like to climb the mountain and help clean and/or light
the "A." Note: the AAA has no ties with our Class
of 1956, it's a separate entity interested in all Austin Alumni.
(AA, however, our Class of 1956 has very close ties