ˇ CLASS of 1956 !




55th Reunion PHOTOS

Hey Hey Look at the A!



Panther Association, 1955/56 - How We Lit The “A”

by Dick Laughman


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.

Photo courtesy Adrian Perez - Class of 1996


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.

It seemed 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)



"A" History 

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 appreciated it.

The members 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 were 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 randythea@yahoo.com, who is on the AAA board.  Randy can also answer any questions about the "A".

You may also contact the Austin Alumni Association 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 to.)