Letters on the Mountains



"See, see, see, the 'E'!" was the popular chant that announced to the audience in RR Jones Stadium that El Paso High's "E" on the mountain had been lit to signify to the community that the proud Tigers were defending the Orange & Black on their home field.  The lighted collegiate "E", accomplished by placing dozens of oil cans filled with sawdust and kerosine into the form of the "E" on the mountainside near where is now the KVIA television transmitter, was a seasonal expression of the Tiger spirit.

But close-by on the mountain was a white washed "E", also for El Paso High, which was visible everyday throughout the year.  The "E" Association, a volunteer aggregation of EPHS students, assumed the task of preparing and igniting the "E" during football season and in the sping the intrepid "E" Associaiton members took-on the arduous duty of white washing the "E" to keep it well defined on the west side of Mount Franklin. 

How these traditions began is the topic of Trish Long's article in the 20 May 2018 El Paso Times:  A look back at the history of the letters on El Paso's Franklin Mountains and NMSU's 'A'.  Actually, the "E" is hardly mentioned, but El Paso High is credited with initiating the concept in the 1920-21 school year; Long's article is mostly about UTEP's "M" and NMSU's "A."  

El Paso High School's "E" Day was started in the 1920-21 school year. El Pasoans where upset over the painting of the Franklins then, too. The school promised not to maintain the letter or to paint a new one but when the Miners painted their M in 1923, the Tigers added their "E".


El Paso High's "E" faded from the slope of Mount Franklin in the 1970s because of a city ordinance which forbade such displays; school district regulations, and a general risk aversion pertaining to injuries which may occur while packing gallons upon gallons of white wash up the mountain and returning back to a more safe terrain at a parking area along Scenic Drive.  The lighted "E" was prohibited also for much the same reasons, although the flickering, orange glow of the cans afire was a beautiful sight set against the blackness of the night.

Today there is a whitewashed "E" in the vicinity of EPH's original "E."  The new "E" first appeared in the Spring of 2015.  It was not an "E" but a crude "C".  On the second day after the appearance of the "C" the figure had been turned into an "E" by squaring-off the corners of the "C" and adding a center prong.  Of course, the suspicion was that new "E" had been painted on the mountainside by El Paso High afficionados, but there was no evidence of that.  In fact, the "C" appeared preceding the Cathedral High School Senior Prom.  There were, of course, denials from that quarter, too.  The owner of that portion of the mountain did later, admit privately that when the "C" appeared, he arranged for his employees to make the change to an "E" in keeping with tradition.  The land owner is an alumnus of Cathedral but has close family ties to "The Lady on The Hill ." 

On the east side of Mount Franklin, Austin's "A" is still displayed as is an "I" for Irvin.  The reason the "A" is still maintained is that the owner of the property permits it and the story is that the land owner gained a variance from the city's beautification ordinance which otherwise put an end to whitewashed school letters littering the mountain. 

The "E" on the mountain was part of El Paso High traditons for nearly 50 years.  In more recent year, the tradition has been literally re-ignited during Homecoming with the Eve of The "E" Ceremony in RR Jones Stadium.  Instead of using sawdust and kerosine in oil cans, the Senior class creates a design featuring the "E" on the field using lumenaria lit by battery powered tea lights.  It is not quite the same proclaimation from atop the mountain, but each suceeding Senior class endeavors to out-do the previous class, so creativity has a larger part than in the past as each Senior class assumes the role of The "E" Association to light the "E" for Tigers' Homecoming.