By Nancy Burgess
As Prescott landmarks go, Thumb Butte, Granite Mountain, Watson Lake, the Elk on the top of the Elk’s Theater, and the Yavapai County Courthouse rank right up there with recognizable favorites. But many do not realize that the letter “P” on Badger Mountain is a landmark that has been here for 100 years.
The Prescott High School ( PHS) Class of 1922 wanted to present the City of Prescott with a special “parting shot.” When the idea of a letter “P” came up, senior Harold Block suggested the site on the West flank of Badger Mountain. Somehow, it all came together. The seniors picked a spot and marked out a “P.” The boys of the Class of ’22 carried buckets of lime whitewash up the mountain, a long, steep hike. There were no subdivisions or roads and only game trails to follow. They camped out at a stream at the base of the mountain (Government Creek) and every day the girls of the Class of ’22 brought food for the hard working boys. According to Harold Weiland, P.H.S Class of ’22 who was interviewed about the project many years later, at the upper left-hand point of the “P” is a huge boulder. Cut into that boulder is the date 4-14-22, the day the project was completed. Once the “P” was finished, the Class of ‘22 had a picnic above the “P” and had an after-dark ceremony to name the letter “Twenty-Two.” They “stumbled down the mountain in the dark, pleased as punch” with their accomplishment.
The 1922 Hassayamper, the P.H.S Yearbook, includes a page devoted to the “Letter.” “The Senior Class of ’22 presents to the school a letter. It is in the form of a ‘P’ on a mountain east of town. The letter is distinctive in that it is the only High School letter in Arizona and the only letter in Northern Arizona. It was presented to the school the day after its completion. It is to signify every phase of activity at P. H. S.” “It is the hope of the seniors that ‘Twenty-Two’ will inspire P. H. S. to greater achievements in years to come and that under its careful watch, P. H. S. will become bigger, better and happier each year.”
Although the letter was intended to be maintained by those following the Class of 1922, the “P” lost its luster in the last few years. Under the guidance of Bob Luzius, P. H. S. Class of 1950, the Prescott High School Junior ROTC maintained the “P” most recently.
To honor the 100th anniversary of the installation of the “P,” the Yavapai Chapter of Questers International, working with the City of Prescott, has funded the restoration of the “P.” Work was coordinated through Cat Moody, the City of Prescott Historic Preservation Specialist, and Joe Baynes, the City of Prescott Parks and Recreation Director. The work was completed with the grant for materials and equipment from Yavapai Questers and the hard work of the volunteer “Over the Hill Gang” under the direction of Chris Hosking. Brush was cleared, boulders were wrestled back into place and the “P” got a fresh coat of paint.
Now, thanks to the perseverance and hard work of the City of Prescott, the Over the Hill Gang and members of the Prescott community who are dedicated to preserving our history, the landmark “P” is as fresh and visible as it was on April 14, 1922, 100 years ago.
“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at archives.sharlothallmuseum.org/articles/days-past-articles/1 The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles and inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org Please contact SHM Research Center reference desk at 928-277-2003, or via email at email@example.com for information or assistance with photo requests.