People go up to the 50-foot-by-30-foot “P” on the mountain at the back of campus at all hours of the day for dates, to see the view, go mountain biking, to paint it — for a variety of different activities.
“The view is awesome, and it’s a great date spot,” Cuesta College student Ken Staal said. “It’s my birthday, and I got a kiss for my birthday up there, so that was good.”
Staal is just one example that Cal Poly students aren’t the only visitors to the “P” regularly. Cal Poly Athletics Director Don Oberhelman said he thinks it’s crazy if students don’t go up to the “P” at least once during their time here.
“It’s a focal point for campus pride,” Oberhelman said. “I think it’s something that (students) should look up at and be proud of every day, and I think everybody should take a hike up there and take a view from up there. … It’s an inspiring spot. It’s a beautiful spot. If when you go up there, you can’t be proud of Cal Poly and how fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful place, you’re crazy. I would encourage all students to go up there and take a look at it.”
The “P” has a past
Facilities Plan Room Coordinator Rex Wolf is responsible for archiving all construction projects done on campus, including work done to the “P.”
“It’s my job to keep records of all facilities-related projects, and I put the construction design of the ‘P’ into the archives,” he said.
The “P” on the mountain stands for polytechnic. There’s been a “P” on the mountain since the early 1900s, and the word polytechnic was in the school’s name from the beginning, Wolf said.
When Cal Poly was first established — before it was a university — it was called California Polytechnic School. At that time, the “P” was originally an outline of large rocks filled in with powdered limestone, Wolf said.
“That one required a lot of maintenance, I imagine,” Wolf said. “It was probably just spruced up for a football game, and then it probably just fell apart real quick.”
The “P” was reconstructed with concrete in 1957, probably to reduce maintenance, Wolf said.
However, some maintenance was still required after 1957. The bottom of the “P” was reconstructed in 1997 because of damage from erosion caused by a big storm, Wolf said.
It was rebuilt with rebar in the rock and brick, and then concrete was put over that. The bottom part is built to last, but it won’t last forever, Wolf said.
When a student visits the “P,” they can see the erosion taking place and can imagine something drastic happening from another storm or something like that, he said.
Another part of the history of the “P” is that it’s an old tradition for students to paint on it.
Procedures for painting
If you want to decorate the “P,” you have to get your design approved through an application process, Wolf said.
From pride rainbows, to fraternity symbols, to gold and green polka dots, the “P,” has been painted in countless ways throughout its history.
Project and events manager Don Popham said decorating the “P” is considered a campus privilege.
“People aren’t allowed to go up there and just do what they want with the ‘P,'” Popham said. “They need to get permission.”
The “P” was originally managed by Mustang Maniacs, a fan club for Cal Poly athletics, but two years ago, it was decided that facilities should manage the “P,” Popham said.
When facility services took over managing the “P” it tried to continue on with what the Mustang Maniacs criteria was for managing it. Popham said people interested in decorating the “P” should visit the Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) website. Student organizations have to turn in a plan and work with the ASI Epicenter to get permission, Popham said.
ASI Epicenter enters it into a database that’s used between university scheduling and campus departments and other entities on campus, Popham said. The request goes to ASI, and then ASI contacts facility services and says the group would like to decorate the “P” and would like to approve or disapprove, he said.
Getting permission to decorate the “P” during a certain time is based on a first-come, first-serve basis, Popham said.
This is part one of a two-part series on the Cal Poly “P.” Check out the paper tomorrow for part two, featuring the present and paths of the “P.”