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Cougars & Mustangs

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Four years remain until the iconic “P” adorning the Cal Poly hillside celebrates its 100th anniversary. I’ve no particular idea what celebration, if any, will be thrown for the landmark in 2019, be it a casual Facebook post, a celebratory hike to the location, or even an exact replica of the structure built to scale on an adjoining hill but out of cake that results in a new ban on birthdays to join the ban on Mardi Gras. What I can tell you, though, is renovation will occur on the beloved structure. The popular landmark has had many temporary alterations for various occasions in its long lifespan, from added letters to a rainbow in support of LGBTQIA pride. Late last year, however, the tradition was regretfully put to an end when concerns arose that the amount of erosion around the structure was a safety issue. Now, thanks to the help of the California Conservation Corps, renovations such as a new trail up to the letter; a retaining-type wall at the P’s base; and a plan to divert water on the hill to travel down a different side, helping to prevent further erosion in the future, will put the P back in tip-top shape once again. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s Google Plus account has posted at least one photo showing that this work is already going.

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Though there are varying reports as to the origin of the unnamed-hill’s adornment, the oldest dates back to an Oct. 22, 1919, issue of the student publication, The Polygram, at a time when Cal Poly, not yet a university, was instead a polytechnic co-educational high school with a vicious rivalry with San Luis Obispo High. One morning, the students of Cal Poly woke to find several large stone H (for High) letters atop the hills surrounding San Luis Obispo. The Mustangs proceeded to modify each of those Hs into Ps, and when SLO High students attempted to retaliate, Cal Poly resolved to protect the P adorning its very own hillside until the bitter, bitter end. That my own attempts to incite warfare between the Mustangs and Cuesta Cougars have gone basically nowhere, much less anywhere approaching that, is a personal shame I must come to terms with on my own. Until then, you do have the bitter hatred of any and all college students and their ruining of our beloved small town atmosphere by people who forget that Cal Poly is actually older than they are.

Contributor Chris White-Sanborn guesses you could say that the giant P is so old that it’s OVER THE HILL, eh? Eh? EH? Send your collegiate news to cougarsandmustangs@newtimesslo.com before she makes any more puns.

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