'RR' is a recent change to Rogue River's 'R'

I've often noticed the "RR" above the city of Rogue River. There are many towns around the country that have initials on nearby hills, but it's not too common around here. Can you tell me about the "RR"?

— Jason R., Talent.

You see "RR" today, but in the beginning there was just one "R" overlooking the city of Rogue River.

In the 1950s, perhaps earlier, it was a rite of passage for senior lettermen at Rogue River High School to herd freshmen carrying gravel and lime up a rugged, poison oak-infested hill from the top of Broadway.

The annual trek coincided with the Chieftains' homecoming football game.

Charlie Smith, a member of the Class of '73 who still lives in Rogue River, first made the pilgrimage in the fall of 1969.

"It was three-quarters of a mile up to the top, hiking along the ridge," Smith said.

From Beck Field, just outside downtown, where Rogue River played its games, the "R" was highly visible, unless it rained.

"Kids dreaded rain, because it would erase the lime," Smith said. "I remember as a freshman being so proud of doing a good job."

But the practice ended abruptly after Smith's senior year, because it was considered hazing.

Over the years, the "R" faded.

A decade passed before, Jim Wiensz contacted Smith and the two hiked up the hill and cleared a half-acre of poison oak so the "R" could be restored.

"The next day my eyes were swollen shut from the stuff, and so were Jim's. The doctor gave us steroid shots for free, because he could see the "R" from his window."

In 1990, Duro Last roofing donated, canvas-like material for the 40-foot-by-80-foot "R" that Smith, Wiensz, Dave Sorensen and some of their sons installed.

Grace Baptist Church's youth group took over the project a few years later, electing to go with a double-R.

"When they rolled up the 80-foot leg," Smith said, "there were rattlesnakes beneath. That's probably a little more excitement than they counted on."

 — Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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