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San Dieguito trots out its old metal mustang

Original artist returns to give sign a new coat

Susan LaForest Williams
Susan LaForest Williams

On June 7, former Encinitas resident Susan LaForest Williams returned to San Diego from her home in Los Alamos, New Mexico, to repaint the San Dieguito High School mascot sign. As a sophomore in 1979, she was the sign’s original artist.

Susan LaForest Williams in 1979

LaForest-Williams graduated in the class of 1981, but it was metal-shop students Jeff Boman (’79) and Cliff Phillips (’79) who wanted to leave their legacy, in the form of a large metal “Mustangs” sign with the school’s rearing-horse mascot. Their shop teacher, Walt Hill, approached the school’s art teacher, Jesus Soto, and asked if he had a student who could draw a Mustang.

“I drew horses all day long,” said LaForest-Williams. She said Mr. Soto knew immediately who to ask. The sign became a six-foot Mustang, mounted on a six-foot pole at the Santa Fe Drive entrance to the campus.

By 2012, due to years of coastal salt air, the thick metal sign had rusted out and was taken down. The alumni association made sure it was stored until funds could be raised to restore it.

Early this year, fellow alumnus Susan Ash Bruun (’61), owner of Baker Ironworks in Solana Beach, stepped in to help out in the restoration. Her firm repaired the rust holes and added a four-foot extension to the pole but realized they would need help in repainting. Ash Bruun asked one of her purveyors, R.W. Little Company in San Diego, to help out.

Over the past few weeks, after sandblasting the pole, R.W. Little personnel treated it with three coats of an inorganic zinc primer, followed by an epoxy paint, and topped it off with a polyurethane finish.

As the polyurethane finish was drying, LaForest-Williams had a 24-hour window in which to apply her “Mustang blue” highlights.

“It’s all easily coming back to me now,” LaForest-Williams said as she was stroking the brush. She hadn’t painted or drawn in over 20 years. “This is reminding me of simple things in high school. I was creative once. Life gets so serious sometimes. I can almost feel this is bringing me back to a lighter energy…. I need to do this more often. My husband would agree.”

The 1500-pound sign will be installed in its original 1979 spot, 16 feet over Santa Fe Drive. A public rededication ceremony is planned for September 6, celebrating the return of the sign and the campus’ 80th year.

The alumni association is seeking the whereabouts of former students Boman and Phillips, along with teacher Walt Hill. Art teacher Mr. Soto has passed away. LaForest-Williams say she’ll be there.

The author is chairperson of the San Dieguito Alumni Association.

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Susan LaForest Williams
Susan LaForest Williams

On June 7, former Encinitas resident Susan LaForest Williams returned to San Diego from her home in Los Alamos, New Mexico, to repaint the San Dieguito High School mascot sign. As a sophomore in 1979, she was the sign’s original artist.

Susan LaForest Williams in 1979

LaForest-Williams graduated in the class of 1981, but it was metal-shop students Jeff Boman (’79) and Cliff Phillips (’79) who wanted to leave their legacy, in the form of a large metal “Mustangs” sign with the school’s rearing-horse mascot. Their shop teacher, Walt Hill, approached the school’s art teacher, Jesus Soto, and asked if he had a student who could draw a Mustang.

“I drew horses all day long,” said LaForest-Williams. She said Mr. Soto knew immediately who to ask. The sign became a six-foot Mustang, mounted on a six-foot pole at the Santa Fe Drive entrance to the campus.

By 2012, due to years of coastal salt air, the thick metal sign had rusted out and was taken down. The alumni association made sure it was stored until funds could be raised to restore it.

Early this year, fellow alumnus Susan Ash Bruun (’61), owner of Baker Ironworks in Solana Beach, stepped in to help out in the restoration. Her firm repaired the rust holes and added a four-foot extension to the pole but realized they would need help in repainting. Ash Bruun asked one of her purveyors, R.W. Little Company in San Diego, to help out.

Over the past few weeks, after sandblasting the pole, R.W. Little personnel treated it with three coats of an inorganic zinc primer, followed by an epoxy paint, and topped it off with a polyurethane finish.

As the polyurethane finish was drying, LaForest-Williams had a 24-hour window in which to apply her “Mustang blue” highlights.

“It’s all easily coming back to me now,” LaForest-Williams said as she was stroking the brush. She hadn’t painted or drawn in over 20 years. “This is reminding me of simple things in high school. I was creative once. Life gets so serious sometimes. I can almost feel this is bringing me back to a lighter energy…. I need to do this more often. My husband would agree.”

The 1500-pound sign will be installed in its original 1979 spot, 16 feet over Santa Fe Drive. A public rededication ceremony is planned for September 6, celebrating the return of the sign and the campus’ 80th year.

The alumni association is seeking the whereabouts of former students Boman and Phillips, along with teacher Walt Hill. Art teacher Mr. Soto has passed away. LaForest-Williams say she’ll be there.

The author is chairperson of the San Dieguito Alumni Association.

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