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From the Editor

The Neon Majorette
Preservation of a San Diego Icon

One of San Diego's most recognizable landmarks is the Neon Majorette, a part of San Diego's viewscape for over six decades. What many may not know is that she belongs to SOHO.

The 46-foot-high, 3,500 lb, neon majorette was built in 1947, installed in '48 at the Campus Drive-In Theatre near San Diego State University.

The Campus was the largest drive-in theater on the West Coast at the time and the 4-story majorette, one of the tallest neon installations in the country, was affixed against a fantastic mural depicting the San Diego State University bell tower quadrangle, football goalposts, and background mountains.

The Neon Majorette - The complete sign as it stood originally at the Campus Drive-In Theatre.


The Majorette has survived the demolition of two prior locations and years of storage. In 1983 the drive-in was demolished, the Majorette was saved from being destroyed by the Save Our Neon Organization, who stored it in a downtown warehouse until 1985 when the sign was restored and installed at the newly renovated Marketplace at the Grove. It was placed at the Mann Theater at College Grove, where it stayed until 1998, when the shopping center was again renovated as College Grove Center.

On July 2, 2001, ownership of the Majorette passed, by way of donation from Vestar Development Co., owner of College Grove Shopping Center, to SOHO. As part of the donation, Vestar agreed to remain responsible for financial and physical maintenance of the Majorette, and to keep it lit during nighttime operating hours for the shopping center. SOHO has an easement for access and the right to remove the Majorette, although it will remain at the College Grove Shopping Center for the foreseeable future.

Austin Linn Gray and Joe Schmidt, two San Diegans, are credited with the design of the Majorette. It is believed that Gray used as a model for the sign a photograph of Marion Caster Heatherly Baker, a top California drum majorette in the 1940's and head drum majorette at San Diego High School, class of 1943, at San Diego State College, the Naval Training Center, and later the Los Angeles Rams.

This SOHO lady has been featured in photo spreads in Time and Life, as well as in numerous books and calendars. Under SOHO's stewardship the Majorette is certain to remain a part of San Diego's identity for generations to come.

2008 - Volume 39, Issue 1/2

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