Carson mountainside S repainted by volunteers

Rosaline Carvin was wielding her mop enthusiastically Saturday high above Eagle Valley, sluicing whitewash over the rocks that make up the giant S on the west flank of the Pinion Hills overlooking Carson City.

The 69-year-old Carson City woman had hiked up the steep slopes to join in the annual repainting of the S, the geographic monogram of the old Stewart Indian School she had attended for four years as a teenager.

"I'm a third-generation Stewart School student, so I wanted to volunteer to come do this," Carvin said.

It's a privilege she didn't have as a student. Maintaining the S was an honor reserved for Block S, the school's top athletes.

Now the spring painting falls to volunteers of the Stewart Indian School Museum. Marilyn "Max" Symonds and Jeff and Sheila Abbe coordinated Saturday's painting expedition.

A group of nine students and two counselors from the Rites of Passage program took on the tough chore of hauling five-gallon buckets of donated whitewash several hundred feet up the steep slope to the S before everyone grabbed mops or paint brushes to brightened the monument.

"The Rites of Passage guys are some of our best volunteers," Jeff Abbe said. "Whenever we do an event, they're here to help. They're painting today, they clean up after our pow wows, whatever we need."

Taking a break from whitewashing the stones, Carvin looked out across the valley as she recalled her days at the school, 1945-48.

"Stewart was great when I was there. They has the best pass system, where you could study the academic subjects half a day and spend the other half on vocational training," Carvin said. "We learned in the diary barns that still stand on the south of the campus. We learned to bake. You could study upholstery in a shop or food management in the kitchen and pantry.

"It was a self-contained school - we did everything for ourselves.

"Some of what I learned I used as a nurse's aide, but most of it helped the most as I was raising my children."

As Carvin and other volunteers spread white whitewash across rocks that made up the S, a couple others used brown paint to cover whitewash on rocks away from the S.

The renegade paint was the remains of an older effort to turn the symbol into a "95" by an enthusiastic groups of that year's Carson High School graduates. Jeff Abbe said the Bureau of Land Management had asked that the volunteers try to camouflage the unwanted paint.

Carvin graduated from CHS herself after four years at the Stewart school.

The Stewart Indian School opened in 1890 south of Carson City as a vocational school for the children of the Great Basin's tribes. It closed in 1980 and the "Stewart Facility," with dozens of buildings of hand-laid stone masonry, is now owned by the state. A variety of government and nonprofit organizations use many of the buildings south of Snyder Avenue.

"Yes, I really loved it at Stewart," Carvin said.

"My grandmother, Pansie Fillmore Davidson, graduated in from Stewart in 1904. My mother went there too, in the mid-'20s, but she didn't talk about it. She didn't like it there.

"Those were the 'hard-tack' years, when my mother and grandmother went to Stewart, but I had it much better there."

The Sherwin-Williams, Kelly-Moore and ICI Delux paint stores in Carson City donated surplus paint for Saturday's project.

When the volunteers returned to the valley floor, Sheila Abbe had as a reward a barbecue waiting for them back at the museum.


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