The Missoula Peace Sign

Missoula Peace signMysteriously repainted every time the phone company would paint over it, the Missoula Peace Sign was located on the US West microwave reflector screen high on Waterworks Hill directly north of downtown from 1983 until sometime around the turn of the millenium when the screen was finally removed.  Now there is a peace sign made of rocks some several hundred yards to the east of the original location.

2 thoughts on “The Missoula Peace Sign

  1. Reviving the Missoula Peace Sign: A New Campaign Begins
    Posted by: Pete Talbot September 7, 2006 in Local Issues Forum (c8), Missoula 0 Comments

    For 18 years, a peace sign looked down on the city from Waterworks Hill. Actually, it was a 30-foot by 30-foot microwave reflector. But late one night in May 1983, four men and two women from the NSLF (North Side Liberation Front) scaled the structure and painted the ubiquitous peace sign.

    From that point on, until May 2001, the peace sign endured. It withstood numerous re-paintings. US West Communications, the owner of the sign, would paint it white and activists would climb back up and reapply the peace symbol (and occasionally other icons). It withstood a fire in the summer of 2000. A cigarette tossed from a car on Interstate 90 started a fire that raced up the North Hills toward the peace sign. A slurry bomber extinguished the blaze as flames licked the structure. A six-foot-high fence topped with barbed wire was erected around the sign – not much of a hindrance, though, for folks willing to ascend a 30-foot vertical skin of sheet metal.

    Then, satellite technology replaced microwave technology. Qwest Communications, the new owner of the sign, tore it down.
    “Where did it go? Why don’t we have it anymore? Can we get a new one?” These are commonly asked questions by visitors viewing stickers, photos and other peace sign memorabilia at the Jeanette Rankin Peace Center, says the center’s director, Betsy Mulligan-Dague.

    So now there’s talk of a new peace sign. But what will it be made of and where will it go?

    The Peace Center has formed a committee that is circulating a petition to gain public input and brainstorming the best form for the new sign to take. So far, 118 people have signed the petition including Missoula’s mayor John Engen. “The goal is to have a permanent, visible sign of peace in whatever form it may take,” Mulligan-Dague, “and to honor the old sign.”

    All nine pieces (10-foot by 10-foot sections) of the original sign are in Missoula and accounted for. They’re in homes and gardens, garages and backyards. But maybe that’s where they’ll stay.Mulligan-Dague said a committee has formed to study the feasibility of getting a peace sign, although “it might be time for something new.”“We want to hear from people in the community” about where a peace sign should go and what it should look like, she said.

    There’s been discussion of planting native grasses or bushes in the shape of a peace symbol on the open-space land where the old peace sign stood. There’s been talk of a mural, like the ones that grace a couple of Downtown Missoula’s buildings. And, of course, reuniting the nine pieces from the original peace sign is often the subject at the committee meetings.“This discussion of if there is going to be a peace sign and where it will go is a practice in the peace process itself,“ Mulligan-Dague said.

    Comments can be filed at the Jeanette Ranking Peace Center, 519 S. Higgins Ave. So far, no “no” comments have been submitted to the concept of some kind of peace sign somewhere, Mulligan-Dague said.
    “Considering the violence in the world today, what better time to recommit to peaceful solutions,” community organizer Jim Parker said to a group of peace activists who gathered last week at the Missoula County Library, “Perhaps it’s time for the pieces of peace to be reunited.”

    Reporter Kerry McMannis contributed to this article.

    Note: This week’s Independent announced a walking vigil September 11 at 5:30 on Waterworks hill. Due to recent changes in rules about gathering on state land, that vigil will be moved to Jeanette Rankin Park and begins at 6.
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  2. It is right that the story of the iconic Peace Sign be preserved and re-told. The sign, how it came into being and the people who valued the statement for peace enough to keep it re-painted–well, that’s Missoula.

    One small technical point about this post, though. It wasn’t satellite technology that did in the microwave technology but digital fiber. Shortly before the peace sign was removed, US West upgraded their communications equipment with a $10 million digital switch. It was a big deal even though it made the microwave reflector obsolete..

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