In 1923, the South San Francisco Chamber of Commerce published articles in the town’s newspaper, the Enterprise, promoting the community and its businesses. One of the slogans was: “Think well of your town, speak well of it, remember you live here. Buy here. Keep your tax dollars at home." As a temporary publicity gimmick, the Chamber painted the words “South San Francisco, The Industrial City” in powdered lime on Sign Hill. In 1928, a $5,000 bond measure was approved to put the 60 foot letters in cement.
In April 1929 the
Cement Gun Construction Company of South San Francisco made the letters
permanent at a cost of $4,845 after the voters approved (by a margin of 3
to 1) a 7 cents city tax for this purpose. The Chamber felt the sign
was the best advertising the city could have and in 1996, through the
efforts of Edna Harks, town historian and archivist, Sign Hill was
placed on the National Register of Historic Places and the California
Register of the Office of Historic Preservation.
In 1932, the hill was decked out with another high-visibility project -- at the time the largest electric sign in the world. About 388 feet long, with thousands of lights, it was mounted on piers at the top of the hill. Fourteen messages, 15 seconds each, flashed such slogans as "Drink Acme Beer," "Buy Bakery Goods," "Maxwell House Coffee, Good to the Last Drop" and "White King" (a laundry detergent) "Washes Everything." This less historic sign was destroyed by heavy winds in 1940s.
Generations of residents and visitors have climbed Sigh Hill, which rises before San Bruno Mountain, for the joy of sliding down the giant letters on a sheet of cardboard.
A discontinued tradition involved painting the "c"s on the sign blue and the "s"s red in significance of the annual "Big Game" played by Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley. However, a new tradition has replaced it. Every year the football teams of the two high schools located in South San Francisco, El Camino High School and South San Francisco High School, compete in the "Bell Game," the last football game of the regular season for both teams. It is said that students from South City paint the "SC" in blue before the start of the Bell Game and students from El Camino paint the "EC" red.
On the top of Sign Hill, a tall pole with electric lights serves as an
electric Christmas tree, which is typically lit from the day after
Thanksgiving until January 6. The "tree" is visible for many miles at
night. In 2008, that same electric pole was modified to hold a vertical
number 100 to celebrate South San Francisco's 100th year as an