Street sign vandalism is commonplace

The signs saying "Mary Jane Ave." in Ashland get stolen at least three times a year. Last year, it was six times. Why? It's just a girl's name &

one of the children of the original owner of the land near Clay Street and Siskiyou Boulevard.

But it also happens to be slang for marijuana and therefore a prime target for kids who want some edgy decor for their dorms or apartments, say city street staff.

Another big target in Ashland is the sign for High Street. On more than one occasion, every sign in its mile-long length has disappeared in a stroke.

"Mary Jane and High &

those two are hard to keep up with," says city sign specialist Dan Gunter, who has worked for the street department for 24 years. He finally said "this is ridiculous" and decided to take extreme action.

He poured a big gob of concrete around the base of the Mary Jane sign at Mohawk Street. Vandals just put a chain around the whole thing and dragged it out.

It ended up atop the Ashland High School administration building.

Then he tried making the signs extra tall. Vandals got up high and unscrewed the signs &

or sawed through the pole with a hacksaw.

The Bush Street signs used to disappear a lot, but not since the election of two presidents named Bush, says Gunter. Now the signs are just defaced.

No one had a thought about drug or sexual lingo when the streets were named, but to change the names now would be prohibitively expensive, says Gunter. So the city keeps buying extra signs, not just of Mary Jane and High, but of any person's name &

Jessica, Randy, Carol, Linda. Those also get swiped a lot.

"Bump" signs also disappear at a high rate. Gunter isn't sure why, but defines bump as the snorting of drugs.

The "No Dumping" signs about town used to be made with appliqu&

233; letters, but kids would change the "D" to "H" with knives, says Gunter, so the city worded it differently.

The street department used to make its own signs and still has a 40-year-old sign oven to do it in an emergency. But it is cheaper for the city to buy signs &

they cost $29 &

than to make them in the oven.

Gunter figures that with the cost of gasoline, labor and infrastructure, the cost of replacing one street name sign is close to $100.

The Mary Jane and High signs disappear like clockwork a few days after the start of Southern Oregon University's fall term, says city Streets Superintendent John Peterson and, when dorms are cleaned out after spring term, the college security people bring a bunch of them back.

"The sign is never up for more than two or three weeks at a time," says Joe Andrews, who has a Mary Jane sign (sometimes) across the street from his house of 33 years. "I run kids off who are trying to steal it, seen 'em put chains around it and try to yank it out. We've even had college kids ask me to take a picture of them standing under the sign."

When the sign is down, Andrews and his wife, Sue, have to give directions to people by using Clay Street, a block away &

and when Joe Andrews gives out his address to have something mailed, he usually hears a chuckle on the other end of the line, he says.

"I lived in San Francisco in the '60s and everyone knew what Mary Jane was," he says. His wife adds, "It's the frequency of it, the kids making off with the sign. You'd think they'd be over it by now!"

Share This Story