July 20, 2005 - At Canyon Del Oro High School, the Dorado Aztec Warrior is an unwelcome sight for anyone but its students. The opposing Aztec Warrior figurehead has long come to symbolize a strong athletic program backed by the stronger will of its collective student body.
When the students of CDO return to school in the fall they'll have a newly refurbished floor to stomp on in the main gym.
For the majority of students who have traversed the halls and gyms of the 39-year-old school, the Dorado has long been the symbol that both unifies and inspires athletes and academics alike.
That symbol, which has stood the balance of the school's history on its basketball court, was created by a woman who did so while working on her hands and knees.
Using old-fashioned methods and while eight-months pregnant with her first son, Diane Redhair single handedly put the Dorado on the Northwest landscape. As the first art teacher in the school's history, Redhair was commissioned in December 1966 to paint the Dorado on center court.
Despite its retro-charm, CDO didn't always look the way it does today. In the mid-1960s, Redhair's art room was stationed in the wrestling room - a gym split in half by a partition with the drivers education department.
"They had a (space) heater," laughs Redhair about the cold gym. "I'd go around all winter with pneumonia teaching art."
The original logo, replete with Aztec warrior headdress, was created as part of a school-wide contest entered by its students. The eventual mascot, the one that still graces the school's halls and athletic fields, was a combination of two winning designs created by John Appling and Kenny Harris, both football players.
Even with two talented artists, Redhair, an established artisan in her own right, was on her own to layout the school's new symbol. To get the project started, she enlisted the help of her father, Cliff Vance. The branches of the Redhair's family tree were stocked with artists and Vance was no exception. He earned his living by creating and painting the logos on the Shamrock Dairy trucks.
Redhair's art experience began at the University of Arizona where she earned a degree in commercial art in the 1950s.
At CDO, the father-daughter duo created the Dorado in the same stencil-style fashion. After that, the rest was up to the very pregnant Redhair.
"With my dad and my stomach this big and on my hands and knees," said Redhair, gesturing as if she still had the pregnant belly. "It was quite a feat, but we got it done."
The entire process took three long days to complete but only used up a mere gallon of paint. If Redhair had her druthers, the school's colors would be green and red instead of its classic green and gold.
Being so close to the creation of the mascot must have had an affect on Redhair's only son Mike, who would go on to become Mr. Dorado himself starring for the school's basketball and volleyball teams. Eventually Mike moved on to play for the basketball team at Arizona State University in Tempe.
Mike's sister, Banni, born two years later, also enjoyed her share of the athletic spotlight at CDO and beyond. After her years as a Dorado, she went on to star as an All-American tennis player at the University of Arizona.
Years later, well after Redhair left teaching to raise her two children, CDO came calling again; this time to redo what she had already done.
Repainting the floor at CDO in the 1980s proved much easier the second time around for the former art instructor who also doubled as the school's first physical education teacher. This go-around, Mike made things a little easier for his mother by allowing her to use his volleyball kneepads.
Still, repainting the floor required much of the same process as initially creating the floor after the original art was sanded down in the refurbishing process. Essentially she had to start from scratch.
Today, art is still a very big part of Redhair's life as evident by the self-painted oil canvases that adorn just about every wall in her Foothills home. None of her artwork, which has been prominently displayed in galleries throughout Tucson, including Paloma Art, comes close to the size of the Dorado painting.
"It's kind of similar only it's on a different scale," said Redhair about the difference between her artwork and painting a gym floor, "I've done a few canvases but not that big."
As the students flock back to school this August, under their feet will be a little piece of Dorado history. The old hardwood has been refurbished this summer, and a new Dorado, which looks just like Redhair's Dorado, is in place, painted by the company that resurfaced the wood. But Redhair isn't distraught to see her work fall to the ages.
"Well I guess it's like anything that gets old, it gets replenished," laughs Redhair, who wishes the new artist luck. "I hope I can live longer than the floor."