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WHO DECIDED . . . ? : . . . to Paint the Smile on the PSA Planes?

December 25, 1985|MIKE GRANBERRY | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO History is a fickle beast.

Almost always open to conjecture, it rarely passes up the chance to avoid controversy--especially where legends are concerned. History can be kind--or incredibly, indelibly mean. It can give credit to true believers, and deservers. Or break the reputation of those who merit a far better kiss of fate.

San Diego is no different from any city as far as lore is concerned. Who gets credit for the legends of "America's Finest City"? Is it a pioneer, a clear thinker, a creative soul, a hard worker with a heart in the right place? Or is it someone who happened along at just the right time to inherit a priceless bit of folklore that he or she can cling to forevermore?

How often have you wondered who decided this or that about San Diego? Or any place you've lived? Is credit in the right hands, right name, right place? Does it matter? Did it ever?

How has who decided the important decisions about your town changed or affected your life, your daily motion? What about the not-so-important decisions, the obvious you never knew existed?

Examining "who decided" is like taking a look at how fate and time shape a city, at how who gets the credit may not always be the truest telling of what really happened.

Or why . . .


Martin Rockey.

In 1968, Rockey was part-owner of an advertising agency--Gross, Perra and Rockey--that handled the account of Pacific Southwest Airlines. (Gross, Perra and Rockey no longer handles the account.)

Bill Hastings, director of public relations for the San Diego-based airline, says "Catch Our Smile" is second only to United's "Fly the Friendly Skies" as "a recognizable airline marking." The claim is based on data compiled by the airlines themselves.

As with any legend, controversy arises as to who really coined the slogan. It is not true, Hastings said, that the smile originated when a maintenance man got to horsing around with a paint bucket and put a smile on one of the planes.

It may make a better story, he said, but it just isn't so.

Nor is it true, he said, that the airline considered dropping the smile after the crash of one of its airliners in San Diego in 1978. Killing 144 people, the crash is the worst in the city's history.

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