I had been so sure of this that I worked it into the opening scene of The Signal Mountain Spelling Book of JuliUn Tod (self-published--as always--in 2010):
I was appalled when I saw it: etched in stone over the front porch of the elementary school were the words "Signal Mountain Grammer School."
It is, I'm sure you know, supposed to be a-r. Not e-r.
Seeing the horror of this caused me to hop around wildly in the aquarium.*
Yesterday--while on an automobile pilgrimage to hallowed family ground--I wondered, "Had my memory played me false? Had I been guilty of subconsciously elaborating the truth?" I decided to swing by to verify it.
A beautiful example of Appalachian plateau public architecture, the school was built in 1926 of mountain sandstone. It sits in a long crouch along Kentucky Avenue, fronted by a portico crowned by romanesque stone arches and a plain frieze given over in my memory entirely to a missspelling.
Here's the detail:
Look closely at the penultimate letter. What is it? It has four horizontal beams. No letter I know of has four horizontal beams. Look also at the gilding: the gold forms a letter "A," but that doesn't begin to hide the other elements (elementary!) of the character, which clearly form an "E."
Also, the gilding might be a sleight of paint to try to trick us into not seeing the depth of the etching--how much of the "A" is etched at all?--whereas the "E" elements stand out ungilded because of the shadowing caused by the etching.
The only verificatory ladder at hand was the human one in the van that wondered what the hell this was all about, and no they weren't going to hoist me up to feel a sign.
A final observation is that a different font might have made for a less obtrusive correction. The middle bar of the original "E" might have served as the cross-stroke for a "A," for example. But the original letter "E" wasn't done with the idea that "hey, that'll look like shit if somebody has to come up here 50 years down the road and slap a letter 'A' up here."
But look what somebody came along and did.
As to why in the world it would matter one way or the other, you have to ask horrified terrarium-hopper Julian the toad (a.k.a. JuliUn Tod) about that.
*The Courier font is done purposefully. The Spelling Book was written by JuliUnTod on a floppy and then printed out on dot-matrix Courier font; the book is therefore a facsimile.