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The hill carving, a decades-old tradition, then and now

The year on the hill in 2022 (Photo: Eric Crosbie)

by Jon Donohue, assistant editor/Jonathan Giron, staff writer

Graduating seniors etching their year on the hill behind Maria Carrillo High School has been one of the school’s main traditions for years. Trips up to the hill over the past two months have brought recent attention to it, and once again, rumors are spreading around campus. The one consistent aspect of this tradition over 25 years is that it is always accompanied by rumors. Hopefully, we can set the record straight here about how it started and what has happened recently.

Despite what many assume, the origins of the tradition were not actually related to writing the graduating class’s year on the hill. “It all started when kids [juniors in the class of 1998] went up and wrote 420,” said Eric Crosbie, MCHS alumnus from the class of 2002. Crosbie remembers that the administration went up and drew a line through the 4 to make it into “H2O.” 

The third and fourth trips up the slope were made in the fall of 1998, according to Crosbie. A group of seniors from Santa Rosa High School went up and wrote “SRH” on the hill. “Santa Rosa was trying to claim the hill. Carrillo beat Santa Rosa in a football game, and [Carrillo seniors] went up and put ‘lost’ after the SRH to claim the hill back,” said Crosbie. This made it so the hill then read “SRH Lost.” 

Natalie May, MCHS alumna from the class of 2002, said, “It was more of a pranking thing between the schools, but it was a big deal because we were a new high school at the time. It was something that was so visible for everybody that it started creating some excitement as being recognized as the new school in town.” 

The senior class didn’t write their year into the hill until the spring of 1999. Crosbie said, “[The] first time was the class of 1999, [and they] wrote ‘99’ on the hill.” Then, over the next two years, 2000 and 2001, someone from each senior class went up and tried to change it to their year. According to May, “No one was doing a really good job [in the beginning].”

It wasn’t until the class of 2002 decided they wanted to go up and write out the full year, planning it out and making it look as neat and finished as possible. “The students who did it were really good students at math, so they laid it out mathematically correct. They made sure the scale was correct and they cut it in deep enough so it made a strong mark,” said May. 

This was the birth of the tradition. According to Crosbie, a group of seniors used the layout made by the planners and went up to dig the 2002 into the hill. After this, each senior class would send a group up to change the last digit. 

Fast forward to today, and seniors still go up and change the date to match their graduation year. However, in the last two months there have been three trips. A group around New Years went up and drew an obscene image, defacing the 2021 sign. Then, seniors went up and changed the 2021 to 2022, and tried to fix the image by putting 2022. Not long after, a group went up and cut lines through the 2022. 

“I feel that it was an act of pure disobedience on the juniors’ part to ruin and deface a Carrillo tradition that has been here for years. There was a lot of excitement as freshmen that we would be able to go up [to the hill], and it hurts that they ruined it,” said senior Ben McPhee. 

May, while she did not go up herself when the hill was emblazoned with the year of her class’s graduation, still mentioned how there was a sense of pride around campus to have the seniors go and update the year. “I remember feeling very proud when my class, the class of 2002, went up and did a good job,” she said.

Crosbie also noted that it was a big deal around campus. “When you grow up in a suburb, these things are meaningful. It was meaningful for the first kids [methodically planning it out to look good]. It was meaningful to the students who [dug the year]. It was meaningful to the [class of 2002], because that was their graduating class.”

One of the juniors who was involved with the recent trip up the hill to deface the number and who demanded anonymity because of worries about his reputation among other students decided to comment to the Prensa about the defacing of the hill. He said, in reference to frustration from the seniors, “That’s my bad. I am not gonna apologize, but that’s my bad.”

Crosbie, although disappointed that the tradition has been scarred, ended his comments about the tradition of updating the number every year by saying, “It is a fun thing that brings the community together.”

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