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The story behind the capital ‘H’ in the hills above Glendale

It’s been there since at least the 1930s.

And every year a group of people hike up to re-chalk it to make sure it’s still visible to Glendale residents and visitors.

The big H in the hills above Glendale represents the pride of the Herbert Hoover High School Tornado.

Edgar Stepanyan, Hoover’s history teacher, has led the group down a fire route, steep hill, and rough terrain to the giant H since 2012, when he served as an advisor to the Associated Student Body at the high school.

The person who previously managed the H told Stepanyan the letter had been there since the ’30s (the school opened in 1929).

A Glendale native, Stepanyan noticed the big letter in the hills growing up.

He later visited Hoover and soon found the meaning behind the H.

A few years forward, degrees from Cal State Northridge and a stint at the local middle school, and Stepanyan is now making the H shine bright over town.

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Edgar Stepanyan and his son can be seen in a 2021 photo provided by Stepanyan.

“I attend the senior class every year, along with 25 bags of chalk,” Stepanyan said. Other staff and alumni sometimes join in the fun, and Stepanyan’s 4-year-old son recently joined the team as well.

Stepanyan, his students as Dr. Step said the group usually visits the H near graduation once the rainy season is over and the H begins to fade.

He pointed out that both he and the students take pride in making the H lighter.

“If the H is faded, our school doesn’t look good,” Stepanyan said. “I know the students are proud when we chalk it up. It’s a feeling of pride to look at this H and see how good it looks and that we’re working hard to preserve it.”

Rival Glendale High School has a G-shaped bush near the Broadway campus, and Burbank High School has a concrete B.

And while it has been suggested that they make the H a more permanent feature encased in concrete, Stepanyan said their chalky letter is special.

“It’s such a tradition and also such a bonding experience for the seniors. It’s sweet for them to enjoy this experience and it’s a fun hike and great workout.”

So how is the H chalked?

Once the team reaches the fire trail, which has gotten a bit more complicated in recent years — the city has to give them access — there’s a five-minute hike before they grab a rope and head down the mountain.

“It’s a bit dangerous, and kids get scared when they get up there, but then they have a good time,” Stepanyan said.

The chalking team can be seen in a 2021 photo by Edgar Stepanyan.
The chalking team can be seen in a 2021 photo by Edgar Stepanyan.

For Jessica Voskanian, a senior at Hoover and ASB President, chalking up the H means overcoming her fears.

The 18-year-old first went on the trip in her freshman year. Voskanian is afraid of heights and when she made it to the H she was terrified.

“But once you’re up there, there’s no going back,” Voskanian said. “You overcome your initial fear and just slide down the mountain.”

Voskanian added that she just had to stop thinking about it, recalling being surrounded by confident people.

Voskanian was also raised in Glendale and says she found out what the H stood for when she was in middle school.

“I’ve always wondered what it was, and now I’m the one chalking the H and being part of something I know other kids will look up and wonder,” she said.

She said the sense of exhilaration made her go back every year, plus the FOMO (fear of missing out).

“I didn’t want to miss anything or break tradition,” Voskanian said.

Voskanian said she wants to continue being part of the tradition if she stays on-site for college, but to step up during her senior year is a “bittersweet feeling.”

“Something as simple as chalking a letter on a mountain means so much, not just to the people who go there, but to the community that surrounds it,” she said.

https://ktla.com/news/local-news/why-is-there-a-big-h-in-the-hills-above-glendale/ The story behind the capital ‘H’ in the hills above Glendale

Dais Johnston

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