The confusion is over—for now.
San Benito High School is officially Hollister High School after the San Benito High School District Board of Trustees voted to finalize the renaming of the school in their June 28 meeting. The unanimous vote capped a years-long process that saw the Board examine the renaming of the high school five times in the last year alone.
Board President John Corrigan said the inevitable future opening of a second high school in San Benito County served as one of the driving forces for the name change.
“The name change has been in the conversation forever, but this year the definite pressing need for a second high school kind of gave us a little impetus to make this decision one way or another,” Corrigan said. “You’re not going to build a second high school and call it Hollister High School because there are already far too many people who firmly believe that campus on Monterey Street is Hollister High School. The fact that we’ll need another high school eventually gave us the impetus to do this once and for all.”
Of course, nothing would preclude the future second high school being named—you guessed it—San Benito High School. But that will all be determined at a much later date.
The renaming of SBHS to Hollister High School will cost the district $55,000—it has a budget of roughly $41 million—which accounts for signage, label, uniform and various logo changes. Most if not all of the sports teams, of course, already have the block H or Hollister lettered on their apparel.
Those in favor of the name change said it’s long overdue. Bryan Smith and Marlene Villegas are longtime P.E. teachers and graduates of the school and they’re delighted with the official name change. They’ve always known and referred to the school as Hollister.
The Villegas family has had three generations graduate from the school: both of Villegas’ parents, herself and her three daughters. Smith was a three-sport standout at Hollister in the early to mid-1990s. They both cited the block H that is ubiquitous on the school’s P.E. T-shirts, sports team uniforms and hats as paramount to why the school should be called Hollister.
“I have always identified as a Hollister Haybaler,” Smith said in a text message to the Free Lance. “In the early 1990s, it was on my sports uniforms and we were and still are extremely proud. The H on our (football) helmet was implemented in the mid-’90s by (former football) coach (Chris) Cameron. It represents Hollister. One side of our helmet represents our fans, our alumni, our community. The other side is the players’ side. The hay hooks the players earn go on their side. We are the Hollister Haybalers. It has been a long time since I’ve seen SB on a hat, shirt, or any gear from the high school.”
Incidentally, the block H has been a source of confusion. Randy Logue, who coached for 20-plus years at the school and was a teacher for over 30 years before retiring, might have the definitive facts on the block H and what it stands for.
The late Bob Mattson, a Hollister High Hall of Fame inductee and whose name graces the school’s large gymnasium, told Logue in 1986 that the H stands for Haybalers, not Hollister.
“But in the 1920s they were actually called the Hollister Huskies,” Logue said. “As in (strapping) Husky farm boys who went to school there.”
Corrigan emphasized the Board along with District Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum and Administrative Assistant Carol Heiderich did extensive research before making their decision. Their findings, in fact, went a long way in giving them confirmation they were making the right decision.
Since the inception of the school in 1875, the school has been either recognized or officially named San Benito High School, San Benito County High School, San Benito Union High School, San Benito Joint Union High and Hollister High School.
“One thing was clear: there was never a single year where it was clearly called San Benito High School or Hollister High School,” Corrigan said. “Every single year, it was referred to both names numerous times in newspaper articles, yearbooks, and any other sources of publications. In some yearbooks the school would be referred to as San Benito High and Hollister High literally on the same page, depending on what activity was being referenced. People feel passionate about each of the names, and there were quite a few people at the meeting that were opposed to the name change, but it was the right thing to do.”
Logue, who prefaced his comments and said his opinion doesn’t truly matter because he didn’t graduate from the high school, takes issue with anyone thinking it was the right thing to do.
“I don’t think it’s morally right that they changed the name of the school,” Logue said. “If you live in the county’s rural areas, basically what you’re saying to them is you’re not as important. I think it’s a mistake, I think it’s a bad move and I think it’s a slap in the face to people who live in the rural parts of the county. If you didn’t graduate from that school, what gives you the moral right to change something that has existed for over 100 years? To change something that started in the 1800s, I think that’s arrogance on our part.”
Villegas, in a text message to the Free Lance, said renaming the school officially to Hollister is a win-win from an inclusion standpoint.
“I feel Hollister High makes it more personable,” she said. “Since it’s the only high school in town, Hollister High represents the community to me. SBHS is more of the sense of the county to me. Everywhere I go someone would ask where is SBHS? I would say in Hollister.
“Then they would immediately know the school. This happened all the time at our coach’s meeting for sports. They would often say then why not just call it Hollister High? I would say I do lol. To me it has always been Hollister High School in the San Benito High School District. This would make it inclusive for all.”
Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]