Salem Rock acts as canvas for the P-CEP community


Gavin French

The Salem Rock painted by the Salem Cross Country team to celebrate a successful season in November 2021.

One of the first noticeable things when entering the Salem High School visitor parking lot is the 6 foot 12 inch, thousand pound Salem Rock. However, the Rock does not look like any ordinary gray boulder. It has been painted by students time and time again with a variety of vibrant colors, featuring many different themes. 

The Salem Rock was first placed by a tank crane lent by master sergeant member of the Army Corp of Engineers Jerry Mulhulland, a graduate from the original Plymouth High School, now the home of Plymouth Arts & Recreation Complex (PARC) in downtown Plymouth. 

The Rock was placed in front of Salem High School on November 8, 1978. Before a football game against Franklin High School, somebody poured red paint on the Rock, and ever since then the Rock has had many shades of blue poured on top of it to represent Salem’s home colors. Ever since then, the Salem Rock has been a canvas for students to paint on. 

Because the Salem Rock is Salem’s rock, it may be expected that the Rock can only be painted by Salem students and not Plymouth or Canton High School students, but actually:

“Anybody can paint the rock. It’s open to all students. So let’s say Canton beats us at a soccer game; they might paint it red,” Kurt Runchey, a graduate of Salem High School and an employee in Plymouth-Canton Community Schools (P-CCS) for 20 years — the last eight of which spent in the Salem counseling office — said.

The Salem Rock has been painted for all sorts of purposes in its past, from sports team celebrations to memorials.

“When 9/11 happened, I think it [the Rock] had an American flag. There’s different reasons to do it; when teams win, that’s usually what it’s for. It’s really for bragging rights, originally. But yeah, more recently it’s been for memorial,” Runchey said. 

Gaining permission to paint the Rock is a very simple process. 

“There is no permission needed to paint the rock,” Runchey said. As further support, he brought up the saying many have heard while listening to 88.1 the Park on the radio during a sweeper between songs, “‘You painted the rock after someone else just painted the rock.’”

With the tradition going on for 43 years, the Salem Rock has been a major part of the heart and soul of P-CEP, ultimately bringing the community closer together.