Hail Montezuma! The Hidden Treasures of San Diego State

Aztec Timeline: A Chronology of All Things San Diego State > 1940




Alumna Evelyn Boldrick wins the U.S. national badminton championships.  She will repeat as the country’s badminton champion in 1942, at which time the San Diego Union will proclaim her “San Diego’s national women’s badminton queen.”


Milton (Milky) Phelps leads San Diego State to the 1941 national basketball collegiate title.  State had been runner-up the two previous years but managed to defeat Murray State 35-33 in the 1941 finals.

Alumnus Leo Stern wins the first Mr. San Diego physique competition.

Alumna Faye Emerson is discovered by an agent from Warner Brothers and goes on to make six major films by the year’s end.  A legendary film actress and media personality, Emerson will be known as “The First Lady of Television.”

Monty Montezuma, a character based on historical Aztec Emperor Montezuma II, first debuts at a San Diego State athletics event as a symbolic personification of the Aztecs.

San Diego State’s Little Theatre premieres Aztec Robert Wade and Bill Miller’s parody of Paramount Pictures’ 1939 blockbuster movie Beau Geste. (March 6-7, 1941)


World War II greatly impacts the college.  Enrollment drops dramatically as over 3,000 faculty, staff, graduates, and students—including 150 women—go to war.


Art Linkletter (class of 1934) begins his People Are Funny show on the radio; he will take it to television in 1954.


The USS John C. Butler, the lead ship of her class of destroyer escorts, is launched.  Named after Ensign John C. Butler (attended 1939-1941), this ship will see extensive military action in World War II; it provides anti-submarine and anti-aircraft protection for supporting carriers and endures numerous kamikaze attacks. (November 12, 1943)


Hail Montezuma! replaces The Crimson and Black as San Diego State’s alma mater.

World War II ends, and returning veterans enroll at State in large numbers.  The college more than doubles its student population in the 1940s; nearly half of the new students are veterans.


The American Association of Teacher’s Colleges ranks San Diego State in the top 3% of over 500 institutions in the nation in terms of the quality of its program and the academic preparation of its faculty.

Senator and Mrs. Ed Fletcher donate 25 chimes for the Hardy Memorial Tower to commemorate the college’s impending 50th anniversary and memorialize San Diego State students, faculty, and staff killed in military action.


The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that state legislators officially agreed that San Diego State College can never become a branch of the University of California. (May 4, 1947)


The Campus Drive-in Theatre on El Cajon Boulevard Avenue opens; it features a 100’ by 80’ neon sign of the San Diego State campus with a 50’ tall majorette in an Indian headdress.

Aztec track star Willie Steele wins a gold medal in the broad jump during the summer Olympics.

Dr. Jack Johnson Kimbrough leads a series of successful anti-discrimination sit-ins at various local restaurants, including the U.S. Grant Hotel.  Kimbrough, who won 31 of 32 lawsuits in 1948 as the San Diego NAACP branch president, recruited black and white San Diego State College students to target white-only restaurants together; if the black students were denied service, the white students would testify in court as witnesses.


Alumnus Bobby Smith wins the NCAA pole vault title and successfully defends his crown in 1950.  He is part of a family of outstanding pole vaulters, including his father Ralph and brother Harry.

San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre hosts its first Shakespeare Festival; it is produced in cooperation with San Diego State College.