Hail Montezuma! The Hidden Treasures of San Diego State

School Songs

San Diego State has had a series of official alma maters and fight songs, each of which reflected the times in which it was created.  The normal school’s alma mater, or official anthem, was Fair San Diego.  Written by Wilfred Knudtson in 1922, this tune was very Victorian, emphasizing the formal, rigid, and prudish decorum of the mid- to late 19th century.  Its lyrics were:

Fair San Diego we will prise
Thy name thru all the coming days’
Thy faith in us will lead us on
When we have crossed our Rubicon.
And tho we win the world and fame,
We’ll ne’er forget thy precious name;
Far down the years when we are old
We’ll love thy purple and thy gold.
Tho thy old walls fall to decay
These friendships blest, will live for aye,
‘Tis best to ever loving be
Like him who taught in Galilee.
We walk in godly liberty—
Thy truth doth make us truly free
Tho we may die and live anew
Dear San Diego we’ll be true.

Once the school changed colors, it also introduced a new alma mater.  In 1928, the “Crimson and Black” became the official school anthem.  Written by Roy Burge, this song was more Edwardian in nature; it was opulent, romantic, and pleasant in the spirit of the early 20th century.  The lyrics are as follows:

Alma mater, thy son's stand here before thee,
We pour forth our hearts in songs of praise;
For at thy feet, fair San Diego,
We have listened and learned through the days.
We who stand before thee, Alma Mater,
Chanting lift our voices to the light,
Though wild the way, the cliff impending;
Triumphant we sing begirt with might.

Ungreaved, nor helmeted for battle,
We fear neither foe nor fierce attack;
Our lances are couchant
While above sweep the Crimson and the Black.
Though we may fare unto far places,
Thy Crimson and thy Black will always shine
To guide our footsteps ever onward.
Alma Mater, we are always thine.

In 1945, San Diego State’s students adopted a new alma mater—“Hail Montezuma.”  First sung at commencement in 1942, this song proved victorious in a competition to determine the school’s new anthem.  Composed by music major Bob Austin but submitted under the pseudonym “Peter Standish,” “Hail Montezuma” has remained the school’s alma mater for over half a century.  The following original lyrics (with recent alterations in parentheses), are to be sung at an “Indian chant tempo”:

Hail, Montezuma,
We with loyal hearts our homage pay;
Proud, working and glorying
In the spirit of the Aztec name.
To thee, San Diego,
And the fond traditions, old and new,
A tribute raise of lasting praise and steadfast faith, (We’re ever praising, fire blazing in our hearts)
Hail, Montezuma.

Hail, Montezuma,
We salute thy glorious destiny;
Far seeing in coming days
Man and women strong who live in truth, (Men and women strong that you have made)
To thee, San Diego,
And the black and scarlet we’ll be true. (We pay tribute as we sing thy praise)
An echo of Aztec drums through all the years, (An echo comes of Aztec drums through all the years)
Hail, Montezuma.

The alma mater should not be confused with the school’s fight song, which is tied more directly to sporting events and geared at motivating crowds.  The normal school’s first unofficial fight song was written by student Gussie Stephens.  Its lyrics were:

You may talk about your colleges,
Your high schools and the like
And all your boarding schools
That litter up the pike;
Of the blue and gold of U.C.
And old Stanford’s crimson hue,
From our dreamy San Diego,
Up to distant Shasta’s plane [sic]
Away off to old Mexico, away back home again,
There’s no college, university or school can ever star
So brave, so true, or such a crew of students, as we are.
For we are jolly students of the Normal School,
We’ve come to rule.
Our colors are yellow and white,
We bear the standard proud and high of our beloved school, Rah! Rah! Rah!
We’re the crowd that do or die,
For we are the jolly students of the Normal School,
We’ve come to rule.
Our colors are yellow and white,
We bear the standard proud and high of our beloved school, Rah! Rah! Rah!

In 1936, President Hepner asked music major Frank J. Losey  to be the new band director and to compose a new school fight song.  Since he had been leading volunteer bands at the Aztec football games for the previous five years, Losey gladly accepted.  One Sunday—September 18, 1936 to be exact—he sat down at his parent’s dining-room table and wrote the music and lyrics to the original Aztec fight song, known popularly as “Fight On.”  Losey first played the song at the Mission Beach ballroom for the Freshman Prom the following evening.  The tune’s football debut occurred two weeks later at the dedication of Aztec Bowl.  San Diego State College football coach Leo Calland was so enthralled with the tune that he awarded Losey with a varsity letter in 1937, the first ever given to a non-athlete.  Losey returned to SDSU for Homecoming in 1987 and directed the band in the playing of “Fight On” to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the initial performance. The original lyrics to Losey’s fight song have been slightly modified through the years.  Both are presented here.

Original lyrics:

Fight on, fight on, ye Aztec men
Sons of Montezuma
We must win again
Never bow a knee
Keep your spirit high
Smashing, crashing,
Always smashing thru that line
Fight, fight, fight on and on
Down that field,
Red and Black must never yield
Then we can take
Our trophies honors to
Our home in San Diego town.

Modified Lyrics:

Fight on and on ye Aztec men
Sons of Montezuma
We will win again
Keep your spirits high
Never bow a knee
We will fight till victory
Fight on and on ye Aztec men
Proudly raise your banners high
For it's the Red and Black
Hail to our team
San Diego Aztecs fight!

While still at the University Heights address, San Diego State had an additional school song—Fra Junipero Serra—that was neither an alma mater nor a fight song.  It was, however, prominent enough to be listed in the school handbook as a “college song.”  Professor Irving Outcault wrote the words to Fra Junipero Serra and Baron Jeffrey Amherst provided the music.  The lyrics are highly outdated and likely offensive to many; they are:

One golden day in summer came Junipero Serra,
With all his pious brothers lean and fat;
There wasn’t any school at all in California,
Now what do you think of that?
Now what do you think of that?
He started up the singing just to keep away the fog,
And the naked heathen flocked about his knees,
And he sat there and he taught them, did that good old pedagogue,
Yes, he charmed them with the latest pedagese.
San Diego State College,
We will point with pride to Fra Junipero,
And we’ll ever be thankful
For the day he came from Mexico.
When Father Serra comes again,
He’ll motor up the hill,
And the president will meet him at the door,
And nothing but the meadow larks and sunshine will be still
The same as it was before,
The same as it was before,
For the teachers will be teaching other teachers how to teach,
And the learners will be learning at their ease,
And in the auditorium he’ll hear a thrilling speech,
Of the wonder of the latest pedagese.