1930s Alumni



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Students moving a table on the new campus, 1930

Scroll down to access oral history interviews with people who attended SDSU in the 1930s, or click the name of the individual.

Note on audio quality: some of the following sound files had significant noise reduction applied digitally.

Image credit: Three students move a table to the new campus, 1930. University Archives Photograph Collection, Special Collections & University Archives.

Nona Andrews:

Download the PDF transcript.

Nona Andrews attended San Diego State from 1931 to 1935. She came from a working-class background and could not afford to join a sorority, although she was fortunate enough to have an anonymous benefactor. In this interview totaling approximately 55 minutes, she discusses a wide range of topics, including why she went to school and how she paid for it, women's opportunities in the 1930s and the social prejudices they dealt with, how students have changed since the 1930s, descriptions of life during the Depression and the lessons learned from it, and impressions of the new San Diego State campus after the 1931 move.

Interviewed by Cheryl Throckmorton on audio cassette on 3/16/1992.

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Merrill Dougles:

Download the PDF transcript.

Merrill Dougles attended San Diego State from 1929 to 1931 and was a member the college's first graduating class. In this interview totaling approximately 46 minutes, he discusses helping in the move of the college from El Cajon Street to the current site, as well as his life as a student in fraternity life and playing basketball and baseball for the college. He also mentions the cost of living at the time as well as his feelings about the New Deal.

Interviewed on audio cassette on 3/17/1992.

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Frances Finnerty:

Download the PDF transcript.

Frances Finnerty attended San Diego State from 1931 to 1936, starting from when she was only 16 years old. In this hour-long interview, she reminisces about carpooling to class and wading through the mud in the rain to get to class. She also recalls her teaching jobs after graduating and how privileged she felt to be able to go to college, and shares her thoughts on President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Interviewed by Rodolfo Dizon on audio cassette on 3/8/1992.

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Helen Gorton:

Helen Gorton attended San Diego State from 1933 to 1937 and served as student body vice president in 1937. In this interview totaling 1 hour and 2 minutes, she discusses how far away the campus seemed from her home, especially since she did not own a car. She describes social life and the physical changes she witnessed on campus, recalls her graduation ceremony, and reflects on student concerns and cost of living during the 1930s. Gorton also mentions the parking and transportation problems on campus at the time, and her deep involvement in student government and sorority life. She finishes the interview by comparing her life as a graduate student at Stanford to her life at State, and mentions her involvement with SDSU as an alumna.

Interviewed by Stacy Caldwell on audio cassette on 3/23/1992.

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David Jessop:

David Jessop attended San Diego State from 1930 to 1934 and played football for the college team. His family owned Jessop's Jewelry Store and the famous Jessop's Clock at Horton Plaza. In this interview totaling 57 minutes, he talks about his first experiences of going to the State Normal School and his first impression of the campus. He spends a fair amount of time discussing the ways the Great Depression affected San Diego and elsewhere, particularly the difficulty of finding a job upon graduation. Jessop also discusses student life including the Greek system, sports, and other activities, comparisons between the new school and the old, and the ethnicity of San Diego at the time.

Interviewed by Jorge de la Torre on audio cassette on 10/25/1992.

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Beatrice Knief:

Beatrice Knief attended San Diego State from 1935 to 1939. In this interview totaling 1 hour and 3 minutes, she talks about life during the Great Depression, women's places in schools, and her memories of campus life. She recalls working in New Deal programs and having to deal with prejudice since her parents were divorced, and also her discriminatory experiences with men. This interview includes a reading of a poem that Knief wrote about sexual harassment on the job.

Interviewed by Cheryl Throckmorton on audio cassette on 3/18/1992.

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Beth Myers:

Beth Myers graduated from San Diego State in 1933. In this hour-long interview, she discusses where her parents came from and the reasons she went to State. She describes selling peanuts at sporting events to raise money for the new school, and her experience putting the "S" on Cowles Mountain with her peers. Myers also talks about some of her favorite professors and how she put together the first national sorority at State. She fondly recalls the many simple types of entertainment they had back then, referring to San Diego during that period as "heaven on earth." She discusses the ethnic makeup at San Diego State in the 1930s, recalling that there were a few Mexican students who were treated the same as the white students, and opines about the natural distinctions between men and women. Myers also recalls the household luxuries that were available at the time (e.g., car, refrigerator), and her concerns about finding work after graduation.

Interviewed by Jorge de la Torre on audio cassette on 10/24/1992.

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Virginia Simonds:

Virginia Simonds attended San Diego State from 1930 to 1934. In this interview totalling approximately 39 minutes, she discusses how the Great Depression affected her family and her decision to attend State. She describes her life as an Aztec, including involvement in a sorority and sports, the move from the old to the new campus and how it affected the students, and what it was like to be a student under Dr. Abraham Nasatir.

Interviewed by Lisa Hillerman on audio cassette on 10/23/1992.

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Aubrey Thompson:

Aubrey Thompson was a San Diego native who attended San Diego State from 1933 to 1935. In this interview totalling approximately 31 minutes, he talks about his goals in going to school, which he was not able to finish due to the Depression. Thompson describes ways that he earned money at the time, like selling magazines and working at a service station, and his fraternity activities as a student. He also mentions the issue of alcohol abuse on the campus, especially after Prohibition, and his job at the 1936 California Pacific International Exposition.

Interviewed by Mark Cutkomp on audio cassette on 3/17/1992.

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Ermenie Wirsing:

Ermenie Wirsing attended San Diego State from 1927 to 1931. In this interview totalling just over 1 hour, she talks about her family and their reasons for moving to San Diego in 1920 from Philadelphia. She also discusses the job possibilities for women in the 1930s, typical student life on and off the campus, and her experiences working as a teacher after graduating. Wirsing mentions how grateful she felt to be able to attend San Diego State and how proud she was of her accomplishments. She also compares the youth of today with the youth of her day.

Interviewed by Cheryl Throckmorton on audio cassette on 3/23/1992.

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