Here to Stay

Just when the game was poised for a growth spurt in the Roaring Twenties, instead it retrenched. Its profile was diminished, albeit briefly, while under foot, the roots continued spreading. After reemerging, Washington soccer proved unshakable. It would survive a shifting economy, The Great Depression and another World War, emerging with a new generation, ready to move forward and establish the Northwest corner of the nation as a footballing bastion.

Puget Sound’s Northwestern League survived World War I only to die quietly shortly after. When Carbonado wrapped-up the double by taking the McMillan Cup in March 1920, the league had six clubs, five associated with mining or shipping firms. So, it was surprising when no competition could be organized for the following winter or the next. It marked the first such lull since 1904, before the Northwestern League was first formed.

There would continue to be challenge matches during this down time, and interest in the game had not waned. In fact, with doubts as to safety of gridiron football, soccer was the preferred autumn sport in schools. Fifty-four grammar schools throughout Seattle organized teams in 1921. Many of these boys would matriculate and eventually find their way to senior teams in the years to come.

Finally, in November 1922, the Seattle City League was established by four disparate senior clubs: Boeing Airplane Company, Maple Leaf American Legion Post, West Seattle Athletic Club and Woodland Park. There was also a four-team junior division for graduates of the grammar school league. In 1926, the youth of Seattle and, later, Puget Sound were bestowed a magnificent prize to play for Scottish tea magnate Sir Thomas Lipton answered a request from a local official, sending a 3-foot sterling silver trophy valued at $1,500.

Just three years earlier, William Boeing had made a name for himself by making the first international airmail delivery, from Vancouver to Seattle’s Lake Union, via seaplane. Maple Leaf’s legion post served as a second home to many returning veterans. Woodland Park was a holdover from the Northwestern League, whereas West Seattle was emerging as an increasingly accessible peninsula. Black Diamond and Carbonado remained mired in the nationwide coal strike. Employees playing for the company-sponsored side would not receive any pay, however in the mines they would be assigned to preferred duties on the day shift, allowing them to train in afternoons.

Evidence of a pent-up demand for soccer was clear. More than 2,000 spectators found their way to Hiawatha Park for the West Seattle-Maple Leaf match that concluded the league’s first half. The senior division immediately grew in size and scope, adding teams from Tacoma and Valley City (Renton) in 1923. The mining towns soon joined, along with a second Tacoma side, Todd Shipyard. Within two years the first division had doubled in members, and in 1926 over 8,000 cheering spectators wedged into Upper Woodland to see Todd Dry Dock defeat Electro Dentists.

Of the junior teams, the Vikings of Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, joined the senior division after three seasons as juniors. The Vikings also organized a women’s program, and the Scandinavians became one of the most stable league members of the era. The Vikings, Carbonado, Black Diamond and Maple Leaf (known as the Electro Dentists beginning in 1926) all managed to weather the first years of The Great Depression. The game was popular in other areas. Bellingham Normal (now Western Washington University) organized women's teams beginning in 1926 as a Whatcom County men's league sought affiliation with the Washington State Football Association.

One notable club did not survive, however, although it’s debatable whether it was related to the worldwide economic woes or geographic isolation. In Washington’s southwestern corner emerged a new power, the Longview Timber Barons. The club was conceived as wintertime entertainment for the logging and mill town of Longview, located across the Columbia River from Oregon’s northwestern spur. No sooner did the Timber Barons join the Portland league headquartered 50 miles south than their domination commenced.

The Timber Barons won five consecutive league championships (1926-30). Most of their players were Canadian or British by birth, with a few, such as Tuffy Davis, plucked from the Seattle league. Representing Oregon, Longview won the 1926 Northwest championship and also claimed the 1929 Washington knockout title. Eventually they wore-out their welcome in Oregon. In 1931, the state leaders arbitrarily decried that the Timber Barons play their Bennett Cup (Oregon knockout cup) matches on the road in Portland. In response, Longview withdrew.

During the Twenties, Washington and Oregon initiated semi-regular clashes to determine supremacy of Cascadia. On occasion it was picked teams of league all-stars but more often it was the clubs who won their respective state knockout tournament. Washington also met Vancouver area aggregations throughout the Thirties. Although bragging rights were at stake, the host would provide lodging and meals, including a postgame social. Gate receipts were directed toward charitable causes or youth soccer development.

In order to recover expenses or raise funds, senior league matches would be moved from public parks to grounds with gates and seating. Seattle’s Liberty Park, Dugdale Field, White Center and Civic Field were primarily baseball venues. They were available during winter but, to preserve grass, were off-limits in early spring as the diamond season approached. Civic Field, located on the site of Memorial Stadium, offered 15,000 capacity yet a bumpy, dirt pitch. When Lower Woodland Park fields opened in late Thirties, those fields became virtually dedicated to soccer play alone.

Throughout the Depression, team sponsors tended to be small businesses. Club personnel might remain intact for the most part, but its sponsor might rotate every few years. For example, Piston Service/Westerman Clothiers/Mrs. Wickman’s Pies was an 8-time league champion from 1931-48. Once Prohibition was repealed, breweries offered support. Prior to World War II, there were two ethnic sponsors, the Vikings and German Society. Once war was d, the latter immediately found a commercial sponsor.

Senior league membership remained steady through the war, but only because of some unique circumstances. In 1944, Italian prisoners of war who volunteered to help Allies were placed on U.S. military bases and given work, accommodations and privileges. Among the freedoms afforded those Italian Service Units in Puget Sound was playing in the state soccer league. At first, they were recruited as individual ringers (Italy was recognized as the sport’s world power, having won the 1934 and 1938 World Cups). During the 1944-45 season, however, they comprised three of the first division’s seven teams., and Seattle’s Fort Lawton-based ISU won the league.

Washington’s postwar economy and culture was vastly different from 10 years before. Hydroelectric dams on the east side of the state had given rise to aluminum manufacturing and aircraft production on the west side. Planes and jets for both military and commercial purposes would create a behemoth of Boeing, attracting workers from western Europe. They would be bringing their trades as well as their footballing know-how and sharing it with upcoming youth who had grown to love the game.

As the Forties came to a close, for the first time in Washington would come an exhibition of skill the scale and depth of which had never before been witnessed by the masses. England’s Newcastle United was drawing huge postwar crowds to historic St. James’ Park to witness the likes of goal-scoring phenom Jackie Milburn. Soccer leaders in Seattle scratched out sufficient funds to lure Newcastle for a postseason tour stop in June 1949, the Magpies coming off a fourth-place finish in the league.

Newcastle would shred the local collection of all-stars, 11-1, but manager George Martin offered some sage parting advice: “Dress up your game. Get someone to build you a turfed pitch and watch the improvement in play of your teams, and the appeal it has to the city.”

Within months of the match, the Washington State Football Association would take action. Bleachers and new goals were erected at Lower Woodland. Meanwhile, senior teams would be allowed more roster spaces and match substitutes, allowing for junior players to be added and given invaluable experience. Without question, the game was prepared for greater things in the Fifties and beyond.

Notable Senior Clubs
Black Diamond, Boeing Airplane Co., Carbonado, Dr. Reid's United, Electric Dentists, German Society, Ice Delivery, Maple Leaf American Legion Post, Piston Service, Roller Bowl, Shamrocks, Todd Shipyard, Vikings, Westerman Clothiers, West Seattle AC, Woodland Park
Notable Junior Clubs/Schools
Black Diamond School, Cleveland Red Devils, Davis Brothers, Franklin HS, Fremont Boys Club, Georgetown Boys Club, Hawthorne School, Interlake School, Lake City Boys Club, Latona School, Mrs. Wickman's Pies, Queen Anne HS, Rainier Valley Boys Club, Roller Bowl, Vikings, Wallingford

1920-1949: Here to Stay

Washington constructs an infrastructure, with state associations affiliating with the greater world and increasingly rivalries develop throughout state leagues and Cascadia.

Seattle All-Stars Rule BC Circuit
April 16, 1939

Andy Cowe beat three defenders for the late winner as the Seattle All-Stars (6-2-2) wrapped-up the Vancouver & District Soccer League title by beating West Vancouver, 3-2, at Civic Field. Due to travel, Seattle played fewer matches than BC teams but finished with superior percentage to St. Regis (11-5-2).

Five-a-Side Tourney Won by Canadians
April 8, 1945

The third annual Seattle 5-a-side tournament attracts 14 entries, including three teams from British Columbia, to Civic Field. Each team comprised of 5 players. Games are two halves totaling 14 minutes and there are no substitutes. Corner kicks are used as a tiebreaker. Tournament proceeds go to War Service Fund of the American Legion's Maple Leaf Post No. 21. Vancouver’s Ex-Reds edge the Boeing Bombers A team, 1-0, in the final.

Sir Thomas Lipton Donates Youth Trophy
July 18, 1926

Sir Thomas Lipton, the highly-successful Scottish entrepreneur, sportsman and tea merchant, donates a beautiful, large sterling silver trophy to the Washington State FA. It stands atop a black pedestal, nearly three feet high. Jack Simpson, WSFA president, had written Lipton, requesting a trophy for the champions of the Seattle Soccer (youth) League. The trophy was valued at $1500 in 1926, slightly more than the average American household income.

Dentists Deny Timber Barons
March 14, 1927

Seattle's Electric Dentists prevail in the state championship final, 3-2, over the Longview Timber Barons, winners of Oregon's Bennett Cup and Portland league, at Woodland Park.

WSFA Reports Participation Numbers
April 20, 1934

According to the Washington State Football Association, 402 men and boys played during the 1933-34 season, 260 of them on senior teams. The others participated in two junior leagues and the new third division of the state league.

Scottish Ringer Wins Cup Semi
February 4, 1935

Piston Service brings in “ringer” Alexander Ronald, “a bow-legged Scot,” granted a few hours leave from his Scottish vessel in port, and Ronald scores the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Ice Delivery in a McMillan Cup semifinal.

Piemen, Bombers Share State Cup
April 1, 1945

Unable to break the 2-2 deadlock, Wickman Pies and Boeing Bombers share possession of the state cup. Dan Griffiths scores twice for Boeing, but the Piemen pull even, forcing 30 minutes of extra time. Later, the WSFA rules there will be no replay.

Minaglia's 5-Spot Beat Portland's Best
March 7, 1937

Behind Emmett Minaglia’s five goals, Seattle defeats Portland all-stars, 5-3, at Civic Stadium. Seattle’s team is picked from Montag Vikings and Westerman Clothiers, the top teams in the state first division.

German Society Wins GW Cup, Barely
April 21, 1940

German Society claims the George Washington cup by hanging on to a 2-1 aggregate victory over the Vikings at Civic Stadium. Tied 0-0 late in the second leg, the Vikings press for the series equalizer, but Austin Gunderson’s shot finds the net mere seconds after the referee’s final whistle. The non-goal is not disputed.

Washington Wins Bragging Rights Over Oregon
January 1, 1928

With West Seattle's Hiawatha playfield covered in two inches of snow, the Washington all-stars win, 5-2, over their Oregon counterparts in the first such meeting for bragging rights.

Ravensdale Shock Warspite in Final
December 21, 1941

Ravensdale upsets heavily-favored HMS Warspite, 2-1, in the rain and mud of the George Washington Cup final at Lower Woodland. Loren Hill’s penalty kick is the decisive score for Ravensdale, which had not won a league match during the first half of the season. The Miners used kick-and-rush style with great success in cup play, outscoring three foes 11-2. Postscript: The Warspite would soon return to action and eventually earn the most battle honors ever awarded to an individual ship in the Royal Navy.

Miner's Lifetime Ban Rescinded
February 22, 1946

Black Diamond given permission to use ‘firebrand forward’ Jackie Mills, who was suspended for life in 1939 (for continued rough play he since served hitch in Navy). Miners had vowed not to play until he was reinstated.

Crowd of 8,000 Jams Woodland Park
November 7, 1926

A huge crowd estimated at more than 8,000 jams into Upper Woodland to witness the battle for first place in the Northwestern League. Todd Dry Dock, behind a goal and assist from Rudy Dernac, trims Electro Dentists, 2-1.

1933-34 Participation Numbers
April 20, 1934

The Washington State Football Association reports 402 men/boys played on 260 senior teams, with two junior leagues and a third division added for seniors.

Piemen Tie British Sailors
December 7, 1941

Five hours after Japanese plans attack Pearl Harbor, Mrs. Wickman’s Pies meets the sailors from the British battleship HMS Warspite in semifinal of George Washington Cup at Lower Woodland. The Warspite crew, whose ship is undergoing repairs in Bremerton, take 3-0 lead in first half. But the Piemen rally to tie two minutes remaining. Darkness prevents overtime from being played.

Baseball Prospect Goes Soccer, For Now
September 28, 1939

Ernie Endress, a local teenage baseball prospect mulling an offer from the Seattle Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League, signs to play for the first division Westerman Clothiers. Five months later, Endress signs his Rainiers offer sheet and reports to spring training.

Soccer for last dozen years has been 'kick and run' game the American adaption of a game that once was well played here. When players from Old Country hung up their brogues, kids moved in with typical American ideas: boot the ball down the field and run after it.
Bill Chapman, Washington State Football Association outgoing president in 1949
Considerable study was necessary to find an exercise suitable to the grade school boys and several years ago soccer began to supplant American football. Now soccer is played exclusively. American football is not adaptable to the younger boy who is not physically or mentally able to play this game.
A.C. Pelton, co-founder of Seattle Public Schools league in 1920
The inclusion of several stars from Seattle seems to have created new interest in soccer circles in Black Diamond as there was a record attendance when the rival coal diggers took the field.
Seattle Star newspaper Feb. 8, 1920
Seattle’s 1923-24 soccer season…was just about the most successful ever.
Jack Simpson, Washington State Football Association president, who notes most Upper Woodland games draw over 3,000 fans
Senior Honor Roll (1920-29)
Year League ChampionKnockout Cup
1920 CarbonadoCarbonado
1922 Maple Leafs
1923 West SeattleBoeing
1924 Todd Dry Dock
1925 Todd Dry DockTacoma
1926 NewcastleMaple Leafs
1927 Todd Dry DockElectro Dentists
1928 West SeattleWest Seattle
1929 CarbonadoLongview Timber Barons
Senior Honor Roll (1930-39)
Year League ChampionKnockout Cup
1930 Black DiamondBlack Diamond
1931 Dr. Reid's ElectrosDr. Reid's Electros
1932 Pittson's GrocersDr. Reid's Electros
1933 Black DiamondPiston Service
1934 Piston ServiceDr. Reid's Electros
1935 Dr. Reid's UnitedPiston Service
1936 Westerman's ClothiersWesterman's/Dr. Reid's (co)
1937 Montag VikingsMontag Vikings
1938 German SocietyGilt Top Beers
1939 Hemrich BrewingMontag Vikings
Senior Honor Roll (1940-49)
Year League ChampionKnockout Cup
1940 Westerman ClothiersGerman Society
1941 Black DiamondMrs. Wickman's Pies
1942 Mrs. Wickman's PiesRavensdale
1943 Roller BowlRavensdale
1944 Mrs. Wickman's PiesRoller Bowl
1945 Italian Service UnitBlack Diamond/Wickman (co)
1946 Mrs. Wickman's PiesMrs. Wickman's Pies
1947 Mrs. Wickman's Pies
1948 Mrs. Wickman's PiesBlack Diamond
1949 Matheny & BaconMatheny & Bacon
On this Day in History