A World Cup Every Sunday

1955 – Around the World and Close to Home

After West Germany is brought into NATO, the Soviet Union forms an Eastern Bloc with seven neighboring nations. Domestically, Rosa Parks refuses to sit in the back of a Montgomery bus, and Martin Luther King leads a black boycott of that transit system. In Washington state, test pilot Tex Johnston performs a rollover maneuver of a prototype 707 during the Seafair hydroplane races and the Kalakala begins ferrying between Port Angeles and Victoria, B.C. Syracuse and Fort Wayne contest the NBA Finals while the Los Angeles Danes become the first West Coast club to reach soccer’s U.S. Challenge Cup final.

World Cup Every Sunday

With the Cold War as a backdrop, the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland served as a spectacle, not only of unbridled attacking play (5.38 goals per game) but also a few high-stakes East-West matchups, the most prominent of which was the Miracle of Bern, the final between all-powerful Hungary and West Germany. The Germans, 8-3 first-round losers to the Magnificent Magyrs, went down 2-nil in the first eight minutes only to rally and conquer, 3-2.

Washington’s follow-up season to that World Cup is contested by six clubs with an increasingly multi-national makeup. In January 1955, Alfred Apsler of The Seattle Times described to the masses the distinct Sunday afternoon scene at Seattle’s Lower Woodland Park:

“Small knots of spectators huddle around the chalked outlines of a playfield…the footballers in their long-sleeved blouses, the short pants that leave the knees bare and woolen stocking pass, kick and dribble enthusiastically…Listening to the players chatter about next Sunday’s engagements, one notices the strong representation of foreign accents. The Scottish brogue stands out clearly, but Scandinavian, German, Slavic and Southern European inflections also blend into the conversation.”

The first division this season consists teams with clear ethnic heritage. The champion Buchan Bakers are sponsored by a Scot and represented by a largely British cast, as do Scotty’s Fish & Chips. The Scandinavians tend to congregate on rosters of the formidable Vikings and Scandia, a new entry. Also relatively new to the circuit are the Greek-Americans. The sixth side, Harvey’s United Restaurants, is an outgrowth of Catholic Youth Organization all-stars in other words, local youth.

Refugees from Eastern Europe are beginning to arrive in Seattle, along with international students attending college. Many, writes Apsler, “are homesick for the sport with which they grew up. So, it appears soccer is supported mainly by those who lived in foreign countries or under the strong impact of foreign traditions.”

Barney Kempton, the junior soccer commissioner for the Puget Sound area, estimates 75 percent who participate or watch local matches are immigrants or sons thereof. Kempton’s youth leagues are swelling, and a club of young adults such as Harvey’s will share the pitch with those old enough to be their father. Austin Gunderson of the Vikings is a 47-year-old grandfather.

This may not be the World Cup, but soccer in Washington is very much a world game.

State Men's Champion
Buchan Bakers
State Knockout Cup
Buchan Bakers 5:2 Greek-Americans

1955: A World Cup Every Sunday

Many languages are spoken at Lower Woodland while playing a common game.

Bakers Make It 3 In A Row
February 20, 1955

Buchan Bakers complete the second half undefeated in 10 matches (8-0-2) with a 3-1 victory over Greek-Americans and five points clear of the Vikings. The Bakers clinch their third straight league title, having also won the first half.

All-Stars Win Friendly with Sailors
August 1, 1955

A picked team of locals meets sailors from Great Britain’s HMS Superb as part of the Royal Navy ship’s goodwill tour. George Goers of Buchan Bakers scores two second-half goals to rally the all-stars to a 3-1 win.

Vikings Deny Bakers in Hoquiam
April 10, 1955

Norselander Vikings deny Buchan a third major prize by beating the Bakers, 3-1, for the Pacific Coast Coal Trophy, emblematic of state soccer championship. Joe Njoku-Obi scores twice in the first half. The game, played before a ‘fine crowd’ at Olympic Stadium in Hoquiam, raises $500 for Grays Harbor Society of Crippled Children.

Oldershaw Trophy Goes to Cathedral
December 11, 1955

At Vancouver, Cathedral School of Seattle ties at Vancouver North Shore 2-2 to clinch the Oldershaw Trophy series, 4-3 on aggregate. Cathedral won the first leg at home, 2-1, on goals by brothers Fred and Gene Hall.

Oldtimers Support Miners' Families
March 13, 1955

Vic Weston is among the organizers of a benefit match to raise funds for families of four miners lost in the Landsburg mine disaster. The sudden January 29 cave-in 600 feet underground occurred near Ravensdale. The game features oldtimers from Black Diamond and a Seattle selection.

Goers Hat Trick Brings Silver
March 13, 1955

Buchan Bakers earn a second major trophy, defeating Greek-Americans, 5-2, in the George Washington state cup final at Catholic Memorial Stadium. George Goers’s hat trick fuels the Bakers. Buchan plays without star midfielder Bill Conterio, 26, the league top scorer and member of the U.S. Olympic Games teams in 1952 and ‘56. Conterio, an Army soldier, was transferred to California days earlier.

Vikings' Obi Becomes College Star
November 7, 1955

Former Norselander Viking standout scorer Joseph Njoku-Obi is the ‘toast of college soccer’ in San Francisco. Njoku-Obi, the Nigeria native and former Seattle Pacific College tennis player, debuts with a hat trick and scores 23 goals in just seven matches for USF, which claims the Northern California Intercollegiate Soccer Conference championship. Njoku-Obi is named second team All-America.

It's St. John's in Extra Time
December 4, 1955

St. John’s goes to extra time to win the Hamilton Douglas Cup final over Sacred Heart, 3-2. St. John’s trails 2-0 after 55 minutes, rallies to pull even and wins on Jimmy Wilson’s goal.

Winning Secret? Soccer Skills
October 3, 1955

Alan Anderson, 12, of Highland Park School, wins The Seattle Times-Seattle Park Board Old Ossie title. Anderson, who learned to kick while playing soccer, kicked 11 punts, made one pass and one drop-kick for 16 points. Old Ossie is essentially a football punt, pass and kick contest.

Passing on Huddersfield
January 6, 1955

WSFA officials decline to sponsor a stop by England’s touring Huddersfield Town in the spring. Huddersfield goes on to finish mid-table of the first division and plays friendlies versus local selections in Vancouver and Calgary, as well as five other cities across North America.

Washington Wins NW Battle of Vikings
April 24, 1955

Joe Obi scores in each half as the Norselander Vikings pull away from the Portland State Vikings, 5-3, for a second straight Northwest championship at Catholic Memorial. First-half goals by Bob Simonsen, Obi and Thor Aanes put the hosts comfortably ahead at the break. Jimmy McGillivray's two strikes cut the lead before Roy Windsor and Obi respond. In the second part of the doubleheader, Buchan Bakers nip North Burnaby Legion, 4-3, in a Cascadia friendly.

Bakers Count 5 from Conterio
January 23, 1955

Bill Conterio scores five goals for Buchan Bakers in a 12-3 romp over Harvey’s at White Center while Andy Phillips kicks 4 goals for Scotty’s Fish & Chips in a 4-3 win over Scandia at Woodland Park.

Renton Hosts Benefit Match
April 17, 1955

Renton Elks host benefit game for youth activities – Boy Scouts, bowling, talent show and scholarship awards – at Renton High School Stadium. It matches Vancouver Firefighters vs. Washington State Football Association all-stars. Vancouver defeats the Washington all-stars, 3-2.

Community Loses Leader
October 17, 1955

John P. Jones, former secretary-treasurer of the Washington State Soccer Football Association, dies of an apparent heart attack. Beyond his official role, Jones had been a referee and longtime promoter of the sport. He was born in England and raised in south Wales before arriving in Seattle in 1926.

Vikings-Greeks Gets Heated
January 23, 1955

Thor Aanes of Vikings, top scorer in league, sent off with 10 minutes left vs Greek Americans at Lower Woodland, was confronted by Greeks fan outside locker room. The Vikings win, 3-0. A December 19, 1954 meeting between the teams had resulted in a fight that prompted suspension of two Vikings by the WSFA.

New Year, Need a New Ball
January 2, 1955

A state league match between Scandia and Greek-Americans at Lower Woodland Park is halted in the 72nd minute when the ball goes flat. With no other ball available the game is abandoned with Scandia leading 3-1. League officials rule that the final 18 minutes must be played five weeks later, following the completion the teams’ second meeting, won by Scandia, 4-1. Greek-Americans, trailing by 3-1 when the initial game was suspended, rally with three goals to prevail in the restarted contest, 4-3.

Olimpico Figures in First-Half Clincher
December 4, 1955

Buchans clinches first-half title by beating Scotty’s, 5-0, with Ian MacDonald scoring directly from a corner kick. Bakers finish 8-0-2.

Norselander Takes Five-a-Side
April 3, 1955

Seattle’s underdog Norselander Vikings win the 5-a-side championship, 3-0, over Portland Vikings at Catholic Memorial. Bob Simensen and Austin Gunderson help Norsemen upset Portland Vikings, 3-0. Joe Njoku-Obi and keeper Tex Snyder also figure for Norselander. Norselander dominate their four tournament wins, finishing with a 17-0 goal differential. The Portlanders had eliminated league champion Buchan, 5-2, in the second round. The tournament attracts 18 entries from B.C. to Oregon. Rev. Donald Herdener both coaches and keeps goals for one of two CYO entries. A St. Louis native, Herdener eschews the frock and blanks Sansego Americans, 3-0, in the first round.

Listening to the players chatter about next Sunday’s engagements, one notices the strong representation of foreign accents. The Scottish brogue stands out clearly, but Scandinavian, German, Slavic and Southern European inflections also blend into the conversation.
Alfred Apsler, Seattle Times reporter, observing the atmosphere of a Sunday afternoon of state league play at Lower Woodland Park
Seattle used to be a great soccer town. The public schools played it till about 1932. Now there’s a movement to bring it back.
Barney Kempton, state junior soccer commissioner
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