1970 – Around the World and Close to Home
A 7.9 magnitude earthquake and resulting landslide kills over 66,000 in Ancash, Peru. Four Kent State University students are slain by National Guard troops while protesting the invasion of Cambodia. The Beatles, the world’s best-selling band of all-time, break up after 10 years and 15 No. 1 hits. The NFL goes primetime as Monday Night Football debuts on ABC. Brazil and Pele retire the Jules Rimet Trophy with a third World Cup win, 4-1, over Italy in Mexico City. In Washington, Seattle rocker and guitarist extraordinaire Jimi Hendrix headlines his hometown Experience concert at Sicks’ Stadium but dies two months later at age 27. Following massive Boeing layoffs, Seattle's unemployment reaches 10 percent, compared to nation’s 4.5 percent. Seattle begins fluoridating its water supply and makes Medic One operational. Washington’s Larry Owings stuns Iowa’s previously undefeated (117-0) Dan Gable in NCAA 142-lb. wrestling final.
The School Play
Interscholastic soccer got off to a running start in Puget Sound, then was held back before eventually maturing at the secondary level. High school play sprouted during the 1969-70 academic calendar, becoming one of Seattle’s official sports after more than a half century of stunted growth.
Among the factors that finally brought decades of efforts to fruition were a state youth association growing with abandon, a central venue that could accommodate multiple matches per day and creative, decisive leadership when an opportunity presented itself.
For all artificial turf’s drawbacks, its installation triggered the final foray which resulted in varsity soccer being implemented by the state’s largest school district, in 1969. Unlike before, full of fits and starts, the game only grew from that point. Boys’ programs were developed and by the mid-Seventies girls were joining those teams, prompting girls’ varsity teams to sprout into existence.
School play can be traced back as far as 1910 when 19 grammar schools in Seattle were aligned in three divisions. By 1920, interscholastic soccer was identified as a feeder league. Youngsters would progress from the weekday Public Schools Athletic League to the Saturday division and, in time, onto the state senior league’s second division.
Alf Pelton, benefactor, physical education director and co-founder of Seattle’s PSAL, extolled its virtues, emphasizing it was a game open to children of all sizes and abilities and without the risk of physical injury associated with gridiron football. The league more than doubled in size to 59 teams by 1923. At that juncture, high school play seemed the logical next step.
While an informal league for freshmen and sophomores took shape, it was the Seattle Soccer League which, by 1933, became the de facto league for teens. It allowed for rural community teams from outside Seattle to test themselves against the city’s school-associated teams. To heighten interest in the league, state senior officials successfully lobbied Scottish tea magnate Sir Thomas Lipton to donate a beautiful silver trophy. Beginning in 1928, the Sir Thomas Lipton trophy was to be presented to the top youth team from throughout the Seattle area.
Despite the effects of the Depression, school soccer was on an upward trajectory, at least until World War II. The grammar school and high school leagues melted away, effectively leaving a clean slate for the postwar world. Into the void stepped the Parochial School Soccer League, fostered by Catholic War Veterans. Prior to the state youth association forming in 1966, Catholic Youth Organization play supported the greatest number of teams for school-age boys.
During the Fifties and Sixties, virtually every parish between Everett and Tacoma fielded a team in the Bantam and Midget divisions. Still, the opportunity for kids to represent their high school, public or private, was missing. That changed when Seattle Public Schools sought a solution to the seasonal rains that regularly relegated Memorial Stadium to a quagmire.
In 1968, Harvey Lanman, Athletic Director for the Metro League and Seattle Public Schools, approved the installation of the newly-developed AstroTurf at Memorial, making it the first prep facility in the nation to do so. Not only would football be played on a more predictable landscape, the door was now open to other sports, and soccer was beginning a boom period.
Lanman then found a creative solution to funding a proposed high school soccer program throughout Seattle Public Schools. When Memorial stadium hosted the world’s first professional soccer match to be played on AstroTurf in the summer of 1969, Lanman arranged for a significant chunk of the West Ham-Kilmarnock gate receipts and parking proceeds to fund the start-up costs for varsity play the following fall.
At the opening games of that 1969-70 season, community soccer proponents celebrated. Finally, at long last, families and friends could watch the game being played by the youth of their surrounding community, wearing the traditional colors of their high school.