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Today's Tidbit... Football at the Soldiers' Orphans Industrial School
While combing through an online postcard store (OldPostcards.com) recently, I came across an RPPC showing the 1906 football squad for the S.O.I.S. of Scotland, Pennsylvania. The image shows a few coaches and 35 or so high school-age boys posed for their team picture in front of an imposing three-story school building. Not having heard of the SOIS or Scotland, Pennsylvania, it was not clear whether there might be an interesting football-only story or a broader story in which football is a part, and it turned out to be the latter.
The Soldiers' Orphans Industrial School (SOIC) was founded in 1895 to care for the children of Pennsylvania veterans whose parents were unable to care for them due to death or incapacitation. In the 1800s, orphans generally were placed outside the court system with relatives, acquaintances, or through other methods such as the Orphans Train, which shipped children west to agricultural communities where they were dropped at train stations to be selected by local farmers needing child laborers. The Progressive movement ultimately led to the foster care system we have today and the accompanying disappearance of orphanages.
Like the Indian Industrial Schools such as Carlisle, which sat 30 miles up the road from Scotland, SOIC focused on industrial education, ensuring their students graduated with a skilled trade such as dressmaking, tailoring, printing, woodworking, or other manual arts. Many cities of the time also created Manual Arts or Tech high schools that taught similar classes.
The SOIC was renamed the Scotland School for Veterans' Children in 1951 and closed in 2009. Its enrollment peaked at 556 in the 1960s after more than 10,000 students passed through its doors during its history.
Like most other schools, the SOIC had a football team to provide its students a fun, hopefully healthy activity. The 35 players pictured in the 1906 postcard indicate they had a sizable squad, which allowed them to claim a championship in 1905, though precisely which title they won is unclear.
Expectations were high in 1906 since SOIC lost only one starter from the 1905 team, and they appear to have met expectations, going 5-1 in the games for which I found information. Although there may have been others, the 1906 season included the following games:
September 26: 55-0 win over Carlisle Bellaire, a town team with players averaging 130 to 140 pounds
October 10: 22-0 win over the Carlisle Tigers despite several SOIC starters playing limited roles
November 7: 0-11 loss to the Carlisle Indian School Junior Varsity. It was a tough loss since they beat them twice in 1905, but some of the Carlisle players likely moved on to the top team a few years later.
November 9: Smother Harrisburg High's second team 50-0
November 10: SOIC beat Mercersburg Academy's third team 20-0
November 20: Finished the season with a 29-0 win over Waynesboro High
The Waynesboro game was notable because two SOIC players were injured; one hurt his leg, and the right end broke his nose. The Waynesboro team had doubled the injuries, including a dislocated shoulder, torn right arm, a broken nose, and a wrenched knee. So despite playing junior varsity and similar teams, SOIC and their opponents apparently played a rough brand of football.
The final issue of note about SOIC came at season's end when the school newspaper, the Industrial School News, published an anonymous poem about football that captured elements of the football at the time, some of which applies to the game today.
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