George W. Olinger
1882 - 1954
Founder, Highlander Boys
were the words that George W. Olinger said to his small group of fifty
Highlander Boys in 1916
and he kept right on making that admonition until 1928 when he became responsible for 1,200 boys
actively enrolled in his Denver program.
Olinger organized a baseball team in the Highland neighborhood. He
soon found that
actually playing ball with those boys made it easier to guide them into worthwhile ventures
even if they were not all inclined to accept his ideas of conduct. He supplied bats, balls, gloves and
even uniforms for all of them. He believed that every boy would strive harder to be a winner when he
was wearing a uniform. In some subtle way friendships be came closer and teamwork was improved.
Encouraged by one successful ball team he organized another and another. It was not long before
the Olinger ball teams were showing up in the Denver newspapers as tops among boy teams.
In 1916 Mr. Olinger had another idea that would serve more boys, so he started
“Highlanders of Denver”. He invited fifty boys to join his new venture, It was a non-sectarian
organization with the purpose of developing boys into loyal citizens through a Four Point program
dealing with the mental, spiritual, social and physical aspect of a boy’s life.
financed the organization completely from his own resources for twelve years,
until 1928 at which time there were 12,000 active alumni members. To become an Olinger
Highlander Boy recruit there were some requirements. A boy had to be nine years of age, between
four feet two inches and four feet eight inches, pass a reasonable physical examination and show
reasonable mental and educational aptitude. All boys were required to attend Sunday School regularly
at the church of his, or his parents choice. All boys must be accompanied by both parents,
when they were admitted to membership.
Each boy accepted into the organization was required to memorize the Highlander Precepts, the Aims
and the Highlander Prayer, not only memorize but strive to live by these principles. Boys took a pledge
to honor and live by the precepts of the Olinger Highlanders. After the pledge the boy received a
Silver Token with the Precepts engraved on the front and Highlander's name engraved on the back.
Olinger Highlander Boys.
boy spent at least one year in “speak well” classes and if he wished,
he could round out his training
by joining a band, a chorus, hobby club or tumbling class, all under expert, supervision. Every year,
boys were given the opportunity to study business, using the examples of commercial and manufacturing
firms in Denver. When the baseball teams became Olinger Highlanders, the uniforms were changed to
khaki military uniforms, since the physical phase of the Four Fold program included military drills as well
as calisthenics, athletic and international folk dancing. For each division of the program —
mental, spiritual, social and physical — Mr. Olinger employed experienced specialists. Among them
was Music Director John Leick, who was coronet player in Sousa’s first band
Olinger Highlander Boys Band.
Original Highlander Boys building.
A converted candy factory, commonly referred to as the "Old Dutch Mill."
4th & Grant, Denver, Colorado.
In 1928 there were 1,200 boys actively engaged in the program in Denver and some
By then, it was clear that the operation of an institution of the size of Highlander Boys Inc. was quite a load
for any one man, even George Olinger. A board of Directors was organized among Denver businessmen
and plans made for the Highlander Boys Foundation, which would have headquarters in a “Temple of Youth.”
Funds were to be raised by the citizens of Denver to support the foundation.
After an eight-day campaign $294,000 was raised and optimism was high.
The Mothers Corps brought in $50,000 in cash in a pledges to show their appreciation.
The plans went forward, the Temple of Youth was built and all of Denver
celebrated with enthusiasm. On February 22, 1930, the new building was dedicated with the renowned
composer and bandmaster, John Phillip Sousa, present to direct the Highlander Boys Band.
The building at 300 Logan Street offered a gymnasium, rifle range, hobby and crafts rooms,
meeting rooms, a huge kitchen, a library and parade grounds.
The Temple of
Youth under construction. 300 Logan Street.
July 8, 1930
Building plaque on the Temple of Youth.
The plaque reads:
The Highlander Boys Inc. builders of better boyhood
Physical, Mental, Social, Spiritual.
The building was located at 300 Logan Street.
the Depression. After five years of successful operation the foundation budget
could not be
raised. Mr. Olinger gave himself, his time and some of his money trying to keep the foundation solvent.
He placed a dramatic appeal on a full-page ad of the Denver Post, urging the citizens to volunteer their help.
He himself offered $2,500 to apply to the budget. But pledges could not be collected. Unemployment was high,
wages were falling, profits were low. Finally, on September 1, 1933, the foundation reluctantly suspended
operation. It was a shock for most Denver citizens. For many people besides the parents and close friends,
the Highlander uniform had become a symbol of correct behavior, fine posture, neatness, respect and
efficiency along with many desirable character traits found in the basic Highlander code.
No one could deny that Mr. Olinger exemplified the precepts that he advocated for his boys.
organization disbanded and the "Temple of Youth” was sold to pay
state taxes. The building and
parade grounds became the new headquarters of the Denver branch of the National Guard. This property
was commonly referred to as the National Guard Amory.
David C. Bayless, PhD, Perpetuator.
"Vox Pop"December, 1943
| Co host Warren Hull, Vox Pop Radio, interviews
Highlander Boy Bandsman Joe Doolittle and his father.
December 20, 1943.
| Lt. Colonel Jerry Allingham interviewed by
Co host Parks Johnson, Vox Pop Radio.
December 20, 1943.
the mid 1950's the
organization acquired the building at 301 E. 4th Avenue and gradually developed
into a facility for sport and drill activities. Eventually the building was redesigned to offer offices, classrooms,
kitchen, band room, rifle range and armory. Brigade drill practices and competitions were held at the
National Guard Armory or the armory parade grounds.
In 1959 the organization upgraded from it's traditional WW1 dress uniform to a
dark blue uniform based
on the United States Air Force Academy uniforms. Recruits wore a silk-screened Highlander sweatshirt over
a white shirt and a black tie, blue slacks, black shoes and a blue military hat.
Through the 50s and 60s the organization membership fluxuated between 1,200 and 2,000 boys.
As it's main fundraiser, the organization held the "Annual All Boys Show" at the Denver Civic Auditorium,
a three-day event with two performances each day. The last performance of the event was an assembly
of the entire Brigade and a "Parade and Review" which featured the retirement ceremony for the
Brigade Commanding Officer.
In 1955 Albert S Carter, a prominent Denver Citizen donated a three hundred and
ten acre tract of
mountain property near Golden Colorado to the Highlander Boys Organization.
In the early 60s, Denver
became more decentralized and it became more and more difficult for boys
to come into the core city for drills and activities. Outlying chapter groups were established in Arvada,
Aurora, Broomfield, Englewood, Lakewood, Northglenn, Thornton and Westminster.
The Highlander Band remained at the Denver headquarters and grew into three separate levels
of competency. Twice a year each chapter would send its best-drilled private, non-commissioned officer,
squad, platoon and company to the National Guard Armory to compete in drill competitions, which led
to the award of the organization’s Honor Company.
with the organizations growth, so did the demand for more activities. Boys could join
basketball teams, wrestling teams, a gymnastic team, debate teams, a radio club, rifle teams and
drill teams. Drill teams became very popular. The "Runts" drill team was for boys under
54 inches in height.
The Non Commissioned Officer drill team was called the "Scotch
The commander held regular competitions to allow newly promoted NCO's an opportunity
to win a position on the 18 man team.
Scotch Patrol Drill Team.
Commanded by Captain Albert Dreher.
The "Gold & Blue" drill team was comprised of only 12 officers from the entire Brigade.
To become a member a "challenge" was made to an existing team member. A challenge was a very
intense man-to-man drill competition of the team's routines. The winner was chosen by a vote
of the other 11 members. The commander was the current Brigade Commander,
not always a team member, an honorary position.
8 man Gold & Blue Drill Team.
Commanded by Brigade Commanding Officer, Russell Stone.
In the late 1960s, at he height of the Vietnam War, the organization faced criticism for it's military
uniforms, the use of wooden rifles and its emphasis on military discipline and drill. Some referred to the
boys as "young fascists." Membership declined drastically. In the mid 70s management attempted to
keep the organization viable by discontinuing the blue military uniforms, the use of wooden rifles,
drill teams and military discipline. The new direction was "co-ed." The organization was simply called
"The Highlanders." Carter Lake Camp and the building at E. Logan were sold and the proceeds
used to pay taxes, salaries, purchase co-ed uniforms and pay other costs. Recruitment continued
to decline. Struggling with the changed culture of the Vietnam era, the organization found itself
without membership funding and community support.
is estimated that from 1916 to 1976, 20,000 boys in the Denver metro area
proudly called themselves
Highlander Boys. By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, perhaps only 2,000 men were still
alive, carrying the memories of the Highlander experience. They still lived by the Precepts, Aims and
same basic policies laid out by George Olinger. The Highlander Boys were trained to show respect,
commitment, courtesy and loyalty. From the experience of commanding other boys in military units,
they learned to be leaders. The promotion system encouraged a feeling of accomplishment and
self-worth. And they had a lot of fun along the way.
July, 2011, the 1st Highlander Boy Reunion was held at the Meadow Hills Golf Resort in
Arvada, Colorado. 65 exHighlander boys attended with many of their wives and children.
15 Brigade Commanding Officer were present, the oldest retired in 1949.
2011, Highlander Boy Reunion.
Brigade Commanding Officers
(LtoR) Paul Towner, 1949, Jack Towner, 1953, Jim Warner, 1951, Bob Showalter, 1956,
Jerry Schempp, 1959, Jim Cluck, 1960, Paul Otis, 1964, James Anderson, 1965, Kent Cluck, 1965,
John Sedbrook, 1966, Kurt Davis, 1968, Larry Steele, 1969, Paul Van Arsdale, 1973, Nick Gutierrez, 1974,
Scot Wright, 1975.