George W. Olinger
1882 - 1954
Founder, Highlander Boys


 

These 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.

Initially, Mr. 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 the 
“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. 

    Mr. Olinger 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.
 Circa 1928.


Each 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.
 Circa 1928.




Original Highlander Boys building.
A converted candy factory, commonly referred to as the "Old Dutch Mill." 
 4th & Grant, Denver, Colorado.
  
1928.


In 1928 there were 1,200 boys actively engaged in the program in Denver and some 11,000 ex-Highlanders.  
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.
Denver, Colorado. 

The building was located at 300 Logan Street.
 1930.


Then came 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.

The 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.

In 1936, David C. Bayless, a Presbyterian minister and skilled fund-raiser, gathered several of the original 
foundation members. With that cadre, he reorganized "The Highlander Boys Organization." Mr. Bayless 
continued with Olinger's themes, including the Precepts, Aims and Highlander Prayer. He carried on under 
the same basic policies and same careful supervision that Mr. Olinger provided, although from time to time 
the program was updated to fit the needs of that day’s young man. It was a great joy to Mr. Olinger to see 
the Highlanders again on the march. He served on the board until his death in 1954.

"Vox Pop" December, 1943 
A very popular radio interview show that traveled around the United States to broadcast the voice of
 the people during WWII. People who were interested in appearing on the show as contestants would
apply,  the producers would ask a small number to be personally interviewed by the program hosts.
The show participants would be selected from the interviews.  


The show referred to in this history was broadcast from the Armory.  All of the contestants were
Highlander boys. The show was aired over the whole country, giving unusual prominence to the city
 of Denver and even greater exposure to the Highlander Boys,


 At that time, during the middle of WWII, most people back East thought of Denver as a small time cow
town.  For us, it was almost unbelievable that "Vox Pop" would give our town and our organization
that kind of publicity.

       Co host Warren Hull, Vox Pop Radio, interviews 
Highlander Boy Bandsman Joe Doolittle and his father.
      Denver, Colorado.
     December 20, 1943.
            

          Lt. Colonel Jerry Allingham interviewed by  
        Co host Parks Johnson, Vox Pop Radio.
       Denver, Colorado. 
      December 20, 1943.
        

 In the mid 1950's the organization acquired the building at 301 E. 4th Avenue and gradually developed it 
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.



Redesigned uniforms
1959.



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.

All Highlander Boys sold tickets to the show. Each ticket, called a Boy Bond, sold for 50 cents each or 
ten for $5. Every boy was required to sell $75 of "All Boys Show" tickets. Ticket buyers could either use 
the tickets to attend a performance or donate the tickets to a local orphanage for the orphan 
children to attend the show. 




Sergeant Major Danny Laird sells Highlander Boy Bonds to Denver Mayor Tom Currigan.
Mayors Office, Civic Center.

1965.

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.




Carter Lake, Golden Colorado.
Circa 1964.


 
All Highlander Boys were obligated to attend summer camp for a week at the organization’s Colorado 
mountain property, Carter Lake. The camp offered Quonset-hut housing for all boys under the rank of 
lieutenant. Lieutenants, captains, majors and colonels were required to bunk in four-man tents. 
The camp offered a command post, a complete kitchen and mess hall, a clinic and a large tent 
— called the big top — for group gatherings and nightly sing-along. Camp activities included archery, 
art and crafts, baseball, boating, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, swimming and volleyball.

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.

Along 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. 





Private First Class, Kurt Davis,
Runt Drill Team.
1961.



The Non Commissioned Officer drill team was called the "Scotch Patrol." 
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.
1967.



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.
February, 1966.



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.

The Highlander Boys disbanded and closed in 1976. Eventually the state sold the National Guard Armory 
to Channel 9 studios.  When the armory building was razed, the cornerstone was opened and a copper 
time capsule containing Highlander memorabilia was opened. For several years the contents of that box
were on display in the lobby of Channel 9 studios . Remaining artifacts are currently in storage pending
the relocation of the Denver Historical Museum.

It 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.