A blog dedicated to chronicling the history of SC Green White, a soccer club founded in Chicago in 1956.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


The story of the people that founded Green White, the Danube-Swabians (or Donauschwaben), is a story that goes back several hundred years.

In her memoir “Barefoot in the Rubble”, author Elizabeth Walter explains how this group of ethnic Germans came to be:

“In the late 17th century, the Austro-Hungarian Empire recovered its Hungarian domains by defeating the Ottoman Turks. The Ottoman Empire had occupied the region for 150 years. Fearful that the Ottoman Turks would regain control of the area, the Austrian Imperial Council launched a great colonization scheme to settle the recovered lands with loyal subjects. Promising land in exchange for hard work, the Austrian Empire encouraged German-speaking people from southwestern Germany, northeastern France, and Switzerland to cultivate the region.

Since no roads linked Central Europe to Eastern Europe, the new settlers traveled down the Danube River by barge. More than 1000 farming communities and numerous homesteads were settled in the Danubian Plain in what later became Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia. The two largest areas they settled became known as Banat and Batschka (map of Banat below). The German-speaking settlers there became known as the Danube Swabians. Danube, because they had traveled the Danube and settled its plain, and Swabians because their port of departure had been in Ulm, Swabia.”

They lived there in peace for hundreds of years until the end of World War II. When the Red Army tanks rolled through their towns and villages, the Danube Swabians lost all their rights and property. They had no choice but to flee. Tens of thousands were killed in ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia (where German-speaking people were declared “enemies of the state”), and many others became refugees, escaping to Austria, or Germany to start a new life.

For many, that life eventually included moving to the United States of America. One of the thriving communities of Danube Swabians was based in Chicago, so in the years after the war, a large number of these immigrants arrived here.

These immigrants had a few things in common. They shared a common heritage. They shared amazingly similar life experiences. But many of the young people also shared a common love.

A love of soccer.

Adam Harjung was one of those young people. “I was 17 at the time. We played soccer whenever we could. I remember Martin Schneider (photo), who was ten or fifteen years older than us, said, ‘You know, we should start our own soccer club.’ We thought it was a great idea. Martin helped us organize it.”

According to original member Fritz Becker, he did more than just organize it: “Martin Schneider really was the father of this team. It was his idea. He was the boss. He ran the show.”

Nearly all of them were part of the Donauschwaben Jugendgruppe (or the Society of Danube Swabians Youth Group), a club dedicated to maintaining the German language and traditions of their Danube-Swabian homeland. The club’s membership had grown by leaps and bounds during that first decade after the war, so they asked the Donauschwaben if they could form a Danube Swabian soccer team.

And that’s exactly what they did on August 26, 1956.

Cindy Kaempfer, the current president of the club, and the daughter of one of those young men who founded the club (Eckhard Kaempfer), explains the origin of the name Green White. “My father’s family and all the other founding members were very proud of their heritage and wanted to honor it by naming the soccer club ‘Danubia.’ Unfortunately the National Soccer League wouldn’t allow the name because they considered it ‘too ethnic.’ So instead, the colors of the Danube Swabians (Green and White) were selected for the name.” (Photo: Danube Swabian flag)

Hans Bauer, Fritz Becker, Heinrich Bischoff, Adam Harjung, Joe Hertl, Eckhard Kaempfer, Hans Kendl, Anton Kirschner, Matz Kraemer, Paul Kuhn, Horst Melcher, Hans Neidenbach, Hans Schmidt, Heinrich Schmidt, Martin Schneider, Franz Stadler, and Frank Thebes were the founding members that day. Many of these same men played the game, coached the team, and guided the club through the initial years.

Hans Metzinger joined the following year, but he knew his fellow Danube Swabians well. “Every single guy on that team was a Donauschwaben,” he says. “Every single one.”

Adam Harjung remembers there was a bit of a pecking order at first, and it was more or less based on their ages. “Martin Schneider, Hans Neidenbach, Paul Kuhn; they were the older ones at the time. Fritz Becker was the first president, because he was a little older than us too. Then there were a few in college like Eckhard Kaempfer, Horst Melcher, and Franz Stadler—they were at the University of Illinois. They played on that original team, and were involved from the beginning. And so was I.”

President Fritz Becker even sported a fitting name for a German soccer club. A man with the same name (but no relation) had scored the first ever goal for Germany in an international soccer match. But Fritz didn't see his own role as fate: "I just happened to know Martin and he said ‘We need a president’ and since the other guys were a little younger, and I had just been married, I was the guy that was chosen."

The idea of the soccer team was grudgingly accepted at first by the old guard of Donauschwaben, but a few of them did become enthusiastic supporters. Hans Bittenbinder, a member since 1956 remembers, “I always felt we were supported by the older Donauschwaben generation. Michael Melcher (father of Horst and Walter) was even our president a few years later.”

All that remained was the creation of the team logo. Green White President Cindy Kaempfer explains the origin of that logo, and once again there’s much more to it than meets the eye. “Originally our crest was very similar to the modern day Danube Swabian crest. That crest is filled with symbolism and dates back to the 18th century. The eagle at the top represents the obligation of the Holy Roman Empire. The wavy blue line represents the Danube River, and the green pays homage to the farming heritage of the Danube Swabian settlement. The coat of arms also has the German national colors of black, red and gold, plus the Danube Swabian colors of Green (Peace) and White (Hope). The Fortress in the middle is a symbol of the imperial German defenses. The half moon on the right is the temporal symbol of Islam and the bright sun rising represents Christ. The six towers of the fortress represent the six main regions of the Danube Swabian settlements.”

They now had a sponsor, a team, a league, and a logo.

Although the first official game wouldn’t be played until the following spring, a soccer club had been born.

Green White Babies

*On November 29, 1956, the first Green White baby was born; Hildegard Schneider, the oldest child of club co-founder Martin Schneider.

Elsewhere in Chicago, 1956

Those young Danube Swabians arriving in Chicago in the 1950s encountered a city much different than today's.

~The tallest building in Chicago in 1956 was still considered a marvel in the Midwest. It had just been completed in 1955, and was known as the Prudential Building (postcard picture on the left). The roof of the Prudential even had an observation deck.

~Chicago also had a brand new mayor. Richard J. Daley, a man that would rule the city with an iron fist for the next twenty years.

~A new radio star arrived at WGN in Chicago that same year. His name was Wally Phillips. Phillips arrived in Chicago from Cincinnati on October 1, 1956 along with his friend Bob Bell (who later became Bozo the Clown on WGN Television). At the height of his popularity, Phillips attracted nearly 1.5 million listeners, an incredible 50% of the market's listening audience.

~Only a small percentage of Chicago households owned a television in 1956, but those Chicagoans lucky enough to own one probably watched the #1 show in the country: "I Love Lucy".

~And if you somehow still didn't know the name "Elvis Presley" you probably didn't have a radio or record player. Elvis' record "Don't Be Cruel" with the flipside "Hound Dog" was one of the biggest selling records in history.

Coming next month: 1957. The National Soccer League. Instant soccer success. A new clubhouse. A soccer mentor. The first Green White baby. And Sputnik starts a space race.