Archive for October, 2008

A Hearing for Jim Thorpe

October 31, 2008

A press release just came across my virtual desk that informs me of an event to be held in Carlisle on May 28, 2009. It’s not clear to me if this is to just be a booksigning or a reenactment of the fictional trial described in “A Hearing for Jim Thorpe, An Exercise in Frustration” by Michael L. Sheaffer. Mr. Sheaffer’s website is not clear about where the signing will take place. The Cumberland County Courthouse is depicted as the site of the hearing, but is not identified as the location of the booksigning. It is my understanding that it is not scheduled to be held at Whistlestop Bookshop where many such events take place.

I am at a loss to understand why this book was written and, since it was written, why Bob Wheeler and Florence Ridlon, the people who got Thorpe’s medals restored, weren’t involved.

I don’t know the author and probably move to Carlisle after he left. I will email him about this blog to give him a chance to comment on it. I have not been able to find out anything about Project Jim Thorpe. I have enlisted Freddie Wardecker to help me locate someone who would have been around at the time and might know about that project.

Perhaps the author will tell us more. Who knows? We might like it after we know more about it. It is my hope that Mr. Sheaffer researched original sources and not recent fictionalized accounts. However, his research materials lists only websites.

Lone Star Inducted into Albright College Hall of Fame

October 24, 2008

Last Friday night I was given the honor of standing in for Lone Star Dietz at his induction ceremony for the Albright College Hall of Fame. (Link to Albright website: At the banquet I had the pleasure of sharing a table with Marcia and Sheldon Cohen, the wife and son of the late Gus Cohen, one of the stars of the 1937 undefeated team. Gus didn’t have it easy. He was orphaned as a child and had little money but was a good student and athlete. His high school coach took him to see various colleges when he was nearing graduation. Getting schools interested in him as both a student and an athlete was no problem. However, in those Depression days, getting financial support was a problem. Albright College came through with a scholarship so he became a Lion.

At Albright College his coach, Lone Star Dietz, became the father Gus didn’t have. Doris’s cooking probably didn’t hurt either. That Doris was also Jewish may have made communication with her easier. Gus got a lot from Albright but it wasn’t a one-way street because he gave back when he could. There is now a Gus Cohen scholarship at Albright and the school’s archives are much richer thanks to the generosity of the Cohen family.

Earlier Friday Marcia and Sheldon donated Gus’s considerable stack of memorabilia to the college. Included are Gus’s letter sweater and game programs. The item I am most interested in seeing is Gus’s playbook from 1938, I think. It will be great to see what Lone Star was running at that time. He had the reputation of being the best implementer of the single-wing, some say better than Warner himself. Who knows, it might even include the Dead Indian Play. I must set a day aside to sift through this stuff.


Albright College Hall of Fame Plaque

Albright College Hall of Fame Plaque

End of Carlisle-Detroit Connection

October 21, 2008

Last Friday night I had the pleasure of meeting Marcia and Sheldon Cohen, the wife and son of the late Gus Cohen, at Lone Star Dietz’s induction ceremony, but more on that in a later blog. Mrs. Cohen related that her mother left the Triangle Shirtwaist factory two weeks before the infamous fire in 1911. At the time she was making $2.50 a week. She made that much because she had the skill necessary to sew lace collars onto shirts. This puts Henry Ford’s pay increase into better perspective for me. $2.50 per week increased to $5.00 per day and the workday was shortened from 9 hours to 8. That was a ten-fold increase. However, autoworkers were already making more than many other workers. But still, this raise more than doubled their income if they met Ford’s criteria. No wonder the other industrialists were flummoxed.

Not every Ford worker qualified, starting with women. Ford believed that women rightfully should be married and taking care of their families, so he didn’t increase their wages. Worker’s under 22 were not qualified unless they had dependents. To further determine who was worthy, the company’s Sociological Department was expanded. The staff of 150 visited employees’ homes and asked them about everything from marital status to savings, health, hobbies, and child care. Excessive drinking, gambling, buying on credit, a dirty home, and an unwholesome diet were all grounds for probation; if a worker hadn’t cleaned up his act in six months, not only did he not get the $5 a day wage, he was fired.

The Carlisle students at Ford worked hard to qualify. In December 1915, 25 Carlisle boys were working at Ford. Three of the first to go to Detroit (Joseph Gilman, Everett Ranco, and Norman Thompson) had already qualified for the $5 a day wage and six others (Clement Hill, William Hall, Leslie James, Francis Kettle, Fred Skenandore and Benjamin Skenandore) expected to attain that status soon. Joseph Gilman, Chippewa, expected to be transferred to Ford’s Minneapolis plant soon. That move would return him to his home state.

In May 1916, The Arrow reported that, in 1916 alone, the school had received checks from Ford to be deposited in 25 students’ accounts $1,988.60, an amount that equals 25% of their earnings during this period, $7,954.40. Most were able to live on the 75% of their pay that they received directly but some withdrew money from their school accounts for living expenses.

While living and working in Detroit the boys formed their own football team, the Detroit Carlisles, and competed with the independent or semi-pro teams along the Great Lakes. By June 1918, a total of 68 Carlisle boys had worked at the Ford plant of which more than completed the student course. Twenty-five had enlisted in the armed forces by this time. The Ford-Carlisle was impacted first by the declaration of War in 1917 and finally by the closing of Carlisle Indian School in 1918.




Carlisle Indians Built Model Ts

October 17, 2008

In 2003 three of my brothers and I took our soon-to-be 90-year-old father for a tour of old car museums in the Midwest. At Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI we took a ride in a Model T. That was all it took to whet his appetite for the Tin Lizzie. Before I knew it one appeared at my doorstep. Dan lives in Illinois but the 1915 brass radiator T he found was in New Jersey. The seller agreed to deliver it as far as my place in Pennsylvania. (See photo below)

This being the 100th anniversary of the Model T, one looks for connections between it and the Carlisle Indian School. Some employee surely had one but I haven’t bothered to explore that link because a much stronger tie exists.

Shortly after Henry Ford increased wages to $5 per day and reduced the workday from 9 hours to 8, a move that other industrialists thought would bankrupt him and possibly themselves as they tried to compete for workers, Superintendent Oscar Lipps arranged to have some Carlisle students enter the training program at Ford. In January 1915 6 boys left to put Americans on the road. At Ford they were placed in a training program which consisted of both classroom training and hands–on work in the various aspects of the Highland Park plant. Lipps received feedback on the boys’ performance and found it necessary to upgrade part of the academic program at Carlisle to better prepare students for positions in modern industrial concerns.

The boys performed well and received good evaluations from Ford. So good in fact, that additional students were sent to Ford. By mid-summer, 19 boys were in the Ford training program. In September most, including the football players, returned to Carlisle, but 9 remained at Ford. In December, after football season was over, 16 more, including several who had previously been in the Ford program returned to Detroit. By January 1916, Joe Gilman, Chippewa, set a Ford record by assembling a Model T in 2 hours and 50 minutes, breaking the previous record of 3 hours.

End of Part I

Ann cranks while Tom impatiently honks horn

Ann cranks while Tom impatiently honks horn

Puttin’ on my top hat …

October 13, 2008

This week promotion for my new book, Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs, kicks off with a book talk and signing at Whistlestop Bookshop in Carlisle, PA. The timing is good because reviews are starting to come in. I can only hope they’re all as good as the one that ends:

 “Historians, sociologists and anthropologists will appreciate the exhaustive research, attention to detail, accuracy, authority, and integrity Benjey has put into completing this work. Sports fans and casual readers will be drawn into Benjey’s unique and compelling writing style. ‘Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs’ by Tom Benjey is destined to become a classic.”
My immediate challenge is to turn the reviewer’s last word into best seller.

Friday night I am in Reading, PA to accept Lone Star Dietz’s induction into the Albright College Hall of Fame for his family. I will, of course, wear a tuxedo to pay homage to Lone Star but could never look as dapper as he did. This long-overdue honor should be followed by another, induction into the College Football Hall of Fame for his record as a coach. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look like it is in the cards, at least for now.

I have been doing radio interviews across the country as of late and some stations place recordings of these interviews on their web sites. I will link my author page on to those that I can find. 




Lone Star decked out in Portland, 1915












The Greatest Reward Is Doing This

October 10, 2008

The greatest reward for writing these books and blogging about it has been meeting and communicating with people I would never have met before. In the last few months relatives of the men and women I write about have learned of me and have introduced themselves. I would never have known of their existence or how to contact them otherwise. Several have thanked me for making a permanent record of these people’s lives, but the pleasure is all mine.


Sometimes they know very little about their relative. Other times they know quite a bit and share information I was unaware of with me. Occasionally, make that frequently, they clarify something that was muddy for me. Often they provide information about a sibling of a person that I wrote about who also attended Carlisle.


The most unexpected thing that has happened is that, because of my books and/or blog, relatives that are unaware of the existence or location of other of their relatives utilize me as a conduit for making contact with each other. Family secrets have even been unwittingly uncovered as a result of putting people in contact with each other.


Lest someone be worried about their anonymity be divulged against their wishes, I have a policy to prevent that from happening. If I have contact information for Person A and Person B request that information, I send Person B’s contact information to Person A. That way, Person A can decide whether he or she desires to get in touch or not.


This coming Thursday, October 16 at 6:30 p.m., I am giving a talk about Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs at Whistlestop Bookshop which is located at 129 W. High Street in Carlisle, PA. Everyone is welcome. Surprise visitors show up at most of my talks. Could it be you?

Returning Indians to Prominence in Football

October 6, 2008

Coming across a 1937 newspaper article in which Gus Welch launched a movement to return Indians to prominence in football. He was quoted as saying:


“The Indian is disappearing from football just like he disappeared from the forests. There used to be a lot of good Indian athletes—Thorpe, Guyon Mount Pleasant, Sweet Corn, Jim Levi, Tiny Roebuck and Mayes McLain. Pop Warner developed a dozen great ones at Carlisle and Haskell Institute produced a number. But they are fast dwindling. Most of the Indians we see in athletics today are impostors, or at best half-breeds. And they might as well be cigar store Indians in so far as I’m concerned.”


The article went on to say that Gus and his wife had recently adopted a baby girl. He insisted that the next child would be a boy adopted from one of what he considered the two fiercest tribes.


“I’m going to visit the Sioux reservation first and look over their crop of babies. If they don’t have anything to my liking, I’m going to pay the Cheyennes a call. I’m determined to find a real all-American and restore the Indian to his proper place in football.”


You already know that didn’t work out, but did you know that Bacone College attempted to revive Indian football after it was de-emphasized at Haskell Institute during the Great Depression? It was a natural thing for the little Muskogee, OK college to do because the school’s original name when it was founded in 1880 at the Cherokee Baptist Mission in Tahlequah by Almon C. Bacone was Indian University. Oklahoma’s longest-running institution of higher education was renamed Bacone Indian University in 1910. Later, its board of trustees gave it its current name. An irony is that Bacone and Haskell, both now four-year schools, play each other.

Gus Welch between Possum Powell and Jim Thorpe

Rally in the Valley

October 3, 2008

David “Cougman” Welch informs me that an autographed copy of Keep A-goin’: the life of Lone Star Dietz and a Lone Star Dietz custom silk necktie are being auctioned off to help fund scholarships for students attending Washington State University and to support the WSU Alumni Association. The Rally in the Valley is the Skagit Valley Cougars’ signature event each year. More information can be found about this year’s event at A flyer for the event can be found here:


For those unfamiliar with Lone Star Dietz, a little background is in order. William Henry Lone Star Dietz was a star tackle at Carlisle Indian School, assistant coach under Pop Warner for three years and also an art instructor. Dietz took the reins as head coach in Pullman in 1915. In his three years as head coach at Washington State (four if you count the 1918 Mare Island Marines composed heavily of his former college players), Dietz led them to two undefeated regular seasons (three if you count the Mare Island year) and Washington State’s only Rose Bowl win (also their first loss if you count the Mare Island team).


Keep A-goin’ tells Lone Star Dietz’s life story. The necktie as seen below incorporates the distinctive signature Lone Star put on his artwork. Also note that the tie is in Washington State colors (crimson and gray). I will be wearing one of these ties on the evening of October 17 when he is inducted into the Albright College Hall of Fame.