Two weeks ago we had events to attend in Appleton and Oshkosh, separated by one day, so we had a brief get-away in Green Bay. We visited the Heritage Hill State Historical Park, which is a collection of buildings from Wisconsin’s early days. And, since French explorers and fur traders frequented the Great Lakes and nearby waterways in the 1600’s, some of the buildings were quite old.
Speaking of “quite old,” our trip to Green Bay was rich with Packer history, going back to and way prior to our years of fandom in the 1960’s.
First, there are a dozen or more granite markers with photos and historical information etched on them. They are from the Oneida Nation, and line Lombardi Avenue for many blocks near the stadium.
Second, we took the advice of a woman we met for dinner at a restaurant outside of Green Bay. Every wall had photos or signed jerseys from Packer greats. Willy Davis, Fuzzy Thurston, Boyd Dowler… and many more Packers of our youth. And the fish was very good as well.
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel, which was only a block or so from Lambeau Field. Because it was a Friday before a Sunday game, there was some energy in the air. We walked over to the stadium, but just missed getting into the pro shop before it closed. However, the atrium area was still open to the public, though there was a very large gala dinner going on.
We walked up to the second level to look down on the gathering. What we realized was that almost every table had a former Packer player, each wearing a jersey with his name on it. Here are a few of the players we saw: Bart Starr, Lynn Dickey, Willie Davis, Carroll Dale, Boyd Dowler, Jim Grabowski, Donny Anderson, Willie Wood and Frank Winters. If you aren’t of a certain age, most of those names mean nothing to you, but it was kind of a big deal to us.
From our vantage point we could see plenty of other players, but it wasn’t possible to read their names, and besides, it felt kind of rude to be staring down on the gala goers, though we weren’t alone.
The players I followed in the 60’s are, not surprisingly, in their 70’s now, and some have died since those glory days. Being a sports hero doesn’t forestall the aging process, and the rigors of football take their toll on those who play it. So, some of the old players struggle with aches, pains, and the effects of too many hits to the head.
The game has changed, and Lambeau Field has really changed, having become a year-round tourist destination for old fogeys like us, and the legions of Packer fans from around the world.
I like watching the Packers all these years later, and while I try to put the games in perspective (the key word there is “game”), I have to admit that my Sunday nights are better when the green and gold has won that afternoon.
Having been to Green Bay so recently it was fun to watch the game on TV Sunday. Maybe we’ll get to a game again someday. By then, we’ll surely be green and gold and old.