Packers-Bears Game Brought Back Lumberjack Memories

It was in the fall of 1939, 71 years ago, that I saw my first of many Green Bay Packers games, all played in the old City Stadium behind East Green Bay High School. My dad, who barbered in Kewaunee for around 60 years, was a great sports fan. He and about a dozen of his Kewaunee friends had season tickets for a long time and all of their seats were on the top row of the square end zone. Most of them put blankets across the back railing and stood up. Dad got to know one of the ticket takers and he let dad take two of us brothers in on his one ticket—three to a ticket! We all stood up and there was plenty of room.

My brothers and I soon got to know all of the players by their jersey numbers, which college team they played for prior to being hired by the Packers, their positions, etc. Notables I clearly remember admiring were Cecil Isbell, a tailback who did the passing and plenty of good running; the great Arnie Herber, also a tailback; the awesome end, Don Hutson; Buford “Baby” Ray, biggest player on the team; Charley Brock, the rugged center; Clark Hinkle, excellent fullback and punter who was famous for his “coffin corner” punts; and “Buckets” Goldenberg, graduate of UW–Madison, a tough lineman with shoulders around two ax handles wide.

As a budding trumpet player by that time, I took special interest in the Green Bay Packers Lumberjack Band that played at every game. The beautiful band shell from which they played was near the corner of the field to the lower left from where we sat. I always stood right next to the band shell before the games began, listening to and admiring their excellent and peppy music. I graduated from Kewaunee High School in June of 1947, tried out with the Packers Band that August, and landed a job in their trumpet section. Fortunately I played with this outstanding group during the 1947 and 1948 seasons. We played at all of the games in Green Bay and also Milwaukee where the games were played at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds field in West Allis. The band traveled from Green Bay to Milwaukee on the Milwaukee Road train, my very first train rides.

The author as a member of the Green Bay Packers Lumberjack Band in 1947. Roy is in the front row, the second trumpeter from the left.

Up until the year before I began playing, the band had also been performing at the Packers-Bears games played at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The Packers organization simply bought a block of seats in the top several rows at Wrigley Field. Naturally, the Bears organization and fans strongly disliked the Packers Band. What a surprise and shock awaited the band in 1946 when they arrived at the stadium, to learn that the Bears organization did not honor the band with the tickets that had been ordered for them but, rather, seated the 36-member band in one long continuous line from the top of the stadium to the bottom. Naturally it was impossible for the band to perform. The Bears, without a letter of notification or phone call, had clearly and plainly “informed” the Lumberjack Band that they were not wanted back to any of the Packers-Bears games at Wrigley Field!

How clearly my Packers Lumberjack Band experiences flooded my mind during the hard-fought Packers-Bears NFC Championship Game. Several times during the game I automatically fingered my “imaginary” trumpet through the Packers’ fight song, which we played during all kick-offs and immediately after Packers’ touchdowns. Yes, I’ll be playing the fight song over and over again this coming Sunday. Go Pack Go!