On Aug. 11, 1919, a score or more husky young athletes, called together by Curly Lambeau and George Calhoun, gathered in the dingy editorial room of the old Green Bay Press-Gazette building on Cherry Street and organized a football team. They didn't know it, but that was the beginning of the incredible saga of the Green Bay Packers.
Lambeau and Calhoun struck the initial spark a few weeks before, during a casual street-corner conversation. It was apparently a "Why not get up a football team?" remark, but once they were interested, they wasted no time.
First they talked Lambeau's employer -- a war-time industry called the Indian Packing Company, where he worked as a shipping clerk for $250/month -- into putting up money for jerseys.
Because the company provided jerseys and permitted the use of its athletic field for practice, the club was identified in its early publicity as a project of the company. With this tie-in, the name "Packers" was a natural, and Packers they have been ever since, although the Indian Packing Company had practically faded out of the picture before that first season was half over.
That first season the team won 10 and lost only one, against foes from Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. Games were played in an open field with no fences or bleachers, and interested fans "passed the hat." But the team was so successful by 1921 that Lambeau was backed by two officials of the packing plant in obtaining a franchise (Aug. 27, 1921) in the new national pro football league that had been formed in 1920. Cash customers didn't quite pay the freight and the team had to be forfeited at year's end.
This was the first in a long series of troubles that the now famous team overcame, for in 1922 Lambeau gained other backers and bought the franchise back for $250, including $50 of his own money. Troubles continued during that season. One game was rained out and the insurance company wouldn't pay off because the official amount of rain was one one-hundredth of an inch short of that required in the policy.
However, another storm late in the season, when the Packers were scheduled to play the Duluth Kelleys, threatened to throw Lambeau further into debt. But A.B. Turnbull, Green Bay Press-Gazette general manager, advanced Lambeau the Duluth guarantee. He then lobbied town businessmen ("The Hungry Five") behind the team, and formed the Green Bay Football Corporation.
From those modest and somewhat tenuous beginnings, the Packers have gone on to earn national stature and virtual worldwide recognition by winning more championships (12) over the intervening 80-plus years than any team in pro football.
These achievements, while representing a town of approximately 100,000 in competition with the country's largest markets, have endeared the Packers to the nation. The David vs. Goliath concept and the team's unique status as a publicly owned corporation has intrigued generations.
The Packers' colorful saga spans 89 years from the "Iron Man" period of the first decade under founder Lambeau, to the present day, which finds Mike McCarthy presiding as the team's 14th head coach.