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My rookie year we played 22 games, 14 of them league games and eight exhibitions, and we were still playing in February, almost in March, because of Johnny Blood. Now there's a guy! That year Blood had been corresponding with some people in Honolulu, and one day he came to us and said, "Do you want to play a few postseason exhibition games in Honolulu? All you got to do is say yes and I'll arrange it."
Nobody took him seriously. Lambeau said, "O.K., John. I'll let you handle it. You make all the arrangements." Well, darned if Johnny didn't get us all lined up for Honolulu. We went over on a boat—it took us 5� days—and played three games against Hawaiian teams, then we came back and played Ernie Nevers' All-Stars in San Francisco and then again in Los Angeles. One night on the boat coming back from the islands we couldn't find Johnny Blood. Milt Gantenbein, who was my roommate at the time, walked out with me on the main deck, and we went back toward the stern. The sea was rough, the ship was pitching, and what we found turned us white. There was Johnny Blood outside the safety railing, on the extreme stern end of the ship hanging on to the flagpole. It was the middle of the night, with the ship pitching, and he was swinging around that flagpole. He didn't even know he was in any danger. He'd been drinking that okolehao—a native drink. It's made from pineapple juice or ti roots or something. It's some drink, I'll tell you. Anyway, we eased out there and got him.
A lot of people today think Green Bay was never a great football town until Vince Lombardi built all those winners in the 1960s. This kind of annoys me. They talk like we were a bunch of guys that got together on weekends. Listen, Lambeau was a great administrator. He won six championships, and in his early days he was just as tough and mean as anybody else. You think Lombardi's tough? Lambeau was tougher.
We were kings in Green Bay. We traveled in the best of society. Whenever they had the charity balls that people attended in evening gowns and all that, we were invited. The best society would invite you to their homes for dinner. And women! When the Packers came back to Green Bay to begin training for another season the gals would say, "The Depression's over!"
Of course, you knew everybody in town, so when you lost a ball game you didn't want to face anybody. You'd keep pretty much to the alleys. In those days—and I presume it's the same there today—if a fan saw you out drinking during the middle of the week, he would call Lambeau and say, "I saw Hinkle having a glass of beer tonight." And Lambeau would fine you $25 just on the strength of what the fan said.
We always traveled first-class. That was one of Lambeau's principles. We traveled in nothing but the best Pullmans. We even carried our own dining car connected to the two Pullmans we had for the squad. We stayed in the best hotels and ate the finest food. Most of the other teams went to cheaper hotels, but Lambeau felt we should, project an image to the public. After some of the rougher players were gone Lambeau even got a little tough on dress. We were one of the first to wear team jackets—blazers.
Lambeau allowed us to smoke, but he kind of frowned on us smoking in public, because he thought it created a bad image. We were very strict in our training habits. Lambeau gave us a written diet to follow. No fried foods of any kind. Chocolate drinks were out, because in those days we felt they built fat around the lungs. Coca-Cola was out, yet they all drink it today. We were told that it took 48 hours to digest a bottle of Coke and that the sugar wasn't good for your wind. I'll tell you one thing, you had to be strong in those days. It was 60-minute football, no platoons.
Everything I did I had to do with force. That's just the way I was built. I'd rather run into tacklers than use a little finesse, so I lost a lot of yards that way. But I felt I wanted to be tougher than the next guy. If they were going to tackle me they were going to pay for it. But let me tell you something. I don't have a bad shoulder, a bad knee, a bad ankle or a bad anything. It's amazing.
We had no pain-killers in those days. Nothing. You lived with pain. But you were so wrought up playing the game that you didn't think about it. Outside of getting a little rest now and then, the one and only time I ever left a game was when Bronko Nagurski put seven stitches in my face. They took me down to the emergency room of the hospital and put the stitches in, and they brought me back in a taxicab and I went into the game again. It happened in the first quarter. I got back just before the half ended and started the second half. Didn't do bad, either. I believe we played the Bears to a 0-0 tie.
I think I began to get my reputation as a tough player as a result of a famous collision that Nagurski and I had. I'd been in the league about two or three years. Nagurski and I both played fullback and linebacker, and actually I'd already raised a few eyebrows because opponents who tackled me felt like I weighed about 240 and because when I played against Nagurski I held my own. The time he put seven stitches on my chin I'd made a mistake on defense. I'd waited for him to come to me. Then, as I sat there, I said to myself, Clarke, you'd better learn how to play this game or they'll kill you. From then on I tried to get to Bronk before he got to me. So we had this big collision.