The lobby of the Bears' offices is pretty much filled exclusively with Halas' memorabilia, awards and trophies. Strangely, the one picture of Papa Bear in the lobby shows him on the sidelines with George Blanda, who spent his most depressing seasons in Chicago, subsequently testifying that Halas "took my 10 best years in pro football and all he gave me in return was a dead sparrow and a piece of string."
But inside the offices, on (he wall leading to Papa Bear's office, there are several photographs of the more convivial stars of yesteryear, most of whom—Grange, Luckman, George McAfee, Gale Sayers—are also registered as "men of character, then and now." Every year, Halas holds an Alumni Day, and this year the proceedings were highlighted by a duet sung by Papa Bear and Ed Healy, a tackle on the 1922 team. They warbled Hail to the Orange, the University of Ellanoy fight song. A fine time was had by all, although here and there some of the oldtimers wondered out loud when the Bears would growl again. The newspapers and television stations are now doing nostalgia features on the '63 Bears, who played when Lyndon Johnson was President and George S. Halas was a kid of 68.
Just about everybody but a few surviving contemporaries calls him Coach. Last year, as much of the family gathered for the holidays, an interview with Papa Bear and Phyllis George was aired. For some reason, Miss George's usually impeccable Miss America manners deserted her, and throughout the interview she referred to the gentleman octogenarian as "George." The family watched, aghast and bemused at such sassiness, but Papa Bear himself did not appear to be distressed at this untoward familiarity. What the heck, Phyllis was single at the time, some dish, and in another 20 or 25 years she is going to be 48.
The coach is quite well behaved, except perhaps at games. He would not permit an observer to accompany him to see the Bears play, lest he appear too coarse and obstreperous. At all times his life is well ordered. In his six-room apartment at Edgewater Beach, he begins each day with exercises—riding a stationary bike, lifting dumbbells and jogging in place. For breakfast, he fixes himself grapefruit, bran flakes, sliced bananas ("That keeps up the potassium levels in my body"), coffee and a sweet roll. Then he drives himself to the office and gets down to business. For lunch, he partakes of soup and crackers at his desk, or a fruit plate and salad with Thousand Island dressing. Then he takes his nap, getting an edge on all those dissolute whippersnappers.
The day's work done, he returns home for a dinner of veal, chicken or fish ("Stay away from animal fats") and more salad ("I'm a firm believer in roughage"). He exercises again ("Never go to bed a loser") and before he turns out the light he makes sure that a note pad and pen are arrayed at his bedside in case he has any inspirations in the middle of the night.
Papa Bear is on the move. He is first on the dance floor; he legged out a triple in a recent family whiffle-ball game; and now that his arthritic hips have been repaired, he is preparing to take up golf again when the Bears season is over and he holidays in Arizona. He has no intention whatsoever of retiring; his brother Frank labored contentedly for the Bears until he died several years ago at age 89. "I see some of these old people mooning around who have given up," says Papa Bear, "and I try to give them a little goose." He is older than the Pope and Sam Ervin, if not quite so old as George Meany and Norman Rockwell. Papa Bear is just about as old as the states of New Mexico and Alaska put together. Think about it that way.
And largely because of the Monsters of the Midway, it has been one great life, booked up now through April 1, 1978. Here is why, Papa Bear explains: "Look, you can have a session with your girl friend. What's that last you? Twenty minutes, half an hour? Or you can go out and get stiff with the boys. A few hours, right? But to win a game in the National Football League! That lasts a whole week!" A pause. (A savoring pause.) "Whatta thrill!" He said that: "Whatta thrill!"
"Review my calendar for the next day.
"Leave the office between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m.
"I have no need to search for hobbies or outside interests—I have them all.