Many of them don't. There are some 30 of the old Packers living in town and another 20 or so living elsewhere in Wisconsin. The presence of the Old Heroes gives Green Bay a certitude about its football and a confidence in its critical faculties. "You just can't spread 30 men of that caliber through a small town and not see the town develop a certain sophistication about football," says Jerry Atkinson, a department store executive who is also a director of the Packers.
Every August, in bars, on street corners, in drugstores and department stores, the fans haul out their "cut lists" to bet on who'll be with the Packers when the season opens. Routine practices are attended by as many as 4,000 persons. Townspeople love to fight over the Packers. "It's like Republicans and Democrats—you can divide this town into Starr men and McHan men," says Bob Houle, a radio newsman and city councilman, referring to quarterbacks Bart Starr and Lamar McHan.
Nourishing tradition and feeding the sense of identity are Today's Heroes, who also walk the streets—some of them looking for a place to hide. "If you're a goof-off, the people in this town find out about it faster than in any other town in the league," says one Packers player. Green Bay is not exactly puritanical, but it likes to know who's doing what and why. "It doesn't matter what the boys do as long as they're winning," says Verne Lewellen, the former kicker who has been general manager of the team since 1954. "But if they're losing, the hue and cry is up, and nobody protects the kids." And, like kids the world over, the players don't know when to get out of the bars when the hue and cry is up.
Lombardi, who inspires awe, not love, not only got the thirstier of his players out of the bars but impressed Green Bay enormously with his personal habits. "He goes to Mass every day," says one official of the club. "And a half dozen of the players are following his example," says a fan.
The nearness of the people of Green Bay to their heroes, who, unlike most professional athletes, are flesh-and-blood human beings visible daily on Pine or Walnut or Maple streets, has prevented the city from institutionalizing them. Not long ago in the lobby of the Hotel Northland, an old friend encountered the sometimes expatriate Curly Lambeau, who spends part of the summer and autumn in a cottage north of Green Bay.
It was Lambeau who made the Packers synonymous with Green Bay. In 1919 he organized the team with the help of Calhoun, then a Press-Gazette reporter. Lambeau outfitted the team with $500 given to him by a long-defunct company that lives only in the sobriquet of the football team, the Indian Packing Company. In that first season the 21-year-old Lambeau guided Green Bay to 10 wins before it lost to the Fairbanks-Morse team from Beloit. He split up the season's income with the team—each man got $16.75—and tackled, with Calhoun, the problem of keeping the team going. Over the next few years various men held the Green Bay franchise, and the NFL once reclaimed it because Green Bay was using college players. In 1923 the late Andy Turnbull, business manager of the Press-Gazette (and Calhoun's boss), stepped in with four other men to put up $1,600 to meet the Packers' overdue bills and set up the first Packers corporation.
The first whiff of grandeur came in 1929 when Green Bay defeated the New York Giants 20--6 to win the NFL championship. The Packers won again in 1930 and '31 and established a 15-year tradition that saw them win six league titles by '44. But even this period was punctuated by fiscal problems. The Packers were rescued through the characteristic blend of formal financing, public subscription and individual action.
By 1949 the people of Green Bay were scurrying about, trying to sell tickets to a special Thanksgiving Day intrasquad game to help meet the payroll. They raised $50,000—and postponed disaster. But the following February, Lambeau quit, after 31 years of leading the Packers, to become coach of the Chicago Cardinals. Another plan to refinance the Packers was conceived. To keep the Packers alive and at home, another sale of stock was held. Each share was pegged at $25, and nobody could buy more than 200 shares. "Most of our 1,699 stockholders own only one share," says Dominic Olejniczak, a real estate man who is currently president of the Packers (and who owns one share). In effect, buying a $25 share meant giving $25 to the Packers. The stockholders and the 39-man executive committee and the officers don't even get free tickets.
The refinancing didn't end the Packers' problems. In the next nine years they ran through three coaches. Attendance continued to fall off, and clubs began to refuse to play in Green Bay. By 1955 the Packers were drawing more for the three "home games" they played in Milwaukee every year than for their games in Green Bay. Average paid attendance was 11,051 in '55 and 12,117 in '56.
The ultimate solution demanded a risk: abandoning the old wooden City Stadium in favor of a new stadium. The city passed a bond issue, and the new million-dollar stadium was opened on the outskirts of town in 1957. Attendance doubled (to 23,064 average paid in '57), and business picked up swiftly. Last year the club set two financial records: It grossed more than $1 million, and it netted more than $100,000 for the first time in history.