Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Making of a Leader

As we all continue to lick our wounds from the Thanksgiving Day massacre, we’re offering up this last article in our gathering of material from Boys’ Life magazine, from January 1969. It is “The Making of a Leader,” a feature on Green Bay QB Bart Starr, from the first season after Lombardi.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cool Stickers Courtesy of Goodyear

On this Thanksgiving Day, when the Packers are in Detroit to battle the Lions and hopefully keep their season alive, we’re looking back to 1966. Hall of Fame QB Bart Starr is seen endorsing these “official NFL team emblems” that were available at your local Goodyear tires dealer. What is neat from our perspective is the collection of classic franchise logos that can be seen here. With the exception of the Bears and Vikings, all of the other team logos have been changed in the ensuing years. Happy Thanksgiving to all of our Packerville, U.S.A. readers!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pancakes and Mini Helmets

On this day before Thanksgiving, let’s head over to the IHOP, in October of 1971. Why? So we can get some NFL mini-helmets! Buy one at 24¢ and get a second one free! What a classic ad from a more innocent sports era, and stocking up on some pancakes will tide us over until the post-Packers game turkey meal tomorrow.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Packers-Vikings at Lambeau

Here is a short photo presentation of our day at Lambeau Field on Sunday, watching only the second tie game in our 103-game history. Above is the obligatory drive up Interstate 43 on a very crisp morning in Wisconsin. We were glad that we brought so many layers along as it was the second-coldest November game in Packers history.

An early morning shot as we walked over to Lambeau to make a swing through the Packers Pro Shop. The cold did not hamper the tailgating from what we could see, although people tended to be standing around the fires to keep warm.

A cold Lambeau (14 degrees when this was taken) awaits the throngs of fans who were anticipating a hard-fought division battle between two winning teams when the schedule came out, or when they purchased tickets many times the face value from brokers. 

Christmas time in the Packers Pro Shop (above and below)

The game program for this latest edition of the Packers-Vikings rivalry. 

Fans gathering in the Lambeau Field Atrium to stay warm, which is exactly what we did as well. 

This year will be forever known as “the year that might have been.” 

Here’s a look at Lambeau as it starts to fill in. It was time to place our chair-back seats in Row 8 to stake our “butt space” on the cold aluminum benches before heading out to get our traditional bratwurst before game time. 

Jet flyovers are a thing of the past, but they had a WWII B-17 flyover on Sunday, which was really cool. 

Our “good” camera was needed elsewhere this weekend, so we aren’t featuring game photos like we usually do. The phone camera just doesn’t give us the quality we expect.  

The final score, 26-26. Hard to believe the Packers couldn’t score to end the game with the ball on the three yard line right there in front of us in the north end zone. The game did make history as being the first tie since the new OT rules went into effect. With the old rules, the Packers win. Que Sera, Sera.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Paul Asks: “Are You Ready?”

In this October 1964 Wilson Sporting Goods ad from Boys’ Life magazine, future Hall of Famer HB Paul Hornung is helping a young fellow with his helmet and shoulder pads. According to the ad, Hornung was a member of the “Wilson advisory staff.” This equipment was not just geared for backyard fun (like in yesterday’s post), it was geared for actual youth football games. Hornung was in his first season back with the team after returning from a 1963 gambling suspension. Yep, players did stupid things in those days as well.

Friday, November 22, 2013

50 Years Ago This Sunday

Since everyone is marking the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination today, we will join in as well. The image above is from the Packers’ 1964 yearbook, and it shows the pre-game moment of silence for Kennedy at Milwaukee County Stadium on Sunday, November 24, 1963. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle made the choice to go ahead and play games as scheduled, in what he later called a wrong decision. The San Francisco 49ers were the opponent that day, and the Packers defeated them by a score of 28-10 in front of 45,905 fans. Since there were so few no-shows that day, perhaps something to take peoples’ minds off the events of the weekend was needed.

How About a Uniform, Boys?

In September of 1972, again from Boys’ Life magazine, we have an ad showing readers that they could get their parents to buy them a full uniform of their favorite team(!) In the lower center, we see a lad wearing a Green Bay Packers #41 uniform. It seems that all came with white pants. Well, you’ve gotta cut costs somewhere, right? There are some great helmets shown here — with some teams that no longer exist, or with designs that are now considered “throwbacks.” Those were the days!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Paul Hornung: Soap Box Derby Racer

Here’s a look back to the classic Sixties era of the Packers and the NFL in this January 1968 ad in Boys’ Life — the monthly magazine of the Boy Scouts of America. Green Bay’s HB Paul Hornung is featured endorsing the Soap Box Derby, which was sponsored by Chevrolet. Hornung was actually a former player at that point, having retired following the 1966 season. According to Wikipedia: “Hornung was selected in the (1967) expansion draft by the New Orleans Saints, who later traded for Hornung's backfield mate at Green Bay, former LSU All-American FB Jim Taylor. Hornung never suited up for the Saints, as the neck injury forced him to retire during training camp.”

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Week 12 TV Map

Here is the UPDATED (11/21) television broadcast map for this Sunday’s Noon games on FOX. If you live in the Green areas, you will be able to see the Packers host the Minnesota Vikings in a “must win” situation. Sorry for the lack of updates… work has taken over almost all free time. We will be at the game on Sunday, so there will hopefully be plenty to share from that experience. It’s going to be the first cold game of the year… bring it on.
Map courtesy of 506 Sports

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Topsy-Turvy Symank

We conclude our focus on Packers’ DB Johnny Symank with this photo (above) from the 1962 Salute to the Packers publication. We shared the two-part article written by Richard Bowers, who was Symank’s brother-in-law, and we hope you enjoyed it. Here’s the full career information for Symank:

Personal information:
Date of birth: August 31, 1935
Place of birth: La Grange, Texas
Date of death: January 23, 2002 (aged 66)
Place of death: Dauphin Island, Alabama
Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight: 180 lb (82 kg)

Career information:
High school: Caldwell High School; Caldwell, Texas
College: University of Florida
NFL Draft: 1957 / Round: 23 / Pick: 268
Debuted in 1957 for the Green Bay Packers
Last played in 1963 for the St. Louis Cardinals

As player:
Green Bay Packers (1957–1962)
St. Louis Cardinals (1963)

As coach:
Tulane (assistant) (1964)
Virginia (assistant) (1965)
Atlanta Falcons (assistant) (1966–1968)
Northern Arizona (head coach) (1969–1970)
Texas – Arlington (head coach) (1971–1973)
New York Giants (assistant) (1974–1978)
Baltimore Colts (assistant) (1979–1981)
Louisiana State (assistant) (1984–1986)

Career highlights and awards:
University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame
NFL Championship (1961, 1962)

Career NFL statistics:
Games played: 89
Interceptions: 19
INT return yards: 387
Touchdowns: 1
Fumbles recovered: 12


Saturday, November 16, 2013

The John Symank Story — Part II

(Source: 1961 Green Bay Packers Yearbook)

We are presenting a two-part reader-submitted entry about Packers DB John “Johnny” Symank from Dick Bowers, one of our readers, who happens to have been his brother-in-law. Here is Part II:


Johnny Symank made Little All-American his second year at Arlington. Oh, by the way, Johnny and my sister Sariann eloped to Marlin, Texas and got married October 10, 1953. Since I was only three at the time I have only heard how upset my mother Lorraine was at the time and for years after. I think my Dad was alright with the marriage since he felt like he was kind of an accomplice. 

The first recollection I have of Johnny Symank was on a trip to Gainesville, Florida at Christmas time in 1956. There are photos of me with Johnny and Sariann before this time, but the trip to Florida is my first recollection. Johnny was recruited out of Arlington by the University of Florida where he played two seasons and is in the Gator Hall of Fame. We left Caldwell, Texas in a blue and white 1956 Ford Fairlane and about ten miles down the road my sister Bonnie and I had to be separated in the back seat. My dad smoked cigars at the time and he was puffing away on a big Travis Club with the car windows up and my sister Bonnie cried and complained so much that he pulled over, rolled the window down and threw the cigar out the window. Those were the days, when life was simple. I have got to give Bonnie credit though, she married Murphy Davis, who was a standout football player for the Caldwell Hornets and then went on to star at Rice University. 

Now, back to the Symanks' and the trip to Florida. Sariann gave birth to my neice Sally Ann on July 14, 1955 so she was about a year and a half old when I first met her that Christmas of '56. I woke up Christmas morning and found a football uniform that Santa had left for me and then Dad, Johnny and I went to Florida Field and I have a photo of me in my uniform handing the football off to Johnny.  Johnny's grandson Keegan Wright has this photo of Johnny and I on his website

We arrived back in Caldwell safe and sound and soon after I find out that Johnny had been drafted by the Green Bay Packers. Everyone was pretty excited about Johnny being drafted in the 1957 draft but Green Bay, Wisconsin was a long, long way from Caldwell, Texas. Johnny was drafted by the Packers in the — get this, twenty-third round — which was pretty close to the last round, and I think Johnny once told me he received five hundred dollars as a signing bonus. I am not positive about this, but I think Johnny might be the only Green Bay Packer in the history of the franchise drafted in the twenty-third round that made the team and also started. Johnny's grandson Keegan Wright has a fine website that I mentioned above that best describes Johnny's first two years with the Packers. Also, Johnny is mentioned predominately in the book “That First Season” by John Eisenberg about the season preceeding Coach Lombardi and then Lombardi's "First Season" in 1959 as Head Coach of the Packers.

Ah yes, Coach Lombardi. The first time I met and shook hands with Vince Lombardi was at the Packers training camp in July of 1961. My mother, Bonnie and I had traveled from Caldwell to Chicago on the Santa Fe train and Sariann met us there and we drove up to Green Bay. At training camp, Coach Lombardi was just exactly like everyone down through the years has described him. When we shook hands he was nice and cordial and asked about our train ride and that he hoped I would enjoy my time in Green Bay and I thought, boy, what a nice coach. When I went over to the sideline to watch some of the practice I got to see the other side of Lombardi and I think if the coaches of today put their teams through what I saw that day, they would be put in handcuffs and led out of the practice area. Of course, there were other tough coaches during that era, Paul “Bear” Bryant at Texas A&M (“The Junction Boys” by Jim Dent) and then at Alabama, and Jess Neely at Rice are ones that come to mind. I don't think the players today have a clue what the players of that era went through for the small amount of compensation they were awarded when they got to the NFL.

The next time I got to shake hands with Vince Lombardi was about a month later when they came down to Texas to play an exhibition game with the Cowboys. The game was on Friday night and this was the era when the teams flew in for a game and stayed for three days instead of flying in one day, play the game the next, and fly back the night of the game. The Packers won the game 30-7 and even though it was their first exhibition game that year, it looked like Coach Lombardi had the team on the right track for a championship season. We met with Johnny after the game and Lombardi let him to go with us to get something to eat, and if I remember correctly, it was a place that had raw oysters because my Dad and Johnny loved raw oysters and a mug of cold beer. Since I was eleven at the time I had to rely on a sip of beer from each of them. We returned to the hotel and walked down a sidewalk along some brick walls that had ivy growing up the sides of the walls, and there was also a wood cover over the sidewalk that had ivy on it. Up ahead in a small building I could hear some voices and they were getting pretty loud. When we got to the door and looked in there was Dave “Hawg” Hanner and a group of players gathered around a number ten wash tub full of ice and plenty of cold Miller High Life.  They were all smoking cigarettes, drinking beer and looked like they were having one Hell of a time.  Johnny stopped at the entrance and joked that he hoped Coach had already turned in because they might get themselves in trouble. They kept smoking and drinking and appeared to not worry about that at all. We went on down to our rooms as it was getting late, but I had other plans and snuck back to the building where the players were and hid in the bushes. 

I positioned myself where I could see in through the entrance to the building and was having a great time watching some of the best players that ever played the game having a good time. I glanced to my right and saw a man in the shadows walking down the sidewalk toward the building where the players were. My heart started beating fast when I saw that the man was Coach Lombardi and I was anxiously waiting to see and hear what would happen next. Lombardi arrived at the entrance, looked in and said this to the players, “Go ahead, have your fun tonight, and I will see you on Monday.”  He then turned and walked back toward the hotel and, I presume, went to bed. I was a little disappointed because I expected all Hell to break loose, but the more I thought about it through the years I realized that this was Lombardi — short and to the point. This exhibition game was on Friday, August 11, 1961, so they would have flown back to Green Bay on Saturday, so the players had the whole day of  Sunday before the dreaded Monday.

John Symank is listed in the Green Bay Packer record books under “Interceptions” in the following categories:

• Most Yards Gained — Rookie Season, 1st, 198 yds.
• Most Seasons Leading Team, tied for 4th, 1957, 59 & 61
• Most Interceptions By Season, tied for 2nd with 9 int.
• Most Interceptions By Rookie — Season, tied for 2nd with 9 int.
• Most Yards Gained — Season, 5th, 198 yds.

The following is a quote from “Run To Daylight” by Vince Lombardi and W.C. Heinz: Coach Lombardi says of Symank, “He has made it in this league because he gets a great deal more out of himself than his ability and size justify, and I wish I could say this about the rest of them. Many of them will rise for one game or two, but John gets the maximum out of himself in every game, and if I had 35 others like him I'd have a far better team than I have.” I personally think that this quote should be enough to get John Symank into the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame.

Forrest Gregg, Bill Forester, Bobby Dillon and Lew Carpenter attended Johnny's funeral in the small town of Caldwell, Texas in 2002, and I think it showed the respect they had for a fellow teammate. I can't help but think that Johnny and Charlie McNeil are up there somewhere tackling one another.

Johnny Symank (#27) with his teammates in the 1960 team photo.

Here is some bonus coverage on Symank and his defensive backfield teammates from the 1961 Green Bay Packers Yearbook (above and below):  

Friday, November 15, 2013

The John Symank Story — Part I

Johnny Symank (#27, above) makes a tackle with teammates Jesse Whittenton (#47) and Dave “Hawg” Hanner (#79).

We are going to present a two-part reader-submitted entry about Packers DB John “Johnny” Symank from Dick Bowers, one of our readers, who happens to have been his brother-in-law. Here is Part I:

John “Johnny” Symank was born on August 31, 1935 in La Grange, Texas to Oswald “Curly” and Ann Perica Symmank (later changed to Symank). “Curly” Symmank passed away when Johnny was six years old and I am sure that losing his father at that young age had a lot to do with the man that Johnny Symank became. Ann and Johnny then lived in a little rock house located on the fairgrounds on the edge of the town of Caldwell, Texas. Ann became owner of a feed store and Johnny was there to help her in the summer and after school.  During that time Johnny had some interesting tackling matches with an African-American kid named Charlie McNeil out in the sticker burr patch at the fairgrounds. Charlie lived at Freemantown on the south end of Caldwell across from the fairgrounds. Charlie's family moved to California when he was young and he went on to play defensive back for the San Diego Chargers that ended up winning the AFL championship. How about that? Two young kids tackling one another and one ends up starting for an AFL champion and the other ends up starting as a defensive back on an NFL World Champion (oddly enough, these two both played defensive back and both wore the number 27). Another interesting fact is Charlie's daughter Lori was a world class tennis player. In a small town like Caldwell, and Ann having the feed store, there were a lot of farmers (old and young) coming and going at the store. I have had a couple of these men tell me that when Johnny's dad passed away they felt a need to be kind of a father figure. Leroy Calvin, a big, stout man for his age, told me that when he saw Johnny sitting on a feed bag looking sad, he would go over and "horse" around with him. Leroy said that most of the time that was a big mistake, because Johnny would then fight back and things would get pretty rough. Are you getting the picture here (rough and tough)?

Johnny went on to play Junior High and High School football and ran track. I have to rely on clippings and stories from this period as I was born in 1950 and Johnny graduated from High School in 1953. From what I know about this era is the Junior High teams were pretty good, but the Caldwell High Hornets struggled, but guess who was rough and tough, yeah, you know who I'm talking about. It was during those High school years that Johnny Symank dated my sister Sariann Bowers, who if I must say was a stunning majorette. Sariann was a year older than Johnny so she graduated in 1952 and then went on to Baylor and became a majorette there. While Sariann was twirling at Baylor, Johnny was having his high school football come to a close with another losing season. Johnny had shown that he was one of the toughest players that had played at Caldwell, but his stats were just not good enough to garner a scholarship. This is when my dad, Richard Bowers, who played football and ran track at Arlington in 1928-29 when they were called the Junior Aggies, took matters into his own hands. My dad and Johnny drove up to Arlington State Junior College to meet with Coach Claude “Chena” Gilstrap.

Coach Gilstrap told this story years later at a banquet held at Caldwell when they honored Johnny with “John Symank Day” after Green Bay had won the World Championship game. Gilstrap said that Mr. Bowers called and wanted to set up a meeting with a young man that had a lot of potential as a running back/defensive back. Gilstrap told the pair when to arrive for the meeting and the Coach said he would see what he could do. Gilstrap said on the day of the meeting, in walks Mr. Bowers and he has this kid with him that was 5' 10" and weighed about 170 lbs.  Coach asked them to sit down and immediately Mr. Bowers started in about how tough this kid was and what a tremendous player he would make, so if Coach would just give him a scholarship… and this is where Gilstrap interupted. Coach said, “Now Mr. Bowers, as you may know our policy is we can find a player a job to maybe pay for his tuition the first year and if he makes the team we can talk about a scholarship for the next year.”  Gilstrap said Mr. Bowers rose out of his chair and told Johnny, “C’mon we'll go over to Tarleton State (Arlinton's big rival at the time) and you can come back here and beat their ass,” and then the pair headed for the door. Coach Gilstrap recalled saying, “Hold on now Mr. Bowers, come on back and sit down.” Coach gave Johnny a full scholarship. Gilstrap said after the pair left, he wondered “what in the world have I done, I just gave a scholarship to a kid that I have never seen play or ever heard of.”

In August, the first day of two-a-day practices came and Gilstrap was anxious to see this player that Mr. Bowers was so high on. The players came out that morning in shoulder pads and shorts and Gilstrap saw that Johnny was one of the smaller players. They began to scrimmage and Johnny was back there playing safety. The quarterback dropped back and threw a pass to an end and Johnny Symank made a diving effort to intercept it. At that time Arlington had an old sandstone rock wall that circled the practice field. Johnny flew through the air and hit head on into the rock wall and was lying there motionless. Gilstrap thought, “Mr. Bowers talked me into giving Symank a scholarship and now he's hurt and may not play anymore.” The ambulance came and transported Johnny to the hospital and the practice continued. That afternoon when the evening practice started, Gilstrap looked up and here was Johnny Symank running across the field with a bandage wrapped around his head that looked like the one on the drummer from the Revolutionary War. Johnny played the entire practice and Gilstrap said he knew right then and there, he had a player.”

Next: Part II

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

UPDATED Week 11 TV Map

If you’ve been paying close attention, you know that the Packers@Giants game on Sunday has been “flexed” from the national night game on NBC to a 3:25 p.m. FOX game. This was done when the Giants were struggling, and NBC wanted a better game on “Sunday Night Football.” Unfortunately for Packer fans, this means a large percentage of you will not see the game. The UPDATED map above shows that only the blue areas (which are even less as of Thursday) will see the Scott Tolzien-led team out in New York. Sorry folks, blame NBC. 

Packers vs. Eagles

It’s taken a couple of days to get to these, but here are some images from the Packers vs. Eagles game on Sunday, November 10 at Lambeau Field. Above, it was a beautiful sunny Fall day, and once you were out of the wind inside the stadium, it was kind of warm in the sunlight (provided your seats were in the sun). 

The view upon entering Lambeau Field’s “bowl” about an hour and a half before game time. 

Looking the other way, towards the north end zone, the end with the Packerville, U.S.A. seats.

Not sure if we’ve seen this logo before. 

Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers on the field during warm-ups. 

QB Seneca Wallace warming up his hands before his first start as a Packer. 

QB Scott Tolzien warming up before his first near-full game performance in Green Bay. At this point, he had no idea. 

A bunch of Packers on the field during pre-game warm-ups. 

LB Clay Matthews (#52) and his “club” before the game. 

 Some Philadelphia Eagles in pre-game warm-up mode.

The “official” team introductions. The offense and defense are alternately introduced for home games.

All fans got complimentary Veterans Day flags. 

 Veterans for Veterans Day weekend.

This was our last game in our “Gold” ticket package seats for 2012. The final three home games (plus playoffs?) will be in our new “Green” package seats.

As the game gets underway, LB A.J. Hawk (#50) barks out instructions to the defense.

 The Eagles’ LeSean McCoy gets an early hand-off. In pursuit is Hawk.

Wallace looks to throw early on. He was in for only ten plays before he left with a groin injury. 

The Packers’ sideline bench area. 

Tolzien is in for the rest of the game. We had no idea that Wallace was injured. When you’re at the game, you’re often the most uninformed.

The offense huddling up. 

 Tolzien looks to throw with some protection.

Did we mention that it was a beautiful day for football? 

Tolzien gets off another throw. 

 He gets some fine protection here from the offensive linemen.

At halftime, four members of a parachute team landed right on the field. 

RB Eddie Lacy (#27) takes a hand-off in the second half. 

Head Coach Mike McCarthy watches his team from the sideline. 

The offense working in the other end of the field. Tolzien goes back to pass... 

... and throws his first NFL TD pass to TE Brandon Bostick, who catches his first NFL TD. 

Eagles QB Nick Foles and the offense coming our way. 

Matthews seems to have a clear path to Foles here. 

WR James Jones makes a catch and gets some blocking help from WR Jordy Nelson

Lacy gets another hand-off from Tolzien with a nice hole opened up in the defensive line. 

Sometimes you see things in the photos that you missed at the game, like Tolzien getting smacked in the face on this play. 

Injured QB Aaron Rodgers talks with McCarthy and Tolzien during a timeout. 

Nice close-up action down near the goal line late in the game. 

The referee is under the gray hood reviewing the Nelson end zone incompletion that probably should’ve been overturned for a TD. 

Alas, a win was not to be today, and many of the new north end zone ticket holders gave up early to head for home. 

The final score.