'Golden Girls' Event Slated For Wednesday

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When word trickled down to Mary Jane Sorgel from Vince Lombardi that he would like a Packers cheerleading squad organized, the legendary head coach wasn't entirely clear on what he wanted.

But apparently he knew what he didn't want.

"We weren't the Dallas Cowgirls," said Sorgel, founder of The Golden Girls cheerleading squad that performed at Lambeau Field from 1961 through 1972. "We were wholesome Midwest girls, because Vince Lombardi did not like real short skirts. He liked the girls to be more modest, so that's the way we were."

Sorgel and more than 50 other original Golden Girls will be on hand Wednesday evening, May 8, to launch a new exhibit at the Packers Hall of Fame that celebrates various past cheerleading squads.

From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., the Golden Girls in attendance will treat Hall of Fame visitors to stories of their cheerleading days as the exhibit is unveiled. Guests for the event also will receive a Golden Girls photo.

"There are going to be so many girls that I haven't seen in a long time," said Sorgel, who noted some are coming from as far away as California, New Jersey and Florida. "We used to have reunions quite a bit, but we haven't had a reunion for a long time, so this is more than exciting to see all these girls."

Sorgel, who is from Sturgeon Bay, Wis., organized the first Golden Girls squad by taking 16 students from her different dance studios around northeastern Wisconsin. A baton twirler herself and the majorette for the Packers Lumberjack Band beginning in 1951, Sorgel put together routines for the girls to perform.

"The girls I had on the field did more than just cheering," Sorgel said. "They did tumbling, I had some national baton twirling champions and dancers, and of course the pom girls. We were very colorful."

Sorgel recalls the Golden Girls' first official game was the 1961 NFL Championship game against the New York Giants, which the Packers won 37-0.

One of the most memorable games was the "Ice Bowl" on Dec. 31, 1967, with the game-time temperature 13 below zero.

"Some writer called my girls 'brave soldiers' because they braved that weather," Sorgel said. "I could see the frostbite on the girls faces, but we did perform. I twirled, and the baton was like an icicle. We were told we could leave the field after the opening, but most of the girls didn't leave. They stayed right there until the game was over."

The Packers had official cheerleaders for many years throughout the club's history, with the last official squad appearing in 1988. Another notable squad was called the Packerettes in the 1950s. In fact, the Packers are credited as being one of the first professional football teams to use cheerleaders with squads from Green Bay East and West high schools on the sidelines for several games in 1931.

Currently, the Packers use cheering squads from two local schools, St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis., and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

"We did it out of love for the team," Sorgel said. "We cheered because everybody was behind the team 100 percent. We were honored we could be out on the field."

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