Packers training camp memory: The unveiling of the 'G'

Aug. 5, 1961: Packers’ annual intra-squad game

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Saturday, Aug. 5, 1961 - Packers game

Without any hoopla or even advance notice, the Green Bay Packers wore their now universally recognized "G" on their helmets for the first time on Aug. 5, 1961.

The site was old City Stadium, located adjacent to Green Bay East High School and home of the Packers from 1925-56. The event was the Packers' annual intra-squad game played under an offense vs. defense format adopted by Vince Lombardi two years earlier.

Full-squad workouts began that summer on the South Oneida Street practice field, as it was called back then, on July 18. Two days earlier, rookies and early reporting veterans had gotten a jump on the others in what was technically the first practice.

Over the 20 days from when the first players hit the field until the day of the intra-squad game, not a word could be found about the Packers adopting a new logo in the daily coverage of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Furthermore, Jeff Ash, editor of "Titletown's Team: A Photographic History of the Green Bay Packers" examined the paper's daily photo collection during that stretch and found no "Gs" on the helmets prior to Aug. 5, including those taken on "Picture Day," held July 23.

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A search of the Press-Gazette editions over the first six-and-a-half months of 1961 also failed to turn up any mention of the Packers selecting or designing a logo. No mention of it could be found in the Packers' board of directors and executive committee meeting minutes in 1961, either.

But at some point, probably close to the start of training camp, Lombardi had decided his defending Western Conference champion Packers were going to wear a "G" on their helmets during the 1961 season.

Lombardi asked Dad Braisher, his equipment manager, to take charge of the project and Braisher asked one of his student aides, John Gordon, who happened to be an art student at St. Norbert College, to design it. Gordon was in his second summer of helping Braisher in the equipment room.

"(Lombardi) told Dad Braisher to come up with a design for the helmet," Gordon said in a 2010 interview. "I don't know how specific they got in their talks. But when I came in in the morning, Dad said Lombardi wants me to come up with a design for a Packer logo and I want you to draw it: a 'G' in a football shape."

At first, Gordon said he balked at the idea.

"The concept was Dad's," said Gordon. "I resisted the football shape of the 'G.' That was Dad Braisher. He insisted on that."

Gordon said, as far as he knew, Romo Display, a local Green Bay advertising company, did all the production work.

"Romo received my drawing and did an artist's rendering of it," said Gordon. "That would have been the common practice and that was presented to Lombardi. Lombardi OK'd my sketch, my drawing. That would have been sent to the company and the company would have done the artwork to make it look like the final product."

Vince Lombardi Jr. was one of Braisher's other helpers in the equipment room, but he, too, was in the dark about his father's plans.

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"Don't have direct knowledge…," Vince Jr. wrote in a 2012 email. "I know John Gordon. Doubt he'd fib about it."

A native of Green Bay, Gordon was a 1964 graduate of St. Norbert, the Packers' training camp home from 1958 until this summer's interruption. Gordon later became an adjunct assistant professor of art at the school.

Gordon's father worked for the Burroughs Corporation in Green Bay and developed what was, in essence, an early computer system that the Packers were using. That was how John Gordon got his job under Braisher.

"I roomed right there in the same dorm as the players (during camp)," said Gordon. "I think from '61 through '67, I worked with Dad Braisher as an assistant. One year, I worked the whole season. I think that was 1962. I also helped out (trainer) Bud Jorgensen. I taped ankles and that sort of thing."

The Packers played their intra-squad game in 1961 at what had been renamed East Stadium because the recently seeded grass at new City Stadium (now Lambeau Field) wasn't ready for game action and there was still another month left before the Packers were scheduled to play their only preseason game in Green Bay.

Back then, the intra-squad game was four quarters of full tackling and starters played extensively. Actually, Lombardi already had held five full-contact scrimmages in the 20 days before the squad game.

When old City Stadium was home to the Packers, its maximum capacity was roughly 25,000. But by 1961, most of the old wooden bleachers had been torn down and capacity was about 7,000.

Roughly 5,000 fans – tickets went on sale only days before the game – were there on Aug. 5 to witness the unveiling of the "G," and get an early look at the team that would win its first NFL title under Lombardi that fall.

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The offense beat the defense, 10-0, with Jim Taylor scoring on a 3-yard run and kicking a 13-yard field goal in place of an injured Paul Hornung. Taylor was the leading rusher with 48 yards on 10 carries and also the leading receiver with four catches for 73 yards. The key play of the day was a 40-yard option pass from halfback Tom Moore to end Boyd Dowler to set up Taylor's touchdown.

Bart Starr completed 17 of 22 passes for 205 yards.

Lombardi watched the game from the old press box, now partially boarded up, and was described as "disgusted" by what he saw by the Milwaukee Sentinel's Bud Lea.

"The offense had the ball 68 times and got 10 points," Lombardi groused.

On the other hand, old City Stadium, long regarded for having the best playing surface in the NFL, met with Lombardi's approval. He told Lea the turf was in excellent condition.

Interestingly, it doesn't appear that either the Press-Gazette or the Sentinel mentioned the new logo in their coverage of the game.

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