Note: The following article first appeared in the April edition of Packer Report
Since having recently been designated the first official team historian in the distinguished annals of the Green Bay Packers, I've been asked how I happened to begin chronicling the fortunes of the Green and Gold, something I have been doing for nearly 60 years.
Peering into my "rear view mirror," I can trace that process back to the summer of 1945, when I was a cub city side reporter for the Green Bay Press-Gazette and my desk in the editorial department, fortuitously, happened to be next to that of George Whitney Calhoun, then the newspaper's garrulous assistant telegraph editor.
It was the same George Whitney Calhoun who 26 years earlier -- and then sports editor of the Press-Gazette and a crony of a youthful Earl Louis Lambeau -- had called the very first meeting of the Packers team, and who in the interim had served as the club's part-time publicity director as well as a member of the team's board of directors.
One day late in that summer of '45, a time when he apparently was tiring of at least one of his Packers-related responsibilities, Calhoun posed an intriguing question. "Hey, kid," he said to me, "how would you like to write the Packer press book?"
Being not totally naive, I queried in reply, "What's there in it, Cal?"
He replied, "Ten dollars and two season tickets."
"I'll take it," I rejoined with alacrity.
I didn't know it then, but I was embarking on what has become a 59-year career of writing about the Packers, on and off the field.
Authoring the press book apparently whetted my appetite for more, because I began to be conscious of a burgeoning desire to expand my horizons and become involved in the newspaper's coverage of the Packers. More to the point, I wanted to leave my city side "beat" and become a sportswriter.
Accordingly, I went to the sports editor with a mission -- to prove that I could write sports, if given the opportunity. I said, "If I pay my way to Sunday's Packers game against the Detroit Lions in Milwaukee, will you permit me to write what the 'sidebars' on the game (interview the respective head coaches and chronicle other related highlights)?" He gave me the green light.
Things, subsequently, could not have worked out better.
Down 7-0 early in the second quarter of the game, played at State Fair Park in West Allis, the Packers proceeded to score 41 unanswered points -- 29 of them by the fabled Don Hutson -- and went on to smother the Lions, 57-21.
To this day:
-- The 41 points remain the most ever scored in one quarter of one NFL regular-season game, although the record has been tied;
-- The 29 points Hutson scored in that period (he caught four touchdown passes and kicked five extra points) remain the most ever scored by one player in one quarter of an NFL regular-season game;
-- And the 57 points the Packers registered likewise remain the most points they ever have scored in a regular season game.
I interviewed Packers coach Curly Lambeau and the Lions' Gus Dorais after the game, and when I asked Dorais for his assessment of what had transpired, he provided an exceedingly succinct summation.
"I'll give it to you in three words," he declared. "Too much Hutson."
I was feeling pretty good about myself when the newspaper came out the next day -- assuming I had exhibited what would be considered admirable enterprise. But not for long. To my surprise and chagrin, the managing editor -- Leo V. Gannon -- called me into his office before the day was over and chewed me out, declaring, "If I want you to cover a game for us, "I'll pay your expenses. Don't ever do that again."
As it turned out, perhaps as a result of my perceived indiscretion, I received no other opportunities to write sports for the balance of the 1945 NFL season.
I did, however, get a chance to interview for a position on the sports desk the following year and, to my considerable satisfaction, was selected to fill the opening.
The most attractive feature of my new job, I was to learn, was that I would become the department's "second man" in coverage of the Packers, responsible for interviewing the head coaches post-game and doing the "sidebars" at all home games and selected road contests, which meant having the opportunity to interview such giants of the game as Chicago Bears founder/coach George Halas, Paul Brown, Jock Sutherland, Steve Owen and, of course, Lambeau, a local boy but himself a pro football legend.
And it was Curly who provided me with my most vivid memory of that first "official" season.
It began with the Packers hosting the Bears on opening day in the 53rd meeting between the neighborhood enemies.
Unfortunately for the faithful -- and yours truly -- it turned out to be a long afternoon for the Green and Gold, who went down to a 30-7 defeat. Now, in Lambeau's eyes, nothing could have been more unthinkable than losing to the cordially detested Bears, the Packers' mortal enemies. So to suggest that he was upset in the wake of that misadventure would be the proverbial masterpiece of understatement.
After the game, I braced myself for a potentially traumatic visit with Lambeau, then ensconced in his modest sanctum sanctorum, an alleged "office" situated just off the players' claustrophobic dressing room under the City Stadium stands.
Although I was then a 22-year-old sportswriter who had grown up in awe of Earl Louis Lambeau, I summoned up sufficient courage to ask the disgruntled Lambeau for an assessment of what had befallen the Packers on that ill-fated afternoon.
Clearly resembling nothing so much as a thunder cloud, he impatiently declared, "I have nothing to say."
It was not what a struggling, somewhat intimidated young scribe needed to hear. But, after a pregnant pause, I repeated my question.
Curly repeated his answer...emphatically.
"I have nothing to say," he again asserted, with even greater vehemence.
Concluding there was little point in continuing this fruitless dialogue, I retreated to the adjacent dressing room, where I also was met with silence at every turn. The chastened players, to a man, also were not talking.
Dejected and feeling that I had failed in my first official mission, I disconsolately headed back to the Press-Gazette editorial department to write I didn't know what, not having gleaned one usable quote during my post-game endeavors.
When I arrived at the Press-Gazette, I relayed my tale of woe to two of my veteran colleagues, who were in the process of writing game-related stories, and said, "I have nothing to write about," explaining that Curly had refused to comment and so had the players.
They jointly replied, "Why don't you write about what they didn't say, and about the atmosphere in the dressing room?"
Although dubious about the potential results of such a "negative" essay, I sat down at my typewriter (there were no computers on the scene then) and began to write. I managed to eventually come up with nine paragraphs.
To my great surprise, the story remains -- a half-century later -- one of the better pieces I have written, given the invidious circumstances.
My closing sentence, incidentally, was my favorite line.
"All-pro fullback Ted Fritsch was the last to leave the funereal dressing room...and he closed the door after him...quietly."
Continuing an association with the team that is more than 55 years old, Lee Remmel was named the first official Team Historian of the Green Bay Packers in February 2004. The former *Green Bay Press-Gazette reporter and Packers public relations director, Remmel will write regular columns for Packers.com as part of his new assignment.
In addition to those articles, Remmel will answer fan questions in a monthly Q&A column. To submit a question to Remmel, click here. *