Professional football teams like the Green Bay Packers are training in anticipation of the 2019 football season right now.
This week for A Northwoods Moment in History, Gary Entz looks back on a Green Bay Packers training camp held in 1935 in Rhinelander.
Professional football training camps are in session, and many Northwoods residents are paying careful attention to how the Green Bay Packers prepare for the season. Since 1958 the Packers have trained at St. Norbert College. Before 1958 they tried out different locations, and the very first training camp they ever held outside of Green Bay was in Rhinelander prior to the 1935 season.
On Saturday August 24, 1935, twenty-four Packers players with then coach Curley Lambeau boarded a bus and departed from Green Bay at about 9:30 in the morning. They made a stop in Elcho and enjoyed a lunch at the Muskie Inn before re-boarding to complete the journey. A large banner over the entrance to the Pinewood Lodge on Lake Thompson bearing the words “Welcome Green Bay Packers” greeted the team. The players were allotted four cabins, and with 24 team members arriving on the bus, that meant they were bunking six to a cabin. From the lodge they went straight to their first practice on the Rhinelander High School football field at around 2:30 in the afternoon. As they drove into Rhinelander another banner greeted them, this one stretched over the entrance to the city bore the words, “Training Headquarters of the Packers.”
After the initial Saturday workout, the team went through brisk morning and afternoon drills on Sunday. The offense got a workout in the morning session and the defense in the afternoon. During the remainder of the week, however, the drills were anything but brisk with extensive workouts in all aspects of the game. The presence of the team generated a lot of excitement in the Northwoods, and the local Boy Scouts obtained the concession to sell soft drinks and candy during practices. Hundreds of fans flocked to the field every day to watch the players go through their practice drills. In 1935 few Northwoods residents ever got the opportunity to go to Packer games, and in the days before anyone thought of putting names on the backs of jerseys, the most common questions among the hundreds of fans who flocked to the high school every day revolved around identifying who it was making the play out on the field.
Usually the team was whisked away immediately after drills. During their off hours at Pinewood Lodge the Packers players spent their time fishing, swimming, and playing cards, but most were in bed by 9:30, which was well before the 11:00 curfew. However, on Tuesday evening Northwoods residents got a rare chance to see the Packers outside of practice as the team was bussed into downtown to walk the aisles of a packed theater and greet their fans in person. The team’s new green and gold uniforms arrived on Friday, but the players never wore them for a Rhinelander practice. The Packers held their last Rhinelander practice on Saturday morning, August 31, after which they boarded a bus and departed for an evening exhibition game in Merrill.
This story was written by Gary Entz and produced for radio by Mackenzie Martin. Some music for this commentary came Podington Bear. The photo above is used with permisson from the Wisconsin Historical Society and can be found on their website here.