Gary Knafelc, the old tight end, was in the press box that day. His playing career done, he could not stay away and signed on as Lambeau Field's public address announcer. Looking out from his perspective atop the stadium, he was overwhelmed by the panorama. The players were the story, perhaps, and as the game went along they would rivet his and everyone else's attention, but at first it was hard to take one's eyes off the crowd in the stands. "There was this incredible haze of breath, tens of thousands of puffs coming out. Like seeing big buffaloes in an enormous herd on the winter plains. It was prehistoric."
To many fans, attending this game was a test of their resourcefulness. Carol Schmidt and her husband, who worked in the oil business, sat in Section 24 near the twenty-yard line, where they snuggled inside a makeshift double sleeping bag made from the heavy mill felt used at the local paper mills. To warm their feet they turned a three-pound coffee can upside down, punched holes in the top and placed a large candle inside on a pie plate. Bob Kaminsky arrived from Two Rivers with his wife's twin brothers and took his seat in the end zone, oblivious of the weather. "This is what I wore," he reported. "Longjohns. Work shoes. Over the work shoes I put those heavy gray woolen socks that came over the knees. Pair of galoshes over that. Flannel pajamas over the longjohns. Work overalls. A T-shirt. Flannel shirt. Insulated sweatsuit. Heavy parka. Face mask with holes for mouth and eyes. Wool tassel cap. And then I climbed into a sleeping bag. I had foam on the ground and seat for my feet and butt. I was not cold."
Lombardi's golfing pal Jack Koeppler and his son wore deer hunting outfits (red and black in that era, not yet the glaring orange). Two layers warmed their hands, first deer hunting gloves, then huge mittens. At their seats near the forty-yard line they zipped two sleeping bags together and slipped inside for the extra warmth generated by two bodies. Jerry Van, owner of the Downtowner Motel, where Hornung and McGee once lived, wore "two of everything." He cut up several thick cardboard boxes into twelve-inch squares and put three layers on the concrete floor to keep his feet warm. Lois Bourguignon, the wife of Packers executive board member Dick Bourguignon, wore a plastic garment bag under her winter coat to keep the heat in. Red Cochran, the former assistant coach who had quit the year before, watched the title game in the stands with his six-year-old son, both wearing bulky snowmobile suits. Teenager Gary Van Ness, who had come to the stadium planning to sneak in, was given a ticket near midfield by a doctor who had decided to leave, and found himself amid a group of rich folks; he had never before seen so many fur coats.
Fur coats? They were plentiful at Lambeau Field, even in arctic weather. The games were the social events of the year in Green Bay. Many women bought their fall and winter wardrobes with Sunday football games in mind and wore different outfits to every game. Mary Turek, Lombardi's dentist's wife, sat in prestigious Section 20, just above the players' wives, in her heavy fur coat with fur-lined stadium boots that extended over her calves. Around her she saw women in less practical attire, many of them exposing their legs to the weather in nylons and high heels. They tended not to last long. Tom Olejniczak, the team president's son, took a date to the game who left for the women's room midway through the first quarter and didn't come back until the game was over. Lorraine Keck, Lombardi's assistant secretary, got stuck in a restroom for more than a quarter, the door blocked by paramedics treating a girl who had passed out. Throughout the game bathrooms and passageways underneath the stands were jammed with people trying to get warm. When Red Cochran took his young son to the men's room, they got stuck in the human flow. It "was so mobbed," he said, "you had to go with the crowd, wherever it took you."
Copyright © 1999 by David Maraniss. Published with the permission of the publisher, Simon & Schuster.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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