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Chronicles of 1936, 1939 seasons through former Press-Gazette sports editor's eyes

Jan. 28, 2011
 
This photo shows the Green Bay Packers on a flight from Chicago to Cleveland in November 1939. Quarterback Arnie Herber is to the left of the airline stewardess. Press-Gazette sports editor John Walter is in the back right of the photo.
This photo shows the Green Bay Packers on a flight from Chicago to Cleveland in November 1939. Quarterback Arnie Herber is to the left of the airline stewardess. Press-Gazette sports editor John Walter is in the back right of the photo. / Submitted photo
John Walter, Press-Gazette sports editor from 1935-41.

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My father, John Walter, was sports editor of the Green Bay Press-Gazette from 1935 until he was called into the U.S. Army in October, 1941. One of his major duties included covering the Green Bay Packers, who won league championships in 1936 and 1939.

Dad kept a daily diary and chronicled those seasons, including his own opinions about the team and his observations about fan reaction. He recorded details of each game but here are some of the highlights from 1936 and 1939.

1936

SUNDAY, SEPT. 13, 1936: ”Green Bay Packers rallied to defeat Chicago Cardinals, 10-7, on George Sauer’s touchdown, Ade Schwammel’s extra point, and a fourth period field goal by Ernie Smith. Crowd of 9,000. Bitterly fought game…many Cardinals injured. That starts the boys off on the right foot. Worked on play-by-play until 9 o’clock, then got supper at Kaap’s.”

MONDAY SEPT. 14, 1936: “Saw several of the Packers , who are very proud of their victory over the Cardinals. So is everyone else.”

WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 16, 1936: “The Packers are hard at work getting ready for next Sunday’s game with the Chicago Bears here. No Packer season ever started more auspiciously but one defeat at this time would change all that.”

SUNDAY, SEPT. 20, 1936: “The Chicago Bears poured football all over the Packers, winning 30-3. The boys lacked fight, and played very listlessly. All quite disappointing, and a staggering blow to Green Bay’s championship hopes. Filed stories for several news services which should aid the monthly paycheck.”

SUNDAY, OCT. 18, 1936: “The city is jammed for the game with the world professional champs. Covered the game in the afternoon. With the lead changing hands four times in the fourth period alone, the Green Bay Packers rallied twice to defeat the Detroit Lions 20-18. It was a heart-stopping thriller, and one of the greatest games ever played in the National league. Milt Gantenbein and Johnny Blood scored touchdowns, Ernie Smith kicked two extra points, Tiny Engebretsen booted a pair of field goals, one of them in the last minute of the game.”

SUNDAY, OCT. 25, 1936: “Covered football game in afternoon. Packers walloped Pittsburgh 42-10, putting up a great show of offensive football. Scored almost at will. Hope they saved a couple of touchdowns for the Chicago Bears.”

TUESDAY, OCT. 27, 1936: “The Chicago Bears are next for the Packers. Although they walloped us up here, I cannot help but feel confident that we shall take them this time.”

SUNDAY, NOV. 1, 1936: “Wrigley Field with John Torinus. A crowd of 31,500 was there despite rainy weather to see the game. The Packers came through with a beautiful display of football, spotting the Bears 10 points and then all but pounding them into the ground with a terrific ground attack. Touchdowns by (Don) Hutson, (George) Sauer and (Clarke) Hinkle. Score 21-10. On the train established press table in the baggage car and wrote my entire story on way home.”

MONDAY, NOV. 2, 1936: “Green Bay is cheering the Packers who are in first place again. There is great spirit on the squad this year.”

MONDAY, NOV. 9, 1936: “Wonderful surprise, a check for $100 from the Packer corporation for my work on publicity. Hadn’t expected it this year.”

Sunday, Nov. 29, 1936: “In afternoon covered football game at University of Detroit stadium. The Green Bay Packers played superbly and defeated the Detroit Lions 26-17. In Chicago the Cardinals won from the Bears so we are undisputed Western champion. Filed my story from the postal telegraph office.”

MONDAY, NOV. 30, 1936: “Big crowd at station to cheer the victorious champions of the West.”

TUESDAY, DEC. 1, 1936: “Everyone is talking about that great Packer victory.”

SUNDAY, DEC. 13, 1936: “Turned on the radio for the big game. The Packers came through brilliantly, routing the Boston Redskins at New York to win the championship of the National Professional Football league, 21-6. Hutson, (Milt) Gantenbein and (Bob) Monnett scored touchdowns. Then celebrated the Packer victory at the Riviera.”

MONDAY, DEC. 14, 1936: ”Green Bay pulsating with excitement as national championship team nears home. None more excited than I. Over to station at 10 o’clock . Ten thousand wildly cheering fans packed South Washington Street and split the air as the Packers coach rolled into the station. Greeted every one of the players first, starting with Lonnie Evans. Met the Torinuses and also Clarke Hinkle and his new bride and we went up to Karl Hagemeister’s apartment. And brothers, it was a party. Finally got to bed at 2:15.”

TUESDAY, DEC. 15, 1936: “You can imagine how I feel. Thank God we never have to celebrate a championship oftener than once a year.”

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 16, 1936: “In evening sat at speakers table as 1,500 fans gave the Packers a magnificent testimonial banquet at Columbus Club auditorium. Had cocktails with the players first. Arch Ward, Chicago Tribune sports editor and principal speaker, invited the Packers to play in the College All-Star game at Chicago next summer. Drank a final toast with my friend Ernie Smith.”

1939

SUNDAY, SEPT. 17, 1939 “The only warfare here at home is on the gridiron, as the Packers opened their league season with a 14-10 victory over the Chicago Cardinals. The Packers’ blocking was very ragged, and the team must improve considerably before next Sunday’s game against the Bears.”

SUNDAY, SEPT. 24, 1939: “Dark, cold, rainy day but we must have football. Covered great game as Packers rallied in the second half to defeat the Chicago Bears 21-16. (Cecil) Isbell, (Clarke) Hinkle and (Tom) Greenfield scored our touchdowns before more than 19,100. A magnificent victory.

SUNDAY, OCT. 1, 1939: “In afternoon was back at City Stadium for the professional football game. The Cleveland Rams rallied in the second half to hand the Packers a stunning upset, 27-24, and dump us from first place. It was a miserable showing by the Packers and now they’ll really have to play ball. Saw and talked with Dutch Clark, jubilant coach of the Rams.”

SUNDAY, OCT. 22, 1939: “Covered great football game in afternoon. The Packers handed the Detroit Lions a fancy beating, 26-7. (Don) Hutson scored two touchdowns. Crowd of more than 22,900, a near record. The team played great football. Out to Oneida club for buffet supper. Some of the Packers there. Quite a few drunks, very noisy.”

SUNDAY, OCT. 29, 1939: “Drove to State Fair Park, covered professional football game. The Packers, in rare form, conquered the Washington Redskins 24-14. Crowd of almost 26,000, largest ever to see a pro game in Wisconsin.”

MONDAY, OCT. 30, 1939: “Tonight we had Don Hutson and Bill Lee of the Packers in for dinner. The boys were a lot of fun. Both played at the University of Alabama. Nice fellows too.”

SUNDAY, NOV. 5, 1939: “In afternoon covered professional football game at Wrigley Field. Some 40,000 folks on hand for one of the greatest games in National league history. The lead changed hands four or five times before the Bears finally defeated the Packers 30-27, dropping Green Bay from first place in the Western division.”

FRIDAY, NOV. 24, 1939: “In afternoon covered practice of Packers at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, a big joint on the lake shore which seats 80,000. Watched (Arnie) Herber, Hutson and Isbell broadcast from the field.”

SUNDAY, NOV. 26, 1939: “The Packers beat the Cleveland Rams but only in the last minute, 7-6. (Joe) Laws caught a touchdown pass from Isbell and (Paul) Engebretsen kicked the extra point. Game witnessed by 30,690. the largest pro football crowd in Cleveland’s history.”

TUESDAY, NOV. 28, 1939: “The Packer playoff game, in case the Packers get in, will be played in Milwaukee, it was decided at a Pittsburgh meeting today. This will cause a furor in Green Bay but it is a wise decision. Personally, I have a hunch we never will get in the playoff.”

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 29, 1939: “Green Bay fans are howling their heads off because the Packer playoff game will be played in Milwaukee. Spent most of the day arguing with them. City Stadium would be a crackerbox for that assignment.”

MONDAY, DEC. 4, 1939: “The Packers got home from Detroit tonight. The town is seething with dissatisfaction because the playoff game will be at Milwaukee. Think our paper is too conservative in dealing with the situation, but orders are orders.”

FRIDAY, DEC. 8, 1939: “The Green Bay clamor about the playoff game has quieted down a great deal. We should have run our explanation sooner.”

SATURDAY, DEC. 9, 1939: “Ran a special layout today on the Packers who have been with the team five years and more. There are eight of them. Herber, Hinkle, (Hank) Bruder, Engebretsen, Laws, Hutson, (Charles) Goldenberg and (Milt) Gantenbein.

SUNDAY, DEC. 10, 1939: “Covered great football game at State Fair Park in afternoon. The Packers played the best I’ve ever seen a team play to crush the New York Giants 27-0 and win their fifth National league championship. Crowd of 32,000 plus. Packers get $703 apiece for winning.”

MONDAY, DEC. 11, 1939: “The only topic of conversation in Green Bay is the football game. A large crowd turned out to welcome the team home this afternoon. I rode in the parade atop a fire truck.”

THURSDAY, DEC. 14, 1939: “Packer championship banquet in evening at Columbus Club. 1,500 present. Sat on stage with speakers. Many of them, including Gov. Julius Heil, who made an ass of himself as usual. Arch Ward invited Packers to All-Star Game, Curly Lambeau accepted. Sportswriters given wristwatches, myself included, a happy surprise.

Tony Walter, John Walter's son, also was Press-Gazette sports editor from 1977-84 and 1994-96. He currently reports on Brown County government, along with reporting on the Green Bay Packers.

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