Wisconsin Hometown Stories: Green Bay

Wisconsin Hometown Stories: Green Bay

Wisconsin Hometown Stories: Green Bay follows the growth of the city at the mouth of the Fox River from its early days to the present. 

Premiere date: Nov 12, 2007

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Intro

Announcer: 
This program is brought to you by the combined resources of the Wisconsin Historical Society and Wisconsin Public Television.

Bill Laatsch:
Green Bay can be distinguished, I think, with an intangible. Within Green Bay, there is a can-do spirit — “David versus Goliath” or the “Little Engine That Could.” I don’t know, but I think there is that kind of mentality, that kind of energy, that kind of commitment. That is one of those things that, well it’s hard for me to put my finger on. But I hear it, I see it in Green Bay.

Narrator:
It is the oldest hometown in Wisconsin. And perhaps the best known little city in the entire world. But those people who know it, only because of a certain football team, may be surprised to find out that Green Bay had made its mark in the state, in the country and far overseas long before anybody had heard of the Packers. Self-made, more than a little proud and usually playing bigger than its size, this is a city to be reckoned with.

Wisconsin Hometown Stories: Green Bay.

Announcer:
Funding for this program was provided by a lead gift from Philip J. and Elizabeth B. Hendrickson with major support from Wisconsin Public Service, powering northeast Wisconsin into the future with natural gas and electricity for 125 years; Associated Bank, proud to be an integral part of Green Bay’s financial history since 1874; the Kress Family Foundation and Green Bay Packaging; the Robert T. and Betty Rose-Meyer Foundation; Donald and Darlene Long; Patricia Baer; Irene Daniell Kress; additional support from the Joseph and Sarah Van Drisse Charitable Trust; John and Gisela Brogan; Vincent Zehren; and the Wisconsin History Fund, supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

First People

Narrator:
Cities have a reason for being where they are. The older the city the more likely that reason is geography, because rivers and lakes and oceans were the transportation routes of the early world. That’s why Green Bay has been a center of activity since before there was a Wisconsin. Sitting on a major transition point from the Great Lakes to the interior of the continent it is the place where new people first came to this land. And through wave after wave of these first people some always stayed to call it home.

David Grignon:
For over 10,000 years, we had lived here. The Menominees occupied 10 million acres of land, which is now the upper peninsula of Michigan and most of Wisconsin. We don’t have a migration story. We are the original inhabitants. Menominee is an Algonquin word. Our people have another name for ourselves, (speaking Algonquin). That means "The Ancient People.”

Patrick Jung:
Probably from the early prehistoric times right up to the time of European contact Green Bay had attracted a lot of different Indian communities. The Fox River, of course, empties into Green Bay. And if you wanted to get from one place to the next, it’s a highway, essentially. So all along the Fox River system you had a lot of Indian communities. And right here, on a gateway into Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Superior, there were Menominee villages. There were Winnebago villages, Ojibwe, Ottowa. There were just a lot of Indians here. And of course, Europeans wanted to trade with Indians.

Narrator:
The way people lived on this land had developed slowly over thousands of years. But in the 17th century that was all about to change. And it began with the arrival of one man.

David Grignon:
We could foretell the future in the dreams that we had. One of the dreams was that down in the Green Bay area there would be a boat. Soon after this boat did come-- within this boat was Jean Nicolet. He was the first European.

Patrick Jung:
The standard understanding of Nicolet is that he was probably a middle aged Frenchman who had been in what was then called New France, today Canada. And in 1634, he was sent by the Governor, Samuel de Champlain, west with a group of most likely Huron Indians intent upon studying the french fur trade west into the Great Lakes. He would have gone to Green Bay, found the Winnebago and probably the Menominee. The reception was relatively welcome, because Frenchmen had things Indians wanted. They had firearms. They had knives made of metal. They had cloth. Frenchmen wanted furs. And so the Indians were very eager to trade with the French and have the French settle among them as traders.

David Grignon:
One of the things we did do after the Europeans came was to get into the fur trade, and this took a hard toll on our people. It changed our economy and way of life, because we were hunters and gatherers. We only took what we needed.

Patrick Jung:
From the 1680s onward, you had increasing numbers of young Frenchmen going west into what was called the Pays d’en Haut, which is French for the Upper Country. If they wanted companionship, they had to take a wife and they had to take an Indian wife. For the Indians there was a lot of prestige in marrying a Frenchman who could basically give an Indian family a very sort of strategic economic relationship. So there was a lot of intermarriage right away. By the time you get to the 1800s you have a large population, probably Metis, who were part Indian, part French, spoke French fluently, could speak Indian languages, who are settling in permanent fur trade centers like Green Bay.

Narrator: 
Charles de Longlade, considered the first permanent European settler in Wisconsin, was actually Métis.

Patrick Jung:
He settled at Green Bay in the late 1700s. And Green Bay from about 1800 to about 1830 would have looked like a small group of farms. All the houses would have been right up along the river’s edge. And then the lots went back for several miles. That was called the French longlot. That would have been common for everybody at Green Bay.

Narrator:
But the French period was coming to an end. Though the French and Indian War had given control of the land to the British, there had been little change in the day-to-day life of the fur trade. It was the War of 1812 that drove out the British and brought, still, another first people to the Bay.

Patrick Jung:
The War of 1812 is fought. The British had made peace with the United States. And the first sign that the Americans were coming happens in 1816 when an American expedition comes down here to Green Bay and establishes Fort Howard.

Life at Fort Howard was pretty miserable. There were some commanders who liked to use the whip to punish soldiers. They were very low paid. Most of them were foreigners. Desertion rates were very high. The food was awful and there was just an incredible amount of boredom. And one of the things the soldiers did to pass the time was to drink heavily.

The establishment of Fort Howard doesn’t change things right away. Land could not be opened up for settlement until the United States Congress had authorized it to be purchased. Treaty commision had purchased it from the Indians, and it had been surveyed and a general land office had been set up.

David Grignon:
And of course the Europeans wanted this land to live on as they migrated from the East Coast. Our people didn’t have no concept of selling or buying. We had no word in our language for boundaries. We didn’t know what that was. And through the series of several treaties, we had to sell most of our land to the American Government.

Patrick Jung:
And what happened after that was in the late 1820s and ’30s, you had a lot of the first Yankees, people from New York and New England, coming into Wisconsin. Daniel Whitney was probably the best example, and he had his hands in a lot of different pies. He had his hands in the fur trade, and of course he was going to set up his own town. Navarino is what he called it. Probably one of the biggest changes when the Americans came, you have settlements starting and it’s just this steady stream all the way, right up till the present day for all practical purposes.

David Grignon:
Ten million acres of land. And we’re now confined to about 235,000 acres. And we had to make do and start a new life. We’re looking to the seven generations of those on board; we’re keeping this land for them. We’re keeping this river for them. We’re keeping this language. We’re keeping the culture. That’s who we are as Menominee people. And that’s who we’ll be into the future.

A New Home

Narrator:
The loss of Indian lands was just under way here. But on America’s East Coast it had already been going on for many years. The Oneida Indians, part of the once mighty Iroquois Confederation of Tribes in what is now New York, were compelled to make a desperate move to a new home on Green Bay to preserve their very existence.

Carol Cornelius:
I always wish that I could have been a fly on the wall to hear what our ancestors were discussing, what was happening in their world that they would make such a drastic move to move from our homelands in New York to all the way out here.

Loretta Metoxen:
There was a conspiracy between the state of New York, Ogden Land Company, The Department of War and Eleazer Williams, who was our missionary, descendant of Mohawks, fought in the War of 1812. He had grandeur plans of a great empire in the West, taking all of the Iroquois nations from New York, to move all of those six nations to another place that would be more peaceful and not be so influenced by the white immigrants.

Carol Cornelius:
They wanted to get away from alcohol. They saw that that was destroying the moral fiber of the people. So they thought that if they got out west they could be away from that. Another one was that so many treaties had been signed. And we went from this 5-1/2 or six million acres, and it was just shrinking and shrinking and shrinking to like a postage stamp left.

People out here saw all this that was happening, and they said we were invited to come out here by the tribes here. That would be the Menominee and the Ho-Chunk, Indian-to-Indian. And we agreed that we were going to share this land.

Loretta Metoxen:
We sent a reconnaissance group to find out if it was good area. And they found that it had bear and deer, beautiful beautiful land. And the timber, particularly the White Pine, was about four feet across. And they were happy because the White Pine is also our sacred tree. It’s a tree of the four white roots that go east, west, north and south to encompass everybody who would like to sit under the White Pine in peace. I always try to imagine the size of those trees they described.

Narrator:
In 1821, Eleazer Williams signed a treaty with the Menominee for the use and occupancy of eight million acres with compensation to be made in trade goods. A year later the Oneidas began to move west.

Carol Cornelius:
And first came that first party under Eleazer Williams. That was called the First Christian Party. And then another group of Oneidas moved out. And they were called the Second Christian Party. And then a few years later, the third group came out. And they’re called the Pagan Party, meaning that they followed the traditions.

Loretta Metoxen:
When they landed in Green Bay, either on a sailing vessel or on a steamship which was a new technology of the time, they had to come with whatever they could carry from their household. And that’s all they could take. In the meantime, the United States sent what I call a "hit man" to work out another treaty with the Menominees, where the Oneidas had no part in it. The Oneidas received 500,000 acres, even though we had paid for the eight million acres.

Carol Cornelius:
Joint use means, you know, we’re going to share. But that’s not the way, later, the United States saw it. Of course, they wanted the land. So they’d set up these boundaries and just treaty after treaty after treaty after 1827.

Narrator:
The 500,000 acres shrank to 65,000.

Loretta Metoxen:
The Bureau of Indian Affairs advertised with handbills about cheap Indian land over in Europe, so that we cannot now blame them for coming in and settling as fast as they could on the lands that were available through the Indian agent.

Carol Cornelius:
Our folks weren’t out here too long before they saw Eleazer Williams’ true colors. Eleazer Williams was paid to help remove us. And there were letters to the president written by our chiefs protesting and saying he had no right to make any agreements on behalf of our people. And, he left. He left in not a good way, I guess. That’s a polite way to say it.

Loretta Metoxen:
The people who were surrounding this reservation had quickly taken the timber from those areas. There were sawmills set up everywhere. Those lumberman had their sight set on the Oneida reservation. A man named Cook purchased some cut timber from an Oneida Indian. And the Supreme Court said that reservation is held in trust by the United States of America for you. So it was illegal to cut a tree on this reservation by the people who had purchased the reservation. And so that’s how we lost our timber.

Narrator:
Their lands were shrinking and they were being oppressed into poverty. There was little question how they would feel about it. But the fact that much of the west side of Green Bay remains today Oneida land says something about the way these enduring people have responded to the challenge of change.

Carol Cornelius:
We were very very poor because there were no jobs here. The racism, too, has always been there, always will be there I guess. We keep working on it and chip away at it. With all the odds against us and all the things that were done to us, it’s a miracle we’ve survived as a nation to begin with because there are some native nations who haven’t. In spite of all of the moves and the taking of our land, and the poverty, and all the oppression we’ve hung in there. We’re tenacious people and there is a pride in there.

The Birth of Wisconsin

Narrator:
When the Oneida moved to Green Bay, it was in the Michigan Territory, a remnant of the old Northwest Territory. Then, in 1836, it became the Wisconsin Territory. But whatever the name, it was a place of transformation. Some called it the wild frontier and Green Bay was right in the thick of the action.

John Brogan:
There was a tragic piece of Wisconsin history that resolves to this day in the state Assembly. Charles Arndt, a young Yankee in Green Bay who was elected to the Territorial Legislature, had a good friend by the name of Vineyard who went to Madison and they got into a jangle on the floor of the assembly about the gubernatorial appointment. These close friends turned to arguing and then fisticuffs, and then Vineyard pulled out a Hog-Leg pistol and shot Arndt, and five minutes later he was dead. This incident was picked up by none other than Charles Dickens who was touring America and looking down his nose at these unwashed types.

Jack Holzheuter:
There are hangings. There are murders. There are lynchings. There are all that sort of thing goes on during the territorial period. Furthermore, there was a lot of disagreement among the various ethnic groups. They did not always get along. Lots of anti-Yankee feeling on the part of the immigrants. Green Bay is a nexus for settlement. It goes from being this outpost in a wilderness area to being a city.

Brogan:

The reason for the Yankees, the reason for the New Yorkers, The Vermonter, the New Hampshire men, all of the offices in the territories were appointed by the President. This was government by the Federal Government and, of course, who did they appoint — their friends and neighbors. Martin Van Buren knew a lot of people up in New England and northern New York State and he had his friends. He had patronage jobs, so the great names in Wisconsin history — Doty, Martin — were given their offices as patronage positions.

Narrator: 
James Duane Doty was 24 yrs. old and a Federal Judge when he first held court in a cabin on the shore of the Fox River. Nearby he laid out the village of Aster, which soon merged with Navarino to become, in 1838, the City of Green Bay. Three years later he was governor of the Wisconsin Territory.

Brogan:
He was key in moving the capital from Belmont to Madison because he owned the real estate in Madison.

Holzhueter: 
He was a politician and promoter and very successful at both, maybe a little unscrupulous, extremely bright. And by that time he also was very familiar with the patterns of land development that encouraged investment by Eastern money. The great families of Wisconsin real estate often sent young men just like Doty to the West, Green Bay, and you would find frequently two or three boys from the same family. And his cousin, a first cousin, Morgan Martin, in fact, writes the constitution for the state.

Brogan:
We had some leaders here in Green Bay and Brown County who were prominent names of the history of the state. Morgan Martin was one of them. He was not only an attorney, he was a man of some property and business and he also was the territorial delegate to Congress.

Holzhueter: 
Martin was probably the most important figure, legal figure, in the territory at the time. The Martin’s house, Hazelwood, was a place that everyone visited. You paid homage to the great man. I daresay that Hazelwood was probably one of the nicest houses in Wisconsin, extremely gracious place, well made and well designed for the 1830s. It certainly is a spectacular house for the state.

Brogan:
There was one Constitution of the State, adopted and then rejected by the populous, and then there was another Constitution written here in Green Bay on the dining room table of Morgan Martin.

Holzhueter:
Others would have witnessed him doing this in Green Bay. That’s living memory kind of stuff and never discount it. If there’s a desk there in the house and I’m sure it was used. But when you want to write the constitution, you want to borrow language from a lot of books and you’re looking at this, you’re looking at that, you can’t do that at a small writing desk. You need a big table. Morgan Martin was a very logical choice to write the constitution because he was the first attorney in the state. Therefore, he knew probably more about territorial law and more about the types of law that would apply to a new state.

Brogan:
The one that first was proposed — it permitted banking, it had woman’s suffrage the public just beat it. Martin compromised it out, wrote a document, and everybody signed on to it and it was passed.

Narrator: 
On May 29, 1848, President James K. Polk declared Wisconsin a state. And with elections replacing appointments, control of the state and its cities went to the flood of new residents who were anxious to build a life on their own terms.

Holzhueter: 
All of Wisconsin was affected by statehood. It encourages development everywhere so that Green Bay as a port city begins to thrive even more. There is an enormous feeling in the state of being part of something very much larger. Coupled with that is the pace of the work. People were dying all over the place — really overworked or going crazy. But they were doing it because it was their chance to own something, to have something that they could call their own. That was the great impetus.

Brogan:
There was a kind of a leavening — the Belgians and the Dutch, and the Germans and the Irish — there was little difference to families of property or not property. The Yankees — by and large left, and so there was no bluestocking aristocracy. There was just us here chickens. In Green Bay, it was a matter of 10-15 years after statehood that the population took into control how things were to be run here.

The Church Visible

Narrator: 
Most of the immigrants streaming into Green Bay and the new state of Wisconsin were foreign born. They had left behind the only world they had ever known drawn to the promise of a fresh start. Where did they find the strength?

Bill Laatsch: 
If you look at the Green Bay skyline, you’ll see that, oh sure, there is the Frigo Bridge and there is Lambeau Field, and there are the hospitals and there are the smokestacks. But there is an incredible number of church steeples thrusting up. Well, it’s shadowed here by some of our more modern structures. But they’re still there, and those are old lying parishes and churches.

Kris Beisser Matthies: 
One of the letters that I have from my ancestors in the 1840s, very Catholic. A good share of his letter is to write about church. To me that’s just so telling that it was so vitally important to them, their religion, and you’ll see with any ethic group that as soon as they get here they’ll go and build some little log cabin. But as soon as they’ve got shelter for themselves, then, the next thing is to build a church.

Laatsch: 
Religious dissatisfaction in Europe, the lack of land and opportunity occurred at the same time that Wisconsin was achieving statehood in 1848. Subsequently, Wisconsin has the largest number of European ethnic groups of any state in the United States. In the earlier days, the church played a really significant role for these people. The church provided an anchor. Green Bay had the reputation of being a strong Catholic city.

Duane F. Ebert: 
It was much more heavily Catholic, yeah. I don’t know how heavily Catholic a room is but that’s what they always said. But the fact that more kids went to parochial schools than public schools was a good indication of that. 1821 the first permanent church was built, St. John the Evangelist, and that parish is the oldest continuous Catholic parish in Wisconsin.

Matthies: 
St. Johns is pretty much the mother church of all the churches in the City of Green Bay. It’s the French church but it was the only church that was here. So if you were Catholic, you went to that church. The Germans were the first group to separate.”We want our own church, we can’t get anything out of our sermons if they’re being said in French.” It was time to try and form their own German congregation which later became the cathedral, St. Francis Xavier.

Laatsch: 
The devotion that people had to the parish was just remarkable. Go in these churches and see how beautiful they are, and the wealth that was represented in the artifacts within that structure. These people were devoted to this.

Ebert:
And then at about the time of the Civil War, the Hollanders started St. Willebrord’s. And they bought the old county courthouse and used that for many many years until finally they outgrew it, and they continued services in the old building while they built the new one around it.

Matthies:
Then in the same time just a few months later, also during the Civil War, it was time for the Irish to have a church. St. Patrick’s, of course, what else could they name it but St. Patricks?

Ebert:
There were many railroad people living on the west side and so the church was built there. The Irish walked from all over Green Bay to go across town, across river even in the cold of winter to go to St. Patrick’s.

Matthies:
And in the 1870s it was decided that there should be a church on the north side for the Belgian congregation, Saints Peter and Paul Church. If you were a Belgian family. You lived across the street from the Cathedral, you’d still walk those extra blocks so you were with your own nationality.

Ebert:
And they all had schools. And in many of them that language was taught half a day and then English the other half of the day so that the children learned to speak English and, yet, had their native language.

Matthies:
Now the last church in the series of ethnic developing churches was the Polish church. That congregation became what is now St. Mary of the Angels church.

Laatsch: 
St. Mary’s or St. Mary’s of the roller rink as we like to say.

Matthies: 
Because that’s where the roller rink is and I went there too. And that’s one way to have an association with St. Mary’s, because you went to the roller rink there.

Narrator: 
Spirit was not the only necessity sustained by the church. It also provided a vibrant social life and continues to do so today. In Green Bay, that social life almost always includes Booya.

Ebert: 
They are very famous for those summer picnics and that’s where the Booya was served. The men had their own recipe and so they would go to see what somebody else’s was like. And so they did a lot of socializing.

Laatsch: 
Every parish church, gosh every family, seems to have a different recipe. Bones in or bones out? Peas in the Booya, “oh no, our family never put peas in the Booya.”

Matthies: 
Booya is very central to this area; I have a sister-in-law who lives in Milwaukee who is like, “Booya, what’s Booya?" It’s a staple here.

Ebert:
I guess it’s a Green Bay tradition. It’s, of course, a chicken soup is what I call it. Usually the men of the parish get together and start very early in the morning.

Laatsch: 
And it seems to be best if it’s cooked in an outside fire in a 50 gallon drum stirred by a canoe paddle. You know that seems to make it the most authentic.

Ebert:
And each one does it differently, so they say. —

Matthies:
Church was and church is, to so many people, such an integral part of their life. The faith that you are because of your ancestors, and I can remember thinking that. And I’m still here, my children are here because 150 years ago someone in my family made that decision to come. And we’re living with their decision all these years later; so we have connections with our ancestors that people don’t even think about.

Dairy Gold

Narrator:
Employing the Old World skills of its immigrant population, Green Bay became and remains a city of transformation, turning timber and farm products into commodities then shipping them elsewhere. But back in the 1860s, no one would have dreamed that Green Bay would one day be a center of the worldwide cheese industry.

Trevor Jones:
People think that we’ve always been the dairyland. But in 1860 we were the second largest wheat producer in the United States. Things in the paper said, “Wheat is King in Wisconsin.”  And that’s what we did. And in Green Bay it was sort of a shipping hub for shipping wheat out.

Basically, the bottom fell out of the market and people had to find something else to do. And so they tried a whole bunch of things. And one of the things that they tried was dairy. That was a hard sell for Wisconsin farmers. Milking the cow, feeding the cow, things like that, that was all done by the woman of the house. They weren’t real enthusiastic about the whole aspect of dairy farming because it was seen as emasculating.”We can’t do this. We’re men.” That transition was not without a lot of heartache and trouble.

You’ve got some core problems if you’re going to produce milk. Milk is heavy and it spoils very very quickly. The thing you can do with milk is you can make cheese out of it, which weighs a lot less because you take the water out. And it will keep nearly indefinitely. That was what you really wanted the dairy farm for is to produce cheese.

Vincent Zehren:
The living quarters were always part of the cheese factory. When I say I was born in the cheese factory, I actually was born in the living quarters of the cheese factory. But going through the door was the cheese factory.

My grandfather in 1908 won the top award for cheesemaking in Wisconsin. When I was a little kid, I already was in the cheese factory with my dad. Between my grandfather’s family and his cousin’s family, my gosh, we were involved in about 30-35 cheese factories.

Trevor Jones:
So you have all these little towns that are basically a tavern, a church, a cheese factory and maybe a school. And that’s a town because of this industry. The market at that time for Wisconsin cheese was not domestic. It was foreign. So the stuff would get wagoned up to Green Bay or taken by railroad and it would get shipped eventually overseas to England. The thing to remember, even today, is that the vast majority of Wisconsin’s cheese is sold outside of the state of Wisconsin.

Vincent Zehren:
So I wound up studying biochemistry and the dairy industry courses with a doctor’s in food science. Dick Bush and Dave Nusbaum of Schreiber’s, they came down and wanted to know if I would be interested in working at Schreiber’s. And what they did was made processed cheeses and packaged natural cheeses.

Trevor Jones:
Green Bay has always been the center for the distribution of everything. That’s Green Bay’s purpose historically just because of the geographic location. Green Bay really wasn’t ever a center of actual cheesemaking. But what Green Bay was, was a shipping and distribution hub. And there were a huge number of businesses devoted simply to storing cheese. That’s one of the reasons why this was a good place for Schreiber to make processed cheese. You’ve got a lot of product from cheesemakers to one spot.

Vincent Zehren:
It was called "Cheeseville.” There was Kraft. There’s the Borden Co., Schreiber and Stella. Then there was the Superior Cheese Co. all their cheese shipped to safely stores. Right in that little area we had the U.S. cheese industry really in operation.

Trevor Jones:
For your cheeseburger at a fast food place, chances are that comes from Schreiber. If you’re a fast food restaurant, you want a consistent product. You want that slice of processed cheese on your burger to taste exactly the same year after year, place after place, which is a real art form. To be able to do that, you need to be able to blend that consistently. And so it’s nice to have different products to choose from to make your blend.

Vincent Zehren:
You take young cheese and old cheese, and cheese that has this kind of characteristic put them all together and come up with a cheese that meets the customer requirements. Well, for example one of our major customers, they were getting cheese from different people that didn’t really understand that potential importance to them. And I remember trying to get more flavor, so when you put that slice of cheese on a cheeseburger, that it would be something kind of distinctive. They really grew! Oh, my God, I can’t get over it.

Narrator:
Being the center of the U.S. cheese industry wasn’t enough for Green Bay. It may not have sought the distinction, but there was a time when every dairy farm in America looked to this small city in Wisconsin to set the price of its milk. It was all thanks to the National Cheese Exchange.

Trevor Jones:
The National Cheese Exchange met in downtown Green Bay. They met on Friday afternoons, and the sessions would maybe be anywhere from half an hour to an hour, really short. And you had to be invited to trade there. You had to be a major cheese company. It was by invitation only. And the smallest unit that you could buy was a railroad car of cheese. The reason it’s significant, is the USDA saw this as an open market. And so they said, okay here’s what cheese is going for. So we’re going to set the price of milk based on what the price of cheese is going for. And we’re going to set that nationwide. So if you’re a farmer in Idaho, because cheese was at this price in Green Bay last Friday, you’re going to get paid this much for your milk on Monday.

In about 1996 or 1997, you saw a really large drop of prices on the National Cheese Exchange. So, therefore, milk prices also plummet which was very very bad for dairy farmers. And a lot of dairy farmers felt that the Cheese Exchange made the prices drop on purpose. They were later cleared of all wrongdoing on this but there were protests from farmers. And they actually drove their tractors through downtown Green Bay around and around in a circle in front of the Cheese Exchange.

The upshot was that the Cheese Exchange left Green Bay after that incident happened and moved down to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. I think, in part, because they got tired of the protests. And it’s a lot harder to drive a tractor in downtown Chicago.

But I don’t think most of the people know that about Green Bay; that this small, little group in this Midwestern town set prices for milk all the way around the country. So, it’s an interesting little bit of history.

Narrator:
Green Bay was a latecomer to papermaking. The cities further up the Fox River were the first to transform Wisconsin’s timber wealth into paper using the flow of the river to power their mills. But with the advent of electric power in 1899, Green Bay quickly made up for lost time.

John Brogan:
Paper in Green Bay was the history of geography. Location. It was lots of wood fiber from up north, lots of water, plenty of power and finally relatively large amounts of capital. The capital, though intensive, was raised locally by the families that started the mills. The Hoberg family, the Buchanan family was key in the organization of the Northern and the Kress Mill Green Bay Packaging. Austin Cofrin came with his hat in his hand. He was going to start his own mill and he did. And he called on the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. I mean, not just the locals. And in thousand, and five, and ten thousand dollar amounts he raised $365,000.

Tom Murphy:
In Fort Howard’s case, AE Cofrin went door to door selling stock at $100 a share. Part of my job, when I was there was taking stock analysts around. They couldn’t believe a place like Green Bay. In one mill, there were nine paper making machines.”What are you doing with nine paper machines? You’re in the boondocks.” There’s an awful lot of quiet millionaires in the Green Bay community because of that.

John Brogan:
But Green Bay is very peculiar. People didn’t take that money and drive chauffeured cars and build big palaces. They just bought a new Buick.”This year, we’re going to get one with air conditioning.”

Tim Ashmann:
I was living at home at the time. And my mother said, “Let’s go into Green Bay and do some shopping.” So foolishly I jumped in the car with her. And the next thing I knew she was dropping me off at Fort Howard Paper Co. and told me to go in and get a job. My first job was in the papermaking department — the bottom end — called a spare hand. The last position was machine tender, which is what I retired from.

We generally would have five people on each crew for each machine. There would be four crews involved — three on each day and one crew off — nine machines. Most of the years that I was there, all of them would be running all the time, 24 hours a day 365 days a year, pounding out the most paper you possibly could.

John Brogan:
When Cofrin raised the $365,000, it wasn’t enough money to buy a pulp mill. That is where you have the big vats and you grind up the wood. So he had to base his on recycling. What Cofrin and his people figured out was a way to buy lower grades of waste paper and make higher-quality tissue. So they were in the business of making lots of silk purses out of tons of sow’s ears. They were the most profitable paper company in the United States by a magnitude of three or four.

Tom Murphy:
But it also solved a great big problem. When you pick up all this waste paper from across the country. It evolved from being cost beneficial to the manufacturer to being beneficial to the world and still produced a very good product. They were the leading producer in the United States of napkins all the way from Air Force One to McDonald’s to you name it.

Tim Ashmann:
I made paper for napkins. That was primarily what I made over my career there. I made paper for hand towels that you still see throughout the United States in washrooms all over. And then, of course, there’s the dry crepe machines that make the toilet paper. The first machine that I worked on I think ran about 2,500 feet a minute. That seemed to be an overwhelming speed. I had a hard time keeping up. Over the years, they suggested that we could possibly run a little faster. And it was met with great weeping and gnashing of teeth. But by the time I left, at my last machine that I was on we were actually running tissue, which is very very light. We were running at 6,000 feet a minute. It was the heyday of papermaking. And I’m sure you’ll never see a day like it again. You felt very good about your occupation.

Narrator:
But success came with an awful price.

John Brogan:
The paper industry had all sorts of problems. And until the Clean Water Act of 1972 was passed, the Fox River was seeing, between the 27 paper mills and the five cities that discharged to it, 490,000 pounds of solids a day. And during low-flow, high-temperature periods in the summer and fall, nothing could live in the river.

Tom Murphy:
Charmin got the other mills to help them study it. And Charmin and Northern were the two that joined initially with the local municipality, with the governmental units to get the mills to move their pulp and clean up the pulping residues before they were discharged to the waterways. There were some legislative and environmental pressures but they did it long before they were forced to.

John Brogan:
The mills on the Fox River spent over a third of a billion dollars to clean up the discharges. Ten to 15 years later we had salmon running in the Fox River. That’s some trick. Green Bay has over the years, I think, developed somewhat of a large chip on its shoulder. Instinctively, we all know that if anything is going to get done, it ain’t going to be done by anybody but us.

If we don’t build a new Packer stadium, the league would take the franchise away. If we don’t put the money up ourselves into funding the food processing companies, the paper mills it isn’t going to get done because we’ve got to do it. It’s a sense that this is where God dropped his tools. Beyond here is nowhere.

Mary Jane Herber:
When I was in grade school, one of our nuns was from Chicago-great big tall Sister Pierre. She was from Chicago. She used to bet the kids when they ’d have the Packer-Bear game. They’d bet Rosaries.

 

Tissue Capital of the World

Narrator:
Green Bay was a latecomer to papermaking. The cities further up the Fox River were the first to transform Wisconsin’s timber wealth into paper using the flow of the river to power their mills. But with the advent of electric power in 1899, Green Bay quickly made up for lost time.

John Brogan:
Paper in Green Bay was the history of geography. Location. It was lots of wood fiber from up north, lots of water, plenty of power and finally relatively large amounts of capital. The capital, though intensive, was raised locally by the families that started the mills. The Hoberg family, the Buchanan family was key in the organization of the Northern and the Kress Mill Green Bay Packaging. Austin Cofrin came with his hat in his hand. He was going to start his own mill and he did. And he called on the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. I mean, not just the locals. And in thousand, and five, and ten thousand dollar amounts he raised $365,000.

Tom Murphy:
In Fort Howard’s case, AE Cofrin went door to door selling stock at $100 a share. Part of my job, when I was there was taking stock analysts around. They couldn’t believe a place like Green Bay. In one mill, there were nine paper making machines.”What are you doing with nine paper machines? You’re in the boondocks.” There’s an awful lot of quiet millionaires in the Green Bay community because of that.

John Brogan:
But Green Bay is very peculiar. People didn’t take that money and drive chauffeured cars and build big palaces. They just bought a new Buick.”This year, we’re going to get one with air conditioning.”

Tim Ashmann:
I was living at home at the time. And my mother said, “Let’s go into Green Bay and do some shopping.” So foolishly I jumped in the car with her. And the next thing I knew she was dropping me off at Fort Howard Paper Co. and told me to go in and get a job. My first job was in the papermaking department — the bottom end — called a spare hand. The last position was machine tender, which is what I retired from.

We generally would have five people on each crew for each machine. There would be four crews involved — three on each day and one crew off — nine machines. Most of the years that I was there, all of them would be running all the time, 24 hours a day 365 days a year, pounding out the most paper you possibly could.

John Brogan:
When Cofrin raised the $365,000, it wasn’t enough money to buy a pulp mill. That is where you have the big vats and you grind up the wood. So he had to base his on recycling. What Cofrin and his people figured out was a way to buy lower grades of waste paper and make higher-quality tissue. So they were in the business of making lots of silk purses out of tons of sow’s ears. They were the most profitable paper company in the United States by a magnitude of three or four.

Tom Murphy:
But it also solved a great big problem. When you pick up all this waste paper from across the country. It evolved from being cost beneficial to the manufacturer to being beneficial to the world and still produced a very good product. They were the leading producer in the United States of napkins all the way from Air Force One to McDonald’s to you name it.

Tim Ashmann:
I made paper for napkins. That was primarily what I made over my career there. I made paper for hand towels that you still see throughout the United States in washrooms all over. And then, of course, there’s the dry crepe machines that make the toilet paper. The first machine that I worked on I think ran about 2,500 feet a minute. That seemed to be an overwhelming speed. I had a hard time keeping up. Over the years, they suggested that we could possibly run a little faster. And it was met with great weeping and gnashing of teeth. But by the time I left, at my last machine that I was on we were actually running tissue, which is very very light. We were running at 6,000 feet a minute. It was the heyday of papermaking. And I’m sure you’ll never see a day like it again. You felt very good about your occupation.

Narrator:
But success came with an awful price.

John Brogan:
The paper industry had all sorts of problems. And until the Clean Water Act of 1972 was passed, the Fox River was seeing, between the 27 paper mills and the five cities that discharged to it, 490,000 pounds of solids a day. And during low-flow, high-temperature periods in the summer and fall, nothing could live in the river.

Tom Murphy:
Charmin got the other mills to help them study it. And Charmin and Northern were the two that joined initially with the local municipality, with the governmental units to get the mills to move their pulp and clean up the pulping residues before they were discharged to the waterways. There were some legislative and environmental pressures but they did it long before they were forced to.

John Brogan:
The mills on the Fox River spent over a third of a billion dollars to clean up the discharges. Ten to 15 years later we had salmon running in the Fox River. That’s some trick. Green Bay has over the years, I think, developed somewhat of a large chip on its shoulder. Instinctively, we all know that if anything is going to get done, it ain’t going to be done by anybody but us.

If we don’t build a new Packer stadium, the league would take the franchise away. If we don’t put the money up ourselves into funding the food processing companies, the paper mills it isn’t going to get done because we’ve got to do it. It’s a sense that this is where God dropped his tools. Beyond here is nowhere.

Mary Jane Herber:
When I was in grade school, one of our nuns was from Chicago-great big tall Sister Pierre. She was from Chicago. She used to bet the kids when they ’d have the Packer-Bear game. They’d bet Rosaries.

The Little City that Could

Narrator:
Shortly before they began making paper in Green Bay there was a new game sweeping the country leaving mangled bodies in its wake. It horrified college presidents but it was an immediate favorite of the fans. In fact, football was such a good fit for Green Bay it’s a wonder they didn’t invent the game.

Denis Gullickson:
Football has been in Green Bay since 1895. And that was pretty early by most standards in the nation. A gentleman named Fred Halbert loved football because he had played it at Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam. He got a bunch of toughs, for the most part, from Green Bay’s west side. They were primarily the sons of Irish railroad workers. And according to what I’m told, I can’t say this for certainty, but I guess these guys liked to fight a lot. Fred rounded them up and said, “I’m going to give you kind of a form of fighting but there’s a little bit of organization to it.” And he taught them football. Actually, one of the guys early on said, “I love football because you can bust a guy in the chops and you won’t get thrown in jail.”

Lee Remmel:
Curly Lambeau, what he told me was that he was a freshman at Notre Dame in 1918. He was a pretty good football player according to all reports. When he came home for the holidays, he had a bad case of tonsillitis. He went to his family physician who told him that he would have to wait to let the infection subside before he could operate but the tonsils would have to be removed. By the time he had fully recovered, it was too late to go back for the second semester. So he got a job at the Indian Packing Co. for $250 a month. He thought that was all the money there was in the world.

Denis Gullickson:
Curly Lambeau was a Green Bay boy. I think he always had dreams that reached to the stars. He was an athletic phenomenon at East High School and kind of a cocksure kid that had a nice wave of hair. I would contend that it was Curly’s pompous air and his panache that probably gave us the Packers, and why Green Bay probably still has the Packers, because there were an awful lot of guys who played by the rules and didn’t break some of those social norms. And their teams, of course, no longer exist.

Lee Remmel:
He was an expensive able fellow, well built and of course a charmer with the ladies and confident with himself always about everything. He ran into George Whitney Calhoun, the sports editor of the “Press Gazette.” When Calhoun asked him what he was going to do about football. He said, “Well you know, I’d like to play but I don’t want to go back to Notre Dame.” Calhoun allegedly said, “Why don’t you start your own team? I’ll put a notice in the paper and see what happens.” He put a notice in the paper and about 25 young huskies showed up. And they started practicing three nights a week, initially as the Green Bay Indians because of the Indian Packing Co. J.E. Clair who was the general manager of the company, gave Curly $500 for uniforms. But the Indian Packing Co. went out of business about halfway through that first season and the ACME Packing Co. took possession of it. Pretty soon, ACME was left high and dry and they were the Packers. And the Green Bay Packers they’ve been ever since.

Denis Gullickson:
The Packers, in 1919 and 1920, were the best. In 1919 over 10 games, they beat their opponents by 565-6. Lambeau thought to himself, “Well what fun is it to beat my opponents around here 57-0? We better take this to the next level.” So, like-minded teams across the country formed the American Professional Football Association, which became the NFL.

Lee Remmel:
Curly led the Packers to three championships in a row in 1929, ’30 and ’31. And he was just a young guy. He was only 32 or 33 years old. And he became a national figure. He was introduced at nightclubs like Bill Tilden and Jack Dempsey, and people of that ilk. This is Curly Lambeau, head coach of the Green Bay Packers, World Champion Green Bay Packers.

Mary Jane Herber:
But it was always a big thing. I mean, it’s just, you know, the Packer games on Sundays. Women wore dresses and suits. In the early fall, they’d maybe wear a mink stole. And then when it got colder, they’d wear their fur coats because it was warm. But they’d wear heels. And one of the reasons why they dressed in finery is because at Old City Stadium, behind East High, during halftime, they’d promenade, you know, stretch your legs. Those wooden bleachers were certainly not very comfortable. So at halftime everybody would take a little stroll around the edge of the field. And nobody wanted to be wearing the same thing somebody else wore to the football game certainly.

Denis Gullickson:
You had to have the football guys. You had to have a little talent to start with. And then you would need some money. That was true in every town that kept a football team alive even for a few years. In Green Bay, they always had their hand out. You know we need the Packers. The Packers have to stay afloat. This is an important part of our pride and what makes us Green Bay. And so buy some stock. This has been done in recent times. People love that piece of paper even though it’s worthless or priceless depending on how you view it.

Lee Remmel: 
Canton Bulldogs, Stapleton, Yellowjackets, they just gradually one by one dropped off until the Packers were the only small town team remaining, which is an incredible tribute to the people of Green Bay I think. The simple answer is that the people of Green Bay and environs would never permit the franchise to leave Green Bay. They have done whatever it has taken in order to keep the Packers in Green Bay and the franchise alive.

Mary Jane Herber:
It’s the fact that people in the community own the team. There’s always been that interest in that football team and that it’s been part of the community. After people retired from the team, they’d stay. You know, they’d marry a Green Bay girl and they’d stay. There is a whole different aspect that the other parts of the country are interested in, maybe because we wish we were living in Green Bay because it’s a small town. And yet it’s got this wonderful football team that everybody knows.

Denis Gullickson:
The David and Goliath thing only works if David wins some of the battles. But of course the Packers have more NFL Championships than any other team in the league. They have the second most guys in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They’re the only team in NFL history to have won triple championships three years in a row. And they’ve done it twice. So there’s something about David and his ability to play with the big boys that’s pretty necessary in this story. Otherwise, if Goliath is always kicking David around the field, I think the curtain goes down and the story is done.

Lee Remmel:
It’s a remarkable story. Others have said, and I agree that it’s the best story in sports. All things considered I think it is.

Narrator:
Green Bay is not the capital of Wisconsin. It’s not Wisconsin’s biggest city. It was the geography of rivers and Great Lakes that made it the oldest permanent settlement in the state. But it was its people who repeatedly made an impact that far exceeded its size. If the past is any indication, someone in Green Bay is out there right now shopping around an idea that will make the rest of the world take notice.

Mary Jane Herber:
Maybe part of it is that people in this area aren’t afraid to try and fail. And that because they’re willing to try and fail, there are some failures but there are a lot of successes in terms of business, in terms of government cultural kinds of things. It just takes a long time. You just keep plodding along and do it. You know, I don’t know. Stubborn, maybe?

Closing credits

Denis Gullickson:
Lambeau understood that this was something of entertainment as well as historic, getting some stars in here that the fans could really idolize. Johnny McNally from New Richmond, Wis., who was also Johnny "Blood.” You know, people loved him. And they loved to watch him on the field.

Lee Remmel:
Johnny Blood was playing for the Pottsville Maroons in Pennsylvania in the NFL. Curly Lambeau had played against him and had coached against him. He was highly enamored on Johnny’s talents. He sent a note to Johnny. It said, “Dear John If you will join the Green Bay Packers for the 1929 NFL season I will pay you $100 a game.” Then thinking about the fact that he was a womanizer, and all that sort of thing, Curly said, “P.S., If you do not drink after Wednesday night before each game I’ll pay you $110 a game.” Johnny wrote back and said, “I’ll take the $100.” (laughs) God bless him. That was typical Johnny Blood.

Announcer:
Funding for this program was provided by a lead gift from Philip J. and Elizabeth B. Hendrickson; with major support from Wisconsin Public Service powering northeast Wisconsin into the future with natural gas and electricity for 125 years; Associated Bank, proud to be an integral part of Green Bay’s financial history since 1874; the Kress Family Foundation and Green Bay Packaging; the Robert T. and Betty Rose-Meyer Foundation; Donald and Darlene Long; Patricia Baer; Irene Daniell Kress. Additional support from the Joseph and Sarah Van Drisse Charitable Trust; John and Gisela Brogan; Vincent Zehren; and the Wisconsin History Fund supported, in part, by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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