We toasted the Glory Years this weekend, a nearly decade long run during which Green Bay won two Super Bowls and three NFL titles.
That this celebratory time in Green Bay occurred during the 1960’s, a turbulent time in America, made the run infinitely more interesting.
Led by a charismatic coach, the Packers made history both on and off the field. Hall of Famer and defensive captain Willie Davis and guard Jerry Kramer, for instance, became two of the first interracial roommates in the NFL.
In 1965 Packer defensive end Lionel Aldridge had to ask for permission to marry his college sweetheart Vicky, and, according to her, Coach Lombardi did not hesitate to give the interracial couple his blessing.
Lombardi’s Packers bonded naturally as teammates and five-time champions, while the Packer wives, most of them very young and far from home, formed lasting ties as well.
This weekend the Packer organization invited members of the 1965, ’66 and ’67 teams and their wives to be honored guests at the home opener. In a move indicative of the team’s class, organizers gracefully invited widows to attend as well.
Molly and I spent a fascinating afternoon with three of them: Vicky Aldridge Nelson, Ruth Pitts, widow of Packer running back Elijah Pitts, and my mom, Peggy Kostelnik.
We listened as the ladies chatted, laughed and told their own stories about an exciting and challenging time in their lives. Uprooted and plopped into a city foreign to all of them, the Packer wives formed a family of their own.
Though they missed their beautiful leader, Olive Jordan Frey, who passed away in December, the ladies spent the weekend thrilled to be back in Green Bay and among the comforting shelter of their own circle of friends.