A tip of the hat to the ladies of the Lombardi era

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.

Here is a group of the beautiful Packer wives from the 1965, '66' and '67 teams. In a pre-free agency era, most athletes spent the bulk of their career with a single team. These women bonded as young mothers experiencing a fascinating , challenging and exciting time in history.
Here is a group of Packer wives from the 1965, ’66’ and ’67 teams. In a pre-free agency era, most athletes spent the bulk of their career with a single team. These women bonded as young wives and mothers experiencing a fascinating , challenging and exciting time in history.
Ruth, Vicky and the Village Apartments
Both Vicky and Ruth spent several seasons living in this apartment complex, managed by a kind woman named Flo Bettis, who, with her family, offered hospitality and occasional baby-sitting services to Packer families. In the 1960s, Green Bay was not as ethnically diverse as it is now and, in many ways, the Packer players and their wives integrated the city. Because both the Aldridges and the Pitts lived in Milwaukee during the off season, they had to find places to rent when they returned to Green Bay each year. According to Ruth, the guys would ask Lionel, the future broadcaster (who had no accent), to call area landlords. Described by Ruth as a kind, Catholic woman, Flo usually tried to keep several of her apartments open for the players to rent each season.
Man of the players who lived in Green Bay year-round, bought homes on or around the aptly named "Careful Drive," where Packer families took care of each other. On our tour, all three ladies recalled attending post-game parties on Careful Drive.
Many of the players who lived in Green Bay year-round, bought homes on or around the aptly named “Careful Drive,” where Packer families took care of each other. On our tour, all three ladies recalled spending happy times on Careful Drive.
Ruth sent Vicky this beautiful hand-knit prayer shawl for to comfort her when Vicky and Lionel's daughter Angela died unexpectedly in 2011. Vicky wears it every day and said it feels like a big hug, which is exactly what Ruth had intended. The bonds of friendship run deep on this championship team, both among the players and their wives.
Ruth sent Vicky this beautiful hand-knit prayer shawl to comfort her when Vicky and Lionel’s daughter Angela died unexpectedly in 2011. Vicky wears it every day and said it feels like a big hug, which is exactly what Ruth had intended. The bonds of friendship run deep on this championship team, both among the players and their wives.
This is my mom and Ruth Ann Skoronski, wife of offensive team captain Bob Skoronski.
This is my mom and Ruth Ann Skoronski, wife of offensive team captain Bob Skoronski.
My mom and another admirable Packer wife, Cherry Starr. That's Ruth Pitts greeting Bart Starr in the background.
My mom and another admirable Packer wife, Cherry Starr.
Ruth, Vicky and my mom took us on a little tour of Green Bay in the 1960s during the Packer championship years. They raised their children together, supported their husbands together, cheered for the Packers together, sweated the seasonal cuts together and formed a lifelong bond.
Ruth, Vicky and my mom took us on a little tour of Green Bay in the 1960s during the Packer championship years. They raised their children together, supported their husbands together, cheered for the Packers together, sweated the seasonal cuts together and formed a lifelong bond.

7 thoughts on “A tip of the hat to the ladies of the Lombardi era

Leave a Reply