- St. Norbert College in De Pere is where the Packers have held their Training Camp since 1958.
According to Green and Gold records the first official camp happened in 1946 at the Rockwood Lodge just outside of Green Bay.
We have discovered evidence to suggest the first Camp actually happened in the Northwoods 11 years earlier in 1935. Here's our Newswatch 12 Sports special report....The Packers Played Here.
Earl Curly Lambeau was a co-founder, head coach and player for the Green Bay Packers. His teams won three NFL Championships from 1929-1931. Lambeau himself was becoming a national icon.
"He was a star." says author of five Packers books David Zimmerman. "Lambeau was the Packers."
In the early years Curly would hold practices at City Stadium on the East side of Green Bay. To prepare for the 1935 campaign Lambeau was looking to do something different, so he set up a week long training camp in Northern Wisconsin.
David Zimmerman says "He loaded them up on a bus on August 24, 1935. He had never taken them anywhere outside of Green Bay. They always did their training there in Green Bay prior to the season. This was the first time he had taken them anywhere."
The destination was Rhinelander. Curly Lambeau, the team and several of the players wives stayed at Sam Johnson's Pinewood Resort on Lake Thompson for a week. Its now called the Pinewood Lodge.
The field the Packers practiced on is now called Sarocka Field but 73 years ago it was known as the Rhinelander high school field. The grass has a layer of snow over it now but for one week in August of 1935 it was covered with Green Bay Packers players.
A crowd estimated in the three to five hundred range watched the Packers practice in the shadow of Rhinelander high school. One of them was Joe Miazga who was 18 years old when Curly Lambeau and the Packers came to town.
"All I remember is it was fun going to watch them." says 91-year-old Joe Miazga. "The practices ran in the later afternoon so people could work and come up there and watch."
Three future NFL Hall of Famers took part in the Rhinelander Training Camp. Quarterback Arnie Herber, fullback Clarke Hinkle with Curly Lambeau roaming the sidelines. Hall of Famers Mike Michalske, Johnny Blood McNally and Don Hutson joined the team later.
David Zimmerman wrote the book "Curly Lambeau the man behind the mystique" and says the players he interviewed from the '35 team enjoyed their time in the Hodag City.
David Zimmerman says "The sense I got was that they had a good time. They had fun."
The Rhinelander daily news wrote daily articles on the Packers practices in 1935 and sometimes referred to them as "the Bays." During their down time at the Pinewood resort, according to the articles, the team would play horseshoes, cards, shuffleboard and would swim in Lake Thompson.
"It's really neat to know that you're walking on the same ground that some of the greatest players and coaches in the Green Bay Packers history were here so it's a great feeling." says John Harwood from the Pinewood Lodge.
Besides practices the only time they left the Resort was to see a movie at the State Theater downtown. The Packers left Rhinelander after a week of practices and played four exhibition games over the next eight days.
David Zimmerman says "Chippewa Falls, LaCrosse, Stevens Point and Merrill. The Packers won them all by a combined score of 145-0."
To this day we don't know why Curly Lambeau chose to come to the Northwoods. The Training Camp in Rhinelander isn't listed in any Packers media guides. The Green Bay archives show the first ever camp to have been held near Titletown in 1946. There's no doubt the Packers visit eleven years earlier in 1935 left an inprint on hundreds of lives in the Rhinelander area.
Joe Miazga adds "It was absolutely different and it was something we never expected to have and to have them here for a whole week was fantastic."
The team went 8-4 in 1935 and finshed 2nd in the Western Division. Despite the good season, leaving Green Bay to train was something Curly Lambeau never did again as head coach of the Packers.
***Thanks to author David Zimmerman for his contribution to this story.***
Story By: Newswatch 12 Sports Director Matt Thompson