GREEN BAY, Wis. — It was an honor that very few grandchildren could ever experience. But with grandfathers like Green Bay Packers legends Curly Lambeau and Arnie Herber, accepting an award on their behalf was yet another reminder of their impact in the early days of the franchise.
For John Lambeau, the 58-year-old grandson of Curly Lambeau, and Robin Miller, the granddaughter of Herber, receiving the Hometown Hall of Fame plaque in early May was a special moment for their families.
“That was excellent,” John Lambeau said. “It was quite the honor to have him be remembered like that.”
Curly Lambeau was one of the Packers’ founders in 1919. For 30 years after that, Lambeau played for and then coached the team.
“They were just a couple of Irishmen that wanted to get together and hit each other hard with no hard feelings,” John Lambeau said. “I know (Curly) was an innovator playing in a real unique town. There’s no other team like the Packers. He was a real pioneer.”
Curly Lambeau passed away when his grandson John was 10 years old. Before the stadium was renamed Lambeau Field in 1965, John remembered how Curly’s love for the Packers affected his childhood.
“When we were kids, every Sunday morning, it was a ritual (to go to Packers games),” John Lambeau said. “Go to church, meet grandma there, have a great breakfast, but then we had to go to the football game. All the other kids are doing other things, and we had to go to the game. We didn’t always look forward it because of bad weather or it was windy. The seats were cold in those days.”
John Lambeau didn’t follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. John has a trade job and, though he lives near Green Bay, rarely mentions his last name publicly.
Herber’s granddaughter, Robin Miller, knew Arnie very well in the late stages of his life.
“Our father had passed away in an airplane accident in the Air Force, so Arnie was our father figure for nine years after that,” Miller said. “He was a lot of fun. He had a cottage up on Trump Lake and we went up there and spent time water skiing, fishing and playing football.”
Miller is very familiar with just about everything that Herber went through as a football player.
“He didn’t have much of a college background in football,” Miller said of her grandfather. “He came back to the Green Bay area for college when the stock market crashed and then he got a call from Curly Lambeau. At 20 years old without a lot of experience, he was on the team. It took him several years to develop his skills but he was later the top-rated passer and had four championships in that time period.
“When he started out, he was a little smaller in stature, so he had to prove himself. He had a lot of work to do.”
Miller, who now lives in Ohio, has seen a lot of things change since Herber’s days on the field.
“He was paid $75 per game when he signed under Lambeau,” Miller said. “There were no commercial promotions. These guys went from week to week on very little pay for the love of the game. These guys played for almost nothing. They just loved the game.
“They didn’t do it for a lot of money. They set an example for us: ‘Live to do something you love,’ and pass it onto your children that they should do what they love.”
Curly Lambeau’s Hometown Hall of Fame plaque is now displayed inside Green Bay East High School, where he went to school. Herber’s plaque is at Green Bay West High School.