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EAST VS. WEST

While researching for an upcoming blog I ren across some interesting stories from the early days of the sport that I wish to pass on.  A lot of this blog are the actual stories taken from the Green Bay Press-Gazette.


Back in 2019 when I was writing my book, I contacted the Athletic Director at Green Bay East, Scott Millien, about various research subjects and he sent me a copy of a 15-year-old football program from the 2005 Green Bay East vs. Green Bay West game that commemorated the two schools playing annually for 100-years.  The program, really a book, is 118-pages and is crammed with useful details for my writings.   


In the program for the East/West game there were lists of the two school’s yearly records.  The book showed that East’s program begam in 1896 and West’s in 1905.  The majority of the program was written by Cliff Christl, then with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and is now the official historian of the Green Bay Packers.  I did a search on Newspapers.com (They are owned by Ancestry.com) for the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s archives and looking at the game program the records and I find that the rivalry go’s back a little farther.


 Now for some sort of non-football history: 


Fort Howard was a military army base built during the War of 1812 on the west side of the Fox River opposite Green Bay. It was used to help protect the settlers from the British coming in from Canada, should that happen.  It closed and re-opened several times during the early to mid-1800’s and was finally decommissioned as a military base and Civil war enlistment center in 1863.  Farms, homes and businesses gathered around Fort Howard and the borough was first incorporated in 1856.  Small is overall size the town was annexed by Green Bay in 1895.  Fort Howard had a school named the McCartney School that became a high school and while the name wasn’t officially changed until 1910 to Green Bay West the school was known as old West High or West Side.  In 1926 a new school was built to replace the older McCarthey site.  In 1895 the school had a small student population.


Somewhere in the 1890’s-1920’s the school mascot and nickname the Wildcats came into being.  Green Bay East opened in 1856 and finally had its first graduating class in 1875.  That school moved to a new building that opened in 1898 and they became the Hilltoppers.  That school building was eventually replaced with a newer building in 1924 and since then they have been known as the Red Devils.


EAST vs. WEST


Things now get tricky.  If you have used the search engine on Newspapers.com sometimes what you are looking for doesn’t easily pop up.  That was the case when I checked prior to the “official” start of East’s football program, 1896.  They had a genuinely bland record, going 1-2-0.  In my search I used “Green Bay East High School Football”, “East Side Football” and just plain “High School Football”.  Using the first two searches, and this is where you can get confused.  I found several stories of games from 1895 where the Green Bay Team” or Green Bay High was playing against a team such as Oconto or Menomonie (MI).  Well, I thought it was Green Bay High but it really was a “city team” made up of older guy’s however it appears that bigger high schoolers may have also played for the City Team ... A precursor to pro football because they played for fun and occasionally a little travel money but also because they loved the game. 


 When you type in a name to search on Newspapers.com and you are just selecting a month or year, the response will come up with whatever they find and it may not be in order by date.  So, I went into 1894 and typed in Green Bay East High School Football.  What came up was stories from the entire year with a mention of East High, football and occasionally Green Bay High football. And there it was, one of the first stories was a report of a game that the “Green Bay Team” played against Menomonie (MI) (Also a town team) on October 26 and won 10-4.  So, finding that I thought I had found a game that East had played.  I was wrong. It was the East Side Town Team.  Sifting down the list of stories I finally found an expected game for East High against Milwaukee West scheduled for November 1 but I couldn’t find a score.  They may have played or maybe it was cancelled.  No records. 


Here's where things changed for East vs. West.


After spending several days looking at newspapers I thought that both East and West started playing football in 1894.  There was some confusion with information from the newspaper.  It came in the names the newspaper used for the teams.  1894 was the official beginning of the sport in Green Bay.  In the spring of 1894 Fred Hulbert graduated from Wayland University in Beaver Dam.  He was a star player for the school team.  He was a 25-year-old, born in Chicago and raised in Racine who took a job as a clerk with the Union Laundry in Green Bay and with him he brought the first known football (Previous versions had been rugby balls…similar is size and shape but different) to appear in the city.  Fred joined the West Side Athletic Association and gathered members to form a team.  Again, the newspaper would confuse the name of the team and finally in 1896 the team would be called “The Green Bay Team”.   Just because the West Side Athletic Association didn’t mean that it was located in the Fort Howard area but on the west side of the Fox River.


In 1895 the two high schools began to show interest in the sport and on September 21, 1895, the two teams met, sort of. 

From the Green Bay Press-Gazette, September 22, 1895


Looks official, doesn’t it.  It wasn’t.  While this was the “official” lineup but in reality, well, read the complete newspaper story below:


Yes, only eight players showed up against ten.  Look at the players’ names.  Fred Hulbert, 25-years old, the team captain and coach of The Green Bay Team did play quarterback and scored both touchdowns for West. 15-year-old Fred Hurlbut, Jr. did play halfback for East.  Both would play a big part in the history of Green Bay football as well as in the city’s business history.  Why was Hulbert allowed to play with high schoolers?  Well, in the early days of the high school sport some coaches would sometimes play with their school age athletes.  Did you read the previous blogs on early football as well as a few mentions in my book.


The game ended in a 8-8 tie but the two teams agreed to play the next week.

And they did play on September28 as reported in the Sunday September 29 paper.

A man named James Armstrong was the referee. 


A long story for what would be considered a scrimmage.


Note that the roster has Fred Hurlbut, Jr. was listed as the left end but sometime during the game he was shifted to halfback, as he played in the first game, and he scored a touchdown.  Again, Fred Hulbert played for the West High team and scored the touchdown for West. 


According to a Wikipedia note about the long series between the two schools, Cliff Christl stated that this tie game was a “practice or scrimmage and not an official game but the brief story in the Press-Gazette doesn’t mention this.  To the news story it read like it was a game.  The next week when they played again, this time with East winning 6-4.  East would play Lawrence University and lose 64-0 and then on Thanksgiving Day lose to Fond du Lac 14-0.  West would lose to Fond du Lac early in November 14-4.  A game against Stevens Point Normal never had a game report in the Press-Gazette or the Stevens Point Journal.  That gives East with an official record of 0-2-0 while West had an official 0-0-1 record.  BUT a story by Christl in 2018 stated that East actually had, after finding more information, a 1-5-0 record, not counting the two practices.  There was a score of a victory by the East Side team over Menomonie (MI), 40-0 but that was a confusing report.  I didn’t find but the two games scores actually attributed to East High School in the paper.  Confused?  I guess Cliff had better resources. 


So, there you have the East vs. West story for 1895.  They played each other before the “official” start date of 1905 and West did have a team.  West appeared, to my research, to not field a team in 1896 but the school did play a game in 1897 and end with a 1-0-0 record followed by a 3-0-0 record in 1898   The two games in 1895 should be considered as practice and not official but they did meet in some fashion.  In the end It was noted in several stories that with the two schools, now part of the Green Bay school system, authorities thought that the two should not play each other.  That changed beginning in 1905.  Why did it take so long for the two schools to officially play each other?  Well, it was for several reasons.  First, Green Bay West had a lot fewer students as opposed to East.  It took a while for things to balance out.  The other reason was that the school officials couldn’t agree to the team of the game…location and the amount of what each team would receive in the gate receipts.  Since a good number of young people, boy’s and girl’s, didn’t attend school at the the time of the 1895 meetings, the games could have been made up of both students and others, maybe as young as 12 and, in the case of Fred Hulbert, age-25. 


Several other side issues to briefly discuss.  First, at the beginning of the blog I mentioned that Green Bay annexed Fort Howard which was on the west side, but the city also annexed Preble in the 1960’s and garnered Preble High School…Merger vote 50 years ago created Green Bay's east side (greenbaypressgazette.com)


Next, Fred Hulbert seemed to get hurt a lot playing for his Green Bay Team.  There are multiple stories in the 1894-1897 paper where he was injured.  In one game he received a broken nose and a doctor watching the game rushed to aid him.  The Green Bay Team were also involved in games where they protested a ruling by the referee and just walked off the field.


Finally, if you get a little confused by the two Fred’s, Hulbert and Hurlbut, Jr., you aren’t the only one.  Check out this story by Christl…about half way down the posting…Packers Fan from Ukraine asks about team’s first coach.  Fred Hurlbut Sr, was a green Bay industrialist and Jr. took over the business and prospered until his death in 1957.  Hurlbert opened a canning business in Green Bay and would later move on to Port Washington and found the Saukville Canning Company.  He died at age 67 in 1937.

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