Sixty years ago Post cereal produced a football set of “200 Top Stars,” an advertising slogan that has measured up to what was seemingly hyperbole in 1962 by including 42 cards of players who would one day enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Among the big names included in the set are Jim Brown, Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, Bob Lilly, Mike Ditka, Fran Tarkenton, Jim Taylor, Y.A. Tittle, Bobby Layne and Paul Hornung, a guy who had truly earned his nickname, “The Golden Boy.”
Post and parent company General Foods evidently believed Hornung was a marketing magnet as he was used to promote the cards in five television commercials, on two advertising posters, on the grocery store football trading card display, on a booklet given away in stores teaching kids the “Fundamentals of Football,” on the back of comic books and on a Tang breakfast drink promotional advertisement urging kids to “Get 14 National Football League Team Photos.”
While Post Cereal boxes for the National Football League promotion were first sold in stores beginning in August 1962, the process of creating the cards began in NFL training camps during the summer of 1961. General Foods contracted Laughead Photographers of Dallas, Texas to shoot the images used on the cards. Jim Laughead took the posed action shots, demonstrating for the players how to move using a technique he called the “Ol’ Huck ‘n’ Buck.” Son-in-law and partner Brad Bradley was the other half of the photographic duo, responsible for portrait shots among other duties.
Laughead’s trademark style caught players in various stages of choreographed action, often with priceless facial expressions. The photos that allowed kids to see their favorite players in full color, full uniform action are still a draw today.
On July 23, 1961 Laughead and Bradley were busy at the Packers’ practice field across Oneida Street east of what was then named Green Bay City Stadium, later rechristened Lambeau Field.
Of the 200 cards in the set, 191 show the player in action, seven are portrait shots and there are just two images are posed shots of players kneeling for the photographer. One of the kneelers was Tittle in Yankee Stadium even though the photo used on his 1962 Salada-Junket Desserts coin– also taken by Laughead at the same time of the Post cereal card photo– was an action shot.
The other kneeling player was Paul Hornung in a photo Post used not only on his card but on much of the promotional material.
At Notre Dame in 1956, Hornung was voted the Heisman Trophy winner. He led the NFL in scoring from 1959-61, setting the all-time scoring record up to that date with 176 points in the 12-game 1960 season and was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1961. Vince Lombardi considered Hornung such a valuable asset that he built the Packers’ offense around Hornung’s ability to run the option pass.
There were color action shots of Hornung taken by Laughead from that photo day in the summer of 1961. One such photo taken at that session was featured on the cover of Sports Review Pro Football in 1963.
Yet Post used a photo of their poster boy that showed the Packers’ great action hero in a sedentary position as if he was just a bystander. It turns out there’s another story behind that one moment in time—one that exemplifies life in the NFL’s smallest city.
Packers Picture Day, 1961
Of the photographers at picture day, one was Hank Lefebvre from Green Bay. He took a side photo facing City Stadium that captured the essence of the relationship between the Packers and their fans. The ever-present railbirds were watching their Packers as each waited his turn to have his picture taken. On postcards produced from that image, Bart Starr (15) is shown on the left side with Coach Vince Lombardi while Tom Moore (25) is at right observing the proceedings. Hornung is on his right knee with red-vested photographer Jim Laughead pointing his Graflex directly at him. And just over Hornung’s right shoulder appears a golden helmet tracing down to a pair of Converse Chuck Taylor’s popping through under Paul’s left leg. It was a boy standing just to Hornung’s right getting his photo taken with the Packers’ superstar running back. At least we had a reason why Hornung was kneeling that day.
That image doesn’t answer the question of why Hornung’s football card was different than nearly all of the others but it does tell the story of how it wound up in the mix as Post Cereal’s football card design team began to select the photos used in the set.
The Kid in the Photo
Maybe there was something in a newspaper that would provide an inkling as to the identity of the boy standing next to Hornung, so an online search was launched. There were a few photos on various websites of Hornung and the boy but none listed his name. The images showed that the boy had an autograph book and Paul was signing for him. It was a classic image of a young fan meeting his idol, but who was this youngster?
I continued to search but no progress was being made in that regard.
Then in 2017, the 81-year-old Hornung was slated to sign autographs at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Rosemont, IL. Not knowing if there would ever be another chance, I packed up several Hornung Post Cereal items along with a photo of Paul and the boy from the 1961 Packers picture day. The plan was to show him the photo and ask if he remembered the time when it was taken, hoping that he might say something like “Yeah. That was so-and-so’s kid” who was either a teammate or worked for the Packers in some capacity. Long shot? Sure, but what could he say worse than “no”?
Signing day at the National came and I set the items to be signed in front of Paul. He was a signing machine so there wouldn’t be much time. Immediately I showed the photo of Hornung and the boy to the lady with Paul at the signing table and asked if Mr. Hornung might remember that event. While passing along my question, she placed the photo in front of Post’s 1962 poster boy.
He kept his head down and did what he was there to do: sign the photo. Things didn’t go as hoped.
Progress on finding the boy stalled until one night in May 2021 brought an observation about the Packers cards in the Post football set. About half of the cards show a blue sky with puffy white clouds and the other half look dark and stormy. Thinking the newspaper weather forecast for the 1961 picture day in Green Bay might answer whether there was a storm forecast for that day resulted in the surprise that there was no Green Bay Press-Gazette published on July 23, 1961. It seemed odd until remembering that day was a Sunday. It was 1961 after all, when few businesses were open on that day of the week. Maybe Monday’s edition would report on Sunday’s weather. But there was no mention of the weather in Monday’s paper. I hoped maybe the sports section might offer a clue.
A photo of Packers defensive back John Symank with his twin daughters was in the upper left corner of page 1 and just below were four Packers wives looking on. To the right was a photo of Hornung and the boy. What? This can’t be. Preparing for the disappointment that would surely follow, I sat amazed when caption gave the name I had been searching for so long.
There was also a short article that stated a storm had passed through Green Bay, delaying the photo session for a bit.
The boy in the photo with Hornung looked to be between five and ten years old, making him 65-70 in 2021. An online search found an address for the only Mark Bartell in Wisconsin who fit the criteria living in the Milwaukee area.
A letter of explanation that included photos of Paul Hornung and Mark Bartell at Green Bay picture day in 1961 was soon in the mail. Near the end of May, my SASE came back. “Sorry, I’m not the person you are looking for.”
Going back to the online newspapers, there was another Mark Bartell near the Green Bay area in 1969 who would have been around 16 at the time. His father’s name was given in one article. Soon, Mark’s father’s obituary was located and Mark’s city of residence was given. Another online search found an address for Mark Bartell in the same city as listed in the obituary. A new letter with photos was dispatched. The tracked package arrived at Mark’s home on June 6 but there was still no reply by Independence Day. Not a positive sign.
Sunday, July 11, brought an e-mail saying “Yes, I am the young boy in the photo.” Mark promised that he would review his scrapbooks and write back about his recollections soon. Mark’s next e-mail arrived a few weeks later…
“Your letter certainly stirred memories and the more I reminisced, the more I remembered. I have attached some pictures…and an essay on my experience with Mr. Hornung. I must credit my mom for cutting these pictures from various newspapers and posting them in my scrapbook. At the time, I wasn’t that interested in these pictures and slightly embarrassed by the notoriety, so if left to me, I may not have collected any. While it doesn’t surprise me, I never knew there were Post Cereal football card collectors. Growing up, we were a Kellogg’s family, so I don’t believe I had seen that Post Cereal Hornung card.”
Included with Mark’s e-mail were several scans of photos and this essay he wrote for me about his experience at picture day in 1961.
A Green Bay Packer Fan: My Early Years, by Mark Bartell
I was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin in 1953, which meant my childhood was entwined with the great Lombardi era Packer teams. Growing up in Green Bay meant you bled Green and Gold and almost every young boy had dreams of playing for the Packers; I was no exception. My chums and I would pretend to be our favorite player whenever we gathered at the neighborhood vacant lot to throw wobbly passes or dash through phantom defenses onward to victory. My favorite Green Bay Packer was Paul Hornung – the NFL’s Golden Boy.
In those days, it was said, Green Bay was known for two things: toilet paper and the Packers. The paper mills of Charmin, Northern, and Fort Howard had afforded three uncles, a couple of friends’ fathers, and a neighbor or two a good living. The Packers provided a year-round diversion that kept the adults entertained and animated many a boyhood daydream.
In the summer of 1961, I received a Packer football uniform complete with helmet, pads, jersey, and pants for my eighth birthday. My parents purchased this from Denis Sporting Goods on East Main Street. There was no “G” on the helmet because the Packer organization wouldn’t officially unveil their new logo until August 5 of that year, and no numbers on the out-of-the-box jersey, so my mom stitched the numeral “5” on the front and back and shoulders of the green jersey. Having worn my gear for a couple of weeks around the house and at a handful of practice sessions with my friends, I was excited when my dad asked me if I wanted to attend the annual Packer Picture Day in uniform. Of course, the answer was yes – I was quite proud of my uniform. This was back when Packer memorabilia consisted of player cards, team pennants, and a rather generic looking bobble-headed figurine. A Packer uniform with a numbered jersey was indeed unique. So, Sunday afternoon on July 23rd, my dad and I joined the hundreds of spectators lining the practice field to watch the Green Bay Packers in a photo session. Before we left our house, my mom suggested that I borrow my older sister’s autograph book, just in case I was lucky enough to talk to a Packer.
I lived one and a half miles from the new City Stadium (present day Lambeau Field). The Packer practice field was east of the stadium across South Oneida Street and adjacent to the Brown County Arena. Today, this practice area is comprised of Clarke Hinkle Field, The Don Hutson Center, and Ray Nitschke Field. In the early 1960s, the open-air practice field took up an entire city block. A small set of bleachers lined a portion of the field parallel to Oneida Street and a wooden fence, more like a railing, provided some separation of the public area and the practice turf. As we mingled with the crowds, I inched my way toward the railing to improve my view and leverage an eight-year-old’s height. The Packer players were having pictures taken in various action poses that would eventually fill game day programs, sports magazines, newspapers and, what I would later learn, Post Cereal collector cards. Several of the Packers had their wives and kids in attendance, so the day was a real family affair.
My first memory of being spotted was of a couple of Packers chuckling to themselves and pointing in my direction. Max McGee, number 85, shouted in number 5’s direction that there was another Hornung on the field. Before I could grasp the situation, my dad and I were invited onto the practice field and into a group of players and coaches. My hero, Paul Hornung, walked over and greeted me.
“Why don’t you two pose for a picture together?” someone said. “Sure,” said Hornung, shaking hands with the boy. “Come on. How ‘bout a little smile now?” The boy smiled, and a photographer snapped the picture.1
The following year, 1962, sportswriter Dick Schaap published a brief biography of Paul Hornung with a small section of one page mentioning my verbal exchange with Mr. Hornung. My recollection is that Mr. Hornung said hello and asked my name as he shook my hand. I was awestruck but I did ask for an autograph which he graciously provided, then he knelt as we posed for pictures. Of the seven different photos I have seen, Mr. Hornung started on his right knee then switched to his left knee, culminating with me sitting on his right thigh. I believe the last picture taken of us was the one from my dad’s camera. (Note: Mark’s dad, Bob, is shown above in a white T-shirt in the Green Bay picture day postcard immediately to the left of Bart Starr.
The atmosphere on the field was relaxed and loose, but the players and photographers eventually turned their attention to the business at hand. My dad and I stayed on the field, and I was able to secure a few more Packer signatures: Vince Lombardi, Jim Taylor, Max McGee, Ron Kramer, Lew Carpenter, Bart Starr, Bill Quinlan, Willie Wood, and Ray Nitschke. When I got back home, I returned the autograph book to my sister but only after carefully removing the pages that held my treasure and posted them in a scrapbook.
Green Bay was a small town and seeing Packer players out-and-about was a common occurrence. Many of the players made Green Bay their home throughout the year, not just during football season. I attended Saint Agnes Catholic School (Holy Family, today) and was a Cub Scout then and later a Boy Scout in the school’s Pack and Troop. On more than a few occasions, we had Packer players speak at Scout father-son banquets; Bart Starr was one of those players. Starr had a home near our school and, although not a Catholic, he was a supporter of scouting.
I still have an autograph from that dinner. Jim Ringo (51), the All-Pro center for the Pack, and his family rented a house across the street from my grandparents on Bond Street. While tagging along with my folks to the local A&P supermarket, we would occasionally run into Fuzzy Thurston (63) and his wife grocery shopping, too. What a town. Oh, and during the regular season of 1961, three Packers rented a home at 1029 South Fisk Street which was around the corner and about one block from my house. Those Packers? Jesse Whittenton (47), Ron Kramer (88), and Paul Hornung.
I believe it was in late September that my dad requested two copies of black and white 8×10 photos of Mr. Hornung and myself from the Green Bay Press-Gazette newspaper office. With the pictures in hand, my mom walked me up to Mr. Hornung’s home, I rang the doorbell, he opened the door, and I introduced myself and asked if he would sign the pictures. Mr. Hornung smiled and remembered that I was the boy from picture day. I said, “Thanks a lot, sir.” I waved and walked back toward my mom. Just imagine doing that today with a football star of Mr. Hornung’s caliber – you might not get past the gate or guard shack.
My life wasn’t the only one entwined with the Packers. My father worked for Wisconsin Bell Telephone; however, during the Packer football season, he was employed part-time, like some of Green Bay’s fortunate fans, by the Packer organization. My dad began as an usher and ticket taker when the new City Stadium opened in 1957 and progressed through different jobs and responsibilities until he retired from the organization after the 1995 season. In 1961, his job was to help supervise the placement of first-aid equipment and personnel inside the stadium on game days and to make sure that wheelchair-bound fans would be safely escorted down the stadium’s north side ramp, then onto the field along the Packer sidelines.
1961 became a significant year in my early life. I began to tag along with my dad to Packer home games. For reasons that are lost to time, I was able to enter the stadium with my dad. We would arrive three hours before kickoff and I was permitted to roam inside the stadium, not on the field or in the stands but under the stands where the concession vendors were setting up, and then watch the game standing in the wings. The policemen and stadium ushers must have known my dad because my presence was never questioned. I even attended the NFL Championship Game against the New York Giants on New Year’s Eve in what I remember to be the beginning of Green Bay’s nickname: Title Town USA.
If you have seen early pictures of the new City Stadium, you will notice that it was quite small by comparison to the current Lambeau Field; it held 32,132 paying customers. Although bleachers ringed the stadium, the north and south ends were somewhat open-ended. The home and away team locker rooms were located at the south end. At game time, I would position myself near the north side ramp along the back of the bleachers to watch the game. As the stadium grew larger, more bleachers were added and the Packer offices with locker rooms were built on the north end of the stadium; this limited any standing room for nonessential persons. My dad was able to get me onto the field where I would sit on the rain tarps that were rolled-up on culvert pipes along the sidelines – always on the away team’s sideline because Mr. Lombardi did not like any nonessential personnel on the Packer sidelines. I did this for every home game until I was old enough to become a hot dog vendor at the age of fourteen. “HOT DOGS, get your hot dogs here!” Now that brings back some memories.
I persisted as a stadium vendor until I graduated from high school. I continued to play football even as I outgrew my first uniform. Although my football “career” was limited to playing on a junior varsity team through my sophomore year in high school, my interest in football and the Packers never waned. Attending Packer games became a rarity once I moved from Wisconsin, but I continued to tag along with my dad whenever my visits back home coincided with game days.
Every now and then, that photo of Paul Hornung and me pops-up on my radar, as is the case with your curiosity in the details behind the Post collector card. Five years ago, I toured the Packer Hall of Fame at Lambeau Field. As I read the placards and viewed the exhibits, I rounded a corner and found myself in the Community Gallery; on the wall was a picture of me with Paul Hornung.
1961 was an incredibly good year.
1 Dick Schaap, Paul Hornung: Pro Football Golden Boy, Sport Magazine Library Number 13 (Macfadden-Bartell, New York, 1962), p. 103.
Post Cereal Football Paul Hornung Collectibles
Paul Hornung’s 1962 Post card number 6 was printed on the backs of single serving Alpha-Bits boxes that came in Post Tens and Treat-Pak variety packs, 8 oz. Alpha-Bits, 16 oz. Bran Flakes, 8 oz. Crispy Critters and 16 oz. Grape Nuts Flakes.
Today, raw cards sell for $5-10 in good condition, $10-20 VG-EX, and up to $50 when NM or better. A pair of PSA 8 Hornung cards have sold for roughly $115 each, while a pair of PSA 9 graded cards averaged $330.
The grocery store booklets go for between $50 and $75. A comic book with a Post Cereal football ad featuring Hornung on the back can be had for around $20.
Hornung Post football items such as the grocery store football trading card display, advertising posters and Tang display are extremely rare, generally held in private collections and seldom change hands.
We’ll probably never know exactly why Post decided to use a photo of Hornung that was decidedly different from 198 other cards in the set. It may have had something to do with the uniqueness, the quality or just the pose itself that caught their eye.
At least now we know much more about the time, the place and one of the big reasons why the photo was taken in the first place.