GRAPEVINE, Texas -- Glen Christensen loves a good story. One of his favorites comes from the son of a former Green Bay Packers’ assistant equipment manager in the 1960s.
“Him and his brothers worked for the Packers, I think for a dollar a game or something,” Christensen said. “They would be runners and they would help on the sideline. There were six game balls for the championship for the Ice Bowl [1967 NFL Championship game] and for the ’65 championship, and Green Bay Packers balls were extremely sought-after back then. At the end of the game [the brothers’] job was very specific: grab every ball, get it in this bag and lock it up in dad’s office. That’s what happened. They gathered the six balls, put them in the bag.”
The Ice Bowl, perhaps the most famous game in NFL history, was played by the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys in frigid conditions at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on December 31, 1967, with temperatures reaching 13-below zero. The conditions were so brutal that Lambeau Field earned the nickname “The Frozen Tundra” as a result. A day or two after the game, the balls were taken to a local Green Bay business to be lettered. The inscription: “N.F.L. Champs” on one line. The next line: “1967.” The final line: “Packers 21, Cowboys 17.”
“One of the balls was given to the assistant equipment manager and it stayed in their family until last year,” said Christensen, who lives in Grapevine, Texas.
The son of the assistant equipment manager happened to move to Dallas in 2019 and he and Christensen got connected. Christensen’s passion for Packers memorabilia quickly shined through and the two struck a deal for Christensen to purchase the ball. It was easily the most money Christensen has ever spent on an item for his collection.
“I know of only two that are in existence and one is pretty well locked up at the Packer Hall of Fame,” Christensen said. “Obviously, being a collector of memorabilia and a historian, I’ve frequented the Hall of Fame for years and I’d always look at that Ice Bowl ball and I’d go, ‘Oh my God.’ That’s just a dream. Nobody would ever have that.”’
That game-used Ice Bowl football is now a centerpiece of the most impressive Packers memorabilia collection for an individual in the world. That the collection rests in Texas, home of the Cowboys who the Packers defeated numerous times in epic games, adds an ironic twist to Christensen’s collection.
In addition, Christensen owns game balls from the 1965 championship game and two from Super Bowl II. His collection also features NFL Player of the Year trophies for Ray Nitschke and Paul Hornung.
Christensen, who was born in Green Bay but didn’t attend his first Packers game until the 1990s, has two rooms jam-packed with Packers prized possessions. A yellow turnstile used at Lambeau Field from 1985-2007 connects the rooms. It’s the perfect touch to Christensen’s mini museum.
Christensen figures he has a couple thousand items on display and “five times” that many pieces in storage.
“It’s kind of mind-blogging some days when I come up here, especially when I give a tour to friends or relatives that come into town,” Christensen said. “I start looking it over and I’m like, my God, I don’t remember half the stuff I have in here. Just to see the look on their faces when they look at the collection. I’m in my own little world here and when I see people’s reaction to the collection I’m just like, wow, this is more special than I even give it credit for.”
How his collection started
Christensen’s memorabilia rooms are his home away from home. He certainly misses Green Bay. “When I come up here, it’s kind of like going back to my childhood,” he said.
Christensen was born in 1960 during the era when Vince Lombardi was resurrecting the historic Green Bay franchise. Under Lombardi, the Packers became the face of the NFL as the league was first emerging on TV. The Packers won five league championships, including the first two Super Bowls, during Lombardi’s nine years as coach from 1959-67.
Living in Green Bay – where his grandparents owned Christensen’s Cash Grocery, just down the road from Lambeau Field – Christensen couldn’t help but be a Packers fan.
“They had gas pumps there, and I would sit on the curb on Sundays and I could hear the crowd roar from the cheap seats where I sat,” Christensen said. “I could always tell the Packers were doing great. It’s very odd being young and how much that that was just engrained in me. I’m always thankful I was born in Green Bay because you always hear the term that you bleed green and gold blood, but I really feel like I have it in me just from those years.”
A big reason the Packers became so important to Christensen was because of his mom. Germaine Pirlot was a majorette at Green Bay East High School, which is the same high school Packers co-founder and coach Curly Lambeau attended.
“Lambeau spotted her as a high schooler at the halftime game for East High School,” Christensen said. “He said he wanted to add a pretty blonde to the Packer band. So, he had Wilner Burke, the director, hire my mom as a band majorette. I think she told me she made $2 a game.”
Pirlot became a baton twirler for the Packer Lumberjack Band from 1939-44. During halftime, it was her time to shine. But during the game, it was Packers greats and future Hall of Famers Lambeau, Don Hutson and Tony Canadeo who stole the show during that era.
“Growing up, we’d get greeting cards at Christmas from the Hutsons, and I had no idea who the heck the Hutsons were,” Christensen said. “I’d give anything to have those Christmas cards present. I’d hear all these stories growing up and they just didn’t register with me because I was too young.”
Christensen’s mom shared phenomenal stories with her son, and in 1994 handed down priceless keepsakes from her time with the band: batons, uniforms, field passes for games, programs and pictures of her with the band on the field at Old City Stadium in Green Bay.
Christensen didn’t want the items ruined in storage at his house, so he decided to display them on the walls of his home office. He also remembered he had a number of Packers pieces from when he was growing up: a Packers helmet, bobblehead, a couple pennants and an electric football set.
At the time, the Christensen game room was filled with Coca-Cola items and a pool table. Glen approached his wife, Gayle, with a proposition. “I said, ‘You know, I ‘d really like to put my Packer collection up there,’” Christensen said. “She agreed to it. I blame her for this getting out of control.”
Christensen—who for the last 20 years has owned Craftmark, a printing business in Fort Worth, Texas—has this main room dedicated to vintage items and former Packers legends. To add a museum touch, Christensen made a set of six wooden lockers with nameplates of his childhood Packers heroes: Jerry Kramer, Donny Anderson, Ray Nitschke, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor and Bart Starr. The lockers feature autographed jerseys of each player, signed footballs, helmets and game-used cleats for a couple of the guys.
“As I collected, I looked for items that would go in their locker—certainly some of the first things I looked for were jerseys,” said Christensen, who would like to pass along his collection to his son. “And back then, there wasn’t eBay or anything, so a lot of it I got signed in person. I’d go to card shows or I’d go to signings that they were having here or there. That kind of filled up those spaces. Then I went on to getting helmets. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to find game-used helmets of many of the players and game jerseys.”
Placed in Nitschke’s locker is his original player contract from 1968, signed by Nitschke and Lombardi. Nitschke, a Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker, made $33,000 per year. In Starr’s locker is his cold-weather sweater he wore on the sidelines. After purchasing it, Christensen sent it to Starr, who signed it.
The oldest pieces in Christensen’s collection include bulletins and pennants from the early 1920s, which can be extremely rare to track down. “I absolutely love collecting vintage pennants,” Christensen said. “From 1920 to 1968, I have about 120 different pennants. That’s pretty substantial when you think about a lot of these, some were hand-painted, printed very crudely, some were sewn letters on them, and for them to make it through the years is just amazing because of moths and basements.”
When Christensen’s son, Tom, went off to college, he decided to make his kid’s adjoining room into an extended Packers’ shrine. This room is dedicated more to modern-day Packers players. It’s his “new locker room.”
Christensen again constructed lockers, this time looking nearly identical to the ones currently used by players at Lambeau Field. There are eight locker stalls honoring: Brett Favre, Reggie White, Ahman Green, Dave Robinson (the exception to the modern-day player), Donald Driver, Clay Matthews, Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson. Again, Christensen has every locker packed with the player’s signed jersey and helmet and some lockers have the player’s shoes and/or signed footballs.
Christensen owns a great piece from Favre. He has the coat the Hall of Fame quarterback wore after the Packers downed the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship Game to advance to Super Bowl XXXI. Favre’s No. 4 is sewn at the bottom of the coat near the zipper.
Displayed in White’s locker is the game ball presented to him after Super Bowl XXXI. Christensen got that prized possession directly from the White family.
More eye-popping items
Along with the Ice Bowl football, Christensen has some truly one-of-a-kind items. Exhibit A: A Lombardi camel-haired coat with a tag inside from a Green Bay tailor with the coach’s name on it and the date 11/7/1966. The coat went up for auction when Christensen first started collecting and he couldn’t afford to buy it. Years later, Christensen ended up getting a call from the widower of the person who had purchased the coach.
“I waited for it to come up for auction and I did get it,” Christensen said. “That was an item I probably was after for 15-20 years, so I got that last year and added it to the collection. That’s kind of a showstopper. People look at that and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, you’ve got Lombardi’s coat.’ So, I love that.’”
Other great Ice Bowl pieces in Christensen’s collection include a goal line marker, a big plywood G helmet that was around the fencing of Lambeau Field, and a piece of red-white-and-blue bunting that hung on the fencing and was signed by Starr. Another truly magnificent item owned by Christensen is one of the Packers’ benches used in the Ice Bowl. Christensen said there are only two or three that exist; one is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“That was presented to me by a guy in Green Bay that happened to see me on a news broadcast during Super Bowl XLV,” Christensen said. “One of the Green Bay (stations) came and interviewed me and he called the station and said, ‘Hey, I’ve had this bench forever. I’d love for him to have it.’ We arranged it and he had it trucked down here.”
The guy who had the bench was at the Ice Bowl with his dad and brother, and when the game ended, he jumped the fence and ran onto the field. “They just looked for anything to grab, like everybody was,” Christensen said.
One of the showstoppers in Christensen’s second room is a little more obscure. Christensen and his son attended Super Bowl XLV when the Packers took on the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cowboys Stadium. The pair had seats in the end zone where the Packers had their named painted. When Packers safety Nick Collins returned an interception for a touchdown he knelt on top of the “P” in the end zone. Christensen knew he needed to have that section of the end zone. Over the next few days, Christensen was successful in tracking down and purchasing a 10-foot by 10-foot chunk of the artificial turf “P” on Packers. The turf is on the floor of his modern-day locker room.
“I can’t tell you how many people flip out that I have the end zone to a Super Bowl in there,” Christensen said. “The true, hardcore Packers fans will get down on their knees and kiss it. I never say a word until they get up and I remind them how many times players spit in the end zone. It’s still full of all the rubber pellets. It weighs about 350 pounds, maybe 400 pounds. It took five guys to carry it up the steps into my game room.”
With so many cherished Packers items, there aren’t a lot of things Christensen is in search of to add to his collection. He as three footballs signed by Lambeau and some of his teams from the 1930s and ’40s; he also has game balls signed by Lombardi and his teams – about 25 of them, in fact. He’ll be the first to say he doesn’t need another one.
A pair of Starr’s game-used cleats came up for auction when Christensen first started collecting and he couldn’t necessarily afford to buy them, now they are on his short lists of wants. “I’m pretty comfortable with my collection as it is right now,” Christensen said. “There isn’t a heck of a lot that you could show me that I’d be like, ‘Wow. I’ve got to have that.’ Only because the things I really like are in the Packers Hall of Fame.”