Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Old Man at Sneezer's, 1960

This marvelous photo comes to us via Shorpy, a "vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s." This photo lies just outside that timeframe, featuring head coach Vince Lombardi eating breakfast at Sneezer's Snack Shop, his morning haunt.

1960. Green Bay, Wisconsin. "Packers coach Vince Lombardi at lunch counter." Photo by Frank Bauman for the Look magazine assignment "The Packers Pay the Price."
Outstanding. When was the last time you could order a glass of "fresh, healthful buttermilk" in a diner?

The coach reportedly ate breakfast every morning at Sneezer's on his way to the stadium, and the Packers were known to rent out a private back room for team functions.

Here's a chrome postcard of Sneezer's from 1967:

Flickr/it's better than bad
The postcard's caption reads:
"Titletown U.S.A."

Mrs. Geneva Jahnke with her 1966 Mustang which she won in the Icelandic Fish Co. contest at The Wisconsin Restaurant Convention.

Sneezer's specializes in Broasted Chicken, Hamburgers and Icelandic Sea Foods.
I love the sign, with the rotund chef carrying a massive burger.

Geneva Jahnke was the wife of Norman "Sneezer" Jahnke, master of the house.

For a glimpse at what the exterior might have looked like as Lombardi drank his coffee on that morning, this photo was taken just a few years earlier, on September 25, 1957:

Wisconsin Historical Society
Sneezer’s Snack Shop at 1608 S. Greenwood (now Ashland) Avenue. Vince Lombardi often ate breakfast here on his way to the practice field. The left half of the building was the restaurant, and the right half of the building was the Jahnke family home. On game day, Sneezer’s was a de facto tailgating site, 1960s style. During the 60s, tailgating at the stadium did not enjoy the popularity that it does today.
Note that in 1957 the Coca-Cola "BREAKFAST" sign hadn't been put up, nor was there a "SNEEZER'S" sign on the chimney.

Sneezer's was close to Lambeau Field (then known as City Stadium or New City Stadium). The original address was 1608 S. Greenwood Avenue, but upon the construction of Highway 32, also known as South Ashland Avenue, the building's address was changed. On this satellite view, Sneezer's location is on the right, marked with (A):

Sneezer's souvenir ashtrays are beloved by Packer collectors. This version from 1959 features facsimile signatures from the entire roster, coaching staff and even longtime trainer "Bud" Jorgensen and equipment manager "Dad" Braisher.


A similar ashtray was issued in 1960, one of which sold at auction last year. It proudly proclaims the Packers as "Western Division Champions", perhaps a bittersweet reminder that the Packers lost the title game to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Heritage Auctions

I'm not aware of those ashtrays having been produced in any other seasons. There is this undated ashtray, again sold at auction last year, proclaiming Sneezer's as "The Home of the Packers":

Inside the Park Collectibles

There's the fat chef again.

I don't know when this ashtray was produced, or even if it was ever offered to the public, unlike the the 1959 & 60 versions (which are labeled "Compliments of Sneezer's"). The address is still listed as "1608 S. Greenwood", whereas by 1959 it had been changed to "S. Ashland Ave - Hwy. 32", meaning this item precedes Lombardi's arrival in Green Bay. That would also indicate that Sneezer's was a Packer favorite before being discovered by Lombardi. I also don't know if the lack of green and gold indicates this is from one of the Packers' many seasons in navy, or if it's just Sneezer's standard color scheme.

Although the ashtrays appear to have been discontinued before Lombardi's team started winning championships, the restaurant did print coasters commemorating the Packers' wins in Super Bowls I and II.

Just about every decent Packers collection will contain at least one Sneezer's item.

Sneezer's Snack Shop has been closed for years. Norman Jahnke died in 1983, Geneva in 1986. The building still remains, however, on South Ashland Avenue.

It is currently occupied by the Green Bay Veterans Center.

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