Football, once recognized as the “autumn sport,” has wormed Its way into our summer mindset We still acknowledge baseball, golf, fishing and other summer activities at this time of year, but local diehards also think about football.

High school and college grid prospects have been working out in weight rooms. The professional athletes are braced for the agony of a long season that will extend from the preseason camps to the playoffs in January. The calendar no longer reserves exclusive rights for one sport in a season.

This reminds me of a football clinic held at Menominee’s Walton Blesch Field in July 1957. Dick Deschaine, who nine years earlier was booming punts on the same field for the Maroons, was a member of the Green Bay Packers. He entered the National Football League in 1955 and was looking ahead to his third season with the Packers. The Packers trained in Stevens Point, Wis., in those years.

I was sports editor of the Menominee Herald-Leader at the time, and I thought it would be nice if my high school classmate and friend would conduct a football clinic at Walton Blesch. Robert H. “Bob” Noo­nan, the city’s summer recreation director, agreed to sponsor the clinic. The two of us worked on the preliminary arrangements.

Deschaine invited quarterback Bart Starr, fullback and kicker Fred Cone, and defensive back Bobby Dillon to accompany him to Menominee for the free clinic. Dillon, an all­pro player who had a stellar eight-year career with the Packers, also served the team as an assistant coach. The former University of Texas ace had to rescind the invite at the last minute to help coach Lisle Blackbourn and the other coaches prepare for training camp.

The Menominee clinic was held on a Thursday. The Packers were to start their training camp the following Monday. The agreement to stage the clinic was completed on a handshake on Wednesday. one day before the event. We had to hustle to get the field groomed and only one day to promote the camp in the newspaper. Word of the clinic spread quickly.

About 400 youngsters attended the clinic. Scores of former Twin City high school players and adult fans stood on the sidelines and watched. Cone, a former Clemson star, won or shared the Packers’ scoring title for five straight years. He taught his group the mechanics of kicking extra points and field goals. Deschaine worked with those interested in punting. He was the second-ranking punter in the NFL.

The player with the largest class of aspiring players was Starr, a 17th-round draft choice out of Alabama who was in his second season with Green Bay. Starr, who later was to lead coach Vince Lombardi’s teams to national prominence in the 1960s, is one of the nicest persons to ever play the game. He remained that way through life.

The Menominee clinic actually had a twist of events that saw the bumble Starr launch his legendary career in Green Bay. One day before the start of the clinic, the Packers and Detroit Lions made a six-player trade. Green Bay sent quarter­back Tobin Rote and defensive back Val Joe Walker to the Lions in exchange for guard Jim Salsbury, tackles Norm Masters and Ollie Spencer, and running back Don McIlhenny. Salsbury and Spencer lasted two seasons with the Packers, Mcllhenny three and Masters became a key lineman on the great Lombardi teams. He played until 1964.

Rote, a rugged player out of Rice, had been with Green Bay since 1950. He was a talented runner and passer, and was making $20,000 a year in Green Bay, a big salary for the time. He became a vital part of the Detroit team, a power in the NFL in the late 1950s.

Rote was expendable because Green Bay had Starr, Babe Parilli and rookie sensation Paul Hornung out of Notre Dame. The trade of Rote paved the way for Hornung to be moved to halfback when Lombardi arrived in 1959, and Starr to assume the quarter­back and team leadership duties.

So what was the price for having Deschaine, Starr and Cone stage a three-hour clinic? Nothing, except a dinner. I was chairman of the Menominee Chamber of Commerce’s recreation committee. The chamber gave me $50 to take the players and their wives, Noonan and his wife, and my wife to dinner. The chamber required that the money be spent in Menominee, a city with very limited dining facilities in the late ‘50s.

I chose the Falk Hotel on 13th Street. A pep talk with Mike and Stella Falk ahead of time didn’t hurt. They put on a luscious steak feast that was very satisfying to the guests.

Try having three Packer players put on a football clinic, willingly sign autographs for kids without a fee, and then treat them and their wives, plus four other people today for the grand total of 50 bucks. As a Yooper would say, “fuhgedda­boutit.”

Starr and Parilli were the quarterbacks in the Packers’ first intrasquad game at Stevens Point on Aug. 12. Deschaine snagged a 27-yard touchdown pass from Parilli as the Golds beat Starr’s Greens 14-7. Starr completed 14 of 19 passes, including two touch­downs to end Billy Howton. Deschaine was a backup end for the Packers that year and also was the team’s backup long snapper for extra points and field goals.

The kids who were at that 1957 football clinic will have their own tales to tell about their experiences. It was a grand event.