In August of 1959, two men tackled new challenges with Wisconsin’s Green Bay Packers. One was the new coach that year, Vince Lombardi, who took on a team that had not seen a winning season in more than a decade. The other was David Barclay, Jr., a 1950 Carroll alumnus working for United Airlines in Milwaukee when the Packers sought help to cover the team’s travel.
David took on that challenge.
He had started his career with United Airlines at General Mitchell Field, now General Mitchell International Airport, after taking a summer off for a road trip with his parents following his college graduation. As a station agent for United, he was a jack-of-all-trades, doing everything from reservations to checking in customers for flights, to loading and unloading passengers. By the time 1959 came around, he had sort of “aced” his job, he said, and was promoted and relocated to an office in downtown Milwaukee.
“The Packers threw out their schedule and I was really driven,” recalled David, now 91, and living in the Pewaukee, Wis., area with his wife, Carol. “I don’t know how it became so important to me. I just wouldn’t let it get away. We even had to change a travel day a couple times when they wanted to travel because I couldn’t get an airplane. I took it as a challenge and I just made sure that the airline schedule department would darn well come up with an airplane.”
David studied English and history at Carroll after serving two years in the U.S. Navy. As a young boy, he developed a love of travel while looking at maps and figuring out time tables for trains. His parents, David Sr. and Ruth, raised six children, including Dorothy, David’s twin sister, who also attended Carroll. While at Carroll, David had a part-time job that allowed him supplemental income outside of the GI Bill® helping to fund his education. With his pay, he booked low-budget spring break trips to places like New York and Florida to feed his love of travel.
Ironically, David actually wasn’t a Packers fan before he took the job as the team’s travel coordinator. Honestly, he wasn’t even a sports fan, he said.
“I’m just not much of a jock and I didn’t follow football at all. I learned an awful lot, including the names of all of the key players on the team. I was a quick learner,” David said. Soon enough, he had become “a die-hard fan.”
He said stats of plays were prepared on-site at the games. He liked to get a copy of the stats delivered to the airplane, where he would review them and then have the opportunity to engage players after the games.
He said the time with the Packers was not a “major part of my work experience” with United, where he worked for 38 years. Because most of the Packers’ travel came on the weekends, the responsibilities he fulfilled were primarily on his own time. Although it did allow him the opportunity to travel, he did lament the hours away from his wife and three children. Among those three children was the youngest, Dr. Ellen Barclay, who was born in 1960. Today, Ellen is associate dean and director of general education at Carroll.
“Vince Lombardi was really wonderful to my dad,” she said. “If there was any event the team was doing while they traveled, Vince Lombardi always invited my dad. He has all these stories about those days."
David said of Lombardi, “For some reason, he liked me. One of the assistant coaches said, ‘David, why is it you’re the only one the coach likes?’”
The players liked him, too, so much that one of his memories includes being passed down the plane aisle by defensive tackle Dave “Hawg” Hanner and running back Paul Hornung.
“Two or three of them picked me up and stretched me out and passed me from the front of the plane to the back of the plane,” he said. “At the time, I was laughing and carrying on. That was something that stuck in my memory.”
He said the Packers “took such good care of me” but it also helped that he paid attention to Marie Lombardi, the coach’s wife. He said anywhere the coach went, she was there. And so was David, who made sure to bring her a Coke in the bleachers, always in the owner’s section, where she would invite him to watch the game, he said.
Ellen Barclay recalled that her father had great respect for coach Lombardi. “My dad really respected Vince Lombardi—his ethics and his values, the way he demanded a lot from his players, both on and off the field, but at the same time supported them wholeheartedly and refused to let anyone discriminate against any of them. That had a big impact on my dad.”
He worked with the team through the early ’60s. A few years later, he transferred to Washington D.C.
“It was a job, one I took seriously and enjoyed,” he said.