10 Facts About Green Bay, AKA the Toilet Paper Capital of the World

iStock / ImagesbyK
iStock / ImagesbyK

Fair is fair - we couldn't pay a virtual visit to Steel City without also roadtripping to Titletown, USA, now could we? So today I'm continuing my quest to help Super Bowl party attendees who aren't necessarily football fans find other inroads to the game day conversation.

1. The Green Bay the city is named after is part of Lake Michigan; it's separated from the rest of the lake by a bit of land called the Door Peninsula. It was originally called Baie des Puants, "Bay of the Stinkers," because the green algae in the stagnant water was quite odoriferous.

2. The City of Green Bay is at the bottom of South Lake Michigan. The City of Green Bay was loaded up with iron ore for a trip in 1887 when strong winds forced her into the shore and sent her crew flying into the rigging. Only one of them could be saved. What's left of the ship can still be seen quite easily from the air.

3. Way back in 1821, the first post office in Wisconsin set up operations in the town of Green Bay.

4. Of course, various NFL notables have called Green Bay home. But I'm more interested in the non-athletes:

Tony Shalhoub grew up there and got his start acting in a high school production of The King and I. He was named Best Dressed and Most Likely to Succeed during his senior year at Green Bay East High School. Soul Asylum's lead singer, Dave Pirner, was born there. My personal favorite? Joel Hodgson, creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000, went to nearby Ashwaubenon High School.

5. There's also a town of Green Bay, not to be confused with the city of Green Bay, which is where the football team is. The town of Green Bay is a few miles northeast of the city and has a population of less than 2,000.

6. Green Bay the city, on the other hand, has a population of more than 100,000. That still makes it the smallest town to host an NFL team, though.

7. I suppose "Titletown USA" has a better ring to it than "Toilet Paper Capital of the World," but both are nicknames for the town. Titletown, obviously, because the Packers lay claim to 12 NFL titles. The, um, crappier nickname is because Northern Tissue - a precursor to Quilted Northern - invented the first "splinter-free" paper in the plant there. Toilet paper with splinters? Yikes.

8. You probably know that Green Bay fans are often called Cheeseheads because Wisconsin is known for its cheese production and because of those massive foam fromage hats people started wearing in the '80s. What you may not know is that it was originally meant as a taunt - Illinois football and baseball fans used it to mock their Wisconsinite opponents.

9. The All-America City is an award given by the National Civic League since 1949 to communities with outstanding citizens who work together. Cities apply for the honor and 10 of them are chosen every year. Green Bay has been in the top 10 twice - 1964 and 1999.

10. The National Railroad Museum may not be everyone's cup of tea (I know, train enthusiasts out there are shaking their heads), but every October, the grounds open up to host "Terror on the Fox," a train ride and haunted house that has consistently been called one of the best (and even the best) haunts in America. Anyone been to it? All of the National Railroad Museum's special events aren't scary, though - they also have "Day Out With Thomas," where Thomas the Tank Engine takes families through some of the exhibits.

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6 Amazing Facts About Sally Ride

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

You know Sally Ride as the first American woman to travel into space. But here are six things you might not know about the groundbreaking astronaut, who was born on May 26, 1951.

1. Sally Ride proved there is such thing as a stupid question.

When Sally Ride made her first space flight in 1983, she was both the first American woman and the youngest American to make the journey to the final frontier. Both of those distinctions show just how qualified and devoted Ride was to her career, but they also opened her up to a slew of absurd questions from the media.

Journalist Michael Ryan recounted some of the sillier questions that had been posed to Ride in a June 1983 profile for People. Among the highlights:

Q: “Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?”
A: “There’s no evidence of that.”

Q: “Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?”
A: “How come nobody ever asks (a male fellow astronaut) those questions?"

Forget going into space; Ride’s most impressive achievement might have been maintaining her composure in the face of such offensive questions.

2. Had she taken Billie Jean King's advice, Sally Ride might have been a professional tennis player.

When Ride was growing up near Los Angeles, she played more than a little tennis, and she was seriously good at it. She was a nationally ranked juniors player, and by the time she turned 18 in 1969, she was ranked 18th in the whole country. Tennis legend Billie Jean King personally encouraged Ride to turn pro, but she went to Swarthmore instead before eventually transferring to Stanford to finish her undergrad work, a master’s, and a PhD in physics.

King didn’t forget about the young tennis prodigy she had encouraged, though. In 1984 an interviewer playfully asked the tennis star who she’d take to the moon with her, to which King replied, “Tom Selleck, my family, and Sally Ride to get us all back.”

3. Home economics was not Sally Ride's best subject.

After retiring from space flight, Ride became a vocal advocate for math and science education, particularly for girls. In 2001 she founded Sally Ride Science, a San Diego-based company that creates fun and interesting opportunities for elementary and middle school students to learn about math and science.

Though Ride was an iconic female scientist who earned her doctorate in physics, just like so many other youngsters, she did hit some academic road bumps when she was growing up. In a 2006 interview with USA Today, Ride revealed her weakest subject in school: a seventh-grade home economics class that all girls had to take. As Ride put it, "Can you imagine having to cook and eat tuna casserole at 8 a.m.?"

4. Sally Ride had a strong tie to the Challenger.

Ride’s two space flights were aboard the doomed shuttle Challenger, and she was eight months deep into her training program for a third flight aboard the shuttle when it tragically exploded in 1986. Ride learned of that disaster at the worst possible time: she was on a plane when the pilot announced the news.

Ride later told AARP the Magazine that when she heard the midflight announcement, she got out her NASA badge and went to the cockpit so she could listen to radio reports about the fallen shuttle. The disaster meant that Ride wouldn’t make it back into space, but the personal toll was tough to swallow, too. Four of the lost members of Challenger’s crew had been in Ride’s astronaut training class.

5. Sally Ride had no interest in cashing in on her worldwide fame.

A 2003 profile in The New York Times called Ride one of the most famous women on Earth after her two space flights, and it was hard to argue with that statement. Ride could easily have cashed in on the slew of endorsements, movie deals, and ghostwritten book offers that came her way, but she passed on most opportunities to turn a quick buck.

Ride later made a few forays into publishing and endorsements, though. She wrote or co-wrote more than a half-dozen children’s books on scientific themes, including To Space and Back, and in 2009 she appeared in a print ad for Louis Vuitton. Even appearing in an ad wasn’t an effort to pad her bank account, though; the ad featured an Annie Leibovitz photo of Ride with fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell gazing at the moon and stars. According to a spokesperson, all three astronauts donated a “significant portion” of their modeling fees to Al Gore’s Climate Project.

6. Sally Ride was the first openly LGBTQ astronaut.

Ride passed away on July 23, 2012, at the age of 61, following a long (and very private) battle with pancreatic cancer. While Ride's brief marriage to fellow astronaut Steve Hawley was widely known to the public (they were married from 1982 to 1987), it wasn't until her death that Ride's longtime relationship with Tam O'Shaughnessy—a childhood friend and science writer—was made public. Which meant that even in death, Ride was still changing the world, as she is the world's first openly LGBTQ astronaut.