March 5Mar 5, 2014 By Steven R. Peck
It's our newspaper's birthday.
There had been numerous other newspapers in Riverton before March 5, 1953. On that day, the two survivors -- the weekly Riverton Review, published by E.T. "Beany" Childers, and the weekly Riverton Times, published by young Riverton brothers Bob and Roy Peck -- joined forces.
The new paper, published twice weekly, was named The Ranger.
The Riverton Review, a large, prosperous weekly which could trace its lineage to Riverton's beginnings in 1906, was a bigger operation than the Times. Childers had moved to Riverton 11 years before to take over the Review. He was a successful publisher trained as a pressman and ad salesman.
Bob and Roy Peck were young men, but they were old Riverton. They had grown up here, gone to war and to college, and returned here determined to make the community stronger if they could. They had grown up in the little farm town on the Big Bend of the Wind River. In fact, Roy had worked for Beanie Childers as sports editor of the Riverton Review when he was still a high school student. Bob, too, had written for Childers, as well as other papers that came and went in the 1930s and 1940s.
After the brothers completed service in World War II and a whirlwind educational sprint through the halls of the University of Wyoming, they decided to return to Riverton and buy the struggling Riverton Press, a little weekly operating from a small building on South Third East in Riverton (there's a tattoo parlor there today). They renamed it The Riverton Times.
A few blocks away stood the big offices and printing plant of the Riverton Review, with Beany Childers at the helm. He had bigger presses, better typesetting machines, a longer subscription list, and well-established relationships in town with the powers that were.
But the Times had the Peck brothers. Fifteen years younger than Childers, trained first as newsmen and, in particular, photographers, they immediately established the Times as a newsy, responsive paper which printed lots of pictures, concentrated on quality writing, and covered the heck out of local sports.
Roy ran the one old Linotype typesetter, learning the intricacies of hot lead and snapping iron joints (later he would lose a fingertip to the Linotype). Bob ran the press, feeding single sheets of paper through the mechanism one at a time.
Their wives, Margaret (Mrs. Roy) and Cordelia (Mrs. Bob), also worked for the paper. Margaret became one of Wyoming's liveliest feature writers and columnists. Cordelia often recalled the story of going to the Times's cash register one morning in 1950 to extract some money so the four young entrepreneurs could go to lunch. The cash register held 3 cents.
But they stuck to it, and fortunes improved. Readers and advertisers liked what they saw. The Times and the Review coexisted, relatively amicably, for four years. One day early in 1953, however, Beany Childers walked into the Times office with an idea.
"I can't beat you, and I won't outlive you," he said. "Let's amalgamate."
His offer was generous -- and smart. The Times and the Review merged 50-50, even though the Review still was the bigger operation. Childers gained two young lions with energy to burn. The Pecks got a gregarious, well-connected business leader comfortable in the service club and cocktail party scene who could run a press a lot better than Bob Peck could. They combined equipment, facilities and staff. They went from one paper a week to two.
And on March 5, 1953, they produced the first edition of their new paper, called The Ranger. Bob and Roy's dad thought of the name.
Beany Childers sold out for good in 1960 when The Ranger went daily, but he worked for The Ranger for another 10 years.
Roy Peck ran for both governor and U.S. Congress, losing narrowly both times. He served as the Wyoming Director of Economic Planning and Development under Gov. Stan Hathaway, then served seven years in the Wyoming Legislature. He died in 1983, just 60 years old.
Bob Peck went on to build what can safely be called the greatest public service career in Riverton's history, with accomplishments too numerous to mention in today's short space. He died seven years ago tomorrow -- March 6, 2007, 54 years and a day after the first Ranger appeared. At 82, he was in his fourth term as a Wyoming senator.
Today, here we are -- still a family owned newspaper business, now with more than 15,000 editions under our belts. We are planning another 256 this year, one page, one ad, one story, one picture at time, adding to the living history of the community we have been proud to compile -- and will continue to.