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Hall of Famer

Aug 31, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

In Ranger newspaper lore, M.J. Schlichenmayer was exactly that

Long-termers in our newspaper office sometimes talk about The Ranger Hall of Fame, a non-existent entity created in our minds.

If there really were a Ranger Hall of Fame, Marvin J. Schlichenmayer would be there.

The man we called Slick worked as the chief of our commercial printing department for three decades from 1966 to 1995. If you lived in Riverton in those years and ever had a business card made, or some personalized stationery, or some envelopes with your business name on them, or a brochure for you civic club or political campaign, Slick probably printed it.

Small and fastidious, he worked his career in the basement of our building -- his office area in one room, the press room in another, the stock room in another, full to the ceiling with every size, color, weight and weave of paper imaginable.

He was "Slick" to us, but over time we learned that he lived in other circles under different identities. To his bowling buddies, he was Tex. His church associates called him Marv, or Marvin. Once, a telephone caller asked to speak to "Marv." The receptionist, understandably, had no idea who the caller was talking about.

"Marv Schlichenmayer," the caller elaborated.

"Oh, you mean Slick," she answered, relieved.

When we made plans to move the presses upstairs and created the separate, more-modern, more retail-friendly business called Ranger Printers in 1996, Slick decided to retire and let younger colleagues wrangle that change. We had a farewell party for him. The proper goodbyes were said.

Slick could operate, modify and repair any piece of printing equipment, specializing in the smaller, single-sheet presses, the bindery equipment, and our hydraulic paper cutter. He also knew his way around the much bigger newspaper "web" press, and he helped out in that department from time to time as well.

But it was only after he retired that we found out he could write.

One day he walked in with two neatly-typed pages in a plastic sheet protector and offered it as a column. The publisher was skeptical, but it took only a few seconds of reading to realize that Slick's column was good. So were all the others he wrote over the ensuing decade. They were funny and often a little strange -- but in a good way. Among the favorite themes were fishing trips and, most often, the trials of taking care of his twin granddaughters while their mom worked a job. Each column ended with his tag line, "Thank you for reading this."

One day about five years ago he delivered a column and said it would be his last. He simply quit writing them. That didn't sit well with the publisher, who missed the column and needed regular content for the opinion page.

Slick still came around the office frequently, however. Usually his task was to place a classified add with our classified manager, Luanne Luther. Slick, it turned out, also had a good eye for antiques, which he bought and sold cleverly, often using Ranger classifieds in the effort.

The routine always was the same. He would sit down next to Luanne's desk and begin haggling with her over the price of the ad. That often got the attention of the publisher, who sat nearby. And, after Slick had swindled, er ... negotiated the price of his ad, he would sit around and talk awhile. Invariably the publisher would ask him to write just one more column. Invariably, he declined.

Slick came in for the last time in July. He had another ad, and he looked over our new direct-to-plate system with interest. He looked worn out, though, and his voice was weak.

We learned from a neighbor last week that Slick wasn't doing well, first at home, then at an out-of-town hospital. Then, last week, word came that Slick had died. He was 85 years old.

A daughter and granddaughter, neither a Riverton resident, came by to talk about his obituary, and to bring a picture to go with it.

"And Dad wanted me to give you this," his daughter said.

She handed over several neatly typed sheets of paper, in a plastic page protector.

Slick had written that one last column after all. Read it elsewhere on this page.

It's funny and quirky, like Slick. It serves as both an introduction and a farewell.

It takes a knack to write something like that. Marvin J. Schlichenmayer, the little pressman from the basement, had that knack.

But we shouldn't be surprised. You don't make The Ranger Hall of Fame for nothing.

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