Splitzter - January 16th, 2004

  Letís get right to the subject. This week we donít lament a passing. We raise our glasses. Thomas Schwaiger went to a better place last Wednesday after 71 years of gracing us with his dry wit, his wisdom, his presence.

I wonít review already known facts about his beginnings in Bryan and ownership at Paulís. Thatís well known to readers of this article who knew him. Iím going to talk primarily to those of us who enjoyed his company the first 15 years or so at River City before his retirement. For example: Just for fun, how many people, and be honest here, wondered who the white-haired dude mowing the grass at 10 am was while Thomas sported the dapper red-haired rug evenings during leagues? Yup, same guy. How many remember that black vest he wore on his non-bowling nights complimented nicely with a cup of ďThomasĒ coffee and a Kool? He looked good, eh? Thomas coffee was mud that needed a knife to cut while pouring. Gheesh, that stuff was bogus.

You need to bear with me a bit this week. The Splitzter has been in the bowling industry for 22 plus years and I received my training as a young pup under none other than Mr. Schwaiger those first 4 years. I had to drive him bonkers. Who is this old fart telling me how things are when Iíve bowled leagues since I was 10. How can a 22 year old understand the years of sacrifice and 100 hour work weeks it took to raise a family and still lay the foundation for Napoleonís only 24 lane center? Understandably it was a family endeavor, but somebody had to man the rudder. Tom and Jo. Like Michael, Tiger and ShaqÖ one name identifies the persons.

True story. River City 20 years ago had an Easter tournament that Thomas was trying to get off the ground. Iíve been working evening counter for a couple of years and he wants me to announce over the PA the date and times of the tournament. He had this awful looking ďbonnetĒ with little chickies and duckies and flowers.. it was plain hideous. He wants me to wear it while announcing the tourney. I flat refuse and whine about this ďdumbĒ thing. I can look like an idiot without any outside influence. Letís just say he insisted that I do this and guess who got their wayÖ it wasnít me.

When push came to shove I announce the tourney and he sneaks off the counter, leaving me by myself to look stupid, and takes a Polaroid of me at the microphone. Bowlers laughed and ribbed me for weeks about the hat. I was thoroughly embarrassed but guess what? Everyone remembered that moment, along with the tournament date and times, and we had a great turnout that year. Guess what the kid learned? That visual meant more than 50 announcements and 200 flyers. He knew it and the kid learned a lesson that he would file away for future use. (By the way. I still have the Polaroid. <grin>)

Most of what I know today in hosting bowlers I learned many years ago from Thomas. Thereís no substitute for knowing everyone by his or her first name. People are people and their patronage in your center isnít a given, itís a privilege. Thomas rule number 1. Thatís how he managed the center and Iím grateful I was a part of it. He loved his time with the bowlers. There wasnít much he wouldnít do for you if it was within his capability. Thomas was simply a good man.

Itís been a difficult week for the Schwaiger family. However, I think I can safely say that your warm wishes for the family have been heard and very much appreciated. Our prayers are with Jo, Paul, Randy, Vicky and Jolene.

Godís speed, Thomas. Weíll hook up in a few years when my time comes and weíll continue that argument I was, ummm, winning as I recall. I owe you more than you could possibly know.