Boxwell Greats: Pearl Schleicher
While we have posted about Mrs. Schleicher before, we have never given her a proper vetting. It is time to change that oversight. Pearl Schleicher is absolutely worthy of the title, “Boxwell Great.”
In her regular life, Pearl was a dietitian with Metro Schools. Her school principal recommended her for work at Boxwell, where she began working in 1962. Schleicher continued as the Reservation’s head cook until 1994. Along the way she brought her husband, John, and her sister, Estelle Langford. Because “Schleicher” proved so difficult pronounce, the trio were usually referred to as “Mrs. Pearl,” “Mr. John,” and “Ms. Bea.”
Physically a small woman, Pearl Schleicher was a big personality. There were strong kitchen directors at Stahlman under her tutelage–Jerry Barnett, Tommy Roussin–but the kitchen was hers. And she ran a tight ship, not tolerating shenanigans. Still, shenanigans happened.
Perhaps what is most important to remember is that Pearl and her crew cooked virtually everything themselves. There were some exceptions, but most everything was made from scratch. Scrambled eggs in the morning for Camps Stahlman, Parnell, and Murrey? That’s upward of 2000 eggs, all cracked by hand. Sheet cake with frosting for Friday night dinner? All mixed, baked, and created from scratch. Those amazing buttery rolls? Hand made by Estelle.
And, for better or worse, the Schleichers kept a fairly stable menu. Every summer you could expect roughly the same meals. Sunday night was ham, green beans, and a roll. Eggs were most mornings except Thursday. Thursday morning, at least in later years, was Krispy Kreme doughnuts and canteloupe, just to give everyone a break. Other meals included bologna sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, and ravioli (one of the few pre-packaged meals). And, in the years when being Catholic meant no meat on Friday, the Schleichers cooked fish. And when Ward Akers wanted chicken for the Scoutmaster’s Supper, Pearl and her group cooked that too.
Pearl and staff were up at 5:30am every morning (Saturdays too) preparing to feed the reservation. Unlike many of the cooks today, Pearl lived on site. The cooks’ cabins were in fact the cooks’ cabins. The Schleichers moved in and stayed all summer. During Bull Crew weeks, they acted more as short order cooks, preparing smaller, more specific meals. When camp was over, Pearl and John went back to their schools in the Metro system.
Pearl (and John and Estelle) retired from her real job almost 20 years before she retired from camp, which happened in 1994, Tom Willhite’s last summer. For Pearl, she had been on Boxwell’s staff for 32 years, the longest serving staff member EVER on Boxwell’s staff. She lived for another 10 years before passing away on November 11, 2004 at the age of 95.
Pearl Schleicher was a Boxwell institution. She lived through three Council Executives, four Reservation directors, at least twelve Stahlman Program Directors, and upwards of 20 Stahlman kitchen directors. For over 30 years, no one said “Boxwell” like Pearl Schleicher.