Friday, November 26, 2010

Good ol' Charles Schulz

Today is the birthday of an American icon, the man who has brought me (and countless others) years and years of joy, Snoopy's creator, good ol' Charles Schulz.

To me, Charlie Brown and the "Peanuts" gang are as much a part of holidays as turkey and tinseled trees. The beloved TV specials still air each year and, by all accounts, are as popular as ever.

Of course, I found him in the funnies, where his beloved strip ran for half a century. The early ones were giddy and even a bit mean, the later ones cute and sentimental. Schulz died on Feb. 12, 2000 -- one day before his final original "Peanuts" strip was set to run.

Much of "Peanuts" is autobiographical. (He really did love a red-haired girl.) Hailing from Minneapolis, Schulz loved ice skating and ice hockey, so much so he had a rink constructed when he got rich and moved to California. Let's not forget that he was a combat veteran in World War II.

He was a bit of an introvert, but did allow my friend Rheta Grimsley Johnson to write an authorized biography of him 20 years ago. Others have been released, to controversy, in the last several years.

I have found much wisdom between the lines of this little strip. Charlie "Good Grief" Brown is doomed but determined. Linus ponders the meaning of it all. Lucy is, well, Lucy.

But I fell in love with that beagle the first time I saw him. Snoopy is the strip's Walter Mitty, always daydreaming, whether it's racing the Red Baron or checking out the co-eds as Joe Cool. I still laugh at him -- just as hard -- each year when the Christmas special airs. I walked into kindergarten at Brickey Elementary School with a Snoopy satchel. As a boy, I had a beloved Snoopy stuffed animal. A Snoopy clock and coffee mugs ordain my mantle at Christmas.

Schulz gave us something that is richer than gold. Happy birthday, Sparky, wherever you are.

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