REMEMBERING CHARLES SCHULZ
Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy, Peppermint Patty,
Pigpen – oh, my, the whole gang of Charles Schulz’ comic strip characters
have been scampering around my desk. Do you remember them?
Schulz and I were from adjoining states – he, Minnesota, I, North Dakota.
Born in 1922, he was two years younger. He passed on six years ago.
An afternoon in the autumn of 1958 was one of my most memorable in
newspapering, chatting about our origins and what led us to California.
My job was to introduce him to readers of the Los Angeles Mirror to
herald his strip’s arrival. It was eight years after he found himself in the
big time. He was syndicated in October 1950 in seven newspapers at $90 for
his first month, Shucks, I was already close to that a week then on the old
L.A. Daily News.
He could hardly grasp the leap he had made since he rose from a lonely
childhood in Minneapolis -- often belittled because he was the youngest kid
in class after skipping a grade, just as I had, and playing solitary lives
deep in imagination.
His dad was a barber. Mine was a rural mail carrier. Schulz didn’t want to
get bogged down in a job he didn’t want to do. Neither did I. We chose
careers that would be fun. He succeeded beyond all expectations and became
probably the wealthiest person I’ve ever known. Me? I just went on having
The Army called Schultz at 20. I enlisted at the same age. He served
as a machine-gun squad leader in France, Austria and Germany. I never left
the United States, writing sports about Army Air Corps athletes, and later
about heroes returning from war
While the interview we had in 1958 was supposed to be about him, I began to
think he was interviewing me, too.
We read the same comic strips as kids – Moon Mullins, Little Orphan Annie,
Popeye, Tilley the Toiler, Mutt and Jeff. . .you read them too. Oddly
enough, we read them from the same newspaper, The Minneapolis Tribune in his
home town -- the newspaper I sold Sundays in Mott, N. D.
His fascination with cartooning led him to enroll in a correspondence
cartoon course in high school. I worked my way up the ladder on the high
His first drawing published was a sketch of his dog, Spike, appearing in
1937 in Robert Ripley’s “Believe it or Not.” That was the year I got my
first job on The Albuquerque Journal.
In 1958 he moved to Sebastopol with his wife and five children. By
that time his strip appeared in 355 newspapers in the nation and 40 abroad.
He was on his way to become the widest-read cartoonist in history with 2,620
newspapers, reaching 335 million readers in seven languages around the
Broadway stage welcomed the “Peanuts” gang, as have movies, TV, books and
T-shirts galore, with a museum in Santa Rosa. And I still appear in one
newspaper –- not bad for two guys from Minnesota and North Dakota, huh?
Schulz died on Feb. 12, 2000, only hours before his final strip appeared in
Sunday newspapers. He had announced his retirement on Dec.. 14, 1999.
In our house he is remembered by a letter, dated Oct. 8, 1958, that hangs
in our hallway, thanking me for the piece I had written. It is encircled
by a cartoon of Lucy, her kite stuck, wrapped around a flagpole, crying to
Charlie Brown, “What do you mean, girls can’t fly kites. It’s up, isn’t it?”
Paul Weeks is a distinguished veteran journalist who worked for the Los Angeles Daily
News, Mirror, Times, and later the RAND Corporation. He lives in Oceanside and works as a
BACK TO PAGE ONE