In the Book of Life, The Answers Aren’t in the Back

by Nancy Bestor

If you grew up reading Peanuts comic strips, or watching A Very Charlie Brown Christmas every single holiday season like I did, chuckI’m certain you’d enjoy the delightful Charles M. Schulz Museum, in Santa Rosa, California, just as much as I did.

I watched most of the Peanuts television specials, and clearly remember rooting for Charlie Brown to talk to the little Red Haired Girl, wishing he would get more valentines, wanting Linus to see the Great Pumpkin, and desperately wanting Charlie Brown to kick the football before Lucy pulled it away. Thus, on a visit to my nephew at Sonoma State, I dragged him and one of my daughters to the Charles M. Schulz Museum, because although they vaguely know about Peanuts, I knew that it was something I’m interested in, and let’s be real, it’s all about me.

snoopyThe museum opened 16 years ago in the hometown of Peanuts creator, Charles M. Schulz, and is home to several permanent exhibits including original Peanuts comic strips, other artwork by Schulz, and a recreation of his original studio. Some of the most interesting exhibits include Mr. Schulz’ high school artwork, which easily demonstrated his talent, as well as a bedroom mural, beautifully restored, which he painted in 1951 for his daughter in their Colorado Springs home. The mural features early Peanuts characters, including Snoopy on all fours.

Another great exhibit is a 22-foot high ceramic tile mural, created by Japanese artist Yoshiteru Otani, made up of 3,588 Peanuts comics. When viewed from a distance, the mural forms the image of Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown. When you get up close, however, you can read each strip. It is impressive.mural

We took a free 60-minute, docent-led tour that day, which I highly recommend. Our tour guide was able to tell us all sorts of interesting facts about Mr. Schulz, and let us in on some of the secrets behind his characters, many of whom were based on real life, including the little Red Haired Girl (whom Schulz may or may not have pined for). We also learned that in 1968, at the suggestion of a reader, Schulz introduced Franklin Armstrong, an African American character and friend of Charlie Brown.

The Peanuts comic strip ran from 1950 to 2000, with Mr. Schulz writing and illustrating every single strip, on average about seven strips a week. It’s a part of my childhood, kidsand if it’s a part of yours too, I’d suggest a visit to the Charles M. Schulz Museum the next time you’re in the Santa Rosa area.

Notes:

Museum admission is $12, but students, children, and seniors pay a discounted fee.

The museum is not huge, we spent about an hour and a half there, and saw most everything in the building. As mentioned in the story above, docents lead tours on a regular basis during open hours, and I highly recommend taking part in some or all of the tour.

 

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2 thoughts on “In the Book of Life, The Answers Aren’t in the Back

  1. Glenn Amanda Miller says:

    I’ve visited the Charles M. Schulz Museum twice. On the first occasion, we over heard some employees talking about a reunion of some of the Peanuts characters. As you mentioned in your article, many, most, if not all were real people in Mr. Shulz’ life. After talking with these employees, they told us that the couldn’t locate Lucy Van Pelt. We happened to know of Lucy’s daughter living in Redding, California so we contacted her and she knew her mother was living at that time in Clear Lake, California. Contact was made and Lucy was able to attend the reunion. Lucy in real life was of Hispanic descent, but apparently was married to Dutch descendant. Lucy was a waitress at one of Charles Schultz favorite cafes where they liked to bet on football games. Lucy liked football. Charles Shulz aka “Charlie Brown” used to get tricked by Lucy in the comic strip where she’d hold the football until Charlie was ready to kick it and she’d remove it when he’d fall flat on his back!

    Charles Shulz eventually made Santa Rosa and the Sebastopol area his home, but his actual hometown was St. Paul, Minnesota where they lived upstairs in a building that housed his father’s barbershop on the main floor. I’m sure that is why Charlie Brown looked bald. Charlie Brown was a caricature of himself.

    I still have not visited the Charles M. Shulz Ice Arena, right next to the museum. Maybe next time! Thanks for the article!

    • Thank you for these stories! It is fascinating to hear more about the real people that Mr. Schulz based his Peanuts characters on. I love the idea that Charlie Brown may have looked bald because his Dad owned a barbershop. Charles Schulz sure was a talented man!

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