Watching the Brady Bunch and Bewitched on television, playing Barbies with my best friend Lyn, drawing and painting in Mrs. Felder’s art class, my sugar blanket (don’t ask) and my love for the cutest beagle named Snoopy are all great memories from my childhood. It was my childhood nostalgia and stumbling across the Charles M. Schultz Museum on Pinterest that lead me to Santa Rosa, California earlier this summer to visit Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang.
At the beginning of the summer my son and I headed to the west coast for an eight-day road trip to explore California. On the morning of the seventh day, I was giddy because we were headed an hour north of San Francisco to pay homage to the creator of the Peanuts. I was also secretly hoping to find the Snoopy stuffed animal that came with a Flying Ace outfit and blue PJs with a hole cut out for his tail that once had entertained me for hours when I was a kid.
The Charles M. Schultz Museum did not disappoint and the two hours that I spent reading my favorite comic strips and learning about Mr. Schultz flew by quickly. My son most probably wouldn’t agree because despite our 50/50 must see the deal we made, he opted not to play along and parked himself on the bright yellow leather mid-century couch in the middle of the exhibit hall and played video games on his i-phone. On a few occasions, he joined me when I forced him to read some of the comic strips that had baseball references that I thought he might enjoy. I didn’t get laughter, but I did get a “that’s funny” response in a monotone voice. I decided to be happy with that and reminded myself that he was fourteen and left him alone with his i-phone and I went blissfully down memory lane.
I started my tour with two temporary exhibits. In the Mid-Century Modern exhibition, I learned that some of the decorative designs of Schultz’s home with his first wife Joyce served as some of the backdrops for his cartoons. There were also family pictures of his family life with Joyce and his five children. The other temporary exhibit, Barking Up The Family Tree focused on the comic strips of Snoopy’s “band of brothers” Spike, Marbles, Olaf and Andy and his sister Belle. Honestly, I only remembered Spike and vaguely Belle, so I spent some time becoming acquainted with Snoopy’s siblings by reading the highlighted cartoons in the Strip Rotation Gallery.
Upon leaving the temporary exhibits, I checked in with my son who was sitting across from a mural-sized picture of Lucy and then ventured into a video nook where I watched a short video narrated by Schultz’s second wife, Jean. The video was really informative and spoke of how Charles Schultz (who was known as Sparky to his family and friends) was involved in the plans of the museum before he passed away in February 2000 and his connection to the community of Santa Rosa (his home for forty years), his ice skating rink that is next to the museum and his love of hockey.
After watching the video, I started to wonder what happen to wife number one, so I found a volunteer in the Great Hall, and she shared with me that Sparky and Joyce divorced in the early 1970s and a year after his divorce he met Jean when she brought her daughter to his ice skating rink. Joyce ended up remarrying and moved to Hawaii where she still lives. The volunteer also shared that Jean often visits the museum.
Happy that my questions were answered, I headed to the second floor after admiring the two-story ceramic tile mural that from a distance displayed Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown.
On the second floor was the Peanuts Cartoon Strip Collection which was composed of 7,000 original drawings from a half a century set along a time line with so many interesting facts. Here are just a few:
- Schultz initially named his comic strip Lil’ Folks, but his publisher insisted upon Peanuts. Schultz never really liked the name and thought it was insulting.
- There was a Charlie Brown. Schultz worked as an art instructor at the Art Instruction School. The original Charlie was also an instructor and a good friend. There was also a real Linus who was an instructor too and the accountant at the Art Instruction school was a redhead named Donna Johnson who was immortalized as the “Little Red-Haired Girl.”
- Schultz may have created one of the longest stories told by one human being. He produced 17,897 comic strips between 1950 to 2000.
- Charles Schultz died just hours before his final Sunday strip appeared in papers across the world. His last Sunday page carried a signed farewell in which he said, ”Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy . . . How can I ever forget them. . . .”
Before leaving the second floor and meeting up with my son, I checked out his office where he used about four or five pens and a pencil to create his famous comic strip.
Once we departed the museum, we checked out Schultz’s Ice Rink which was full of kids heading in for ice-skating lessons and grabbed a snack at the Warm Puppy Cafe which was in the ice arena. According to the video that I watched in the museum, Schultz would eat at the same table and eat a tuna salad sandwich when he visited the cafe.
We wrapped up our visit at the Snoopy’s Gallery & Gift Shop. It was a walk down memory lane, and I found some books that I had as a kid. There were hundreds of Snoopy stuffed animals, but none of them came with changeable outfits like I had in my youth.
I enjoyed seeing some artwork including a beautiful stain glass window in the upstairs gallery and then picked up a framed cartoon as a souvenir to remember my visit. I thought it captured my love of traveling with my son and the happiness from my childhood quite nicely.