The Rip Post                               


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 fun.

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 school newspaper.

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 world.

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 freelance writer.

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