Monday, November 26, 2012
It's the birthday of cartoonist Charles Schulz (books by this author), born in Minneapolis, Minnesota (1922). His parents left school after third grade, and his father was a barber who supported the family on 35 cent haircuts. Every Sunday, Schulz and his father read the "funny pages" together, and the boy hoped to become a cartoonist someday. But he had a tough time in school — he felt picked on by teachers and other students. He was smart enough to skip ahead a couple of grades, but that only made it worse. He wished someone would recognize his artistic talent, but his cartoons weren't even accepted by the high school yearbook.
After high school, he was drafted into the Army; his mother died of cancer a couple of days before he left. When he came home, he moved in with his father in the apartment above the barbershop. He got a job teaching at Art Instruction, a correspondence course for cartooning that he had taken as a high schooler. There he fell in love with a red-haired woman named Donna Mae Johnson, who worked in the accounting department. They dated for a while, but when he asked her to marry him, she turned him down and soon after married someone else. Schulz was devastated, and remained bitter about it for the rest of his life. He said: "I can think of no more emotionally damaging loss than to be turned down by someone whom you love very much. A person who not only turns you down, but almost immediately will marry the victor. What a bitter blow that is."
Schulz started publishing a cartoon strip called L'il Folks in the local paper, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, but they dropped it after a couple of years. Schulz sent some of his favorite L'il Folks cartoons to the United Features Syndicate, and in 1950, the first Peanuts strip appeared in nine national newspapers, including The New York Times and The Boston Globe. The first strip introduced Charlie Brown, and Snoopy made an appearance two days later. The rest of the Peanuts characters were added slowly over the years: Linus, Lucy, Schroeder, Pig Pen, Peppermint Patty, and many more. Throughout the years, the object of Charlie Brown's unrequited love is known simply as The Little Red-Haired Girl.
Peanuts was eventually syndicated in more than 2,500 newspapers worldwide, and there were more than 300 million Peanuts books sold, as well as 40 TV specials, four movies, and a Broadway play.
Charles Schulz said: "My whole life has been one of rejection. Women. Dogs. Comic strips."
— Courtesy THE WRITER'S ALMANAC