For many years I was a devotee of the “Peanuts” comic strip, written and drawn by Charles M. Schulz, whose simple panels seemed to contain a wealth of insight into the human condition. And I loved the cast of characters: good ol’ Charlie Brown, the ever-self-interested Lucy, the security-blanket-bolstered Linus, and my spirit animal, Snoopy. I therefore could not miss visiting the Charles M. Schulz Museum while in Santa Rosa, where Schulz lived and worked for the last 30 years of his life (and where he built a community ice rink to foster another of his passions, ice hockey).
The museum opened in 2002, two and a half years after Schulz’s death. It is a handsome building, with a stunning mural made up of 3,588 strips printed on ceramic tiles and arranged to depict the famous trope of Lucy holding a football for Charlie Brown to kick — she always pulls away at the last second, leaving Charlie on his back. The museum holds some 7,000 of the original 18,000 strips. The drawings are far larger than the strips run in newspapers, making it easy to see the nuances of Schulz’s style. At the time of our visit, the special exhibitions included Peanuts and the Picture of Health — instead of selling lemonade for 5 cents at a wooden stand, Lucy dispenses “Psychiatric Help” — and It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, which explores Schulz’s love of literature.
The reconstruction of Schulz’s studio — his original office was just down the road from the museum — most moved me. To see the drawing board, pens and bottles of ink of this humble man — he had a tuna sandwich for lunch nearly every day — was greatly affecting.