Beagle hugs, security blankets

By Carolyn Younger
Sunday, July 19, 2009
For half a century Snoopy perched on his dog house and mused about life, Linus held tight to his security blanket, Schroeder plinked away at the piano, Lucy grumped and Charlie Brown, the little round-headed boy, never lost hope.

The “Peanuts” gang — Sally Brown, Peppermint Patty, Pig-Pen, Woodstock, Marcie and the little red haired girl, with cameo appearances by the Great Pumpkin and the Red Baron — were the creation of the late Charles M. “Sparky” Schulz. Their adventures struck a chord with comic strip readers all over the world.

Two such readers, St. Helena’s Don Fraser, and Derrick Bang of Davis, can be counted among the most fervent. Together they have put together a collection of reminiscences written by people of all ages from eight countries and 16 U.S. states, whose lives were touched in a real way by the seemingly simple cartoon characters.

The book is a collection of 51 stories. Stuffed Snoopies have accompanied children to the hospital and home again. Time and again one track-suited Snoopy sat patiently in a bar next to a glass of orange juice as his 8-year-old friend waited for his dad. A naval air force commander’s most prized possession is his promotion party invitation drawn by Schulz. Another family treasures the Snoopy count-down calendar made by a soldier for his family so they could mark the days until his return from Vietnam. Adults recall what it was like to want to be cool and confident like Snoopy. Others consider good ol’ Charlie Brown their hero.
Over the years, Fraser, a former U.S. Marine fighter pilot who later made a business of marketing Peanuts merchandise worldwide, often spoke to organizations about Schulz and his characters. Inevitably people would come up afterwards and tell him their own Peanuts stories.

“I’d say, ‘That’s interesting — why don’t you write that down and send it to me?’” he said. “So over 10 or 15 years I had a file of these personal stories but I didn’t know what I was going to do with them.”

Following Schulz’ death in 2000 Fraser suggested to his widow, Jeannie, that an oral history program be created at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa. She agreed and eventually Fraser collected 41 oral histories from people who knew the cartoonist personally.

“The stories that came out of this were tributes to Sparky, what a fabulous person he was and how he had influenced their lives,” Fraser said. “Then I started thinking about this little file I had of stories from people who never knew him but had just read the Peanuts strips. Sparky had won all the writing and cartooning awards you can get, some two and three times, but the mark of the man was how he had touched the lives of people that didn’t know him.”

And so, with the help of Bang, a member of the Peanuts collector club and co-editor of their newsletter, the two compiled the stories that commemorate Schulz and his “gang.” “Security Blankets” was published earlier this year by Andrews McMeel and is available in St. Helena at Main Street Books.

It may not be the last, Fraser said. If more people have stories to share, there could be a sequel.


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related links: 
Schulz Museum

Andrews McMeel Publishing