On the anniversary of his birthday, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Charles Schulz, who served during WWII and created the comic strip “Peanuts.”
Born Nov. 26, 1922, Charles Schulz grew up near Saint Paul, Minnesota. Fascinated by comics from a young age, he wanted to be a cartoonist. He drew a picture of his dog that published in the nationally-syndicated Ripley’s Believe It or Not newspaper feature in 1937. While attending high school, Schulz took a correspondence cartoon course with the Federal School of Applied Cartooning. Drafted into the Army in 1943, he postponed his career goals.
Schulz attended basic training and initially served initially at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. By 1944, he promoted to sergeant as the leader of a light machine gun squad and went to Europe in February 1945. After arriving in Le Havre, France on February 18, 1945, Schulz served with the U.S. 20th Armored Division. Schulz served at various camps in the U.S. after the German surrender in April 1945. He discharged as a staff sergeant in January 1946.
After leaving the Army, he returned to Minneapolis where he worked as an art teacher at Art Instruction, Inc. Schulz sold cartoons to the Saturday Evening Post, before his first regular cartoon, “Li’l Folks,” was published in 1947 by the St. Paul Pioneer Press. After“Li’l Folks” was rejected for syndication by the Newspaper Enterprise Association, Schulz ended the strip in January 1950.
Then Schulz approached the United Feature Syndicate with some samples of his strips from “Li’l Folks”and new material he called “Peanuts.” The first “Peanuts” strip appeared on October 2, 1950, in seven newspapers. The strip quickly became one of the most popular weekly comic strips nationwide. Schulz also had a short-lived sports-oriented comic strip called “It’s Only a Game”, that ran from 1957 – 1959.
In 1951, Schulz briefly moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, and married Joyce Halverson. Schulz and Halverson later returned to Minneapolis and stayed until 1958. They moved to Sebastopol, California, where Schulz built his first studio. When the studio accidentally burned down in 1966, Schulz relocated to Santa Rosa, California. After his divorce from Halverson in 1972, he married Jeannie Clyde.
Schulz enjoyed both figure skating and ice hockey, both prominently featured in his cartoons. In Santa Rosa, he was the owner of the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, which opened in 1969, and featured a themed snack bar called “The Warm Puppy”. Schulz was also active in senior ice hockey tournaments; in 1975, he formed Snoopy’s Senior World Hockey Tournament at his Redwood Empire Ice Arena, and in 1981, Schulz received the Lester Patrick Trophy for Outstanding Service to the Sport of Hockey In The U.S.. In 1993, the United States Hockey Hall of Fame inducted him. The United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame posthumously inducted him in 2007.
“Peanuts” ran for nearly 50 years without interruption and appeared in more than 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries in over 25 languages. He retired from cartooning in December 1999 and passed away in February 2000. Schulz was buried in Sebastopol’s Pleasant Hills Cemetery in Sebastopol, California.
Schulz’s widow accepted a Congressional Gold Medal on his behalf on June 7, 2001. In 2002, the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center opened in Santa Rosa, California, celebrating Schulz’s life and cartooning career.
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.