As a boy from Saint Paul, Charles Schulz was brought up with a deep appreciation for the two things Minnesotans hold most dear: hard work and hockey.
The first equipped him to become the greatest artist in the history of comic strips, creating Peanuts and introducing the world to Charlie Brown, the siblings van Pelt, and the space-faring, air-combating, insurance-selling dog Snoopy. All 17,897 Peanuts strips published during its 50-year run were conceived, written, and drawn by Schulz himself. In industry talk, this is what’s known as “crazy.” Because most long-running strips, like say Garfield, end up being manufactured by a team of underlings while the strip’s creator does nothing more than take all the credit and devour pan after pan of lasagna (I’m assuming). That’s why Schulz hated Garfield.
But he loved hockey, and this second Minnesotan obsession inspired him to build an ice rink next to his Santa Rosa, CA studio.
As a boy from California, I had never seen ice outside the context of a water glass or the word “Vanilla.” But I was brought up with a deep appreciation for Peanuts. So one day in 1991, when I was ten, my parents took me to get my ice legs at Schulz’s rink. And while I only have faint recollections of the actual skating, I clearly remember what happened afterwards.
Because for all his hard work, Schulz always took the time to survey his ice empire and welcome its visitors. And that was how my parents and I ran into him on our way to the parking lot.
Unfortunately, I had no idea this was the creator of Peanuts. I just assumed he was some nice old man, and spent most of the conversation quietly thinking about Game Boys or something. But eventually Schulz turned to me and asked, “So do you like comics?”
“Yes!” I said.
“Oh? Which ones?” he asked.
To which I responded, “Garfield!”
To which he responded by turning back to my parents and bidding us all good day.