While attending a couple of community events last week I was reconnected with some fond, yet distant childhood memories. It’s difficult to resist the spirit of the holiday season when you hear the unmistakable classic song “Linus and Lucy,” which was played live by pianist Steven Holtz during the members show and annual holiday party at the White Bear Center for Arts. The next evening I took some comfort when I spotted one of the student volunteers at the annual PJs with Santa event in Vadnais Heights wearing a shirt emblazoned with a drawing of Snoopy napping on top of his elaborately decorated dog house. I was pleased to see that one of the holiday classics I fondly remember from my childhood still has the ability to connect with members of a younger generation.

While in grade school, I avidly followed and immersed myself in the work of Charles Schulz, practicing my drawing skills and saving allowance money to acquire books that contained extensive collections of his comic strips. Growing up, I felt a bond with these characters. Their nuanced personalities and the situations they encountered seemed to be written with an emotional core of humanity and truth even a little kid could recognize.

Observing and responding to my keen interest, my father acquired a print signed by Charles Schulz featuring the core group of characters. Charles Schulz grew up in St. Paul and my dad’s office at the time was just down the street from where Schulz’ father Carl had a barber shop. The fact that this print is now one of my prized possessions is because of a quirk of fate. When I first got the print I proudly hung it over my bed in a frame. During a bout of what my mother termed “roughhousing” with my brother, a tossed shoe hit the frame and shattered the glass. Following a scolding, my mom cleaned up the broken shards of glass and took down the frame with the print. It was never displayed in my room again and was thought to be lost. It wasn’t until my parents were preparing for a move more than 20 years later that the print reemerged in mint condition inside a nondescript manila envelope with “Charlie Brown” written on the outside. In retrospect I wonder if it was a coincidence that it was misplaced, or if my mom knew the print would more than likely end up in tatters under the care of an eight-year-old boy.

It’s hard to believe now, more than 50 years later, that this iconic holiday special was controversial, but when the Charlie Brown Christmas was first scheduled for broadcast, the network television executives didn’t like it and were worried that it would be a ratings disaster. With the choices of music, actual children doing the voices, no laugh track and the use of quotations from scripture, the program was unlike any animated special that had been previously produced.

Perhaps as a lesson in perseverance and following one’s convictions, Charles Schulz stood his ground about what were viewed at the time to be unusual creative choices and much to the surprise of the network executives, when the show first aired in 1965 it was a resounding success. It is now considered a holiday classic.

So, if you’re of a certain generation, or just discovering the enduring charm of some of the classic shows that your parents and grandparents enjoyed, you will likely recognize the following excerpt from the scripture delivered by the character Linus Van Pelt at the conclusion of the Charlie Brown Christmas special, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Now, cue up “Linus and Lucy” and go ahead and dance, preferably in an expressive style reminiscent of your favorite cartoon character.

 

Paul Dols is photojournalist/website editor for Press Publications. He can be reached at 651-407-1238 or photos@presspubs.com.

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