This week’s strip reminded me some of the elements of Schulz’s career that surprised me to discover when I first voyaged out to his home in Santa Rosa, California in 2011.
Being from Minnesota, Schulz grew up on ice skating and hockey. But in the years after he moved his family to northern California, the only ice rink in their area closed. This is why Schulz invested his own money to construct Redwood Empire Ice Arena, which opened in 1969. His first wife, Joyce, a creative in her own right, helped with the design and aesthetics for the arena.
Long story, but the first time I traveled to Santa Rosa I booked a budget hotel room on the other side of town from the Schulz Museum where I was researching. Because a did not have a rental car (and Uber was not a “thing” yet), I had to hike across town every day that week. Coming up on the Schulz Museum from the east, you arrive at the ice rink first. I honestly had no idea that the site even existed.
An ice rink was the last thing I expected to find. For some reason, ice skating did not fit with the way a southerner imagined California.
As I soon learned, this arena was a tremendously important site for Schulz. It enabled him to share a lifelong passion with his kids and community. One of his daughters, Jill, even grew up to be a professional figure skater. It gave him a place to play hockey every week well into his seventies. He is an inductee of the US Hockey Hall of Fame. It gave him a place to produce an annual ice show, which associates of his that I have spoken to said he took way more seriously than anyone could believe. The cafe outside the ice rink (named “Snoopy’s Home Ice”) was Schulz’s go-to spot for breakfast or lunch during his workday routine. It was the place where he first met his second wife, Jeannie. And when his first marriage apart, the couch in the upstairs loft gave him a place to stay through those difficult months.
Seeing the space, taking laps around the rink in my freetime from the archives, and even riding the zamboni gave me a different perspective on all those ice skating and winter scenes in Peanuts.
Right there in the deep cold of the dark winter months was something indispensable for Schulz and Peanuts. There was heart and life in the bracing cold. There was joy in playfulness that the setting evoked. The snow and ice brought something alive in the Peanuts kids, because it brought something alive in Schulz himself.
After a particularly tough winter this year, maybe it is some comfort to look back on better memories of the snow days of yesteryear. Go over to gocomics.com and check out some old winter Peanuts scenes. It’ll be good for your heart during these tough times. Stay safe and well!