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Go Back To School Charlie Brown

Jimmy: Hey, everybody, welcome back to the show. This is Unpacking Peanuts. And it's back to school day. Get out your six inch rulers, your loose leaf sheets, your glue stick, because we're all heading back to the classroom.


Hope you had a great summer break. I know I sure did. My name is Jimmy Gownley. I'm going to be your host for the proceedings. I'm also the cartoonist of Amelia Rules, Seven Good Reasons Not to Grow Up, and The Dumbest Idea ever. Joining me, as always, are my pals co hosts and fellow cartoonists. He's a playwright, he's a composer, both for the band Complicated People, as well as for this very podcast. He's the co creator of the original comic book Price Guide, the original editor of Amelia Rules, and the cartoonist behind such great strips as Strange Attractors, A Gathering of Spells, and Tangled River. It's Michael Cohen.


Michael: Hey there.


Jimmy: He's the writer and producer of Mystery Science Theater 3000, a former vice president of Archie Comics, and the creator of the instagram sensation Sweetest Beasts, Harold Buchholz.


Harold: Hello, everybody.


Jimmy: So, guys, here we are today, end of summer, getting back to school. Do you guys have any memories of the back to school days from your youth?


Michael: I try to blot all that out.


Jimmy: Was it pure dread for you?


Michael: Oh, yeah.


Harold: I remember being very excited about the institution of the Trapper Keeper notebook,


Jimmy: one of the greatest inventions,


Harold: It was a snap button notebook that had multiple folders inside and you could pull them out if you wanted for all your different classes. And, boy, that was an advance in technology when I was a kid, and I loved that. But, yeah, there was always that sense of dread, I think, going back and I never did get past that sense. Even though you get to see your friends, maybe you haven't seen since summer, but just that sense of you're not in control. It's a world you have no control over, and you just never know what's going to come your way. And some of it's great, and some of it's just you just have to endure for sure.


Jimmy: Yeah. I was not a fan of school, and, those last few days of summer, I just tried to drain every single drop of them. I'd also like to apologize to our listeners right now. I don't know if you can tell, but I'm fighting a bit of a cold, so I apologize.


Well, I just picked a bunch of general Peanuts school strips that I thought we could talk about, use to talk about, the concept and theme of school in the strip and how the various characters relate to it. And, I thought that would be fun. What we're going to do this whole season is basically we're going to look at various aspects of the comic strip Peanuts, various milieus, various motifs, and, try to dig in deep and see, what some of the secret ingredients that go into making this thing.


But before we do that, how about we, check some listener mail. Well, we got a couple hits on the old Unpacking Peanuts hotline. This one is from listener Don, who writes, been enjoying the podcast immensely. Found it after I started my read through on the Fantagraphics books back in 2021. Perfect. listening to it twofold-- back episodes and the current ones. Thanks for weekly visits. Be of good cheer, Don.


Harold: Be of good cheer, Don.


Jimmy: Thank you, Don.


Harold: Thank you.


Jimmy: Well, I hope it's a good. I really do hope that it's a good tool for people who are reading through the books. That was my fondest hope that people would be able to read along with those books. or on GoComics or whatever.


Harold: yeah, because it's kind of daunting, right? When you get them all and you're like, how do I even tackle this?


Jimmy: Yeah, it really is. I mean, 17,897 strips, that's not kidding around. So, hopefully none that is helping you out. We, got another text from super listener Shaylee. Hello, gentlemen. And Ms. Sumner. Just thought I'd pop in for a little hello. I was catching up on some episodes and I wanted to chime in on something mentioned in one episode regarding the little red haired girl's name. The common search result I get, and from looking in the animated specials, the name Heather Wold comes up. I've seen the name appear in the 2016 Peanuts movie on a test result paper. Her name is the fourth one on the list, but she was never called by that name. Her last name is similar to her real life inspiration, Ms. Donna Johnson Wold. I don't know if this helps, but it was interesting either way. Be of good cheer, Shaylee.


That is interesting. I never noticed that when they would obliquely refer to her, that they directly named her after his own little red haired girl.


What else have we got here then? we got an email from Jon Attema. So Jon writes and says, hi all. I wanted to send this earlier, but better late than never. Also, it's more geared towards Harold, but I hope you all can get a little something out of it. Seven years ago, when MST three K, that's Mystery Science Theater 3000 for you squares out there, was in its first revival one of the most-- seven years? oof.


Harold: Wow, that seems so strange.


Jimmy: wow.


Harold: We need to revive the revival.


Jimmy: One of the most touted rewards was an MST mug, which was revealed to be a tiki mug. As people started to receive them, many of us Photoshopped images to celebrate our new mugs. The image at the URL was admittedly my idea. It was one of the first images that came to mind. My dad, Bernie Attema, did the actual work since skill was involved. Hope you get a chuckle out of this. Feel free to share and repost. I'm really enjoying the show and hope it continues beyond the strips into the specials, the musical, the regular cartoons, the commercials. Be of good cheer, Jon. All right. And I'm going to look at this.


Harold: Be of good cheer, Jon.


Jimmy: Thank you.


Harold: We've just covered this, so it's very appropriate.


Jimmy: All right, we're going to have to show this. Put this on Unpacking Peanuts obscurities page. So what, Jon has done, and his dad has done it's, the last strip, of the Mr. Sack episode, but instead seeing, Alfred E. Newman in the sky. He sees the Mystery Science Theater Planet logo. Very cute.


Harold: And it is a great mug, i, must say, Jon very cool. Yeah, it's one of my treasured possessions from that Kickstarter.


Jimmy: Very nice. All right, a little MST three K love.


Liz: and a little Attema love, because, his dad, is also a listener and generous supporter.


Jimmy: That is awesome. We are bringing the generations together. Since we're talking about generous supporters, I'd like to give a quick thanks, to some people who have been buying us some delicious mud pies recently. Joshua Stauffer, Bernie Attema, and Frank Bocello So, thanks, guys. I really appreciate that. We all really appreciate that.


Harold: Thank you.


Jimmy: And, we heard from Robin Snyder. Michael, do you want to explain who Robin Snyder is?


Michael: Robin Snyder is someone who's been in the comic business a long time. He's had a newsletter called The Comics for years. He now has a website. And, he's published a lot of Steve Ditko's later work. And, a very good friend of mine from Bellingham. And we miss Robin and his wife Robin.


Jimmy: That's amazing. They're both named Robin. Yeah. Robin writes, this is a unique production, an in depth analysis, commentary from day one up. Has there been anything like it on any other comic strip? Barney Google and Snuffy Smith. Blondie. Buck Rogers. Smokey Stover. Well, I do have to cop that. I did steal this idea totally from Stovercast, so I hope those guys don't mind. They've been talking about Smokey for decades. No, I don't think anybody's dumb enough to do a whole decades long read.


Harold: No. There's no Harold Teen retrospective.


Jimmy: Okay, but we should do some I had this theory Harold might remember this, that it was in the early two thousands and, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith was still running. And I'm pretty sure the guy drew tater tot.


Harold: I love that you call him Tater Tot


Jimmy: That’s not his name. what is his name?


Harold: Tater. But Tater is a tot.


Jimmy: That’s better.


Harold: It's just very appropriate. I think it's great. Yeah, they should pick that up.


Jimmy: well, I'm pretty sure they killed off Tater Tot to see if anyone noticed, and I don't think they ever did. There was one strip where literally, the punchline was just Tater Tot running off a cliff.


Harold: I've never seen this strip. Maybe there's somebody who's a huge comics fan who can provide. Well, we can actually see what Jimmy's been talking about for so long.


Jimmy: It happened between 1997 and 2008, because I remember reading it at the break room at my old job.


Harold: Did tater tot not show up for another ten years?


Jimmy: I read it religiously for weeks after that and never saw Tater Tot.


Harold: Oh, no. Wow.


Jimmy: all right, so that brings us up to date on our listener mail. I have to say, I love hearing from you guys. And as you know, when I don't hear, I worry. So we would love for you to check in with us, tell us, how you're enjoying the podcast, anything else you might want us to cover. There's a bunch of different ways you can do that. You can, check us out on social media, on Facebook, and on the app formerly known as Twitter. We're at unpackpeanuts. on Threads We're also at Unpack Peanuts and Unpacking Peanuts on Facebook. You could also just email us through our website, unpackingpeanuts.com. And, of course, you can text or call the hotline 24 hours a day. And that number is


Liz: 717-219-4162.


Harold: And if you don't hear back from us immediately, on the show, don't worry. depending on when we're recording, it may take a little bit of time for us to get to, your comment.

Jimmy: All right, so, guys, what do you say we get to the old school strips?


Harold: Great.


November 19, 1961. Our first panel, we see good old Charlie Brown in one of those symbolic panels where he's standing in front of a giant clock that's about to hit noon. He walks out to the playground holding his sack lunch. He starts talking to himself as he walks up to the bench. “I don't think I'd mind school at all if it weren't for these lunch hours. I guess I'll sit on this bench.” He does sit on the bench. And he holds his little sack lunch on his lap, saying, “I have to sit by myself because nobody else ever invites me to sit with them. Peanut butter again. Oh, well, mom does her best.” Now he's eating his sandwich and looking off forlornly. “Those kids look like they're having a lot of fun. I wish they liked me. Nobody likes me.” He checks out the bench and says “the PTA did a good job painting these benches.” He continues, “I'd give anything in the world if that little girl with the red hair would come over and sit with me. I get tired of always being alone. I wish the bell would ring.” Charlie Brown is now plumbing the depths of his lunch bag. “A banana. Rats. Mom alway-- still, I guess she means well.” He's continuing, chomping away on the banana. “I bet I could run just as fast as those kids. That's a good game they're playing. That little girl with the red hair is a good runner. Ah, There's the bell. One more lunch hour out of the way.” Then he stands up with his crumpled bag and walks back to school. “2120 to go.”


Michael: Do you think we could calculate how old he is in this?


Jimmy: Well, we? Harold.


Michael: No, I challenge our listeners to do the math.


Jimmy: 180 days in a school year.


Harold: Yeah. So, I think he's expecting that he can go to college. They have playgrounds in college, right? Yeah. That'll be about, around twelve years. Roughly.


Jimmy: Like a first grader. Yeah. Because one thing that really struck me as I was going through these strips that I want to talk to you guys about, because it's interesting, because it, reflects where we kind of are in our regular reading, which is at the halfway point, at some point, he decides to go ahead and just start making this kind of platonic Peanuts. And it really does click in around 74, where it's like they go to school. So he has no problem putting Charlie Brown and Linus in class together, or even Linus and Sally in class together, which is a really strange thing, considering he had gone through all the way of making the characters by making them younger and bringing them in. Do you guys have any thoughts about why he would be trying to do that or what he was hoping for?


Michael: Well, clearly the logic already went out the window, and so yeah, I mean, it's just why should he worry about sacrificing the use of some of these characters? Because they're not the right age.


Jimmy: Right?


Michael: Yeah, I think it's just no one except you would ever know.


Harold: Yeah, I think Michael's right. I think he just has a good gag, and he feels like the characters are kind of evening out with each other. Gives him the opportunity. He doesn't seem to be so interested in age-related jokes anymore, so now it's more relational. in terms of just personality.


Jimmy: I think it's a hangover from the animated specials.


Michael: This is a mid early 60s.


Jimmy: Well, no, he doesn't do it in here. I'm just talking about the later stuff where he will show Linus hanging out with him and stuff like that.


Michael: Yeah.


Harold: One of the things that he does do in the Sunday strip, I'm often reading them black and white, but the coloring is always something that I don't know. Everybody does this, but he uses these backgrounds. Since things are so spare, he'll just offer a single background color and he'll alternate it. So here we go from light green to light orange to light blue to light green to lighter blue to darker green to lighter green. And it alternates every single time between this color palette and, we had just read the Peanuts Jubilee book, which is, I think, the first time that we saw full color Peanuts Sundays that I know of in book form. And it really stands out because he chose a lot of these later strips for him at 1975 later strips for him. And they have these really bright, garish colors sometimes in the backgrounds. What do you think of that? do you like--


Michael: I assumed there was like a strobe light or something.


Jimmy: I think that comes partly out of it's. Like the lazy man's Krazy Kat. Right? Krazy Kat had always the, psychedelic, surreal, shifting backgrounds, and he's just doing it without having to draw anything, just changing the color. I think it makes a really attractive, looking strip when it's toned-- Like, I know what you're talking about. Some of the colors, especially in that Peanuts Jubilee book, I don't know if that's how they looked in the paper. Well, now that I'm saying that out loud, they weren't intended to be printed on that white paper. They were intended to be printed on newsprint. So probably muted them a little bit.


Harold: A little bit.


Jimmy: But I think it looks good, for the most part. Yeah, I like it. I would prefer black and white all across the board, but that's fine.


Harold: Well, and the other thing that really strikes me about this strip is, this is Schulz at his best, building a character that you're going to fall in love with. Right. Because he's the loser. He's hopeful, he's appreciative, but he know has his disappointments, but he tries to be philosophical about them. I love that panel where he's looking at the banana. He says, A banana rats, mom always still. I guess she means well. I mean, that's beautiful writing. And you don't normally get to see that in a character. You don't normally get to see a character who's kind of in the background of life. He certainly is. Here. He's sitting on the sidelines of recess and lunch, and I think people hadn't experienced that really very much in art before. And I think Schulz had this to himself.


Michael: But does she mean well? She's probably not working at this time period. So, I mean, can't she do better than this? How about a sardine sandwich on Wonder Bread?


Jimmy: A banana is a healthy lunchtime snack.


Harold: Oh, man, I loved peanut butter and banana. That was what he's looking at? Well, you don't put it on the sandwich. You have to eat it separately, and you choose the ratios.

Jimmy: I'm sure that is a ratio-centered dish. You got to get those ratios right.


Harold: Yeah. I think Charlie Brown's mistake is he eats the sandwich and then he eats the banana. He needs a little moisture, you know, to help. Unless there's a lot of jelly.


Michael: Bleah. You’re making me sick.


Liz: You're missing the point that sardine sandwiches that Michael had to eat might explain who he is today.


Jimmy: Did you really have to eat sardine sandwiches?


Michael: at least once a week on wonder bread.


Jimmy: Wait,


Michael: now we're talking mom not meaning well. Just not really caring at all.


Harold: Well Michael, did sardines sit out okay for 4 hours?


Michael: Did it matter? all the little crunchy bones. Eww


Jimmy: Ulk, that sounds awful.


Harold: Oh, my gosh. A sardine sandwich. Wow.


Michael: Still better than peanut butter.


Jimmy: Oh, really? I love peanut butter. Jelly. What would be your go to school lunch. If you had to have one, if you could pick anything.


Michael: Oh, pasta.


Jimmy: Pasta.


Harold: It's not a school lunch like spaghetti. Spaghetti and, meat sauce or whatever.


Jimmy: No wonder you're always disappointed.


Harold: So Michael, did you have the hot lunch?


Michael: If we're talking the age of these kids, no.


Harold: Now, I did have the hot lunch as a kid in the public school.


Michael: No, it didn't come till like high school.


Harold: I usually did not get it. I preferred the peanut butter sandwich and the brown bag to

Jimmy: I’m sure I would stick with the peanut butter as well. We only had hot lunch, like, once a week or something. Or once every two weeks, maybe.


Harold: I got really nervous one day when I was sitting in the cafeteria in the morning, just using the space, while the cooks were getting ready. And then lady says, I think we need to reglaze the donut. Reglaze the donut. And the public school donuts were, like these slimy oh, they were pretty nasty. And the other thing I remember is, for some reason, somebody bought a lot of prunes, thinking, kids just love prunes. finally they just put them out and they made a little handwritten sign that says the prunes are free. And we were running around going, the prunes are free.


Jimmy: Run for the hills. Wow. And just so everyone knows, we're going to be skipping around all over the place year-wise, because that just was the mood I was in.


March 22, 1963 so here we have Charlie Brown and Linus. They're sitting outside on a little step there outside of someone's house. And Linus looks very upset, head in his hands. And he says, “everyone's so upset because I didn't make the honor roll.” Now they're walking, and Linus is talking, still upset. “My mother's upset. My father's upset. My teacher's upset. The principal's upset. Good grief. They all say the same thing.” Linus says to Charlie Brown. “They're disappointed because I have such potential.” Then Linus yells to the heavens, there's no heavier burden than a great potential.”


Jimmy: oh, I know we talked about this one before. I completely relate to this.


Harold: Right. So you were that kid, right, in school, that


Jimmy: if I didn't make the honor roll


Harold: top grade,


Jimmy: I can't imagine.


Michael: There was actually an honor roll?


Jimmy: Yeah.


Michael: What grade are we talking?


Jimmy: All grades.


Michael: Really?


Jimmy: Yes. And then it turns into the dean's list in college,


Liz: apparently you never made honor roll.


Jimmy: You must have been focused on that sardine sandwich.


Michael: I didn't know there was such a thing.


Jimmy: Honor roll, there's, like distinguished honors, first honors, second honor.


Michael: Yeah at a high school, maybe.


Jimmy: No, we had them from fourth grade. Third grade, I think, actually.


Michael: Wow. I had no idea.


Harold: So did you have letter grades all the way through?


Jimmy: For the first four years and then numbers after that


Harold: Numbers? Like percentages?


Jimmy: well, that was the same.I once got straight hundreds, but the nun made-- I did not get a single question wrong on a single test for an entire quarter. I turned in all my homework, and she gave me straight 99s. Because only God is perfect in fourth grade geometry or whatever the heck. I'm not saying I can create a universe. I'm just saying I know the capital of Thailand.


Harold: I didn't create geometry. I just answered the question.


Jimmy: That's a much better, more elegant way to put it.


Harold: Did the squeaky wheel get the grease, or did you just let it slide?


Michael: So would it like a B minus qualify for the honor roll?


Jimmy: probably second honors? No. B minus? No. Not a B minus? No, please.


Michael: I was always happy when I got a B minus.


Jimmy: When I'd get a 94 in math, that would be problems.


Harold: Yeah. I was always, like, the friend of the kid who is a little bit smarter than everybody else, so the pressure was not quite on me. I finished, like, six out of 280 students in my high school, but I knew the people who were, like, first and second, and so I was, like, in the pack, but I was never the person that everyone looks like. Like, oh, this kid's got to perform. I was doing well, but, I was never the smartest person in the room. And I think that was great. I like that.


Jimmy: Well, I don't know that I used a decent memory to present the illusion of intelligence, and, that worked direct until I was, like, 40, I think. So stick with it.


March 7, 1969. We have Linus again. This time, he's hanging out at his desk, just sitting there in class, reading a little book, and he says, “yes, ma'am. You want me to pound the erasers? Yes, Ms. Halverson, I'd be glad to.” Then we see Linus taking a really nice pile of old, chalkboard erasers outside, and he says, “Ms. Halverson must like me. It's a privilege to be selected to pound the erasers.” Linus does that. WAP WAP WAP WAP WAP. He's pounding the erasers between his hands, kicking up a huge cloud of chalk dust. And then Linus says to us, “my memories of Miss Othmar are going up in chalk dust.”


Jimmy: Do our younger readers even know what he's doing?


Michael: First of all, I'm confused.


Jimmy: That's shocking.


Michael: No, but I'm not quite sure what's going on here.


Jimmy: What do you mean?


Michael: What does that last line mean? Is Miss Othmar-- she got married, and she is Miss Halverson?


Jimmy: no, you should listen to the podcast. Miss Halverson is the replacement for Miss Othmar.


Michael: Okay, so I don't quite get the joke.


Harold: Well, I think we're in a sequence here where, Miss Othmar has just left, and Miss Halverson is kind of getting established. I guess there's no way to describe this other than as new things happen, He's losing a little bit. I don't know.


Jimmy: Yeah, that's exactly what it is. It's not the greatest punchline, but I love the drawing of him carrying the, erasers. They really look very authentic.


Harold: Yeah, I remember that smell. That smell of the--


Jimmy: So what would happen is they'd have to have someone go out and pound the erasers. Because as you'd write with chalk on a slate wall and rub it off with these erasers, the erasers would collect all the chalk dust, and they would get to a point that they would be so covered with chalk dust, they couldn't even erase anymore. So you'd go out and pound them together or pound them on the side of a building to, clean them off. And what was great about that is you got about 10-15 minutes where you weren't in class. You could blow it off and go out and pound the erasers. That's why it's an honor.


Harold: Yeah. And I do have memories. Remember, you get called to go up to the front of the class to spell something or do a math problem or whatever, and it was kind of fraught with this energy when you're in front of the classroom. Yeah, I actually wrote a poem about it.

Jimmy: Would you like to favor us with a, recitation?


Harold: oh, boy, if I can remember. Let's see.


Jimmy: And, if we have some beautiful music for behind this, I think that would be nice.

Harold: I'm going to stumble through this. I may remember some of it. So it's like--


My heart skips a beat as I rise from my seat. I'm among the elite who get to write on the chalkboard

To the front I go, past Susie and Joe. Is Miss Hooper my foe? Only she's between me and the chalkboard.

I finger the tray in a casual way. This sure does beat Crayola Crayons, I say, as I feel the fine dust of the chalkboard.

Its black cold chills my skin. How I long for my pen. The answer is ten? I go sit down again, 10,000 rows from that chalkboard.


Jimmy: Now, how old were you when you wrote that? Very nice.


Harold: I think I was in college. It's actually in a book, called Reading with Pictures. I did a little, I think a two page.


Jimmy: You got an illustration? That's great. Well, we should have that.


Harold: Yeah. Yeah. I could probably find it and send some scans for the obscurities people. But, those memories yeah. This stuff with Linus and this school, this felt so authentic to me. I just have to say, as a know, reading these things, I felt like Schulz knew my experience when it came to school, it really did feel like he was right in the middle of it. And it's hard to do right when you're years beyond something. he was certainly surrounded by kids who were going through it, and he seemed to have not only from his own memory, but he seemed to have kind of a sympathy or an empathy that really worked in his favor when he was covering these issues. Because to a kid, school is a big deal. It's your life, right? It's your job. And it's a job you didn't select. And particularly in the early years, you're in the classes they give you, you don't choose anything. Maybe you get to choose the book you read for some independent reading thing, but it's all just kind of laid on you. and the drama of it, he captures really beautifully. And it seems, I think, to a lot of adults, when you look back, it seems so small, but it certainly wasn't when you were that age. It was a big, big deal. And he seems to capture that better than anybody I've ever seen in any art form.


Jimmy: For someone who says he doesn't write for children, he certainly does.


Harold: Yeah.


Jimmy: You know what I mean? I think that's something he has to say, because he doesn't write just for children. He writes for this general audience, but he has great empathy for kids.


Harold: Yeah, it's a family audience. And I think maybe I brought this up before, but, I love the idea that he-- He thinks he has the right to write for adults. I get that he's giving himself that right. And he's certainly in a medium that allows him to do that. If he's in a newspaper, the person who bought that newspaper was not the child. It's the adult. If it's coming to a household, or you say you're reading it when you're at a library or whatever, but it's an adult world that these strips are in. But it genuinely is what I would call a family strip. And it's family entertainment. on the back of my little Sweetest Beast books, I've created this kind of fake-- I say fake, but it's a logo that kind of looks like, the ratings that you see on video games. And I have, like, a black background with the big, bold white letters, and it says F-A-M. fan-rated family. Because I love the idea of something that's going to be enjoyed on multiple levels by adults as well as kids, and something that they can enjoy together and experience together, talk about together, because they've all experienced it on their own levels, and it's satisfying to everybody. That's really hard to do, and I wish they were more.


Jimmy: it's also, in many instances, an unrewarding path, because it's all fighting uphill. I mean, we've been told many times over the decades that there is no such thing as a family book. And whenever someone says that, I immediately just want to go make it just to prove them wrong because it's such a stupid thing.


Harold: Well, that's kind of what happened to me, because, when I was printing for comic books back in, the late 90s, through the was a printing broker. I was helping people get their comic books published, and I was specifically interested in bringing back comics that would be kid friendly. And the term that I used at the time was all ages, and that term became-- I wasn't the first person to use it, but I definitely popularized it because there were a lot of people out there making that sort of thing, and they grew up reading comics, and there weren't comics for kids at the time. It was this little weird period when comics weren't being made for kids because there was no outlet for them. Archie was still around, but there was very, very little. And, Jimmy, when you introduced Amelia Rules around 2000, you were a real rarity to be making a full color comic book that was for kids.


Jimmy: People were hostile to that kind of thing.


Harold: Yeah, and I remember being at, like, a San Diego comic con, and they're you know, comics are not for kids anymore. Kids don't want comics. They like video games. This is the end of comics. I remember we were talking, we were saying, no, that's not just we just don't have them for them. We're not creating them for them. And kids can't make them themselves and publish them and send them all over the place. That's up to the adults. So we formed an organization in 2004 called Kids Love Comics with John Gallagher, because we wanted to let adults know that kids love comics. If you make them, they will, read them and love them. And that certainly to us, that was common knowledge. But there were people I remember saying, it's pretty much over. Comics are over for kids. And that seems so strange today with this renaissance of amazing stories.


Jimmy: Oh, yeah. No, it's wild. It is wild. It wasn't that long ago. Oh, 20 years. That is long ago. But, yeah, it's been fun to watch, and I'm really grateful that, we are proven right, as we so often are.


March 3, 1981. OOH, a flash forward. All right, now we have good old Peppermint Patty showing up, handing in her term paper. She walks up to the desk and says, “here's my term paper, ma'am.” Then she pleads with folded hands and closed eyes, “please judge it with mercy. Treat it as you would a newborn child, which it is, because I just wrote it this morning.”


Jimmy: Now, were you guys procrastinators?


Harold: Yes.


Michael: Oh god


Jimmy: Tell me, Michael, tell me.


Michael: No, I don't want to go there.


Jimmy: Why. Well, no. You still do this to this day, I guess.


Michael: No, I'm not a procrastinator. I don't know if I was back then, either. But I was so terrified of actually having to present.


Jimmy: Oh, yes, you did tell us this story, right? How long did you make that ordeal last for yourself?


Michael: It was the whole semester, and everyone had to do an oral report on an invention. And so I think I wrote it quite quickly. And then 30 people in the class and teacher said, okay, we have volunteers. And of course, I was never going to volunteer to get up. I was terrified.


Jimmy: Yeah.


Michael: So I ended up going last but every morning. It was like flop sweat that, what if she calls me today? And I could have gotten it over with and just relaxed the whole semester. But no.


Jimmy: I mean, I have some tendencies towards that, too. I definitely understand that. What about you, Harold?


Harold: Yeah, I can't say I was a procrastinator. I was probably an amateur. I didn't do it all the time, and sometimes I would always prepare. But it didn't matter how early I started, I always found a way for it to bunch up at the end. That's kind of my style of procrastination, I think. Yeah. It's didn't, make life easy, but it did teach me how to work fast.


Jimmy: Yeah. You know, that's true. And that is a skill, actually. We're going to skip around a little bit. Let's go up ahead to this, Charlie Brown at the desk, Sunday page, because this is related. So, Michael then Charlie Brown, will speak for you in this one.


September 12, 1965. Charlie Brown's sitting at his desk, and he looks upset. He thinks he says to himself, “why do things like this always happen to me?” He puts his head in his hand and says, “because I don't do my homework. That's why things like this always happen to me.” Now he's sitting there with his hands folded, looking out towards the reader, but also looking very nervous. He says, “I'm doomed if that bell doesn't ring pretty soon, I'm doomed. I should have done that report and then I wouldn't have had to worry like this.” He's still looking aggrieved. “Oh, please don't call on me. Please don't. Why doesn't that stupid bell ring? Come on, bell, ring. Take me off the hook.” Now he's hidden his hands again and he's sweating. “Please don't call me today. Wait until tomorrow. Please don't call me, please, please.” Now he's just gritting his teeth and staring off panel, probably in the direction of the clock or the bell. “Come on, you stupid bell, ring. Don't just hang there in the wall. Ring. Come on, ring. Oh, I'm doomed. She's going to call me next and I'm not ready.” And ring. The bell rings. Charlie Brown is instantly elated and relieved. Then he and Linus leave the school, walking home, and Charlie Brown says, “oh, man, what a close call. I thought for sure she was going to call on me. I thought I was doomed.” Linus says, “now you can go home and finish your report, huh Charlie Brown? Then you won't have to worry about it tomorrow.” Charlie Brown runs off saying, “who cares about tomorrow? Come on, let's play ball.”


Jimmy: Very cute. I very vividly remember those moments in the seats in the desks, not having the answer and just not wanting to be called. Well, actually, there's a scene in my memoir, The Dumbest Idea Ever, where the meanest teacher in the world, sister Regina Alma, who also coincidentally taught Harold's wife, called on me and I hadn't done the assignment. and this was doom. And my friend Tony Graziano just distracted her, took the blame, and ended, up being punished from writing all of the classes homework on the board. And he did that just so that I wouldn't get caught for not doing my homework. So shout out to Tony.


Harold: Very cool. Yeah. Again, this authenticity of that feeling. Boy, it's like Schulz is really, really feeling this with Charlie Brown. Yeah. he does it better than anybody, I think.


Jimmy: Here's a Sally one


August 18, 1971. She comes running into Charlie Brown's room. Charlie Brown's still in bed, but this sends him flying. She's screaming, “summer is almost over. School starts in three weeks.” Now she's really screaming as she runs out of the room. “Panic in the streets.” Leaving a disheveled Charlie Brown to say “panic in the streets?”


Jimmy: This was his little run of where he was into this. Repeating a line from earlier in the strip.


Harold: That's so classic Peanuts.


Michael: I think Sally is the best character to talk about the school experience. Not all the characters get school strips. I mean, I can't think of Schroeder being in school.


Harold: Yeah, he doesn't show up often.


Jimmy: There's actually very little Lucy in school.


Harold: Yeah, that's true. It's like she has to be in charge for her to be interesting or have control of the situation, it seems.


Jimmy: Yeah. No, Sally definitely has the existential angst that really feels, accurate to me.

Harold: Yeah, I wonder, I'm guessing that there's a certain younger child in the Schulz family who was particularly inspiring this.


Jimmy: Yeah, that's true. It must have been. Now, if we're looking at that second panel in this one with Sally, and you look at the, edge of the dresser, you can again see that tremor really starting to show up.


Harold: Yeah. And boy, the last, word, balloon of Charlie Brown when he says panic in the streets, he's generally drawn very loosely and roughly, like he's been kind of undone by Sally's existential…


Jimmy: Yeah. Which I'm assuming that's a choice to get a feeling of that disheveledness of him or something like that.


Harold: But yeah, you do see the tremor much less in other places, but he's doing it on purpose there in that last panel.


Jimmy: I love the first panel with Charlie Brown flipping in his bed. That's just great. I love the bunched up comforter. I love Sally running in. Very cute.


Harold: Really nice.


Jimmy: I think Sally would resonate with kids to this day.


Harold: I think so.


Jimmy: All right. Oh, here's a Lucy one, though. And this is actually one of my all time favorite Peanuts strips. We must have talked about this one, but maybe not.


October 13, 1965. Lucy, with a mild scowl on her face, is writing on a piece of paper. She writes, “I will not talk in class. I will not talk in class.” In panel two, she continues, “I will not talk in class. I will m not talk in class. I will not talk in class.” In panel three, even more. “I will not talk in class. I will not talk in class. I will not talk in class. Then in the last panel, she writes “On the other hand, who knows what I'll do? “


Jimmy: That's a great punchline. Now, do you guys have memories of that type of punishment? Was that ever, doled out to you guys? The writing something 50 times or 100 times?


Harold: I never got that one. No.


Jimmy: No? Michael, how about you?


Michael: I was invisible, so the teachers didn’t see me.


Jimmy: Yeah but we would get that for like, the whole class. Well, Catholic school, maybe it was no, like the whole class would have to write, I will not do something stupid.


Michael: Oh, really?


Harold: We didn't have that.


Jimmy: And then we thought this was a hack. So if we were writing I will not talk in class, we'd go I, I, I, I, I, and then write will will will will will


Harold: Oh, nice.


Michael: You get down to an assembly line, you just write the I’s.


Jimmy: This was the same teacher that gave us Black Friday that I just went home for. She wrote on the chalkboard Black Friday. And everyone sat there terrified what was going to happen. So I just went to the nurse and said, I don't feel good. Around 6th grade, I heard someone sitting in the principal's office for some reason. Oh, because my friend's mom was the secretary and we were waiting for her to take us somewhere. And, they said something like, well, you're allowed x amount of absences before you have to repeat the grade. I'm like, what was that?


Harold: Ears prick up.


Jimmy: Yeah, exactly. Well, we're going to push that envelope, my friend.


Liz: Do they still teach cursive?


Harold: I think it's pretty much out the door,


Jimmy: I mean they did Catholic school.


Michael: But I read an article that nobody-- kids do not know. Well, it's not even kids, it's whole generation does not know cursive. Can't read it.


Harold: No, I could see that you wouldn't necessarily teach it how to write it, but you'd think they'd want to spend a few days on reading it because it's still in the culture. Right. You're going to miss out on something.


Michael: How are you going to read the Declaration of Independence.


Harold: Right, yeah. But I was thinking about Lucy here, right. So, you get the impression that she knows the system and she somehow respects the teachers knowing that she's not going to win. But here's a unique situation where now, I don't know if she crumples this up and starts over again, doesn't turn this in, but it's very unusual, to see Lucy kind of buck the adult system. It seems like she's tried to use the know to her advantage by cajoling them into what she wants. But to actually see her oppose them the way you might see Sally do, or reveal their inner angst like Peppermint Patty would. This is a very unusual strip to me that to see Lucy actually pushing back like that.


Jimmy: Yeah. I'm actually really hung up on this, no one knows cursive anymore thing. It's very disturbing to me. For some reason I don't even particularly know. I mean, I understand why people don't know. It's not necessary, really, in today's world. But it just always feels weird when things start drifting away that there must have been some there's something to it. There is something like getting a letter from your grandmother. I mean, no kid--


Michael: Who writes letters anymore?


Jimmy: Nobody, right?


Michael: Yeah. As a matter of fact, when I have to sign my name, I often screw up. I have to think about it because writing in cursive when I have a notebook and take notes, I just do regular printing.


Harold: I don't do cursive.


Jimmy: I do like a half mix between the two.


Harold: Did you find cursive faster? Was it supposed to be like some version of shorthand because you've got the flow of the pen?


Jimmy: Yeah.


Harold: And was that another thing? Because maybe people used that flow of the pen because they were using dip pens and fountain pens and where you'd get in trouble if you pulled you kept laying the picking up, laying down, picking up, laying down. And that's not an issue anymore. But I do wish that they would teach kids how to read it, because you're missing out on a little piece of your culture if you don't get to see what happened in the past to be able to read it.


Jimmy: Yeah, for sure.


Michael: But Chinese people don't have cursive.


Jimmy: That's true.


Michael: Not necessary.


Jimmy: All right. Another Sally.


October 2, 1969. This time she's raging about an art project. She's sitting at her desk and she says to the teacher, “Draw a farm. You want us to draw a farm?” Her hands are out and she exclaims, “I can't draw a farm. I've never even seen a farm. Besides, cows legs are impossible to draw.” Then she raises her fists and yells, “I defy anyone in this class to draw a good cow leg.” Then we see her sitting outside the principal's office. “I'm the only person I know who's failing first grade art.”


Harold: No, I had some Sally and me. I do specifically remember in 6th grade where I had an outburst and I even vaguely remember what it was. I think, there was some sentence that we were being given orally, and then we were supposed to write down what the proper punctuation and it, had something to do with, an airline flight. And it was like the 440 airline flight. And the way I understood it, I thought it was the time that the flight was leaving. So I put the colon between the number and the minutes that I thought it was, and then I got it back wrong, and I raised my hand. Well, why is this wrong? And he says, well, because that's the name of the flight. That's not the time. And I remember just going, well, how was I supposed to know? I was sent out of the know.


Jimmy: Oh, nice. I would have applauded young Harold Buchholz.


Harold: Yeah. One of my favorite strips, that I did in college, had a little tiger mascot character, and they had a professor in the front who was just yelling to the classes, Question authority. Question authority. Question authority. And then the little tiger in the front raises hand and says, Why? And the professor boots him out of the class.


Jimmy: Very cute. you were talking to earlier about giving a presentation. One of the big life lessons I got in grade school was and this is also actually in The Dumbest Idea Ever. so if you wanted to buy that not that this is a plug, but it's a total plug. But, yeah, I had to give a pre-- I was reading a graphic novel in class in 8th grade because it was free reading period, and the nun took it out of my hands. It was an ElfQuest book, which at the time I thought was like, Proust, you know, like what is possibly the problem with this? And no, we're not allowed to read comic books. So then we had to give a persuasive speech. So mine was why comic books are literature and should be allowed in class. And she raved about it. I got an A. She said it was the best one in the class. I said, when can we start reading comics? She's like, what the hell are you talking never. So I can be right. I can make a persuasive argument, but still nothing's going to be done. Correct. All right. That's a good life lesson, I guess. One of the cruelties of the childhood world. Yeah.


Harold: Boy, some of that stuff, it's still very much alive in your mind. You still remember those moments where you felt there was some massive injustice had just happened to you? Yeah.


April 3, 1964. It's another lunch strip. Linus and Charlie Brown are walking to school, both carrying their sack lunches. Linus with a very jaunty hat. I appreciate Linus's hat. It's a good trademark. Linus says, “I didn't feel very well when I got up this morning. My mother almost kept me home from school. Finally, she decided, I'd better go.” Charlie Brown says to him, “you looked like you were feeling huh?” Then Linus holds up his lunch bag and says, “no, she had my lunch all made.”


Jimmy: Get him out the door. I know you guys don't have kids. It's actually kind of a pain in the butt to constantly pack lunches for kids every single day. I feel for


Liz: Hence the sardines


Jimmy: especially when you're slapping sardines on white bread. I mean, my god,


Michael: you just dump them in the bag.


Jimmy: All right, so hang on. You had to assemble the sardines?


Harold: Hopefully the oil was drained out, or that'd be quite the experience.


Jimmy: Well, I used to, for one period in high school in Pennsylvania, there's a specific type of bologna called ring bologna. I don't know if anyone knows about this outside of Pennsylvania.


Harold: Ring bologna.


Jimmy: Oh, it's the food of the gods.


Harold: Really? It sounds like a disease.


Jimmy: It also is that. Unfortunately, yes, but this is amazing stuff. And then they also have garlic flavored ring bologna. Is that good. And, boy, when you have a week's worth of those in your locker, suddenly Buddy Leiden, who has the locker next to you, is like, hey, can you switch up the lunch there, buddy?


Harold: Oh, my. for a second there, I thought you said you basically were just building them, going you were buying food off of other kids and just leaving it in your locker.


Jimmy: Ring baloney


Harold: Yeah, I got to check out ring baloney next time.


Jimmy: Oh, another good one. Philadelphia cream cheese and jelly


Liz: umm yes, I used to have that


Jimmy: Was that a good one? All right, so good.


October 3, 1968. Allright now, we got Linus here in the classroom. He's sitting in his desk, and he's working out what looks like an exam. He says to himself, “let's see. Now, in a true or false test, the first question is almost always true.” In the second panel, we see Linus carefully studying the test. “That means the next one will be false to sort of balance the true one, the next one will also be false to break the pattern.” This is genius stuff. “Then another true, and then, two more false ones, and then three trues in a row. They always have three trues in a row someplace. Then another false and another true.” Linus looks out at us and says, “if you're smart, you can pass a true or false test without being smart.”


Harold: Oh, man, I so relate to that.


Jimmy: That is my entire philosophy.


Harold: I so relate to this. Oh, my gosh. another story. In 8th grade, in the earth sciences class, we had a professor, a teacher, who he was, giving us lots of multiple choice tests. So he was easy to grade. He would pattern them. So it would be AA, Bbccdde, and then the next one would be ABC, abc, abc. And at some point, I just went up to him and said, look, I can see the pattern here that you're doing. And, he says, yeah, well, it makes it easier to grade the test. And if you can figure that out, you deserve to get the A. And the other teacher I had in high school for, American history, he would just photocopy the quizzes from the back of the teacher's edition. Now, of course, it was possible to get the teacher's edition, which, to my knowledge, none of us actually did. But I guess it was supposed to be like, you're supposed to actually type it up or mix it up or whatever. And he didn't, right? He's just photocopying on the back. But the correct answer is underlined in the back of the teacher book. So he takes, those old fashioned liquid paper brushes, which are incredibly hard to negotiate, and he would white out the underline. Then invariably, he would nick the letters multiple times all the way through. And so, same deal. I went up to him and said, look, we can tell when you've underlined this thing and you've nicked out a piece of the letter. He's like, oh, wow. Thanks. I appreciate that. Thanks for telling me. In the very next test, you saw things where he had nicked the, underline, and then he would nick another one, but on purpose. And so it was always nicked more. So then, just like Linus trying to outsmart him. It's like, whichever one was nicked more, was the fault, the not underlined, like so, yeah, I totally relate to Linus here.


Jimmy: He's probably was going home. honey, I got this kid in my class.


Harold: Why don't they just let me be?


Jimmy: Maybe it was like a Jack Black School of Rock situation.


Harold: There this kid won't give me a break in my multiple choice questions.


Jimmy: Well, let me ask you guys this. We'll start with you, Michael. Did you ever have a Miss Othmar situation? Did you ever have a teacher that you liked so much you bordered on a crush?


Michael: Oh, in college.


Jimmy: Who was she?


Michael: Oh, I had an art teacher who was actually the first art teacher who actually taught me what I wanted to know. And I was just, like, amazed. Somebody actually oh, what was that illustration? How to do, like, photorealistic portraits. and it wasn't like, okay, we're going to draw like a cubist. I want to learn how to draw comic books. So actually, that was amazing. So I took, like, three classes from her.


Jimmy: Nice. My, illustration professor, I love, too, but it was not a romantic thing with Dr. Robert Nelson. Very nice. And by the way, if you listeners out there haven't seen Michael's photorealistic portraits, you got to check them out. I mean, there's a link on our site to Michael's work. Yeah, they're beautiful. I have a beautiful portrait. a pastel portrait in the Ameliaverse. Right now, looking at me.


Michael: It's just a trick.


Jimmy: You always say, well, tell me, what the trick?


Michael: No, I can't. I'm sworn to silence, because then everyone will do it. And no one will like mine.


Jimmy: I think the trick is to work really hard and be very talented. But anyway, how, about you, Harold? Did you have a Miss Othmar?


Harold: No, I had a very pretty German, teacher in junior high, but it was not


Jimmy: That’s unlikely.


Harold: Well, she wasn't German. I remember that. And then we got the real German teacher. When she moved on, we did have the Miss Othmar moment where, the favorite teacher left, and then the new one came in. And she was very German.


Jimmy: By the way. I know for a fact we have one listener that I will get grief from as soon as they hear that German teacher crack.


Harold: Yes.


Jimmy: So I apologize in advance. You know who you are.


Harold: Yeah. Well, my last name is Buchholz, so I guess I can give it a little bit.


Jimmy: There you go. Yeah. Obviously, in Catholic school, there was no Miss Othmars. No.


Liz: No Haley Mills?


Jimmy: No.No.


Harold: The trouble with angels.


Jimmy: No Sally Fields. Nothing like it. Nothing like it. It's all propaganda and chicanery. So that was school. That's school in Peanuts, and it's going back to school now. So if you guys are out there going back to school or getting your little ones back to school, I hope you have a good, fall to do it. we're going to come back next week. Next week we're going to do something else fun. We might do unrequited love.


Liz: I think it's duos.


Jimmy: Yeah. No, it's duos. That's a great one. We're going to pick duos and comedy teams within the world of Peanuts and highlight some of those. So I think that should be real fun. What I want to do here is give us a little break at the halfway point because it's a 50-year endeavor. and I just basically want to slow it down and savor it a little more because I can't believe how fast we got through half of it. And I'm just enjoying it too much to race towards the end. So we're going to do a couple of theme episodes before we get back to 1975. But between now and next week, what I would love you to do is hop on the old Internet, write us an email through Unpackingpeanuts.com, find us on Threads, the app formerly known as Twitter and Instagram at unpackpeanuts, on Facebook, at Unpacking Peanuts. And you could call us on our Hotline, which is--


Liz: 717 219 4162


Jimmy: And, you know, you could call any time of the day or night. Most likely it won't be set to ring, but know that if it is set to ring, you will baffle and confuse me and you could laugh at my plight. It'll be worth it.


Harold: For those of you who are in the Baltimore, Maryland area, I will be at the Baltimore Comic Con, September 8th through the 10th. So if you want to come out and say hi, we've got Unpacking Peanuts vinyl stickers. You just come up and ask for one and introduce yourself and hopefully we can talk Peanuts there. that would be great. And I've got my Sweetest Beasts books as well as, some of the Mystery Science Theater comic and script book with me as well.


Jimmy: Until then, that's all we got. so I hope you had fun, I hope you have a good week, and we'll see you here next week. for Michael and Harold. This is Jimmy. Be of good cheer.


Michael and Harold: Yes, Be of Good Cheer


VO: Unpacking Peanuts is copyright Jimmy Gownley. Michael Cohen and Harold Buchholz. Produced and edited by Liz Sumner. Music by Michael Cohen. Additional Voiceover by Aziza Shukralla Clark. For more from the show, follow UnpackPeanuts on Instagram and Twitter. Unpacking Peanuts on Facebook and YouTube. For more about Jimmy, Michael and Harold, visit unpackingpeanuts.com. Have a wonderful day and thanks for listening.


Jimmy: The illusion of intelligence.


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