On and off over the years I have wondered about something out of my early recollections concerning cartoon characters. Only recently have I found the time to research it, and I at last have an answer — of sorts. Let’s see what you think.
I can quite easily recollect how young I was when I first saw some comic strips. As far back as I can remember, for example, we had the Sunday editions of three papers in our house on Brook Street in Staten Island: The Daily News, the Daily Mirror, and the New York Journal American, all three of them filled with comic strips.
Here are some of the ones I remember well: Li’l Abner, Dick Tracy, Orphan Annie, the Captain and the Kids, Terry and the Pirates, and Mandrake the Magician. There were others, but I either don’t recall them off hand, or I’m not sure that they go back to the very first ones I ever saw. For example, I’m not sure when I first saw Pogo the Possum, Superman, or Flash Gordon. On top of that, there is one comic strip that I feel goes quite far back, but up until I recently looked it up I wasn’t sure just when I first began reading it.
Which one? Peanuts by Charles Schultz.
You see, there are two things about Peanuts that tend to confuse me when I first began seeing it. The first one is the fact that for three years in Karachi, through an odd coincidence, I received a large box of free paperbacks every month, and they included all the Peanuts books, right from the very first ones, with their very simply drawn characters.
As it happens, I gave that set away many years ago. So when a question arose in my mind about Snoopy “flying” his doghouse around in the guise of a World War I pilot I no longer had the earliest books, and so couldn’t check when that idea first popped into Shultz’s head.
Why would I wonder about that?
Blame J. R. Goldman.
Who is J. R. Goldman?
He was my best friend from late 1940 to August of 1941, when Mom remarried and we moved from Brook Street to Van Duzer Street. So what? Well, a game that J.R. and I used to play confuses me about whose idea that game was — J. R.’s or Charles Shultz’s.
You see, one warm day in the spring of 1941 J. R. jumped atop the doghouse in his yard, and told me to “climb aboard.” After which, we theoretically flew that crazy thing all over the place, shooting down enemy aircraft. And we played that crazy game not just once, but several times.
So my question has always been: What came first? J. R.’s crazy idea or Snoopy’s Sopwith Camel doghouse?
J.R.’s crazy idea. Why? Schultz did not draw his first Peanuts comic strip until October 1950, nine years later.
Is there any chance that J. R. and Schultz ever met?
Now there you’ve got me. Charles Schultz was born in St. Paul, Minn. in November 1922. J. R. was a year older than I was; he was 10 in 1941 and I was 9. And where was he born? Beats me. I would guess Staten Island, but since J. R. didn’t move to Brook Street until 1940, he could possibly have met Schultz in Minnesota, I suppose.
However, it seems a bit of a stretch.
My conclusion? Two people with the same nutty idea.
What do you think?