One of my favorite Illustrators/Cartoonists is Charles M. Schulz. I learned months back that the Schulz Museum, normally closed on Tuesdays during the slower part of the year, would be open on Tuesday November 26th in observance of Schulz’s birthday. I joined the celebration that morning with a sketch of the museum in Santa Rosa. The current exhibit, entitled “Starry, Starry, Night,” was a joy, and it warmed my heart to see a grouping of comics featuring the lovable Peanuts characters pondering the universe.
Schulz’s Redwood Empire Ice Arena, situated across the street, opened 28 April, 1969 with a grand opening ceremony starring Peggy Fleming and the Vince Guaraldi Trio. The building mimics an Alpine village with faithful reproductions of Swiss chalet facades and giant redwood trees that tower over the property. I bundled up and enjoyed the chilly temperatures while sketching the skaters. Their perpetual motion as the music thumped was mesmerizing but difficult to capture on paper. I’d like to return sometime soon and give it another try. The chilly temperature was a nice contrast to the abnormally warm weather we’ve been having this late in November and was a reminder that the Christmas holidays are fast approaching.
Unbeknownst to most who visited Snoopy’s Home Ice, Charles M. Schulz (Sparky) was often seen in its Warm Puppy Café, watching skaters zip across the rink. An avid hockey player himself, Schulz built the arena in 1969 as a multi-use facility. At the time, the only ice arena in Santa Rosa had recently closed and he felt that a comfortable gathering spot was important for the community.
Each day before answering correspondence or working on his comic strip, Sparky would start his morning at the Warm Puppy Cafe having an English muffin with grape jelly and a cup of coffee. There he watched skaters practice their patch and freestyle exercises before returning to his studio a few steps down the street. He often returned to the café midday for a tuna salad sandwich and to engage in conversation with friends and the general public.
Today, a table near the front door of the café is reserved in Sparky’s honor. Pictures of Schulz and Peanuts comic strips can be seen through the table’s glass top. Jean Schulz keeps her late husband’s table fresh with seasonal flower arrangements and a balloon for his birthday. It’s a perfect tribute to Sparky; reserving the table where he collected his thoughts and undoubtedly captured ideas for his beloved comic strip.