Who doesn’t recognize these two comic strip characters?
Everyone knows they are Charlie Brown and Snoopy.
They are perhaps the most famous characters in the most famous comic strip ever: Peanuts.
And they were created by another familiar name: Charles M. Schulz.
What everyone doesn’t know is that Schulz spent a year in Colorado Springs in 1951 in a two-bedroom house on El Paso Street in Bonnyville, a new subdivision on the town’s northern edge.
He and his first wife, Joyce, lived their with their baby daughter, Meredith. Here is a photo of the young family taken in the living room of their Bonnyville home. Note the drapes in the photo. They showed up in Schulz’s strip as did neighbors and real-life events in Colorado Springs.
In Meredith’s nursery, Schulz painted a cartoon mural with a tiger, a train, a duck, fish, rabbit and, of course, a round-headed boy in a zig-zag shirt and a beagle puppy.
Here’s a look at the wall as it now stands in the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, Calif.
It’s a small miracle that the mural, all 8-by-12 feet of it, ever made it to Sonoma County. That’s because after Schulz and his family moved back to Minnesota, the mural was painted over, four times, in the ensuing years.
It became legendary among neighbors once Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the Peanuts gang became a worldwide sensation in the 1960s.
The legend of the mural was told to Polly and Stanley Travnicek when they bought the little two-bedroom, one-bath house in 1979. They intended to rent it out for additional income.
But first, Polly wanted to see if she could find the mural. She even wrote Schulz and learned he had used oil paint. She knew from her own art background that the oil likely survived under the flat wall paint that covered it.
Here’s Polly Travnicek with a photo of the mural she uncovered.
She went to work with cotton balls and paint remover, carefully stripping off four layers of paint until she reached the brown oil paint Schulz had used.
It was many more days and many more cotton balls before she uncovered a tiger on the mural. Then a little girl, Patty, and finally, Charlie Brown. Here, Polly points to the spot she first uncovered on the mural.
Over the years, Polly and Stanley enjoyed the fame their mural brought. They took tour groups through their home regularly as they freely shared it with strangers.
Schulz died in February 2000 even as plans were underway to build a Charles M. Schulz museum.
The Travniceks agreed to donate the wall to the museum.
So they hired a contractor who worked for days to remove the wall, ship it to California and replace the Travniceks’ missing wall. The big move occurred in early September 2001, and it was national news. They were in newspapers, magazines and television.
In the photo below, Stanley and Polly pose with Meredith (Schulz) Hodges just before the wall was pulled off the house and carried to a truck. Small squares of protective material were placed over every nail head to prevent cracking.
The Travniceks and the Schulz family have been close ever since. Polly said she misses the mural, but believes it is exactly where it should be in the museum. And she doesn’t regret donating the wall, even though many have suggested she could have made millions selling it.
Since the mural was moved, the two families have remained in weekly contact. There have been visits in each others’ homes. And the Schulz family continues to shower Polly with gifts.
She has turned the room where the mural was painted into a mini-Schulz museum of her own with books and videotapes and scrapbooks.
She even has a copy of a Sunday comic strip Schulz drew while living in the house. Note the drapes in the strip match the photo of the young family in the photo above. And the story of Lucy falling from her crib was drawn after baby Meredith actually fell from her crib while her parents were playing cards.
The Gazette has written about the “Charlie Brown House” several times over the years.
On Sept. 11, 1990, the paper ran this story about Charles Schulz and his brief time in Colorado Springs in 1951. The story featured interviews with Philip and Louanna Van Pelt, who were neighbors of Schulz and the basis for his characters Schroeder and Lucy.
Here is another story published in 2000.
Here’s the story that ran in The Gazette Sept. 7, 2001, about the removal of the wall.