Sometimes I don’t think we know how good we had it growing up; the more I remember those days, the more I long for days when things were uncomplicated- who doesn’t? Days when the most important thing to decide upon was what the eat for dinner or whether I would be allowed to have ice cream for breakfast. My most on brand problem as a child was losing one sock… just one everyday in school and I carried that into my adulthood because I still struggle to find pairs of shoes every morning. Go figure, but I was that child and I am that adult. We are the luckier for growing up the way we did, lack of technological advances and all. Reading the peanut comic strips is one of such pleasures I take with me into adulthood. Charlie Brown and his little gang of cohorts were at one point the epicentre of growing up experiences we had as kids. A bunch of kids dealing with pressure of being kids; playing baseball, with marbles, childhood crushes and at a much later stage; feminism, racism, the Vietnam war etc. with everyday struggles of growing up the world gradually became more complicated as they saw more of it. The thing about Charlie Brown was the fact that he never stopped trying; he wasn’t a winner most of the time, but he was the one we rooted for the most, despite his constant failures. I mean let’s face the baby got more action than Charlie did.
One of the most poignant moments in the exhibition was the exhibit touching upon the mood in America following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Charlie Schultz received a letter from a reader who’d suggested the inclusion of a “negro character” in the comics, in reading this letter which is also part of the exhibition, I was incredibly moved by how one could see the logic in this but more so by Mr Schultz’s’ response to not being patronizing to the plight of black people especially in such troubled times. An old white lady took the time to tap me on my shoulder to make sure I did not miss this piece of the exhibition, it was awkward but I guess I was the only black person around and she wanted to make sure I did not miss it… dunno. These were pivotal moments we took for granted, moments things started to shift either for the better or worse and this comic strip immortalised them in words. These were the good and bad days, days we could have and should have learned from as the world around us began to fall away and morph into something we don’t quite recognize today.
Most endearing of all is Schultz’s story, son of immigrants who never knew if he’d fit in, who projected his self-viewed ordinariness into the world to make something a lot less ordinary.
We had some good times, and if you can see this before it leaves Somerset House on the 3rd of March, they do so, if only to remind yourself of those times and see how in some instances we are still trying to change the bad for the good… we are still trying and we should never stop trying because if we do we admit defeat and if there is one thing Charlie Brown never did, is quit.