If you enjoy the Peanuts comic strip created by the late Charles M. Schulz, or you are a fan of NASA and the Apollo Space Missions of the 1960s, or you’ve always wanted to see Polly Travnicek’s bedroom wall, make plans to visit the new exhibit at the Pioneers Museum opening Saturday.
The exhibit, To the Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA, ties together Schulz’s iconic comic characters Snoopy and Charlie Brown with the manned missions to the moon and Polly’s wall in the Bonnyville neighborhood in a way that may surprise many area residents.
What’s Polly’s wall got to do with it?
The exhibit features a 4-by-6 foot photo of Polly’s wall where, in 1979, she uncovered a cartoon mural painted decades earlier by a young and unknown artist: Schulz.
The mural was just an urban legend until Polly and her husband, Stanley, bought the home and she went to work carefully stripping away layers of paint to reveal the original mural.
Schulz and his first wife, Joyce, moved into the house in May 1951. He painted the mural as a nursery for his infant daughter Meredith. The oil painting included images of a tiger, a train, a duck, fish, rabbit and, of course, a round-headed boy in a zig-zag shirt and a beagle puppy — Charlie Brown and Snoopy,
During the year the family spent in the little house on El Paso Street, Schulz struggled to sell his comic strip to newspapers nationwide. He worked in a second-floor office above what is believed to have been the Golden Arrow Clothing Store at 131 S. Tejon St., near the old El Paso County Courthouse — now the museum.
Though he wasn’t here long, Schulz and his characters made huge strides during the period. He developed Lucy and Linus, for example, and named them after their neighbors the Van Pelts.
Of course, Peanuts exploded in popularity a few years later. And Schulz was fascinated by the space program, incorporating it into his strips. NASA responded by adopting the Peanuts characters and using their popularity to generate more interest in the space missions.
“The final mission to the moon, before the actual moon landing, was Apollo 10,” said Matt Mayberry, director of the Pioneers Museum. “NASA named the command module ‘Charlie Brown’ and the lunar module ‘Snoopy.’ ”
Mayberry said the exhibit also illustrates in the region’s strong space ties today as the hub of military space and satellite tracking activities and home to the Air Force Space Command, the Space Foundation and the prestigious annual National Space Symposium.
“The space industry is a major contributor to the local economy,” Mayberry said. “So we are using the exhibit to create the connection between Schulz, his beloved Peanuts characters, the space race and Colorado Springs.”
The exhibit opens Saturday at 10 a.m. and there will be special activities for children and families until 2 p.m. including:
• Programs in the gallery examining how space technology is used in our everyday lives
• Challenger Learning Center’s Space Planetarium programs. A limited number of free tickets are available for kids ages 3 and older. Reserve a ticket by calling 385-5990.
• Crafts and other activities including make your own mission patches and straw rockets.
For me, I’m excited to see the large photo of Polly’s wall. The real thing was removed and shipped to the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, Calif., in September 2001.
Mayberry said he had hoped to get the actual 8-by-12 foot wall shipped back but had to settle for a photo.
Polly is OK with the photo and looks forward to seeing the exhibit, as well.
“They’ve borrowed some of my personal things to display, as well,” Polly said. “I’ve loaned them for the six months the exhibit will be open.”
She’s generous that way, as in 2001 when she gave the Schulz family the entire wall from her home.
“They needed that wall and I didn’t,” She said. “I just wanted to make sure it was taken care of. I received back blessings far beyond anything I ever expected.”
Maybe they should put Polly on display in the museum!