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Snoopy’s Christmas

Snoopy’s Christmas

Hello, everyone.

Back in 1966 and 67, Charles Schultz apparently drilled a dry hole or something in his “Peanuts” cartoon, because for several months – to me, it seemed like years – he was stuck on the idea of “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron.” I was reading “Peanuts” at the time, and I eventually quit reading because I found that schtick so cotton-pickin’ boring. I never really cared for “Peanuts;” I never saw the humor in it, so it didn’t bother me in the least to leave it behind.

As a spin-off to the “Baron” business, a group of guys – from the Ocala, Florida, area – formed a group and recorded for the Laurie Record label under the name The Royal Guardsmen. They rode the “Baron Business” to #2 in 1966 with a bit of stupidity titled “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron.” In 1967, they recorded a Christmas number, titled “Snoopy’s Christmas,” and saw it chart in 3 successive years – #1 in 1967, #15 in 1968, and #11 in 1969, all on Billboard’s Christmas chart.

In my opinion, the Christmas song was vastly, tremendously superior to the “Red Baron” song, and the fact that it charted so well for three years in a row supports my view, in my opinion. I remember hearing it in 1967, but not liking it, due to my distaste for the newspaper cartoon. However, in 1972, it enjoyed a resurgence – even though it did not chart that year – and I fell in love with it – to the degree that I have downloaded several videos of it from YouTube.

The reason I remember the 1972 resurgence is that I made a trip out to New Jersey during Christmas time that year to visit my brother and his wife and to meet my brand new baby niece. I went by train, and the train from Ottumwa, Iowa, was late enough in arriving in Chicago that I missed my connection to New York City on the Broadway Limited, so Amtrak put me up in the Palmer House in Chicago that night, and I made the trip to NYC the next day. A lady going to some place in Michigan missed her train as well, and she and I shared a cab to the Palmer House. We hit it off when we said hello, and had a pleasant trip to the hotel. What added to the pleasure was the fact that the cabbie had his radio on and the station he was listening to played the Guardsmen’s record. Indeed, I heard the song almost everywhere I went that Christmas.

What brought that sweet, darling little song to my mind? Amazingly enough, it was the Christmas Special done by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and broadcast on BYUTV today (12/23/12). Tom Brokaw was the special guest, and he told a true story about an American Air Force pilot who flew during the Berlin Air Lift back in 1948. According to Brokaw’s story, this pilot was shooting home movies at an air base where the Airlift took off for its trip to Berlin. Some local children were outside the fence and asked the pilot about the airplanes. He talked with them and when he had to leave, he took two pieces of chewing gum out of his pocket, broke them into 6 pieces, and gave the gum to the children. After he left them, he had an idea. Like all soldiers, he got some chocolate bars in his rations, and he started dropping them from his plane during his flights in the Airlift. Soon he had his squadron buddies offering their chocolate to the kids. People heard about it here in the States, and they started sending chocolate overseas to him for him to give to the children. The pilot is still alive – at age 92 – and he was on the program doing you know what – giving candy to kids.

When I watched the program and heard the story and heard Brokaw make the comment about giving candy to children who were once our enemies, I immediately reflected on “Snoopy’s Christmas.” In the song, the Red Baron forces Snoopy to fly across the Rhine River and land behind enemy lines. When they are both on land, Snoopy expects the worst, but instead, the Red Baron wishes him a Merry Christmas and they celebrate a holiday toast to each other.

At the end of my diary titled “May We Make Them Proud,” I wrote the following four paragraphs:

Why is this problem of gun violence so prevalent in the United States but so lacking in other, more definitely civilized countries? I truly believe in my heart that it is because of the influence of Jesus Christ in this nation. Remember that NOT ONE Evangelical Christian spokesman has spoken a word of solidarity with the parents of the dead children. We also have Jesus’ own word – spoken in Matthew 10:34 – that he – supposedly the “Prince of Peace” – did not come to this earth to bring peace, but a sword, or warfare and strife. Also in Luke 22:36, he advises his disciples to sell their clothing and use the money to buy swords, or arms. Time and space constraints hinder me from discussing this country’s bellicose history in any depth, but it is there for those who have the intellect to comprehend it.

Barak Obama said it extremely well: “God has called them all home. For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on, and make our country worthy of their memory.”

May we make them proud! May we decide that enough is enough and put an end to the Republican / Evangelical stupidity that holds us powerless except to observe shooting after shooting after shooting. And, if need be, may we grind Jesus Christ and his warmongering and life-taking spawn and grind them into dust and embrace a deity – Mohammed, Allah,The Buddah, or some other deity – who knows the pathway of peace and who chooses to endeavor to lead us in that pathway.

They say that every cloud has its silver lining. Out of the carnage of Newtown, HOPEFULLY we will emerge as smarter human beings. I do have my doubts, though.”

I believe that this is why the story of the “Chocolate Pilot” struck me so this morning. He did not have to interact with the children. He did not have to offer his two sticks of gum to them. He chose to do those things; they were acts of his volition.

He could have let the recent unpleasantness rule his heart in how he responded to the innocent children. Certainly modern Republicans and Evangelicals have taken far greater umbrage at far lesser slights. But instead he chose to act like the Red Baron in the song. In his own way that day and afterward, he “toasted” those little German children.

Last Friday (12/21), the Senior Housing where I live held a Christmas pot luck. The management provided the prime rib. I sat at the same table as James, a guy who lives a few doors down the hall from me. We got to talking, and I made this statement: “This time each year, for the four weeks of the holiday season, people are so kind, friendly, and nice. Why can’t they act the same way for the other eleven months?” James said, “I hear you, Bill.”

Why MUST we limit our “niceness” to the period between Thanksgiving and January 1? Why can’t we be kind, thoughtful, accepting, and tolerant the other eleven months? Conversely, why are Evangelicals, military types, and conservatives in general the most ungracious, thoughtless, and downright cruel people in society? I believe that, just like the “Chocolate Pilot,” we choose to act out those behaviors. They are acts of our volition.

One scene from 1977 or 78 is chiseled indelibly in my mind. It occurred in the old Northwestern train station in downtown Chicago. I had gotten off the train from Highland Park and was heading downstairs to the street level to walk over to Union Station to catch the train out to our home in Grayslake. A man and woman were walking fairly close to me. I could tell that the woman was not familiar with the Northwestern terminal because she was constantly going in the wrong direction. I assumed that the man she was with was her husband, because he was thoroughly nasty and rude to her, continually cussing her out for going the wrong way. He could just as easily have said, “No, Honey, not that way. This is the way we must go.” But he didn’t. Watching that scene moved me to promise to myself that I would never treat MY wife like that, but instead, I would endeavor to treat her like a queen as much as I could. And I did my best to honor that promise to each of my two wives.

When I was a boy, television station KTVO in Ottumwa, Iowa, had a children’s program presided over by a character who called himself Windy Jim. Windy Jim ended every program with this saying: “It is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.” There are tons of wisdom in those words. There is never a legitimate excuse for being not nice. As Popeye said in one of his cartoons, “You can catch more flies with sweetness than you can with sour puss.” So very true.

It is getting close to the time of the year when “New Year’s Resolutions” are de rigeur. You know – that list of good intentions that we all make on January 1 and flush down the toilet on January 2. Given the nastiness of this past presidential campaign, the endless carnage sponsored by the NRA, and the Republicans’ abject refusal to work with “the Black Man in the White House,” I believe that it would be appropriate to include resolutions to work to get along better in this society in our lists – and then make deliberate efforts to live up to those resolutions. It surely can’t hurt.

Back in 1969, a singer named Glen Campbell had a hit record with a song titled “Try A Little Kindness.” Here are the lyrics:

Songwriters: BOBBY AUSTIN / CURT SAPAUGH

If you see your brother standing by the road

With the heavy load from the seeds he sowed
And if you see your sister falling by the way
Why don’t you stop and say:
You’re on the wrong way!

But you’ve got to try a little kindness
You show a little kindness
But you shine your light for every one to see
But if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of the narrow minded people
On the narrow minded street

And don’t you walk around the down and out
Just lend a helping hand and settle down
And the kindness that you show every day
It’s gonna help someone along life’s way

But you’ve got to try a little kindness
You show a little kindness
But you shine your light for every one to see
But if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of the narrow minded people
On the narrow minded street

© EMI Music Publishing

Not at all a bad philosophy to live by.

So as we transition into 2013, let’s not forget the lessons that Snoopy and the Red Baron, Windy Jim, Popeye, and Glen Campbell try to teach us. Let’s all determine to try a little kindness, catch more flies with sweetness and remember that it’s far more important to be nice. It really doesn’t matter if Joe Blow doesn’t believe the same way you believe. And it shouldn’t matter if John Doe is a Democrat. As the Democrats kept reminding us during the campaign, we are all in this thing together. What say we all endeavor to make the path to the future a little bit smoother?

Seasons’ Greetings and Happy Holidays, everyone. And Happy 2013.

Bill

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December 24, 2012 - Posted by | Miscellaneous, Music, Politics, Religion | ,

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