Tuesday, September 27, 2011

November 22-27, 1954: Phooey to you, Charlie Brown!

November 22, 1954

People haven't really given apples to teachers, that I'm aware of, in the years since 1954, where as Charlie Brown remarks was already an outdated notion. And yet, we get this joke, the lore of teacher-apple-giving still lives. (My guess, which could easily be wrong, is that the custom arose as a way of helping to support teachers, who were traditionally spinsters.)

November 23, 1954

Oh, how I love this strip. It's awesome. I love it so much that, over on Metafilter, I've started using "phooey" as a general term of disdain, usually against people who are trolling or spouting incredibly stupid opinions. (Them: "I don't vote, and I don't see why anyone should!" Me: "Phooey to you. Phooey all over you.")

I think why I love this, more than how funny and yet satisfying it is to read "Phooey to you Charlie Brown," is that Schroeder says it twice. The first time we don't know why he's angry; the second time reminds us of his anger. It is perfectly constructed, it reads great, the sentence has a great rhythm, just, wow. This is one of my favorite strips to date.

November 24, 1954

This is either the beginning, or close to the beginning, of Lucy's obsession with bugs, which drives a good number of strips to come.

November 25, 1954

In case you hadn't noticed, Charlie Brown embarrasses easily.

November 26, 1954

A strip like this reminds us of how relatively recent casual sexism was. I'm not sure many comic characters could get away with Charlie Brown's rude summation, although to Schulz's credit it is rare that a male character gets away with declaring superiority to females without some form of rejection, refutation or comeuppance. Calvin might declare how much better boys are than girls, but he certainly wouldn't be allowed to get away with it.

November 27, 1954

The animated adaptions of Peanuts, in addition to not showing adults, also replaced speech with muted trumpet noises. I think the later days of the comic tried to get away with not printing adult words, but in the early days at least Schulz was not above the occasional adult speech balloon.


  1. The practice of bringing an apple for the teacher lasted beyond 1954 at least in some places; I myself brought an apple to my teacher on more than one occasion in my youth, and other kids in my class did as well. Mind you, I am very very old.

  2. I never saw anyone bring an apple to a teacher, but I'm guessing that the frozen chicken pie was a reference of some sort to the 50s popularity of TV dinners.

  3. Re. the 11/22 strip: It's correct that pupils' families often supplemented teachers' salaries (which were often meager) with foodstuffs in the old days, especially in farming communities. Apples would have been a popular choice as they were nutritious, versatile, relatively plentiful and kept well. However, by 1954 the practice was probably seen as a cliche by many. Hence the joke centered on the frozen pie, at a time when frozen foods were still a novelty.

    Re. the 11/23 strip: I wonder is Schulz was testing out "phooey to you" as a potential catch phrase here...

  4. njguy54, perhaps Schulz was paying tribute to E.C. Segar. One of the catchphrases that Segar used in THIMBLE THEATER was "phooey to you from me!" Schulz, being a big Segar fan in his youth, may have pulled the phrase from his memory.

  5. Chris, nice observation. I believe Sims and Zaboly were still using "phooey to you from me" in THIMBLE THEATER as late as the mid-1940s, if not later—so Segar might have thought of it as fairly current.

    Interestingly, Segar always spelled it "pooey," though I can't recall at the moment whether his successors changed this.