This Day in History
1950–1st “Peanuts” comic strip. Created by twenty-seven year old Charles Schultz from St. Paul, Minnesota, “Peanuts” first appeared in seven newspapers. Over a fifty year run Schultz allowed no one else to write or draw a strip and he created and published 17,897 of them. “Peanuts” was one of the most loved comic strips of all time.
Charles Schultz is certainly among the Minnesotans who have reached far beyond the boundaries of our state.
1961 — Day #4. We were housed in a drill hall, a huge hangar-like building with a curved roof. There must have been 500 of us there, new recruits in the Navy. The Great Lakes Naval Training Center was swamped with recruits and there weren’t enough barracks for all of us. I still wore my civilian clothes and we hadn’t started training yet. It seemed like all we did was stand in lines all day long and it gave me too much time to think. I was scared and homesick and was seriously questioning my decision that had brought me here. On the morning of my fourth day in the Navy we were rousted from sleep in an uncivil manner, baseball bats being pounded inside a garbage can. We shuffled outside into the early morning darkness and drizzly rain. We had been given ponchos, with no hood, to protect us from the rain. Marching in an unmilitary fashion, we crossed the base to the chow hall. There we would wait an hour or longer before entering. We were unnecessarily packed tightly together, assholes to belly buttons to use the peculiar and indelicate vernacular constantly being hurled at us. It was part of the dehumanizing process that would continue in the weeks ahead, a harsh process designed to eradicate all traces of our past lives and mold us into a new shape the Navy could utilize.
I was cold and miserable and rain seeped inside the neck of the ponchos and ran down my back. They hadn’t shaved our heads yet and my hair was plastered against my face. The immediate future scared me, I had had enough of a taste of boot camp already to know it wasn’t going to be good. I also had doubts about my ability to handle it. As I stood there in the darkness, packed tightly amongst masses of other miserable young men, for some strange reason, either because I was masochistic or maybe a numbers freak, I began doing some calculations. I had signed up for slightly over three years. I was two weeks shy of my eighteenth birthday and I would get out the day I was twenty-one. That meant I had 1,119 days of this left. In the darkness outside the fence surrounding us, I heard a train rumble past. That was my link to my past life for a train had brought us to Great Lakes. The train whistle blew and in the darkness the sound was so forlorn, my situation seemed so hopeless it was more than I could bear. I was unable to keep from crying. Tears streamed down my face. The rain fortunately masked the fact I was crying so nobody knew. Creating a short-timers calendars 1,119 days long had to be one of the silliest ideas any recruit could imagine. But for some reason it worked. Too long to have any meaning, I decided instead to just focus on the day ahead of me. The train passed and so did my bout of self-pity. I stopped crying as the packed line shuffled slowly toward the mess hall entrance. A resolve took hold of me. Okay, I was here, nothing I could do about that. Don’t think, just take it as it comes. That was the last time I cried in the Navy. Not my last moment of unhappiness or despair but my last bout of homesickness. No more looking beyond the fence and wishing I wasn’t here. I told myself I could do this. It didn’t become easy, boot camp isn’t meant to be easy, but that was the moment I left my civilian life behind and began the transition into being a sailor.
1904 — Graham Greene. Writer. British born Greene had a writing career of 67 years in which he wrote over two dozen novels. He was troubled as a youth and attempted suicide several times as a teenager. He began work as a journalist after college and during this time met his wife, Vivian. Greene was an atheist and Vivian was a devout Catholic. He became a Catholic to marry her. Later in life he described himself as a Catholic agnostic. Greene suffered from manic-depression and used this as a source for writing but he admitted it did not help his marriage. After having two children and twenty years of marriage Greene left his wife but because of religion never divorced. He was in MI6, the British spy agency, during WWII, and after the war travelled extensively. He sometimes wrote for newspapers and at one point was successfully sued for a film review in which he described child actress Shirley Temple as having “a dubious coquetry which appealed to middle-aged men and clergymen”.
Greene lived in Haiti under brutal dictator “Papa Doc” and this is where his 1966 novel “The Comedians” is set. He thought of his work in two categories, serious novels and “entertainments” as he called them, or thriller type of novels. These included “The Quiet American” and “Our Man in Havana.” He was in Cuba during the revolution and assisted Castro by transporting supplies to the rebels in the mountains. He admired Castro but later questioned his complete and harsh authority. He said, “All successful revolutions, however idealistic, probably betray themselves in time.” Greene lived to the age of 86. The advantage upon turning 80 he said, “is that at 80 you are more likely these days to beat out encountering your end in a nuclear war.”
I’m pondering his quote about successful revolutions betraying themselves. Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua immediately comes to mind. He started off heroically with the needs of the people in mind, and then became a prime example of the statement “power corrupts,” for Ortega has since turned into a dictator. I fear I might also apply that quote to our own country. As I write these words in 2021, our once successful revolution and experiment in democracy is starting to fracture and betray itself.