The years following World War II led to the birth of the generation known as the “Baby Boomers” those individuals born between 1946 and 1964. At its peak, the ideal family unit at this time included parents, 2.5 children and a dog. This was often seen on many of the TV sitcoms of the day, and as the Peanuts comic strip reflected the world of Middle-class, Upper Midwestern America, it would also feature the ideal family unit. Midway the first
decade of the Peanuts comic strip, readers would see the Van Pelt family grow dramatically through Lucy and Linus.
However, as Schulz always referred to Peanuts as “featuring Good Ol’ Charlie Brown” naturally his family unit would become more defined. In the earliest strips, Snoopy gradually shifted from the neighborhood dog to belonging solely with Charlie Brown. Then as the 1950s drew to a close, the world was introduced to the newest member of the brown family, Charlie Brown’s adorable and precocious little sister, Sally.
Much like how Linus was introduced off screen through his sister offering to trade her brother for Charlie’s bike, Sally was introduced through her big brother’s reaction, showing just how different these two families were. While Lucy was eager to get rid of Linus, Charlie couldn’t have been happier. As is seen in a strip from May 26, 1959, Charlie had just gotten off the phone with his father at the hospital and happily ran down the street yelling,
“A BABY SISTER! I’M A FATHER! I mean my DAD’S a father! I’M a brother! I have a baby sister! I’m a brother!”
In the next panel Linus looks over to Lucy, who have both just seen Charlie’s celebration and comments that Lucy didn’t act like that when he was born, thus quickly showing a key difference between the two. While Lucy continually antagonizes her little brother, Charlie loves and dotes over his baby sister. Further, while Lucy relished the chance to torture Linus, Charlie would feel guilty over even the littlest things. In a Sunday strip from August 16, 1959 Charlie lamented to Lucy when she noticed he was more depressed than usual,
“I’m a rat! I hate myself!! I feel terrible. …I was sitting on the floor working on a puzzle, and my little baby sister came crawling over. She messed it up, and I yelled at her, and she cried…I shouldn’t have yelled at her…she’s only a baby…I feel terrible.”
Lucy told him not to let it get him down. She reminds him that Linus was a baby once too and that she used to get upset over the littlest thing that a baby might do. At that moment Linus walks by reading one of Lucy’s comic books. Upon seeing this, Lucy snatches the comic, berates her brother, and threatens to knock him clear across the county.
However, as any older sibling quickly learns, the allure of being an older sibling quickly fades once they realize the responsibilities it entails. While they don’t have to do all the things a parent has to do, a big brother or sister is still expected to look after the younger ones. Sometimes, this might mean that a prior plan gets canceled. In a series of strips from the week between August 5th through the 9th of 1959 saw Charlie’s friends grow so tired of hearing him go on and on about the cute things his new baby sister did that even Linus and Schroeder tuned him out. Then in another strip August 14th 1959.
“There’s no use arguing about it! I’d like to play, but I can’t!… My mother told me to push Sally around in her stroller, and that’s what I’m going to have to do.
Surprisingly, the rest of the gang was not pleased to learn he couldn’t play considering his record as both a pitcher and a batter. In the next strip, when Linus learned about this he was angry that he walked over and asked Sally if this was true. Baby Sally covered her eyes and thought to herself that she couldn’t face him. In two other strips Schulz already began to show signs that Sally was going to develop the sang hang-ups as the rest of the gang as she expressed having already having guilt feelings and feeling like no one liked her.
Sure enough Charlie Brown would strike out and most of the gang would berate him for failing yet again. To add to it mother was angry at him for shirking on his responsibilities to his baby sister. The good-hearted big brother felt bad for letting everyone down, especially his baby sister. At the end of the arc, in a strip dated September 11, 1959, Charlie talked with his sister, saying,
“I’ve been feeling pretty discouraged, Sally. But it really is my fault…I guess I also owe you an apology for all the complaining I did just because I had to take you out for a walk. Maybe if you and I stick together as brother and sister we can lick this old world yet! What do you say?
At that, Sally raised her bottle and said she would drink to that. Of The Peanuts gang, the one who took a liking to her the quickest was Snoopy. In one strip from August 30, 1959 he even thinks to himself, as he spends the day playing with her and watching her crawl around,
“I sure like Charlie Brown’s little sister…somehow I feel that she and I have something in common…I just can’t figure out what it is, though….THAT’S IT! She’s the only other one around here who knows how to walk on four feet!”
However, as sweet as baby Sally was, the character would not have lasted very long if she remained a baby in a stroller. There is only so much that a writer can do with a baby before they run out of ideas, and the only option at that point is to have them age up. Thus about a year later, she was a toddler walking around and got noticed by Linus in a strip from August 22, 1960. Linus, in seeing her walking was excited, saying,
“Look! It’s Charlie Brown’s little sister! And she’s walking! She’s walking! She’s walking! She’s walking!”
Sally just blushed and thought to herself “Isn’t he the cutest thing?” hinting at the very beginnings of her crush on him. Then, she soon began to show the same sense of doubt in her big brother as the rest of the gang, saying to her brother in one strip from June 11, 1963,
“Little girls need big brothers. Big brothers are strong and when you’re walking along the street you feel secure….sort of.”
She even would go on to ask her brother why he was such anybody. This was best seen in a strip from May 16, 1969. Charlie was watching TV and Sally came in and asked,
“Why did I have to get stuck with a brother who’s a nothing? Why aren’t you the hero type?
Charlie simply told her that he figured that if some people, like him, weren’t meant to be a hero, then they just weren’t meant to be a hero. Sally yelled “Don’t go quoting Shakespeare to me!”
Despite all this, he is always the first person she goes to if she needs help or assistance with homework. This is best seen in A Charlie Brown Christmas when she approaches him on the way to play practice about writing her letter to Santa Claus. As she tells him,
“I’ve been looking for you, big brother. Will you please write a letter to Santa Claus for me? …You write it and I’ll tell you what I want to say… Dear Santa Claus, How have you been? Did you have a nice summer? …How is your wife? I have been extra good this year, so I have a long list of presents that I want…Please note the size and color of each item, and send as many as possible. If it seems too complicated, make it easy on yourself: just send money. How about tens and twenties?
Charlie is exasperated to hear that his sister is just as obsessed with presents and money as everyone else and toss the board and screams that commercialism has even affected his baby sister Sally, not completely understanding what is going on, says,
“ All I want is what I… I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.”
It is often in these moments where we see just how related he Brown siblings really are. In Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown, Sally is easily frustrated by her efforts to try and make a homemade Valentine for Linus. She admits to Charlie Brown that she has been trying as hard as she can and just can’t even draw a good heart, with her brother properly showing her how. Then when Snoopy does a big elaborate one, Charlie does the same and it quickly crumbles. The Browns both clearly think big about showing their love, they just are somewhat flawed in their execution.
She would start school a mere two years after she would learn to walk. In a strip from September 4, 1962, she was so nervous about starting school that she literally jumped ten feet in the air. In the following strip she had another panic attack and ran away from school. Later, on the strop from September 6th, she eagerly told Linus about how great her day was, saying,
“And we sang songs, and we painted pictures…and we listened to stories, and we colored with crayons, and we rested and we had a snack and we played games….Oh, WE HAD A WONDERFUL TIME! I think every child should go to Kindergarten.”
She would even rail against her former anxiety to her brother in a strip from September 7, 1962,saying,
“Some children just don’t know their own minds! If a child is reluctant to go to Kindergarten, the parents shouldn’t fool around…Just WISK him off! MAKE him go. It’s ridiculous for a child to have this fear of kindergarten! I think we pamper kids too much these days anyway…Don’t fiddle around with ‘em! That’s my motto! SEND ‘EM OFF!”
This attitude of loving school would not last, and would often struggle in school, typically in reading and writing. as she was often prone to malapropisms, or unintentional mangling of names. This is best seen in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, when she shares her brother’s frustration with another fast approaching holiday. In her case, it has nothing to do with commercialism and everything to do with boring work. As she says,
“Anyway, why should I give thanks on Thanksgiving? What have I got to be thankful for? All it does is make more work for us at school…Do you know what we have to do? We have to write an essay on Stanley Miles.”
Charlie corrects her, saying it’s Miles Standish, but Sally just shrugs it off, saying that she can’t keep any of those names straight. Of course no screw up of hers is more memorable then her report on dinosaurs. As was seen in a strip from December 11, 1972,
“My report today is on dinosaurs. The largest dinosaur that ever lived was the bronchitis. It soon became extinct…it coughed a lot!”
Often times, Sally seems all too eager to try and find some easy way out of her homework. In one strip dated, November 15th 1969, she laments to Charlie Brown about a history report. He urges her to check and encyclopedia buts he refuses, telling him,
“I have to write a report on George Washington. I don’t know anything about George Washington! I hate writing reports! …Maybe I’ll be lucky and there’ll be something about him on TV tonight.”
Even when she tries her hardest to work on something, she still manages to make hugs mistakes. In the special, It’s Christmas Time Charlie Brown, she was cast as an Angel she only had one line, “Hark”. Then, as she informed her brother, Harold Angel was supposed to sing. She practiced this one word, over and over, and then when the time came to perform, perhaps because Charlie was playing with a Hockey Stick during one of these moments she said, “Hockey Stick!” and the entire audience laughed.Charlie and Linus were embarrassed for her, and he expressed his frustrations on the phone to an unknown friend, Charlie even mentioning the Harold Angel thing. Much to his surprise, there actually is a kid in her class named Harold Angel, and he even came over to introduce himself and thank Sally for announcing him in the play.
However, to her credit she is willing to at least admit her problems in education. As she says in a strip from November 7th 1973, when she has to give a report on rain,
“This is my report on Rain. Rain is water which does not come out of faucets. Without rain, we would not get wet walking to school and catch a cold and have to stay home, which is not a bad idea. Rain was the inspiration for that immortal poem, “Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day.” After a storm, the rain goes down the drain which is where I sometimes feel my education is also going”
Her dislike of school, her acknowledgement that she isn’t getting much out of it, and her confusion with words, indicate something much deeper with Sally. Much like how her brother and Linus displayed certain psychological traits like anxiety, and depression at a time when kids were expected to be always happy and cheerful, Sally upon further reflection, shows signs of a possible learning disability. She fits many of the classic criteria defined on WebMD including, a lack of enthusiasm for reading or writing, trouble memorizing things, working at a slow pace, trouble following directions, trouble staying focused on a task, difficulty understanding abstract ideas, lack of attention to detail, or too much attention to detail, poor social skills, and disruptiveness. Further, her intense dislike of school is a common characteristic for many students who struggle academically . Thus, while many back in the day when she was introduced, may have dismissed someone like Sally as “stupid” or “lazy”, Schulz showed through Sally, that such a person really was hard working and determined, it just took them longer to accomplish goals without the right amount of assistance.
Much like her brother with the Little Red Haired Girl, or Lucy with Schroeder, Sally had her own unrequited crush on Charlie’s best friend, Linus, Even goings of are as to give him her own personal term of endearment, “Sweet Baboo”. This term actually came from Schulz’ own personal life as his wife admitted,
“Well, it’s very hard to have a favorite character but what I always tell people when they ask me that is I associate with Sally. I don’t think I’m quite as dingy as her, but I call myself “clueless” so it may really be that I’m more like her than I know…But maybe the reason I associate with Sally is because I used to call Sparky my sweet baboo – you say baby and baboo came out – and Sally torments Linus with that. So then I stopped calling him that, but he probably should have regretted that because it was a pretty nice term of endearment.”
Ironically when she was first introduced it was Linus who had a crush on her and in many ways it seemed like the baby Sally reciprocated the feelings. In one strip from June 10, 1959, Charlie found Linus working out the math in their age gap, saying,
“…And five is twenty two. Nineteen-hundred and fifty nine plus twenty-two is nineteen-hundred and eighty-one…When I’m twenty-two and Sally is seventeen do you think she’ll go out with me?”
However, as Sally would be quickly aged up to be a little closer to the rest of the cast, Schulz felt it would be funnier to have Linus pine for his elementary school teacher. It was a good call, as this would lead to a delightful comedy of errors between Sally and Linus in the special Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown. Sally saw him at the store purchasing a huge heart shaped box of candy, and assumed it was for her. This lead the poor girl to bending over backwards to think up a Valentine of commensurate, and to her dismay when she gave him her Valentine he simply handed her a little card.She was puzzled as to why he didn’t give her the box and reasoned,
“What happened? He forgot to give me my box of candy. He’s bashful. Ooh, I’ll get him later with a big smooch.”
That was when she saw Linus run away with the box of chocolates which he purchased for Miss Othmar and intended to give to her before she left with her boyfriend. As she lamented as Linus ignored her in his pursuit of his unrequited crush,
“Here comes Linus and the candy box. This is the big moment. My lover-boy approaches with my Valentine. I think I’ll pucker up. What happened? Where is he? Perhaps he didn’t see me. I had my eyes closed and he didn’t see me. And my box of candy. He still has my box of candy! Where’s he going with it?… Look at him, he’s running to the parking lot. To Miss Othmar’s car. With my box of candy. And there’s Miss Othmar with her boyfriend. Boy, what will he do now? He’s just a crazy mixed-up kid.”
Thus, when the opportunity presents itself for Sally to spend some time with her “sweet baboo” Sally is quick to seize it. In A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, even before Charlie’s make-shift dinner goes to pieces, Sally invites Linus to come along with them, saying they could hold hands under the table. In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Sally is delighted to hear that her big brother cast her as Linus’s wife for their Christmas pageant, and gushes about how cute he is and how he has the nicest sense of humor as he quickly covers himself in his trusty blanket in disgust.
In Happy New Year, Charlie Brown, she is elated at the prospect of having Linus ask her to the New Year’s party, to which Linus not only denies being her sweet baboo, but insists that he wouldn’t invite her to such mundane things as a “chicken race” or a “garage sale”. Later, she is visibly crushed when during the party, the Little Red-Haired Girl shows up, and when no one can find Charlie Brown, Linus dances with her.
Despite this, we do see Linus dancing with Sally during any of the big dance parties that the cast has during A Charlie Brown Christmas. More importantly, in It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, Sally is the only one who doesn’t mock Linus for his beliefs in the Great Pumpkin, saying he is so intelligent. Linus actually appreciates her compliments this time, and even invites her to sit with him in the Pumpkin patch.
When Halloween night comes, initially it looks like Sally is going to skip out on Linus and go Trick or Treating with the rest of the gang. However, all it takes for Sally to change her mind and stick with her original plan is one look back at the lonely Linus and she is quickly running back to him. She ends up spending the whole night with Linus, missing out on Trick or Treating and the Halloween party. Thus, when the Great Pumpkin not only fails to appear, but all that comes to visit them is Snoopy, Sally is angry, even physically grabbing Linus and shaking him, saying,
“I was robbed! I spent the whole night waiting for the Great Pumpkin, when I could have been out for tricks or treats. Halloween is over, and I missed it! …You blockhead! You kept me up all night waiting for the Great Pumpkin, and all that came was a beagle! I didn’t get a chance to go out for tricks or treats. And it was all your fault! I’ll sue! What a fool I was! I could have had candy apples and gum and cookies and money and all sorts of things. But no! I had to listen to you, you blockhead. What a fool I was. Trick or treats come only once a year, and I missed it by sitting in a pumpkin patch with a blockhead…YOU OWE ME RESTITUTION!”
All Linus can do in response is ask Charlie Brown if he’s heard of the fury of a woman scorned ( a nod to the classic quote “Hell hath no Fury like a woman scorned”) and said it was nothing compared to the fury of a woman cheated out of trick or treating. An angered Sally leaves with the rest of the gang as her sweet baboo appeals for them to come back. This shows that while Sally may be “innocent and trusting” , she does not take lightly to being made a fool, even by Linus. This underscores a key moment in Sally’s growth and development. As Leah Schnelbach notes in “It’s the 50th Anniversary of The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” for Tor.com,
“I think Sally has a bright future ahead of her. She loves her Sweet Babboo, yes, but she’s still her own person. She chooses her iconoclastic love over the pack mentality of the other children, but it’s her choice. Linus doesn’t pressure her. (He proselytizes a little, but that’s kind of his jam.) And when Sally realizes that she’s been screwed out of candy, she doesn’t just mope like her brother does…”
In fact later on in It’s The Easter Beagle Charlie Brown, Sally is justifiably skeptical about Linus story of the Easter Beagle, telling him,
“That sounds faintly familiar. I remember sitting out in a stupid pumpkin patch all night waiting for The Great Pumpkin to come. And you know something ? He never came! That was the worst night of my life.”
Even when Linus urges her to trust the Easter Beagle and tells her she won’t be let down, Sally says, that she knows the Beagle won’t, but she’s not sure about Linus. The Beagle does come, just when it looks like she’ is going to get stood up again and as she’s yelling at Linus. We begin to see through Sally a key component of growing up. Unlike her older brother whose crush, the Little Red Haired Girl remains on an idealized pedestal and ignore Peppermint Patty and Marcie, or Lucy who seems to want to try and change Schroeder and pull him away from the piano, Sally does not act that way to Linus. She knows Linus has flaws and can goof up from time to time.
She knows she can’t pull him away from his blanket, yet despite it all, she still loves him. As she grows older, she comes to appreciate school ( or at least the building itself, developing an odd friendship with the building, in the way Linus is friends with his blanket), and has her own unique outlook on life and the world. She isn’t beholden to any one, not Charlie, Linus, or even Lucy. Unlike the rest of the gang who tend to mull over the deep philosophical quandaries, she just moves on to the next thing. One things is for sure, it will always have a humorous end result.
As she tells Charlie Brown one night when she wakes him up in a comic strip from May 8, 1996,
“ I did what you said, big brother…I’ve been worrying about everything. I even worried about you…I worried that you’ll never amount to anything and you’ll marry the wrong girl and all your kids will be stupid…well, I think I’m starting to get a little sleepy…”
Conrandt, Stacy “10 Things We Learned From a Q&A with Charles Schulz’ Wife” Mental Floss. January 3, 2014.
Kim, C. MD “Learning Disabilities” WebMD.com. November 14, 2014. Last Accessed February 8, 2017.
TV SPECIAL: Melendez, Bill (Dir.) A Charlie Brown Christmas. Starring Peter Robbins, Chris Shea, Tracy Stratford, Kathy Steinberg, Chris Doran, Karen Mendelson, Geoffrey Orstein, Sally Dryer, Anne Altieri, and Bill Melendez. Charles M. Schulz (Writer.)Lee Mendelson/Bill Melendez Productions/United Features Syndicate. 1965.
TV SPECIAL: Melendez, Bill (DIr.) It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Starring Peter Robbins, Chris Shea, Tracy Stratford, Kathy Steinberg, Chris Doran, Gabrielle DeFaria Ritter, Lisa DeFaria, Sally Dryer, Anne Altieri, and Bill Melendez. Charles M. Schulz (Writer.)Lee Mendelson/Bill Melendez Productions/United Features Syndicate. 1966. TV SPECIAL: Melendez, Bill (Dir.) It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown. Starring Jamie E. Smith, Mindy Ann Martin, John Christian Graas, Marnette Patterson, Jodie Sweetin, Phillip Lucier, Lindsay Bennish, Sean Mendelson, Deanna Tello, Matthew Slowik, Brittany M. Thornton, and Bill Melendez. Charles M. Schulz (writer.) Lee Mendelson Film Productions, Bill Melendez Productions, Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates / United Media Productions. 1992.
TV SPECIAL: Roman, Phil ( Dir). Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown. Starring Todd Barbee, Stephen Shea, Melanie Kohn, Greg Felton, Jimmy Ahrens, Linda Ercoli, and Bill Melendez. Charles M. Schulz (Writer.) Lee Mendelson/Bill Melendez Productions/United Features Syndicate. 1974.
TV SPECIAL: Roman, Phil ( Dir). Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown. Starring Duncan Watson, Stephen Shea, Melanie Kohn, Greg Felton, Lynn Mortensen, Linda Ercoli, and Bill Melendez. Charles M. Schulz (Writer.) Lee Mendelson/Bill Melendez Productions/United Features Syndicate. 1975.
Schnelbach, Leah “It’s the 50th Anniversary of The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” Tor.com. October 31, 2016. Last Accessed: February 6, 2017.
Schulz, Charles M. “Peanuts.” GoComics.com. This comic’s first appearance: 26th May, 1959 Peanuts Worldwide,LLC.Web. February 7, 2017.
Schulz, Charles M. “Peanuts.” GoComics.com. This comic’s first appearance: 9th June, 1959 Peanuts Worldwide,LLC.Web. February 7, 2017.
Schulz, Charles M. “Peanuts.” GoComics.com. This comic’s first appearance: 5thAugust, 1959 Peanuts Worldwide,LLC.Web. February 7, 2017.
Schulz, Charles M. “Peanuts.” GoComics.com. This comic’s first appearance: 9th August, 1959 Peanuts Worldwide,LLC.Web. February 7, 2017.
Schulz, Charles M. “Peanuts.” GoComics.com. This comic’s first appearance: 14th August, 1959 Peanuts Worldwide,LLC.Web. February 7, 2017.
Schulz, Charles M. “Peanuts.” GoComics.com. This comic’s first appearance: 30th August, 1959 Peanuts Worldwide,LLC.Web. February 7, 2017.
Schulz, Charles M. “Peanuts.” GoComics.com. This comic’s first appearance: 11th September, 1959 Peanuts Worldwide,LLC.Web. February 7, 2017.
Schulz, Charles M. “Peanuts.” GoComics.com. This comic’s first appearance: 23rd August, 1960 Peanuts Worldwide,LLC.Web. February 7, 2017.
Schulz, Charles M. “Peanuts.” GoComics.com. This comic’s first appearance: 4th September, 1962 Peanuts Worldwide,LLC.Web. February 7, 2017.
Schulz, Charles M. “Peanuts.” GoComics.com. This comic’s first appearance: 5th September, 1962 Peanuts Worldwide,LLC.Web. February 7, 2017.
Schulz, Charles M. “Peanuts.” GoComics.com. This comic’s first appearance: 7th September, 1962 Peanuts Worldwide,LLC.Web. February 7, 2017.
Schulz, Charles M. “Peanuts.” GoComics.com. This comic’s first appearance: 11th June, 1963 Peanuts Worldwide,LLC.Web. February 7, 2017.
Schulz, Charles M. “Peanuts.” GoComics.com. This comic’s first appearance: 16th May, 1969 Peanuts Worldwide,LLC.Web. February 7, 2017.
Schulz, Charles M. “Peanuts.” GoComics.com. This comic’s first appearance: 5th November, 1969 Peanuts Worldwide,LLC.Web. February 7, 2017.
Schulz, Charles M. “Peanuts.” GoComics.com. This comic’s first appearance: 11th December, 1972 Peanuts Worldwide,LLC.Web. February 7, 2017.
Schulz, Charles M. “Peanuts.” GoComics.com. This comic’s first appearance: 7th November, 1973 Peanuts Worldwide,LLC.Web. February 7, 2017.
Schulz, Charles M. “Peanuts.” GoComics.com. This comic’s first appearance: 8th May, 1996 Peanuts Worldwide,LLC.Web. February 7, 2017.
Photo Credit: 2002. Peanuts Worldwide.