The ‘White Insurance Man,’ walked into my grandparents’ home, removed the cardboard pouch, containing my grandparents’ life insurance policies, from the wall next to the front door. He turned to my grandfather, who was sitting on the sofa—his favorite spot—and addressed him with the same, geriatric salutation, he’d used 260 times before, “GOOD OLE CHARLIE BROWN!” My granddaddy’s name was “Charlie Brown;” Charlie James Brown, to be precise. The term, “GOOD OLE CHARLIE BROWN!” is one that the ‘White Insurance Man’ had obviously filched from the Sunday Newspaper comic strip entitled, “PEANUTS! Featuring, GOOD OLE CHARLIE BROWN.” My grandfather would respond to his exclamation with a mumbled, “Alright, Alright” (I wonder why old men always repeat things twice?) Anyway, I could never get a positively accurate read of Granddaddy’s expression, when responding to the ‘White Insurance Man.’ Even though he smiled—which he always did—I believe I could detect a flash of annoyance flit briefly across his, Hershey bar, smooth face. But, with a name like “Charlie Brown,” one has to expect a degree of, good-natured, ribbing, right?
Grandfather’s name didn’t make me think of the comic strip though; I thought about a song that my dad would sing to us from time-to-time; a song which I thought, incorrectly of course, was about my granddaddy. The song was called ‘CHARLIE BROWN,’ by the Coasters. Some of the lyrics follow:
“Fe-fe, fi-fi, fo-fo, fum
I smell smoke in the auditorium!
Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown
He’s a clown, that Charlie Brown
He’s gonna get caught
Just you wait and see
(Why’s everybody always pickin’ on me?)”
Well now, let’s analyze these lyrics for a moment and surmise the reason why, in retrospect, this song could NOT have been about MY dear old, CHARLIE BROWN. First of all, MY Charlie Brown could not have set a fire in the auditorium because the one-room schoolhouse he attended, until the sixth grade, had no auditorium. But now, that last line, “Why’s everybody always pickin’ on me?” could apply, in a limited sense. My Uncle Harry (the Jokester) used granddaddy’s name—good naturedly, of course—as the name of the foil, in a lot of his “tales,” to which my grandfather would quietly respond, “Harry lying” (a Geeenius response!). Let’s look at another verse:
“That’s him on his knees
I know that’s him
Yeah, from 7 come 11
Down in the boys’ gym”
Well, once again, the “One Room Schoolhouse,” had no gym; Gym was OUTSIDE! But! He was a praying man, and I mean a PRAYING man, a praying GEEENIUS! So he spent a lot of time on his knees. So that line COULD apply.
Let’s try another one:
“Who’s always writing on the wall?
Who’s always goofing in the hall?
Who’s always throwing spit balls?
Guess who (who, me) yeah, you
Who walks in the classroom, cool and slow?
Who calls the English teacher, Daddy-O?
Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown”
This one is tricky, the “blackboard,”in the “One Room Schoolhouse” was actually a section of the front wall, painted black, so technically, EVERYONE wrote on the wall, but the schoolhouse had no hall. I particularly liked this line; “Who walks in the classroom, cool and slow. Who calls the English teacher, “Daddy-O”? Once, as a child, my cousin Elvira, when describing granddaddy to someone who’d never seen him said, “he big, and he fat. He stick out in front, and he stick out behind, and when he walk, he walk like this (deftly imitating Granddaddy’s waddling gait). By the way, Elvira grew up to be a teacher and her mother, Aunt Will Eva (Granddaddy’s sister), became the principal of the “One Room Schoolhouse,”at a later point in TIME. Also, if he’d EVER called a teacher anything other than; Mr. This or Mrs. That; or Sir or Ma’am, he would have been the first man to “time travel” (a GEEENIUS level accomplishment), because he would have gotten knocked into next week!
Saturday Morning cartoons, however, introduced me to a more fitting image of MY Charlie Brown. Once, while watching an episode of the ‘Road Runner,’ the Road Runner’s nemesis was in a shack marked, “EXPLOSIVES,”at what appeared to be a construction site, pouring nitroglycerin into fake carrots. As he carefully poured the explosive liquid, he fiendishly cackled his name and credentials to himself, “Wile E. Coyote, Super-Genius,” he snickered. “I like the way that rolls out! Wile E. Coyote, SUPER-GEEENIUS.” While he’s having this little meeting of the “Self-Admiration Society” (SAS), he fails to notice that, SOMEONE, has moved his shack onto the railroad tracks adjacent to the site. Also unknown to him, there is a train coming. The train’s whistle blows, punctuating his last appraisal of himself. He turns, and looks out of the little portal of the shack. To his “SHOCK and AWE” a train is bearing down upon him. He closes the portal’s green shade and stares, fatalistically, into the “camera.” The train hits the shack and…well you know what happens when a moving train meets shack full of nitro! Need I say more?
Granddaddy is NOT WILE E. though! Although Wile E. proclaims himself a “GEEENIUS,” prior to the unfortunate outcome of his plan to rig fake carrots with nitro, the REAL GEEENIUS was the guest star, who was responsible for the shack being moved to the tracks, none other than BUGS BUNNY! That guy, is the guy who was like unto REAL Charlie Brown, GEEENIUS!
Come back next week and I’ll tell you why MY Charlie Brown, was a GEEENIUS!