Nursery school has never outgrown love for Snoopy

NEIGHBORS

January 16, 2000|By Rosalie Falter | Rosalie Falter,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

GOOD GRIEF! Such was the reaction of Jane Soverns on hearing that Charles Schulz, the cartoonist and creator of Snoopy and the "Peanuts" comic strip, was retiring.

Schulz's last new strip will be published Feb. 13, but there will be no retirement for Snoopy -- at least at St. John Cooperative Nursery School on West Maple Road, where he is the longtime mascot.

As soon as school director Soverns heard the news, she decided to have a Salute to Charles Schulz Week.

Last week, children in five classes celebrated Snoopy with craft activities, videos, stories and food, all centered on the beloved beagle.

Classes of 3-year-olds cut and pasted foam cups and black paper to make Snoopy figures. Four-year-olds got to try their hand at being a cartoonist like Schulz.

Children were treated to a Snoopy waffle baked by the school director's husband, George Soverns, whom Jane Soverns has enlisted to help on many occasions. It is rumored that he is in the adult-sized Snoopy costume seen at many school functions. Edie Leach, a friend of the Sovernses, made the costume.

Soverns said a note is being sent to Schulz, thanking him for creating Snoopy, who has "given us so much pleasure and fun." Each of the children signed it.

Soverns introduced Snoopy 32 years ago when she was asked to direct the school for one month, until a permanent director could be found. She happened to have a "dress-me" Snoopy doll she thought would be a good learning tool. The children played with it and learned to tie, snap and button his clothes.

Thirty-two years later, Soverns and Snoopy are still there.

The original beagle, however, has been joined by hundreds of other Snoopys and Snoopy memorabilia. Soverns acknowledges being a Snoopy addict and has bought some of these herself -- but over the years, pupils have given her many.

One of her most recent gifts was from 4-year-old Shannon Gormley. It is a "Millennium Snoopy" in a jester hat.

Soverns shows off a lot of the collection on her 9-foot-tall revolving Christmas tree, which stays up through January in a large sun room at her Linthicum home. Tucked into and hanging on every branch are Snoopy beanbags, bird feeders, teacher ornaments, books, Pez dispensers and many other accessories.

Other Peanuts characters are also represented. An example is a bright yellow Woodstock bird dressed in earmuffs and scarf. It was given to Soverns by a student, Mallory Carlson, who also gave her a Snoopy wearing pajamas.

The nursery school children and their teachers -- Soverns, Barbara Berheimer, Pat Harding and Kathie Kamm -- are surrounded by Snoopy when in school. He is on the curtains and the clock, and the school has a working Snoopy telephone.

Every weekend, a traveling Snoopy, in a backpack, goes home with one child -- to accompany the child wherever he or she goes. Snoopy is returned to school each Monday, with his adventures recorded in a journal that is read to the pupils.

Soverns and her husband are looking forward to a Celebrate Snoopy 50th Anniversary Cruise this year. "I don't care where the ship goes, I just want to be on board for all the Snoopy stuff," she said.

Soverns probably will return with many ideas for projects to keep Snoopy alive and well for St. John Nursery School children for the next 32 years.

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