Charles Schulz, creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip, sits in his Colorado Springs home with first wife, Joyce, and their son, Monty. They lived on El Paso Street in the Bonnyville neighborhood in 1951. Schulz was a struggling comic strip artist who painted a mural on the home’s nursery wall featuring a round-headed boy in a zig-zag shirt and a beagle puppy – Charlie Brown and Snoopy. File photo.

I love “Jeopardy.” So I pose the answers first: silent movie superstar Lon Chaney. Or crazy smart (and slightly crazy) inventor Nikola Tesla. Could be Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz.

SIDE STREETS: Good Grief! Some famous characters lived in Colorado Springs

Oct. 14, 2014

Copyright by The Colorado Springs Gazette

Published Oct. 14, 2014

By Bill Vogrin

I love “Jeopardy.” So I pose the answers first: silent movie superstar Lon Chaney. Or crazy smart (and slightly crazy) inventor Nikola Tesla. Could be Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz. You get to decide.

Here’s the question: Who are the most famous people who have lived in Colorado Springs?

I already ruled out Jeb Magruder, who lived here after the Watergate scandal. For a brief period, he was arguably the most famous resident in the region.

I’m pondering who was our most famous residents since Gen. William Jackson Palmer directed his crew to drive a stake at what is now Cascade and Pikes Peak avenues July 31, 1871, founding a new community.

Gen. William Jackson Palmer, founder of Colorado Springs

Of course, Palmer is on the list as a railroad baron and well-known hero of the Civil War.

And there would be others from his era, including Margaret Davis Hayes, daughter of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, who moved here after the war. She and her husband, J. Addison Hayes, didn’t travel alone to the community founded by a Union hero. They were accompanied by some of their freed slaves.

Many came to the Springs and achieved fame by striking it rich in the gold fields of Cripple Creek and elsewhere. That list would include Spencer Penrose, who founded The Broadmoor hotel and became a powerful political force in Colorado and the Republican Party nationally, campaigning fiercely to end prohibition.

I suppose the answer to the question depends on the era when it is asked. A century ago, the answer clearly would have been Chaney or Tesla.

Nikola Tesla in his Colorado Springs laboratory. File photo.

Or famed author Helen Hunt Jackson, who wrote about the federal government’s mistreatment of American Indians. Her 1884 novel “Ramona” — written during her years here — was compared to “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” as one of the 19th century’s more groundbreaking and inspiring works.

Another well-known local resident was Andy Adams, who gained fame writing authentic accounts of the American cowboy. He settled here in 1894 and wrote his most popular book, “The Log of a Cowboy,” in 1903. It was an account of a five-month cattle drive based on his own experiences.

In 1948, famed science fiction writer Robert Heinlein moved here with his wife. In 1952, a Popular Mechanics article, “A House to Make Life Easy,” profiled the custom home Heinlein built in the Broadmoor area.

A writer who was born here, the daughter of a mining engineer, but didn’t stay was Gladys Bagg Taber. She wrote 59 books, including the Stillmeadow books, and was a columnist for Ladies’ Home Journal and Family Circle.

Perhaps the most famous writer to live here, although briefly, was Schulz, whose daily newspaper comic strip, Peanuts, made pop icons of characters Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy and Linus.

Charles Schulz, wife Joyce and son Monty in 1951 in their Colorado Springs home.

And it made Schulz fabulously wealthy. But that all came after his stint in the Springs. Schulz, his wife, Joyce, and their baby daughter, Meredith, spent a year here in 1951 as his characters were taking shape.

In the 1960s, the answer might have included Flip Wilson, who was a Fort Carson soldier and a budding comedian who practiced his act at Fannie Mae Duncan’s Cotton Club.

For pure star power, peruse the list of sports figures.

In the 1960s, Dow Finsterwald was a famous golfer who became the pro at The Broadmoor.

The Broadmoor Skating Club has produced some headliners, including Peggy Fleming, the 1968 Olympic gold medalist; brothers David and Hayes Allen Jenkins, Olympic gold medalists in 1960 and 1956, respectively; and many other elite skaters such as Jill Trenary, Christopher Dean, Rachael Flatt and famed coach Carlo Fassi.

The U.S. Olympic Training Center has brought many champions to town as resident athletes, including gold medal wrestler Rulon Gardner, eight-time medalist speed skater Apolo Ohno, and young cycling phenom Lance Armstrong.

A semi-homegrown Olympic gold medalist is Coronado High School alum and wrestling champion Henry Cejudo.

Colorado College and the Air Force Academy account for many famous names in the sports world.

CC football great Earl Dutch Clark was one of the original Detroit Lions and went on to coach in the NFL. Tiger football player Steve Sabol realized fame as the genius behind his father’s company, NFL Films.

The academy hired a young Bill Parcells, who quickly moved on and became an NFL coaching legend.

A stronger tie exists between the academy and 1970 graduate Gregg Popovich, who has achieved fame as coach of the San Antonio Spurs. Since he took over in 1996, the Spurs have won five championships.

The academy also has produced several NFL players, including Chad Hennings, who won the Outland Trophy as the best lineman in college football and went on to win three Super Bowl titles with the Dallas Cowboys.

The list of homegrown NFL talent is long and includes Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson and lineman Phil Loadholt.

NBA talent has sprung from the area, including longtime Orland Magic player Pat Garrity and the Oklahoma Thunder’s rising star Reggie Jackson. And we’ve been home to NBA champion and Hall of Famer Rick Barry for years as well as NFL Hall of Famer Jan Stenerud, a legendary kicker who introduced the “soccer style” of kicking as a star with the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Colorado Springs Sky Sox have hosted many young players and managers who went on to fame, including Charlie Manuel, who managed the Philadelphia Phillies to a World Series championship in 2008, and controversial slugger Albert “Joey” Belle. Chase Headley, who finished the season with the New York Yankees, starred at Fountain-Fort Carson.

And baseball also gave us Hall of Fame pitcher Rich “Goose” Gossage as well as a young Ford Frick, who wrote sports for The Gazette and then the Telegraph and went on to become the commissioner of baseball and later a member of the Hall of Fame.

I haven’t even mentioned motorsports and Hall of Famer Al Unser.

Several descendants of prominent Americans relocated to the region, including Freda Maytag, who built a Broadmoor-area mansion in 1927. She was daughter of Frederick L. Maytag, founder of appliance-maker Maytag. Later, L.B. “Bud” Maytag moved here in high school and attended Colorado College. He owned two airlines and founded Maytag Aircraft Corp., an airplane fuel supplier, and later an aircraft parts company.

Another famous descendant to relocate here was Chester A. Arthur Jr., son of the 21st president.

Lon Chaney, the Man of a Thousand Faces, grew up in Colorado Springs before becoming a silent film star. File photos.