4 July 2013


From the sublime ("Unawatuna - December 2004") to the ridiculous (Popeye the Sailorman). Or maybe the other way round? When I was a young lad with permanently scabby knees, I used to love watching Popeye on the box. At first, I could only watch him on other people's televisions as our first TV was BBC only - just one channel and of course we could only watch him in black and white. The cartoon made me think - if that is what America is like - I want to go there!

In spite of his gravelly voice and vulgar laugh, Popeye was a force for good - continuously protecting his gorgeous Olive Oyl from the evil hunk known as Bluto. When the going got tough, all Popeye needed was a fresh can of spinach to boost his energy levels - then Bluto was doomed. There were several other peripheral characters too but  Popeye, Olive and Bluto were always the triad in the middle. The show was guaranteed to make me laugh - but not like Popeye himself for mine was boyish, giggly laughter before cycling home for tea.

In my little sheep-infested, permanently sunny East Yorkshire mono-racial village, we had a playground rhyme:-
I'm Popeye the sailorman
I live in a caravan
I went to the pictures
And pulled down my britches
I'm Popeye the sailorman
In our rural innocence, we didn't realise that there were much muckier rhymes we could have adopted such as:-
I'm Popeye the sailor man
I'm Popeye the sailor man
I sleep with my granny
And tickle her fanny
I'm Popeye the sailor man - toot! toot!
I'm Popeye the sailor man, 
I live in a caravan, 
And when it gets chilly,
I tickle my willy,
I'm Popeye the sailor man

They were probably reserved for urban playgrounds in mysterious faraway places like Leeds, New York or Cairns.

Wikipedia research brings this information up about Popeye:-

Popeye the Sailor Man is a cartoon fictional character created by Elzie Crisler Segar, He first appeared in the daily "King Features" comic strip-  "Thimble Theatre" on January 17, 1929.

After that the Popeye industry grew year on year and in 1980 a feature film was made starring Robin Williams as Popeye. I didn't see it but incidentally - much of this was filmed in Malta. In recent years I haven't heard much about Popeye. Perhaps he doesn't appeal to modern children or maybe the media moguls are siding with Bluto and the forces of evil and greed these days. Here's a Popeye flashback from 1933. You may need to skip an ad:-


  1. Great stuff!
    Popeye is still used in rural Catalonia to get kids to eat their spinach :)

  2. This post explains a lot....

    Where I lived, Popeye didn't live in a caravan, he lived in a garbage can.

  3. Ah Popeye! Did you watch Batman as well? I've heard some great little Batman ditties sung to the tune of Jingle Bells.

  4. I'm Popeye the Sailor Man,
    I live in a garbage can.
    I loves to go swimmin'
    With bowlegged wimmen.
    I'm Popeye the Sailor Man. Toot toot.

  5. Olive looks like lori from THE WALKING DEAD

  6. The Popeye I knew lived in a garbage can as well. Despite his successful endeavors, he never convinced me to eat spinach!


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