Classic movie site with rare images (no web grabs!), original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
grbrpix@aol.com
Search Index Here




Saturday, December 08, 2007







Calling All Popeye Clubbers







Some of us used to meet on once-a-month Saturdays with a collecting old-timer in Concord, NC who’d lately been privy to 16mm prints being dumped out of nearby TV stations. Prior to share of his bounty, we’d sit in a Shoney’s off I-85 where Bill would polish off a Slim Jim Special whilst regaling us with memories of a film going  youth. Many were references to The Popeye Club, of which he’d been a proud member fifty years prior. Anytown USA might have been the group’s address, for chapters sprung up everywhere once Popeye caught on in 1933. This was a craze born and reborn with succeeding generations. When the cartoon backlog went to television in 1956, what exploded in the thirties did so all over again, and we’ve since had Popeye released on DVD. Bill’s gone now, and so I suspect are most members of the original Popeye clubs. It began as a grass roots exhibiting phenomenon. Betty Boop introduced Popeye, but he quickly put her in the shade. Betty was more for adult consumption anyway, and enjoyed not his kid drawing power. Suddenly Paramount had their own Mickey Mouse, and as Disney’s rodent boasted matinee clubs in his name, why not Popeye? Mouse meetings were a model for weekly programs that would restore strength to Saturday ticket counters surely as spinach did for Paramount’s animated star. Co-ops were a natural for Popeye. The Colfax Theatre’s Guy Martin had a sure bet when he tied up with South Bend (Indiana) News Times for boosting between comic strips in the daily and cartoons on the Colfax’s screen. Gratis three column ten inch ads (one shown here) in the Times trumpeted club meetings, and special trailers following each Popeye cartoon at the Colfax led child patrons back to the paper’s strip. Each matinee was a down home extravaganza highlighting talent from neighborhoods and city blocks where kids with musical instruments and tap shoes were encouraged to parlay performance into cash/toy prizes.

























Shows began with a call to order and the singing of The Star Spangled Banner, with organ accompaniment and a screen projected American flag. Popeye salutes and handshakes traveled along rows, front to back. Dad had Lions and Civitans, but this was Junior’s own fraternal order. I’m betting a lot of those youngsters made friends they would not have met but for attending Popeye Club. There were three theme songs, with lyrics geared to local people and events plugged into melodies of Hail, Hail (The Gang’s All Here) and East Side, West Side. The live portion continued with song and dance, recitation, magic acts, all performed by kids from the audience trying their luck. In an era of child stars and stage mad moppets, interest (and talent) came in abundance. There was even a Popeye Club Band, with twelve members, and according to Colfax management, growing by the week. Within a short time, we will be presenting one of the finest musical aggregations of its kind in the city. Special mid-week Popeye Club Follies brought performers to the attention of adult patrons, and were greeted as important local events. Almost an afterthought were screen offerings in the wake of such entertainment, but these too were stellar as might be expected. The ad here promises, in addition to Popeye, a Terrytoon, Betty Boop, Charley Chase, plus news and sport reels, followed by Metro’s Trouble For Two, a still enjoyable thriller with Robert Montgomery. Admission for all was a dime. Kids with birthdays that week got in free. Postcard updates went out regularly to the membership. Other theatres devised bally and ritual of their own. The Park Theatre in Roselle Park, New Jersey gave each child a pipe along with his/her member card (but did they comp tobacco as well?). There were jingle contests, harmonica eliminations, and bring your (preferably tethered) dog promotions. By way of gaining support from parents, local PTA and Police Departments were invited to supply weekly tips on safety and citizenship. We can say on one hand how reflective of simple times this was, but who or what is drawing youth to fill thousand seat theatres today? I’ve thought (and written) of how lucky I was to grow up with cartoons on fifties and sixties television, and yes, we can look at Popeye DVD’s and approximate our discovery of them, but even memories sweet as these would be hard pressed to compete with glories that Popeye Clubbers routinely enjoyed.

2 Comments:

Blogger Cory The Raven said...

Wow... That does sound like a blast! When I was a kid in the 80's, we didn't really seem to have any "shared experience" things like this... Our's were relegated to watching certain cartoons or playing certain video gaming systems essentially by ourselves and then talking about them at school. We might go out to collect peripheral stuff related to them (eg: a Nintendo sticker album by Pannini), but that was about as far as it went. The Popeye and Mickey Mouse Clubs sounds absolutely charming!

10:45 AM  
Anonymous jess_price said...

This was a great post!

My grandfather grew up in North Texas and was a member of the Popeye Fan Club. He said they used to get in free with a bread sack (Wonder Bread, I think).

And often, they'd have "Buddy Days" where friends got in free. He said he would stand around outside the theatre, looking for paying kids that showed up without a buddy. He quickly "make friends" with them and get in free!

11:01 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

grbrpix@aol.com
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016
  • October 2016
  • November 2016
  • December 2016
  • January 2017
  • February 2017
  • March 2017
  • April 2017
  • May 2017
  • June 2017
  • July 2017
  • August 2017
  • September 2017
  • October 2017
  • November 2017
  • December 2017
  • January 2018
  • February 2018
  • March 2018
  • April 2018
  • May 2018
  • June 2018
  • July 2018
  • August 2018
  • September 2018
  • October 2018
  • November 2018