Comic Strip Character
For Radio Show
is his diet
he asks you to try it
with Popeye the sailor man.”
Lincoln, Me. (DG)—
was a magical media for the children who heard it during its golden age. Just
like the adults had their favorite programs, the small fry also had theirs. For
the most part, these programs featured the children’s favorite comic strip
characters. Not only could they read about them in the Sunday newspaper, the
children could hear them live and in person over the airwaves. One of the comic
strip characters is the subject of this article.
On Tuesday, September 3, 1935, the
stations of NBC’s Red Network debuted the first episode of POPEYE
THE SAILOR. It was a serial program heard 3 times a week (believed to
be Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) at 7:15 PM.
It was the story of Popeye, who was
all Navy from head to toe--- complete with the grizzled accent of an “Old
Salt.” His girlfriend (for the most part) was Olive Oyl, who adored Popeye, but
also had something of a fickle nature. Popeye’s friend was J. Wellington Wimpy,
or “Wimpy” as he was referred to by his friends. His love was hamburgers--- and
LOTS of them (too bad McDonald’s didn’t sponsor this
program). Matey was a young boy who was adopted by Popeye. Swee’ Pea was a
baby left on Olive’s doorstep. Last but certainly not least was Bluto, a big,
rough, mean sailor who loved to stir up trouble--- and to beat the starch out of
The characters and the stories on
the radio program were similar in content to the comic strip--- with one
noticeable exception. In the comic strip, when Popeye was completely out of
gas, he always had a can of spinach in his shirt. He had enough strength to pop
the can open and pour the contents into his mouth. In split second speed,
Popeye had the strength of 10 men (amazing stuff that spinach). In no time at
all, Popeye whipped the daylights out of Bluto, won Olive’s heart (for the
moment), and everyone lived happily ever after--- until the start of a new story
in next week’s comic strip.
If spinach was the sponsor of the
Popeye radio show, it would be the perfect fit. During the 1930’s, there were
makers of canned fruit and vegetables (including spinach), but none of them came
forward. For a radio program to survive on the air, it was very important to
have a sponsor. Wheatena wasn’t spinach, but it was the sponsor
of the Popeye radio program (if you’re not familiar with Wheatena,
it was a hot wheat cereal). As you already know, the sponsor called the shots
on the radio program they sponsored, so the trick here was to involve
Wheatena into the program. There was only one answer--- Wheatena
replaced spinach as Popeye’s strengthening food.
At the beginning and end of each
broadcast, there were the usual Wheatena commercials narrated by
announcer Kelvin Beech. While Beech made Wheatena sound so good,
the small fry in the listening audience were wondering how it would be involved
in the story.
In the enclosed sound clip, Olive,
Wimpy, and Matey planned a picnic.
They boarded a
streetcar that was going to the city limits. This streetcar had a reputation of
going fast. On this trip, it was a little TOO fast. With some
sharp curves coming up, the streetcar operator tried to slow it down, but the
brakes jammed. After the streetcar hit a truck in the tracks, the driver was
thrown out. The conductor of the streetcar showed his bravery by voluntarily
jumping off. It was Olive, Wimpy, and Matey on the speeding streetcar by
themselves. In a nutshell, it didn’t look very good for the trio.
With the streetcar gathering more
speed, Popeye came to the rescue. He stood in the middle of the tracks, bracing
himself to stop the streetcar. This may not necessarily be the smartest thing
Popeye or anyone else could do. The speeding streetcar continued its deadly
pace. It appeared Popeye was headed to the ship in the sky. Miraculously,
Popeye wasn’t hit by the streetcar, but he was hanging on to the opposite end
for dear life.
The streetcar was now approaching a
busy area of the city. Something had to be done--- and fast. Matey started
cooking some Wheatena. Popeye said that in order to stop a fast
moving streetcar, not to mention heavy, he needed 3 bowls full of Wheatena.
Popeye devoured the Wheatena. In split second speed, he had
energy and strength. Popeye slowed down the streetcar. It took a few seconds,
but Popeye managed to completely derail the streetcar before it approached the
busy intersection. It was a scary moment, but the good news was nobody was
hurt--- except Popeye’s feet that felt the heat from the friction of slowing the
Although Wheatena gave
Popeye super human strength on the program, the makers of the cereal doesn’t
promise the same result to everyone who eats it. Eating Wheatena
at breakfast time supplied the energy needed to get the day off in the right
Wheatena worked out
very well in Popeye’s stories on the radio. Good thing the sponsor wasn’t
something that was NOT to be eaten. Working that into the
story might be very interesting.