Friday, December 30, 2022

Chester, the Town That Embraces Popeye, The Sailor

Chester, Illinois, is the hometown of Popeye, the Sailor. Few know about this factoid. Now you know. In 1977, a bronze statue of Popeye was erected in honor of the hometown of Elzie C. Segar, the creator of Popeye. The statue is on display at the Segar Memorial Park, which is also home to the Chester Welcome Center. Earlier this year a friend of mine and I traveled across the state of Illinois for a week to check out all the museums and Chester turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Of all the towns we stopped in, this was our favorite. You know they say a tour is only as good as the tour guide? The good folks in Chester have embraced Popeye, the Sailor like I have never seen a town embrace tourism. 

Almost three decades after the bronze Popeye statue was erected, the town began an annual tradition of erecting a granite statue featuring a character from the Popeye comic strip. There are more than 20 of these statues throughout the town. Even with a map, finding these statues is like a scavenger hunt. it took us three hours to find them all and one of them eluded us. Thankfully, there is a historian of Popeye, the Sailor, who not only lived in Chester, but was kind enough to take us to the statue. 

There is also a mini-museum and store filled with thousands of Popeye related collectibles.

Enclosed are a large number of photographs of the Spinach Can Collectibles Museum, and if you are ever looking for something Popeye-related, give them a phone call or e-mail. As you can tell by reviewing the photographs below, Popeye is the logo on the front of City Hall, the volunteer fire department, and even a patch on the official uniforms of the local police station. After spending a day in town, my friend and I agreed that stopping over in Chester was better than any town we ever paid a visit that week -- but it was primarily the citizens of Chester. Segar would be proud.

My friend posing with the Popeye statue.

A quick rundown of the history of Popeye, the Sailor can be found here:

Take note: Popeye will soon celebrate his 100th anniversary.