60s Popeye: Popeye’s Service Station, service with a sotto voce chuckling


Jack Kinney gets the story and the producer credits today. Animation direction goes to Volus Jones and Ed Friedman. Here fresh from 1960 is Popeye’s Service Station.

Another cartoon, another small business that Popeye’s running. He must go through so much seed capital in-between shorts. This time, no pizza; he’s running a gas station.

The cartoon spends a lot of time establishing what Popeye’s Service Station offers for free. Jackson Beck reads the whole list twice, once in Narrator voice and then later on in Brutus voice. It’s fair to spend the time on this. Half the cartoon is everybody demanding the free stuff, and without the narrator kids who can’t read fast could be confused. Does mean it takes a while for the action to get started. When the action does start, it’s Popeye chuckling odd resigned phrases like “what’s the use?” at how many cars don’t need service right this minute.

Eventually we get Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Brutus together on-screen and things proceed as you’d imagine. Brutus tries wooing Olive Oyl away from Popeye, by having his car eat Popeye. Brutus runs Popeye over, flat, twice. I was shocked by that in the (Paramount) Oil’s Well That Ends Well, but not so bothered here. I don’t know why it plays different this time around. Anyway, Popeye eats his flat spinach, there’s punching, Popeye keeps Brutus trapped on the car elevator for hours upon hours, the end.

Popeye holding a water hose up to the mouth of a camel standing in the back of a truck bed.
Popeye’s lucky he didn’t accidentally grab the air hose and inflate the poor camel out of the picture!

I suspect I’d like this cartoon more if I hadn’t just seen Popeye’s Pizza Palace. By any of the ordinary measures of story this is better-made. At no point do I wonder why a character chose to do that. Nor do I wonder how one action caused the next. I could describe the plot without it sounding like a dream. Popeye’s Pizza Palace throws together so many bizarre choices that the result delights me. Popeye’s Car Wash (from Harmon studios), another short built on a similar theme, has the repeating refrain of Popeye washing a conveyor belt of Very 50s Cars as an image. At Popeye’s Service Station, we have simple competence, the loopiest gag being the fellow who needs his camel refilled as he’s off to a caravan. I’m afraid that’s doomed to be forgotten.

60s Popeye: Motor Knocks, where Popeye loses his car inside a covered bridge


Here’s a 1960 Paramount Cartoon Studios short. As usual the director is Seymour Kneitel. The story’s credited to Al Pross, a name I don’t see mentioned before. Pross is credited as an animator for nine shorts, but has story credits only for this and for a 1963 short called Harry Happy. And a quick warning before getting seriously intoMotor Knocks. Popeye’s rhyming couplet at the end includes a verb derived from a slur against Romani people.

Is Brutus a songwriter? This cartoon, I mean; I embrace how his background is whatever the premise of a short needs. But he presents himself as a service station owner whose real ambition is songwriting. He reels off funny bad titles to an impressed Olive Oyl. Is it all a line to impress her, or is this a bit more personality than Brutus needs for the cartoon?

Steve Bierly, author of a delightful Popeye fan page, wrote a book extolling the Famous Studios cartoons. He includes some mentions of the Paramount-produced King Features Syndicate cartoons, this one among them. It’s a nice change to be in dialogue with another critic. One of Bierly’s themes — writing about this cartoon and others — is how often Famous/Paramount cartoons have Olive Oyl be genuinely interested in Bluto/Brutus. She’s at least listening to his flirting here. She stands up for Brutus when Popeye’s ready to slug him. When Brutus is towing the car, she accepts the logic that it’s safer for her to ride in the tow truck cab while Popeye rides in the car.

I’m not sure how to evaluate that, though. I suspect Olive Oyl’s just impressed, as many of us are, with people who know how to Do Things. And Brutus does present himself as knowing how to Do Things, at least with cars. Could be anyone … except that Brutus/Bluto ends up being the guy who (seems to) know how to Do Things a lot. Some of that because if anything’s going to come between Olive Oyl and Popeye, well, who else you cast? Wimpy? (Watch this space.)

Olive Oyl, in the car, sits with her eyes fluttering and her hands held up together to her chin, dainty and flattered by the attention. Brutus is leaning way over the door of the car and smiling while talking to her.
So, gas station mechanic who plays guitar and composes silly songs that woo the ladies … if this short were made three years later I’d say it was starting to spoof Elvis Movies. How is Brutus somehow anticipating a Generic Elvis Movie role?

Bierly also points out this is one where Popeye is, first, doing something with Olive Oyl and, second, jealous of Brutus’s attention on her. Often Popeye seems barely interested in her and doesn’t notice the wooing until Olive Oyl tells him off. Plot requirements — that Popeye has to wait until he’s all he can stands before swallowing his spinach — tend to make Popeye look passive. That’s avoided, but at the cost of making him look more like a patsy. But he can’t be blamed for taking Olive Oyl’s advice to pretend Brutus’s shenanigans were an accident, for example. Or respecting her desire to ride in the tow truck cabin.

Much of this cartoon is what you’d expect from Paramount. The story’s all reasonable, reasonably constructed throughout. The animation’s all smooth and steady enough. There seem to be more jokes than usual, or at least they land better. There’s even sign jokes too, like Brutus’s garage offering “expert windshield wiping”. Brutus’s song titles, whether or not Brutus means them in earnest. Or Brutus claiming he ran across the stranded motorists while he was “just going mushroom-picking”. Also, wow, gas was a dollar a gallon back when this cartoon was made in 1960. Imagine that!

Bierly’s book, by the way, is Stronger Than Spinach: The Secret Appeal of the Famous Studios Popeye. Much of it overlaps Bierly’s web site, but they are different creatures. And I do quite like Bierly’s web site and its enthusiastic writing.

Exciting Information About Our Rewards Program


Thank you and greetings to all patrons of whichever brand of gas station this is! We have made some major improvements to our rewards plan. Please do pay attention. All our departments have put a lot of work into making this a thrilling experience. We know Tom from Accounts Discernable would be heartbroken if nobody found out about the glass-blowing workshops. He’s very sure this is going to be the next big experience everyone wants to have and who knows. He could be right. Anyway the principle holds.

We don’t want you to see us as only one of three options for socially acceptable late-night peeing near exit 101 of the Interstate. We want you to see it as the last piece needed to reach a eudaimoniac state. In this all humanity is treated with respect and consideration and dignity. All beings capable of rational thought will be cherished. They will be brought to the fullest expression of their greatest potentials. Also three packs of Bugles are four bucks.

Please review these changes carefully! Teresa Cearley of Hopendyll, Maryland did. She was signed to a big ten-year contract with M-G-M pictures starring alongside Donald O’Connor! Jocelyn van Florp of Glacial Moraine, Wisconsin, did not. The day after she did not, her car was jailed on three counts of aggregated content!

So. We used to have the plan where if you bought six fountain drinks you get a coupon for the next one free. Or where if you bought six coffees you got a coupon for the next one free. First, we’re making clear that tea counts as coffee for the purposes of getting these coupons. You would not believe how much time our cashiers have to spend reassuring people about this. Some days during the depths of winter they’ll be asked about it four times. Which yes, doesn’t sound like a lot. Which yes, doesn’t sound like a lot. But it adds up. Over a full year it comes to whatever four times the number of days in a year is.

Also we count refilling your own travel mug as buying whatever the largest cup smaller than your mug’s size is. Travel mug volume is determined by an integral calculus. We will use integrals of rotated surfaces, best two falls out of three. We are retaining the popular feature where the coupon lasts long enough you forget you have it in the car’s cubby-hole for cell phones.

You continue to earn points by buying stuff from us or using our credit card. We’re also getting ready to release our app. It’s going to offer an exciting new way to earn points where you take pictures of anything, anything at all, with our app. Your car? Sure. Your friends? Yup. The place you’re road-tripping to? Absolutely. Home after a successful trip? Definitely. A cow that amused you all on US 2 in Ohio with how it existed and everything? Yes. An abandoned, crumbling brick factory? Yes. Once you’ve taken the picture call out, “Olly olly oxen free! Olly olly oxen free!” and there you go, points! We’re almost ready to go with this. It’s just the thing you call out set off a frightful argument around here. One faction said “olly olly oxen free”. Another faction said wrong things that were wrongitty wrong wrong and were stupid and wrong as kids. We’ve had to split the development team into four separate rooms, one of them in another building.

But what are points without the chance to use them on anything? Please look at our online store where you can see pictures of:

  • A flat-screen TV
  • Some manner of power tool
  • A foosball table
  • One of those unfolding rubber keyboards that people sometimes roll out and that hooks up to their phones by bluetooth or something and you can’t figure out how they work.
  • A foosball chair
  • An ugly watch
  • A curved-screen TV
  • A blender
  • A foosball sofa
  • An even flatter-screen TV
  • A foosball love seat
  • Movie tickets
  • The abstract concept of social harmony
  • A foosball TV

You can log in using your 24-digit rewards club membership number plus, for safety, the four-digit pin you selected when you got the card in 2009 and don’t remember! It is 1312. Like in the stardate. Remember it by the point-four after that.

Please now pay attention to this video of the third-largest publicly-accessible model railroad in Harding County. Pretty neat, huh? You have to love this bit where it runs underneath the Old New Fulton Street Library. This has nothing to do with the rewards program but we like it. Thank you.