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The Legend of Popeye the Sailor and Crystal City Texas

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Tony Maples Photography


Sometimes cartoons have important messages. If you recognize the importance of eating spinach, it could be in part due to Popeye the Sailor, who first debuted on January 17, 1929. In fact, a 2010 study noted children increased their vegetable consumption after watching Popeye cartoons. The Texas connection here is in a small town called Crystal City. Like many towns of the region, this hamlet started with developers buying the surrounding land to sell and in 1908 with a railroad line coming through it, the town expanded. The railroad meant a market for locally-grown produce, especially winter vegetables, for northern markets. Onions were the first crop introduced, but spinach soon replaced the onions.

Not just a statue

Facebook/Crystal City Police Department

During The Great Depression, the town had a major prosperity in spinach, producing roughly 10,000 cans a day. In March 1937, Crystal City proclaimed itself “World Spinach Capital” and paid tribute to Popeye by erecting a full-color statue of him, with the blessing of the sailorman’s creator, E. C. Segar. Coupled with the popularity of Popeye’s cartoon, the rest is statuesque history. The first annual Spinach Festival took place in 1936. The Spinach Festival was resumed in 1982 after being suspended during World War II; the annual festival is held in November, and for 2017 it will be November 9 -12. There is a spinach cook-off and, for the first time in the festival’s history, a spinach eating contest! Go visit Popeye where he still stands in the city. Look for it behind the police station or ask a local. You won’t be the first to want your picture next to him. If you are more of an inside type, there is another Popeye within the Chamber of Commerce. If you can’t make it down to Crystal City, support Texas industry, and healthy living, and eat some spinach!