Popeye’s creator E.C. Segar based many of his characters on actual people from his hometown of Chester, Illinois. One such man, Frank “Rocky” Fiegel, was the inspiration for the spinach-eating sailor himself. Fiegel, a lifetime bachelor born in 1868, was a local legend, feared for his ability to render a good butt whooping even when attacked by several adversaries at once. Called Rocky thanks to his chiseled physique, Fiegel worked at a local saloon. After his shift (and a few beers) he would bring a chair outside, put his corncob pipe in his mouth and take a nap in the sun. The sleeping Rocky became the subject of torment for schoolchildren who would creep near, scream and then run. Rocky would pop out of the chair, fists already flailing and ready for a fight.
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