When Popeye's creator met him, he was a retired sailor contracted by Wiebusch’s tavern in the city of Chester, Illinois, to clean and maintain order. He had a reputation to be always involved in fighting, so he had a deformed eye (“Pop-eye”). He had demonstrated his strength in so many fights that he became a local legend. He always smoked his pipe, so he spoke only with one side of his mouth.
When he was with children he held the pipe with the corner of his mouth and told them the antics of his youth, often boasting of his physical strength and loudly claiming that spinach is the food that makes him invincible.