By Sue Roe
Gloops was a cartoon character created by an employee of the Sheffield Star in 1928. The Gloops Club was launched in 1929, when the Sheffield Star started a children’s section to the Saturday supplement and continued until war broke out in 1939. The Club was run by children’s columnist ‘Aunty Edith’, and allowed members aged up to 14. Lists of members with their names and addresses were published regularly in the newspaper with an update on numbers.
There was also a membership card outlining the rules of the Gloops Club. Every junior Glooper was given a number and a badge (see above. Doreen Gill remembered ‘a little teddy, fat teddy’, while Mary S thought of a ‘cartoon cat’). In return they had to perform at least one act of kindness every day. We can see from the rules the values the club was promoting: friendship, equality, compassion. Members also had to donate money from their savings or pocket money to help children less fortunate than themselves. Gloops members could earn medals for: heroism, scholastic and athletic success, school records, acts of kindness and self-sacrifice. For example a Silver Disc was awarded to children who attended school or Sunday School for three years with no absence, and a Silver Star for life-saving acts or acts of bravery
The Gloops Club was hugely successful. By 1939, it had 365,000* children as members and by 1957 it had raised more than £25,000 for charity. In 1928, a Gloops Holiday Home was opened in Skegness, which could accommodate 60 sick children each week, and there is evidence of another home opening in 1931 in Mablethorpe. In addition, the Club funded 12 hospital beds in the Sheffield area. Members sent chocolates, toys and comics to children in hospital.
There were other Gloops clubs in other newspapers, including the Evening Chronicle on Tyneside (the mother of website editor Val Hewson was a member in 1930s Newcastle). The Gloops character was revived after the Second World War and continued into the 1950s and possibly even the 1960s. In 1972, in another revival, and in a new costume created by the Crucible Theatre, Gloops switched on the Sheffield’s Christmas lights. In 1984, Gloops Superstar did everything from skydiving to escaping from a mock fire. Gloops then toured Sheffield in a vintage Star van to entertain children at summer parties and fetes.
In the 1980s, The Star asked readers to share their memories. Patricia Ellis said:
Gloops has very special memories for me. As a little girl I spent many happy hours touring round with the Gloops concert party. The climax of the concerts was the Gloopers’ Motto, which I still sing today if I’m feeling downhearted:
Smile, Smile, that’s the Gloopers’ motto
Always happy, always gay
Always smiling all the day
Never be downhearted
It isn’t worth your while
So be like Gloops and smile, smile, smile.
The Star reported that ‘smile’ was pronounced ‘thmile’, until Sheffield Council suggested changing it because children were copying the incorrect pronunciation.
* This figure must be a national one. The total population of Sheffield at this time was between 560,000 and 570,000. At any rate, 365,000 children is an enormous number.