Tragic tale behind Sheffield girl's Gloops Club souvenirs

The Gloops Club badge and birthday card that belonged to Barbara Keeble of Dronfield
The Gloops Club badge and birthday card that belonged to Barbara Keeble of Dronfield
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A beautifully-preserved Gloops Club birthday card and a club badge, still in its original box, are among ex-pat Jennie Ayres Alexander’s most treasured possessions.

Behind the mementoes of The Star’s popular children’s club of days gone by lies a poignant story.

The Gloops Club card and badge with Jennie Alexander, cousin of the original owner, and her husband Don

The Gloops Club card and badge with Jennie Alexander, cousin of the original owner, and her husband Don

The card was sent to Jennie’s young cousin, Barbara Keeble, of Dronfield to mark her ninth birthday on October 9, 1929.

Sadly and tragically, the little girl died aged just 12, struck down by meningitis.

Barbara’s family passed their beloved daughter’s treasures on to Jennie, who has been the custodian of them for more than 50 years.

Mrs Alexander, now 85 and living in Torrevieja, Spain, with husband Don, was determined that the card and badge be returned to Sheffield, and made a special trip during a trip home to bring them into The Star office to have them featured in Retro.

“I thought people would be interested to see them,” said Jennie, who asked that they be passed on to a city museum.

Mrs Alexander, née Johnson, was a well-known figure in Sheffield before she relocated 13 years ago, working at The Star in telephone sales and as a motor company rep before finally running a bed and breakfast next to the King’s Head in Crosspool.

n As many Retro readers no doubt recall fondly, Gloops was hugely popular right up to the 1980s.

The cartoon cat mascot of The Star’s children’s club dates back to 1928. There were Gloops Clubs in other newspapers, too.

By 1939, the Sheffield club boasted 365,000 members.

In the ’80s, Star reader Patricia Ellis remembered the words to the Gloopers’ motto song, sung at the club’s concert parties.

It went: “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 word smile was pronounced ‘thmile’, as it says on Barbara’s club badge, although apparently that was eventually dropped as Sheffield Council said that too many children were copying it.

In the 1970s, Gloops reappeared and began making public appearances with a new costume created by the Crucible Theatre,switching on the 1972 city centre Christmas lights.

Gloops also had a later revival in 1984, when the character was renamed Gloops Superstar and became a bit of a daredevil, trying skydiving and other such adventurous stunts.

Crazy cat!