Alley Oop! – Tower Jumpers, Cartoons, Paratroopers, and Rock & Roll

It’s funny, the things a person gets to thinking about. The other day, while sitting on the thunder mug, I suddenly started thinking about Alley Oop. You know, the cartoon character; big forearms, scruffy beard; rode a dinosaur. How could I forget the characters? Alley Oop, the time-traveling caveman, getting into all sorts of adventures. Oola, his girlfriend. Dinny, his dinosaur. Dr. Wonmug, the mad scientist that invented the time machine that found and transported Alley Oop. The Kingdom of Moo. A satirical, bonafide sci-fi comic strip.

Then I got thinking about where did that name come from? I had heard that it was from the French. Apparently, circus-type acrobats would shout “Allez oop!” then jump into a wet hanky or some such. It seems to me that I heard, probably from WW-II movies I watched as a kid, that American (and maybe other) paratroopers would shout “Alley Oop!” as they jumped from their aircraft.

Hmm! OK, what came first? So I Googled Alley Oop. What did I find? Well, the origin apparently is from the French. Allez (from aller, to go) used as an interjection of encouragement, surprise, or exhortation + oop – uncertain or unknown. [exerpted From Webster’s New World Dictionary, 5th Ed., Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co].

Now here’s where I had forgotten or never really knew, all sorts of things about the term ‘alley-oop’.

  • Basketball – A play in which a pass is lobbed above the basket, and a player jumps and attempts to dunk it in the air.
  • Used to start a strenuous activity, such as lifting.
  • French cry of a circus acrobat about to leap from a tower.
  • An American comic strip created in 1933 by V.T. Hamlin – the caveman character from the strip. [Extracted from YourDictionary, n.d. https://www.yourdictionary.com/alley-oop]
  •      A hit single in 1960 by the Hollywood Argyles – their only hit. The song, written 1957, has been covered by numerous other groups since it was first recorded. [extracted from Wikipedia]

 With all of this, I discovered that the cartoon strip has run, almost continuously, since it’s inception in 1932. It is still running. Hamlin’s assistant, Dave Graue, took it over in 1971. Jack Bender started illustrating the strip in 1991, and he and his wife continued the strip after Graue retired in 2001. The Bender’s retired in 2018. A 2018 article by Bruce Haring stated that the strip was to be revitalized, with a new writer/artist team in the NY Times.

I haven’t read any cartoon strips for several years, so I was totally unaware that the strip still existed. As a kid, it was one of my favorites. I would lay on the floor in my grandma’s house on Sunday morning and read the Sunday Funnies while listening to them being read by a team on the radio. Even as an adult, I subscribed to several different newspapers over the years, and the first thing I always read was the funnies – weekdays and Sundays. Somewhere along the line, I lost interest in reading newspapers, and the cartoons went, along with the subscriptions.

Did paratroopers really shout alley-oop as they jumped?

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