For today's post we're going back to kindergarten during the 1975-76 school year. For whatever reason I have so many memories of my first year in school. In my mind's eye I can see all the kids, my teacher Mrs. Phillips with her squeaky magic marker mouse, the orange snail jungle gym, Thumbs Up Seven Up, the giant dominoes set, show & tell, no-bake cookies and Zip the Dog.
Most everyone remembers Weekly Reader, the weekly child's newspaper we got in school. More than 80 years the simple newspaper educated and entertained school children before ending in 2012. The publication had print runs in the millions with a variety of different editions for different grade levels. The one I remember fondly was My Weekly Reader Surprise: The Kindergarten Newspaper starring Zip the dog!
I'm not sure when Zip was introduced but I've seen examples of the dog in issues of Surprise going back to 1962. He looked different than the 1970s version that I'm familiar with.
I've been looking for Zip issues for a long time. Only one issue survived from my childhood, Surprise Vol. 18 #6 with Zip and an apple basket. (I posted part of the back cover a few Halloweens ago.)
Okay, I guess I'll share my traumatic puppet story from kindergarten. It was a Wednesday and Mrs. Phillips passed out the latest issue of My Weekly Reader Surprise. To my excitement it came with a Zip puppet page! She instructed the class to get out our safety scissors and cut out the puppets of Zip and his friends. She passed out popsicle sticks for us to paste to our cutout Zip heads. (No, I didn't eat any of the glue paste!) After the kids had all three of their puppets assembled it was time for a puppet show. There's nothing more exciting than a puppet show! Am I right? I can't remember specifics of the puppet show but all of us took turns playing one of the three characters. There was Zip the dog, Nip the cat and Mip the mouse. Our puppet show lasted until the bell rang for the end the school day.
Many years passed by before I would ever see another Zip puppet. I actually kept my eyes peeled for Weekly Readers hoping to find some Surprise issues and especially the one with the puppets. I searched antique stores, paper shows, comic conventions, ebay and never could find any. Why was a kids newspaper that was published in the millions so hard to find? Seriously, I think the Maltese Falcon would have been easier to find! In 2009, I was helping my in-laws go through a bunch of old stuff in their basement. We found a lot of the first lady's childhood items. including a Bicentennial themed issue of Surprise. That was a cool find, but I was flabbergasted to find....
....the long lost Zip puppet from kindergarten!!!!!
Behold....the elusive Zip the dog paper puppet head!
Last week, my search ended as I received in the mail, from an ebay seller, an almost complete run of Surprise from my kindergarten year in 1975-76! In the group was issue #18 complete with the Zip puppets section.
Whew! After 37 years I can finally get a good night's rest without worrying about some silly paper puppet heads! (Now if I can just find my junior high sketch book that was lost many years ago!)
The Feb. 11, 1976 issue with the puppet section. It's Vol. 18 #18 with a fun Valentine's Day Cover.
Now that we've healed old wounds, lets take a quick look at Zip and his friends.
Zip's owner is a little girl named Molly who lives on Long Hill Rd close to her elementary school. Zip is a playful dog that loves to learn and play games.
Zip's two best animal friends are Nip the cat and Mip the mouse. Nip and Mip sometimes like to play pranks on poor Zip.
I'm not sure what kind of dog Zip is/was but here's a photo of a real Zip found in the pages of My Weekly Reader Surprise.
The covers and some of the interior artwork is credited to Ray Keane. His work on Zip is fantastic! Here's a few covers of My Weekly Reader Surprise to enjoy. Click here to visit my new flickr set and view many more Zip covers.