Monday, February 11, 2013


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.

I sure was proud of my new puppet play pals and I made sure to carefully secure them for the bus ride home. I could not wait to get home to give a puppet show for my family! Unfortunately my Zip puppet show dreams were dashed. I only lived about a mile from the school and in that short mile I lost my Zip puppets. Did the oversized 6th grader with the unibrow steal them out from under me? Nope. Did I fall asleep on the bus and we drove through the Bermuda Triangle? Nope. Oddly enough my puppets-on-a-stick just vanished. I didn't realize it until the bus stopped in front of my house and I was half way off the bus. I don't remember how I knew at that moment, but I did. I panicked and told the bus driver to wait. Frantically I rushed back to my seat and searched the floor. No Zip. I asked all the surrounding kids. No Zip. I searched my jacket and books. NOOOOOO ZIP!! The impatient bus driver told me I was holding things up and to get off the bus. Dejected and depressed I shuffled off onto the street without my puppets. There was no impromptu puppet show for my family that night.

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!

All along a Zip puppet had been hiding out at the first lady's childhood home. A home that I've visited thousands of times and it was there just waiting for me. Silly but true, I was excited over a piece of printed newspaper of a dog. From all my hooping and hollering, her parents probably thought I found a hundred dollar bill stashed away. I almost blogged about my find that year, but held off because I needed to find Nip the cat and Mip the mouse.

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.


Mike Middleton said...

Another entertaining little NC story from the 70's! You know a certain big brother of yours probably would have taken the puppets and destroyed them so it was probably a good thing they were lost.

Brian said...

This is the Zip from my elementary school years.1974-75 was my first grade year and these images all look familiar.It's strange to think how much I enjoyed simple,cute images like this during the school year,and then,in the Summer,talked my older cousin into taking me to see Jaws which I watched with fangs bared !Both memories,which are like day & night by comparison, are stored in the same fond memories file.

Scrapatorium said...

What a fabulous story! I don't remember seeing these at my schools, either in Indiana or Texas. I would have obsessed over lost puppets too. And like you, my kindergarten memories are very vivid, but there are other grades I don't remember at all.

leftylimbo said...

Wow, what an excellent, amazing story. So cool that you were able to get all those puppets after all! Thanks for sharing.

We seem to be about the same age, but I don't remember Weekly Readers nor Zip the Dog from my early years. It wasn't until about '78 or '79 when I remembered getting the "Goodtime Paperbacks" book order forms which my teacher(s) would hand out in class. I have one which my parents saved…you can see it here.

Tom said...

What? Weekly Reader folded in 2012?! Thank goodness there's still Scholastic books. I don't recall Zip, but I do remember the excitement of when the order forms would arrive and the day the books would come in. Watching the teacher open that box of fresh new books was joyous.

I have quite the collection of Weekly Reader books found at garage and estate sales. Some time I need to blog about them.

Kathy said...

Very cool, I used to get The Weekly Reader when I was a kid. This past weekend at a yard sale I picked up the art board for the Bicentennial Theme Weekly Reader. Took me a bit to find out what it was from.


Todd Franklin said...

(Just now catching up on the comments from this post.)

Mike - Good point!

Brian - You were lucky you got to see Jaws. I tried talking my parents to take me to see Jaws, but it didn't work.

Scrapatorium - Thanks! Oh that's too bad you didn't get to know Zip!

Leftylimbo - Wow, that order form is really cool to see!

Tom - Weekly Reader was a big part of so many childhoods.

Kathy - Nice score!! I would love to see that art board sometime.

Mark weaver said...

I was born in 1963 in Indianapolis in I loved zip I named my German Shepherd Zip I was just telling my young kids about how I named my dog zip when I had the idea to do a Google search for The Weekly Reader thanks for sharing