Zip Line, an informative yet breezy column of reader questions, was always a must-read for me in the early 1970s, back in the days when I was more curious about the world than I am now.
Originally, I had no idea when Zip Line started. But I quite accidentally came across this front-page blurb on March 27, 1967, the first day The Blade published after a 153-day strike, that announced Zip Line would start that Thursday, March 30. It led off with a question about sewage treatment along Ten Mile Creek – not all that exciting.
Figuring out the end is a little more dicey: according to the microfilm archives, the last trace of Zip Line I can find is February, 1984.
Questions were signed with initials, but answers were never signed with bylines, so who actually wrote the answers – which were as a rule informative, funny and at times a touch sarcastic – will probably remain a mystery.
(Though in doing some looking around, I can say that, according to Scary monsters and super freaks: stories of sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and murder by Mike Sager (link), one notable journalist who served as an intern on Zip Line, in 1973, was Janet Cooke.
But anyway, my letter. I was in the first grade at Old Orchard School, a big brick edifice at Cheltenham and Darlington that gave me a pretty good education through the fifth grade (when we bolted for Sylvania). Even for a little kid, I took a lot of pride in my neighborhood. It was a good place to live: you could walk anywhere safely, the ballfields froze over in winter (so you could play hockey), Ottawa Park was nearby (so you could go sledding). Sure, Old Orchard was another 1920s real estate development (here is a 1926 ad selling same). But why was Old Orchard called Old Orchard?
So I asked (and yes, this is absolutely my letter. I remember writing it. My initials are on it, but I redacted them here, because I’m still bashful).
Yes, it does seem pretty obvious now.
Zip Line made it possible for me to move my family to Canada ! As a graduate of the first class of the Methodist Theological School in Ohio I had served Methodist churches since 1963. That was long enough for me to realize that my salary was too low to live on. I had been assigned to Bethany Church in Oregon in 1966. Sometime the following year I applied to the Toledo Blade for part-time work on Zip Line, where I worked until moving to Ontario in June of 1969. There were three writers, whose names I remember, working under one editor, whom I recall as “Al.”