“Welcome to Cityline!”

Before we really had the internet and podcasts as a limitless fount of information, the residents of my hometown had Cityline. I loved Cityline. It was a phone system done by the local newspaper where you used a directory to call and listen to information. It was updated regularly and had some great regional info and some fun syndicated content.

The earliest mention of it I could find was from this USA Today newsgroup post archived on MIT’s website from 1992:

SPOKANE BUYS CITYLINE SYSTEM:
   The Brite Voice Systems Inc. says it has sold a Cityline system 
to the Spokane (Wash.) Chronicle & Spokesman-Review. The system 
provides a variety of telephone information services to the 
Spokane market. Spokane Chronicle & Spokesman-Review serves 
Western Washington and Northern Idaho. It is owned by Cowles 
Publishing Co.

That’s pretty dry, but from my research was kind of a unique move on the part of the Spokesman-Review. And the Spokesman-Review used the heck out of it. Searching around in their archives you can find many articles that reference it. “Call Cityline to hear a song!” “What do you think? Call Cityline and leave us a message!” It’s all over the place.

Thanks to Google News and the Spokesman-Review, I can show you a clipping of what the Cityline Guide looked like. I think this eventually doubled in size.

A phone tree for a city information line. A variety of topics are listed with phone numbers.

As a kid, I know I called up and listened to the comedy recordings, which were usually a person doing a bit with a funny voice or a lame joke. Mr. Science’s World of the Really Amazing I remember checking out every week. The trivia games were good, too – you would answer by pressing a number on your phone. It was interactive in a basic way. There was choose your own adventure style stories later on, listed under the heading, “Adventure Stories”. I had forgotten that, but reading this reddit thread jogged my memory. There were also mini-soap operas, if my memory serves me. It updated the entertainment pieces weekly, so I can remember looking forward to dialing in and listening to the latest installment of my Cityline numbers.

Sometimes you’d end up stuck in one section of the phone tree and you’d have to hang up and try again. Sometimes you’d find a neglected number that hadn’t been updated in some time. There was also entering a random number, too, and seeing where it led you. I’m sure I tried to listen to all the extensions at one point.

And the voice of the main announcer… I can still remember it. I tried valiantly to find any recording of Cityline but they just don’t exist. The latest mention I can find of Cityline is from a Spokesman-Review article in 1998. Googling the number shows it was acquired by a local cinema, which is kind of a smart move when people are used to dialing it up for movie times.

I just told my husband I was blogging about this. “It was the thing I would call up on the phone when I was bored with no friends around.” He made a face. “It’s really dumb and dorky.” He agreed. But you know what? It kept me company. It was a formative part of my pre-teen years. I was informed and probably slightly obsessed with it.

RIP, Cityline. Thanks for the memories.

Advertisements

To everyone: we’re sorry. Signed, Spokane

For roughly a week now, the country has been able to come together and have a shared moment. This moment wasn’t related to sports or celebrity gossip. This moment wasn’t collective ‘aww’ over the latest cat video. This moment was a group “WTF” over discovering Rachel Dolezal and how far down the rabbit hole her whole deal goes. I’ll spare you the rehash – we all know the basics:

racheldolezal

But there’s been another unification; another group who’s been able to join together thanks to Rachel, though our whole… thing… is a bit different.

That group would be “People Embarrassed and Apologetic on Behalf of Spokane, Washington”.

That group would be us. Hiiiii. This is uh. This is awkward.

I should explain. You see, I am from Spokane. As are a lot of my Facebook friends. There’s folks who have left and never looked back but also people who still reside there. Regardless of current affiliation, though, the reaction as I scrolled along my Facebook wall was universally the same. “Ughhhh. Of course. Sorry about this.”

The thing non-Spokanites won’t understand is that this is just business as usual for Spokane. It’s a weird town, plagued by weird things. I used to think it was just me. Maybe I happened to notice every episode of “Cops” and “Judge Judy” that had people from Spokane because I lived there.

But then there were other things and inevitably the punchline in my house would be, “And where did this bizarre thing happen?” The answer was always Spokane.

  • Where did a guy dressed as a StarCraft marine run for city council? Spokane.
  • Where was the guy from who was stabbed after saying, “What are you gunna do, stab me?” Spokane.
  • Where resides the men that have been playing a game of tag for the last 23+ years? Spokane.
  • The location of the tasteful bar that named a drink ‘Date Grape Koolaid’? Spokane!
  • Home to a neighborhood literally overrun with WILD TURKEYS? Spokane.
  • Place where a horse ended up in a swimming pool and the neighbors fought about it? Spokane – AND BONUS THIS WAS ON JUDGE JUDY TOO.

These are just the stories I could find off the top of my head. So when the story of a black lady with really white parents who just changed her race came out of ol’ Spokaloo, I wasn’t really surprised. Spokane is strange.

But why? What happened to Reader’s Digest’s 1997 #8 Best Place to Raise a Family? I don’t know that I can say. The Spokane Valley is geographically predisposed to trap in low quality air because of the fresh air rushing over the valley and science or something… maybe this has had a long term effect on the area? Here’s a scientific graphic I’ve made, based on knowledge I vaguely remember from childhood:

freshaircrapair

Maybe it’s the proximity to Hanford, the secret cold war nuclear site that has a slight leaking problem and at one point just sort of released toxic radiation in the air. Spokane also has a bit of a radon problem as well.

Whatever the reason, this kind of news just isn’t surprising for Spokane and, well…

Sorry about all that. But hey. At least we gave you Keyboard Cat.

Signed,

Everyone from Spokane