Friday, January 13, 2017

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 1/16/1967 to 1/22/1967

The prior week’s arrest of two juveniles for breaking into a Shorter Avenue coin laundry, as well as Rome Roller Rink on South Hanks Street, expanded in scope with the arrest of three more suspects—two juveniles and an eighteen-year-old—on Monday, January 16th. The additional suspects were arrested after alert parents contacted the police when they saw that their children had stolen property. “I knew my son couldn’t afford all that stuff, so he had to have stolen it,” the mother of one of the boys told the authorities when she called them to her house to take her son in; he identified the remaining two suspects, and those boys’ parents helped to verify their sons’ involvement.

Juvenile Court Judge John A. Frazier announced a change in court policy: beginning in February 1967, juvenile lawbreakers would have their names released to the press and public upon their second offense. Previously, juveniles’ identities were always protected, but juvenile court judges and the state legislature determined that parents might be more likely to get involved in keeping their children on the straight and narrow if they knew that their identities would be made public once they became “repeater offenders.”

Ceramics were a big thing in the 1960s—so big, in fact, that the Rome Recreation Department announced plans to expand their ceramics class schedule from two days a week to five days a week. More than 200 Romans were already signed up for the classes; with the new schedule, the recreation department hoped to make room for 500 to participate in their ceramics classes.

Popular Southern comedian Brother Dave Gardner offered “a fun filled evening of adult humor” at the Rome City Auditorium on January 21st. Long before the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, comedians like Dave Gardner offered their own distinctively humorous takes on Southern lifestyles and quirks.

Rome was “still crazy,” apparently: police and federal “revenooers” (as they referred to them in the Snuffy Smith comic strip) shut down a huge still off the Alabama Road, just a few miles past West Rome High School. Two men were arrested and charged with manufacturing and possessing non-tax-paid whiskey; their three thousand gallon still was destroyed.

West Rome’s wrestlers lost their first match of the week against East Rome but won their second match by trouncing Sprayberry. Bobby Kerce remained unbeaten, while Greg Quinton, Richard Marable, Jeff Anderson, Roger Weaver, and Anthony Slafta all came through with pins.

Piggly Wiggly had split fryer breasts for 47¢ a pound, tall cans of Double Q salmon for 59¢, and five pounds of oranges for 39¢. Kroger had chuck roast for 39¢ a pound, a five-pound bag of Dixie Crystals sugar for 39¢, and a half-gallon of Kroger ice milk for 39¢. A&P had sirloin steak for 89¢ a pound, Eight O’Clock coffee for 63¢ a pound, and tomatoes for 29¢ a pound. Big Apple had Cudahy Bar S bacon for 59¢ a pound, a ten-pound bag of White Lily flour for 99¢, and Country Maid cling peaches for a quarter a can. Couch’s had their own custom-ground country sausage for 59¢ a pound, Kitchen Kraft black-eyed peas for 15¢ a can, and Nabisco Saltine crackers for 35¢ a box.

The cinematic week began with Follow Me Boys (with Fred MacMurray) at the DeSoto Theatre, The Sound of Music (with Julie Andrews) at the First Avenue, and Tickle Me (with Elvis Presley) at the West Rome Drive-In. Follow Me Boys and The Sound of Music hung around for another week, while the West Rome Drive-In brought in Woody Allen’s comedy What’s Up Tiger Lily for the weekend.

The Monkees held on to the number one slot this week in 1967 with “I’m A Believer.” Other top ten hits included “Snoopy Vs. the Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen (#2); “Tell It Like It Is” by Aaron Neville (#3); “Good Thing” by Paul Revere & the Raiders (#4); “Words of Love” by The Mamas & the Papas (#5); “Standing in the Shadows of Love” by the Four Tops (#6); “Georgy Girl” by the Seekers (#7); “Sugar Town” by Nancy Sinatra (#8); “Nashville Cats” by the Lovin’ Spoonful (#9); and “Tell It To the Rain” by the Four Seasons (#10).

Friday, January 06, 2017

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 1/9/1967 to 1/15//1967

Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on Thursday, January 12th at the corner of Redmond Circle and Shorter Avenue—directly across the street from West Rome High School--to celebrate the signing of contracts for the construction of Gala Shopping Center, which was described as “the most modern and largest shopping center ever build in Northwest Georgia.” The 115,000 square foot shopping center would be anchored by a Big K department store—the first Big K in Georgia, according to the Kuhn Brothers Company of Nashville (the owners of Big K). Shopping center owners also confirmed that they had signed Cole Drug Store to open a 12,000 square foot location in the shopping center. Other stores set to open in the new center included A&P Food Store, with an 18,400 square foot store; Economy Auto, with a 9,000 square foot store; Kay’s Ice Cream; and a number of unidentified tenants, including a coin laundry, a men’s store, a ladies’ dress shop, a jewelry store, a shoe store, and a fabric shop/sewing center. Plans called for the center to be completed by September 1967 to take advantage of the 1967 Christmas season. West Rome Students were already counting the days until they could cut class and sneak through the pines to the new shopping center...

Cedartown beat West Rome’s boys 58-32 in one of the worst trouncings in Chieftain history. West Rome’s girls lost in a closer match, 40-36.

Rome closed out another banner year for building permits, with over $6.8 million in permits issued in 1966. General Electric pushed Rome over the top with a $1.134 million expansion of their Redmond Road facility. There were also 180 permits for new homes, 37 permits for new business construction, and 286 more for renovations and repairs of existing businesses. 

More good news for Romans: juvenile crime dropped for the second straight year, with 1966 setting a five-year low with only 169 juvenile arrests in 1966 (61 less than the number arrested in 1965).

One of the strangest gubernatorial elections in Georgia history came to an end this week in 1967 when the state legislature selected Lester Maddox as governor. State Representatives Sidney Lowry & Richard Starnes cast their votes for Republicans Howard “Bo” Callaway, who received a plurality (but not a majority) of the votes in the November election, while J. Battle Hall and Jerry Minge cast their votes for Democrat Lester Maddox. Neither candidate won a majority because of the surprisingly successful write-in campaign for former governor Ellis Arnall. Since Georgia’s legislature was predominantly Democrat, it’s no surprise that the Democratic candidate was the winning choice among legislators.

National City Bank began offering 5.1% interest on saving certificates (now known as certificates of deposit) for 1967, which put them .1% ahead of the other banks in town. (And now, a half-century later, we struggle to find banks that pay 20% of that interest rate… so much for progress!)

Two juveniles were arrested and charged with burglary after being caught in a Shorter Avenue coin laundry after hours. The same juveniles had already broken into Rome Roller Rink on three prior occasions; the Rome Boys Club on two occasions; and had shattered windows in a number of cars in West Rome, looking for cash or car keys so that they could take the cars for joy rides. One juvenile was 15, the other was 13.

Piggly Wiggly had chuck roast for 35¢ a pound, lettuce for 15¢ a head, and a case of Coca-Cola for $1.29 plus deposit. Kroger had split chicken breasts for 45¢ a pound, eggs for 39¢ a dozen, and a 1 pound can of Maxwell House coffee for 69¢. Big Apple had corned beef for 69¢ a pound, Shurfine saltines for 19¢ a box, and Van Camp vienna sausages for 19¢ a can. A&P had baking hens for 29¢ a pound, Ann Page mayonnaise for 49¢ a quart, and ripe Florida tomatoes for 29¢ a pound. Couch’s had ground beef for 33¢ a pound, Aristocrat ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon, and large tangerines for 35¢ a dozen.

The cinematic week began with The Professionals (with Burt Lancaster & Lee Marvin) at the DeSoto Theatre, The Sound of Music (with Julie Andrews) at the First Avenue, and a double feature of That Funny Feeling (with Sandra Dee & Bobby Darin) and Moment to Moment (with Jean Seberg) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switchout brought Follow Me, Boys! (with Fred MacMurray & Vera Miles) to the DeSoto and Tickle Me (with Elvis Presley) to the West Rome Drive-In, while The Sound of Music kept sounding off at the First Avenue.

The first-ever Super Bowl took place on January 15th, 1967—and viewers could watch the game on both CBS and NBC, since CBS had the NFL television contract and NBC had the AFL television contract. The game ended with a 35-10 Green Bay win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The big halftime show consisted of performances by marching bands from the University of Arizona and Grambling State University. The game is the only Super Bowl in history that was not a sellout; 33,000 seats were unsold in the 94,000 seat stadium, with most people saying the outrageous $12 ticket cost priced them out of the market.

January 15th, 1967 was also the night when the Rolling Stones gave in to Ed Sullivan’s demand that they change the lyrics to “Let’s Spend the Night Together.” When the stones performed the song on the Ed Sullivan Show that evening, the lyrics had become “Let’s Spend Some Time Together."

The Monkees held on to the number one slot this week with “I’m a Believer.” Other top ten hits included “Snooby Vs. the Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen (#2); “Tell It Like It Is” by Aaron Neville (#3); “Good Thing” by Paul Revere & the Raiders (#4); “Sugar Town” by Nancy Sinatra (#5); “Words of Love” by the Mamas & the Papas (#6); “Standing in the Shadows of Love” by the Four Tops (#7); “Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band (#8); “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra (#9); and “Georgy Girl” by the Seekers (#10).

Sunday, January 01, 2017

The Twelve Treats of Christmas

Christmas and treats (mostly, but not always, candy) have been inexorably linked ever since my childhood. My parents had certain foods that became "Christmas treats" in my childhood (some of which, such as tangerines and cashew nuts, seem quite common today but must have been less so when my parents were younger); likewise, there are foods that I have come to regard as Christmas treats. No holiday season is complete without these twelve treats:

12 - Brach's Chocolate Covered Peanuts: It's gotta be Brach's. Their chocolate has a dash more salt than most anyone else's, and it's the brand I grew up with.

11 - German Chocolate Cake: My grandmother used to make a remarkable German chocolate cake every Christmas season. That was about the only time I ever got German chocolate cake, so it became a holiday treat from the first time that I tasted it as a child.

10 - Comice Pears: an especially rich, sweet pear with great "mouth feel," the red comice is the Christmas fruit.

9 - Brach's Chocolate Stars: As is the case with the Brach's chocolate covered peanuts, it's gotta be Brach's. I used to get these at Ingle's but they have gone with another brand recently (Zachary's, perhaps?), and both the taste and texture are a bit different.

8 - Cocoa Fudge: I never had creamy fudge as a child. For me, fudge has to be deep, dark, slightly grainy cocoa fudge.

7 - Coconut Cake: Sure, I love coconut cake any time of the year--but it's just not Christmas without at least a piece of coconut cake!

6 - Peanut Butter Fudge: Again, this needs to have a bit of graininess to it--you need to get distinct notes and textures of both the sugar and the peanut butter. Ideally, this should be eaten in an alternating pattern with the cocoa fudge mentioned above.

5 - Planter's Mixed Nuts (without peanuts): These canisters of nuts used to have more pecans in them, but Planter's began cheaping 'em out many years ago. I sometimes add some extra Planters roasted salted pecans to the canister myself, just to get closer to that original mix. I enjoy them so much that I even eat the Brazil nuts (a nut I'd never buy on its own).

4 - Dark Chocolate Covered Cherries: Rich dark chocolate outside, thick liquid cordial center with a crisp, firm cherry inside. These are to be rationed, no more than two a day.

3 - Chocolate Meringue Cookies: I'd never had these before Chris and Markay Appel gave them to me as a Christmas gift years go, and I fell in love with them immediately. Rich cocoa taste, light meringue texture, crisp and crumbly... Again, these are to be rationed, no more than two a day.

2 - Egg Nog Bread: My dear friend Ryan Schwanke first gave this to me several years ago, and now it's one of those treats I eagerly anticipate. It's not a heavy taste--rich and subtle at the same time--but the flavors come out a bit more when it's warmed in the oven.

1 - Whitman's Sampler: I've talked about these boxed candies before, but they still remain the most vital of all Christmas treats. I've gotten at least one of these every Christmas since I was a kid (some all mine, some for the family when I was a kid, and some for Susan and me once we were married). I can't imagine a Christmas without them.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 1/2/1967 to 1/8/1967

Four teenagers were arrested on Horseleg Road, just off Shorter Avenue,  and charged with destruction of private property as well as violation of Federal Code 1705 relating to the destruction of federal property (which was punishable by up to 3 years in prison) after they used fireworks to explode more than four dozen mailboxes in the West Rome area. One of the four teens was also charged with driving while intoxicated. The police indicated that they expected the judge to require the boys and their parents to pay the replacement cost for all the damaged mailboxes. The situation got more sever, though, when the federal government stepped in to make an example of the boys by prosecuting them on the federal charges as well. Each of the four was placed under a $500 appearance bond while the various prosecutors decided what to do next.

West Rome’s basketball season continued to disappoint as both the boys and the girls lost to Cass on Friday night, January 6th. Both Coach Randall Kent and Coach June Hyder said that their teams were simply “outplayed,” offering no excuses for the losses.

Mr. & Miss West Rome High School and West Rome’s class favorites were announced this week in 1967. Jerry Hill and Susan Sprayberry were elected as Mr. and Miss West Rome High School. The class favorites included Debbie Shannon and David McGuinness (seniors); Juan Aguilar & Jean Smiderski (juniors); Janice Lee & Roger Weaver (sophomores); and Kay Duffy & Lloyd Frazier (freshmen).

Governor Carl Sanders dedicated Georgia’s first three-level traffic interchange at a ceremony on the east side of town. The interchange at the intersection of US 411, US 27, and Georgia 101, was the most ambitious non-interstate interchange to date in Georgia, and was seen as a sign of Rome’s growing financial importance to Northwest Georgia. The governor said that he was optimistic that the interchange would soon serve increased traffic due to a forthcoming direct link between Rome and I-75 via Hwy 411. (Alas, thanks to the Rollins family, that direct link remains unconstructed fifty years later…)

Piggly Wiggly had cube steak for 99¢ a pound, bell peppers for a dime each, and Campbell’s chicken noodle soup for 15¢ a can. Big Apple had tall cans of Bumble Bee salmon for 69¢, calf liver for 29¢ a pound, and bananas for a dime a pound. Kroger had pork loin roast for 49¢ a pound, Cudahy sliced bacon for 59¢ a pound, and a twenty-pound bag of potatoes for 89¢. A&P had chuck roast for 37¢ a pound, lettuce for 15¢ a head, and sliced bologna for 27¢ a pound. Couch’s had fresh whole fryers for 23¢ a pound, a one-pound can of Maxwell House coffee for 89¢, and a case of Double Cola for 99¢ plus deposit.

The cinematic week began with The Professionals (with Burt Lancaster) at the DeSoto Thatre, The Sound of Music (with Julie Andrews) at the First Avenue, and Assault on a Queen (with Frank Sinatra) at the West Rome Drive-In. Both The Professionals and The Sound of Music hung around for another week, while the West Rome Drive-In brought in a double feature of Tarzan & the Valley of Gold (with Mike Henry) and Frankenstein Conquers the World (with Nick Adams). (I loved Tarzan and I loved monster movies, but I was too young to drive and my parents were not swayed by my pleas that we go to this double feature...)

The Monkees took the top slot this week in 1967 with “I”m a Believer.” Other top ten hits included “Snoopy Vs. the Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen (#2); “Tell It Like It Is” by Aaron Neville (#3); “Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band (#4); “Sugar Town” by Nancy Sinatra (#5); “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra (#6); “Good Thing” by Paul Revere & the Raiders (#7); “Words of Love” by The Mamas & The Papas (#8); “Standing in the Shadows of Love” by the Four Tops (#9): and “Mellow Yellow” by Donovan (#10).

This week in 1967, the sometimes risqué but always strangely amusing Newlywed Game made the jump to prime-time television on ABC as a part of the Friday night TV lineup. complete with host Bob Eubanks, who did double duty on both the daytime and the primetime series.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/26/1966 to 1/1/1967

One year came to an end and a new year began fifty years ago this week. 1966 had been a good year for business and for the Rome community—and a great year for West Rome High School, which had an unbeaten football team that went on to win  a region championship. Community and business leaders were very positive about the upcoming year, expecting continued business growth, continued low unemployment, and an improving quality of life for most Romans.

West Rome’s bad luck basketball season continued with another loss—this one to Armuchee—in the Cave Spring Invitational Girls Basketball Tournament. The girls team put up a good fight, though, forcing the game into double overtime before Armuchee won 56-52. West Rome’s top scorers were Juanita Williams (27 points), Elaine Underwood (15 points), and Debbie Poarch (10 points).

The Etowah River ran clear, a rarity in Rome. The reason? Turns out that some of the mining operations in and near Cartersville had shut down for the holidays, which gave the river a respite from the silt and residue runoff that normally colors the river a reddish brown. Some older residents said that this was the first time in their memory that the river was “river colored,” as one old-timer put it.

A pair of burglars tried to make a Looney Tunes escape from the police when they were caught in the middle of robbing the Goodyear Store on Broad Street: they tried to run through the plate glass window. Needless to say, they didn’t make it very far—but remarkably, neither was seriously injured by the flying shards of glass. Both burglars were apprehended and taken to jail, having gained nothing for their panes… err, pains.

Some residents were concerned about a new policy that was slated to begin on January 1st, 1967. Effective with the new year, residents would have to pay their auto ad valorum taxes at the time they got their license plates. Previously, ad valorum taxes for the year were paid in October, the same time real estate and personal property taxes were paid. This change meant that residents would have to pay taxes on their cars again between January 2nd and April 1st (just a few months after paying last year’s taxes). It would be a few more decades before Georgia would change the system again, letting residents pay their ad valorum taxes and their tag fees on their birthday rather than requiring everyone to pay their auto tag fees and taxes in the first three months of the year. (And it would be several years after that before the state would do away with the annual ad valorum taxes for cars purchased in 2012 or later, going with a single tax that replaced the sales tax).

After a few warm post-Christmas days with highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s, the temperature plummeted to 19 degrees on Friday morning, December 30th. Temperatures climbed back by New Years Day, with lows in the low 30s and highs in the upper 40s.

One look at the grocery store ads made it clear that New Years Day was approching, with lots of ads for blackeye peas, greens, and hamhocks. Piggly Wiggly had collard greens for 19¢ a bunch, Bush blackeye peas for 12¢ a can, and country ham for 39¢ a pound. A&P had whole fryers for 23¢ a pound, turnip greens for 12¢ a pound, and sweet potatoes for a dime a pound  Big Apple had round steak for 77¢ a pound, smoked hog jowl for 19¢ a pound, and dried blackeye peas for 9¢ a pound. Kroger had rib roast for 79¢ a pound, fatback for 15¢ a pound, and dried pinto beans for a dime a pound. Couch’s had chuck roast for 35¢ a pound, cabbage for 8¢ a pound, and Southern Queen canned blackeye peas for a dime a can.

The cinematic week began with Murderer’s Row (with Dean Martin & Ann-Margret) at the DeSoto Theatre, The Sound of Music (with Julie Andrews) at the First Avenue Theatre and Spinout (with Elvis Presley) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switchout brought The Professionals (with Burt Lancaster & Lee Marvin) to the DeSoto and a double feature of Robin & the Seven Hoods (with Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin) and None But the Brave (with Frank Sinatra) to the West Rome Drive-In, while The Sound of Music remained one of Rome’s favorite things at the First Avenue.

The Monkees leapt to number one this week with the Neil-Diamond-penned “I’m a Believer.” Other top ten hits included “Snoopy Vs. the Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen (#2); “Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band (#3); “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra (#4); “Sugar Town” by Nancy Sinatra (#5); “Mellow Yellow” by Donovan (#6); “Tell It Like It Is” by Aaron Neville (#7); “(I Know) I’m Losing You” by the Temptations (#8); “A Place in the Sun” by Stevie Wonder (#9); and “Good Thing” by Paul Revere & the Raiders (#10).

Friday, December 23, 2016

Presents of Mind

"No one should feel left out or unappreciated."

That was my father's response when I asked why he always had a few extra presents stored away--usually some extra Whitman's Samplers, sometimes extra Christmas ornaments, a few extra toys, some extra boxes of golf balls, or extra copies of a favorite Christmas movie. If someone brought a friend to a family Christmas celebration, Dad would ask for help in choosing the most appropriate gift to ensure that the new guest was a part of the festivities.

That reply resonates with me to this day.

When I get together with friends to exchange Christmas gifts, I want to give every person some sort of a gift as a way of saying, "I appreciate you and I'm glad you're here." I know the feeling of being the person who was left out. I didn't like it. I don't want anyone else to ever experience that feeling if I can help it.

I do it because each recipient matters to me--their feelings are important enough that I want them to have some token that says "you're a part of my group, you're one of my friends... you belong."

Likewise, I try to remember the birthdays of my friends (when they've shared such information with me) with a small gift. It's a memento that says, "The world is better because you're in it, and this is my way of acknowledging that."

It may not be a big gift--but I've never been a person who judged the merit of a gift based on its expense or its size. A gift from someone else means something to me because it is a sign that I mattered  to another person; I hope that my gift recipients feel the same way.

I may have celebrated more than sixty Christmases, but I am not too old to be jaded to the joy of giving or receiving a gift. I hope that I never am.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Life in Four Colors Interlude: Christmas and Comics

Christmas and comic books are inseparable.

Let me clarify: I hardly ever got comic books for Christmas. I got the occasional comic book-related book (I've talked previously about Jules Feiffer's The Great Comic Book Heroes, for example), but I didn't get comic books for Christmas presents because no one knew what to give me.

I guess that comic books are a great mystery to those who aren't interested in the art form. As tolerant as my parents were of my passion for comics, I know they didn't really understand why I loved them so much. They also had no idea what I had and what I didn't have, so any attempt on their part to give me comic book would have probably been an exercise in frustration for them and for me as well.

But I have loved comic books ever since I was a young child, and I have always relished the opportunity to read and re-read comics--particularly old favorites like Fantastic Four, Batman, The Flash, Adam Strange in Mystery in Space, THUNDER Agents, Amazing Spider-Man, Justice League of America, Carl Barks' Uncle Scrooge, and Bob Bolling's Little Archie. There are few things more enjoyable than pulling out a stack of my favorite comics and reading through them, one after another, with no sense of guilt because I wasn't doing something productive with my time.

Every Christmas season in my childhood, I would turn to my comics to help me pass that seemingly-endless time from the last day of school  until Christmas morning. I  kept my comics organized by title and issue number, so it took me only a few moments to locate a run of my favorites, take a big stack of them, stretch out on the floor in my room or in the living room, and enjoy hours of entertainment as I revisited my favorite tales of wonder.

Early Fantastic Four issues were perennial favorites. They gradually became Christmas mainstays; when I first started reading them in order in the Christmas of 1963, there weren't that many to read--Fantastic Four #24 had just come out a couple of weeks before Christmas, so there were twenty-five comics to enjoy (FF #s 1-24 and the first FF Annual). I particularly loved those early issues--the team verged on dysfunctionality at times, the Thing's frustration and rage sometimes boiled over, and the Human Torch's teenage brashness was frequently quite evident. I had grown up with these issues (I happened on Fantastic Four #1 in the Enloe's Rexall Drugstore in West End Shopping Center the month it was published, and bought every issue of FF from there on), and I knew them so well that I could probably recite the dialogue from key panels, but that didn't stop me from enjoying them again and again.

Of course, the Christmas of 1964 gave me thirteen more issues (twelve regular issues and an annual), Christmas of 1965 added another thirteen to the stack, and so on. But it didn't matter: I would still read through all of those stories in one marathon session, a ritual I followed for several more yeaers.

Adam Strange was another favorite that somehow became linked to Christmas in my mind, although I have no idea why. His adventures on the planet Rann captivated me from the very first time I found him in the pages of Mystery in Space. It would be many years before I had a complete collection of his exploits, but starting in 1961, I would pull out every issue I owned and read through them at Christmas.

Today we have collected editions of almost every Silver Age series that we can enjoy at our leisure, but that wasn't an option in the 1960s. If we wanted to read the stories, we could read the original comics--and that's exactly what I did. It's the main reason my early comic books have creases and folds and color-breaks and all the things that high-grade collectors loathe. My books aren't high-grade; they're high entertainment, and they show all the signs of having been enjoyed dozens of times in an era when there were no comic bags, boards, or boxes.

This Christmas season, I took a couple of hours to pull out those early adventures of the Fantastic Four and Adam Strange. I was taken back to the Christmases of my childhood again, when those stories helped me to overcome my childhood impatience for Christmas morning. Now, they help me to remember that  childhood impatience as a beloved part of Christmas past--but most importantly, they take me back to incredible worlds that I would revisit every December.

It was good to be home.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/19/1966 to 12/25/1966

After a warm, somewhat damp beginning to the week with highs in the low 60s and lows in the low 40s, Rome shivered under a cold front that swept into town in the early hours of Christmas Eve, dropping temperatures into the low 20s by the morning of December 24th. Temperature climbed into the low 40s before falling back into the 20s again for Christmas morning. Bad news for those who hoped for a White Christmas, though: the cold air had pushed the precipitation out, bringing dry air in its place, so snow wasn't in the picture for North Georgia.

The 13th Annual Rome News-Tribune Holiday Tournament kicked off on Monday, December 19th, although West Rome didn't actually play their first game until Day Two of the tournament, when they faced off against LaFayette. Alas, the game didn’t go West Rome’s way: LaFayette won 62-51, knocking the Chieftains out of the tournament. Charlie Layman was West Rome’s top scorer, racking up 25 points, almost half of West Rome’s point total. (The tournament was actually co-sponsored by the newspaper, West Rome High School, and the Rome Recreation Department; I’m not really sure how a school became a co-sponsor, and the newspaper offered no background info.)

Teens looking for something to do during the holiday season could drive out to the Turkey Mountain Recreation Center (8 miles north of Rome on Hwy 27) to take part in the Holiday Dancearoonee (no, I’m not making up the name). The dance, which took place from 9 to midnight every night (except Christmas) through December 31st, cost 50¢ per person and featured the music of the Jades, the Good Things, and Rhythm Inc.

After multiple hearings, several readings, and a great deal of public discussion, tdhe Rome City Commission finally approved the bid to bring cable television to Rome. The bid was awarded to Rome Cable TV Company, a corporation created for the purpose of bringing cable to Romans.  Plans called for the first homes to be connected to cable by the summer of 1967. The rejected bidders threatened legal action, claiming that they had submitted earlier bids; the commission pointed out that they were choosing the best bid, not the first bid.

Apparently most men chose to simply smell bad prior to the 1960s: according to representatives of Belk’s, Esserman’s, Sears, and Murphy’s, the big gift for men in 1966 was cologne. “Gone forever is the smell of a hot, work-wearied man coming home from the factory of the fields,” the Rome News-Tribune reported. “Instead, our senses are assaulted with the odor of lemons flavored with the woodsy smell of pine of of a spicy eye-watering musk.” William Gaines of Martin’s Men’s Store said that “sales of men’s toiletries have become so great that many Rome stores have arranged special counters and displays especially for them…” There were some critics, however, who felt that it wasn’t masculine to smell pleasant. Nevertheless, according to department store representatives, men’s colognes were here to stay—and some even predicted that we would soon see men buying scented soaps, powders, and perhaps even hair spray. (Men’s colognes weren’t actually new: Old Spice had been around since the late 1930s, and English Leather since the 1940s. A trio of popular new fragrances  rolled out in late 1966: Hai Karate (a cologne that capitalized on the  karate gimmick that had become a stock-in-trade for secret agent films and television series), Aramis, and Christian Dior’s Eau Sauvage.

Murphy’s catered to would-be rock stars with a week-before-Christmas electric guitar sale: $29.88 got you a three-pickup electric guitar with strap (brand name not specified), while $24.95 more got you a solid state amplifier to go with the guitar.

Piggly Wiggly had hen turkeys for 39¢ a pound, shelled pecans for 59¢ a pound, and Maxwell House coffee for 69¢ a pound. Kroger had smoked hams for 49¢ a pound, Sealtest ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon, and large eggs for 49¢ a dozen. A&P had tom turkeys for 41¢ a pound, a bag of shredded coconut for 25¢, and a pre-baked pumpkin pie for 39¢. Big Apple had baking hens for 33¢ a pouind, cranberry sauce for a quarter a can, and a 24-ounce jar of pickled peaches for 37¢. Couch’s had whole coconuts for 19¢ each, JFG coffee for 79¢ a pound, and already-cooked baked hams for 89¢ a pound.

The cinematic week began with Alvarez Kelly (with William Holden & Richard Widmark) at the DeSoto Theatre and Cheyenne Autumn (with James Stewart & Edward G. Robinson) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switchout brought the Matt Helm film Murderer’s Row (with Dean Martin & Ann-Margret) to the DeSoto Theatre and Spinout (with Elvis Presley) to the West Rome Drive-In  —as well as The Sound of Music to the First Avenue Theatre, which finally reopened after a lengthy remodeling.

The New Vaudeville Band held on to the number one slot for another week with the gimmicky “Winchester Cathedral.” Other top ten hits included “Mellow Yellow” by Donovan (#2); “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees (#3); “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra (#4); “Devil With a Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly” by Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels (#5); “Sugar Town” by Nancy Sinatra (#6); the Peanuts-inspired holiday song about aerial combat “Snoopy Vs. the Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen (#7); “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys (#8); “A Place in the Sun” by Stevie Wonder (#9); and “(I Know) I’m Losing You” by the Temptations (#10).

Three of the week’s top five albums weren’t pop-rock at all: while the Monkees' eponymous album held on at number one and Simon & Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, & Thyme came in at number four, the other top five albums for the week included Doctor Zhivago (#2), SRO by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (#3), and The Sound of Music (#5).

One of the strangest seasonal hits of all time debuted this week in 1966 when WPIX in New York ran the Yule Log Special, 48 hours of television starring a fireplace with a burning Yule log. A few years later, stations all over the country were airing the burning branch every Christmas season. The airing of the Yule Log was finally discontinued in 1989, but it returned in 2001 and has aired every Christmas since then.

A Life in Four Colors Interlude: Christmas 1971

Every now and then, Christmas just happens.

Six months married, Susan and I were living in a cramped, minimally maintained rental house in Cedartown. Today people talk about "tiny houses" like they're a good thing. We lived in a tiny house--about 450 square feet with a kitchen/living room combination, a bedroom, and a bathroom so small that when I say you had to position yourself and then back in, I'm not joking or exaggerating. There wasn't even room for a sink in the bathroom (the sink was mounted on the bedroom wall adjacent to the bathroom)--in fact, there was barely room for a bathroom in the bathroom. There was a hole in the floor where the bathroom linoleum and the weathered hardwood floor of the bedroom met. We stuffed it with rags in the winter because cold air would blow through it otherwise, since the crawlspace had gaps and spaces. The rags didn't stay in place for long, though, because the outdoor cat we had somehow adopted (even though it actually belonged to a neighbor two a few houses away) would go under the house and steal the rags, thinking we were playing some cat game. We had two gas space heaters--one for each room--and they were wholly inadequate.

Our budget was... well, let's just say "challenged." Susan was working full-time in the payroll department at the  Arrow Shirt factory in Cedartown; I was working part-time at the House of 10,000 Picture Frames in Rome, picking up hours around my class schedule at Berry. I was on academic scholarship, so tuition and books were covered, thankfully. Even so, our budget was tight. Each week, we set aside 25% of our monthly rent, car payment, auto insurance, and utility bills (gas and electricity--we had no phone or cable), $20 for groceries, and $10 for gas for my '64 Volkswagen and Susan's '70 Mustang. We put $10- a week into a savings account. What was left--which was typically $12 a week, maybe more if I was able to get some extra part-time hours at the frame shop--was our "fun money." With that, we would get a pizza at Village Inn or Pizza Inn every Saturday night; a few books or comics; an occasional record album; new clothes and things for the house; and mimeo ink, twiltone paper, and stencils for the Sears hand-crank mimeo with which we produced apazines and fanzines. (Since we divided all monthly bills into 25% taken from our weekly paychecks, we had a bonus extra payment every three months that we typically put into savings, but we never added that into our "fun money.")

I  worked a few extra hours every week between Thanksgiving and Christmas, since Berry College ended the quarter at Thanksgiving and didn't start back until after New Years. Even so, there wasn't a whole lot of extra cash. We budgeted for a Christmas present for each person in the family, plus two gifts from each of us to the other. Because Christmas was going to be a meager affair, we had decided we wouldn't put up a Christmas tree, even though my parents had given us a few older ornaments they weren't using any longer. We figured a tree in such a tiny house would be too intrusive--and the small number of gifts under the tree would only serve to remind us of our gift-giving inadequacy, since there would be all too little to put underneath it.

Christmas fell on a Saturday in 1971. Arrow kept the plant open through the end of the day Thursday, so Susan had Christmas Eve off. The frame shop closed at noon on Christmas Eve, so I got home early. Since our usual pizza places would be closed on Saturday, we had $5 extra in our budget; we had decided to add it to our savings account when the bank opened on Monday.

Having nothing else to do on Christmas Eve night, we drove around and looked at Christmas lights. We had made the usual College Street route--that's where Cedartown's more affluent houses were located--then drove around a little more. Our circuitous trip took us down East Avenue, past Croker's, a grocery store-hardware store-general store that was a regular stop for us because they sold old comics for a nickel each and we could get some good reading cheap. Croker's was still open; Croker's was one of those stores that was open every day of the year, and they were usually crowded on the holidays because they were open when everyone else was closed.

We had decided to stop and look around for a few minutes because there was nothing else to do on Christmas Eve night. I had just parked the Volkswagen and was getting out when Susan said, "Hey, look!" She was pointing to a small group of tied and bundled Christmas trees--the leftovers and rejects that hadn't sold. $1 each, the sign said.  We both looked at the trees for a minute, then Susan said, "That one doesn't look too bad." It was a skimpy tree, sparse on one side, but it wasn't a Charlie Brown tree. The evergreen fragrance was still strong, and the limbs didn't shed needles when we turned the tree around to inspect it.

"What do you think?" Susan looked hesitant and eager at the same time.

"Let's get a tree." I went inside and paid, then came out and tossed the tree on the roof of the VW. I also bought three 10¢ packages of silver icicles. The store clerk gave us a bundle of twine to tie it with; after we had secured it as well as we could, I rolled down the driver's side window and held it with my left hand all the way home, steering with my knees whenever I had to shift gears on the manual-transmission VW.

We got home a little before nine. By ten, we had the tree decorated. Sure, the ornaments were sparse, and the tree trunk was twisted just enough that the tree looked a little crooked no matter how we adjusted the tree stand my parents had given us along with the ornaments--but it was obviously a Christmas tree. There was no tree skirt, and there were no lights--Mom and Dad hadn't given us any because they were using them, and we hadn't bought any because we hadn't planned to put up a tree--but it didn't matter. It was a Christmas tree, our first. We spent a little quiet time admiring it once it was up.  We got out the few gifts that we had for one another and placed them under the tree. Turned out that both of us had broken the "two gifts for each of us" rule.

We didn't own any Christmas albums, so we found some Christmas music on the radio and just sat on the sofa for a while, enjoying an unplanned and last minute Christmas that had come together by happenstance. The next morning, we got up and sat on the sofa near the tree again, opening our few presents. Since the tree hadn't gone up until Christmas Eve, we decided to leave it up until New Years--a tradition we follow to this day.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/12/1966 to 12/18/1966

This was the final week of school for 1966! Rome City Schools closed at the end of the day on Friday, December 16th, giving students a full two weeks and one day off, since students didn’t have to return until Tuesday, January 3rd, 1967. And showing how different things were a half-century ago, both East and West Rome planned to hold a Christmas assembly program on December 16th, featuring musical performances by both the chorus and the band.

In response to concerns from residents about the potential costs of cable TV, the Rome City Commission assured residents that they were determined to keep rates affordable, with an estimated monthly price not to exceed $5 (with $4 being the estimated initial price), with a $5 installation fee. Residents would be able to connect as many televisions in their home as they wanted so long as they did the wiring themselves; if they wanted the cable company to run wiring to each room and the house, that would handle that installation for an additional one-time charge of 50¢ per room (that was a one-time fee, not an additional 50¢ per month). And of course, back then there was no equipment to rent, no additional fees—but there was also no HBO, no ESPN, no AMC...

A cold wave hit Rome on Wednesday night, dropping temperatures to a chilly 21 degrees on Thursday morning. The cold weather was expected to hang around for at least five days.

Santa at a service station? That was the promotion that Pure Oil Service City was offering: let the kids tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas while Mom and Dad filled up the car. And there was free candy for the kids with any gasoline purchase!

The juvenile detention home under construction  off Lavender Drive in West Rome got fast-tracked this week in 1966. The state had originally planned to open the detention home in 1968, but new plans called for it to be finished in the fall of 1967; the 11,000 square foot facility would have 30 separate rooms for juvenile offenders, separated into a boys section and a girls section. Total cost was expected to come in at $275,000.

Piggly Wiggly had tom turkeys for 39¢ a pound, Coca-Cola/Tab/Sprite for 29¢ a carton plus deposit, and ten pounds of Good Loaf flour for 89¢. Kroger had chuck roast for 37¢ a pound, bananas for a dime a pound, and five pounds of Domino sugar for 37¢. Big Apple had baking hens for 33¢ a pound, Winesap apples for 17¢ a pound, and Chicken of the Sea tuna for 33¢ a can. A&P had T-bone steak for 95¢ a pound, Eight O’Clock coffee for 65¢ a pound, and a five-pound Claxton fruitcake for $3.99. Couch’s had CrispRite bacon for 59¢ a pound, Couch’s had ground beef for 39¢ a pound, Nabisco saltines for 33¢ a box, and fresh coconuts for 19¢ each.

The cinematic week began with Not With My Wife, You Don’t (with Tony Curtis & Virna Lisi) at both the DeSoto Theatre and the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switchout brought Alvarez Kelly (with William Holden & Richard Widmark) to the DeSoto and a double feature of In Harm’s Way (with John Wayne) and Die Monster Die (with Boris Karloff) to the West Rome Drive-In. The First Avenue was wrapping up its renovations in hopes of opening in between Christmas and New Year’s.

On Sunday, December 18th, CBS premiered a special that would become a Christmas classic: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, based on the Dr. Seuss children’s book. The special was directed by Chuck Jones, who was well known to many of us for his work  Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Road runner and Wile E. Coyote (yes, he’s the man who ruined Acme as a serious business name!), Porky Pig, and many others. Boris Karloff, best known for his horror work, provided the voice for the Grinch. The special was not immediately recognized as a gem, though: reviewers initially described it as “offbeat,” “eccentric," and “probably as good as most of the other holiday cartoons.”

The New Vaudeville Band took the number one slot this week in 1966 with “Winchester Cathedral,” while Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow” soared to second place. Other top ten hits included “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys (#3); Devil With a Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly” by Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels (#4); “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by the Supremes (#5); “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra (#6); “Born Free” by Roger Williams (#7); “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees (#8); “Sugar Town” by Nancy Sinatra (#9); and “A Place in the Sun” by Stevie Wonder (#10).

Jimi Hendrix released his first single, “Hey Joe,” this week in 1966 (hard to believe that’s a fifty year old song, isn’t it?). This was also the week that a relatively unknown musician, Fred Neil, released his second album, entitled Fred Neil. While hardly anyone bought the album, it did include a song that would become famous a couple of years later: “Everybody’s Talkin’,” which was a megahit after its inclusion on the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack (so much so, in fact, that the studio would just put a new cover on the album and retitle it Everybody’s Talkin’ in early 1969).