Saturday, July 06, 2019

Life Is What Happens To You...

Those of you who still try to keep up with my occasional writings may have noticed that I've been absent from these pages for many weeks now. I've posted nothing personal, and I haven't even kept up with my "Fifty Years Ago" columns.

Here's why.

Susan fell down a half a flight of stairs on May 19th, resulting in severe multiple fractures in her left leg necessitating surgery and an external fixation device (look it up on Google and you’ll see something that looks like a Clive Barker nightmare). During the surgery, she suffered a stroke that impacted her right side; thankfully, it’s not a major stroke, but within ten seconds of the time she woke up from anesthesia, I told them that something was wrong with her right hand and her right leg. CT scans confirmed my fears. This leaves her unable to use her left leg due to the fixation device, and limited on use of her right side due to the stroke.

The CT scan also gave us the news that she had suffered at least two other minor strokes that we had not known about prior to her coming to the hospital. The neurologist guessed that they were both at least a year old or more. He said that an MRI would give him more information about the strokes, but as long as she was wearing the metal fixator device on her leg, an MRI was impossible.

During the next five days, she suffered a potassium crash that required IV potassium (which is extremely painful--so much so that this is one of the drugs that the ACLU sometimes objects to in lethal injection cases as being "cruel and unusual punishment"); a blood sugar event that pushed her into diabetic range; and a cardiac issue that saw her heart function fall from 60% to 30%.

In spite of all this, the hospital deemed her medically ready for dismissal, so they sent her to Signature Healthcare of Marietta, a rehab facility that ignored her for almost two days—refusing to respond to her call button requests for help, serving her half meals, losing most of her prescriptions and not following her dosage schedule on the prescriptions they did have, and more. (The one time she saw a physical therapist, he seemed unaware and doubtful that she had a stroke, so he and his aide simply lifted her out of bed, put her in  wheelchair... and then they went to lunch, leaving a bedpan dependent patient to fend for herself alone in her room. I got back to the facility to find her suffering an anxiety attack in the chair with no one offering her any help; once I found out what happened, I found the therapist and made him put his lunch aside and assist me in getting her back into bed.) 

The facility was decorated in 1950s-Panama-City-Beach-hotel decor that may have been purchased that far back; the air conditioning in her room wasn't working on a 90 degree day; her dinner consisted of white rice with nine kidney beans and a single roll. Other patients wandered into her room at random (the facility is both a nursing home and a rehab facility), making me wish that the nursing staff could make as many unrequested appearances. After two days of this, I took her home “against medical advice.” As a final offense, the facility told the ambulance to be sure to charge me up front for the transport. (I have begun formal grievance processes regarding Signature Healthcare with both the state and my insurance company.)

I have been providing most of Susan’s health care since then, which leaves me with less time to write (or to work in the store, or to do anything else) than usual. I hope that things will stabilize in the not-too-distant future. It is a challenging time for us right now, and I’m still trying to find a new normal.

She did relatively well at home for the first two weeks, working with physical and occupational therapy and trying to get to the point where she could stand up. Then, on June 14th (the day before our 48th wedding anniversary and the 51st anniversary of our first meeting), she suffered what was initially diagnosed as a major stroke. Thankfully, that was wrong: she had suffered another minor stroke and a major seizure. No one had informed me that many stroke patients have seizures as a result.  Tests revealed that Susan had suffered two more minor strokes since leaving the hospital, bringing her stroke count to five. Keppra, an anti-seizure medication, was added to her new daily assortment of fourteen pills. 

The strokes and seizure caused a great deal of language issues; she could no longer find the right words to tell me what was wrong, what she needed, etc. The former English teacher in me led me to notice that she could not verbalize direct objects. For instance, she could say every word in the sentence, "Could you get me..." but the next word--the important word that told whether she needed the bedpan or a TV remote or a drink of water or something to eat or a pain pill--eluded her. Sometimes she latches onto a word or sound and just repeats it for a half-hour or more.  Other times, everything she says sounds like syllable salad. I asked her if she knew the words were coming out wrong, and she said "yes." For her, this is one of the most frustrating effects of all. The stroke took away her beautiful handwriting (she can now crudely scrawl her signature and a few recognizable words) and her ability to type, and now it had hampered her ability to speak. She was being cut off from the world around her.

The new neurological issues have also caused physical setbacks. All the positive gains she had made in physical and occupational therapy have been negated; in fact, she may be even worse off now than she was in the week after the May 20th stroke. The accompanying confusion and lack of coordination has left her unable to use a phone or a TV remote.

Keppra, the anti-seizure medication, also comes with its own problems. For one thing, Keppra makes some people confused, anxious, angry, and hostile. Susan is one of those people. She would experience hours-long meltdowns that left her physically exhausted. The next day, she would not remember them at all. At one time, I showed her a few moments of our home security cam footage of one of those meltdowns; it was hard for Susan to believe this was really her. 

The hospital neurologist finally got back to me with a plan to replace Keppra with Trileptal, another anti-seizure medication; he worked out a three-week schedule for the gradual transition, but a week into it, Susan became belligerent. She was not going to take Keppra again. She would spit that specific pill out, while taking her other medications. I told the visiting nurse, who asked Susan about it. "I won't take it," she declared. She understands that such a change might trigger more seizures, but as the nurse said, she has her faculties and is refusing that specific medication, and there is nothing else that we can do other than try to talk her into reconsidering. 

This week brought new problems: an eye infection (blepharitis) and a urinary tract infection. The UTI began on July 4th, when most pharmacies were closed. Had my best friend Charles Rutledge not gone to the nearest open pharmacy some 10 miles away and picked up the prescription for me, I have no idea what we would have done.

Susan remains bed-bound and bedpan dependent. She still has trouble sitting up and cannot stand. She has little appetite, and has probably lost 25 pounds since this began. (I lost 25 pounds in the first six weeks after my heart attack, but neither is a diet plan I recommend.)

Yesterday, in a conversation with me, she said, "I think I might have to go to the hospital again soon." A minute later, she said, "I don't think I'll come back home."  That was a conversation I never hoped to have; it still devastates me when I recall it. I can only hope that she is wrong.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 6/9/1969 to 6/15/1969

The Rome Boys Club Choir embarked on the first leg of their annual concert tour this week in 1969. Their first stop was Morristown, Tennessee; from there, they had five more concert stops before returning home on Sunday, June 15th.

Chieftain mom Mattie Cescutti suffered back injuries in an auto accident on Thursday, June 12th. She was admitted to Floyd Hospital, where she was listed in fair condition.

The Floyd County Surplus Food Distribution Center changed distribution schedules this week in 1969. Families with three or four members could pick up surplus food on Tuesdays; those with five or six members could pick up surplus food on Wednesdays; and those with seven or more members could pick up surplus food on Thursdays. Food choices included peanut butter, canned tomatoes, canned beans, rice, flour, powdered milk, cheese, and butter.

Governor Lester Maddox was in Rome on June 11th to take part in groundbreaking for the new Bekaert Steel Wire Corporation facility near Highway 27 South. Bekaert officials said that they planned to have the facility fully operational by Easter 1970.

A grim reminder of the dangers of buying moonshine: four Romans died over the weekend after they drank diluted shellac thinner that was being passed off as moonshine liquor.

Inflation began to take a toll on interest rates, with the National City Bank, First National Bank, and Rome Bank and Trust all announcing that they were raising their prime interest rate to 8 1/2% this week in 1969, and that they were raising home mortgage rates to 8%.  The good news? Rome Bank & Trust began paying 5 1/2% interest on some of their savings certificates, with National City paying 5 3/8% and First National Bank paying 5 1/4%.

Piggly Wiggly had chicken breasts for 49¢ a pound, medium eggs for 29¢ a dozen, and cantaloupes for 33¢ each. Kroger had ground beef for 49¢ a pound, Morton frozen cream pies for a quarter each, and Kroger white bread for 18¢ a loaf. A&P had sirloin steak for 99¢ a pound, Cheez-Its for 37¢ a box, and blueberries for 33¢ a pint. Big Apple had pork loins for 69¢ a pound, tomatoes for 33¢ a pound, and Irvindale ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon. Couch's had leg o' lamb for 79¢ a pound, Van Camp's pork & beans for 17¢ a can, and Georgia peaches for 15¢ a pound.

The cinematic week began with The Green Slime (starring Robert Horton) at the DeSoto Theatre, Guns of the Magnificent Seven (starring George Kennedy) at the First Avenue, and a double feature of A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More (starring Clint Eastwood) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switchout brought Hard Contract (starring James Coburn) to the DeSoto, How To Commit a Marriage (starring Bob Hope) to the First Avenue, and Eye of the Cat (starring Michael Sarrazen) to the West Rome Drive-In.

The Beatles "Get Back" held on to number one for a fifth week this week in 1969. Other top ten hits included "Love Theme from Romeo & Juliet" by Henry Mancini & His Orchestra (#2); "Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival (#3); "In the Ghetto" by Elvis Presley (#4); "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" by Marvin Gaye (#5): "One" by Three Dog Night (#6); "Love (Can Make You Happy)" by Mercy (#7); "Grazing in the Grass" by The Friends of Distinction (#8); "Good Morning Starshine" by Oliver (#9); and "Spinning Wheel" by Blood, Sweat, & Tears (#10).

Three Dog Night released their second album, Suitable for Framing, this week in 1969. The album generated several hits, including "Easy to Be Hard," "Eli's Coming," and "Celebrate," which featured a brass section performed by members of the group Chicago. It also included a cover of the Elton John song "Lady Samantha," the first major cover of any Elton John song in the US (at this time, Elton John was virtually unknown on this side of the ocean).

Mick Taylor joined the Rolling Stones this week in 1969, although most people wouldn't be aware that he was tapped to replace Brian Jones until he appeared with them in a Hyde Park concert in early July 1969.

The legendary rural comedy variety show Hee Haw made its debut on Sunday, June 15th, replacing The Smothers Brothers; it proved so popular that the show, originally envisioned as a summer replacement, became a part of the CBS lineup.

The Falcon made his comics debut in Captain America #117 by Stan Lee, Gene Colan, & Joe Sinnott, on sale this week in 1969. Clad in an open-chest green and orange costume, he had little in common with his more modern version—but considering how few black heroes there were in comics in 1969, the addition of a major new black character was certainly noteworthy.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 5/19/1969 to 5/25/1969

The West Rome elementary, junior high, and senior high concert bands held their spring concerts on Friday, May 23rd at 7:30 pm at the West Rome High School auditorium, performing a mix of classical selection and Broadway tunes. Two days later, they held a Sunday afternoon concert, performing popular music--including a medley of James Brown songs!

Martin Rollinson was second runner-up in the state boys oratorical contest sponsored by the Georgia District of Optimists International. Rollinson previously won the local and region competitions and represented Rome in the state contest.

The Rome School Board discussed their plans to reject changes in their desegregation program that were ordered by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Of course, this could have led to a total loss of federal funding for Rome schools. At the last minute, reason prevailed and the board decided to send a letter seeking a compromise with HEW, and asking the agency to accept the school system's interim desegregation plan until they could work out a resolution.

An armed robber held up the Donut Shack on North Broad Street on Tuesday morning. The robber waited until the owner was leaving the building to make a bank deposit and then pulled a gun on the owner, ordering him to drive to another location on North Broad, at which point the thief took the cash and ran away.

Krannert Center at Berry College officially opened this week in 1969. The new student center was more than three times the size of the old student center and included a bookstore, a restaurant/snack bar, function rooms, and other features designed to enhance student life at Berry.

Piggly Wiggly had beef liver for 39¢ a pound, corn for 8¢ an ear, and a giant size box of Cheer detergent for 49¢. Big Apple had sirloin steaks for 99¢ a pound, tomatoes for 15¢ a pound, and Irvindale ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon. Kroger had pork chops for 69¢ a pound, large eggs for 38¢ a dozen, and watermelons for $1.19 each.  A&P had fresh whole fryers for 33¢ around, Pepsi Cola for 28¢ a carton plus deposit, and bananas for a dime a pound. Couch's had Armour's country ham for $1.19 a pound, JFG coffee for 69¢ a pound, and cabbage for a nickel a pound.

The cinematic week began with Charly (starring Cliff Robertson) at the DeSoto Theatre, Michael and Helga (starring Ruth Gassman) at the First Avenue, and Three in the Attic (starring Yvette Mimieux) at the West Rome Drive-In. The weekend switch out brought Hannibal Brooks (starring Oliver Reed) to the DeSoto, Night of the Following Day (starring Marlon Brando) to the First Avenue, and Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (starring Gina Lollobrigida) to the West Rome Drive-In.

The Beatles' "Get Back" held on to the number one spot for the second week in a row this week in 1969. Other top ten hits included "Love (Can Make You Happy)" by Mercy (#2); "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" by the 5th Dimension (#3); "Oh Happy Day" by the Edwin Hawkins Singers (#4); "Hair" by the Cowsills (#5); "These Eyes" by the Guess Who (#6); "Atlantis" by Donovan (#7); "Gitarzan" by Ray Stevens (#8); "In the Ghetto" by Elvis Presley (#9); and "Grazing in the Grass" by the Friends of Distinction (#10).

Friday, May 10, 2019

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 5/12/1969 to 5/18/1969

Heavy rains on Sunday, May 18th, caused flooding on Paris Drive and Conn Street; the rains also contributed to two accidents with minor injuries on Shorter Avenue--a two-car accident near Burnett Ferry and a three-car accident near Shorter College. Thankfully, neither accident resulted in serious injuries.

WRGA radio in Rome announced plans to hire Juanita Lester, formerly of Rome's official weather station at Russell Field, to do local weather. Considering all the attention that Lester's dismissal had gotten in the past few months, this was probably a great publicity move for the station.

Rome's safecracking burglars were back in action this week in 1969, "peeling" the safe at the RL Kimsey Cotton Brokerage Company on First Avenue. (In case you were interested in launching a safecracking career, here's how you "peel" a safe: you begin working on the corner near the door, prying up the outermost of the multiple layers of metal that comprised most safes manufactured prior to 1940, then pull the layer back; you repeat the process layer after layer until you've created an opening in the wall of the safe. This technique doesn't work on more modern unibody steel safes, so don't try this at home.) An undetermined amount of cash was taken. the same night, burglars also broke into the Double Cola Bottling Company on East Second Avenue, stealing an undetermined amount of change collected from area vending machines; Marshall Jackson Motor Company, stealing tools from the shop and approximately $100 in cash from the office; and Wicker's Electric Company on North Fourth Avenue, stealing about $50 in cash and a .38-caliber pistol. On Sunday night, May 18th, thieves broke into Fred Fowler's Cleaners on East Main Street and "punched' the safe (which is exactly what it sounds like: thieves use heavy-duty tools to punch through or punch out entirely the lock mechanism of the safe), stealing approximately $225 in cash and $900 in checks (although there's not much they can do with checks); the same night, thieves also broke into Steadman Service Station on Maple Street and stole almost $400 with of radios along with four pistols. (Apparently some folks just left pistols laying around at work!)

Piggly Wiggly had large eggs for 45¢ a dozen, chicken breasts for 49¢ a pound, and Poss Brunswick Stew for 49¢ a can. Big Apple had sirloin steak for $1.09 a pound, lettuce for 13¢ a head, and Coca-Cola/Tab/Sprite for 39¢ a carton plus deposit. Kroger had lamb chops for 89¢ a pound, grapefruit for 17¢ each, and Sealtest ice milk for 49¢ a half-gallon. A&P had chicken livers for 59¢ a pound, Blue Bonnet margarine for 39¢ a pound, and golden delicious apples for a dime each. Couch's had ground chuck for 59¢ a pound, Van Camp's pork & beans for 20¢ a can, and bananas for a dime a pound.

The cinematic week began with Charly (starring Cliff Robertson) at the DeSoto Theatre, a double feature of A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More (starring Clint Eastwood) at the First Avenue theatre, and Twisted Nerve (starring Hayley Mills) at the West Rome Drive-In. The end-of-the-week switchout brought Michael & Helga (starring Ruth Gassman) to the First Avenue and Three in the Attic (starring Yvette Mimieux) to the West Rome Drive-In, while Charly hung around at the DeSoto for another week.

The Beatles' "Get Back" soared to the top spot on the charts this week in 1969. Other top ten hits included "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" by the 5th Dimension (#2); "Love (Can Make You Happy)" by Mercy (#3--and one of the songs that Susan and I included in our wedding); "Hair" by the Cowsills (#4); "Oh, Happy Day" by The Edwin Hawkins Singers (#5); "It's Your Thing" by the Isley Brothers (#6); "Atlantis" by Donovan (#7); "The Boxer" by Simon & Garfunkel (#8); "Gitarzan" by Ray Stevens (#9); and "These Eyes" by the Guess Who (#10).

Friday, May 03, 2019

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 5/5/1969 to 5/11/1969

Senator Richard Russell, the man who did absolutely nothing to try to save Rome's weather station until the final day, told Romans that he had not given up hope that the manned weather station might be reinstated. However, when asked exactly how that might happen, Senator Russell was all bluster and no substance. The situation was complicated by the fact that Rome Congressman John Davis had his feelings hurt when the Rome Chamber of Commerce representatives talked with fifth district congressman Fletcher Thompson before they talked with him. As a result, Davis made no effort whatsoever to help Rome maintain a manned weather station. "The senator interceded to a small degree," Davis said, "but did make it a strong point [as opposed to Davis, who made it no point at all]. If he did make saving the station a strong point, it could be reinstated." Meanwhile, the Rome City Commission once again brainstormed over possible plans to join with the county in seeing if they could raise local funds to reopen the station. (And if the phrase "full of sound and fury but signifying nothing" comes to mind, there is good reason...)

The 12th Annual America's Junior Miss Pageant selected a new Junior Miss on Tuesday night--but alas, West Rome's Kippy Scarborough performed well but was not tapped as the winner. Instead, a California teen was chosen to receive the title.

West Rome's baseball team had a busy schedule this week in 1969, as the team had to make up rainouts from earlier in the season. As a result, the team played Darlington on Monday, winning 8-7; Cass on Tuesday, winning 6-1; Calhoun on Wednesday, losing 14-1; Model on Thursday, winning 7-1; and East Rome Friday, winning 6-4. As if that wasn't enough, the team had to travel to Legion Field as soon as their game against Model was over in order to once again place Darlington in an 8pm tournament game, which they won 7-2. A win in that game pitted them against Cedartown at 9pm on Saturday, which they lost 4-1. And if you're keeping count, that is indeed seven games in six days!

The Rome City Commission and City Manager Bruce Hamler announced that Bill Hart would assume the role of Rome's police chief effective June 1st. The city commission gave no reason for the changes, but they did say that Captain JL Couch would continue to receive full pay until January 1970, when he would have to retire anyway due to departmental age regulations.

The Rome City Schools' plans for elementary school desegregation failed to gain approval from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, since the plans would not have eliminated all-black student bodies at some elementary schools. This sent the school system back to the drawing board for a plan that truly desegregated Rome elementary schools. The board also voted to raise tuition for out-of-city students to $45 a month (up from $32.50 a month) and to end the practice of accepting new tuition students, which meant that only those already attending Rome schools on a tuition plan would be able to do so beginning in the 1969-1970 school year. The school system also voted to move ahead with plans to build a joint city-county vocational high school across Old Lindale Road from Coosa Valley Tech.

Piggly Wiggly had shank portion ham for 39¢ a pound, pecan pies for 68¢ each, and eggs for 33¢ a dozen. Big Apple had fresh whole fryers for 25¢ a pound, yellow corn for 6¢ an ear, and RC or Diet-Rite Cola for 33¢ a carton plus deposit. A&P had rib roast for 99¢ a pound, Ann Page peanut butter for 39¢ a jar, and a 32-ounce jar of Bama dill pickles for 35¢, Kroger had chuck roast for 49¢ a pound, Del Monte catsup for 33¢ a bottle, and Sealtest ice cream for 79¢ a half-gallon. Couch's had pork chops for 49¢ a pound, Van Camp's pork & beans for 17¢ a can, and bananas for a dime a pound.

The cinematic week began with Swiss Family Robinson (starring John Mills) at the DeSoto Theatre, Sinful Davey (starring John Hurt) at the First Avenue Theatre, and Submarine X-1 (starring James Caan) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switchout brought Charley (starring Cliff Robertson) to the DeSoto Theatre, a double feature of A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More (starring Clint Eastwood) to the First Avenue, and Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (starring Christopher Lee) to the West Rome Drive-In.

The 5th Dimension held on to the number one slot for the sixth straight week with "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In." Other top ten hits included "Hair" by the Cowsills (#2); "Get Back" by the Beatles (#3); "It's Your Thing" by the Isley Brothers (#4); "Love (Can Make You Happy)" by Mercy (#5); "Hawaii Five-0 by the Ventures (#6); "The Boxer" by Simon & Garfunkel (#7); "Atlantis" by Donovan (#8); "Gitarzan" by Ray Stevens (#9); and "These Eyes" by the Guess Who (#10).

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 4/28/1969 to 5/4/1969

West Rome's track team fell to South Cobb on April 29th in a 72-64 match; in spite of the loss, West Rome posted a new school record when Charles Smith covered 44 feet 8.75 inches in the triple jump. West Rome actually had more first places than South Cobb (nine firsts to seven for SC), but the difference came in depth, where the South Cobb thinclads had the edge.

West Rome's Beverly Hall was tapped as a National Merit Scholarship recipient. She was one of only 89 Georgia seniors to receive a scholarship and one of only 3000 recipients nationwide. Hall, a member of the Honor Society, the Quill and Scroll Staff, and president of the West Rome Drama Club, planned to attend Emory University after graduation.

The Stripe Discount Store, which offered discount and off-brand health and beauty aids, opened for business this week at 200 Broad Street in Rome, taking the spot formerly occupied by Enloe's Drugs.

The greater Rome area began to sound a little more like the Old West this week in 1969: a gun battle at a Kingston residence resulted in the death of a 51-year-old man. The deceased man apparently began firing a .22 at the resident, who returned fire with his own .22, fatally wounding the attacker.

Talk about putting things off until the last minute: just a scant two days before weather station operator Juanita Lester was scheduled to be laid off and the Russell Field weather station converted to an unstaffed facility, Senator Richard Russell said that he would "see what he could do" about convincing the Commerce Secretary to keep the station open. If that sounds like a "minimal effort" kind of statement, you're right: Russell never even got a meeting with the Commerce Secretary, and the staffed station closed for good on April 30th.

Southern Bell began pushing Romans to add an extension phone to their home (not a second line, just a second phone) with an ad touting, "If you can afford a copy of coffee every morning, you can afford an extension phone. For 5¢ a day, you can get a handy extension..." (Yes, a cup of coffee really cost only a nickel in 1969--but a few decades later, Starbucks would change that!)

Piggly Wiggly had chuck roast for 63¢ a pound, Double Q salmon for 67¢ a can, and carrots for a dime a bunch. A&P had pork chops for 69¢ a pound, Wesson Oil for 49¢ a half-gallon, and strawberries for 33¢ a pint. Big Apple had sirloin steak for 99¢ a pound, corn for 6¢ an ear, and Coke/Tab/Fresca for 28¢ a carton plus deposit. Kroger had stew beef for 79¢ a pound, Del Monte sliced pineapple for 19¢ a can, and Mortn's frozen cream pies for a quarter each. Couch's had Cudahy Bar S hot dogs for 49¢ a pound, Lykes potted meat for a dime a can, and cabbage for a nickel a pound.

The cinematic week began with Swiss Family Robinson (starring John Mills) at the DeSoto Theatre, Charge of the Light Brigade (starring David Hemmings) at the First Avenue, and Bullitt (starring Steve McQueen) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek without brought The Subject Was Roses (starring Jack Albertson) to the First Avenue and The Violent Ones (starring Aldo Ray) to the West Rome Drive-In, while Swiss Family Robinson hung around for another week at the DeSoto.

This week in 1969, the 5ht Dimension held on to the number one slot for a fifth week with "Let the Sunshine In." Other top ten hits included "Hair" by the Cowsills (#2); "It's Your Thing" by the Isley Brothers (#3); "Hawaii Five-0" by the Ventures (#4); "You've Made Me So Very Happy" by Blood, Sweat, & Tears (#5); "Time Is Tight" by Booker T & the MG's (#6); "Sweet Cherry Wine" by Tommy James & the Shondells (#7); "The Boxer" by Simon & Garfunkel (#8); "Atlantis" by Donovan (#9); and "Get Back" by the Beatles (#10).

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Remembering Greg Theakston

Just got word earlier today that Greg Theakston has died at the age of 65. (I didn't realize it until I saw the announcement of his death, but Greg and I were within a couple of months of being the same age.) I've known Greg for a couple of decades, and while I knew that he wasn't in the best of health, I was startled to hear that he had passed away (don't know what the cause of his death was).

Greg will always be remembered in comics history for his work in making so many 1980s and 1990s reprint volumes feasible, thanks to a process that Greg developed--a process that eventually became known as "Theakstonizing." In the days before Photoshop, removing the color from old comics so that they could be recolored was a difficult process. Greg made it easier by coming up with a method to bleach the color off old comics pages while leaving the black and white art. The upside: we got wonderful collections of great Golden Age and early Silver Age material, meticulously restored and updated with improved color. The downside: the physical copy of the book had to be destroyed to make that happen. Remember, though, that there were really few other options at the time other than simply reproducing the original book, color and all--and the results weren't always the best.

Greg loved comics, and he loved Jack Kirby's work in particular. I had dozens of conversations about old comics and various artists, from Toth to Adams to Wolverton to Wood to Frazetta to Infantino to Ditko--but no matter who we were talking about, our conversations eventually came back to Kirby. Greg always had great Kirby stories to share. He shared his love of Kirby's early works in the pages of  number of publications from his company, Pure Imagination Press, where he produced tributes to Kirby as well as reprints of  out of print public-domain Kirby work.

Greg was also a very talented artist; he could pencil, ink, and paint, and he spent a number of years working with Neal Adams, Jack Kirby and others. He also produced some outstanding work on his own. Greg rarely talked about his work, though; he  loved talking about the work of the people whose art he loved.

The last time I talked with Greg, he had come up with several boxes of stuff he was hoping I would buy. It was time to leave Atlanta, he said. His career had reached a dead end here, and he wanted to move to New York, and if that didn't work, then to Los Angeles. Greg could be impulsive, but this seemed to be a decision he had thought about for a while. I bought a number of things from him--not because we really needed it at the store, but because I thought our store benefited from having his publications on the shelf. We ended up talking for a couple of hours.

That was the last time we spoke. I presumed he had made his move and was doing what he loved. I hope so.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 4/21/1969 to 4/27/1969

West Rome senior Kippy Scarbrough was honored with a "farewell and good luck" party at the high school on Thursday, April 24th, at 8:15 AM, prior to her departure to compete in the National Junior Miss Contest. Guests at the party included David Harvey of the Rome City Commission; Senator Sam Doss; and Charles Eberhart, president of the Rome Jaycees (the sponsors of the contest).

Rome was hit by a late April cold wave this week in 1969, with lows falling to 34 on Tuesday night and 35 Wednesday night, with a heavy frost across West Rome both nights.

The Rome Board of Education voted to re-evaluate their policy of allowing county students to pay tuition in order to attend city schools. The board said that overcrowding at East Rome and West Rome were the primary reasons to re-evaluate the tuition policy; there were 50 tuition students at East Rome High and 30 at West Rome High, which was would have qualified the school system for three new high school teachers--except that tuition students could not be included in the count for student allotments. The Board did vote to cap tuition students at West Rome, since population growth was much more robust on the west side of town. The tuition remained at $32.50 per month per student, which Superintendent McDonald said barely covered the cost of educating the students even if new teachers did not have to be hired.

"The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here!" Southern Bell delivered new telephone directories across Rome this week in 1969; in those pre-internet days, the phone book was actually a pretty important source for information. (To this day, I maintain a reference library--unfortunately incomplete--of Rome phone directories from the 1950s through the 1990s; they are a great reference tool for information regarding new businesses in the area, as well as address info on Rome residents.)

For once, a Rome burglary was thwarted, nothing was actually stolen, and the thief was jailed even before the victims knew they had been robbed! When Edward Kirk of Alabama tried to "punch" open the vault in the Courthouse Annex, he set off a burglar alarm, which inspired the would-be thief to cut short his robbery attempt. He was arrested on suspicion of burglary, but it wasn't until the next morning that the courthouse staff discovered the damage caused to the safe by the robbery attempt. Ironically, the thief would have gotten nothing, since the Courthouse had quit leaving money in their vault after an unsolved 1964 burglary resulted in the loss of almost $10,0000 in cash.

A number of local business owners approached the Rome Chamber of Commerce to express their concern about the number of stores that were breaking the "blue laws" in Rome by opening for business on Sunday. While the law allowed grocery stores, drugstores, and restaurants to open on Sunday,  it specified that "anyone who pursues a business or work of ordinary calling on Sunday is guilty of a misdemeanor." While no one was officially naming names, it was pretty clear to everyone that Big K was the subject of the business owners' ire; some complained that a "business newcomer" was taking business from them by opening on Sundays. A few businesses responded by opening their businesses on Sunday, but they said they'd rather go back to being closed again. The Chamber of Commerce took no action on this, but agreed to look into the issue over the next few weeks.

Rome's efforts to save the manned weather station at Russell Field failed to persuade the Federal government. Maurice Stans, the Secretary of Commerce, sent Rome a formal denial, saying that the reinstatement of the weather station was "not justifiable." The government would replace the manned station with automatic recording and reporting equipment.

West Rome hosted the General Education Development Test (GED) on Saturday, April 26th. Test-takers had to be eat least 20 years of age; those who passed the test would be awarded a certificate by the State Department of Education. West Rome teachers administered and supervised the test.

Piggly Wiggly had pork chops for 69¢ a pound, Swift's Vienna sausage for 23¢ a can, and lettuce for 23¢ a head. Kroger had chuck roast for 48¢ a pound, Kellogg's corn flakes for 25¢ a box, and carrots for a dime a bunch. Big Apple had sirloin steak for 89¢ a pound, Campbell's pork & beans for 13¢ a can, and grapefruit for a dime each. A&P had ocean perch fillets for 99¢ a pound, Blue Plate mayonnaise for 49¢ a quart, and Irvindale ice milk for 45¢ a half-gallon. Couch's had chicken breast for 49¢ a pound, Poss Brunswick stew for 49¢ a pound, and bananas for a dime a pound.

The cinematic week began with The Wrecking Crew (starring Dean Martin) at the DeSoto Theatre, Elvira Madigan (starring Pia Degermark) at the First Avenue, and Rachel, Rachel (starring Joanne Woodward) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switchout brought Swiss Family Robinson (starring john Mills) to the DeSoto, Charge of the Light Brigade (starring David Hemmings) to the First Avenue, and Bullitt (starring Steve McQueen) to the West Rome Drive-In.

The 5th Dimension held onto the number one slot for the fourth week in a row with "Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In." Other top ten hits for the week included "It's Your Thing" by the Isley Brothers (#2); "Hair" by the Cowsills (#3); "You've Made Me So Very Happy" by Blood, Sweat, & Tears (#4); "Only the Strong Survive" by Jerry Butler (#5); "Time Is Tight" by Booker T & the MG's (#6); "Sweet Cherry Wine" by Tommy James & the Shondells (#7); "Hawaii Five-O" by the Ventures (#8):=; "The Boxer" by Simon & Garfunkel (#9); and "Galveston" by Glen Campbell (#10).

Joe Cocker released his  debut album, With a Little Help From My Friends, this week in 1969. Little did he know that he was about to provide comedian John Belushi with one of his greatest comedic imitation, and that decades later he would provide Youtube with one of its funniest lyrics transcriptions. ( ) The Chicago Transit Authority also released their eponymous debut album this week in 1969; by the time of their second album, they would shorten their name to Chicago.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 4/14/1969 to 4/20/1969

The Rome News-Tribune unveiled its 1969 Prep Track Honor Roll this week in 1969. Chieftains who made the list included Xavier Smith in High Hurdles; Johnny Sapp in High Hurdles, Xavier Smith in Low Hurdles; the West Rome Relay Team in the 440 Relay; Doug Johnson in Discus; Xavier Smith in High Jump; Charles Smith in Broad Jump; and Johnny Rimes in Broad Jump.

The dispute over the transfer of Rome air service from Eastern Air Lines to Georgia Air Inc. escalated this week in 1969 when the Air Line Pilots Association filed a document opposing the transfer and supporting Rome's argument that Georgia Air could not provide service equal to the service that Eastern offered.

Coosa Valley Vocational Technical School announced a cut in their educational services due to a cutback in federal funds for vocational-technical schools. The federal government cut the size of the grant to Georgia by 60%, from $2.5 million to $1 million. Maurice Culberson, director of Coosa Valley Tech, said that he suspected that they would have to cut their evening classes and would have to emanate plans to upgrade or enhance equipment for their training programs. The school's 1968-69 budget was $600,000; Culberson wasn't sure what the 1969-1970 budget would be, but he was worried it could be cut by as much as $300,000.

Julian Harrison Ford was the victim of tool thieves on Monday Night, April 14th, as burglars made off with a large number of tools valued at several thousand dollars--and then they stole a 1965 Pontiac off the used car lot to make off with all of the tools! The same night, thieves broke into Culp Upholstery on Shorter Avenue and still tools and some cash

Speaking of Ford, they made a leap ahead of the competition as they unveiled their first 1970 model car this week in 1969: the 1970 ford Maverick. "Maverick's 1970 model designation means that it keeps its trade in value higher, longer," Ford said of their surprise plan to roll out a 1970 model four to five months ahead of their competition (and other Fords). Of course, that would be just as true for every other car if they all released their 1970 models in April 1969, wouldn't it?...

Piggly Wiggly had large eggs for 44¢ a dozen, split fryers for 33¢ a pound, and Maxwell House coffee for 57¢ a pound. Big Apple had chuck roast for 43¢ a pound, yellow corn for 8¢ an ear, and RC or Diet-Rite Cola for 33¢ a carton plus deposit.  Kroger had T-Bone steak for $1.28 a pound, canned pears for 23¢ a can, and Southern Maid ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon. A&P had beef liver for 39¢ a pound, in-store baked apple pie for 45¢ each, and Van Camp Brunswick stew for 59¢ a can. Couch's had spare ribs for 39¢ a pound, Blue Plate Mayonnaise for 49¢ a quart, and fresh cantaloupes for 33¢ each.

The cinematic week began with Charro (starring Elvis Presley, not Charro) at the DeSoto Theatre, Where Eagles Dare (starring Clint Eastwood) at the First Avenue, and Valley of the Dolls (starring Susan Hayward) at the West Rome Drive-In. The weekend switchout brought The Wrecking Crew (starring Dean Martin) to the DeSoto Theatre, Elvira Madigan (starring Pia Degermark) to the First Avenue, and Hot Millions (starring Peter Ustinov) to the West Rome Drive-In.

The 5th Dimension held on to the number one slot for a third week with "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In." Other top ten hits included "You've Made Me So Very Happy" by Blood, Sweat, & Tears (#2); "It's Your Thing" by The Isley Brothers (#3); "Hair" by the Cowsills (#4); "Only the Strong Survive" by Jerry Butler (#5); "Twenty-Five Miles" by Edwin Starr (#6); "Galveston" by Glen Campbell (#7); "Time Is Right" by Booker T & the MG's (#8); "Dizzy" by Tommy Roe (#9); and "Sweet Cherry Wine" by Tommy James & the Shondells (#10).

Monday, April 08, 2019


Yesterday was day 6939 of my post-heart attack life. That's nineteen years that I've been gifted.  On April 7th, 2000, my life briefly ended. If a lot of coincidental tidbits hadn't come together in a remarkable synchronicity, it would have been permanent.

I have a fascination with numbers. I'm always drawing numerical patterns, looking for mathematical parallels. I can tell you, for instance, that 6939 days into my first life, it would have been the day before my nineteenth birthday (the vagaries of leap years result in the one-day discrepancy). I was just about to start my second year at Berry College. I had been married for fourteen months. Susan and I were living in a tiny 500 square foot house that probably would have been condemned if anyone in Cedartown actually bothered to inspect rental houses. Today, my life is different. Better in many ways, undoubtedly. But the best thing is that I appreciate it more, because I am aware that it is finite.

6939 days is almost 29% of my whole life. Quite a gift, isn't it? So many people wish for just one more day. I got 6939 of 'em.

I made a promise to myself after my heart attack. If I recovered, I wouldn't take the extra days for granted. I would find the time every day for a moment of joy, for a moment of reflection, for a moment of inspiration. I would tell people that I love them. I would recognize that even the worst days have something wondrous to offer.

Today it's 6940. And counting.