Saturday, May 21, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 5/23/1966 to 5/29/1966

Garden Lakes residents met with Rome City officials at West Rome High School on Monday night, May 23rd, to discuss the annexation of Garden Lakes into the city of Rome. The residents were eager to have their children become Chieftains, pointing out that they were much closer geographically to West Rome than they were to Coosa. (We know that the annexation never came about, which seems odd, since the newspaper article talks about how overwhelmingly positive the residents were about the annexation.)

A Rome News-Tribune investigation into Rome and Floyd County Head Start expenditures revealed that the per-pupil cost for each preschool child taking part in the five-hour-a-day head Start during the January-August time period was $631—more than twice the cost of attending a private nursery day-care preschool program for nine hours a day, two-and-a-half times the cost of sending a student to private kindergarten, and almost exactly the cost to send a student to Berry College or Shorter College for nine months. The cost was far, far above the initial estimates for $360 per student per eight-month term. (Wait a minute… you mean that the government spent a lot more money for something than they initially said it would cost? That’s crazy talk!…)

West Rome’s JV track team won the Floyd County Junior Varsity Track & Field Championship on Tuesday, May 24th, with 101 points. They defeated Model (80 points), Berry Academy (76), Darlington (61), Georgia School for the Deaf (48), Armuchee (33), and Cave Spring (7). Roger Weaver took first place in the hundred yard dash, while Wayne Worsham took first place in the high hurdles.

The fourth annual Rome-Floyd County Tri-Hi-Y and Hi-Y recognition banquet was held on Saturday, May 28th, at the General Forrest Hotel in downtown Rome. The Hi-Y and Tri-Hi-Y chorus provided the musical program, “Sounds of ’66.” West Rome principal Dick McPhee was the host of the program. bestowing awards and commendations on individual members, sponsors, and on various school clubs for their outstanding work during the 1965-1966 school year.

Kentucky Fried Chicken (they hadn't become KFC yet) was still pushing that Brunswick stew that I can’t seem to remember: their combination special for the week was a half-pint of Brunswick stew, one piece of chicken, french fries, and two biscuits for 89¢.

Summer was coming, so various stores were pushing window-mounted air conditioners. Economy Auto had an 18,200 BTU Temp Master air conditioner for $248, while Sears had a 20,000 BTU Kenmore for $275.

The cinematic week began with Inside Daisy Clover (with Natalie Wood & Christopher Plummer) at the First Avenue and Where the Spies Are (with David Niven) at the West Rome Drive-In. And at long last, the DeSoto Theater reopened on Thursday, just in time for the mid-week switch out; the theater renovation brought new seats, a new screen, improved air conditioning, and other renovations to Rome’s premiere theater. The DeSoto reopened with The Trouble with Angels (with Hayley  Mills & Rosalind Russell), while the First Avenue and the West Rome Drive-In both showed the country music concert film Music City USA (complete with the tag line “So big, gay, and musical that it’s playing two theaters in Rome!”).

Piggly Wiggly had pork steaks for 59¢ a pound, corn for 6¢ an ear, and watermelons for 99¢ each. Kroger had baking hens for 37¢ a pound, tomatoes for a quarter a pound, and medium eggs for 33¢ a dozen. A&P had stew beef for 69¢ a pound, strawberries for 39¢ a pint, and Blue Bonnet margarine for 31¢ a pound (“Everything’s better with Blue Bonnet on it…”). Big Apple had prime rib roast for 69¢ a pound, Happy Valley ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon, and Heinz pork & beans for 12¢ a can. Couch’s had Armour Star bacon for 69¢ a pound, Libby’s beef stew for 49¢ a can, and JFG coffee for 79¢ a pound.

Percy Sledge held on to number one for the second week in a row with “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Other top ten hits included “A Groovy Kind of Love” by the Mindbenders (#2); “Paint It, Black” by the Rolling Stones (#3); “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?” by the Lovin’ Spoonful (#4); “I Am a Rock” by Simon & Garfunkel (#5); “Monday Monday” by the Mamas & the Papas (#6); “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” by Bob Dylan (#7); “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” by James Brown (#8); “Green Grass” by Gary Lewis & the Playboys #9); and “Strangers in the Night” by Frank Sinatra (#10).

Friday, May 20, 2016

People Matter

I've heard all the condescending remarks about comics fans. Nerds. Geeks. Dweebs. Lonely guys who use comics as a substitute for social interaction.

And it's no more valid than any other stereotype.

In the thirty-four years I've owned Dr. No's, I've been lucky enough to get to know many people. I've seen couples fall in love... propose... get married. I've seen men and women become proud parents, sharing their joy with us. I've seen readers become writers and artists in their own right. I've seen parents bring in kids who grow up over the years, become parents on their own, and bring in their own kids, continuing the cycle. I've seen people go through school, embark on a career, and become successful. And I've seen so many smiles, so many  customers who truly love comics, who leave here every week even happier than they were when they arrived.

And I've seen sadness. As those kids grow up to become adults, their parents have also grown older. Sometimes age can be cruel. Heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, stroke, infection... I've watched once-healthy parents struggle against all of these and so much more as age has taken away the vitality that we all take for granted when we're younger.

Today I was visited by a customer I've known since he was a boy, when his Dad or his Mom would bring him in to pick up his comics week after week. We'd chat, and I got to know them. Sometimes they'd stop by looking for books for their son; sometimes they'd just stop by to say hello.

Over the past couple of years, it was obvious that his father was struggling. The smile was there, but sometimes the sparkle in his eyes was missing, replaced with anxiety and apprehension...  and confusion. His son verified what I had suspected—his father was suffering from Alzheimer's.

After that, the visits were less frequent, and all too brief when they did occur. His father quit coming in by himself; when he did come in with someone else, he was more withdrawn. The clever, gregarious man I remember was now taciturn and hesitant.

Today, I found out that this kind, remarkable man was in hospice. His son stopped by to say hello, picking up a few comics to offer him some momentary escape from the solemnest of days.

As he told me about his father, I could still vividly see those cheery visits, hear those joking conversations, remember the days when we all thought life would go on forever.

This afternoon, I stopped by the hospice to say hello one more time. I wanted tell him how much I enjoyed those  visits over the years, how much I admired the  love and understanding he showed his son, how much I hated the cruel hand that life had dealt him.

I couldn't get out all the words I wanted to say to him. I was able to thank him for his friendship, to express my regrets for what he was going through.

As I saw this good man struggling with the final cruelties of an illness for which there is no cure, I was reminded once again that so many of the people I see every day aren't just customers. They're friends who I have been lucky enough to get to know, people with whom I've been able to share joys and sorrows. I may not know them well, but my life has been made better by the moments when it intersected with theirs.

Those moments are really all that matters, aren't they?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 5/16/1966 to 5/22/1966

This week in 1966, Harbin Clinic announced plans to build a new medical center on Martha Berry Highway at Redmond Road. The Rome City Commission had already rezoned the land for this use. Harbin Clinic said that they would keep their facility on Third Avenue at East First Street, but wanted to have a location more ready accessible for West Rome and for Georgians who lived north of Rome.

I don’t remember "nudist literature "being a major problem in Rome in the 1960s, but apparently the Rome City Commission knew more than I did, because they passed an ordinance that would ban the sale of all nudist publications to persons under 18 years of age. The law would defined “nudist literature as magazines “principally made up of pictorial material portraying naked or partially clothed physically mature human beings with genitalia exposed to view.”  (Did they intend to specify Playboy, the leading men’s magazine of the time? Perhaps so, but the definition actually didn’t apply to Playboy, since nude photos typically made up 10% to 15% of its overall content.)

Rome and Floyd County began looking at a proposed East-West bypass to take traffic off Shorter Avenue and alleviate West Rome traffic jams. Because of rapid growth in West Rome, Shorter Avenue had become the most heavily traveled street in the city, based on a 1964 survey. The bypass was eventually constructed, more or less—although it took almost fifty years!

Speaking of Shorter Avenue, it was the site of a crime spree on Wednesday night, with break-ins at Martin’s Appliances (2413 Shorter Avenue), Adams Refrigeration & Air Conditioning (2447 Shorter Avenue), and Shorter Avenue Lawn Mower (1946 Shorter Avenue). A small amount of cash and a lot of equipment was stolen in the break-ins.

West Rome coach Nick Hyder was chosen to head the North Squad in the annual Georgia High School Association all-star high school baseball game scheduled for June 6th at Atlanta Stadium.

Meanwhile, West Roman Rusty Oxford was chosen to represent West Rome on the North Team in the Georgia High School Association All-Star Basketball game, slated for August 3rd at Georgia Tech. Oxford was the first West Rome player ever picked to be a part of the all-star game.

West Rome’s Student Council officers were honored at the first annual Student Council banquet. 25 members of the Student Council received awards, as did sponsors Susie Underwood and Betty Higgins.

Television prices began to drop—and screen sizes began to grow—in 1966. Floyd Outlaw Furniture & Appliances offered a 25” Olympic color television with both VHF and UHF tuners for $549, or a 23” console unit with television, radio, and phonograph also priced at $549.

Piggly Wiggly had Blue Plate mayonnaise for 44¢ a quart, medium eggs for 33¢ a dozen, and chuck roast for 39¢ a pound. Big Apple had lamb shoulder roast for 59¢ a pound, Pride of Georgia ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon, and red delicious apples for 19¢ a pound. Kroger had 10 pounds of Domino sugar for 69¢, Cardinal sliced bacon for 69¢ a pound, and a 2 pound bag of frozen french fries for 29¢. A&P had t-bone steak for 99¢ a pound, yellow corn for a nickel an ear, and a strange three-cans-of-tomato-rice-soup-and-a-pound-of-saltines special for only 49¢. Couch’s had picnic hams for 39¢ a pound, yellow squash for a dime a pound, and Old Favorite ice milk for 33¢ a half-gallon.

Rome’s theaters continued to show lackluster films; this week, it was Weekend at Dunkirk (a two-year-old French film with Jean-Paul Belmondo) at both the First Avenue and the West Rome Drive-In—it’s like they wanted people to stay away from the theaters! The midweek switch out brought The Loved One (with Robert Morse & Jonathan Winters), which was billed as “the motion picture with something to offend everyone), while the West Rome Drive-In offered a bad-science-fiction double feature of Time Travelers and Reptilicus (a two-year-old B-movie and a five-year-old dubbed Danish film).

Percy Sledge took the number one slot this week in 1966 with “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Other top ten hits included “A Groovy Kind of Love” by the Mindbenders (#2); “Monday Monday” by the Mamas & the Papas (#3); “Paint It, Black” by the Rolling Stones (#4); “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” by Bob Dylan (#5); “I Am a Rock” by Simon & Garfunkel (#6); “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?” by the Lovin’ Spoonful (#7); “Good Lovin’” by the Young Rascals (#8); “Love Is Like an Itching in My Heart” by the Supremes (#9); and “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” by James Brown (#10).

This week also saw the release of two of the 1960s’ greatest albums: Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan and Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. This was also the week that a British audience booed Bob Dylan and the Band when they began their concert with electric instruments. Little did they suspect that this new approach would launch an entire folk-rock subgenre.

This was also the week that Perry Mason solved his final case on weekly television. After nine seasons, the CBS legal drama Perry Mason aired its final original episode on May 22nd, marking the end of an era. (It wasn’t the end of Raymond Burr’s television career, however, as he would return to play Ironside a year later.)

Friday, May 06, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 5/9/1966 to 5/15/1966

The push for a junior college in Floyd County picked up steam once again when a group of Northwest Georgia officials met wit h the State Board of Regents on May 10th. According to those who attended the meeting, the Board of Regents was open to the idea and seemed very impressed with the preliminary planning that the group had done. Of course, much of that planning was done a few years earlier when the group of officials first proposed building a school in Floyd County…

West Rome took the Region 3-AA track and field championship, the climax to a perfect track season. Artie Lovell set two records (15.2 seconds for the 120-yard high hurdles and 41’ 2.5”  n the triple jump) and won three first places in the Saturday afternoon track meet.
Academic Achievement Awards were presented to 43 outstanding Chieftains during a a Tuesday assembly conducted by Chieftains Club president Kirk Felker and Principal Dick McPhee. The students receiving awards included (Twelfth Grade) Jean Jackson, Pat Barna, Linda Camp, Jane Cox, Stan Dawson, Yvonne Hosch, Tom McMahon, Wayne Walker, & Danny Mackey; (Eleventh Grade) Mary Anne Witte, Diane Massey, Greg Quinton, Belinda Ritter, Oscar Horne, & Danny Cook; (Tenth Grade) Elaine Darsey, Patricia Finley, April Garrison, Anita Smith, Marie Edwards, Baxter Joy, Judy Oxford, Steve Warren, Sandy Witherington, & John Berry; (Ninth Grade) Debbye Morris, Sheila Reynolds, Robert Blaylock, Beverly Hall, & Beth Watson; (Eighth Grade) Susan Gardner, Paula Lane, Cynthia Morgan, Belinda Rodgers, Janet Webb, & Charles DiPrima; (Seventh Grade) Phyllis Cox, David Gardner, Rosalind McKibben, Greg Carter, Cliff Biggers, Peggy Jones, & Ricky Fairfield. (I remember this because my parents were so proud of the fact that I had won an Academic Achievement Award in my first year of junior high; I suspected that the school must have told them ahead of time, since Mom had already planned to make my favorite meal, Irish stew, to commemorate the event. I have always associated Mom's Irish stew with special occasions because of that, and I still remember that it was the last meal that I shared with her and Dad before emphysema took her from us; she was too ill to make it, but she supervised as Dad made it to her exacting standards, and it was so delicious that Mom said it was "almost as good" as hers. Dad justifiably took that as high praise...)

More than 300 students participated in a Thursday evening band concert conducted and directed by Clyde Roberson. Students from fourth War, Elementary Street, West End, West Rome Junior High, and West Rome High School took part in the concert; proceeds went to buy new band uniforms.

The next evening, The East Rome Chorus and the West Rome Chorus presented a joint concert at the East Rome High School auditorium. The West Rome Chorus performed selections from The Nutcracker Suite, Czechoslovakian folk song, and a medley from the musical The Fantasticks. (The Nutcracker Suite in May? I guess it doesn’t have to be limited to the Christmas season!…)

West Rome students who were interested in learning first aid or in working in the school clinic had the chance to take part in a first air class offered at the school beginning on Tuesday, May 10th. Students would be excused from class to take part in the session (wonder if that motivated anyone to sign up?).

Representative John W. Davis said that he had decided to support a plan to raise the minimum wage from $1.25 an hour to $1.40 beginning in 1967 and to $1.65 beginning in 1968. The bill exempted farmworkers and employees of any small business that did less than $250,000 of business per year.

Romans had one fewer dining choice this week in 1966: DiPrima’s Steak House was closed for the week for remodeling.  (I only ate at DiPrima’s a few times, although my parents would occasionally go there to celebrate an anniversary or a special occasion; I always thought of it as a “special occasion” kind of restaurant as a result. It’s also noteworthy that, back in the 1960s, it seemed like almost every town had its very own upscale steak house.)

We forget how very real the threat of nuclear war seemed back in the 1960s, but it was a legitimate concern, as the Rome-Floyd Civil Defense Unit reminded everyone with its announcement that it was beginning a government study of individual homes in the area to determine their safety in the case of nuclear attack. Rome wasn’t a primary strike target, but we were close enough to Dobbins and to Atlanta to be impacted by a nuclear attack on those targets. The Civil Defense Unit was analyzing structural integrity, air filtration, and radiological protection… and as you might expect, most Rome homes did not pass muster on the latter two. The Civil Defense Unit was also updating plans to use area Civil Defense Shelters—including one located in the West Rome Auditorium. The Civil Defense Unit was training more than a hundred Romans to serve as stewards and stewardesses (their terminology) for the shelters in the event they had to be used; these people would take charge of the shelter, handle food and water distribution, etc.  Reportedly, emergency supplies of food and water were stored beneath the stage area at both West Rome High and East Rome High, with both designated as emergency shelters. I remember reading articles like this back in 1966 and worrying about how real the threat was and what would happen to my family and friends if a nuclear attack occurred. Let’s hope that children today never have to worry about any of that…

Piggly Wiggly had chicken breasts for 49¢ a pound, Maxwell House Coffee for 69¢ a pound, and cabbage for a nickel a head. &P had Oscar Mayer bologna for 49¢ a package, ground beef for 45¢ a pound, and Cheerios for 33¢ a box. Kroger has salmon for 49¢ a pound, 20 pounds of Idaho potatoes for 99¢, and five pounds of Gold Medal flour for 49¢. Big Apple had pot roast for 79¢ a pound, Happy Valley ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon, and bananas for a dime a pound. Couch’s had lamb roast for 49¢ a pound, Bama blackberry jelly (in an 18-ounce jar that could be used as a drinking glass once it was empty) for 39¢, and Old Favorite ice milk for 33¢ a half-gallon.

The cinematic week began with The Flight of the Phoenix (a year-old film starring James Stewart) at the First Avenue and Madame X (with Lana Turner and John Forsyth) at the West Rome Drive-In. (Why the indoor theater was running a year-old film while the drive-in was running a brand-new film, I’ll never understand. I also don’t understand why, during the time the DeSoto was closed for renovation, the other indoor theater not only failed to pick up the slack, but seemed instead to slack off on the quality of its film choices.) The midweek switch out brought A Shot in the Dark (a 1964 film with Peter Sellers & Elke Sommer) to the First Avenue and Cat Ballou ( 1965 film with Jane Fonda & Lee Marvin) to the West Rome Drive-In. (Yes, more “theatrical reruns”…)

The Mamas & the Papas took first place with “Monday Monday” this week in 1966. Other top ten hits included “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” by Bob Dylan (#2); “Good Lovin’” by the Young Rascals (#3); “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge (#4); “A Groovy Kind of Love” by the Mindbenders (#5); “Kicks” by Paul Revere & the Raiders (#6); “How Does That Grab You Darlin’” by Nancy Sinatra (#7); “Message to Michael” by Dionne Warwick (#8); “Sloop John B” by the Beach Boys (#9); and  “Love Is Like an Itching in My Heart” by the Supremes (#10).

Herb Alpert’ & the Tijuana Brass released their sixth album, What Now My Love, this week in 1966; this was also the week that the Small Faces (with Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane, among others) released their eponymous debut album.  This was also the week that the Rolling Stones released “Paint It, Black,” which would go on to become the first hit single to include a sitar (while the Beatles had used a sitar in “Norwegian Wood back in 1965, the song was not released as a single).

The final original episode of The Munsters aired on May 12th, bringing an end to television’s all-too-brief fascination with monster-themed TV shows (the final Addams Family episode had aired a month earlier). Boy, it was good while it lasted!…

Spider-Man faced off against the Green Goblin in the first chapter of a two-part story that began in Amazing Spider-Man #39 this week in 1966. This was a landmark issue for two reasons:not only would this story reveal the identity of the Green Goblin, but it would also mark the beginning of artist John Romita’s lengthy run on the series, replacing Steve Ditko (who had left Marvel earlier in the year and whose final work for Marvel was published in April 1966). I loved Ditko and  had trouble adjusting to Romita, who initially struck me as too bland and generic. The problem was, anyone who followed the distinctively quirky Ditko would seem bland and generic by comparison! I went on to become a big Romita fan, but it took a little while…

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 5/2/1966 to 5/8/1966

The Rome City School system announced that Governor Carl Sanders would deliver the commencement address at graduation services scheduled for the Rome City Auditorium on June 6th. Apparently both West Rome and East Rome had hoped to get the governor--but once again, the Chieftains won against the Gladiators!

School desegregation plans were finalized this week in 1966, with a total of 400 black students signing up to attend previously-segregated city schools; 47 students were scheduled to attend West Rome beginning in the fall of 1966, marking the end of a segregation era that lasted for far too long.

West Rome was the site of an almost fruitless robbery on May 2nd when a thief broke into the Dinner Bell Cafe at 612 Shorter Avenue and stole (get ready for it) eight packs of chewing gum and $5 in pennies. As I said, it was almost fruitless… but apparently not Juicy Fruit-less!…

The car theft ring that the city and county police cracked a week earlier led to a new arrest when NASCAR driver Henley Gray, the ninth ranked NASCAR point winner in 1966, was arrested for possessing an automobile with altered serial numbers. Turned out that Gray had also been an owner of the garage-junkyard that was the site of a chop shop and the base of operations for the theft ring.

The Tri-County Regional Library held a dedication ceremony for its new facility on May 2nd, highlighted by a speech from Congressman John W. Davis and a “history of the Tri-County Library” presentation by state library consultant Lucille Nix.

And the excitement never stopped in Rome in 1966: The National All-Jersey Milk Dealers conference kicked off on May 6th, hosted by Dempsey Brothers Dairies, who made a concerted effort to milk the event for all it was worth with heavy advertising for their Saturday prize dairy cow showing.

Suppose they held a track meet and no one else showed up? That’s almost what happened on May 2nd when West Rome defeated Calhoun 126-20 in a dual track meet. Oh, the Calhoun team was there, but apparently they weren’t ready to compete, judging from the score. The Calhoun team won only a single event—otherwise, it was West Rome all the way!

The next day, the track team beat Cherokee County and Cedartown 91-40-39 in a three-way meet, led by Arbie Lovell (who took first in the low hurdles, the high hurdles, and the triple jump) and Lane Warner (who took first in the 880 and the mile run).

The Chieftains baseball team defeated Dalton 4-1 on May 3rd, thanks to Oscar Horne’s three-hitter, along with two runs scored by Bubba Holbrooks and one each by Ronnie Parker and Oscar Horne.

Piggly Wiggly had sirloin steak for 99¢ a pound, Lady Alice ice milk for 35¢ a half-gallon, and a 100-count box of Luzianne tea bags for 69¢. Kroger had turkeys for 39¢ a pound, tomatoes for a quarter a pound, and a three-pound bag of Winesap apples for 59¢. A&P had corn for 8¢ an ear, shank portion ham for 33¢ a pound, and rib roast for 79¢ a pound. Big Apple had RC Cola or Diet Rite for 89¢ a case plus deposit, ground beef for 47¢ a pound, and Bailey’s Supreme coffee for 59¢ s pound. Couch’s had lamb roast for 49¢ a pound, eggs for 33¢ a dozen, and Cudahy Round-Up bacon for 63¢ a pound.

With the DeSoto Theater closed for a few weeks for renovation, Rome’s theatrical choices were slim pickings indeed. The First Avenue kicked off the week with the seven-year-old film North by Northwest (with Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint), while the West Rome Drive-In kicked off its warm-weather seven-night-a-week schedule with The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (with Richard Burton). The midweek switch out brought The Heroes of Telemark (with Kirk Douglas & Richard Harris) and a double feature of the 1955 film You’re Never Too Young (with Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis) and the 1960 film The Rat Race (with Tony Curtis & Debbie Reynolds).  Apparently someone declared it theatrical rerun week in Rome, with films from 1955, 1959, and 1960…

The Mamas & the Papas held on to  the top slot this week in 1966 with “Monday Monday.”  Other top ten songs included “Good Lovin’” by the Young Rascals (#2); “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” by Bob Dylan (#3); “Kicks” by Paul Revere & the Raiders (#4); “Sloop John B” by the Beach Boys (#5); “You’re My Soul & Inspiration” by the Righteous Brothers (#6); “How Does that Grab You Darlin’?” by Nancy Sinatra (#7); “Message to Michael” by Dionne Warwick (#8); “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge (#9); and “Gloria” by Shadows of Knight (#10).

Gold Key brought the Robert Culp-Bill Cosby espionage series to comics this week in 1966 with the release of I Spy #1. Meanwhile, in the pages of Tales to Astonish #82, Iron Man fought the Sub-Mariner in one of my favorite Sub-Mariner tales from the Silver Age.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 4/25/1966 to 5/1/1966

West Rome’s track team placed second in the West Georgia Relays, racking up 55 points and three first places (Richard Camp in the broad jump, Arbie Lovell in High hurdles, and the team of Lane Warner, Arbie Lovell, Benny Padgett, and Dale Prater in sprint relay).

The Rome Teen Club sponsored a “Scholarship Dance” on Saturday, April 30th, at the Rome Civic Center. The “admission cost” was a donation to a scholarship fund intended to enable a teenager majoring in recreation to attend college. The Stereophonics provided music for the dance.

A major auto theft ring operating out of Rome was shut down by the Rome City Police and the Floyd County Police on Thursday, April 28th, after a months-long joint investigation. The theft ring operated in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, selling stolen cars and operating a chop shop to supply auto parts to unscrupulous dealers. It was estimated that the ring had stolen more than 100 automobiles in the months leading up to the arrest. Three Rome men were arrested at the junkyard from which the chop shop operated; authorities suspected that there were others involved as well.

Julian Harrison Ford celebrated Ford’s sale of its millionth Mustang with a week-long Mustang sale. All Mustangs were discounted an additional $200 off list price, with Mustang trade-ins also earning an additional $200 above normal trade-in value. Bonnie Davis responded with a $200 discount on ANY new Chevrolet and an additional $200 trade-in on ANY Chevrolet. Chrysler responded with an ad saying “Please Buy Chrysler.”

Piggly Wiggly had cube steak for 99¢ a pound, 14-ounce bottles of Heinz ketchup for 23¢, and fresh strawberries for 33¢ a pint. Kroger had pork steaks for 59¢ a pound, navel oranges for 59¢ a dozen, and Maxwell House coffee for 59¢ a pound. A&P had round steak for 79¢ a pound, 24-ounce cans of Poss beef stew for 49¢, and a 12-ounce package of Sunnyland olive loaf for 45¢. Big Apple had ground chuck for 77¢ a pound, cucumbers for a dime each, and Diet Rite or RC Cola for 29¢ a carton plus deposit. Couch’s had Wilson’s CrispRite bacon for 59¢ a pound, lettuce for 15¢ a head, and a one-pound bag of dried pinto beans for a dime.

The cinematic week began with Harper (with Paul Newman) at the DeSoto Theater and Hold On! (with Herman’s Hermits) at the First Avenue. The midweek switch out brought  Oscar (with Elke Sommer, Milton Berle, & Joseph Cotten) to the DeSoto and The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (with Richard Burton, Claire Bloom, & Oskar Werner) to both the First Avenue Theater and the West Rome Drive-In. However, the DeSoto was only open through Friday, April 29th; the theater was closed from April 30th through May 26th for repairs, remodeling, and seat replacement and reupholstering, leaving Rome with only one indoor theater choice for almost a month. And this was in a time before VCRs or DVRs, when our only TV viewing options involved an antenna, a TV set, and six channels (because we didn’t even have cable TV in Rome yet!). How did we survive?

The Mamas & the Papas took the number one slot this week in 1966 with “Monday Monday.” Other top ten hits included “Good Lovin’” by the Young Rascals (#2); “Sloop John B” by the Beach Boys (#3); “You’re My Soul and Inspiration” by the Righteous Brothers (#4); “Kicks” by Paul Revere & the Raiders (#5); “Secret Agent Man” by Johnny Rivers (#6); “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” by Bob Dylan (#7); “Bang Bang” by Cher (#8); “Leaning on a Lamp Post” by Herman’s Hermits (#9); and “Gloria” by Shadows of Night (#10).

Friday, April 15, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 4/18/1966 to 4/24/1966

Think how large West Rome’s student body might have been if this had come to pass: a public opinion poll regarding the annexation of all of Garden Lakes into the city of Rome was launched this week in 1966. If the annexation had gone through, all students in the Garden Lakes area would have become Chieftains.

West Rome defeated North Whitfield 16-3 on Monday; racking up sixteen hits in the game, while pitcher Mike Souder only allowed three hits; Jimmy Edwards was the Chieftain’s leading hitter with three hits.

West Rome’s track team continued its winning season with a 121-37-21 win over Main High and Calhoun on Monday; the Chieftains took twelve first places in the track meet, thanks in part to Arbie Lovell’s three first place wins (high hurdles, low hurdles, and triple jump), while Lane Warner and Benny Padgett each posted two wins (880 and mile run for Warner, shot and discus for Padgett). Then the Chiefs defeated Dalton 77-59 in a two-way track meet on Tuesday, claiming ten of the eighteen first places, with Arbie Lovell again taking three first place wins (again with low hurdles, high hurdles, and triple jump).

West Rome’s golf team was having a tougher time of it; the team came in third in a three-way match with East Rome an Cedartown.

McDonald’s was the site of a grease fire on Monday, April 18th, but they were able to clean the store up, replace damaged equipment and fixtures, and re-open for business on Friday, April 22nd.

If you’ don’t remember the Postal Savings System, that might be because it was abolished as of March 27, 1966 and it ceased paying interest as of April 20th, 1966. Up until that time, the US Post Office sold postal savings certificates that paid a monthly interest rate. The system was created way back in 1911 to appeal to immigrants who were accustomed to saving at Post Offices in their home countries; it also served as a depository for people who had lost faith in banks, since the certificates could be purchased in cash, did not require identification, and had no limit on the amount of insured savings that anyone could own. The Saving System were discontinued because its then-meager 2% interest rate was far lower than banks were paying; today, of course, people would gladly line up at the Post Office for a chance to buy a guaranteed certificate that paid 2% interest!

Piggly Wiggly had five pounds of Colonial sugar for 39¢, Downy Flake frozen waffles for a dime a box, and two pounds of frozen french fries for 33¢. Kroger had Spotlight coffee for 39¢ a pound, pork roast for 29¢ a pound, and bananas for a dime a pound. A&P had sirloin steak for 89¢ a pound, Campbell’s pork & beans for 16¢ a can, and green peppers for a dime each. Big Apple had baking hens for 37¢ a pound, Gebhardt chili for 33¢ a can, and Aunt Jemima grits for a dime a box. Couch’s had ground beef for 39¢ a pound, cabbage for a nickel a head, and Coca Cola, Tab, or Sprite for 99¢ a case plus deposit.

The cinematic week began with Frankie & Johnny (with Elvis Presley) at the DeSoto Theater and Shane (with Alan Ladd) at the First Avenue. The midweek switch out brought Harper (with Paul Newman & Lauren Bacall) to the DeSoto and Hold On (with Herman’s Hermits and Shelley Fabares) to the First Avenue, while the West Rome Drive-In offered a weekend double feature of War Drums (a 1957 oldie with Lex Barker—but in the days before home video, it wasn’t that uncommon for years-old films to make the drive-in circuit) and The World of Suzie Wong (a 1960 drama with Nancy Kwan & William Holden).

The Young Rascals took first place this week in 1966 with “Good Lovin’.” Other top ten hits included “You’re My Soul & Inspiration” by the Righteous Brothers (#2); “Monday Monday” by the Mamas & the Papas (#3); “Sloop John B” by the Beach Boys (#4); “Secret Agent Man” by Johnny Rivers (#5); “Kicks” by Paul Revere (#6); “Time Won’t Let Me” by the Outsiders (#7); “Bang Bang” by Cher (#8); “Daydream” by the Lovin’ Spoonful (#9); and “Leaning on a Lamp Post” by Herman’s Hermits (#10).

The Academy Awards aired in color for the first time on April 18th; even as late as 1966, some television programming was still presented in black and white, believe it or not!

Poison Ivy made her first appearance this week in 1966 in the pages of Batman #181, courtesy of Robert Kanigher & Sheldon Moldoff (and most definitely not Bob Kane, whose only conribution to Batman at this point was his name).

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 4/11/1966 to 4/17/1966

West Rome’s track team continued to run circles around the competition. First, the Chiefs defeated Armuchee 87-49 on April 11th, led by double victories for both Arbie Lovell (high hurdles and low hurdles) and Benny Padgett (shot and discus). The next day, the track team racked up 96 points to beat Cedartown and Rossville in a three-way track meet on April 12th. The Chiefs performed so well in this meet that they outscored the other two schools combined!

The JV Chiefs scored seven runs on ten sites to beat Model 7-1 on Wednesday, led by the strong pitching of Steve Harrell.

As if there were any doubts, Tuesday’s referendum put them to rest: voters in both the city and the county overwhelmingly rejected the idea of a school system merger, with almost 70% of the voters casting a NO ballot.

On Thursday, the Rome City school system finally gave up its losing battle to delay desegregation, signing a desegregation compliance certificate just one day before a federal deadline mandating loss of educational funds. This meant that, at long last, segregation came to an end as an official city school system policy, although it would still be two more years before all facets of the plan would be completed.

Coosa Valley Tech’s enrollment was growing so rapidly that the school unveiled plans to add a $1.3 million expansion, with the intention of getting the work completed by the end of the year. (Can the government do anything in eight months nowadays?…)

The cinematic week began with Frankie & Johnny (with Elvis Presley) at the DeSoto Theater and The Rare Breed (with James Stewart & Maureen O’Hara) at the First Avenue. The midweek switch out brought  a Shock-o-Rama double feature of Billy the Kid Vs Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter to the First Avenue (because you know, moviegoers can never get enough Western-monster movie mashups), while Elvis hung around for another week at the DeSoto. The West Rome Drive-In offered a weekend double feature of The Bridges at Toko-Ri (with William Holden) and The Trap (with Richard Widmark).

Piggly Wiggly had Plymouth bacon for 69¢ a pound, cantaloupes for 29¢ each, and a case of Coca Cola, Tab, or Sprite for 99¢ plus deposit. A&P had chuck steak for 59¢ a pound, Eight O’Clock coffee for 63¢ a pound, and strawberries for 29¢ a pint. Kroger had sirloin steak for 99¢ a pound, yellow corn for 6¢ an year, and ten pounds of Domino sugar for 89¢. Big Apple had center cut pork chops for 59¢ a pound, Irvindale ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon, and Van Camp potted meat (a deviled ham competitor… as if we needed something else akin to deviled ham) for 18¢ a can. Couch’s had corned beef for 49¢ a pound, Utica salmon for 35¢ a can, and Big Ten canned biscuits for 15¢ a can.

The Righteous Brothers took the number one slot this week with “You’re My Soul & Inspiration.” Other top ten hits included “Bang Bang” by Cher (#2); “Secret Agent Man” by Johnny Rivers (#3); “Daydream” by the Lovin’ Spoonful (#4); “Time Won’t Let Me” by the Outsiders (#5); “Good Lovin’” by the Young Rascals (#6); “Kicks” by Paul Revere & the Raiders (#7); “Sloop John B” by the Beach Boys” (#8); “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by BJ Thomas & the Triumphs (#9); and “Monday Monday” by the Mamas & the Papas (#10).

On April 12th, Jan Berry of Jan & Dean nearly died in a car crash; he survived, but suffered near-total paralysis for a year and struggled to come to terms with profound brain damage as a result of the crash. Ironically, his crash occurred very near the same Dead Man’s Curve that he and his musical partner Dean Torrance immortalized in their hit song.

The final episode of McHale’s Navy aired on April 12th, 1966, although the show would continue to be reshown in syndication.

The Wakandan King T’Challa, better known as the Black Panther, made his comic book debut this week in 1966 in Fantastic Four #52 by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, & Joe Sinnott. The Black Panther was the first black superhero in mainstream US comics, and has played a significant role in the Marvel Universe ever since. (That’s the Black Panther that you may have spotted in the Captain America: Civil War trailer—and he plays a significant role in the film.)

This was also the week that saw the release of Steve Ditko’s final stories for Amazing Spider-Man (#38) and Doctor Strange (in Strange Tales #146). For those of us who love Ditko’s distinctive storytelling and strikingly unique artistic takes on Marvel heroes and villains, it truly was the end of an era…

Friday, April 08, 2016

16th Birthday v 2.0

Happy sixteenth birthday to me, happy sixteenth birthday to me...

It was sixteen years ago exactly as I type this that I died.  Ten years ago, I wrote about it all in more detail, and you can read it here. I'm not going to bore you with the story if you already know it. Here's the short version: late evening on April 7th, 2000, I had a heart attack (my second in about two weeks, but this was a major one). At 12:31 pm on April 8th, I died for just over seven minutes.

5844 days that I have been gifted... now beginning day 5845. That's more than a third of the 17,026 days I lived up until the heart attack.

I don't think I appreciated each of those 17,026 days the way I've tried to appreciate the 5844 extra days I was given (thanks to some dedicated paramedics, a superb hospital staff, and a great cardiologist). I try to end each night--even the worst ones, such as the night that Mom died, or the night after Dad succumbed to the effects of his stroke--by appreciating at least one good thing that I experienced that day... one good thing I wouldn't have experienced had I not been given that extra day. I keep count of the days, and add a personal note to a private calendar each day, as a way of saying "thanks for the second life."

I'm glad I didn't die in the early morning of April 8th, 2000. However, when I was faced with the reality that I had a good chance of dying again in the next few days--without a third chance at life--I wasn't afraid, and I had only a few regrets... most of them related to any burdens my death might place on those I love.

(I haven't been frightened of dying ever since then. I don't want to die, mind you--I have many more calendar pages that I'd like to mark up with the most memorable good thing from that day--but the concept of dying isn't disturbing any longer. The experience changed me in that regard; before that day, the thought of my own death disturbed me.)

Every year, I commemorate this anniversary quietly, with appreciation. I also realize that the chance exists that I won't celebrate it the next year. Should that happen, know this: I have had a most wonderful life, with more good things than I ever imagined that my life could encompass. If I'm not here and my absence is worth noting, then note it in this way: tell those you love, "That lucky guy got sixteen extra years. May all the rest of us, when we come to the end of our lives, get sixteen bonus years tacked on--and may we all find as many good experiences, good friends, and good memories to fill those bonus years as Cliff did."

Now excuse me while I go for a quiet post-midnight walk and ruminate on the best thing about this day that's coming to an end...

Sunday, April 03, 2016

An Audience With the King

My best friend Charles Rutledge recently referred to a one of our favorite shared memories. "Did I ever tell you about that time that Batman 'creator' Bob Kane was rude to Cliff Biggers and me," Charles wrote, "and Jack Kirby set him straight? That was a good day."

Several people expressed an interest in hearing the story. I'm sure Charles will post it in his own blog, but the memories of that evening are so vivid that I wanted to preserve it here.

I am lucky enough to have met with and interviewed Jack "The King" Kirby several times in my life. But it just so happened that my and Charles' meeting with Jack this time in San Diego was totally spontaneous. We were walking through the hotel lobby when we saw Jack and his wife Roz sitting in the lobby. My intent was just to say hello and to thank him for working with me on a phone interview just a few weeks before--and of course, both Charles and I wanted to let him know how much his work meant to us. (If there's anyone who's as much a Kirby fan as I am, it's Charles--to this day, we still have long conversations about Jack and his work.)

We had assumed that Jack was waiting to meet someone, so we had no intention of intruding on his time--but it turned out that Jack was enjoying a rare unscheduled moment. As soon as I introduced myself (while we had met in person, I never expected someone like Jack Kirby--who undoubtedly had met tens of thousands of enthusiastic fans of his work--to remember me), Jack actually thanked me for the interview. I then introduced Charles, and both of us told Jack about our unflagging admiration for his work. Jack was obviously flattered, and he talked to us about our interest in comics, asking when we first started reading comics, what books we had enjoyed, and so on.

I mentioned that the early Fantastic Four issues were particularly meaningful to me, and that they had helped to solidify my lifelong interest in comics. I even told him that, had it not been for those books, I might never have tried to produce my own comics, or contributed to fanzines, or worked with others to launch comic shops, or bought a comic shop of my own, or started Comic Shop News. Jack smiled thoughtfully, then asked me, "So what was your very favorite issue of Fantastic Four?"

I thought for a few seconds, and then centered on the issue that has survived most vividly in my memory for more than fifty years: Fantastic Four #4, the issue that featured the first Silver Age appearance of the Sub-Mariner. It also referred to Golden Age comics (the Human Torch was reading a Golden Age comic featuring the Sub-Mariner), which has piqued my interest in those Marvel books from the 1940s. Jack was beaming as I described the book and its significance to me; then he looked me in the eye, pointed at me, and said, "I did that book for you." He wasn't being patronizing or dismissive--at that moment, Jack absolutely meant it.

From there, the conversation went on to diverse subjects--other projects Kirby was working on, fellow professionals whose work he liked, and numerous war stories. And oh, what stories they were--Jack's tales of his own experiences in the war were every bit as dynamic and exciting as any war comic he had ever done. Jack's storytelling skills were in rare form, and the more he talked, the more enthusiastic he got. The conversation went on for what must have been at least a half an hour, maybe even more--and of course, Charles and I were enthralled.  We had been given a private audience with the King!

Suddenly, a man in a sports coat brusquely inserted himself between us, standing with his back to Charles and me. He had seen Jack talking with us; rather than join the conversation, he just intruded right in the middle of it, not saying a word to Charles or to me. He extended a hand towards Jack, all the while ignoring us. "Jack! How are you! Good to see you. I was just talking with---" As he turned so that we could see a little more of his face, Charles and I recognized the intruder as Bob Kane.

Bob Kane is well known as the creator of Batman. What is less well-known outside of comics is that Bob is even better known as the man who took credit for the work of others. Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger, Dick Sprang, Sheldon Moldoff--these are just a few of the talented writers and artists whose contributions to the Batman mythos was buried under the Bob Kane by-line. (When Bob Kane published his supposed autobiography Batman & Me, the publisher offered expensive limited edition copies that contained an original hand-drawn Bob Kane Batman sketch. According to artists I know and believe, Bob Kane hired them and others to draw his sketches, then Bob signed his name to the drawings. That anecdote typified much of his career...)

Bob was in mid-sentence still vigorously shaking Jack's hand, when Jack gripped Bob's elbow with his other hand, never releasing his grip as he moved Bob to the side and turned him so that we were directly in his field of vision. "Bob, have you met my friends Cliff and Charles?" And in his amiable Jack Kirby way, he forced Bob Kane to acknowledge we were there and to say hello to us. After Bob spoke to us, Jack said, "We were just in the middle of a conversation. You and I will talk later, okay?"

Yes, Jack Kirby dismissed Bob Kane so that he could finish up his conversation with us.

Not only did Jack Kirby give us a chance to talk with a legend that evening, he also gave us a memory that neither of us would ever forget.