Saturday, July 04, 2015

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 7/6/1965 to 7/11/1965

Every week in 1965 brought news of another indicator reinforcing Rome's economic growth. This week, it was a $1 million increase in the value of building permits over the first six months of 1964, marking the fourth consecutive year of an increase in the cost of building in Rome. Fifty of those permits were for new houses, with 27 of those houses being located in the West Rome area.

Economic growth also spurred Rome to begin enforcing a more rigorous housing code in an effort to rid the city of slums, some of which were listed as existing  in the West Rome area. However, we were doing much better than other parts of the city: West Rome only had 53 homes deemed below standard out of 1795 total housing units registered with the city, while 569 of Eighth Ward's 1410 homes were classified as slums.

The Rome City School system went public regarding its dispute with the Floyd County Health Department, criticizing them for failing to prove any medical assistance or care for the children involved in the the then-new Project Head Start program. Superintendent McDonald said that the Health Department was "avoiding the responsibility of the county, claiming that the Health Department refused to offer any help unless the city paid $1 per child in advance. Superintendent McDonald praised Trend Mills for contributing 192 sleeping mats to Head Start that the children could use for resting and napping.

Do you remember having to defrost the freezer? If so, you will fully appreciate why Georgia Power's $279.95 13.5 cubic foot frost-free freezer was such a big deal in the 1960s.  Frost-free systems were introduced for refrigerators a few years earlier, but it was rare to find a frost-free freezer... which is why this baby would have set you back more than $2100 in today's dollars adjusted for inflation!

Piggly Wiggly had ten pounds of Domino sugar for 89¢, 24 ounce bottles of Shurfine ketchup for 20¢, and chuck roast for 39¢ a pound. Big Apple had ground beef for 47¢ a pound, Sealtest ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon, and fresh squash for a dime a pound. Kroger had Bailey's Supreme coffee for 59¢ a pound, bananas for a dime a pound, and eggs for 39¢ a dozen. A&P had boneless stew beef for 79¢ a pound, watermelons for 79¢ each, and a peach or lemon pie from the bakery for only 39¢. Couch's had veal cutlets for 99¢ a pound, cantaloupes for 39¢ each, and Van Camp's pork & beans for a dime a can.

West Rome got its very own dining and dancing venue with the opening of The Steak Pit at 2417 Shorter Avenue. The new restaurant offered dining and dancing nightly on "one of the largest dance floors in this area," with opening week music provided by Randy Myers and the Shades. (So just how many dance floors were there in Rome in 1965, anyway?)

The cinematic week began with Von Ryan's Express (with Frank Sinatra & Trevor Howard) at the DeSoto, The Train (with Burt Lancaster) at the First Avenue, and a double feature of Tobacco Road (with Gene Tierney) and What A Way To Go! (with Shirley MacLaine & Paul Newman) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switchout brought The Art of Love (with James Garner, Elke Sommer, Dick Van Dyke, & Angie Dickinson) to the DeSoto, while The Train stayed on track at the First Avenue. The oh-so-naughty West Rome Drive-In brought in the bawdy  La Bonne Soupe (with Marte Bell) for the weekend. I always wonder how many people slowed down on Shorter Avenue to get a free look at scantily-clad people on the big drive-in screen?

The Rolling Stones had the number one hit this week in 1965 with "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." Other top ten hits included "I Can't Help Myself" by the Four Tops (#2); "Mr. Tambourine Man" by the Byrds (#3); "Wonderful World" by Herman's Hermits (#4); "Wooly Bully" by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs (#5--and it seems like this song was on the charts forever, doesn't it?); "Yes I'm Ready" by Barbara Mason (#6); "Seventh Son" by Johnny Rivers (#7); "Cara Mia" by Jay & the Americans (#8); "You Turn Me On" by Ian Whitcomb & Bluesville (#9); and "What the World Needs Now Is Love" by Jackie DeShannon (#10).

The week's big album release was Summer Days (and Summer Nights) by the Beach Boys, which featured two great Beach Boys hits: "Help Me Rhonda" and "California Girls."

TV Guide spotlighted Jimmy Dean this week in 1965, explaining how he had taken a network flop variety series and turned it into a hit by just being himself. Dean explained that the network wanted to put him in suits and have him try to appeal to New York sophisticates. Once he got to just be himself, complete with a country angle and a down-home attitude, the show turned around and became successful enough that it was renewed for a total of three seasons.

Great news for fans of the master of duck adventures: Carl Barks had oodles of material in the 96-page Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge & Donald Duck #1, on sale this week in 1965. These Gold Key giants, offering 16 more pages than DC's ever-popular 80-Page Giants for the same price, were among the best entertainment bargains on the comic book spinner racks in the summer of 1965.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 6/28/1965 to 7/4/1965

Rome's economy was doing so well this week in 1965 that the Rome City Commission voted to give all city employees a 5% raise effective July 1st. The city also began the first steps to annex the General Electric Co. plan and property into the city, which would boost city tax coffers (including the school tax, which would mean more money for West Rome High School and all other city schools).

West Rome's very own Lucille Smiderski was the director of Project Head Start, which was first launched in Rome in the summer of 1965. She said that the program had gotten off to a wonderful start in its first year. About 225 children were participating in the program, which was being conducted at six schools in the area, including Elm Street. Mrs. Smiderski said that children were "learning to be responsible and to learn through play," adding that she was "very pleased by how well the children were getting along with each other." She said that she hoped the program's success would lead to its eventual expansion into a year-long program.

Meanwhile, Rome City Schools began training English teachers to teach "new English" using what they were calling "transformational-generative grammar." The gobbledygook that the city presented to describe the new approach included the statement that "it taught us to generate the structure of the sentence the way a chemist generates a solution by adding required ingredients... encouraging us to begin with broad generalizations and work up to specific ideas." It would stress "kernels and transforms" over nouns and verbs, and would teach the value of dialect to give students more social mobility. And much to the dismay of brilliant teachers like Miss Kitty Alford, diagramming was to be entirely dropped from he curriculum. Alas, school officials always have been all too hasty to jump on every jargon-filled idea that comes across their desks... *sigh*

The state began adding color photos to driver's licenses this week in 1965; until this time, all driver's license photos had been black and white. According to one license official, the color photo process was taking a bit longer because people were primping more for the photos (because of course, everyone has always confused their driver's license photo with a professional portrait...). Because of the extra cost of color photography, the license fees increased to $2.50 for a 2-year license and $5.50 for a five-year license--an increase of 50¢ per license.

Federal officials threatened to cut off federal funding for Floyd Hospital, saying that the hospital was failing to comply with anti-discrimination provisions of federal law. The hospital said that no operations would be curtailed as a result of the funding cutbacks, but they were also setting up meetings with federal officials to address the complaint that had been filed by the local NAACP and try to avoid the loss of funding.

Johnny Reb Food Store opened at 2209 Shorter Avenue this week in 1965. The grand opening celebration includes free cases of Coke to the first 75 customers, free balloons and bubble gum for kids, and a drawing for a free $50 gift certificate. (Yes, in 1965 a food store called Johnny Reb, using the stars and bars in its advertising, wasn't at all controversial.)

Of course, the approaching Fourth of July holiday led to the usual admonitions about the use of fireworks, including the notice that both the city and county police would be issuing citations for anyone observed using anything other than sparklers over the holiday.

Piggly Wiggly had Lay's twin packs of potato chips for 49¢ each, Sunshine cookies for 33¢ a bag, and Swift premium hot dogs for 39¢ a pound. Kroger had watermelons for 49¢ each, ground beef for 39¢ a pound, and a 24-ounce bottle of Hunt's ketchup for 29¢. Big Apple had spare ribs for 37¢ a pound, tomatoes for 15¢ a pound, and Irvindale ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon. A&P had chicken breast quarters for 35¢ a pound, cantaloupes for 33¢ each, and a case of Coca-Cola or Tab for 99¢ plus deposit. Couch's had ground chuck for 59¢ a pound, a pint of Blue Plate mayonnaise for 25¢, and a case of Double Cola for 69¢ plus deposit.

The cinematic week began with The Yellow Rolls Royce (with Ingrid Bergman, Rex Harrison, & George C. Scott) at the DeSoto, I'll Take Sweden (with Bob Hope & Tuesday Weld) at the First Avenue, and a double feature of The Man Who Could Cheat Death (with Christopher Lee) and Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (with Christopher Lee & Peter Cushing) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out brought  Von Ryan's Express (with Frank Sinatra & Trevor Howard) to the DeSoto, The Family Jewels (with Jerry Lewis) to the First Avenue, and a double feature of Tarzan the Magnificent (with Gordon Scott as Tarzan and Jock Mahoney as the bad guy) and Tarzan's Three Challenges (with Jock Mahoney as Tarzan--he got a promotion!) at the West Rome Drive-In.

The Rolling Stones took the number one spot this week in 1965 with their hit single "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." Other top ten hits included "I Can't Help Myself" by the Four Tops (#2); "Mr. Tambourine Man" by the Byrds (#3); "Wonderful World" by Herman's Hermits (#4); "Wooly Bully" by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs (#5); "Yes, I'm Ready" by Barbara Mason (#6); "Seventh Son" by Johnny Rivers (#7); "Cara Mia" by Jay & the Americans (#8); "You Turn Me On" by Ian Whitcomb (#9); and "What the World Needs Now Is Love" by Jackie DeShannon (#10).

The Beatles hodgepodge album release Beatles VI took the number one spot this week in 1965, breaking Mary Poppins' months-long hold on the number one position.

The biggest new release album this week in 1965 was There Is Only One Roy Orbison by..., well, I'll be you can guess who. Alas, Orbison no longer had the chart power that he once had, and this album itself failed to break the top forty albums, while the only single, "Ride Away," made it no higher than #25 in the US charts.

Reed Richards and Sue Storm got married this week in 1965 in the pages of Fantastic Four Annual #3, a guest-star-laden extravaganza of a tale that made it clear that comic book fans had no problems with married superheroes. My favorite part of the comic? The brief cameo by creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who are stopped at the door when they attempt to attend the wedding.

This was also the week that Jules Feiffer's amazing Great Comic Book Heroes was released. For those of us who had been intrigued by the glimpses into the Golden Age that DC's Earth-2 stories had offered, a book of commentary on the Golden Age was fascinating--but it was the heaping helping of Golden Age reprints featuring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, the Human Torch, the Sub-Mariner, the Spirit, Green Lantern, the Flash, Hawkman and many others that made it a must-have. I added the book to my wish list that summer, but wouldn't get my very own copy until Christmas, when my parents gave the me the copy that still sits in a position of honor on my bookshelf today.

And there was one other book with which I have a personal connection: Charlie Chan #1 from Dell Comics. You see, Charlie Chan was created by a distant relative of mine, Earl Derr Biggers--and he and I actually share the same birthday, although separated by many decades. (Even more surprising, Earl Derr Biggers and I both had major heart attacks at almost exactly the same age to the day... but Earl didn't fare as well as I did, succumbing to his heart attack soon thereafter. Years later, when I finally got a copy of one of Earl Derr Biggers Charlie Chan novels autographed by the author, I was taken aback to see that his handwriting almost precisely mirrored my father's, even down the the same distinctive flourish on the B and the double-g's in Biggers.)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 6/21/1965 to 6/27/1965

Coosa Valley Tech was only a couple of years old, but the school was meeting with such overwhelming success that the Floyd County Board of Education and the State Department of Education jointly announced plans for a $750,000.00 expansion of the school, adding 22,000 more square feet of classrooms and labs. Many Chieftains went on to get post-secondary education and job training at CVT, of course—and it remains a vital part of the community today.

Speaking of construction, work began on the new Industrial Arts Shop for West Rome High School. It's amazing to relize that, back then, an entire wing of a building could be built in eight weeks and ready for use by the time the next school term began. Nowadays they wouldn't even finish the site preparation in eight weeks!

Superior Court Judge Robert Scoggins spoke out regarding Rome's rapidly increasing juvenile delinquency problem. He said that the number of cases in the first five months of 1965 was almost twice the level of 1964, with destructive vandalism being the most common problem. The most serious case involved manslaughter, Judge Scoggins said, and the minor was set to be tried as an adult for that crime. He urged parents to keep closer watch on their children during the summer to try to cut down on the problem.

The economic numbers for April were finally tallied, and it turned out that Rome saw a 26% increase in department store sales over the same period in 1964, making Rome the fastest growing area in the state in that category. Furniture sales remained steady year-over-year in Rome, even though they dropped 4% across the state.

Eastern Airlines announced plans to resume daily airline service from Atlanta to Rome, continuing on to Nashville, as well as return flights from Rome to Atlanta. The flights had been put on hold in 1964, but Eastern said that demand seemed sufficient to resume the flights starting later in the summer.

Piggly Wiggly had chuck roast for 39¢ a pound, pole beans for 19¢ a pound, and watermelons for 69¢ each. Big Apple had round steak for 79¢ a pound, Van Camp Pork and Beans for 20¢ a can, and Starkist tuna for 39¢ a can. Kroger had t-bone steak for $1.09 a pound, Libby's Vienna sausage for 20¢ a can, and eggs for 33¢ a dozen. A&P had shrimp for 89¢ a pound, Jif peanut butter for 47¢ a jar, and Eight O'Clock coffee for 65¢ a pound. Couch's had pork chops for 59¢ a pound, five pounds of Domino sugar for 29¢, and fresh tomatoes for 9¢ a pound.

The cinematic week began with In Harm's Way (with John Wayne & Kirk Douglas) at the DeSoto, A High Wind In Jamaica (with Anthony Quinn) at the First Avenue, and a double feature of Beach Blanket Bingo (with Annette Funicello) and Susan Slade (with Troy Donahue) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out saw In Harm's Way continue at the DeSoto and the Beach Blanket Bingo/Susan Slade double feature hang on at the West Rome Drive-In,, while I'll Take Sweden (with Bob Hope & Tuesday Weld) came to the First Avenue. Apparently, Romans didn't go to the movies very much during the summer in the 1960s...

The Four Tops took number one this week in 1965 with "I Can't Help Myself." Other top ten hits included "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones (#2); "Mr. Tambourine Man" by the Byrds (#3); "Wooly Bully" by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs (#4); "Wonderful World" by Herman's Hermits (#5); "For Your Love" by the Yardbirds (#6); "Seventh Son" by Johnny Rivers (#7, appropriately enough!); "Crying in the Chapel" by Elvis Presley (#8); "Yes I'm Ready" by Barbara Mason (#9); and "What the World Needs Now Is Love" by Jack DeShannon (#10).

The big album release this week in 1965 as the Byrds' Mr. Tambourine Man, which showcased the talents of Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke. The album's twelve tracks included four covers of Bob Dylan songs, including the title song, which had been released as a single ahead of the album and was firmly ensconced in the top ten by the time the album made it to the Record Shop, Redford's, Sears, and the other places where Romans bought their albums.

DC's (and editor Julius Schwartz's) interest in reintroducing the Golden Age heroes into the DC line continued in Brave & Bold #61 as Starman and the Black Canary starred in their own adventure, courtesy of Gardner Fox & Murphy Anderson.  For readers who weren't quite sure who these Earth-2 characters were, DC added one-page origin text features for each of the heroes. For those like me who were fascinated with heroes whose early tales dated back to the time when my parents were my age, a new story starring these characters was a wonderful treat... and even the eleven-year-old me recognized the beauty of artist Murphy Anderson's fine linework!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thanks, Mrs. Harwell

This morning, I received word that Emma Conn Harwell had died on Sunday, June 14th, at the age of 91.

Mrs. Harwell probably never remembered me, because she had so many loyal customers who cherished Conn's, the Shorter Avenue store that she and her family ran from the time I moved to Rome until the store was destroyed in a fire (I don't know when the store first opened; the earliest Rome phone book I have is 1953, and it contains an ad for "Shorter Avenue Super Market—J.W. Conn, proprietor," so Conn's was a part of West Rome long before there was a West Rome High School). Was there anyone who lived in West Rome at that time who didn't consider Conn's a vital part of the community, a retail landmark?

Conn's was important to me because it had the best selection of comic books in West Rome. When most stores had one spinner rack, Conn's had two, and they were both filled with new release comics. If you couldn't find a comic anywhere else, Conn's was the place to go. The racks were located deep in the shop, so any trip to Conn's in search of comics took me past the shelves of snacks and candies and groceries.

And the bakery.

Never in my decades on this earth have I known a bakery like Conn's. Cakes, cookies, fritters, cupcakes--they had it all. But Conn's bakery was legendary for two things: doughnuts and brownies.

Krispy Kreme may be praised nowadays as the number one shop for  soft, rich, sweet, robustly flavored doughnuts with just the right touch of icing--but that's only because Conn's bakery is no longer competing with them. Those doughnuts were melt-in-your-mouth soft, without the least touch of the breadiness that passes for doughnuts at so many shops today. The icing hardened to a lightly crystalline glazing that melted slightly at fingertip temperature, leaving just the right touch of sweet stickiness when you picked one up. It was the best doughnut ever.

If there was anything that could compete with them, it was Conn's brownies. They were dense and chocolatey and rich, but not heavy or gummy. the fudge icing on the top added an intense chocolate creaminess to each bite. If you like chocolate, you would have loved Conn's brownies. If you don't like chocolate... well, it's obvious that you weren't lucky enough to have tasted Conn's brownies.

Conn's was the last of the true neighborhood family-owned groceries. The staff at Conn's may not have known my name, but they recognized my face--not a surprise, considering how often I was in there!--and treated me like a welcome guest. Sometimes, they'd even throw an extra doughnut or brownie in the bag when I made  a purchase, just because that's how nice they were. And if a was a penny or two short for my comics purchase, Mrs. Harwell would tell me to bring it in the next time. And I did, because she had shown trust in a kid to do the right thing and I didn't want to let her down.

And my parents loved to go there. Dad would talk sports with people in Conn's almost every time he went there--and sooner or late, the conversation would always turn to West Rome High School. It was a comfortable, inviting store that encouraged people to talk... a place where you felt welcome.

Conn's was just a few hundred yards east of the office of Dr. Cromartie, my family dentist. Showing the sort of bad judgment that only a child could make, I would end any trip to the dentist--whether for a routine cleaning or a filling--with a walk to Conn's, where I would reward myself with a brownie or a doughnut... or both. Even if one side of mouth was numb from Novocaine, I could enjoy the taste on the other side of my mouth!...

Long after Susan and I were married and I had moved away from Rome, we would stop by Conn's when we visited my parents. And when I saw the news that the store had burned down, I felt like a vital part of my youth had been destroyed with it. I loved the store, thanks to the people who put their hearts into making it more than just a place where you bought things.

I know the family of Mrs. Harwell are mourning her loss now, but I hope they can find some solace in the knowledge that she made West Rome a better place for all of us who lived there. Thanks, Mrs. Harwell!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 6/14/1965 to 6/20/1965

 Summertime, and the living was easy... and apparently not very newsworthy! With school out for the summer, there were no high-school sporting events, no meetings, no clubs, no school events—in short, the summer of 1965 was the sort of long, hot, langorous summer that we remember so fondly now. The first half of the week was soggy, with heavy rain every day through Wednesday, but it began to slack off by Thursday and by Friday we were back to typical Georgia heat and humidity... but somehow, it didn't see as bad when I was only 11 years old, even though we only had air conditioning in the family living room, so I had to rely on a box fan to cool off in my bedroom. Of course, most of us grew up planning for hot summers rather than isolating ourselves from them, so we didn't think that much about it.

How many times did the Rome and Floyd County school systems talk about merging into one system? The subject came up yet again this week in 1965, with county leaders and state education officials stressing how much more efficient and cost-effective a single system would be. Rome officials expressed interest if the financial requirements could be worked out (but we all know that they never were resolved, just as they remained unresolved during prior discussions, so the systems continue to this day as two separate systems).

It's baaaack!...  The proposed Floyd Junior College, apparently killed back in 1963, returned from the dead this week in 1965 as the State Board of Regents  said that Rome was one of three areas given high priority in plans for a new junior college. Rome had been a serious contender for a junior college two years earlier, but had been eliminated from contention at the last minute.

An unnamed state official told Rome and Floyd County that their desegregation plans were expected to be approved by the first week of July, and that school systems should begin making registration schedules around those proposed plans. The city's plan called for grades 1, 2, 3, 7, 9, and 12 to be desegregated beginning in the 1965-1966 school year.

The decline of interest in train travel reached Rome as Southern Railway announced a reduction of train service from Rome to Macon. Where there had previously been two trains per day to Macon, the railway was cutting that to one train per day--a train that would continue on to Jacksonville, Florida-- due to insufficient ridership.

Atlanta Gas Light began pushing natural gas air conditioning again this week in 1965, promoting its cost-effectiveness (almost 30% lower to operate than electric air conditioning)--and to sweeten the deal, they were offering low monthly payments over a three-year period with no interest. Not sure what happened to natural gas air conditioning... we hardly ever hear of it today, but every article from the time makes it sound like a superior system.

The savings stamp craze was in full bloom in 1965, and even appliance stores were getting into the game. Floyd Outlaw Furniture and Appliances was offering 8000 Gold Bond stamps to anyone who bought a Maytag washer for the low price of $269.95 (yes, that's over $2000 today, adjusted for inflation!).

Piggly Wiggly had Luzianne instant coffee for 59¢ a jar, Lady Alice ice milk for 19¢ a half-gallon, and eggs for 39¢ a dozen. Big Apple had sirloin steak for 79¢ a pound, Happy Valley ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon, and watermelons for 79¢ each. Kroger had chicken breast for 49¢ a pound, Maxwell House coffee for 69¢ a pound, and lemons for 27¢ a dozen. A&P had round steak for 79¢ a pound, Allgood bacon for 59¢ a pound, and lettuce for 25¢ a head. Couch's had Swift's smoked picnic ham for 29¢ a pound, Coca-Cola or Tab for 99¢ a case plus deposit, and Blue Plate mayonnaise for 49¢ a quart.

The cinematic week began with Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion at the DeSoto, Up from the Beach (with Cliff Robertson & Red Buttons) at the First Avenue, and a double feature of Fanny Hill (with such big name stars as Leticia Roman & Ulli Lommel) and The Millionaires (with Sophia Loren & Peter Sellers) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out brought another lion to the theater in the film Fluffy (starring Tony Randall, Shirley Jones, and Fluffy the Lion), while the DeSoto kept Clarence around for an extra week and the West Rome Drive-In offered a double feature of Dr. No and From Russia With Love, the first two James Bond films.

The Byrds took the top spot this week in 1965 with their cover version of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man." Other top ten hits included "I Can't Help Myself" by the Four Tops (#2); "Wooly Bully" by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs (#3); "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones (#4); "Wonderful World" by Herman's Hermits (#5); "Crying in the Chapel" by Elvis Presley (#6); "For Your Love" by the Yardbirds (#7); "Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte" by Patti Page (#8); "Help Me Rhonda" by the Beach Boys (#9); and "Seventh Son" by Johnny Rivers (#10).

The big album release for the week was Beatles VI, a Capitol Records offering made especially for the US market. While most of the tracks on this album were either leftovers from UK albums or singles, two tracks were moved  from the upcoming Help album to this offering ("You Like Me Too Much" and "Tell ME What You See"), and two more were songs recorded by the Beatles especially for the US market ("Bad Boy" and "Dizzy Miss Lizzy"). This was actually their seventh album for Capitol if you count the double-record set The Beatles Story (although that album was mostly biography and history, with only brief snippets of music).

The Justice League was missing in action in their own comic this week in 1965--but the Justice Society stepped in to take their place in Justice League of America #37's "Earth Without a Justice League." This was the beginning issue of the third JLA storyline featuring the  the Golden Age versions of the Flash, the Atom, Green Lantern, and Hawkman, along with Doctor Fate, Mr. Terrific, and Johnny Thunder. The meeting of the two super teams had become a can't-miss annual event for comic book readers like me who wanted to learn more about these superheroes who fought crime in the years before we were  born.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 6/7/1965 to 6/13/1965

In hopes of rerouting I-75 on a path closer to Rome, the City Commission named June 11th as "Interstate 75 Day" in Rome, hoping to drum up public support for the city's preferred "western route" plan that would bring I-75 to the west of Cartersville, where it would intersect with US411 about  fifteen miles east of Rome. (We know now that in spite of Rome's efforts, the western plan never took hold, and I-75 ended up to the  east of Cartersville with no direct access to Rome).  s

West Rome's Mrs. Lucille Smiderski headed up a Project Head Start personnel training session at Georgia Tech that began this week in 1965. The training session was designed to present teachers with useful techniques to help pre-school children who would be attending Rome's "Head Start" classes over the summer.

The Rome City School system said that the state had allocated $212,000 in school construction funds to the Rome system. When added to the school bond issue that passed in May, this would provide enough funding to complete Rome's $1.2 million building program.

Floyd officials warned high school students that "lovers' lane" parking trysts could be dangerous, warning amorous teens that there had been reports of robberies, rapes, and vandalism associated with isolated parking for romantic  interludes. "Not only do the young people run the risk of tarnishing their reputations, but they also place themselves in a potentially dangerous situation," Floyd County Police chief Von Brock said. "A boy and girl can never tell who or what is lurking behind nearby bushes or trees. Many times lovers' lanes are prime hunting grounds for deviates." (Apparently the 1965 method of deterring bouts of romantic parking was to conjure up plot lines of bad horror/slasher films! And yet I never once read a followup story of a tragic bloodbath at a remote lovers' lane in Rome, nor were their any Rome manhunts for teen-stalking serial killers, as far as I can remember...)

Southern Bell announced the addition of fifty more operators for the Rome area, adding $150,000 to Rome's annual payroll (were operators really paid only $3000 a year in 1965?). The increase in operators was necessitated by Rome's rapid growth, and by the fact that many homes were adding second phone lines for high-school-age children.

Piggly Wiggly had Plymouth ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon, Miracle Whip for 59¢ a quart, and hen turkeys for 39¢ a pound. Big Apple had spare ribs for 33¢ a pound, Bailey's Supreme coffee for 59¢ a pound, and a two-pound bag of frozen french fries for 29¢. Kroger had smoked hams for 39¢ a pound, corn for a nickel an ear, and apples for 13¢ a pound. A&P had ground beef for 39¢ a pound, blueberries for 39¢ a pint, and large watermelons for 99¢ each. Couch's had lamb roast for 33¢ a pound, fresh okra for 19¢ a pound, and Van Camp pork & beans for 7¢ a can.

The cinematic week began with Tickle Me (with Elvis Presley) at the DeSoto Theater; a double feature of The World of Abbott & Costello and The Sword of Ali Baba at the First Avenue (apparently, once school was out for the summer, the powers that be figured that people would go see pretty much anything); and Return to Peyton Place at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out brought Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion to the DeSoto; Mister Moses (with Robert Mitchum & Carroll Baker) to the First Avenue; and a double feature of Go Go Mania (with Matt Monro, The Animals, and a brief appearance by The Beatles) and Parrish (with Troy Donahue) to the West Rome Drive-In.

The Four Tops took number one this week in 1965 with "I Can't Help Myself." Other top ten hits included "Mr. Tambourine Man" by the Byrds (#2); "Wooly Bully" by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs (#3); "Crying in the Chapel" by Elvis Presley (#4); "Back in My Arms Again" by the Supremes (#5); "Wonderful World" by Herman's Hermits (#6); "Help Me Rhonda" by the Beach Boys (#7); "Engine Engine #9" by Roger Miller (#8); "For Your Love" by the Yardbirds (#9); and "Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte" by Patti Page (#10). 

The two big album releases for the week were The Angry Young Them by Them (featuring lead singer Van Morrison) and For Your Love by the Yardbirds (featuring lead guitarists Eric Clapton on most tracks and Jeff Beck on three songs. For most of us, this was our first exposure to Eric Clapton... but it certainly wouldn't be our last!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 5/31/1965 to 6/6/1965

This was the week that the 1964-1965 school year wrapped up. Students had to come to school on Monday and Tuesday, and then they were free for the summer! (For me, June 1st marked the end of my one and only year at West End Elementary. My fifth grade year was spent in classrooms in the West Rome Junior High School building at the south end of West Rome High School, since growth in West Rome meant that West End Elementary was too small from the day it opened. My sixth grade year was spent at West End, but the upcoming seventh grade meant we were going back to West Rome Junior High--this time, not as elementary school "guests," but as junior high students! That's probably why I never really felt attached to West End, but I felt very comfortable at West Rome Junior High.)

West Rome High School commencement exercises took place at the City Auditorium on June 1st. 163 students graduated in a ceremony that began with a commencement speech by Georgia Lt. Governor Peter Zack Geer.

Rome's economy continued to grow, with a 7% increase in bank debits in April (in the pre-computer days of 1965, it took longer to compile data than it does today). Debits are checks and withdrawals from local accounts--and while an increase in debits may sound like a potential problem, it's actually quite the contrary. A growth in spending meant a growth in business activity, and that's a very good thing indeed!

Piggly Wiggly had 24 ounce cans of Swift's beef stew or chili for 39¢ each, ground chuck for 69¢ a pound, and a two-pound bag of Vashling frozen wrench fries for 39¢. Big Apple had ground beef for 37¢ a pound, Irvindale ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon, and Coca Cola or Tab for 29¢ a carton plus deposit. Kroger had sirloin steak for 79¢ a pound, large eggs for 33¢ a dozen, and ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon. A&P had pork loin for 63¢ a pound, corn for a nickel an ear, and a five-pound bag of Ballard's flour for 55¢. Couch's had Southern Maid hot dogs for 39¢ a pound, a 28-ounce jar of Blue Plate peanut butter for 59¢, and cantaloupes for a quarter each.

The cinematic week began with Mary Poppins (with Julie Andrews & Dick Van Dyke) at the DeSoto and a James Bond double feature of Dr. No (the film that inspired the name for my comic book shop!) and From Russia With Love at the First Avenue, while the West Rome Drive-In offered a double feature of Gunslinger (a nine-year-old Roger Corman Western with John Ireland & Beverly Garland) and Pajama Party (with Annette Funicello & Tommy Kirk). Mary Poppins continued for another week, while the First Avenue brought in The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders (with Kim Novak) and the West Rome Drive-In screened The Caddy (an oldie with Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis) and A Swingin' Summer (with James Stacy & Lori Williams).

The number one song this week in 1965 was "Back in My Arms Again" by the Supremes. Other top ten hits included "Wooly Bully" by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs (#2); "Crying in the Chapel" by Elvis Presley (#3); "I Can't Help Myself" by the Four Tops (#4); "Help Me Rhonda" by the Beach Boys (#5); "Mr. Tambourine Man" by the Byrds (#6); "Engine Engine #9" by Roger Miller (#7); "Wonderful World" by Herman's Hermits (#8); "Ticket to Ride" by the Beatles (#9); and "Just a Little" by the Beau Brummels (#10).

This week's TV Guide featured a cover story on Dick York, who played Darrin Stephens on Bewitched for the first few seasons. Co-stars Elizabeth Montgomery and Agnes Moorehead had nothing but praise for York's comedy skills, but York played down his accomplishments. One thing York said about his contributions to the success of the series proved to be amazingly prophetic: "Maybe it’s me. I don’t think so, but the only way to tell if it’s me or not is to kill me off in one show, give the witch another husband and see if I’m missed." A year later, illness forced York to leave the series, and he was replaced by Dick Sargent (who was originally offered the role but passed) for the final three seasons. But for those of us who grew up with Bewitched, Dick York would always be the one true Darrin...

TV Guide also mentioned that NBC's in-the-works science fiction series was being reworked to replace Jeffrey Hunter, who had originally been cast as the captain of the starship. The producers of the series, Star Trek, had hired a new actor named William Shatner to take on the role of the Enterprise's captain; if all went well, NBC hoped to air the series in 1966.

Steve Ditko's two big Marvel Comics creations crossed paths in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2's story teaming up Spidey and Doctor Strange, on sale this week in 1965. Marvel also mixed Graeco-Roman and Norse mythologies in Journey Into Mystery with Thor Annual #1, which featured Thor versus Hercules. What a great way to begin the summer as far as comics fans were concerned!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 5/24/1965 to 5/30/1965

This was the last full school week of the 1964-1965 school year; Chieftains had to come back on Monday and Tuesday of the next week, but a two-day week (even one with final exams) wasn't that much of a school week at all! Seniors' last day of class was Friday, May 28th, with Senior Class Night scheduled for that evening.

The Rome City School system announced an agreement with the Federal Department of Health, Education, and Welfare that would result in the desegregation of grades 1, 2, 3, 7, 9, and 12 in the 1965-1966 school year and the addition of grades 4, 8, 9, and 10 in the 1966-1967 school year, with all grades being desegregated by the beginning of the 1967-1968 school year. The era of "separate but equal" (which was never truly equal at all) was finally coming to an end, even though it's unclear why it was taking three years to fully bring segregation to a close--it seems like it would have been easier to have desegregated all grades at once than to have this complex system of individual grade desegregation...

Coach Paul Kennedy was chosen by the Kiwanis Club as the Track Coach of the Year in Rome and Floyd County. The Rome/Floyd County all-star track team was also announced (based on best posted times and distances), and it included Dickie Sapp in the hundred yard dash (10 seconds); Arbie Lovell in the high hurdles (15.2 seconds); Arbie Lovell in the low hurdles (20.4 seconds); Dickie Sapp in the broad jump (22' 8.25"); and Dickie Sapp, Louis Kauffman, Arbie Lovell, Ray Jones, and Steve Holland in the 440 relay.

The Floyd Hospital Authority announced plans to construct an eight-bed psychiatric ward addition paid for entirely with local funds; the addition would provide semi-private rooms to the psychiatric wing. Constructing the addition without federal funding would speed up the construction by more than a year.

Did you know that there was once a federal excise tax on televisions? Well, that tax ended in May 1965, and the immediate result was lower television prices. Sears has a 21" Silvertone color television for only $329.00 (yeah, that's the equivalent of almost $2500 in today's dollars, but cutting edge technology has always been expensive!...)

Dempsey-Anderson Motor Company advertised the new 1965 1/2 Rambler Marlin Sports Fastback on sale this week in 1965. The Marlin was a sports fastback with a vinyl roof hardtop, a choice of manual or automatic transmissions, a 327 cubic inch V-8, and reclining front seats.

Kentucky Fried Chicken celebrated the beginning of summer with an 89¢ chicken dinner special featuring three pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes & gravy, slaw, and hot biscuits. If that was too much for your budget, 54¢ would get a chicken gizzard dinner with the same sides, while 69¢ would buy a chicken liver dinner (a real treat in my household!). They also urged customers to try their "famous Brunswick stew" (I must confess that I don't recall KFC's Brunswick stew at all, so apparently their ad campaign wasn't successful with my family--or the stew was too expensive for out budget back in the mid-1960s).

Piggly Wiggly had Peter Pan canned tuna (Peter Pan made tuna?) for a quarter a can, Southern brand American cheese for 49¢ a pound, and Plymouth bacon for 59¢ a pound. Big Apple had pork tenderloin for 57¢ a pound, Happy Valley ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon, and sirloin steak for 89¢ a pound. Kroger had 12 ounce cans of Big K soft drinks for 6¢ each, cantaloupes for 33¢ each, and baking hens for 29¢ a pound. A&P had Oscar Mayer bologna for 39¢ a pound, shank portion ham for 35¢ a pound, and vine ripe tomatoes for 19¢ a pound. Couch's had their in-store-ground country sausage for 49¢ a pound, 18 ounce jars of Bama strawberry preserves for 49¢, and squash for a dime a pound.

The cinematic week began with Mary Poppins (with Julie Andrews & Dick Van Dyke) at the DeSoto Theater and Young Cassidy (with Rod Taylor) at the First Avenue. The West Rome Drive-in resumed its seven-nights-a-week schedule this week in 1965 with a double feature of Commancheros (with John Wayne) and John Goldfarb Please Come Home (starring Shirley MacLaine & Peter Ustinov--and written by none other than William Peter Blatty, who went on to become famous for The Exorcist). The midweek switch out brought a double feature of Dr. No and From Russia With Love (the first two James Bond films, both starring Sean Connery, the one true James Bond) to the First Avenue, while the West Rome Drive-In went for the big screen spectacle with Cleopatra (starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton); Mary Poppins hung around for a second week at the DeSoto.

The Beach Boys took the number one spot this week for the second week in a row this week in 1965 with "Help Me Rhonda."  Other top ten hits included "Wooly Bully" by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs (#2); "Back in My Arms Again" by the Supremes (#3); "Crying in the Chapel" by Elvis Presley (#4); "Ticket to Ride" by the Beatles (#5); "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter" by Herman's Hermits (#6); "I Can't Help Myself" by the Four Tops (#7); "Just a Little" by the Beau Brummels (#8); "Engine Engine #9" by Roger Miller (#9); and "It's Not Unusual" by Tom Jones (#10).

The number one album this week wasn't by any of the artists listed above, however: it was the Mary Poppins soundtrack, which had taken the number on position in April and was destined to hold on to that slot until mid-July.

The Enemy Ace, a somber, introspective WWI flying ace inspired by Baron Von Richthofen, earned his first solo comic book this week in 1965. Written by Robert Kanigher and illustrated by Joe Kubert, Showcase #57 featured a full-length tale of Hans Von Hammer, who was first introduced in Our Army at War #151 a few months earlier.

Who knew that Max Baer, best known for his portrayal of Jethro on the Beverly Hillbillies, was such a hostile and unpleasant guy? Well, we all knew after reading his interview in TV Guide this week in 1965; he revealed that he didn't like the show, but "the money's good, the dames are good..." He also dismissed fellow actors on other hit series, such as  Jim Drury and Robert Reed, as "nothing actors" who were nothing more than handsome faces. *sigh*

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 5/17/1965 5o 5/23/1965

Any Chieftains hoping to take the long way around Redmond Circle to West Rome was probably surprised to discover that the road was closed to through traffic for the first two days of the week due to resurfacing of the Redmond Circle-Garden Lakes Boulevard intersection. (While my parents never went this way to take me to school when I was a kid, I remember that Phil Patterson's sister Judy sometimes went "the long way" from Watson Street to West Rome High, and I'm sure she wasn't the only one.)

And speaking of Watson Street, at long last, Rome's new million-gallon water tank near the railroad tracks on Watson Street was completed and painted this week in 1965. Once the paint was allowed to dry and cure, Rome would begin filling the tank in preparation to put it into service beginning in July. The addition of a 1 million gallon tank was designed to alleviate water pressure issues in West Rome; since development began in West Rome in the 1950s, Rome's water usage had grown to six million gallons a day on average, and almost a quarter of that was in the West Rome area.

Stan Dawson was awarded Shorter College's Dean's Scholarship for the 1965 summer session. "Stan was chosen because of his outstanding record and capabilities," West Rome guidance counselor Owen Blanton said. The scholarship covered tuition costs for summer courses at Shorter.

Rome and Floyd County School System officials met with US Commissioner of Education Francis Keppel in Atlanta this week in 1965, hoping to discuss school desegregation rulings and plans for the next school year. The federal government had informed both systems that they were requiring that at least four grades be desegregated by the start of the 1965-1966 school year in order for each system to continue receiving federal funds. The Rome system's counter-proposal involved desegregating the first through third grades, while the federal government insisted that they had to desegregate the first grade, the seventh grade, the ninth grade, and the twelfth grade. The meetings were designed to develop a final agreement in order to avoid a funding cutoff.

At the same time that a federal funds cutoff was being threatened, the Rome City School System announced that they had received a $31,000 federal grant to launch a Project Headstart pre-school program for underprivileged students. "Availability of these funds in Rome will enable these children to get a head start in escaping from poverty by avoiding its basic cause—the lack of an early education," Seventh District Congressman John W. Davis said.

WROM-FM began a soft launch of its stereo broadcasting on 97.7FM on Sunday, May 23rd, prior to launching full-time service on Monday, May 24th. This would be Rome's first full-time FM stereo radio station, which would mean an uphill battle for listeners, since few vehicles and even fewer homes had FM radios at this time.

Piggly Wiggly had chuck roast for 39¢ a pound, Borden's sherbet for 49¢ a half-gallon, and cantaloupes for 29¢ each.  Big Apple had Cudahy's bacon for 55¢ a pound, Peter Pan peanut butter for 35¢ a jar, and bananas for a dime a pound. Kroger had ground beef for 39¢ a pound, fresh eggs for 33¢ a dozen, and Spotlight coffee for 59¢ a pound. A&P had baking hens for 29¢ a pound, strawberries for 29¢ a pint, and Hydrox (better than Oreos!) for 45¢ a package. Couch's had Morton's or Mrs. Smith's frozen pies for 33¢ each, five pounds of Domino Sugar for 39¢, and T-bone steak for 89¢ a pound.

The cinematic week began with Beach Blanket Bingo at the DeSoto Theater and Masquerade at the First Avenue. The midweek switch out brought the acclaimed Walt Disney film Mary Poppins (with Julie Andrews & Dick Van Dyke) to the DeSoto for a two-week run and The Fool Killer (with Anthony Perkins) to the First Avenue. The West Rome Drive-In's weekend double feature included Fun In Acapulco (with Elvis Presley) and Black Spurs (with nobody who matters).

The Beach Boys took the number one position this week in 1965 with "Help Me Rhonda." Other top ten hits included "Ticket to Ride" by the Beatles (#2); "Back in My Arms Again" by the Supremes (#3); "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter" by Herman's Hermits (#4); "Wooly Bully" by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs (#5); "Crying in the Chapel" by Elvis Presley (#6); "Count Me In" by Gary Lewis & the Playboys (#7); "I'll Never Find Another You" by the Seekers (#8); "Just a Little" by the Beau Brummels (#9); and "It's Not Unusual" by Tom Jones (#10).

This week in 1965, CBS announced that they had signed Eddie Albert to appear in a new sitcom slated to debut in the fall of '65; the working title was Country Cousins, but most of us remember it by its final name, Green Acres.

Among this week's noteworthy album releases were Tom Jones' debut album Along Came Jones; Herman's Hermits on Tour by... well, you can figure it out; My Name is Barbra by Barbra Streisand; My Funny Valentine by Miles Davis; Maiden Voyage by Herbie Hancock; and Wooly Bully by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Family by Birth, Family by Choice

I have no brothers by birth. I have one incredible sister, Kimberly, but she and are the only two children in our family.

I am lucky enough, however, to have two brothers by choice: Charles Rutledge and Jim Moore. These are people who have become such close friends over the years that I have come to love both of them as brothers. These are men with whom I've shared both the joys and the hardships that life has dealt me; they have celebrated my best moments, and they have helped me to endure my worst. I love the both of them as much as I could love any brother by birth.

Charles and Jim have been so close by for so long that I pretty much took it for granted that they would always be a part of my daily existence. Sometimes you don't really know how good things were until they change. I didn't fully appreciate their daily presence in my life until I first realized that was about to change.

Jim has often talked of moving to New England, but the fates and the complexities of life conspired to keep him here for so long that I had thought (or hoped) that he was a Georgian for life. However, in recent months a variety of events  intersected at just the right moment, leading Jim to decide this was the time to give New England a try.

As of tomorrow morning, Jim hits the road for Boston, all his belongings in a U-Haul truck; he's joined by his good friend Chris Golden, who flew down here for World Horror Con and is riding back with Jim. Chris is a great guy, and I'm glad that he's working with Jim to make this dream of a New England life become a reality. But at the same time, part of me wishes it wasn't happening.

Jim has been a cherished part of our Wednesday night dinners for so long that it'll be tough to see anyone else sitting in his chair; I'll have the resist the urge to tell them to move over so that Jim will have a place at the table with us. But for a while, at least (and we're hoping it's only for a while), Jim will be with us in spirit only. The lively conversations, the occasional venting, the ruminations, prognostications, and cogitations... they'll have to take place via email or phone. But that chair just to Charles' left will always be Jim's chair; we're just letting other people keep it warm for him.

Thornton Wilder said it pretty well in Our Town:

“EMILY: "Does anyone ever realize life while they live it...every, every minute?"

STAGE MANAGER: "No. Saints and poets maybe...they do some.” 

Not one of us every fully realizes the wondrous joy of all those moments while we live them, alas; it's only when they end (hopefully temporarily... but I more than many know the unpredictability of our lives) that we can fully gauge what they meant to us.

Jim, you meant a lot. Still do. And while you're in Boston, remember—there's a place at the table for you every Wednesday.