Wednesday, July 22, 2020


366 days.

I shared 17,569 days of marriage with Susan. I loved her for 18,664 days before her death.

But sometimes the past 366 days seemed longer than the 17,569 or the 18,664.

I was never alone until Susan's death on July 22, 2019. I moved from my parents' house to my and Susan's house on June 15th, 1971. We spent occasional days apart when she or I attended conventions alone (usually because one of us had to stay with the cats we always spoiled), but the total number of days we spent away from one another during our 48 year marriage was less than a dozen.

"You weren't meant to be alone," Susan said to me once when she was contemplating a doctor's prediction that she had less than a year to live due to a chronic, debilitating illness (she proved him wrong by living for seven years beyond that—and even then, it was not that illness that took her from me).

I was certain she was wrong. I tried to prove her wrong. I failed, because she knew me better than I knew myself.

My therapist asked me, "Could you live the rest of your life without love?" I told her no. Thankfully, I never had to—I had the love of friends who saw me through my bleakest moments,  who shared my pain and sorrow.

Those friends led me to rediscover something I had said many years ago and have repeated often since then: every day, no matter how heartbreaking or painful, contains a nugget of joy in it. On the day that Susan died, Brett and Allison and Charles took me to El Rodeo for lunch because I hadn't eaten in over thirty hours. They reminisced with me of happier times when Susan was healthy, and those memories made me smile. Even on that day, friends helped me discover a nugget of joy.

I have experienced and endured all those somber firsts without her—the first birthday, first Halloween, the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, the first New Year's, the first Valentine's Day, the first anniversary,

With the help of others, I have learned that I can be alone. I have learned that I can like myself. And I have learned that I can love and can be loved. And I have learned that life can surprise me. I learned all of that in the past year.

366 days. But that's not the most important number.

19,030 days—that's how long I have loved Susan, as of today. And that number increases by one every time another midnight arrives. That's the most important number.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 7/6/1970 to 7/12/1970

New Rome City Schools superintendent Jesse C. Laseter ordered county news to conduct a thorough cleaning and repainting of Rome City Schools in preparation for the upcoming school year. Laseter had already gone on record regarding his hopes to renovate and improve school facilities, but until there were enough funds to make that possible, he at least wanted to make the schools look better. This would be the first time West Rome High classrooms were fully repainted since the school's founding in 1958. The school board also approved more than $20,000 for West Rome's 1970-71 athletic budget, which included $4800 for new uniforms for several sports teams.

With construction of Floyd Junior College running a bit behind schedule, there was a chance that some classrooms wouldn't be ready for the fall opening, To ensure that no classes would be postponed, the Georgia Board of Regents contracted with First United Methodist to hold classes in a portion of the church's educational building on East Third Avenue. The plan would allow classes to meet there until the facilities were completed, at which time they would move to the Floyd Junior College campus.

If you lived in West Rome in 1970, you undoubtedly loved Kay's Kastles, the ice cream shop in Gala Shopping Center. There was good news for all Kay's Kastles fans this week in 1970: to make it easier to cool off on a hot summer day, Kay's Kastles lowered the price on their sherbet pints to 21¢ each, while pints of ice cream were 29¢ each.

Piggly Wiggly had chuck roast for 43¢ a pound, cabbage for 12¢ a pound, and Royal Cup coffee for 49¢ a pound. Kroger had sirloin steak for $1.29 a pound, Morton frozen dinners for 33¢ each, and Country Club ice cream for 44¢ a half-gallon. Big Apple had fresh whole fryers for 29¢ a pound, Lenox Park peanut butter for 49¢ a jar, and Save-On canned biscuits for 8¢ a can (that's right—8¢ for a can of ten biscuits!). A&P had swiss steak for 75¢ a pound, okra for 29¢ a pound, and a 3.5 pound box of Cheer detergent for 87¢.  Couch's had pork chops for 59¢ a pound, tomatoes for 15¢ a pound, and Van Camp's chili with beans for 35¢ a can.

The cinematic week began with A Boy Named Charlie Brown at the DeSoto Theatre, The Boys in the Band (starring Cliff Gorman) at the First Avenue, M*A*S*H (starring Elliott Gould & Donald Sutherland) at the Village, and True Grit (starring John Wayne) at the West Rome Drive-In. The cinematic week brought the X-rated Female Animal (starring Arlene Tiger... and yeah, I'm sure that's her real name) to the First Avenue and the X-rated Gutter Girls (starring a bunch of... well, gutter girls) to the West Rome Drive-In, while A Boy Named Charlie Brown and M*A*S*H hung around for another week.

This week in 1970, Three Dog Night held on to the number one slot for another week with "Mama Told Me (Not to Come)." Other top ten hits included "The Love You Save/I Found That Girl" by the Jackson 5 (#2); "(They Long to Be) Close to You" by the Carpenters (#3);  "Band of Gold" by Freda Payne (#4); "Ball of Confusion (That's What The World Is Today)" by the Temptations (#5); "Ride Captain Ride" by Blues Image (#6); "Lay Down (Candles In the Rain)" by Melanie with the Edwin Hawkins Singers (#7); O-o-h Child/Dear Prudence" by the 5 Stairsteps (#8); "Gimme Dat Ding" by the Pipkins (#9); and "Make It With You" by Bread (#10).

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 6/29/1970 to 7/5/1970

Jesse C. Laseter officially assumed his new role as superintendent of Rome City Schools this week in 1970. His number one priority was improving the school facilities. "We probably have the most outdated buildings in the state," Laseter said. "You can't have a quality program without adequate space for libraries and the like." Roy Goolsby joined the system as assistant school superintendent, while George Kemp signed on as director of maintenance.

Traffic on Shorter Avenue was moving slower than usual thanks to Southern Bell's efforts to expand the telephone cable network in West Rome and West Floyd County. Plans called for the work to be completed in less than a week, but Southern Bell warned West Romans that one lane of Shorter Avenue would be closed in each direction every afternoon until the work was finished.

The Big K Sunday Opening War continued. The store manager, Montie Rasure, was convicted of violating Georgia's Sunday closing laws, but Big K responded by opening once again on Sunday. When Sheriff Joe Adams paid them a visit, they chose to close at 2pm rather than face another arrest. Sheriff Adams said that his visit was prompted by a request from Floyd County District Attorney Larry Salmon, who in turn said that he made the call after Broad Street merchants called him to complain. In the meantime, Big K filed an appeal of the conviction, hoping to have the case heard by the Georgia Supreme Court.

Floyd Hospital employees were given a 6% raise effective June 29th; to pay for the raise, the hospital announced plans to raise the cost of hotel rooms by $4 a day, pushing the lowest-cost hospital room to $35 a day and the best private rooms to $46 a day.

Oh, how lucky we were back in 1970: Citizens Federal was offering 6% interest on certificates of deposit with a $5000,00 minimum. Home Federal matched those rates--but they also offered 5.75% interest on a CD of only $1000!. Sure, $5000 equals about $32,000 today and $1000 equals about $6400--but 6% is also about 6 times what most CDs are paying today!

Piggly Wiggly had ground beef for 49¢ a pound, Duke's mayonnaise for 49¢ a quart, and whole watermelons for 69¢ each. Kroger had round steak for 98¢ a pound, Morton pot pies for 19¢ each, and plums for 33¢ a pound. A&P had shank portion hams for 39¢ a pound, milk for 89¢ a gallon, and nectarines for 49¢ a pound. Big Apple had turkeys for 48¢ a pound, Stokely catsup for 19¢ a bottle, and corn for 7¢ an ear.  Couch's had pork roast for 59¢ a pound, Bounty paper towels for 29¢ a roll, and bananas for a dime a pound.

The cinematic week began with The Hawaiians (starring Charlton Heston) at the DeSoto Theatre,  The Libertine (starring Catherine Spaak) at the First Avenue, 1932: The Moonshine War  (starring Patrick McGoohan) at the Village, and the "terror-rama" of Guess What Happened to Count Dracula, Curse of the Stone Hand, The Crawling Eye, and Terror of the Blood Hunters at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out brought A Boy Name Charlie Brown to the DeSoto Theatre, The Boys in the Band (starring Cliff Gorman) to the First Avenue, M*A*S*H (starring Donald Sutherland & Elliott Gould) to the Village, and True Grit (starring John Wayne, Glen Campbell, & Kim Darby) to the West Rome Drive-In.

The number one song this week in 1970 was "Mama Told Me (Not to Come)" by Three Dog Night. Other top ten songs included "The Love You Save/Found That Girl" by the Jackson 5 (#2); "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today): by the Temptations (#3); "Ride Captain Ride" by Blues Image (#4); "Band of Gold" by Freda Payne (#5); "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" by Melanie with the Edwin Hawkins Singers (#6); "They Long to be Close to You" by the Carpenters (#7); "The Long and Winding Road" by the Beatles (#8); "The Wonder of You/Mama Liked the Roses" by Elvis Presley (#9); and "Hitchin' a Ride" by Vanity Fare (#10).

The first episode of Casey Kasem's "American Top Forty" aired on radio stations across the country this week in 1970.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Neither Friend Nor Enemy

Death is not my enemy.

Death has shown me kindness. Didn't keep me, back in April 2000. Things to be done, so death sent me back after seven minutes. Not yet, death murmured.

Death didn't take my mother right away. Nor my father. Nor my beloved Susan. Nor Anna, or Tisha, or Mischa. I give you one more good day. One more good night. One chance to say goodbye.

An evening of family photos and shared stories. A hearty meal and plans for a home recuperation. A loving smile, a gaze that saw all the way into my heart, and whispered words of love. An hour of affection that transcended weariness. A contented nap beside me. A weary head resting on my arm.

Take these moments. My time comes soon. I can wait a little longer.  I have eternity.

Sometimes it takes a while to see what death gives. Too busy raging against what death takes.

Discomfort. Fear. Confusion. Anguish. Pain. Death takes those, too.

Not entirely, though. Death leaves a bit of those feelings in us so that we can comprehend what those we love endured before they were taken.

What you feel now? They felt it, too, only so much more. I ended their discomfort. Their fear. Their confusion. Their anguish. Their pain.

That's not the action of my enemy. I can see that now.

Someday death will be my final friend. Not yet, I murmur.

Take these moments. My time comes soon. I can wait a little longer. I have eternity.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 6/22/1970 to 6/28/1970

Rome City Schools and Floyd County Schools announced the fall opening of the Coosa Valley Vocational High School, which would be open to tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade city and county students. The Vocational High School would be located on the Coosa Valley Tech campus. The school would begin in August with classes in electrical repair, construction, metal working, drafting, transportation, and cosmetology. Students would be enrolled at their regular city or county high schools, but would be transported to the Coosa Valley Tech campus for two hours of instruction each day. West Rome students would attend classes from 10:30 to 12:30 each day.

Armed robbers decided that the Dari-King was a major retail center, so they targeted it for robbery on Wednesday night, June 24th. The robbers took almost $300 from the Dari-King's register and from the wallets of four employees inside the restaurant, then forced one of them to drive the pair of thieves to their getaway car on Selman Road, not too far from the Dari-King.

Columbia Records country music star Stonewall Jackson came to Gibson's Discount Center in Rome on Wednesday, June 24th, signing records and offering an impromptu acoustic performance. Gibson's said that this would be the first of several signings planned for their new record department.

Piggly Wiggly had chuck roast for 89¢ a pound, cantaloupes for 33¢ each, and milk for 89¢ a gallon. Kroger had fresh whole fryers for 28¢ a pound, whole watermelons for 89¢ each, and Morton frozen cream pies for 23¢ each. Big apple had sirloin tip roast for 99¢ a pound, Coca-Cola/Tab/Sprite/Fresca for 33¢ a carton plus deposit, and bananas for a dime a pound. A&P had taken hens for 29¢ a pound, Farmbest ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon, and yellow or white corn for a dime an ear. Couch's had pork steak for 69¢ a pound, Nabisco saltines for 43¢ a box, and fresh locally-grown tomatoes for 19¢ a pound.

The cinematic week began with Paint Your Wagon (starring Lee Marvin) at the DeSoto Theatre, Women In Love (starring Jennie Linden & Alan Bates) at the First Avenue, Beneath the Planet of the Apes (starring Charlton Heston) at the Village, and 100 Rifles (starring Rquel Welch & Jim Brown) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out brought The Hawaiians (starring Charlton Heston) to the DeSoto, the X-rated film The Libertine (starring Catherine Spaak) at the First Avenue, 1932: The Moonshine War (starring Patrick McGoohan) at the Village, and a low-budget horror film fest of Guess What Happened to Count Dracula, Curse of the Stone Hand, The Crawling Eye, and Terror of the Blood Hunters at the West Rome Drive-In.

The Jackson 5 took the number one slot this week with "The Love You Save/I Found That Girl." Other top ten hits included "Mama Told Me (Not to Come)" by Three Dog Night (#2); "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)" by the Temptations (#3); "The Long & Winding Road" by the Beatles (#4); "Hitchin' a Ride" by Vanity Fare (#5); "Ride Captain Ride" by Blues Image (#6); "Band of Gold" by Freda Payne (#7); "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" by Melanie with the Edwin Hawkins Singers (#8); "The Wonder of You/Mama Liked the Roses" by Elvis Presley (#9); and "Get Ready" by Rare Earth (#10).

This was a busy week for album releases in 1970. New titles available this week included Marrying Maiden by It's a Beautiful Day; Changes by the Monkees; Ecology by Rare Earth; On Stage by Elvis Presley; Runt by Todd Tundgren; and Vehicle by the Ides of March.

Friday, June 12, 2020

A Life in Four Colors Part Fifty-Nine

September 1975 to March 1977 was perhaps the most idyllic, perfect time of our marriage--and of our lives.

Susan had never really believed that she would get to go back to school. We had talked about it so many times during our engagement and our early married years, but Susan always assumed that something would come along to prevent it from actually happening. She was the first person in her family to graduate from high school and was convinced that she would never actually be able to go beyond that.

But she did. And she thrived at Coosa Valley Tech.

Susan took data processing at a time when punch cards were still common. She loved the classes, she loved the technical aspect of data processing and programming, and she loved the cutting-edge aspect of her chosen field. She felt like she was moving so far beyond the poverty that had defined her childhood that nothing could ever pull her back to those impoverished roots. That was a fear of hers in the early days--that we would somehow suffer setbacks that would take us back to the lifestyle she had so struggled to escape.

Susan had worked since before she graduated from high school. That was the family norm--get a job when you turned sixteen, quit school soon after, then keep doing whatever jobs you could find for the rest of your life. She refused to quit school, which already made her an exception in her family. And in the fall of 1975, she was able to quit work and focus on school full time.

When we came home after her first day of class, she wept. I feared that something had gone wrong at school, and started to comfort her. "No--these are happy tears," she said. "It's like a dream, but I don't want it to end."

And it didn't... add least , not for a year and eight months. She completed her course work at CVT--almost. She actually didn't finish he last six weeks of her final quarter there because she was hired at Management Science America in Atlanta in March of 1977. The school had helped her find the job, and they gave her credit for that final course figuring that she was getting on-the-job training that was far more valuable than anything she could ever get in the classroom.

While Susan was in school, I was beginning my teaching career at East Rome High School. I loved the school, my fellow English teachers (Sandra Jackson, Monte Sue Howell, Willie Mae Samuel, and Lynne Mitchell, all of who had been at East Rome for years when I joined the faculty), and I loved my students. I felt that I belonged in the classroom. I had a job that inspired me, and I was good at it.

We had more money than ever before in our marriage. While Susan wasn't working, she qualified for a form of unemployment that paid her a modest sum to attend technical school. And teaching, while it didn't pay a fortune, provided us with more money than we had previously earned when both of us were working at hourly jobs. So we were able to pay our bills, put money into savings, make double payments on Susan's VW, and still have extra money for fun spending. We were even able to afford to buy a new car for me to replace my 1964 Volkwagen with 247,000 miles on it--my first new car ever, a 1976 yellow Honda Civic.

Most importantly, though, we had the gift of time together. The school day ended for me at 4pm. Susan's school day ended at 4 as well. So we would often take one car to Rome, and I would drop her off at CVT on the way to East Rome, then pick her up shortly after four (it was only a five to ten minute drive from East Rome to CVT). For the first four years of our marriage, our lives had us going in different directions, not seeing one another until 5:45 to 6pm every weekday. But now we were able to commute together, then to see each other eight hours later.

Since we were in Rome, we would often spend the afternoon at Riverbend Mall, which was directly across Turner McCall Boulevard from East Rome High School. My classroom, which was in a more recently-constructed wing of the school, had a door that opened directly to the parking lot; I could see Riverbend Mall when I opened that door. Rather than going home to prepare dinner, we'd often eat at Morrison's in the mall, then walk around and window-shop at Miller's or Belk's and dream of a future wen we could buy anything we saw in those windows. We felt like we weren't that far away from that point, either--not because we were that wealthy, but because we didn't have particularly exorbitant tastes. Years living within a budget had trained us well.

After four years of not seeing each other for eleven to twelve hours a day due to differing work schedules and commutes, we were together for two hours in the morning and seven waking hours in the afternoon and evening, five days a week. Susan had homework and I had papers to grade, but we could be together, and we could take breaks together and listen to music together and talk to each other.

Susan flourished once the stress of her job in the payroll department of the Arrow Shirt Factory was lifted from her. She was almost exuberant about being a student again, and she and our dear friend Gary Steele (who was also at CVT, although in a different technical program) would talk to one another about classes and teachers and school events almost as if they were in high school again. I can't remember any other time when she was so continually happy, so joyful, so carefree.

We found time to do more work on our fanzine, Future Retrospective. We increased the frequency of  our trips to Cumberland Mall in Marietta (a much larger mall than Riverbend) from once a month to every other week, regularly visiting our friend Larry Mason at his apartment near the Buford Highway-Clairmont Road intersection (in 1975, this was a thriving area for young professionals). We would make the rounds of used bookstores and record stores, bringing home a fresh haul every time. We made regular forays to the twin musical meccas of Peaches and Oz, two supermarket-sized record stores that were metro Atlanta icons. We even began looking at houses--not ready to buy quite yet, but ready to find the kind of house we liked so that we would know what to look for when we were ready to buy.

It couldn't last forever. In early 1977, with graduation just a few months away, Susan began looking for a job. She had hoped to find something in Rome or Cedartown, but she found her opportunity in Atlanta with the aforementioned Management Science America, whose office was directly across the street from another mall—Lenox Square in Atlanta. A commute was out of the question, so in early March of 1977, we spent a weekend checking out apartments in Marietta (a half-hour commute for Susan and a fifty minute commute for me to East Rome, where i continued to each).

In retrospect, I wish that wonderful time had never come to an end--and I sometimes wonder how different our lives might have been had she never taken a job in metro Atlanta, allowing us to remain in Rome and Cedartown instead.  But 1977 wasn't a year for what-ifs. It was a year for opportunities and new experiences and a new career--and for the first time in our six-plus years of marriage, both of us were working full-time not just in hourly jobs, but in careers. The idyllic years gave way to two exciting years that marked the next chapter of our lives.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 6/1/1970 to 6/7/1970

(The next few weeks of Fifty Years Ago... will be skimpier than I'd like, because many daily issues of the Rome News-Tribune are missing from the archives. This week, for instance, the paper only had four of the six days available (there was no Saturday paper back then). Sunday papers seem to be missing for most of the summer, and some weeks have as few as two days of newspapers on file.)

The opening of Floyd Junior College brought an end to the Rome Center for Continuing Education, which launched in 1948 as an extension of the University System of Georgia. The center, which had an enrollment of 441 in its final year of operation, offered courses in western world literature, English composition, algebra, western civilization, contemporary social problems, American History, American government, speech, psychology, sociology, and trigonometry. The center planned to merge its course offerings with the new junior college when it began offering courses in the fall of 1970. (Until I found this article, I had no idea that there was a Rome Center for Continuing Education offering courses that could transfer to any Georgia University System school!)

Rome city pools (the main city pool and the Hardy Street pool) opened at 1pm on Friday, June 5th. Admission was 25¢ for children 12 and under, 35¢ for teenagers, and 50¢ for adults.

The Braves held Rome Night on June 2nd, with Rome's Ralph Primm throwing out the first ball and Judge HE Nichols singing the national anthem. Rome civic leaders organized busses to transport Romans to Atlanta Stadium for the game against the New York Mets.Romans got to watch the Braves win that game 4-1, thanks to Phil Niekro, who threw a four-hitter for the night. The Mets blamed the evening rain for their loss, complaining that the game should have been called due to bad weather that left puddles on the field, but Romans who attended the game dismissed those complaints as sour grapes.

A&P had beef roast for 69¢ a pound, Bush's pork & beans for a dime a can, and large eggs for 39¢ a dozen. Piggly Wiggly had Wilson's ham for 39¢ a pound, canntaloupes for 33¢ each, and 100 Tetley tea bags for 99¢. Kroger had fresh whole fryers for 27¢ a pound, carrots for a dime a bag, and Downy Flake frozen waffles for a quarter a box. Big Apple had ground beef for 55¢ a pound, Irvindale ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon, and whole watermelons for 99¢ each. Coiuch's had sirloin steak for $1.09 a pound, corn for 8¢ an ear, and Coca-Cola/Tab/Sprite for 33¢ a carton plus deposit.

The cinematic week began with Let It Be (the Michael Lindsay-Hogg documentary about the making of the Beatles' final album release) at the DeSoto Theatre, Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice?  (starring Geraldine Page) at the First Avenue, Norwood (starring Glen Campbell & Kim Darby) at the Village, and The Reivers (starring Steve McQueen) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out brought Walt Disney's King of the Grizzlies to the DeSoto, the X-rated Cindy & Donna to the First Avenue, and Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid (starring Paul Newman & Robert Redford) to the West Rome Drive-In, while Norwood hung around at the Village for another week.

The Beatles held the number one slot this week with "The Long & Winding Road." Other top ten hits included "Which Way You Going Billy?" by the Poppy Family (#2); "Everything Is Beautiful" by Ray Stevens (#3); "Get Ready" by Rare Earth (#4); "Love on a Two-Way Street" by the Moments (#5); "Cecilia" by Simon & Garfunkel (#6); "The Letter" by Joe Cocker (#7); "Up Around the Bend/Run Through the Jungle" by Creedence Clearwater Revival (#8); "Make Me Smile" by Chicago (#9); and "The Love You Save" by the Jackson 5 (#10).

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 5/18/1970 to 5/24/1970

What had once been a regional dream became a reality this week in 1970 as Floyd Junior College began processing registration for the fall quarter. After more than a half a decade of back and forth discussions about building a junior college to serve Northwest Georgia, construction was nearing completion, faculty had been contracted, and the school began accepting applications from any students who had (or would have) a high school diploma and had taken (or would take prior to July 31st) the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

Of course, any major construction project has unanticipated side effects, and the junior college construction was no exception. Due to the new demands on the water system, the city approved a $900,000 water and sewer expansion from Rome to the Silver Creek and junior college area. The new expansion plan came just a week after Rome finally completed the expansion into the West Rome/Alabama Road area, boosting pressure for homes that complained that very little water was reaching their "end of the line" homes.

West Rome's John Sapp represented the school at the Georgia Class AA meet on Friday and Saturday at Tara Stadium in Clayton County, where he would compete in the hurdles. Sapp held the Rome area 1970 track season record with 14.9 seconds in the high hurdles and 20.2 in the low hurdles.  Xavier Smith competed in the high jump and Chuck Kinnebrew competed in the discus--and while neither held a 1970 track season record, both were in the top three for the region. (Did Sapp, Smith, or Kinnebrew win at the region meet? Alas, I do not know, because the Rome News-Tribune is missing the paper that would have that news. If any of you reading this know how the three did, please share the info!)

City manager Bruce Hamler and Rome Recreation Department director Grady McCalmon said that they were investigating a new round of vandalism problems at Rome city parks. In the prior month, vandals had ripped out toilets and sinks, kicked in the doors to the restrooms, and shattered soft drink bottles on the tennis courts. Residents reported seeing teenagers in the area where the vandalism occurred, but no suspects had been identified. In response, the city said that they were going to pay for extra security in the city's 116 acres of parks, and intended to prosecute any vandals.

The Rome Boys Club Choir held their 13th annual concert on Thursday, May 21st, and Friday, May 22nd, at the City Auditorium. The concert was a mix of sacred music and popular songs, followed by a selection of "old time favorites." In addition to the whole choir, a barber shot quartet of boys also performed.

Apparently I had no idea how expensive Kentucky Fried Chicken was in 1970: the restaurant was offering a special nine-piece "thrift box" of Chicken for $1.89, with two pints of sides for 55¢ (buy one, get one free, since 55¢ was the regular price for one side). With an inflation multiplier of $6.61, that's the equivalent of paying $12.49 for the chicken and $3.65 for the two sides. And I remember how small and oddly cut KFC chicken was back then. Compare that to what you'd pay at Publix for eight very large pieces of chicken and two sides today and you can see that KFC's sale wasn't much of a sale at all!

Piggly Wiggly had ground beef for 49¢ a pound, Van Camp's chili for 29¢ a can, and strawberries for 49¢ a pint¢. Kroger had chuck roast for 59¢ a pound, sweet potatoes for 12¢ a pound, and Sealtest ice cream for 55¢ a half-gallon. Big Apple had rib roast for 89¢ a pound, apples for 16¢ a pound, and a five-pound bag of frozen french fries for 69¢. A&P had T-bone steak for $1.09 a pound, Hormel Vienna sausages for a dime a can, and carrots for a dime a bag. Couch's had chicken breast for 53¢ a pound, Nabisco vanilla wafers for 39¢ a box, and Van Camp's pork & beans for 15¢ a can.

The cinematic week began with The Magic Christian (starring Peter Sellers & Ringo Starr, with music by Badfinger and others) to the DeSoto Theatre, Vixen (an X-rated Russ Meyer film starring Erica Gavin) to the First Avenue, The Molly Maguires (starring Richard Harris & Sean Connery) to the Village, and Invasion of the Animal People (with John Carradine) West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out brought Funny Girl (starring Barbra Streisand) to the DeSoto Theatre, A Man Called Horse (starring Richard Harris) at the Village, and Shame (an X-rated film starring no one you've ever heard of) to the West Rome Drive-In, while the X-rated Russ Meyer film Vixen hung around for another week at th eFirst Avenue.. And am I the only one who thinks that a drive-in isn't the best place to show an X-rated film, since anyone driving by on Shorter Avenue would have a very clear view of the on-screen action? (And it ain't like you've got to hear an X-rated film to get the gist of things...)

Ray Stevens took the number one slot this week in 1970 with his optimistic "Everything Is Beautiful." Other top ten its included "American Woman" by the Guess Who (#2); "Love On a Two-Way Street" by the Moments (#3); "Cecilia" by Simon & Garfunkel (#4); "Up Around the Bend/Run Through the Jungle" by Creedence Clearwater Revival (#5); "Which Way You Goin' Billy?" by the Poppy Family (#6); "The Letter" by Joe Cocker (#7); "Turn Back the Hands of Time"by Tyrone Davis (#8); "Vehicle" by the Ides of March (#9); and "Let It Be" by the Beatles (#10).

The sometimes grim and generally grainy film Let It Be, chronicling the Beatles' recording sessions for their final album release (although it wasn't the final album they recordedAbbey Road was). The rather joyless documentary makes it appear that the Beatles had no fun at all in these sessions—but filmmaker Peter Jackson is assembling an all-new documentary from the same footage that will show a much more amiable, enthusiastic Fab Four as they assemble this "back to the basics" album. Jackson's film is scheduled for fall 2020 release.

Monday, May 11, 2020

A Life in Four Colors Part Fifty-Eight

My quarter as a student teacher was financially challenging. It was also one of the most memorable periods of our lives.

Just as I was preparing to quit my job and start my student teaching under the guidance of Mrs. Fincher at West Rome High School (yes, I ended up student teaching at the same school from which I had graduated less than four years earlier), Susan and I decided that this would be the perfect time to launch our own fanzine.

Future Retrospective. A review fanzine focusing primarily on SF & fantasy, but also touching on comics, fanzines, television, music, and more.

Susan and I had done apazines for years (small-circulation fanzines for amateur press alliances, which are shared with the other members of the apa in exchange for copies of their apazines), and we had written for other fanzines as well as for prolines like Jim Steranko's Mediascene. But FR was our first fanzine for mass (if 200 readers qualifies as "mass") distribution.

When you launch a new fanzine, you're throwing your work (and your money) into the void, hoping you get enough support, response, and (ideally) subscriptions to keep things going. So even with our tight budget, we launched Future Retrospective, printing it and mailing at out at our cost.

Apparently a lot of the people to who we sent the first issue liked it. Within a month, we had sufficient subscription support to cover the cost of the first issue and next few--and even better, we had overwhelmingly positive support from kind members of the professional writing community. Piers Anthony, Michael Bishop, Thomas Burnett Swann, Joe Green, Andre Norton--they all sent in letters in response to the first issue. And having material from them in the second issue (where we published those letters of comment) generated even more subscription and letter support.

We followed the same model that a fan named Dick Geis had used in his fanzine The Alien Critic, mixing reviews and letters of comment rather than having a selection of letters at the end of the fanzine. It sometimes resulted in odd juxtapositions--a letter of comment from Piers Anthony appearing just before a review of a new Piers Anthony novel--but I think the format was a part of FR's success. People enjoyed seeing commentary from acclaimed professional writers alongside reviews, and the mixture made readers more likely to read everything in the issue.

We got interesting commentary from Thomas Burnett Swann, an erudite, scholarly, and refined writer of mythologically-influenced fantasy who revealed that he was also a longtime Edgar Rice Burroughs fan, and that if he had his way Jeff Jones would do the covers for every one of his books.  We got a letter from Andre Norton revealing that, while she never planned to write another Time Agents novel, she actually had plans for the cast that could have filled multiple volumes. Or both Piers Anthony and Thomas Burnett Swann agreeing with Susan that most female protagonists in science fiction were unrealistic portrayals of women. Or Piers revealing that, while he had written a disaster novel called Rings of Ice that was set in part in North Georgia (and he even ran parts of that novel past Susan and me to make sure he got the setting right), he actually didn't even like disaster novels. We would even cross paths with veteran Weird Tales greats like Frank Belknap Long, Mary Elizabeth Counselman, and E. Hoffman Price, which was a dream come true for an Arkham collector like me.

This was early 1975. There was no internet, no social media. Fanzines were the only way most fans ever interacted with the authors whose work they enjoyed. So these letters, filled with insights and revelations into the authors attitudes and ideas and motivations, were the sort of thing that fanzine readers loved. As did Susan and I.

Future Retrospective would run 17 issues, wrapping up in 1979. Susan and I loved doing it, but our lives kept expanding to fill every available moment, and eventually our time as SF reviewers came to an end. But for the four and a half years that we did the fanzine, we sold lots of copies (the print run on the final issue was 650 copies), and we even won a Rebel Award for outstanding fan achievement in Southern SF fandom--and Future Retrospective was cited in the award presentation.

What I loved most, though, were the lifelong friendships that came out of it. We were invited to visit some of these authors at their homes. We became close friends with fan artists and writers who eagerly contributed to our fanzine.

And one of those friendships, which lasted for many years, was with Piers Anthony Jacob, who wrote under the name Piers Anthony. Our correspondence led to Piers inviting us to visit him at his home in Tampa--and it culminated in an offer so generous that I still find it hard to believe.

Piers, Susan and I often discussed the contents of SF magazines, and how many of SF's biggest names no longer contributed to the magazines the way they did in the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s. Piers mentioned how much he loved SF magazines when he was a fan and a beginning writer, adding that he had thousands of magazines going back to the 1940s.

Then he asked if we wanted them.

Of course we wanted them! This was an incredible library of magazines including Astounding/Analog, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Galaxy, If, Amazing, Fantastic, and many more--and Piers was willing to give them to us!

There were two requirements. First, we would have to drive down to his house to pick them up. Secondly, we had to promise that we would never sell them--if we lost interest in SF magazines, we would have to find an eager recipient to whom we would pass them on.

Our two cars were Volkswagens, neither of which could hold even  a fraction of the magazines he was offering. My parents, however, had a Ford LTD that was one of those land yachts that had plenty of space. They were willing to let us borrow their car for the trip.

Arranging the time off turned out to be far less tricky than I thought it would be. Piers wanted them to go away fairly quickly, so he asked if we could pick them up in March or April of 1975. Thankfully, I had two days off from student teaching in early April, so we headed off to Florida.

Piers and Cam (his wife) were incredibly kind hosts, spending an afternoon swapping stories and filing us in about the early days of his writing career. His daughters Penny and Cheryl were kind enough to pick blackberries for all of to snack on while we were chatting. After a while, Piers said, "These are the largest blackberries I've ever seen. Where did you find them?" To which his daughters replied, "They grow really big over at the cemetery!" We looked at each other for a moment, then looked warily at the blackberries--but we figured we had eaten most of them by that point, so with a "why not?" grin, Piers ate the next to the last blackberry and offered the final one to me.

As for the magazines--the collection was even larger than I anticipated. And best of all, many of the magazines had carbon copy pages in them. I asked Piers what they were, and he explained that he and a group of writers who began at about the same time--a group that included Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, and others--would sometimes send one another carbons of the original manuscripts of their stories so that each of them could see how the editors had changed the stories for publication. So not only did I have an incredible collection of SF magazines, but I also had copies of unaltered manuscripts of numerous short stories!

We packed box after box into the LTD, filling the trunk, the back seats, the back floorboard, and even the floor and front bench seat between Susan and me, leaving barely enough room for us to sit for the trip back. I don't think that LTD got much better than 10 miles per gallon on the drive back, since it was filled with about a half a ton of SF magazines.

We got years of reading enjoyment out of those magazines. By the early 2000s, when my interest in science fiction had waned, we decided it was time for the collection to find a new home with someone else who would enjoy it as much as we had. Between 2005 and 2008, we found fans eager to enjoy those magazines, and fulfilled our promise to Piers. And we never took a dime for them, just as he wouldn't take a dime from us when he gave them to us in April 1975.

And none of this would have happened had we not taken a chance with our very own review fanzine called Future Retrospective.

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 5/11/1970 to 5/17/1970

West Rome's pizza war between Pizza Inn (just past the high school on Shorter Avenue) and Village Inn (near the intersection of Shorter Avenue and Burnett Ferry Road) continued to heat up. Pizza Inn cut the price for their one-time medium pizza to 97¢, while Village Inn began offering cartoons, features, and movies from 5pm to 8pm, so that the family could be entertained while eating pizza. Village Inn was also touting their $1.79 pizza and salad buffet.

This week in 1970, Rome installed new, more powerful pumps to boost water pressure and ensure adequate water supply for residents of West Rome and those living off Alabama Road. The problem had become so severe in Fair Oaks Estates and Beech Creek that Rome and Floyd County had been forced to curtail new construction until the water supply issue was resolved.

Roy Goolsby joined Rome City Schools as assistant superintendent this week in 1970, coming here from Whitfield County. The board also tapped Sam Burrell, formerly principal at Main Elementary, to become assistant principal at West Rome Junior High School. The board also approved Nidk Hyder's request to increase the price of football tickets to $1.75 advance and $2 at the gate for adults.

Hank Williams Jr. came to the Rome City Auditorium on Thursday, May 14th, as one of seven musical acts performing in the Country Shindig. Other artists included the Cheating Hearts, Diana Trask, the Drifting Cowboys (Hank Williams Sr's original recording band), Merle Kilgore, and a comedian who performed under the name the Duke of Paducah. The concert sold out at $3 and $4 per ticket.

Pretty much every store in Rome had markdowns for Rome Days, an annual sales festival that began on May 13th and continued through May 16th. Today the concept of a four-day celebration of local businesses might seem antiquated, but Rome Days was a big event in the 1960s and early 1970s, with some business owners reporting that it generated sales that rivaled the pre-Christmas rush.

Piggly Wiggly had chuck roast for 43¢ a pound, Morton cream pies for 25¢ each, and bananas for 8¢ a pound. A&P had fresh whole fryers for 27¢ a pound, Eight O'Clock coffee for 77¢ a pound, and red delicious apples for a dime each. Big Apple had sirloin steaks for 99¢ a pound, corn for 8¢ an ear, and Coke/Tab/Sprite/Fresca for 33¢ a carton plus deposit. Kroger had ground beef for 53¢ a pound, Farmbest ice cream for 79¢ a half-gallon, and tomatoes for 19¢ a pound. Couch's had country ham for $1.19 a pound, Chef Boy-ar-dee spaghetti & meatballs for 29¢ a can, and cucumbers for a dime each.

The cinematic week began with Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here (starring Robert Redford) at the DeSoto Theatre, What Do You Say to a Naked Lady? (an X-Rated Candid Camera film hosted by Alan Funt) at the First Avenue, The Lawyer (starring Barry Newman) at the Village, and If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (starring Suzanne Pleshette) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out brought The Magic Christian (starring Peter Sellers & Ringo Starr, with music by Badfinger and others) to the DeSoto, Vixen (an X-rated Russ Meyer film starring Erica Gavin) to the First Avenue, The Molly Maguires (starring Richard Harris & Sean Connery) to the Village, and Invasion of the Animal People (with John Carradine) West Rome Drive-In.

The Guess Who held on to the number one slot this week in 1970 with "American Woman." Other top ten hits included "ABC" by the Jackson 5 (#2); "Vehicle" by the Ides of March (#3); "Let It Be" by the Beatles (#4); "Cecilia" by Simon & Garfunkel (#5); "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum (#6); "Everything Is Beautiful" by Ray Stevens (#7); "Turn Back the Hands of Time" by Tyrone Davis (#8); "Up Around the Bend/Run Through the Jungle" by Creedence Clearwater Revival (#9); and "Reflections of My Life" by Marmalade (#10).

If you couldn't be there, you could at least pretend: Woodstock—Music from the Original Soundtrack and More, a sprawling triple-LP with a foldout jacket, was released this week in 1970. While not every artist who appeared at the 1969 festival was represented on the album, most of the biggest names were present, including Crosby, Stills, & Nash; Richie Havens; Jimi Hendrix; The Who; Country Joe and the Fish; and many others. This was also the week when Randy Bachman chose to leave the Guess Who (who happened to have the number one song this week in 1970) to start his own group, Brave Belt. The new act went nowhere, but the members would eventually form another band, Bachman Turner Overdrive, that found much more success.

Get Smart, Buck Henry's spy spoof starring Don Adams and Barbara Feldon, ended its five season television run this week in 1970.