Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome: 11/19/62 to 11/25/62

Romans awoke on Monday, November 19th, 1962, to read of a crime that sounded like it came straight from a television show or film: thieves broke into the Fahy Store on Broad Street, tore open the safe door using burglary tools, carried the weekend’s cash and receipts to the basement, then sorted them out, leaving behind all checks and change and taking only the bills… or most of them. Seems that the superstitious thieves took the time to sort out and leave behind the $2 bills (apparently they were considered bad luck to burglars). This sort of slick burglary was almost unprecedented in Rome.

The war between India and China continued to keep global tensions escalated, and it remained a front-page story in the Rome News-Tribune throughout the week.

Meanwhile, the de-escalation of the Cuban Missile Crisis continued, with the US finally halting its Cuban blockade on November 20th. Many of us undoubtedly breathed easier knowing that the threat of nuclear war had been pushed back a little further. On that same day, the President lifted the news censorship policy regarding military information that had been in effect since the beginning of the crisis. (Did you know that there was a censorship policy, and that newspapers voluntarily worked with the White House to keep this information confidential? A different time indeed!…

We got almost a week off for Thanksgiving holiday in 1962, thanks to a teachers’ in-service scheduled for November 20th and 21st.  The normal holiday schedule in the 1960s gave us just two days off for Thanksgiving—Thursday and Friday. Four days off from school for Thanksgiving was so unprecedented that The Rome News-Tribune devoted a front-page story to this upcoming holiday in their November 15th issue, since they wanted to make sure that parents knew about their kids’ extra two days’ off.

B&L Appliance and TV was pushing the new large-screen 23” Westinghouse televisions as the perfect holiday gift; the sets (which were still black and white) sold for $339.95 (which works out to between 20% % of the cost of a typical new car at the time). If you adjust for inflation, that’s the equivalent of paying $2600.00 for a 23” black and white television today—and if you’d like to adjust any of the other prices for inflation, the multiplier is 7.52 (that is, every 1962 $1 would equal $7.52 today). Rome Appliance countered with a holiday sale of the 23” Motorola for only $299, while Sears trounced everyone with their 23” Silvertone television for only $158.00.

A&P cut the price of their Thanksgiving turkeys to 35¢ a pound; their whole or half hams were 89¢ a pound. (And yes, if you adjust for inflation, both turkeys and hams are much less expensive today: using our handy-dandy inflation adjuster, we learn that turkeys would sell for $2.63 a pound today and hams would sell for $6.69 a pound in order to match that price.) Kroger was asking 37¢ a pound for turkeys, while their hams were 55¢ a pound. West Rome mainstay Couch’s Grocery was 39¢ a pound for turkeys, but the low-price leader at only 49¢ a pound for hams.

Rome Days kicked off on November 23rd, launching the official Christmas shopping season. Rome stores were having employees report to work several hours early on Friday morning to fully decorate the stores for Christmas (yes, stores actually waited until after Thanksgiving to decorate in 1962!). Many stores were announcing that they would have their first stock of Christmas wrapping paper on that date, priced at 6 to 8 rolls for $1. Miller’s had a full set of holiday stainless steel flatware for $8.88; Rome Men’s Shop had wool suits for $24.95; Wyatt’s had an early American sofa for $29.95 (delivery always free!); Enloe’s offered  foot silver aluminum Christmas trees for $7.77; Sears offered a new roof for only $199.00 for the average house or new aluminum siding for only $299.00, while for kids they had a miniature car road racing set for $14.99 or a new bike for $29.88; and Brock’s offered  a Bell & Howell 8mm home movie camera for only $39.99.

Garden Lakes topped everyone with their offer of a new home for the holidays: the Century Home, “built to outlast a century with minimum maintenance,” was available in a 3-bedroom brick home for $9995.00 or a 4-bedroom brick home for $12,950.00. If you're reading this, your parents probably did not take advantage of the offer, however--otherwise, you'd have been a Coosa alumnus and not a Chieftain!

The General Forrest Hotel was advertising its Thanksgiving dinners for $1.50 per person, urging Romans to make their reservations for the 12-2pm or 6-8:30pm seatings. At this time, of course, the General Forrest was still a fine hotel in downtown Rome, and its restaurant was considered a first-class dining experience.

A Friday night dance for teenagers from all Rome area schools was held at the Memorial Gymnasium from 7:30 to 11pm on November 23rd; the highlight was a twist contest.

Romans who went to the movies could choose from I’d Climb the Highest Mountain or The Bravados at the DeSoto Theater; Five Weeks in a Balloon at the First Avenue (I remember seeing that film at the First Avenue!); or The King and I and Hemingway’s Adventures of a Young Man at the West Rome Drive-In.
One of the biggest record successes of 1962 was Vaughn Meader’s The First Family, a comedy album featuring satirical impressions of John Kennedy and his extended family. Meader’s album was selling out across the nation, and he was making appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and other television programs. Alas, one year later, his career would come to an abrupt end after Lee Harvey Oswald’s bullets took the life of President Kennedy. Until then, however, many of us probably laughed along with our parents at Meader’s act.

The West Rome Mite League team placed in Rome’s Santa Bowl Football Classic was held on Saturday, November 24th; all proceeds from the event went to the Cheerful Givers, which used the money to help make Christmas brighter for boys and girls from less fortunate families. Upcoming West Romans who made the team included Mike Goodson, Bobby Padgett, Eddie Ashworth, Rocky Vines, Tom Baird, Ken Davis, and Donald Holbrook.

The District Student Council met at West Rome High School; West Rome’s Student Council sponsor, Mr. Midkiff, coordinated the event.

West Rome’s Sherill Liverett was chosen as a member of the 1962 Kiwanis All-Area Football Team, the only Chieftain to make the list.

Ceramics were a big thing in 1962 (I know that my mom took ceramics classes and decorated our home with several things that she made and painted at those classes—some of which still decorate my home today), with the Rome Recreation Department reporting that their ceramics classes were being held seven days a week at the girls’ dressing room facilities at the Memorial Gym, with many Rome residents signing up for a waiting list just for a chance to get into the classes.

“Big Girls Don’t Cry” held onto the number one song spot for yet another week in the Teen Beat’s Top Twenty as it seemed like the Four Seasons had moved into that position for good.  There were virtually no changes of songs on the list, with Elvis’s “Return to Sender,” the Tornadoes’ “Telstar,” the Tijuana Brass’s “Lonely Bull,” the Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel,” and Chubby Checker’s “Limbo Rock” holding pretty much the same spots they held the week before.

West Rome Post Office

I got a nice note from David Hendrix, class of 1964:

         When I read the following installment of  Fifty Years Ago in West Rome, it jogged a memory that hadn’t surfaced in many years:

“The other high-tech item for the holiday season was the automatic electric blanket with a thermostat and dual controls; it was available at Sears for $28.00.  Sears also had  a Silverstone Console Stereo for $99 and an Enfield MK 3 military rifle for $12.88 (yes, you could buy military rifles at Sears!).”

Fifty years ago, my friend David Gray ’64 read this add and asked me to drive him to Sears to shop for a hunting rifle. At Sears we found that for just a little more money you could also get a sporty version of the Enfield MK 3, with the barrel-encasing wood removed and the stock trimmed down. Sears apparently had no problem selling a high-powered rifle and ammunition to a 16 year old, because David bought the $12.88 version and several boxes of inexpensive .303 military rounds. Even though David Gray certainly would have never harmed a soul, it appears that just anyone could have made that same purchase. Scary!

(It was a very different time 50 years ago, wasn't it?)

            Thanks for writing the Fifty Years Ago in West Rome column!

(Thanks for writing, David, and it's good to know that folks are enjoying this look back at West Rome life)

Best Regards,
David Hendrix ‘64

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