Sunday, December 30, 2012

Making a List, Checking It Twice...

So after spending the better part of a week looking for a near-mint copy of The Rolling Stones' Got Live If You Want It, I was flipping through some unsorted vinyl and discovered that I already own a mint copy of the album! That was enough to convince me it was time to create a spreadsheet for my vinyl collection. Remembering what I currently own, as opposed to what I once owned but got rid of when I foolishly decided that CDs were the only form of music I'd ever want, was proving entirely too complicated.

Other discoveries that came about as a result of the spreadsheet: (1) I apparently own every Josie Cotten and Comateens album ever released; (2) I actually purchased an Ebn Ozn album at some point; (3) Jan and Dean Meet Batman is still the dopiest album I've ever purchased.

The spreadsheet is only about 90% complete at this point, but I should wrap it up tomorrow or the next day. It's interesting to see how many albums I own in multiple editions--in some cases, it's the mono and stereo version of the same album (the first 9 Beatles albums, for instance), in other cases it's a different cover (the UK and US versions of Blind Faith), but in a few cases it's because I didn't remember having an album so I bought it again. *sigh*

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome: 12/24/62 - 12/30/62

1962 was a turbulent year in so many ways—the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Sino-Indian War, the tail end of a recession—but it was nevertheless a year filled with hope. West Rome was a particularly positive place to be in 1962: it was growing faster than any other part of Rome, and it seemed that all the promise of the future was centered in this side of town. West Rome High entered its fifth year in the fall of 1962, which meant that the school had existed longer than any of its students had been in high school... certain proof that the sense of newness had given way to an established reality. The area was growing so quickly that West End Elementary had to be constructed nearby to supply another feeder school for West Rome's ever-expanding population. Some of us who had attended Elm Street would soon be redistricted to West End... and some of us would actually spend some of our elementary school years attending classes on the West Rome campus, since the rapid growth forced Rome City Schools to use some of the classrooms on the south end of the school (where West Rome Junior High was located) for overflow elementary classes.

And 1962 closed out on a small city that could offer almost everything its residents could hope for: numerous employers hiring everyone from laborers to skilled craftsmen to technicians and engineers, a growing economy, a full selection of shopping that made it possible for families to find everything they needed in Rome without ever having to go out of town, an array of educational opportunities that included both Berry and Shorter as well as Coosa Valley Tech (Floyd Junior College was still a few years away), vigorous new home construction... it's no wonder that 1962 was such a year of optimism.

Luther H. Hodges, President Kennedy's Secretary of Commerce, was busy over the holiday week, pushing for a tax cut in 1962. Secretary Hodges was hoping to convince both Democrats and Republicans to vote in favor of the tax cut--and apparently he was quite persuasive, because that cut passed and the economy boomed, just as he and President Kennedy said it would.

The Nina, an exact replica of one of the ships in Christopher Columbus' fleet, reached the Bahamas on its voyage to the "New World" on Christmas Day. (Remember how excited our teachers were about this historic re-enactment? I still recall Mrs. Cook at Elm Street Elementary talking about it…)

Rome's crime spree continued as a gun-toting bandit robbed a local fruit stand operator at gunpoint, taking $437 in cash (and that's a LOT of fruit!). The neatly-dressed bandit had a shiny new car AND a shiny new revolver. Then, on December 30th, burglars took down the door to Duke Tire Company on DeSoto Avenue, tore open the safe, stole $1042--but thoughtfully put the door back up and repaired the hinges before leaving.

Rome's Chamber of Commerce began a concerted push for regular airline service for Russell Field, hoping it would benefit the city and the county. As we know, their efforts were largely unsuccessful except for a few small feeder flights

Main Elementary School burned down on December 27th, forcing the relocation of students to other schools in the area. It's hard to believe that 1962 was a year when Rome still had segregated schools; it would be several more years before Rome City Schools would be fully desegregated.

Sears had a big after-Christmas sale that led off with "a shoe sale so big we've moved to the toy shop," with all shoes priced from $3.97 to $7.97. White sheets were on sale for $1.47 each (but they only carried twin and full sized sheets; the move to queen-sized mattresses was just beginning in this part of the country in the 1960s, and the queen-sized sheet wouldn't become a part of most department stores' regular stock for a few more years), and a state-of-the art completely frostless refrigerator was marked down to $247.00.

Looking ahead to New Year's, Kroger ran a special on hog jowls at 19¢ a pound, black eyed peas at 9¢ a pound, and smoked ham at 59¢ a pound. Turnip greens were 9¢ a pound at Big Apple. Potatoes were 29¢ for a ten-pound bag at Piggly Wiggly. And at A&P, the relatively unknown avocado was the subject of a major marketing push; not only was it sold at a price of 2/29¢, but any purchase came with a recipe book that told buyers what to do with the avocado after they got it home!

If  you wanted hog jowl, black eyed peas, and collard greens but didn't feel like cooking, McCullough's Restaurant on Martha Berry Highway at the Underpass was the place to go: they offered a meal of all three for only $1 per person through New Year's Day.

West Rome's girls basketball team lost to Johnson 51-47 in the opening round of the third annual Dave Spring Invitational Girls Basketball Tournament. Other than that one game, our Chieftain athletes had the week off.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day brought showings of White Christmas at the DeSoto Theater; Gay Purree at the First Avenue; and That Touch of Mink at the West Rome Drive-In. The day after Christmas saw The War Lover with Steve McQueen and Robert Wagner open at the DeSoto, while the First Avenue ran Splendor in the Grass and Parrick, with the warning that "these pictures are adult drama! Children would not like or understand this type of picture!"  Apparently they had second thoughts, because those films ran only one day; West Side Story opened on December 27th. The weekend saw the opening of Debbie Reynolds' The Second Time Around at the DeSoto and Walk on the Wild Side at the West Rome Drive-In.

And so 1962 came to a quiet close in Rome as we welcomed in 1963--a year that began with so many dreams and expectations but was destined to end in sorrow...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Fifty Years Ago This Week: 12/17/62 - 12/23/62

Hard to believe, but those mid-block crosswalks that are an accepted feature of Broad Street were heating things up during December in1962, with the City Commission voting to test them out even though there was a great deal of opposition to the idea. Even Police Chief Ted Peacock was opposed, fearing that they would great increase the number of pedestrian injuries and fatalities. As we know, they proved to be both safe and popular, and have been a feature of downtown Rome ever since.

The extreme cold of the prior week led to a great many broken pipes and damaged appliances, which led to the Rome Whirlpool Appliance Center advertising their plumbing and appliance repair department. If you had a problem, they’d gladly make a repair housecall for $4.00, while broken pipe repair started at $6.00. (Even allowing for the index, that would translate to $30 for a housecall, $45 for a broken pipe repair... and I don't think any of us could find a professional who'd do the job for that price today!)

We didn’t have DVRs or big-screen TVs in 1962, but we did have the perfect way to share family photos with friends and neighbors: a remote-control slide projector! For only $172.50, Brocks offered a deluxe remote-control (wired, of course--wireless remotes were a few years away yet) slide projector that could project “movie-sized images.”

And if you wanted the ultimate cookware gift “sure to please any housewife,” then Rome Seed & Feed had the special for you: an 11-piece Royal Family Set of Corningware for $24.95.

London Fog, the in-demand coat of the 1960s, was on sale at Esserman’s for $32.50 for their deluxe all-weather coat, tailored to an individual fit.

Murphy's was advertising the must-have holiday fragrances of 1962: for men, there was Old Spice in a cologne/aftershave/deodorant set for $3.50--and for women, there was Tabu spray cologne and powder for $5.00. (And after all these years, I still vividly remember the scent of both!)

Wyatt's Book Department was promoting Out of the Past But Still Alive: 1861-1961 by Sibley Greeg Mooney, a look at familiar locales in the Rome area, written and illustrated by a Rome Native. Among the sites spotlighted in the book was Shorter Avenue, West Rome's main traffic artery. Autographed copies, perfect for holiday gift-giving, were available for $3.

If all the shopping made you hungry, Murphy's was running a fried catfish dinner special for 50¢, including hush puppies, mashed potatoes, cole slaw, and bread. (I never knew that Murphy's served fried fish--apparently I never looked at the menu when I was there).

Piggly Wiggly was running a special on the must-have holiday candy treats: 2 pounds of Brach's candy orange slices for 39¢, 2 pounds of coconut bonbons for 49¢, or every grandmother's favorite--2 pounds of individually wrapped hard candy for 99¢.

What a change a week makes: on December 18th, 1962, Rome set a record high temperature of 69 degrees--a temperature 73 degrees higher than the low recorded just one week earlier! By the end of the week, however, temperatures had dropped back to a very cold 10 degrees, and the cold weather was expected to stay around through Christmas 1962.

West Rome played Cave Spring in their opening game of the Ninth Annual Northwest Georgia Basketball Tournament on December 18th, and the Chieftains trounced the Springers 59 to 23. Buddy Copeland and Van Gray were spotlighted for their outstanding performance, with each scoring 12 points. Alas, West Rome didn't fare so well in the second round of the tournament, losing to West Haralson County 40-37; Van Gray scored another 12 points in the game, but it wasn't enough to propel the Chieftains to victory.

West Rome's wrestlers defeated Rockmart 37-36 in a match held on Wednesday, December 19th.

It was nostalgia time at Rome's theaters during the week. The DeSoto Theater took a trip into the past the week before Christmas, showing Rear Window with Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Raymond Burr. The First Avenue offered Seven Brides for Seven Brothers with Jane Powell & Howard Keel, along wtih Father of the Bride with Spencer Tracy, Joan Bennett, and Elizabeth Taylor. The West Rome Drive-In offered Wild River with Montgomery Clift and Journey to the Center of the Earth with Pat Bone and James Mason. The weekends brought The Big Show with Cliff Robertson and the Commancheros with John Wayne at the DeSoto Theater, and Elvis Presley's GI Blues at the West Rome, while Seven Brides for Seven Brothers continued at the First Avenue. And on December 23rd, the DeSoto brought back the ever-popular White Christmas, which ran through Christmas Day. (We forget that, in those days before home video made it possible for us to watch classic films any time, theaters routinely brought back popular family-friendly films from the past at holiday time.)

For younger kids, the highlight of the week had to be Saturday morning’s Officer Don Popeye Club Stage Show at the DeSoto Theater (“all seats 25¢!”), one of several in-person appearances Don Kennedy (aka Officer Don) made in Rome in the 1960s to promote his popular Popeye Club show that aired each weekday afternoon on WSB-TV.

On December 20th, it was revealed that Rome and Floyd County had assembled a committee composed of representatives from government, education, business, agriculture, and labor to pursue a junior college for the Floyd County area. In 1962 the Seventh District was the only district in the state without a junior college. We know that the committee did its job well, since Floyd Junior College opened its doors just a few years later!

The West Rome High School Dramatic Club presented a Christmas program chronicling the birth of Christ on Wednesday, December 18th, under the direction of Miss Jean Scales. Participants in the program included Alfred Fletcher, Kay Williams, Howard Fountain, Pat Jackson, Leigh Whittenberg, Edna Moore, Sandra Posey, Betty Lewis, Jan Lewis, Susan White, Allen Preiss, Tony Ledwell, and Donald Plants, along with the girls vocal ensemble from the Chieftains Chorus.

Then, on December 20th, the West Rome dance band (including Butch Mowry, John Payne, Bill Babb, Dick Thompson, Ashely Wiggins, Henry Kennedy, Danny Beard, Don Murdock, John Butler, Sid Skelton, Jan Lewis, Cindy Biglock, Donald Plants, Frankie Plemons, David Godfrey, Jimmy Brewer, Sid Garwood, Derell Brookshire, and Celia Brookshire), the Four Fellows musical quartet (featuring Sid Garwood, Jimmy Brewer, Smitty Cummings, and Butch Mowry), and the senior band presented a Christmas musical program. Band director Clyde Roberson led the band, while choral director Ronald Midkiff led the West Rome Chorus (including Janet Schere, Pat Merrill, Sheryll Andrews, Ginger McLeod, Ann Neal, Sheryll Cole, Margaret Witworth, Diane Leake, Teresa DiPrima, Ann Finely, and Diane Dorsey) in a medley of Christmas songs; afterwards, Santa paid a visit to the school, bringing gift to some of the students, staff, and faculty.

"Telstar" by the Tornadoes half on at the number one spot for the week, followed by "Go Away Little Girl" by Steve Lawrence (#2), "Bobby's Girl" by Marcia Blane (#3), "Big Girls Don't Cry" by the Four Seasons (#4), Return to Sender" by Elvis Presley (#5), "Limbo Rock" by Chubby Checker (#6), "Pepino the Italian Mouse" by Louis Monte (#7), "Love Came to Me" by Dion (#8), "The Lonely Bull" by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (#9), and "Up On the Roof" by the Drifters (#10).

Parting Sans Sorrow...

I went to Rome today and had a wonderful Christmas visit with Kim, Phil, Cole, Christy, Oliver, Dexter, Jessica, Mason, Matt, and Kayley, it was a relaxed day that resonated with the laughter of four happy children.  It reminded me more than ever that Christmas is a children's holiday. It's a holiday that delights children, and that delight brightens the lives of everyone who stands in the presence of their joy.
I intended to go home when I left there, but something told me it wasn't time to go back to Marietta quite yet. So I  went by the cemetery to visit with Mom and Dad for a few moments--to tell them how proud I was of the kids, how happy everyone was, how much they'd love to see their great grandkids playing together. I thanked them for so many unforgettable Christmases, and for such a close, supportive family.
 After that, I drove past 3 Marchmont Drive and felt... nothing. What I saw was a house that has, in the year since Cole and Christy moved out, deteriorated to the point that it looks twenty years older. The yard was unkempt, the house in decline. The old Gresham house was missing siding, with silver insulation board showing in large sections. There were broken-down cars in the driveways and the yards. The old Gresham outbuilding that stood on the edge of my parents' yard had been torn down, but the broken pieces were scattered about like the aftermath of a disaster. It's as if the house--in fact, the entire neighborhood--had sustained only because of my parents unflagging will to better everything they touched, everyone they loved, then by Cole and Christy's youthful vitality and eagerness to share what they had loved about that home. As soon as those energies were gone, the house succumbed to the same entropy that has turned the rest of Paris Heights into a weary, uninviting assortment of homes--not a neighborhood or a community any longer.
But you know what? It didn't mean anything to me. I wasn't angry about it. I wasn't saddened by it. It's not my home any more. My old home is in photos, in the hundreds of stories that Kim and I tell, in the dreams that I often have in which we're all together in that warm, welcoming family room... and in my heart. This rundown house, occupied by strangers who take no pride in its appearance and who have no idea of the love that filled its walls for so long, is no longer home to anyone I know and no longer looks like a place I'd call home.
I then drove up Leon Street to see Gary Steele's old house. it's now an empty lot. Right after Mr. Steele died, the house mysteriously burned to the ground and now there's no sign that a house was ever there. It looked tranquil, with no sign of the family that had called it home for more than fifty years. And on the other side of Leon Street, the white fence was covered in spray-painted graffiti that no one cared about enough to paint over...
It used to bother me that my past was gradually fading away--West Rome High School (my alma mater) is a Walmart parking lot, East Rome High School (where I first taught) is a K-Mart parking lot, Candler's and Couch's and the West Rome Post Office are all gone. But now I realize that what I loved about West Rome always lives on in my mind and my heart, and what's there has no emotional attachment to me any longer. Its detritus piled upon my past, and my only connection to it is that it exists atop something that I still remember and love...
It was a sort of good feeling, really; it was a sense of acceptance, a break with the past.
West Rome is the place I once knew, and parts of it--Coosawattee, Coker Estates, some of the homes off Burnett Ferry--look quite inviting still. But most of it just goes to prove to me that nothing gold can last...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Giving

I wish I could make Christmas work for me the way it used to. The aspect of Christmas that I most enjoy is finding the right gift for each person; I think I used to be pretty good at it, but nowadays it's rare that I feel successful. Part of the problem is the natural growing apart that comes with busy lives, overloaded work schedules, and personal commitments that leave all of us too little time; I'm lucky enough to have a relative amount of freedom in my daily schedule, but life puts so many demands on everyone that it seems like we never have time for an impromptu visit, a pleasantly long phone call, a "what makes me happy" conversation. As a result, I am out of touch with many in my own family, unsure what each person has, what each person likes, what each person wants... all the vital information that used to make gift-giving a joy now makes me feel wholly inadequate when it comes to giving anything meaningful. I used to be pretty good at Christmas shopping; now I feel like I've failed, more often than not, and that makes me a little bit sad. I hate for someone to think that he or she doesn't matter to me, which is what I fear that a generic gift communicates.  "You matter to me" is what I want a gift to say; I am frustrated and dissatisfied that too many of my gifts say "I have no idea what you like nowadays."

I end up giving gift cards more often than not, which I always worry about. Is it what the recipient really wants, or is it an easy out that says, "I didn't put in the time to find you a real gift"?  Susan says that I worry about it too much; maybe she's right. I grew up in a time when gift cards didn't exist; we would give cash, perhaps, if we couldn't find the ideal gift. There's something impersonal about a gift card, though...

I miss those days when we spoke so frequently that we knew one another's interests well, the years when I knew by August or September what would make the perfect gift for each friend and family member. But with each year that passes, I realize that those times aren't returning; life keeps getting in the way, apparently.  But I'm not happy in that realization...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome: 12/10/62 - 12/16/62

Rome’s crime wave, which began in November ‘62 with a daring heist at the Fahy’s Department Store in downtown Rome, continued in early December with a number of home break-ins as well as break-ins at the Redford 5 & 10 in Westdale Shopping Center on Shorter Avenue, Piggly Wiggly on Shorter Avenue, The Safari on Shorter Avenue (I must confess that I don’t remember the Safari--who can clue me in here?), Miller Bros Department Store on Broad Street, Huff’s Pharmacy on East 2nd Avenue, the Hardin-Holder Store on Alabama Road, and Cooper Service Station on Cave Spring Road. While the home break-in thieves were apprehended at the scene, the wily business burglars remained at large, completely unseen as they entered every business through the roof. In mid-week, DiPrima’s Steak House on Summerville Road suffered a break-in. Police weren’t sure what was causing the rash of crimes in the Rome/Floyd County area.

In more upbeat business news, Rome’s brand-new Holiday Inn on Turner McCall Boulevard opened to guests for the first time this week in 1962; this was a “soft opening,” with the formal grand opening planned for January 1963.

NASA proudly announced the fact that its Mariner 2 spaecraft had received a radio command to begin scanning the planet Venus--the first US spaceraft to receive commands and send back telemetry from another planet.

Different time, different attitudes: President John Kennedy announced plans to push for a tax cut in 1963, but he was having to deal with resistance from Democrats and Republicans, who preferred to wait until 1964 for the tax cut, figuring that voters would be more likely to remember the cut come election time. (Kennedy won that round, gaining bipartisan support for his tax cut.)

Eastern Airlines was advertising their 15% weekday round trip discount on daytime flights. (It’s hard to imagine a time when airlines actually advertised in the Rome newspapers, isn’t it?)

Chieftains who wanted to catch a film this week fifty years ago could choose from The Pigeon That Took Rome (Italy, not Georgia, of course), starring Charlton Heston and Elsa Martinelli; Requiem for a Heavyweight, starring Anthony Quinn, Mickey Rooney, Jackie Gleason, and Julie Harris; or Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, starring Jimmy Stewart and Maureen O’Hara. The weekend brought The Count of Monte Cristo with Louis Jourdan at the DeSoto; a double-feature of Ivanhoe and Knights of the Round Table at the First Avenue; and Hatari with John Wayne at the West Rome Drive-In. On Saturday, December 15th, the Marine Corps sponsored a special matinee showing of Tarzan Fights for His Life at the DeSoto, with all proceeds going to their Toys for Tots drive.

Enloe’s was eager to help us get ready for Christmas, with Christmas cards for 29¢ per 10-pack, an aluminum tree marked down to $7.77, the requisite rotating color wheel that accompanied thealuminum tree for $3.99, decorative glass ornaments for 88¢ per dozen, 8-foot rolls of wrapping paper at 3/59¢, a Chatty Cathy for $9.88 “(“pull on her magic string and she talks!”), a Tiny Tears Doll for $11.88--and for the boys, a shoe shine box for $2.49 (apparently Enloe’s thought our careers were destined to be rather limited!). And if you wanted to preserve those Christmas memories, you could do so with a Brownie Starflash Camera for $9.44 at Murphy’s, or a Bolex 8mm movie projector capable of slow-motion playback for only $159.50 at Brock’s. A Zenith shirt-pocket AM radio was available for only $24.95 at Rome Radio Company (it’s amazing how much “cheap” entertainment cost back in 1962).

And for those with a less-than-limited budget, Rome Radio Company advertised its brand-new RCA Victor Vista Home Entertainment Center, which combined a 23” black and white television, a four-speed record changer, a six-speaker stereo system with both woofers and tweeters, an AM-FM radio, and a solid wood Early American cabinet.  The cost? $800... about 2/3 the price of a new car from several Rome dealers.

To prepare for the holidays, Wyatt’s announced that it was staying open until 8:30pm Monday through Friday beginning on December 13th and continuing through December 21st. Back then, that was considered extended shopping!

Alas, Christmas controversies are nothing new: public schools in Massachusetts were in the news in 1962 for banning Christmas trees because they thought they might violate the separation of church and state.

A&P got into the Christmas spirit with 8 foot trees for $2.69, while 4 foot live trees, balled in burlap were priced at $4.98. (There are probably several West Rome yards today with large evergreens that got their start as 1962 live trees!...) Piggly Wiggly offered 10 foot trees for $2.99... but that would have required that we cut a hole in our ceiling so that the tree could extend into the attic... Piggly Wiggly also advertised their oranges, grapefruit, and apples (“perfect for holiday fruit baskets!”) for only $33$ per 5-pound bag.

Of course, if you wanted to support Chiefttain Hi-Y and Tri-Hi-Y members, you could buy your tree at the YMCA Christmas tree sale on Second Avenue, where club members from all Rome area schools sold trees to fund service projects for all Y clubs.

Big Apple lowered their ground beef to only 37¢ per pound, while they had lots of sliced beef liver for 19¢ per pound. Colonial ran their Maxwell House Coffee on sale for 49¢ a pound (“the perfect Christmas coffee”), while Couch’s offered whole turkeys for 25¢ a pound.

It was an appropriately cold December back in 1962, as the temperature in Rome dropped to six below zero on Wednesday, December 12th at a home reporting station off Coosawattee in West Rome. According to an article in the Rome News-Tribune, many weather forecasters were concerned that our weather was getting colder with each passing year; on December 13th, the Rome News-Tribune ran the front-page headline “Rome Weather Getting Cold, Colder, Coldest” in which they point out that we were seeing significant temperature declines with each passing year. This led to the “global cooling” fears of the 1970s, which culminated in the best-selling book The Coming Ice Age. (As you probably noticed, it didn’t come to pass...)

The varsity team played East Rome on Friday, December 14th, which was touted as “the biggest game of the season for both teams.” West Rome’s boys won 43-38, but the girls lost 55-31. Gary Law won top socring honors with 17 points.

On December 15th, West Rome played the North Fulton Bulldogs; alas, the Bulldogs outplayed both of our teams, with the Chieftain boys losing 57-50 and the girls losing 25-21.

West Rome’s JV boys didn’t fare so well against Model, losing 35-5 (yes, that is a 30-point spread), but at least the girls won 22-18 thanks to Jane Smallwood, who scored half of West Rome’s points.

West Rome’s wrestling season began on December 13th with a match against Rockmart; the Chieftains won 28-27. Larry Lippincott, Jerry Coalson, Jack Barnes, Lane Warner, Richard Edwards, Bill Bishop, Doug DeDeurwarder, Billy Harris, and Gilbert Espy won their individual matches.

Those of us with a little bit of Garden Lakes in our heritage might remember the annual Garden Lakes Santa Claus Parade; in 1962, that parade was held on December 16th, with Santa tossing candy from his float as it proceeded down Garden Lakes Boulevard.

The West Rome Freshman Tri-Hi-Y, led by Jeannie Maxwell, won top honors in the regional “Club of the Month” competition. Their monthly service projects included devotionals given over the intercom each morning; a food drive to help needy families; holiday baskets; and a fundraiser for the Salvation Army and for Radio Free Europe.

West End students performed their annual Christmas Program on December 11th, with the six grades presenting a blend of music, drama, and holiday poetry.

At long last, the Four Seasons relinquished first place on Teen Beat’s Top 20, as the Tornadoes’ “Telstar” took first place, pushing “Big Girls Don’t Cry” down to #2. The remaining Top 10 included “Bobby’s Girl” by Marcia Blane (#3), “The Lonely Bull” by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (#4), “Limbo Rock” by Chubby Checker (#5), “Go Away Little Girl” by Steve Lawrence (#6), “Return to Sender” by Elvis Presley (#7), “Don’t Hang Up” by the Orions (#8), “Two Lovers” by Mary Wells (#9), and “Zip a Dee Doo Dah” by Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans (#10).

A Jo-vial Christmas

Tonight's Christmas music comes to us courtesy of Jo Stafford, a singer with one of the most pure and angelic voices I have ever heard. The album is Happy Holidays, an all-too-brief selection of ten songs, including the stuning "O Come O Come Emmanuel" (her voice is perfectly suited for this song) and a heartfelt version of "The Christmas Song." I discovered Jo Stafford in the 1990s, and was lucky enough to have a chance to write her a letter and let her know how much I enjoyed her distinctive vocals. She wrote back a very kind response that I still treasure. We all too rarely have a chance to tell those whose work we enjoy how much it brightens our lives; I'm glad I took the time to do so. If you've never heard her clear, pitch-perfect vocals, you really should; she avoids the gimmickry, the warbling vibrattos, the up-and-down-the-scales vocals and just delivers a song exactly as it should be sung.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Down the Street and Around the World in a Day

Today I made my weekly trek to Sounds Good on Sandy Plains Road, about two and a half miles from my house. (It seems strange to realize that there has been a vinyl specialty store near my house for almost a decade now and I never knew it existed until a couple of weeks ago! Of course, the store is so well hidden that I barely found it when I knew it was there... but it was worth the hunt, believe me!)  I went there with only one specific purpose: to exchange a Perry Como Christmas album that I purchased in duplicate last week. I didn't notice that the two different packages were the same musical content until after I got home, so I wanted to see if Rich would let me trade it out for another Christmas album--and he did, which I greatly appreciated.

While there, I rummaged through the vinyl again and came away with a trio of 1980s album: Vacation by the Go-Gos, The Secret Value of Daydreaming by Julian Lennon, and Around the World in a Day by Prince. The latter was particularly noteworthy to me, since (a) it's my favorite Prince album, and (b) it's one of the very first albums I bought on CD without having previously purchased a vinyl copy. So today's purchase marked the first time in my life that I've owned the album on vinyl!

Gave it a listen this evening, and it held up every bit as well as I had anticipated. "America," "Raspberry Beret," and "Pop Life" are all great tracks, and they seem particularly well suited for vinyl, since the overall tone of the album harkens back to the psychedelic period of the late 1960s. Now if I can find a copy of The Dukes of Stratosfear's 25 O'Clock and Psonic Psunspot on vinyl, I'll have album copies of my  favorite retro-psychedelic-music-era 1980s releases that I never owned on vinyl until now.

Got home and the mail brought me two more albums: A Clockwork Orange, featuring some wonderful early electronic music by Walter/Wendy Carlos, and an absolutely perfect copy of The Best of Cream--I've seen brand new albums whose jackets and vinyl didn't look this pristine! I really didn't need the latter album, since I now have every Cream album on vinyl, but The Best of Cream was my first exposure to the group, and this tends to be the order I expect to hear most of their best-known songs. The sonic nostalgia alone was worth the $8 I paid for the album...

So, a good day musically. The next object of my musical searchings: the first six Squeeze albums, a perfect copy of Michael Oldfield's Tubular Bells, and a really clean copy of Yessongs.

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/3/62 through 12/9/62

We forget how bad air quality was in the early 1960s until we see headlines like “Deadly Smog Claims Lives of 66 in London,” which was the lead story in the December 6th Rome News-Tribune. The “grey killer smog” was so bad that people were urged to stay indoors, not to drive or take public transportation, and to wear respiratory masks or use handkerchiefs if they did have to venture out of doors.  The death toll topped 200 by the time the smog emergency was lifted.

However, Rome was looking clean and white on December 6th after a Wednesday night snowfall that covered some areas with as much as an inch of snow. Alas, West Rome wasn’t so lucky, getting a light dusting...

West Rome was the news this week in 1962 as the City Commission expressed concern about the absence of street lights and the condition of sidewalks leading to West Rome High School on Shorter Avenue and Alabama Road. The City Commission pushed for the road to be widened by 2 feet from Burnett Ferry to Redmond Circle, and for curbs, gutters, and sidewalks to be installed so that students could safely walk to school. (Interestingly, the Rome News-Tribune refers to the stretch from Burnett Ferry Road to Redmond Circle as Alabama Road, although I had always referred to that area as part of Shorter Avenue. Does anyone know when the designation officially changed to Shorter Avenue for this stretch of road?)

Rome and Floyd County began talking about merging the city and county school systems in December 1962, but they were concerned about retirement plans; at this time, Rome City Schools employees were covered under a city retirement plan and into the state of Georgia retirement plan. As we know, the talks never went anywhere, although the idea was resurrected from time to time through the 1960s and 1970s.

The Rome Recreation Department began taking reservation for accordion classes this week in 1962; the class was open to beginners 18 years of age or under. (Did anyone at West Rome launch their accordionist career at these classes?)

Rome bragged about the excellent attendance at Rome City Schools, with an average attendance of 95.78% in elementary school grades and 94.35 in high school grades. Of course, when students could fail a class for unexcused absences, there was more incentive to be present and accounted for, wasn’t there?

West Rome played Rockmart on December 7th; the boys won 56-50 thanks to the strong performance of Jimmy Walden, Wesley Jenkins, and Van Gray,, but the girls lost 44-42. They played Model on December 8th, with the girls winning 55-45, thanks in large part to Linda Lippincott’s amazing 38 points in one game. Alas, the boys lost to Model 45-42.

Every day in December, the Rome News-Tribune reminded readers how many shopping days were left until Christmas. The idea may seem odd today, but back then almost all stores (other than drugstores and some convenience stores) were closed on Sunday, which meant that December 2nd, 9th, 16th, and 23rd were not “shopping days” per se. Today, we’re pretty spoiled by the availability of brick-and-mortar shopping every day of the week and online shopping every minute of the day, but it was a very different retail world back in 1962!

Murphy’s received a large shipment of six-foot silver aluminum Christmas trees in early December of 1962; these trendy trees were almost impossible to find due to strong demand, so you can be sure that Murphy’s sold out of them at $8.99 per tree. They also had the requisite 12” revolving spotlight with four color wheels that was a seemingly-essential decor addition for the highly reflective trees; the spotlight was $6.99 extra.

The bookstore wars seemed to be underway in December of 1962; in response to Fahy’s ad touting its book department at the end of November, Wyatt’s was promoting its newly enlarged book department in early December, reminding us that they had a huge selection of “hurt books” and that books made great gifts. Wyatt’s and Fahy’s both advertised their full selection of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy mysteries, reminding us just how popular these books were in the early 1960s. (Three years later, Rome would get its first dedicated new book store, Reader’s Den on Broad Street, followed three years after that by Gateway Books in the Gala Shopping Center—but in 1962, Wyatt’s and Fahy’s were Rome’s bookstore sources for new releases. Of course, paperbacks and magazines could be found at local grocery stores, drugstores, and my ever-favorite Liberty Hatworks and Newsstand on Broad Street.)

Miller’s was promoting the upscale gift of fine furs for Christmas in 1962; they were selling mink stoles for $299.00 and a mink jacket for $999.00. (I guess I never thought of Rome as a fur-coat sort of town!...)

Belks was advertising its Pyrex Bowl Sets for $4.95 per four-bowl set. These bowls proved to be quite durable over the years; we still have a couple of these same Pyrex bowls that were passed on to us by my parents, who bought them back in the 1960s and used them for many a family meal.

Rhodes Furniture was advertising the perfect Christmas gift that most students probably saw as anything but: a 36” x 24” blackboard with eraser and chalk for only $1, to let you children enjoy the fun of school at home!

Piggly Wiggly suggested that we stock up  on Coca-Cola for the holidays at the bargain price of 19¢ for a carton of six bottles. (Regular or king size... but why would anyone buy a 6-oz regular size bottle when you could ge the 10-oz bottle for the same price?) Piggly Wiggly also had Sealtest Ice Milk for only 39¢ per half-gallon (remember when ice milk was a bargain alternative to the more expensive ice cream?) Kroger had 3 cans of Campbell’s Tomato Soup for a quarter, or a pound of fish sticks for 65¢. Colonial had ground beef for 39¢ a pound, and leg o’lamb for 59¢ a pound. (How many of you had lamb as  a regular part of the family menu?) Big Apple ran an 8¢ per pound special on bananas and a 5¢ per pound special on margarine.

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford made Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? a must-see at the DeSoto Theater, while Susan Hayward and Peter Finch starred in I Thank a Fool at the First Avenue; William Holden’s The Counterfeit Traitor was showing at the West Rome Drive-In. The weekend saw the First Avenue Theater bring in I Bombed Pearl Harbor and Then There Were Three, while the West Rome Drive-In featured The Burning Hills.

Another week, another first-place ranking for The Four Seasons’ “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” The remainder of the top ten included “Telstar” by the Tornadoes (#2), “Return to Sender” by Elvis Presley (#3), “Limbo Rock” by Chubby Checker (#4), “Lonely Bull” by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (#5), “Bobby’s Girl” by Marcia Blane (#6), “Ride” by De Dee Sharp (#7), “All Alone Am I” by Brenda Lee (#8), “Wiggle Wobble” by Les Cooper (#9), and “Surfin’ Safari” by the Beach Boys (#10).

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome: 11/26/62 - 12/2/62

The Christmas holiday season began in earnest on November 26th with the Broad Street Santa Parade, which drew more than 20,000 spectators. And what a Christmas 1962 was shaping up to be: payrolls and savings were at record highs for Rome, and stores were reporting the best first week holiday sales in Rome history, more than 5% up from 1961. Yes, 1962 was a banner year in many ways!

West Rome held its 1962 Football Banquet at the Rome Restaurant (anyone remember where this was located?). Coach Paul Kennedy presented four trophies—top back, top lineman, most improved player, and sportsmanship—in commemoration of the Chiefs’ 5-4-1 record for the season. (No list of trophy recipients was ever reported in the Rome News-Tribune.)

West Rome’s basketball team took on Lafayette on Friday, 11/30, and Coosa on Saturday, 12/1. Lafayette defeated West Rome’s boys (53-43) and West Rome’s girls (29-20), but West Rome’s boys and girls team both won against Coosa (43-36 for the boys, thanks to 11 points scored by Wesley Jenkins and 10 points by Gerry Law; 33-25 for the girls, led by Linda Lippencott’s 16 points).

The West Rome Future Teachers of America Club chose its officers in late November; Leigh Wittenburg president; Camille Baker, vice president; Tina Edge, secretary; and Sheryll Andrews, treasurer. (Did any of the members of the club ultimately go into teaching? It would make for an interesting story, wouldn’t it?)

The West Rome Tri-Hi-Y was busy in 1962: they took magazines to Floyd Hospital, children’s books and games to the Ope Door Home, Thanksgiving baskets and cards to local shut-ins; and personal care items to patients in a local convalescent center, living up to their motto of “Create, Maintain, Extend.”  The club was led by president Mary Evans and vice-president Gwen McLeod.

Meanwhile, the West Rome Hi-Y sponsored an assembly on safe driving; distributed magazines and scrapbooks to hospitalized children and adults; and organized a volleyball team. The club’s officers included Frankie Plemons, president; John Payne, vice-president; Howard Fountain; secretary; Bill Babb, treasurer; and Alan Preiss, chaplain. Sounds like both groups took their role of community service very seriously!

Think we have a graduation rate problem now? Rome City Schools Superintendent Milton McDonald revealed that more than 60% of Rome’s students failed to finish high school. This was 50% worse than the national average.

A deer was struck by a car on Shorter Avenue in front of Westdale Shopping Center on November 26th. The deer fled the scene and was never seen again, so the damage must have been worse for the driver’s car than for the deer. (Apparently it was a very slow news week in West Rome...)

High quality stereo was the big thing at Rome Radio Company on Broad Street, as they promoted the Zenith Scherzo, a walnut stereo console with AM/FM radio, 8 speakers, and the all-new Micro-Touch 2G tone arm. (Of course, for $485.00 in 1962, it had better be one heck of a stereo! Don’t forget, the 1962-to-2012 inflation multiplier is 7.52, so every $1 in 1962 equals $7.52 in 2012 dollars.)

Of course, you could go cheap as well: Enloe’s had the Explorer Space Radio, complete with earphone, for only 99¢.

For our family, it wasn’t Christmas without a Whitman’s Sampler; we all had our candy favorites, and I learned quickly that it was most definitely against the rules to take an experimental bite to discover if the candy center was something I wanted or not. Those Whitman’s Samplers could be purchased for 99¢ for one pound, all the way up to $3.69 for a four-pound box, at Arrington-Ingram Drug Company or at Enloe’s Drugs.

Fahy’s announced the expansion of its book department under the management of Miss Mary Beal, making Fahy’s Books Department the largest source for books in Rome. (Of course, at this time, Rome had no dedicated new bookstores and only one dedicated used and out-of-print bookstore, Coosa Valley Books.)

Sears suggested that an 8mm Electric Eye Camera and Projector would make a perfect Christmas gift for only $99.88.

Both te First National Bank of Rome, National City Bank, and Rome Bank and Trust were urging members to plan ahead for 1963 by starting their 1963 Christmas Club account this week fifty years ago. (And in case you forgot about these, Christmas Club accounts were non-interest-bearing accounts that required you to make a small weekly deposit; you could then withdraw all the cash the week of Thanksgiving and use the cash for Christmas shopping. It would seem you could also just stash it in a coffee can in the kitchen, but apparently people didn’t trust themselves not to raid the can during the year...)

Kirkland Motors was running an $1846.00 special on a brand-new Rambler American (produced by Rambler under the leadership of George Romney) 220; for $290 more, you could upgrade to the luxurious Rambler American 440 hardtop. Apparently we didn’t buy enough, though, because Nash faded away by the end of the decade.

The Shrimp Boat reminded us that seafood was great for all seasons; their December promotion was a fish and shrimp dinner for 97¢ (and since sales tax was only 3% back then, that would make it exactly a dollar with tax!).

Kroger was touting its 49¢ pork chops and its 10¢ cans of applesauce for the week of November 26th, while A&P was offering chicken breasts for 39¢ a pound. Couch’s Super Market, our West Rome favorite neighborhood supermarket, had pork steak, bacon, sausage, or chicken breast for 49¢ a pound, while bananas were 10¢ a pound and grapefruit were a nickel each. Piggly Wiggly offered cut-up fryers for 25¢ a pound and Fleetwood Coffee for 49¢ a pound.  Those ever-popular TV Dinners (salisbury steak, chicken, or turkey only) could be had at Kroger for 3/$1, while Big Apple was offering sirloin steak for 89¢ a pound.

Three very different movies were showing in Rome: Elvis Presley’s Girls! Girls! Girls! at the DeSoto, Brigitte Bardot’s A Very Private Affair at the First Avenue, and Walt Disney’s Pinocchio at the West Rome Drive-In. The weekend brought The Savage Guns at the First Avenue, Wild River  and Journey to the Center of the Earth at the DeSoto, and Walk Tall at the West Rome Drive-In.

It seemed that the Four Seasons owned the fall season of 1962: their “Big Girls Don’t Cry” was number one in the Rome Teen Beat Top 20 list yet again for the last week of November, 1962. “Telstar” by the Tornadoes climbed to second place, while Elvis Presley’s “Return to Sender” dropped to third. “Bobby’s Girl” by Marcia Blane took fourth place, Chubby Checker’s “Limbo Rock” climbed to fifth, the Orlon’s “Don’t Hanks Up” jumped to sixth place, “Lonely Bull” by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass climbed to seventh; “He’s a Rebel” bu the Crystals slipped to eighth; “Ride” by Dee Dee Sharp held on to ninth place; and the Bobby Sox’s “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” jumped to tenth place.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

"Think Back on All the Tales That You Remember..."

Today I made another vinyl run--this time, the destination was Sounds Good Music Exchange on Sandy Plains Road, about three miles from my house. I had no idea this store even existed until I ran across a reference to it in a vinyl collectors forum; the store is located on the hidden side of an older shopping center that is in turn located behind a stand of fast food restaurants and service stations.

Lots of good things were found, including a heaping helping of Christmas albums at $2 each (including the Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass's Christmas Album that I've been seeking for weeks, and a Perry Como RCA Christmas album from the late 1950s that's in pristine condition). As much as I like Christmas albums, though, the real gem for me was Camelot, an album that immediately makes me remember my five years teaching at East Rome High School.

This isn't the film soundtrack of Camelot, mind you: this is the 1960 Broadway soundtrack, with Richard Burton, Julie Andrews, Robert Goulet, and Roddy McDowell. This is the version of Camelot that I listened to over and over again at East Rome High School, and as far as I'm concerned it's the real Camelot. Today, not only did I find a copy of the original album, but I found a never-before-opened still-shrinkwrapped copy of that first release, on the gray Columbia label frequently reserved for classical releases. The cover and the vinyl are both perfect. What are the odds of finding a still-sealed copy of a 50+ year old album like this?...

My best friend at East Rome was Sandra Jackson, a veteran teacher who was willing to mentor a first-year teacher like me and help me to become  a better teacher. Sandra was a passionate teacher, intensely dedicated to her students--and she was also the drama instructor at the school, which meant that she was in charge of doing both the one-act play for literary competition and a spring musical. In 1978, she chose Camelot as the play the students would perform; it was no surprise, since she had played the album a great deal in the years prior to that and I knew she had an affection for the Lerner & Loewe play.

Sandra's production of Camelot was delightful, as Sandra's musical productions always were. Sandra always had an amazing ability to elicit the absolute best from her students--and in many cases, she was able to involve students who typically remained uninvolved in all aspects of high school life. She enlisted not only the artistic students and the literary minded, but also the academically challenged students, the disruptive students, the alienated students--and under her guidance, they all came together as a cast and crew and did an outstanding job.

So when I came across this copy of Camelot, I was briefly transported back to East Rome High School in the 1970s, when Sandra and I shared adjacent classrooms. I remember her smile, her laugh, her happy voice and her stern voice (she had perfected both, although she all too rarely had to use the latter), and her inspirational ways.

Sandra is, I believe, still involved in education--or at least, she was a few years ago, working with Shorter College in Rome to prepare their students for a career in education. I'm not sure if she still is--alas, I've not stayed in contact with this remarkable woman the way I should have--but I can say this with certainty: there are hundreds of students whose lives were improved by her, as well as one novice teacher who spent five glorious years teaching alongside her.

Each evening, from December to December,
Before you drift to sleep upon your cot,
Think back on all the tales that you remember
Of Camelot.
Ask ev'ry person if he's heard the story,
And tell it strong and clear if he has not,
That once there was a fleeting wisp of glory
Called Camelot.
Camelot! Camelot!
Now say it out with pride and joy!


Camelot! Camelot!


Yes, Camelot, my boy!
Where once it never rained till after sundown,
By eight a.m. the morning fog had flown...
Don't let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment that was known
As Camelot.