Sunday, December 09, 2012

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).

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