Saturday, December 28, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/30/1963 to 1/5/1964

A half-century ago, those of us old enough to remember watched the turbulent year of 1963 come to an end as 1964 began. We had high hopes for the new year, and in many ways it was destined to live up to those hopes. Locally, 1964 began where 1963 left off: with low unemployment, a growing economy, improving educational standards, a rapidly developing local infrastructure, and new businesses adding Rome locations each and every month. It's no wonder that so many of us remember those years so fondly!

Chieftains (and other underage Romans) were better behaved in 1963: as the year came to an end, juvenile delinquency-related charges had dropped by 32% during the twelve, falling from 177 in 1962 to 120 in 1963. Burglary was the number one area of offense, with 27 cases, followed by 24 cases of petty larceny and 11 cases of shoplifting.

West Rome's boys basketball team defeated Cedartown 47-38 in the consolation game of the 10th Annual Northwest Georgia Invitational Basketball tournament on the night of December 30th (delayed from its original pre-Christmas date due to inclement weather), which earned them a third place spot overall in the tournament.

Romans said farewell to 1963 in a heavy snowfall that left Rome with almost 3" of the white stuff by the time the New Year rolled in. The snow turned to ice as it melted and refroze, leaving travel in Rome a bit treacherous all the way through the weekend. This was the second measurable snowfall during the holiday season--a rarity for Rome!

If only we could find rates like this today: Citizens Federal welcomed in 1964 with a 4.25% APR rate on its saving accounts, and the only requirement was an opening deposit of $25 or more! The ever-competitive Rome Bank & Trust countered with an offer of 4.33% with the same $25 initial deposit requirement.

Sears welcomed in the new year with a  special offer: a huge (by 1964 standards) 13.6 cubic foot frost-free refrigerator-freezer for only $288.00, in white or the then-trendy copper tone. And in a move that seems a bit premature, Sears also offered 14,000 BTU window-mount air conditioners for $199.88.

Piggly Wiggly had sirloin steak for 89¢ a pound, canned corned beef for 49¢ per one-pound can, and canned biscuits for a nickel a can. Kroger had pork chops for 49¢ a pound, grade A large eggs for 49¢ a dozen, and Kroger saltines for 19¢ a box. A&P had stew beef for 59¢ a pound, Irish potatoes for 39¢ per ten-pound bag, and Sultana pork & beans for a dime a can. Big Apple had assorted flavors of Campbell's soup for 18¢ a can, ground beef for 39¢ a pound, and one-pound cans of fruit cocktail for a quarter each. Couch's had one-pound cans of QQ pink salmon for 49¢, Stokely's catsup for 19¢ for a 20-ounce bottle, and Shopper's Bacon for 49¢ a pound.

The week began with a pair of light-weight films: Who's Minding the Store? (with Jerry Lewis) at the DeSoto and Under the Yum-Yum Tree (with Jack Lemmon) at the First Avenue. The weekend brought Take Her, She's Mine (with James Stewart & Sandra Dee) to the DeSoto and the bio film Marilyn (narrated by Rock Hudson) to the First Avenue, while the West Rome Drive-In offered a weekend double-feature of Information Received and The List of Adrian Messenger.

The number one song this week in 1963 was "There! I've Said It Again" by Bobby Vinton. Other top ten hits included "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen (#2); "Popsicles nd Icicles" by the Murmaids (#3); "Dominique" by the Singing Nun (#4); "Forget Him" by Bobby Rydell (#5); "Since I Fell For You" by Lenny Welch (#6); "Surfin' Bird" by the Trashmen (#7); "The Nitty Gritty" by Shirley Ellis (#8); "Talk Back Trembling Lips" by Johnny Tillotson (#9); and "Midnight Mary" by Joey Powers (#10).

And the growing interest in this British phenomenon known as "Beatlemania" inspired Jack Parr to spotlight some footage from a British Beatles concert on The Jack Paar Show on Friday night, January 3rd--the first time that many Americans first saw a Beatles performance!

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Life In Four Colors (Part Forty)

Like so many of us, I remember a plethora of toys from childhood Christmases past, but my two most vivid memories are of books, and both date from the Christmas of 1965.

The first was Jules Feiffer's oversized book The Great Comic Book Heroes, which was my first significant exposure to Golden Age comics of the 1930s and 1940s (I had seen the occasional Golden Age reprint that DC would include in their Annuals and 80-Page Giants, but these were just earlier adventures of major characters like Superman). I was absolutely enthralled as I read through the book--not only were the Golden Age reprints captivating, but Feiffer's accompanying text explaining his life with comics was equally fascinating. Even better, this book wasn't limited to just Marvel or DC; it features great stories from both, as well as tales from All-American, Quality, and many others. Superman, Batman, Captain America, The Sub-Mariner, the Human Torch, Plastic Man, Wonder Woman, the Spectre, The Spirit, Hawkman, Captain Marvel, The Flash, Green Lantern... so many wonderful stories, all from an era whose comics I had never actually seen! Every tale was filled with energy, overflowing with vitality and excitement, and I dreamed of a time when I would be able to read more of these stories from the years before my birth.

 I read and re-read that oversized hardcover a hundred times, at least--and it was prominently displayed on the dark oak bookcase that my parents gave me to hold my growing library and collection.  Recently, I moved that bookshelf to the master bedroom of Marchmont, our second house--and one of the first items I put on display was my worn but still intact copy of The Great Comic Book Heroes. I still occasionally pull that well-read edition from the bookshelf where and thumb through it again, and I still feel the same excitement.

The other 1965 book memory involves the James Bond novels. I was a devoted fan of the James Bond movies by the time I was 12, but had not read any of the books. My parents were a bit concerned about the sex and violence in those Ian Fleming novels, but they also were reluctant to tell me that I couldn't read something that I wanted to read. I had put the entire series on my Christmas list, but wasn't at all confident I'd actually get them.

On  Christmas Eve 1965, my parents were going to a party at a neighbor's house for an hour or two, while I stayed at home to keep an eye on my sister Kim. As they were getting ready to leave, they gave me a hefty, carefully wrapped cube and told me to go ahead and open it early. As soon as I tore the corner of the paper away, I recognized the distinctive Signet paperback cover design of Live and Let Die; beneath it were the rest of the Signet editions of the James Bond novels in their matching cover designs. "We've decided that you're old enough to read these," Dad said. "And we thought you might want to start reading one of them tonight." I was doubly thrilled--not only because of all those novels I looked forward to reading, but also because Mom and Dad had enough faith in me to give me these books in spite of their concerns. 

And once again, even though I have subsequently acquired all of these novels in hardcover editions, I still  have those original paperbacks given to me by Mom and Dad 48 years ago. At Christmastime, I often take a look at those covers once again and smile, remembering how I was so excited and eager to read these books that, once my parents had come home and everyone had gone to bed, I turned on a small light and read for another hour or two that night.

Books aren't just filled with stories... they're filled with memories as well, and we as readers collaborate with each book's author to add those memories. Once they're added, they can never be stricken from those volumes, no matter how much time passes or how worn the books become...

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/23/1963 to 12/29/1963

The week of Christmas 1963 got off to an icy start  as snow and sleet fell on Monday, December 23rd, with temperatures dropping into the teens by Tuesday morning, rising to the high 20s that afternoon, and falling back to a low of 10 degrees on Christmas morning. Mrs. Juanita Lester at the Russell Field Weather Bureau said that this promised to be the first white Christmas in Rome in decades (even if it was just a light layer of residual snow and ice and not a fresh snowfall). The icy roads led to a few accidents with injuries, but no fatalities, thankfully!

The icy conditions forced a rescheduling of the consolation and championship games of the 10th Annual Northwest Georgia Invitational Basketball Tournament for Monday, December 30th. While West Rome didn't make it to the championship, the Chieftains were slated to face off against the Cedartown Bulldogs in the consolation match.

Meanwhile, West Rome's girls team surprised everyone by winning 44-39 against previously-undefeated West Haralson in the Dave Spring Girls' Invitational Tournament on Thursday, December 26th. Then, on Saturday, December 28th, the girls defeated East Rome 49-46 to win the tournament championship; their victory was largely cemented by Linda Lippencott, who scores 37 points in the championship game.

One of Rome's radio stations, WLAQ, changed ownership on December 28th as the Athens-based Clark Broadcasting Company purchased the station, ending its longtime local ownership. The new owners announced their plans to expand the station's broadcast day from 5am to 1am seven days a week; under its prior management, the station had operated only from 6am to midnight. The new owners also promised that Rome would get the best of CBS national news, more local news, more music, and the best in local sports coverage.

Big Apple had turkeys for 33¢ a pound, Irvindale sherbet for 49¢ a half-gallon, and 17-ounce cans of cranberry sauce for 19¢. A&P had sugar-cured hams for 45¢ a pound, baking hens for 39¢ a pound, and whole coconuts for 12¢ each. Piggly Wiggly was thinking ahead to New Years Day, offering black-eyed peas for 12¢ a pound, hog jowl for 19¢ a pound, and cabbage for a nickel a pound. Kroger had turnip greens for 15¢ a pound, pork & beans for a dime a can, and fresh fryers for 23¢ a pound. Couch's had pork chops for 39¢ a pound, Maxwell House coffee for 49¢ a pound, and Planters peanuts for 33¢ for a 7-ounce can.

The week began with a double feature of Don't Give Up the Ship and Rock-A-Bye Baby (both with Jerry Lewis) at the First Avenue and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm ("special limited engagement--uncut & original length!") at the DeSoto. Under the Yum Yum Tree (with Jack Lemmon) came to the First Avenue on Christmas Day, while the DeSoto had a rather strange double feature: A Ticklish Affair (with Shirley Jones, Gig Young, Red Buttons, & Carolyn Jones in her pre-Morticia days) and a sports film compendium entitled, unimaginatively enough, Football Highlights. In spite of the cold weather, the West Rome Drive-In opened on the weekend, showing Walt Disney's Son of Flubber.

The number one song this week in 1963 was "There! I've Said It Again" by Bobby Vinton. Other top ten hits included "Louie Loui" by the Kingsmen (#2); "Dominique" by the Singing Nun (#3); "Since I Fell For You" by Lenny Welch (#4); "Forget Him" by Bobby Rydell (#5); "Popsicles & Icicles" by the Murmaids (#6); "Talk Back Trembling Lips" by Johnny Tillotson (#7); "Quicksand" by Martha & the Vandellas (#8); "The Nitty Gritty" by Shirley Ellis (#9); and "Midnight Mary" by Joey Powers (#10).

And popular music was about to change forever: On December 26th, in reaction to listener response after an import copy of the song was played on WWDC DJ James Carroll's radio show, "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was rush-released by Capitol Records on December 26th, 1963. (The flip-side of the single was "This Boy," still one of the best examples of Beatles harmonies from those early years.)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

...Angels in the Room

"It won't be long now. There are angels in the room."

Eleven years ago, a kind, compassionate nurse spoke those words to me as we stood by Mom's bedside, watching her life wane away.  Ten minutes later, she breathed one final, labored breath, and then she didn't. The struggled rhythm of her breathing ceased, and she left us on December 15th, 2002, after a painful struggle with emphysema.

I will never know how she found the strength to fight for so long--almost a decade from initial diagnosis to last breath. Twice we thought we had lost her, and twice she fought her way back to us. But she knew that there would not be a third miracle. Always thinking of others, she did her best to prepare all of us for her passing. She gave us one glorious final Thanksgiving together at Kimberly's house. I spent all day with her and Dad on December 5th, meticulously copying photos from the family photo album while Dad prepared Irish stew using Mom's recipe, with Mom supervising and offering advice. After we ate, everyone agreed that it was good stew... it was Mom's stew. 

The house was in order. Christmas presents were wrapped; clutter was put away out of sight, as if Mom knew there would be company in the house soon after.

She went back to the hospital on December 9th, and we all hoped that it would be a short visit and she would return home before Christmas. On December 13th, she showed remarkable improvement, sitting up, talking to us, and eating a regular meal for dinner. I brought my computer to her hospital room and showed her the videos I had prepared chronicling her and Dad's early lives; our family's years together; and the treasured Christmases past. She watched, rapt, and smiled often. "That was wonderful," she said. "Thank you."

The next morning, when I came into her hospital room, all vitality was spent. Every breath was a battle; she was unaware of my presence, and did not respond to any treatment. At that time, all of us somehow knew that this time was going to be different. Mom no longer had the strength to fight her way back to us another time; the emphysema had done too much damage.

It was a gift that we were all by her side, our hands laid gently on her hands and arms and shoulders, when she passed, Frank Sinatra's "It Was a Very Good Year," one of her favorite songs, played softly in the background in those final moments.

When life left her, she looked as if a painful burden had been lifted.

"There are angels in the room," that nurse said.

And then there was one more.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/16/1963 to 12/22/1963

Six Chieftain football players were recognized at the Chieftain Banquet, sponsored by the West Rome Chieftain's Club. Ken Payne was chosen most improved player; Richard Edwards, most valuable lineman; Donnie Hill, winner of the annual Sportsman trophy; Chris Warren and AV Gray, most valuable backs; and Jerry Coalson was named as the Captain of the 1964 football team.

East Rome didn't rack up many victories over the Chieftains, but their wrestlers did manage to defeat West Rome's mat team 38-21, thanks in large part to three straight Gladiator pins in the upper weight classes.

West Rome's basketball team managed to pull out a 40-37 victory over Coosa on Wednesday night as they faced off in the 10th Annual Northwest Georgia Invitational Basketball Tournament. As a result, the Chiefs advanced to face off against Pepperell on Friday night. After winning that game 40-19, West Rome moved up to the semifinals, where they were defeated by Rockmart 53-47 in Saturday night's game.

Members of Rome's Senior Tri-Hi-Y went caroling at the Summerville Park Convalescent Home on Wednesday, December 18th, followed by a party for the Convalescent Home's residents sponsored by the Junior Tri-Hi-Y.

West Rome was shivering on Thursday morning, December 19th, as the temperature fell to 8 degrees, with the high never getting above freezing again until Friday afternoon, when it crept up to 35.

What was it that Robert Burns said about "the best-laid plans of mice and men..."? On December 20th, Jim Gillis, director of the State Highway Board assured Rome and Floyd County that they would have a direct connection with Interstate 75 via 411. Rome was so confident that the interstate connection was forthcoming that they added local money to state funding in order to construct the four-lane East Rome Interchange at the Highway 411/Highway 27 intersection so that Rome would be ready for the increased traffic that its promised direct I-75 connection would bring. As we know all too well nowadays, government promises don't mean very much at all, and Rome is still waiting for its direct connection to I-75 a half-century later…

Rome's economy was looking so good that Floyd County approached the end of 1963 with almost full employment; the Department of Labor said that unemployment was well below 5% in Floyd County, while local employment services said that they had more open jobs from area manufacturers and businesses than they had applicants looking for work. Pepperell, Celanese, Fox Manufacturing, General Electric, and Kraft all reported increases in hiring in 1963, and anticipated further growth for 1964.

Rome was moving into the high-tech age with the opening of the Magic Touch Car Wash on North Broad Street--"The South's Most Modern Automatic Car Wash!" Customers were invited to come by and watch a car go in dirty on one end of the facility and come out sparkling clean on the other! The December 17th grand opening included free soft drinks and leather key holders for all customers, and a free car wash with the purchase of 10 gallons of gas (without gas, the cost was $1).

In the era before video camcorders and multipurpose smartphones, 8mm film was pretty much the only way to save motion pictures of family events. With Christmas approaching, Brock's had a a high-quality Bolex home camera for only $330.00--but of course, if you wanted to watch those films afterwards, you'd need that $189.50 projector to go along with it!  It's no wonder that my parents treated their very basic home movie camera as if it were worth its weight in gold!

Meanwhile, Singer was promoting their sewing machines as the perfect gift--and while they had a basic model that started at $59.50, any machine that could do anything more than a straight stitch was $139.50 and up, topping out at $279.40.

If you wanted a gift for the whole family, both Chastain's Radio & TV and Rome Radio Company had a 19" color console television for only $550--or you could take the bargain route and buy a 17" tabletop color television for only $448.  Adjusting for inflation, that's more expensive than a 70" LED 3D Smart TV today!

If you weren't ready for Christmas yet, Sears allowed you to get into the Christmas spirit in the most trendy way with a 201-branch all-aluminum Christmas tree for only $15.54. For a brief time, these were de rigueur… then they were kitschy… and now they're hip collectible relics of a bygone time. The revolving multi-color light unit was an additional $6.99. (If you preferred your artificial tree in green, Sears also had a green vinyl tree for $21.98).

Piggly Wiggly had Christmas grapefruit (I can't say I ever thought of grapefruit as a Christmas fruit, but apparently someone did!…) for only 7¢ each, 2 pounds of Maxwell House coffee for $1.19, and jello for a nickel a box. Kroger had pork chops for 39¢ a pound, squash for a dime a pound, and five pounds of Gold Medal flour for 39¢. Big Apple had turkeys for 37¢ a pound, Stokely canned pumpkin for a dime a can, and Brach's hard candy mix for 39¢ for a one-pound bag. A&P had a four-pound canned ham for $2.99 (somehow, I made it through my entire childhood without ever eating canned ham!), ground beef for 33¢ a pound, and Banquet frozen chicken pot pies for 18¢ each. Couch's had lean pork roast for 39¢ a pound, Oscar Mayer bacon for 59¢ a pound, and fresh whole pecans for 33¢ a pound.

The week started off with a pair of less-than-stellar cinematic choices: Fun in Acapulco (with Elvis Presley) at the DeSoto or Of Love & Desire (with nobody you care about--its only selling point was that it was "not recommended for persons under 18 years old") at the First Avenue. The weekend brought Twilight of Honor (with Richard Chamberlain) to the DeSoto and Black Zoo to the First Avenue, while the West Rome Drive-In regaled viewers with a double feature of The Great Van Robbery and Sergeants 3.

The number one song this week in 1963 was "Dominique" by the Singing Nun, for the fourth week in a row. Other top ten hits included "There! I've Said It Again" by Bobby Vinton (#2); "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen (#3); "Since I Fell For You" by Lenny Welch (#4); "You Don't Have to Be a Baby to Cry" by the Caravelles (#5); "Drip Drop" by Dion DiMuci (#6); "Forget Him" by Bobby Rydell (#7); "Popsicles and Icicles" by the Murmaids (#8); "Talk Back Trembling Lips" by Johnny Tillotson (#9); and "Be True to Your School" by the Beach Boys (#10).

And while the Beatles had yet to officially release a record in the US, Walter Cronkite's broadcast of a story on the Beatles and Beatlemania in the UK (a story that was originally intended to air on  November 22nd, 1963, but never made it on the air on that day because of the Kennedy Assassination) convinced Ed Sullivan that the Beatles were going to be big. As a result, Sullivan was inspired to issue a press release in mid-December announcing that “The Beatles, a wildly popular quartet of English recording stars, will make their first trip to the United States Feb. 7 for their American television debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, Sunday, Feb. 9 and 16…The fantastic popularity of the Beatles in England has received considerable attention not only in British newspapers but also in the American press. Their first record release is scheduled for January.” In late 1963, US music fans had no idea how much popular culture was about to change in just six short weeks…

Sunday, December 08, 2013

A Life in Four Colors (Part Thirty-Nine)

1965 marked the year when I began to mature as a reader. Don't think for a moment that I gave up comics--I never considered reading comics to be a childish thing. However, I did begin to develop a critical sense. For the first time, I began to realize that not every comic I read was equally good.

Critical discernment is a two-edged sword; it helps you to recognize what's good and what's bad (and why), but it also leads to dissatisfaction. When I was younger, comics were a source of endless wonder, regardless of the writer or the artist or the publisher or the character. I had already begun to recognize artistic weaknesses as early as 1963. But by 1965, I realized that not all writers were equally good... and not all stories by good writers were equally good.

Marvel's second-tier titles--Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish, and Tales of Suspense--were the books that led me to this discovery. I loved the Human Torch in Fantastic Four... but gradually, I was becoming dissatisfied with the Human Torch stories in Strange Tales. The villains were forgettable, the storylines seemed rushed and undeveloped--and worst of all, nothing major ever happened. The stories were all churn with no advancement. I was thrilled when the Human Torch series was retired and Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD took its place because it was something different--something that didn't spin out of an existing story per se. (Sure, Nick Fury was a WWII sergeant in the Howling Commandos title, but this was so different that he was for all intents and purposes an all-new character.)

The Ant-Man (and later, Giant-Man) stories in Tales to Astonish were even worse. As much as I had enjoyed the Ant-Man concept, by 1965 the stories weren't even adequate... they were bad. I realized that the only reason I was reading them at all was because I was a completist.

The Hulk series in the back of Tales to Astonish was equally disappointing. I had loved the all-too-brief six-issue Hulk run in 1962-63--the stories had pathos, drama, suspense, and a genuine sense of wonder. None of that transferred to the lackluster Hulk installments, though. The stories were more simplistic, the drama forced and artificial. It seemed from the very beginning that the Hulk was no one's priority.

I was still a Marvel completist, but for the first time I was also a critical reader. This opened up all-new vistas for me: I was not only enjoying comics, but I was evaluating them as well. I was beginning to recognize the strengths of various creators, of various companies, of various types of books.

I was also able to re-read some of my childhood favorites and see them through a critical eye. I began to recognize themes and symbols and narrative styles--all the things that Miss Kitty Alford talked about in my seventh grade English class applied equally well to comics.

My relatively new-found awareness of fanzines helped as well. You see, fanzines often contained reviews, and that allowed me to see what others thought of the comics that I had read. It opened my eyes to new points of view, and it led to my awareness that criticism wasn't objective: the same story that a reviewer considered mediocre (or worse), I might rank much more highly. And that led me to ask why.

My comics reading--and in fact, all my reading--was moving into a very different phase. And no matter how much I enjoyed comics from this point onwards, I would never read them with the same childlike sense of wonder as before.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/9/1963 to 12/15/1963

West Rome faced off against East Rome at Memorial Gym on December 13th in the sports event of the week in Rome and Floyd County.  West Rome won handily, defeating the Gladiators 62-45, putting them in great position for the 10th Annual Northwest Georgia Invitational Basketball Tournament, which was slated to begin on December 17th. Alas, the girls team didn't fare as well, falling to East Rome 40-30.

Today, we take it for granted that polio is all but eliminated--but in 1963, it was still a very real threat, which is why the Floyd County Medical Society, led by Dr. C.J. Wyatt, launched plans for  a series of "Stop Polio" Sunday immunization clinics. The clinics were to be held in the spring at area schools, including West Rome High School, to make the Sabin oral vaccine available at no charge to anyone who had not been previously immunized.

Rome City School Superintendent M.S. McDonald reminded parents that students were scheduled to be dismissed after lunch on Friday, December 20th, for the Christmas holidays, returning to class on Thursday, January 2nd.

Garden Lakes scheduled their annual Santa Claus Parade and Christmas home decorations contest, which was slated for Saturday, December 21st. While Garden Lakes was in the county and not a part of West Rome proper, it was close enough that more than a few of us probably went to school there for a year or two before moving into the city, and many of us had friends who we would visit on the Santa Parade day in order to get a shot at some of the candy that Santa tossed from his parade vehicle as he rode down Garden Lakes Boulevard!

HO-scale electric trains were popular in the hobby market in 1963, as the Rome News-Tribune noted in their story on West Roman JW Clement of North Elm Street and his massive collection of electric trains.

West Rome High School's annual Christmas program took place on Wednesday, December 11th. The program, sponsored by the National Honor Society, began with a devotional delivered by Al Fletcher. Next, the girls' ensemble from the Chieftains chorus sang "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" and "When Christ Was Born of Mary Free." After their performance, Honor Society president Leigh Whittenburg introduced Father John McDonough, who spoke on the importance of understanding and enjoying the Christmas season.

West End Elementary presented its annual Christmas program on Thursday, December 12th, at 7pm, at the West Rome High School Auditorium. The theme was "Christmas Eve Journey Around the World."

The retail marketplace was so good in 1963 that businesses across the country were complaining of a coin shortage, noting that customers were making purchases at such a high rate that they were running out of almost all coins other than silver dollars. Even banks were asking people to put any saved coins back into circulation to help resolve the shortage.

Remember when fountain pens were a sure sign that you were growing up? Well, Wyatt's, Brocks, and even Enloe's had a full selection of fountain pens from Parker and Sheaffer, ranging in price from $7.95 to $15.00--and some of them even used cartridge ink rather than bottled ink! I still remember those pens, with the little lever that you'd lift upwards to draw ink into the pen… and as a left-hander, I still remember the ink smears on the edge of my left hand from dragging my hand across the still-wet lines of ink…

Georgia Power offered customers a chance to add a brand-new state-of-the-art 14 cubic foot frost-free Westinghouse refrigerator for only $319.95--and you could finance it through Georgia Power for only $11.07 a month!  (And yes, in 1963, a 14 cubic foot refrigerator/freezer was considered enormous!)

Piggly Wiggly had Sally Southern ice milk for 29¢ a half-gallon, Swift's beef stew for 45¢ a can, and fresh coconuts for 19¢ each. A&P had ground beef for 39¢ a pound (no one noted the lean-to-fat percentage back in the 1960s), bananas for a dime a pound, and a 16-ounce jar of dill pickles for 29¢. Kroger had pork chops for 49¢ a pound, Kroger canned biscuits for a nickel a can, and 12 ounces of Heinz ketchup for 19¢. Couch's had Nabisco saltines for 31¢ per one-pound box, tomatoes for 19¢ a pound, and spareribs for 39¢ a pound.

For the first half of the week, moviegoers could choose from Lawrence of Arabia at the First Avenue Theater and The Main Attraction (with Pat Boone & Nancy Kwan) at the DeSoto.  The weekend brought Elvis Presley's Fun in Acapulco to the DeSoto, while The First Avenue went low-class with a double feature of The Maniac and The Old Dark House. The West Rome Drive-In continued their weekend-showings-only policy with a double-feature of Donovan's Reef (with John Wayne) and The Traitors (with Patrick Allen).

The number one song fifty years ago this week was "Dominique" by the Singing Nun. Other top ten hits included "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen (#2); "You Don't Have to Be a Baby to Cry" by the Caravelles (#3); "There! I've said It Again" by Bobby Vinton (#4); "Since I Feel For You" by Lenny Welch (#5); "Be True to Your School" by the Beach Boys (#6); "Drip Drop" by Dion DiMuci (#7); "I'm Laing It Up To You" by Dale & Grace (#8); "Everybody" by Tommy Roe (#9); and "Popsicles and Icicles" by the Murmaids (#10).

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/2/1963 to 12/8/1963

Rome's annual Santa Claus Parade took place on Tuesday, December 3rd, with more than 17,000 people showing up for the big Christmas kickoff event. The parade ran from First Avenue all the way up Broad Street to the City Auditorium, where Santa officiated the lighting of the Christmas Tree and the Christmas street decorations that brightened Broad Street during the Christmas Season. The West Rome junior and senior bands performed in the festivities.

West Rome's boys basketball team defeated LaFayette 49-31 on Friday, December 6th, then best Cave Spring 43-20 on Saturday, December 7th. The girls team also bested LaFayette with a score of 49-28, but they lost to Cave Spring 43-27, with West Rome's Linda Lippencott scoring 25 of the Chieftain's 27 points.

Thirty Chieftain girls participated in the Betty Crocker Search for the Homemaker of Tomorrow Test given at West Rome on Tuesday, December 3rd.

On December 3rd, sixty members of West Rome's Future Homemakers of America dressed dolls for the Salvation Army Auxiliary for distribution during Christmas.

The Rome News-Tribune ran an article about West Rome High School's rapidly growing "pine forest" in front of the school. The article pointed out that both parents sand students alike were initially critical of the pine trees when West Rome opened in 1958, but everyone had not only come to accept them, but had actually grown fond of them. "I delight in coming to school every morning and beholding the 'greenies,'"  senior class president Patricia Annette Tompkins said. "They add to our school's character and replace the grass which is trampled underfoot."

Local retailers reported a great beginning to the Christmas shopping season, with one merchant explaining, "This is one year that no one will have to go out of town to shop, because Rome now has available any merchandise of equal quality that might be found in any metropolitan city. We hope shoppers will keep this in mind, because Rome dollars kept at home create prosperity for all the community." And the great thing is, this statement was true in 1963: it really was possible for a Chieftain to live, work, and make all his purchases in Rome without ever having to go to Atlanta or elsewhere to shop! It's no wonder that mid-sized towns like Rome grew so steadily during the 1960s and early 1970s--and it makes you miss that sort of community self-sufficiency today…

Seems like there has always been a debate over taxes: fifty years ago, many were wondering why the school systems were complaining about a lack of funds while tax money spent on education in Georgia had increased 112% over the prior ten years, while student enrollment was up only 29%. Local school officials pointed out, however, that a lot of that money went to reorganization of the State Education Department, which was reconfigured from seven to five divisions (with several of those divisions moving into new facilities). As always, very little of those extra funds actually made it into the classroom…

Did you remember that utility companies used to sell appliances back in the days before deregulation? For their "Holiday Bonus Sale," Atlanta Gas Light Company was offering a Magic Chef gas range with four burners and a 22" gas oven with glass window for only $269.00--and you could have it for only $1 down and $9.10 a month added to your gas bill! Even better, the appliance companies didn't charge any interest--and as a holiday special, they were including a free turkey or ham to cook in your new oven.

Piggly Wiggly had Bob White hot dogs for 33¢ a pound, turnip greens for 10¢ a pound, and a carton of six Coca Cola (6 ounce or 10 ounce bottles--although I never could figure out why someone would buy a 6 ounce bottle when they could get almost twice as much for the same price!) for 19¢. Kroger had sirloin steak for 89¢ a pound, apples for a dime a pound, and a 10-pound bag of russet potatoes for 35¢. A&P had whole fryers for a quarter a pound, bananas for a dime a pound, and Ann Page peanut butter for 33¢ for a 12 ounce jar. Big Apple had JFG coffee for 49¢ a pound, corn for 6¢ an ear, or the kid-favorite frozen fish sticks for 39¢ for a one-pound box. Couch's had streak-o-lean for 29¢ a pound, country sausage for 49¢ a pound, and Van Camp's chili for a quarter a can.

The week started with a cinematic choice of Palm Springs Weekend at the DeSoto Theater or Lawrence of Arabia at the First Avenue Theater. Lawrence hung around for the weekend at the First Avenue, while 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea came to the DeSoto for the weekend. West Rome Drive-In continued its weekends-only policy with a double feature of In the Cool of the Day (with Peter Finch & Jane Fonda) and The Password Is Courage (with Dirk Bogarde).

The number one song this week was "Dominique" by the Singing Nun, which held its number one chart position for the second week. Other top ten songs included "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen (#2); "Everybody" by Tommy Roe (#3); "I'm Leaving It Up to You" by Dale & Grace (#4); "You Don't Have to Be a Baby to Cry" by the Caravelles (#5); "Since I Fell for You" by Lenny Welch (#6); "Be True to Your School" by the Beach Boys (#7); "Drip Drop" by Dion DiMuci (#8); "There! I Said It Again" by Bobby Vinton (#9); and "Walking the Dog" by Rufus Thomas (#10).

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 11/25/63 to 12/1/63

Rome continued to mourn and react to the 11/22/63 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, as residents took part in memorials in churches across the county. Meanwhile, Roman Charles Jenkins shared an odd tangential link to the historic event: he was in the same Marine unit as Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald's defection in 1959, and shared his memories of Oswald with the Rome News-Tribune, confirming that even in 1959 Oswald was very pro-communist and seemed very out of place in the Marines, so no one in his unit was surprised when Oswald defected.

Rome and Floyd County continued to discuss the possibility of merging the two school systems, but even then the biggest stumbling block was money: if the two systems were merged, the state of Georgia would cut education funding by almost $16,000, and an additional funding shortage of $322,000+ in tax revenues paid by city residents (payments in excess of county tax levels) to pay for city school systems. The joint commission also found that it would cost an additional $635,000 to merge the two systems and upgrade facilities so that all schools would be more or less equal in facilities and equipment. Needless to say, the merger never took place…

Floyd Hospital continued to grow with the announcement of a new half-million dollar addition set to begin in early 1964; this announcement came soon after the early-1963 completion of a multi-million dollar hospital expansion that brought capacity up to 250 beds.

West Rome faced off against Rockmart over the Thanksgiving weekend; alas, after surprising everyone with their victory over Berry in their first game, the Chiefs fell to Rockmart 54-52 in their second game. "We looked a little ragged," Coach Ralph Beeler said, "but I think we should improve and maybe we can be a contender by tournament time."

West Rome students sat through a pair of rather graphic drivers' safety films in a pre-Thanksgiving assembly that featured a presentation by drivers' education instructor Don Unsworth. (I'll bet every one of us remembers those films with their then-graphic accident photographs, shown in hopes they would shock us into driving safely; of course, today we see worse than that in the previews for a Walking Dead episode or the first five minutes of Gray's Anatomy or Bones.)

Nowadays we have Black Friday, but in 1963 the post-Thanksgiving sales event was Rome Days. Merchants all over town offered specials on Friday, November 29th, and Saturday, November 30th, as a kickoff to the Christmas shopping season. The event was sponsored to the Rome Chamber of Commerce, which was headed by Van Enloe (that name is remembered by many of us because of his family's ownership of the Enloe's Rexall Drugstores, a mainstay in Rome in the 1960s). Stainless steel cookware sets for !2.95 at Maxwell Brothers; women's fashion coats for $25 at Belk-Rhodes; Timex watches for $9.99 at Murphy's; Remington portable typewriters for $49.88 at Economy Auto; Norelco Speedmaster electric razors for $19.99 at Enloe's; electric blankets for $10 at Penney's; a mahogany spinet piano for $399 at Rhodes Furniture; a 23" console TV for $168 at Sears; a Zenith shirt pocket radio for $24.95—in 1963, it really was possible for a Roman to make all of his or her purchases in Rome and never venture into Atlanta. Oh, how different life was in those pre-big-box-retailer, pre-mall days!…

Piggly Wiggly had Butterball hen turkeys for 45¢ a pound, cranberry sauce for 19¢ a can, and Haas avocados (after all, what's Thanksgiving without guacamole?) for 15¢ each. Big Apple had hen turkeys for 43¢ a pound, whole or full shank ham for 43¢ a pound, and the ever-popular brown-and-serve rolls for 19¢ a package. A&P had hen turkeys for 39¢ a pound, five-pound canned hams for $3.79, and canned pumpkin for 12¢ a can. Kroger had hen turkeys for 39¢ a pound, celery for 9¢ a bunch, and large eggs for 49¢ a dozen. And West Rome's favorite local grocery, Couch's, had hen turkeys for 39¢ a pound, JFG coffee for 59¢ a pound, and canned peach halves for 19¢ a can. Those prices may seem cheaper, but don't forget that there's an inflation multiplier of approximately 7.5 that has to factored in; when you multiply it out, we actually can buy many of these times more cheaply today!

For the first half of the week, moviegoers could choose from Giant (with Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, & James Dean) at the First Avenue Theater or Mary Mary (with Debbie Reynolds) at the DeSoto. The last half of the week brought Lawrence of Arabia to the First Avenue, Palm Springs Weekend to the DeSoto, and Spencer's Mountain at the West Rome Drive-In.

The number one song this week in 1963 was the memorable "Dominique" by the Singing Nun (and hallelujah, this is one musician whose climb to the top of the charts didn't inspire a celebrity meltdown!). Other top ten hits included "I'm Leaving It Up to You" by Dale & Grace (#2); "Everybody" by Tommy Roe (#3); "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen (#4); "She's a Fool" by Lesley Gore (#5); "Sugar Shack" by Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs (#6); "You Don't Have to Be a Baby to Cry" by the Caravelles (#7); "Be True to Your School" by the Beach Boys (#8); "Washington Square" by the Village Stompers (#9); and "Walking the Dog" by Rufus Thomas (#10).

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 11/18/63 to 11/24/63

Like Americans everywhere, West Romans were stunned and saddened by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22nd, 1963. I don't think there are any of us who were in school at that time who don't remember the outpouring of grief displayed by many of our teachers as the news swept the school. I was a fifth grader whose classroom was housed at the lower end of the campus (which was at the time the junior high school side of West Rome), and I still have vivid memories of the horrified expressions on the face of the teachers, and the somber tone of the announcement over the intercom regarding what had happened. The flag in front of West Rome was lowered to half-staff even before students were sent home on November 22nd. Class activities were halted in light of the tragedy, and according to the Rome News-Tribune, students were released early as soon as transportation could be arranged. Many Friday night events were cancelled, and it was announced by the end of the day Friday that  the schools (along with many businesses and most operations of the city government) would be closed on Monday, November 25th. The Rome News-Tribune issued an almost unprecedented three editions on November 22nd, 1963, in order to keep Romans updated with the latest information regarding the death of the President.
 The Rome City Police Department also started a special fund to raise money to help cover funeral expenses for Dallas, TX policeman J.D. Tippett, who was also killed by Lee Harvey Oswald.

Saturday night's basketball season opener went on as scheduled however, as the Chieftains defeated the Berry Falcons 40-33. Eddie Hamilton and Van Gray scored nine points each to lead the Chiefs to the unexpected victory over the Berry Falcons, who had never lost a game until they were beaten by West Rome.

West Rome's student body voted to adopt an official school seal (designed by West Rome senior Benny Fricks) in November 1963; the seal, depicting a torch, representing knowledge, was at the center of the seal, which was adorned with the words "honor, wisdom, truth." The outer circle of the seal bore the name West Rome High School and its founding date of 1958.

The big Christmas gift that retailers were pushing for the holiday season of 1963 was the all-new Zenith color television. A 19" color console could be yours for only $549.00, while a 21" color console was priced at $640.00. (Bear in mind that, adjusting for inflation, that would be almost $5000 in today's dollars--and that $640.00 was almost half the price of a brand new 1963 Volkswagen Beetle!)

The other entertainment gift of the season was a Magnavox home entertainment center that included a 23" black and white television, an AM/FM radio, and a stereo record player with two built-in stereo speakers, all encased in a handsome early American cherry or walnut finish. I remember that my parents had one of these, which was my introduction to the wonders of stereo music; I credit (or blame) that investment for inspiring my lifelong fascination with audio and video equipment.

Just when it appeared that the whole junior college issue had been resolved--and not in Rome's favor--the Governor's Commission to Improve Education resurrected the issue on November 18th, 1963, when they announced that Rome was one of eight locations under consideration for a new state junior college. Three of the locationss were within the metro Atlanta area, and five (including Rome) were located in other parts of the state. The state estimated that it would cost as much as $1.5 million per school to acquire land and construct the facilities… alas, today $1.5 million probably wouldn't do much more to cover the cost of a feasibility study!

The Mite Crown went to Central Primary after they defeated West End Elementary 21-19 at the Boys Club for the Mite League Championship. West End's starring players for the game included John Sapp, Danny Quinton, Carter Unsworth, and Terry Wade.

At long last, the resurfacing of Shorter Avenue from the the Underpass to Burnett Ferry finally got underway on November 19th; the city estimated that it would take two weeks for the entire resurfacing to be completed. (So why is it that nowadays it takes them two to three months to finish a comparable job?)

A&P had 16 to 20 pound tom turkeys for 35¢ a pound, stew beef for 15¢ a pound, and red delicious apples for a nickel a pound. Big Apple had Swift's Butterball turkeys for 43¢ a pound, Pepsi-Cola for 19¢ a six-pack, and fresh cranberries for 23¢ a pound. Piggly Wiggly had sirloin steak for 89¢ a pound, canned biscuits for a nickel a can, and the pounds of potatoes for 29¢. Kroger had chuck roast for 39¢ a pound, cranberry sauce for 19¢ a can, and mincemeat or pumpkin pies for 33¢ each. Couch's had center cut pork chops for 39¢ a pound, Libby's cream corn for a dime a can, and pecans for 33¢ a pound.

Another lackluster list of movies kicked off the week: Stolen Hours at the DeSoto and 13 Frightened Girls at the First Avenue. The weekend got a bit more lively, though, with the arrival of the controversial film Mondo Cane, which was screening at both the First Avenue Theater and the West Rome Drive-In; Mary Mary (with Debbie Reynolds) was showing at the DeSoto Theater.

The number one song this week in 1963 was "I'm Leaving It Up to You" by Dale & Grace. Other top ten hits included "Dominique" by the Singing Nun (#2); "Washington Square" by the Village Stompers (#3); "Sugar Shack" by Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs (#4); "It's All Right" by the Impressions (#5); "She's a Fool" by Leslie Gore (#6); "Everybody" by Tommy Roe (#7); "Deep Purple" by Nino Temple & April Stevens (#8); "(Down at) Papa Joe's" by the Dixiebelles (#9); and "Bossa Nova Baby" by Elvis Presley (#10).

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 11/11/63 to 11/17/63

The West Rome Hi-Y and Tri-Hi-Y helped the Marine Corps with their Toys for Tots drive beginning this week in 1963, under the direction of Sid Skelton and Mrs. C.H. Matthews. The groups set up a box for students to drop off toy donations, leading up to a special "Toys for Tots" day on November 21st that would be highlighted by a holiday assembly (for which the admission price was one toy donation).

West Rome set a cold-weather record on Thursday, November 14th, with a low of 19 degrees; the cold didn't last for long, though, with temperatures climbing back to a more seasonal 64 degrees by Saturday, November 16th.

Football season was officially over for the Chieftains, but there was still one unofficial game to be played: the Rome Boys club and the Cheerful Givers began promoting the annual East and West Mite All-Star Santa Bowl game, which was scheduled to be played on November 23rd.

Goodyear kicked off their holiday season with the release of their annual Great Songs of Christmas album, available for $1 at your local Goodyear store.  This was actually a common practice in the early 60s, with Sears, Western Auto, Goodyear, and many others offering their own collections  of Christmas classics for a bargain price.

Sears had pear trees (5 to 6 foot trees) for $1.98 for the holiday; no word on the price of the partridges to accompany them...

And as holiday shopping got underway, stores such as Miller Bros. and Kessler's and Belk-Rhodes announced their extended holiday hours, staying open until 8:30pm on Friday nights.

Romans got a new dining choice as the Chicken Shack opened on Broad Street, offering one breast, one wing, one leg, and one thigh (along with salad, french fries, and rolls) for $1.25 or all the chicken you can eat for $1.50.

A&P had fresh fryers for 25¢ a pound, Allgood bacon for 39¢ a pound, and bell peppers for a nickel each. Kroger offered chicken breasts for 45¢ a pound, canned biscuits for a nickel each, and Campbell's tomato soup for 9¢ a can. Big Apple offered ground beef for 33¢ a pound, whole coconuts for 15¢ each (I remember that Mom bought one of those at one time to appease my incessant requests for a fresh coconut, and I discovered just how much trouble a whole coconut could be!), and ten pounds of flour for 85¢. Couch's had whole smoked hams for 49¢ each, Maxwell House coffee for 59¢ a pound, and a dozen eggs for 49¢. (Y'know, when you adjust for inflation, eggs are one of the few foods that were more expensive in the 1960s than they are now--that price would equal about $3.50 a dozen today!)

The first half of the week offered moviegoers a choice of The VIPs (with Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton) at the DeSoto or Sword of Lancelot (with Cornel Wilde) at the First Avenue. The last half of the week brought All the Way  Home (with Jean Simmons & Robert Preston) to the Desoto and a double feature of Mill of the Stone Women and Then There Were Three (no, I've never heard of either of them) to the First Avenue, while the West Rome Drive-In was showing The Wild Party for those who considered it entertaining to brave a cold weekend evening in their cars.

The number one song this week in 1963 was "I'm Leaving It Up to You" by Dale & Grace. Other top ten hits included "Washington Square" by the Village Stompers (#2); "Deep Purple" by Nino Temple & April Stevens (#3); "Sugar Shack" by Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs (#4); "It's All Right" by the Impressions (#5); "She's a Fool" by Lesley Gore (#6); "Everybody" by Tommy Roe (#7); "Bossa Nova Baby" by Elvis Presley (#8); "Dominique" by the Singing Nun (#9); and "Maria Elena" by Los Indios Tabajares (#10).

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 11/4/1963 to 11/10/1963

Friday, November 8th, brought the football game of the year as West Rome faced off against East Rome at Barron Stadium. Coach Paul Kennedy admitted that the Gladiators had a tough team, adding that "mistakes will probably determine the winner." Alas, Coach Kennedy's statement turned out to be all too true, as a combination of an intercepted pass and two blocked punts led to a 15-7 Gladiator victory over the Chieftains--the first victory East Rome had posted in the history of the two schools.

The Hi-Y and the Tri-Hi-Y Clubs sponsored a sock hop at the West Rome gym after the East-West game; the student bodies of both West Rome and East Rome High Schools were invited to attend.

Rome Bank and Trust president J.B. Dodd announced that more than 5700 Christmas Club members (including, I'm sure, many fellow West Romans) had saved more than $762,000 (an average of $133 per person) during the year. The Christmas Club checks went into the mail on Thursday, November 7th. (You may remember Christmas Club accounts--these were no-interest savings accounts that were opened in mid-November and closed out in early November of the next year to help pay for Christmas gift-giving. The accounts were popular with residents old and young, with many students participating in the program.)

West Rome's band was one of five Northwest Georgia bands invited to appear at the annual Shrine Scottish Rite Hospital football game between the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech on Thanksgiving Day. The City of Rome agreed to furnish buses to transport the band members to the game, while the Shrine Club agreed to pay for a luncheon for the band members and the director.

Seven young ladies from West Rome were part of the second annual Junior Miss Pageant. Alice Evans, Patricia Tompkins, Pat Garrard, Janet Beard, Cynthia Blaylock, Diana Cambron, and Kay Milligan comprised one-third of the twenty-one entries in the competition, which was held at the Rome City Auditorium.

67 West Rome seniors qualified for Honor Study Halls; students had to maintain a scholastic average of 86 or higher to qualify, and if they did, they were rewarded with a totally free period during which time they could skip study hall and talk, play touch football, grab a soft drink, or relax. The only requirement was that they stay on campus and not disturb classes.

Belk-Rhodes advertised the availability of a new men's cologne , Jade East, for those who were looking for something other than Old Spice for a Christmas gift. Belk-Rhodes was one of a select few stores allowed to offer the cologne for Christmas 1963; the rest of the world had to wait until 1964 for the national rollout of the men's fragrance.

Piggly Wiggly had standing rib beef roast for 79¢ a pound, five pounds of Colonial sugar for 47¢, and a one-pound bag of Maxwell House Coffee for 59¢. Kroger had center cut pork chops for 49¢ a pound, Duke's mayonnaise for 39¢ a quart, and five pounds of oranges for 47¢. A&P had shank portion hams for 29¢ a pound, apples for a dime a pound, and center cut ham slices for 79¢ a pound. Big Apple had bread for a dime a loaf, bananas for a dime a pound, and sirloin steaks for 79¢ a pound.

The First Avenue offered a special Wednesday-only showing of Ronald Colman's Tale of Two Cities, which was targeted at area students, with special rates for group tickets. (Did any teacher take his/her students on a field trip to this showing, by any chance? Anyone remember?) Otherwise, movie choices for the week included Gunfight at the OK Corral and Last Train from Gun Hill at the First Avenue and The VIPs at the DeSoto. The West Rome Drive-In, which operated only on the weekends through the winter, was showing Gidget Goes to Rome (Italy, not Georgia).

Fans of comic books and of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan were undoubtedly thrilled with the release of Korak, Son of Tarzan #1 by Gaylord DuBois & Russ Manning this week in 1963. My Favorite Martian #1, based on the hit TV series, also made its debut, along with Outer Limits #1, Fireball XL-5 #1, Navy War Heroes #1, Marine War Heroes #1, Wagon Train #1, and Burke's Law #1 (comics based on new television shows were quite popular in the wary 1960s, as the big Silver Age superhero boom was just beginning). The Outer Limits was also cover-featured on Famous Monsters of Filmland #26, also on sale this week in 1963--and it was such a striking cover that I passed on a couple of comic books to pick up this magazine instead!

The number one song this week in 1963 was "Deep Purple" by Nino Temple & April Stevens. Other top ten hits included "Sugar Shack" by Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs (#2); "Washington Square" by the Village Stompers (#3); "I'm Leaving It Up to You" by Dale & Grace (#4); "It's All Right" by the Impressions (#5); "Maria Elena" by Los Indios Tabajares (#6); "She's a Fool" by Lesley Gore (#7); "Bossa Nova Baby" by Elvis Presley (#8); "Everybody" by Tommy Roe (#9); and "500 Miles Away from Home" by Bobby Bare (#10).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 10/28/13 to 11/3/13

Rome's dry weather (the city and the county hadn't had any measurable rainfall since September 29th) was creating a severe fire hazard all across the city and the surrounding county; a burn ban was put into place, and forest rangers were put on alert for potential fires. Meanwhile, an early season cold snap brought 28 degree temperatures to Rome on Wednesday, October 30th, brought in by a cold front that resulted in freezing temperatures as far south as northern Florida. The changing weather finally brought Rome its first measurable rain in over a month on October 31st, which reduced the fire threat just in time for Halloween.

The US Army Core of Engineers spoke about an ambitious plan to use a series of locks and dams to make Rome an inland port and the upper terminus of a waterway connecting to the Gulf of Mexico. Like so many ambitious plans in the 1960s, this one fell by the wayside--but oh, what might have been!...

It was a somewhat more sober weekend for Romans as law enforcement officers destroyed two thousand-gallon stills, two six hundred gallon stills, and one two hundre gallon still on Mount Alto. The "revenooers" were still quite active in 1963.

As Halloween approached, Rome Police Chief Nelson Camp reminded everyone that trick-or-treating was reserved for children only, and that teenagers would not be allowed to trick-or-treat. In fact, teenagers caught trick-or-treating would be taken home and their parents would be cited, the chief warned.

The Chieftains faced off against Cartersville on November 1st; after their amazing victory over the state champs on October 25th, everyone was picking West Rome for the win, but Coach Kennedy kept reminding people that the game could be a close one. "I keep reminding the boys about last year's 34-33 victory," Kennedy said. "I think the boys realize Cartersville is a really tough team... I know they are a tremendously improved ball club." Not improved enough, though: West Rome won the game 28-13, with Ronnie Kennedy throwing two touchdown passes and Chris Warren throwing one. The fourth touchdown was scored on a run by Van Gray.

The Rome Exchange Club presented Principal Dick McPhee with a "Freedom Shrine"during an assembly on Wednesday, October 30th. The shrine included "a collection of documents that together have formed the basis for our American way of life," including the Gettysburg Address, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, and other historic replicas.

A seventh and eighth grade Student Council was organized this week in 1963, with Miss Kitty Alford acting as sponsor. The officers included Mary Gilbert, president; Pam Williams, vice-president; Robert Blaylock, secretary; and Ronnie Jones, treasurer. Homeroom Representatives includes Tony Grass, Gary Greer, Beth Toglia, Holly Wood, Debby Morris, Paula St. Clair, Lee Davenport, Vicki Horton, Carol Holloway, and Pam Williams.

The Junior Tri-Hi-Y held a fund-raising rummage sale on Saturday, November 2nd, while the West Rome Future Business Leaders of America Club traveled to Atlanta on the same day to attend the Georgia FBLA Convention.

West end Elementary held its Fall Festival on Saturday, November 2nd, from 5pm to 9pm. The faculty had arrange for a number of games and presentations to make the festival memorable, and food was served in the cafeteria for those who wanted to make an afternoon of it.

In the days before deregulation brought soaring prices and exorbitant pipeline fees, Atlanta Gas Light did it all--including selling those pole mounted gas lights that were so frequently seen alongside West Rome driveways. The gas company offered two different designs of gas lights for $49 installed--and they'd finance it for only $1 down and $1.95 added on to your gas bill each month. Nowadays the pipeline fees just to get the gas to your house almost equal the 1963 price of the gas lamp and installation.

I still remember those color-coded reading packets: this week in 1963, Elm Street Elementary hosted a program to explain the SRA reading program to parents of Li'l Chieftains. SRA was designed to improve reading speed and comprehension through the use of increasingly more complex reading selections; I always looked forward to SRA because I got to read all sorts of fun things, and I was encouraged to improve my reading speed so that I could read even more of them! Don't know why the program was discontinued--as far as I was concerned, it was a phenomenal success!

The Rome Holiday Inn got into the restaurant competition with their new "roast beef bar," which offered choice roast beef, potato of the day, tossed green salad, coffee, or tea for only $1.25 per person--and they guaranteed that it would be served in ten minutes or less! Or, for Romans with a limited lunch time, you could call ahead a half-hour before your lunchtime and they'd have any item on the menu prepared and waiting for you the minute you walked in the door. Apparently too little time and too much to do is a decades-old problem!...

Piggly Wiggly had fresh whole fryers for a quarter a pound, fresh eggs for 33¢ a dozen, and fresh whole pecans for 33¢ a pound (when did pecans get so expensive? Even adjusting for inflation, pecans are now almost three times as expensive as they were in 1963!). Kroger had ground baby beef for 35¢ a pound, applesauce for 12¢ a can, and grapes for a dime a pound. A&P offered russet potatoes for a nickel a pound, Golden Rise canned biscuits for 8¢ a can, and Bailey's Supreme Coffee for 49¢ per one-pound can. Couch's had Southern Maid all meat wieners for 39¢ a pound, marshmallows for 29¢ per one pound bag, and bulk trick or treat candy for a 12¢ a pound.

Another lackluster selection of movies awaited patrons of Rome's two theaters during the week: The DeSoto had Rampage (with Robert Mitchum & Elsa Martinelli), while the First Avenue was showing David & Lisa ("Recommended for Adults!"). For the last half of the week, The DeSoto brought in Wives & Lovers (with Janet Leigh & Van Johnson), while both the West Rome Drive-In and the First Avenue Theater took the non-seasonal route with Beach Party (with Annette Funicello & Frankie Avalon). Apparently showing the same movie at an indoor theater and a drive-in was more common than I realized!…

The number one song this week in 1963 was "Sugar Shack" by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs. Other top ten hits included "Deep Purple" by Nino Temple & April Stevens (#2); "Washington Square" by the Village Stompers (#3); "It's All Right" by the Impressions (#4); "Mean Woman Blues" by Roy Orbison (#5); "I'm Leaving It Up To You" by Dale & Grace (#6); "Maria Elena" by Los Indios Tabajaras (#7); "Busted" by Ray Charles (#8); "Bossa Nova Baby" by Elvis Presley (#9); and "I Can't Stay Mad at You" by Skeeter Davis (#10).

Monday, October 21, 2013

Album Side of the Evening: Led Zeppelin Side 1

Often, when I'm working on bookkeeping, I pull a favorite album, place it on the turntable, and enjoy some memorable music. The idea, of course, is that the songs will serve as background entertainment while I'm busy at the computer.

Sometimes the reality is different however: the album will from time to time prove to be so good that the work gets put aside as I become enthralled by the music.

The  album side of the evening tonight was Led Zeppelin, side 1--the most perfect album side of any that Led Zep ever produced. It starts off strong with the punchy Zep-pop song "Good Times Bad Times," which has that swirling guitar by Jimmy Page (thank you, Leslie speaker, for making that effect possible!). From there it leads into my absolute favorite Led Zeppelin song, "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" an acoustic piece with an intense electric refrain--sounds like it wouldn't blend that well, but it actually meshes perfectly. Also love the acoustic guitar riff that opens the song; the chords are remarkably similar to George Harrison's chord pattern for "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," but it is constructed in such as a way as to create a wholly different mood here. The album side goes out with the thirteen-minute bluesy one-two punch of "You Shook Me" and "Dazed and Confused"--one a fever dream, the other a haunted nighmare. 22 minutes of musical perfection--and in spite of the fact that they packed that much music on one vinyl side, it's sonically great, with wonderful dynamic range and nary a skip (many albums with that much music have trouble playing the bass-heavy parts without skipping).

Okay, now I need to get back to work on the bookkeeping that got put on hold while I revisited an old favorite...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 10/21/63 to 10/27/63

Rome's economic prospects continued to look up: General Electric announced that it was closing a plant in Massachusetts and moving the jobs to their Rome facility instead, which would lead to the creation of more than 200 full-time positions.

Buy-Wise opened its first store in Rome on October 24th, offering Romans another bargain shopping choice. The first store was located at 327 Broad Street; the West Rome location was in the planning stages, but was not slated to open for a while longer.

The third annual Rome Auto Show took place in Central Plaza's parking lot on Sunday, October 27th from 2pm to 6pm. Rome's dealers had all the new models on hand for potential customers to compare them side by side and take advantage of on-site specials.

The ill-fated idea that would seemingly never die: the city and county school systems continued to talk about a merger, putting more money into feasibility studies and evaluations. This was a proposal that popped up again and again over the years, but it never got further than the study phases. (Actually, it would make more sense today than it did then, with the city school system's declining enrollments--but it appears that it's no longer on anyone's radar.)

The steady population growth in Rome was certainly noticed by the lunchroom staff of the various schools: according to a Mrs. C.N. King, cafeteria coordinator for the school system, the schools were serving 3900+ lunches every day. She also that high school students sometimes bought two lunches a day, which boosted those numbers.  (I always liked school lunches, but I don't recall any lunch I liked so much--or was still so hungry after eating--that I felt the need to buy a second lunch!)

The Chieftains prepared for their toughest game of the season as they faced off against the Class AA champion Dalton Catamounts, who came to West Rome 6-0. The game generated so much excitement that Barron Stadium sold 5000+ tickets in advance of the game--and what a game it was! West Rome came into the game as underdogs, but they fought their way to a 14-0 victory over Dalton. It was West Rome's game from the very beginning, when Dickie Sapp made a 51-yard kickoff return. Gery Law scored the first touchdown and kicked the point-after; Dickie Sapp scored the second touchdown.

West Rome became one of seventeen pilot schools in Georgia teaching "new math" under the leadership of Miss Susie Underwood, who helped develop the state guide for the new match program. According to Miss Underwood, "The new math shifts from the old watch-then-do-what-I-do way of teaching to the find-out-for-yourself-if-this-works method." The goal was to prepare students for advanced concepts such as calculus by the 9th or 10th grade.

Dr. Chester Swor, a missionary worker in the Southern Baptist Convention, spoke at an assembly at West Rome High School. His motivational presentation encouraged students to follow their dreams while setting attainable, worthwhile goals for themselves now.

Drivers' Education instructor Don Unsworth presented certifications of program completion to 25 Chieftains who had completed his course (and presumably watched his gory films designed to scare us all into driving carefully).

Countering Murphy's 79¢ a plate turkey and dressing special, Redford's brought back their 50¢ baked ham dinner, which included corn, green beans, cole slaw, hot rolls,and butter, and iced tea.

Piggly Wiggly's weekly meat special was ground beef for 39¢ a pound; they also had 5 pounds of sugar for 39¢ and 10 pounds of potatoes for 29¢. Big Apple had chuck roast for 39¢ a pound, blackeyed peas for a dime a can, and grapefruit for 8¢ each. A&P offered smoked hams for 35¢ a pound, apples for 15¢ a pound, and Sealtest ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon. Kroger had whole friers for 27¢ a pound, Kroger coffee in vacuum-sealed cans for 49¢ a pound, and Super-Right chili for 23¢ a can. Couch's had Showboat pork & beans for a dime a can, cabbage for a nickel a head, and pork chops for 49¢ a pound.

The first half of the week was not a great one for moviegoers: the choices were The Caretakers (with Robert Stack & Joan Crawford) at the DeSoto and a double feature of Saturday Night & Sunday Morning and Room at the Top at the First Avenue. The weekend was scarcely better, with The Island of Love and Desert Warrior at the DeSoto, Kiss of the Vampire at the First Avenue, and The Girl Hunters at the West Rome Drive-In. Sounds like it was a great weekend to read a book!…

The number one song this week in 1963 was "Sugar Shack" by Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs. Other top ten hits included "Deep Purple" by Nino Temple & April Stevens (#2); "Washington Square" by the Village Stompers (#3); "Busted" by Ray Charles (#4); "Mean Woman Blues" by Roy Orbison (#5); "Donna the Prima Donna" by Dion Di Muci (#6); "I Can't Stay Mad at You" by Skeeter Davis (#7); "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes (#8); "It's All Right" by the Impressions (#9); and "Maria Elena" by Los Indies Tabajares (#10).

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 10/14/63 to 10/20/63

West Rome students enjoyed a five-day "weekend" thanks to teacher in-service days; studnets got to sleep late beginning on Wednesday, October 16th, and they didn't return to class until Monday, October 24th. (Having taught school for more than a quarter-century, I can assure you that teachers enjoyed these breaks in the classroom schedule almost as much as students! It may not have been a full holiday for teachers, but it was a change in the daily routine, at least!)

Just up Redmond Road from West Rome, a forty-acre tract of land across from General Electric was undergoing development as an industrial site. Rome's rapid growth of new businesses and small industries made the development necessary, and the four-laning of Shorter Avenue to Redmond Road and beyond made the area readily accessible. We tend to forget how many small industries found homes in Rome during the 1960s--would that it were the same situation today!

Coach Paul Kennedy admitted that he was a little worried about the October 18th clash against Rockmart--particularly since Dickie Sapp had missed two days of practice after suffering an injury in the Cedartown game. Turned out that Coach Kennedy's worries were unnecessary, however: West Rome defeated Rockmart 33-7, led by Steve Holland, who scored twice in the game and made a stunning 70-yard punt return. Dickie Sapp recovered in time to play in the game. The Chieftains were so far ahead by the second half that Coach Kennedy put in the reserve team, who immediately scored a touchdown under the guidance of quarterback Ronnie Kennedy (Coach Kennedy's son). Perhaps the victory was inspired at least in part by the Thursday night bonfire that the Pep Club sponsored.

West Rome's chemistry classes experimented with a new approach to the study of chemistry as the launched the CHEM study, which was a laboratory-centered course that emphasized controlled experiments and careful record-keeping. Mr. Graham Stevens was the CHEM study facilitator at West Rome, working with his cross-town colleague Miss Addie Jim Rollins at East Rome to ensure that the new curriculum ran smoothly.

The Rome News-Tribune got a little smaller fifty years ago: the newspaper changed its trim size, making the paper a full inch narrower than it had been before. They also changed the font, or typeface, of the paper to a more contemporary style. This change resulted in a paper that looked much more like the Rome News-Tribune that most of us know, bringing an end to the older mid-centuiry look that strikes today's readers as "old timey." It may seem like a minor change today, but in the pre-Internet era, the paper was a much more important source of news for all Romans, so any change of this sort was a big thing.

Diners who wanted to get a head start on Thanksgiving feasting could stop by Murphy's every Friday and Saturday to enjoy a 79¢ turkey dinner that included dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, rolls, and jello.

"Buy-Wise is coming" ads began popping up in the Rome News-Tribune this week in 1963, which meant that another discount shopping alternative was on its way to Rome.  Many of us grew up with the "Be wise: Buy-Wise" slogan, so it's a bit surprising to realize that until 1963 there was no Buy-Wise in our town!

Piggly Wiggly was running their big pork chop sale, with center cut chops for 59¢ a pound; they also offered 5 pounds of sugar for 39¢ and an 18-ounce jar of Maxwell House instant coffee for $1.09. Big Apple offered smoked picnic ham for 29¢ a pound, Irvindale ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon, and strawberries for 33¢ a pound. Kroger had ribeye steaks on sale for 99¢ a pound, apples for 9¢ a pound, and a two-pound package of Velveeta cheese for 79¢. A&P had grapefruit for a dime each, shrimp for 69¢ a pound, and leg o' lamb for 59¢ a pound. Couch's had country style backbone for 49¢ a pound (okay, I'm stymied--what made backbone worth as much as a center-cut porkchop?), Bama jelly for 25¢ in a 16-ounce container that could be repurposed as a drinking glass, and baking potatoes for a nickel a pound.

In a rather unusual promotion, Van Camp's ran a coupon in the paper that offered a $10 discount on an electric blanket with the purchase of two cans of Van Camp's pork and beans. (Not sure that spending time under a blanket after eating a heaping helping of beans was necessarily the best idea...)

The West Rome Drive-In continued its newly-implemented policy of closing on weeknights, which meant that Romans had only two choices if they wanted to catch a movie. For the first half of the week, the DeSoto Theater was showing 55 Days at Peking (with Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner), while the First Avenue was screening Captain Sinbad (with no one who mattered--although that didn't stop me from seeing the movie, of course! in the pre-Indiana Jones times, Sinbad movies offered similar thrill-a-minute adventures, albeit on a much lower production budget). The weekend brought a double-feature of Sergeants 3 and Rommel's Treasure to the DeSoto; First Spaceship on Venus and Varan the Unbelievable to the First Avenue; and The Last Days of Pompeii and Sharkfighters to the West Rome Drive-In. To say it was a rather uninspired cinematic weekend in Rome would be an understatement…

The number one song this week in 1963 was "Sugar Shack" by Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs. Other Top Ten hits included "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes (#2); "Deep Purple" by Nino Temple & April Stevens (#3); "Busted" by Ray Charles (#4); "Blue Velvet" by Bobby Vinton (#5); "Donna the Prima Donna" by Dion Di Muci (#6); "Mean Woman Blues" by Roy Orbison (#7); "Washington Square" by the Village Stompers (#8); "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" by Peter, Paul, & Mary (#9); and "Cry Baby" by Garnet Mimms & the Enchanters (#10).

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 10/7/63 to 10/13/63

The first possible location for a new Rome post office was announced on October 7th--but it wasn't the location that we all know as the final choice. Instead, the Rome City Commission proposed that the post office be established at the former location of the old Rome High School on Third Avenue. The proposed deal would have made the building available to the postal service for 55 years (whch would mean that, had the agreement actually been finalized, the city would be negotiating new terms or the postal service would be looking for yet another location for the post office in the next few years).

West Roman O.V. Scoggins, 44, of Coosawattee Avenue, died as a result of a one-car accident on Highway 411, seven miles outside of Rome, on October 10th... one of far too many fatalities on a road that has proven to be one of the most dangerous in Floyd County.

West Rome High School teacher Mrs. Smiderski used debate as a way to teach history in the fall of 1963, dividing students into teams to debate such topics as "Resolved: That Rome was justified in destroying Carthage"; "Rseolved: That Julius Caesar was a better ruler than Augustus"; "Resolved: That the Athenian way of life was superior to the Roman way of life"; "Resolved: That the Greeks gave us more contributions than the Romans"; and "Resolved: That Athenian government was better than Roman government." Students said that this approach encouraged them to get more personally involved in resarching information about Greek and Roman history. and it helped them to improve their public speaking skills.

The West Rome Future Teachers of America inducted new members this week in 1963, including Diane Leake, Phyllis Kelso, Ann Finley, Ginny Burnett, Barbara Helie, and Beverly Vann.

The Future Business Leaders of America elected its officers: Beverly Pegg was chosen as president, Scherion Easterwood as vice-president, Joeanne Ellis as secretary, Alice Evans as treasurer, Donita Womack as reporter, Sandra Gravely as parliamentarian, and Jane Rogers as chaplain.

With work underway to extend Shorter Avenue as a four-lane road well beyond Burnett Ferry Road and past West Rome High School, the city awarded Ledbetter Brothers a contract to improve the existing segment of Shorter Avenue. The total cost to repair and resurface Shorter from Burnett Ferrry Road to the old railroad underpass came in at $84,998.50.

Rome's junior college efforts, which seemed to be shut down earlier in 1963 when Rome did not make the final cut, were resurrected when a member of the State Board of Regents said that continued growth in the northwest Georgia area would eventually require the construction of a junior college in tis area, and the Board of Regents was convinced that Rome would be the logical site for such a school.

The Rome Art League sponsored the Rome Fall Art Show on October 12th and 13th; the show was open to professional and amateurs of all ages, including students—and while most Romans had to pay a fee to submit works for display in the show, students were allowed to enter works for exhibition absolutely free of charge.

West Rome faced off against one of Georgia's top teams, the Cedartown Bulldogs, on October 11th. "Any team that can fumble the ball nine times, lose six of those, and still win the game has got to be a terrific team," Coach Paul Kennedy said in reference to the Bulldogs' victory over Chattooga on October 4th, adding, "Sooner or later, they're going to stop fumbling--and when they do, it's going to be rough!" Meanwhile, Cedartown coach Doc Ayers said that one of his biggest worries was West Rome's Dickie Sapp, whom he called "the hardest running 150-pounder in this area." In his weekly football prognostications for the Rome News-Tribune, my father (Don Biggers, who was sports editor of the RN-T) predicted that Cedartown would beat our Chieftains 19-7; alas, he proved to be correct, as West Rome ended up losing the game in a 20-0 rout, which put a damper on West rome's homecoming.  (In making the prediction, Dad wrote, "I live in a neighborhood of West Rome fans. My son, Cliff, is an avid West Rome supporter. Even my two-year-old daughter, Kim, shows sign of being influenced by 'Chieftainism.' I offer this evidence only in hopes you'll believe me when I say I gave extra thought to this week's West Rome-Cedartown game and to my selection of the probable winner. Sentiment tells me to pick West Rome; logic tells me to go with Cedartown."  I believe that this was the first time that Dad specifically mentioned Kim or me in his column, and it brings a smile to my face to unexpectedly run across this mention now.)

Rome's Southeastern Professional Football League team, the Bisons, extended a perfect record by losing their tenth game to the Atlanta Spartans on Sunday, October 13th. Just how bad was their playing? Well, their total yardage for the game was -27… and yes, that's a minus sign in front of the number…

The 1964 model year rollout continued as Rhinehart Motor Company announced the arrival of the new Studebaker Commander, Daytona Converstible, Hawk, and Avanti. Alas, these models were destined to sell so poorly that Studebaker would begin shutting down plants and discontinuing models after 1964, with the company exiting the American auto market a couple of years later.

Dempsey-Anderson Motor Company became Rome's new Rambler dealer, debuting the 1964 Rambler Classic, the Classic HT, and the Rambler American station wagon on Thursday, October 10th. Ford, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac, Chrysler, Plymouth, Lincoln, Mercury, Volkswagen, Studebaker, Rambler--Rome was quite the automotive town back in 1963!

Grocery shoppers could pick up bananas for 9¢ a pound at Piggly Wiggly; other specials included a pound of bacon for 49¢ and Bama grape jam or apple jelly in 16 ounce jelly-jar glasses for 33¢. Kroger had smoked hams for 39¢ a pound, Maxwell House coffee for 49¢ a pound, and Scott bathroom tissue for a dime a roll. A&P had sirloin steak for 69¢ a pound, Super-Right chili for 22¢ a can (and I don't remember that brand at all--do you?), and the ever-popular Hormel Spam for 39¢ a pound. Big Apple had large eggs for 49¢ a dozen, bologna for 29¢ a pound, and apples for 19¢ a pound. Couch's had Aristocrat ice milk for 39¢ a pound, large baking hens for 33¢ a pound, and Stokely's catsup for 15¢ a bottle.

Not the finest cinematic week in Rome history: the week began with For Love or Money at the DeSoto and L-Shaped Room at the First Avenue, while the West Rome Drive-In was closed for the first half of the week. The weekend brought The Three Stooges Around the World in a Daze (and yes, I did go see that one, thank you very much!) to the DeSoto; Captain Sinbad (which I also saw) to the First Avenue; and Solomon and Sheba to the West Rome Drive-In.

The number one song this week in 1963 was "Sugar Shack" by Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs. Other top ten hits included "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes (#2); "Blue Velvet" by Bobby Vinton (#3); "Busted" by Ray Charles (#4); "Cry Baby" by Garnet Mimms & the Enchanters (#5); "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" by the Jaynetts (#6); "Mean Woman Blues" by Roy Orbison (#7); "Donna the Prima Donna" by Dion Di Muci (#8); "Deep Purple" by Nino Temple & April Stevens (#9); and "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" by Peter, Paul, & Mary (#10).

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 9/30/63 to 10/6/63

What a different society it was a half-century ago: two black students from Floyd County, Charles E. Johnson and Martha Robinson Lattimer, filed suit to gain admission to Coosa Valley Tech, which until this time was closed to black students. Their action paved the way for equal post-secondary educational access for all area students, including many of our fellow Chieftains. We sometimes forget that 1963 was such a pivotal era for civil rights in our community, our state, and our nation.

Thanks to the mutual cooperation of the Chieftain Club and the West Rome High School Administration, the school added several pieces of AV equipment (including four movie projectors, two tape recorders, and two record players). The equipment was available for classroom use, and West Rome even had its own Audio-Visual Squad comprised of students who helped teachers reserve and operate the equipment.  Coach Nick Hyder was the faculty sponsor of the AV Squad, and the man in charge of keeping track of all the equipment and making sure that it got to the right teacher in the right room during the right class period--not an easy task in this pre-computer-database era!

Lynda Hill was chosen as Homecoming Queen; her court consisted of Alice Evans, Carol Johnson, Beverly Pegg, and Cindi Blaylock. The announcement was made in early October in advance of the October 11th Homecoming Game against Cedartown.

Chorus director Ronald Midkiff announced the members of the Girls Vocal Ensemble, which consisted of Barbara Helie, Jackie Lupo, Terese Diprima, Camille Baker, Patt Merrell, Ann Finley, Trish Tompkins, Diane Leake, and Janet Scherer.

West Rome's senior class sold $2664.60 worth of magazines as part of their class fundraiser. Considering the rather low price of magazine subscriptions in 1963, that was quite an accomplishment! (I'm sure we bought our annual TV Guide subscription as a part of this fundraiser; my parents always subscribed to TV Guide, and they always renewed during school magazine subscription sales.)

Rome's postmaster announced the 23rd annual US Treasury Department's "School Savings Program" was open for all Rome and Floyd County students to participate. Under this program, teachers would purchase United States Savings Stamps and sell them to students; each student who bought the stamps received a Junior Astronaut Certificate. When students filled up a stamp book with ten-cent stamps (187 of them), they could redeem the stamp book for a savings bond that could in turn be redeemed in 10 years for $25.  This was a remaining vestige of the "war bonds" program of the 1940s.  (I remember the program, but never actually participated in it--I guess that's because all my spare change went into comic books!)

Rome City Schools found themselves in a financial pinch when the state cut its teacher allotment; while the city school system earned 227 teachers, only 225 were approved by the state, which meant that the county was responsible for the approximately $5000 per teacher extra cost (for salaries and benefits) for the other two teachers. "This is the first time we've cut everybody across the board since we started the [teacher allotment] program in 1951," State School Superintendent Claude Purcell said. Rome chose to keep the two positions filled rather than laying off teachers, although they admitted that finding the extra money was going to be difficult.

The Chieftains racked up a 25-0 victory over Calhoun, led by Dickie Sapp's 75-yard run on the first play of the second half. Other standout players included Van Gray, who scored a touchdown on a 32 yard run and a second touchdown from the Calhoun one-yard line, and Donnie Hill, who bulldozed his way through the Calhoun line for a touchdown from the Calhoun three-yard line.

Rome's inept Southeastern Professional Football League team, The Bisons, saw a slightly better chance of a win on October 5th: the win-less Bisons were playing the Gadsden Raiders, who had won only one game. Alas, the Bisons weren't even able to defeat this team, leaving them with a 0-10 record.

WRGA radio filed an application to bring FM radio back to Rome at the 97.7 frequency. WRGA was actually one of the first broadcasters in Georgia to offer FM in the late 1940s and early 1950s, but they shut down their initial FM broadcast system in 1952. Of course, the glory days of FM radio were still a few years away; in 1963, we were all tuning in to WROM, WRGA, and WLAQ on AM radio.

Floyd County remained a bootlegging haven, although the State Revenue Department, the city police, the county police, and the sheriff's office were doing the best they could to bring that to an end. On October 4th, they shut down 11 stills and raided 21 residences in the city and the county to end the illegal sales. No wonder those Snuffy Smith comic strips about those "revenooers" were so popular in the Rome News-Tribune!

C&M Motors began promoting the new 1964 model Cadillacs with a half-page ad for a pair of $6000+ land yachts: the Coupe de Ville and the Fleetwood Sixty Special Sedan, both of which measured in just shy of nineteen feet long--so long, in fact, that it would be difficult to fit them into a modern-day garage. Meanwhile, Bill Holbrook Pontiac-Buick began rolling out the new 1964 Buicks, highlighted by the new Skylark, LeSabre, and Electra 225, all of which were almost a foot and a half shorter than the Cadillacs.

West Rome's Pizza King became the first pizza restaurant in Rome to offer delivery anywhere in the city, using a VW van with specially-insulated boxes to ensure that the pizza was warm when it arrived. In spite of the fact that the restaurant was only a mile from our house, I don't think we ever ate at Pizza King, however--and in fact, I must confess that I don't even remember Pizza King. Apparently it would be another six years before I would discover the wonders of real pizza...

With Christmas three months away, Sears was already advertising its huge toy selection; at the same time, they were touting their bicycle layaway program that let customers choose the perfect Christmas bicycle in early October for only $1 down and a minimum of $1 per week.

Piggly Wiggly promoted its ninth anniversary sale with a drawing for a free freezer full of food, valued at over $400; their annivesary specials included chuck roast for 35¢ a pound, apples for 8¢ a pound, and Van Camp's chili for 31¢ a can. Kroger had fresh pork ears, feet, snouts, or neckbones for 15¢ a pound (and I don't think I'd pay 15¢ a pound for any of those today!), grapes for a dime a pound, and Fig Newtons for a quarter a box. A&P had ground beef for 39¢ a pound, ever-popular white bread for 19¢ a loaf, and Marvel ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon. Big Apple had ten pounds of potatoes for 39¢, smoked ham for 29¢ a pound, and frozen waffles for a dime a box. Couch's had Duke's mayonnaise for 39¢ a quart, pork roast for 35¢ a pound, and JFG instant coffee for 99¢ for a 10-ounce jar (and no, it most definitely did not taste like real coffee...).

Spencer's Mountain continued at the First Avenue Theater for the first half of the week, while Gidget Goes to Rome was showing at the DeSoto and To Kill a Mockingbird was back for a return engagement at the West Rome Drive-In. The weekend brought For Love or Money (with Kirk Douglas & Mitzi Gaynor) to the DeSoto, The Girl Hunters (with Mickey Spillane playing his private detective creation Mike Hammer) at the First Avenue, and  a forgettable double feature of The Mongols (with Jack Palance) and The Trojan Horse (with Steve Reeves) at the West Rome Drive-In.

The number one song this week in 1963 was "Sugar Shack" by Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs. Other top ten hits included "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes (#2); "Blue Velvet" by Bobby Vinton (#3); "Cry Baby" by Garnet Mimms & the Enchanters (34); "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" by the Jaynetts (#5); "Busted" by Ray Charles (#6); "My Boyfriend's Back" by the Angels (#7); "Mean Woman Blues" by Roy Orbison (#8); "Heat Wave" by Martha & the Vandellas (#9); and "Donna, the Prima Donna" by Dion Di Muci (#10).

Friday, September 27, 2013

Dad's at the Mall

Back in the days before Mom's health deteriorated significantly, Mom and Dad loved to go to the mall. In the 60s, it was Greenbriar Mall, which was on the way to my grandmother's house in College Park. In the early 70s, it was Cumberland Mall in Marietta. In the later 70s, it was Riverbend Mall in Rome (a remarkable mall, and a place that I still miss... it was the first mall that Susan and I visited from opening day until its final days as a mall). In the later 1980s, it was Town Center Mall in Kennesaw. In the 1990s, it was Mount Berry Square in Rome.

Dad loved to go to the mall; he loved to "window shop," even if he had no plans to buy anything. Mom was the same way; they could while away a pleasant hour or two just wandering the mall, enjoying the ambiance.

Yesterday, my dear niece Jessica sent me a surprising photo that she took at Mount Berry Square.

Thought you'd get a kick out of this. Mount Berry Square remodeled the interior a while back (maybe within the last year), adding historical photos of Rome. I've seen a lot of the pictures before, but somehow missed this one until today.

The photo is a wonderful shot of Dad, a 28 year old reporter at the Rome News-Tribune, chewing on a cigar while working away at his typewriter in the very cramped news room of the original Rome News-Tribune building on (appropriately enough) Tribune Street, just a block off Broad Street. (He gave up cigars a couple of decades later, and gave up pipes as well once Mom was diagnosed with emphysema.) I remember the office in every minute detail, because I spent scores of hours there. As a child, I could think of nothing much more fun than to spend a few hours with Dad at the office when he was working late putting together high school sports reports for the next day's paper. Many of those other reporters may not have known it, but I spent a lot of time hunting and pecking on their typewriters (in the evenings, most reporters were at home, but the sports department--which was Dad and Orbie Thaxton--spent the evenings typing up incoming info on high school football games and the like, since the Rome News-Tribune was first a foremost a local paper for the Rome/Floyd County area, and high school sports were important to the community).

I had no idea until now that there was a picture of Dad prominently displayed on the wall of Mount Berry Square as a part of Rome's history, but I'm quite happy about it. Dad loved Rome, and he dedicated his life to the city, to the county, and to the young men and women who participated in Rome sports. He organized basketball tournaments, he worked closely with the Rome/Floyd County Recreation Department, and he was friends with virtually every coach in every high school in the area. He was an important part of Rome history, to be sure.

Likewise, Mount Berry Square was an important part of his life. He and Mom spent lots of time there. During the years when Susan and I had the farmhouse on Horseleg Creek Road, we'd often meet Mom and Dad at the mall for dinner, and then we'd all just look around for a while. After Mom died, I would frequently go with Dad to the mall during one of my mid-week visits; we might buy something, or we might buy nothing at all, but even then he just loved looking around. Every now and then, he'd see a little knick-knack or a decorative pin or a framed print or somesuch and he's smile thoughtfully and say, "Your mother would have liked that." The mall was a place for him to revisit pleasant moments in the past.

And now Dad's back at Mount Berry Square. I find it strangely satisfying...