Friday, January 04, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/30/62 to 1/6/63

Rome and Northwest Georgia continued in "growth mode" as 1963 began, which was the reason that the Rome News-Tribune launched a redesign of the paper that would last for years: the addition of a "second front page" on page 3, focused entirely on local news. This "local front page" approach would become a mainstay of the Rome News-Tribune--and for many readers, it was the "front page" they turned to first.

(And on a personal level, January 1963 saw the debut of a weekly sports column by my father, Don Biggers, which featured sports commentary, predictions, interviews, and more. Dad's first pick? West Rome over Cedartown… which proved to be right on the money!)

Coosa Valley Tech announced the addition of four new courses of study beginning in January 1963: appliance repair, electrical technology, electronic technology, and machine shop. With the early 1960s seeing a boom market for electronics and appliances, trained technicians were in short supply.

International tensions continued to dominate the news: the end of 1963 saw a new dispute between China and the Soviet Union, with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev warning the US to stay out of the matter.

Meanwhile, the war in Vietnam was escalating, with three American soldiers killed when the Viet Cong shot down an American helicopter 50 miles outside of Saigon. Alas, the war was destined to get much more bloody in years to come…

And doomsday fears are apparently timeless: in Pelham, South Carolina, Church of God members ended the year in the basement of their church, barricaded behind sandbags, plywood, and barred doors, convinced that the end of the world was coming as 1962 wrapped up. (Not sure how being locked into a room with a few boxes of food and some jugs of water was going to enable them to survive if the planet was coming to an end.)  Imagine they felt  a little foolish come January 1st, 1963...

1963 saw a new Internal Revenue Service requirement that had lots of taxpayers grumbling: for the first time, businessmen were required to keep an expense record diary for their expense accounts. Believe it or not, until 1962 any businessman could simply list an expense and deduct it with no further record required!

Rome author Calder Willingham released his new novel Eternal Fire at the end of 1962; many are unaware that this award-winning novelist and screenwriter hailed from Rome. His new novel dealt with life in a middle-class Southern town in the 1930s (wonder if Rome was the model?).

Kroger kicked off '63 with stew beef or pork chops or chuck steak or trout fillets or pork shoulder roasts for 63¢ a pound.

Couch's Grocery went even lower, offering pork chops, chuck steak, or shoulder roasts for 59¢ a pound, stew beef for 30¢ a pound, bacon for 55¢ a pound, and chicken breasts for 49¢ a pound. Oscar Mayer bologna could be had for 29¢ for a one-pound package--which probably explained why we ate a lot of bologna when I was a kid!

Piggly Wiggly had whole chickens for 25¢ a pound, sweet potatoes for 10¢ a pound, and fresh hot barbecue pork sandwiches for 20¢ each. Whole barbecue chickens were available in the deli for 39¢ each.

Sears was pushing their all-new frost-free 13.6 cubic foot Coldspot refrigerator, bargain priced at $249.99. (By today's standards, a 13.6 cubic foot refrigerator would almost be a mini-fridge, wouldn't it?)

If only tires were this inexpensive today: Firestone was offering regular or winter tires for $12.50 each, with free installation and a lifetime road hazard warranty.

West Side Story continued its run at the First Avenue Theater, while the DeSoto brought in Period of Adjustment and the West Rome Drive-in was showing The Notorious Landlady.

Meanwhile, one of Hollywood's greats breathed his last on January 2nd, succumbing to cancer with his wife June Allyson by his side.

The Top Ten songs for the first week of 1963 included "Telstar" by the Tornadoes (#1), "Limbo Rock" by Chubby Checker (#2), "Bobby's Girl" by Marcie Blane (#3), "Go Away Little Girl" by Steve Lawrence (#4), "Big Girls Don't Cry" by the Four Seasons (#5), "Return to Sender" by Elvis Presley (#6), "You Are My Sunshine" by Ray Charles (#7), "Release Me" by Esther Phillips (#8), Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah" by Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans (#9), and "Hotel Happiness" by Brook Benton (#10).

And if you were as hooked on comic books as I was, then you may remember December 1963's biggest need release: a quirky title by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko called Amazing Spider-Man launched its first issue in late 1963, with the character destined to become Marvel's best-known superhero in short order. I bought my copy of that book at Candler's Drugstore, along with a 5¢ strawberry ice cream cone that promptly dripped onto my new Spider-Man comic, leaving a pinkish stain that always reminded me of that memorable trip to Candler's!

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