Saturday, June 29, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 7/1/63 to 7/7/63

For those of us who grew up in Rome in the 1960s, it seems like the Rome News-Tribune has always been there, but the newspaper actually celebrated its fortieth birthday in the summer of 1963. It turns out that it was also the newspaper's 121st birthday, however. The roots of the Rome News-Tribune trace back to 1842's premiere of  The Courier of Rome, founded by Melville Dwinnell. That newspaper became The Tribune of Rome in 1877; in 1901, that name was modified to the Rome Tribune. In 1904, the paper merged with the Rome Herald and became the Rome Tribune-Herald. Then, in 1923, it merged with the four-yeard old Rome News and became the Rome News-Tribune, the paper that we now know as Rome's local newspaper.  Naturally, the Rome News-Tribune devoted some attention to its 40th and 121st birthday on July 1st, offering a look back at the history of the paper.

Zip Codes went live on July 1st, 1963. They weren't mandatory at that time, but they were functional; it would be several more years before the post office actually required them, so we all had plenty of time to learn our newly-assigned zip code and add it to our mail.

Lots of rain in the Rome area this week in 1963; the creek behind Conn Street flooded many of the creekside back yards and swept over the bridge on Paris Drive due to the torrential downpours, and multiple accidents were reported due to standing water on the roadways, which led to a few minor washouts.

For those of us who enjoyed comics, the first week of July,1963, was a landmark week: Marvel brought together several of their solo heroes in Avengers #1 and introduced comics readers to the first mutant superheroes in X-Men #1. This was also the week that Fantastic Four Annual #1 pitted the team against the Sub-mariner in an extra-length story by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (the same team responsible for The Avengers and The X-Men), while Gold Key comics released the first issue of Bambi, based on the Disney film.

Grocery specials seemed to focus on Fourth of July backyard barbecues and family gatherings. A&P had 10 pounds of charcoal briquettes for 45¢, lemonade for a dime a quart, and a one-pound back of potato chips for 49¢. Big Apple had spare ribs for 29¢ a pound, watermelon for 49¢ each, and a case of Coca-Cola for 89¢ plus deposit. Piggly Wiggly had sirloin steak for 89¢ a pound, white corn for 6¢ an ear, and watermelons for the bargain price of 39¢ each. Kroger was offering Coca-Cola for 79¢ a case plus deposit, pork and beans for 25¢ for two cans, and cantaloupes for 33¢ each. Couch's had pork & beans for only 11¢ a can, ice cream for 47¢ a half-gallon. and watermelons for the best price in town--37¢ each!

The Fourth of July was a slow week for theaters, apparently, so most of the films were holdovers. The First Avenue continued with The Longest Day; the DeSoto offered Come Fly With Me; and the West Rome Drive-In offered Buffalo Bill (with Joel McCrea & Maureen O'Hara) and A Kiss Before Dying (with Robert Wagner & Joanne Woodward). The weekend brought Cry for Happy (with Glenn Ford) and Zotz! (with Tom Poston) to the DeSoto; a continuation of The Longest Day at the First Avenue; and a triple-feature of the B-Films House of the Damned, Air Patrol, and The Racers at the West Rome Drive-In.

"Easier Said Than Done" by the Essex moved into first place this week in 1963. Other top ten hits included "Sukiyaki" by Kyu Sakamoto (#2); "Blue on Blue" by Bobby Vinton (#3); "Hello Stranger" by Barbara Lewis (#4); "It's My Party" by Lesley Gore (#5); "One Fine Day" by The Chiffons (#6); "Surf City" by Jan & Dean (#7); "Memphis" by Lonnie Mack (#8); "So Much in Love" by the Tymes (#9); and the unforgettable "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" by Rolf Harris (#10).

Thursday, June 27, 2013

2014 MDX: Sounding Out My Choices

When I bought my 2010 Acura MDX back in late 2009, I told Patrick, my salesperson, "I'll be seeing you again in about four years." At the time, I presumed that Acura would roll out their new body design in 2013 (the first MDX design lasted from 2001 through 2006, so I figured the second one would last from 2007 through 2012), and that way I could give them a year to work out any kinks before I bought my next MDX.

I've been impressed with the MDX over the years. My first MDX was a 2001 model, well-made and well appointed for its time. I was taken enough with the redesign that I bought a 2007, which I found to be a major improvement over the 2001 in design, performance, and features.  Best of all, the ELS audio system offered DVD-Audio playback; I had begun buying DVD-Audio multichannel discs when we got an Acura RL, and had been quite enchanted with the sound quality and the distinctive multichannel sound. Acura was pushing the format, including a sample ELS DVD-Audio disc with each vehicle sold. As a result, the proportionate number of Acura owners who also own DVD-Audio discs is probably pretty respectable. I know I was an enthusiastic supporter of the format.

I upgraded to a 2010 MDX, as I've mentioned, figuring that would hold me until the next model came out. As it turned out, Acura held onto the second generation body design for an extra year, so we're just now seeing the third generation body design this month as the 2014 model reaches dealerships.

There are many things I like about it: the fact that it sits slightly lower (19.5" step-in height rather than the old 21" step-in height), has push-button ignition, improved iPod and Pandora connectivity, a higher-torque engine that gives impressive performance with significantly improved mileage, a second-row seat that drops flat for cargo loading (the old model only dropped to about a 10 degree angle), a slightly longer cargo area when you drop the second and third row seat. I like the telemetrics system they've implemented.

But there are drawbacks as well. The cargo area is a full 2" lower at its highest point; since I have to use the Acura to pick up our comics shipment each week, and that can be quite large, I need as much cargo space as I can get. The cargo area is also 2" narrower at its narrowest point (between the rear wheel wells); it just barely fits two of the standard sized "double" boxes are used by comics distributors, but it's so close that I am relatively certain the inside of the car will get scuffed from loading and unloading. The narrower vehicle also offers each front seat passenger 1" less hip room and 2" less head room than the 2010 Acura. I've always appreciated the voluminous driver and passenger space the Acur afforded, and hate it that they've narrowed the vehicle and lowered the height of the cargo capacity at the same time they lowered the vehicle's step-in height (there's no reason that giving the vehicle slightly less ground clearance and a more accessible step-in height mandated less interior head room as well). I also dislike the fact that they've replaced a number of buttons with touch-screen controls; in some cases, it requires navigating through multiple screens to do things that used to be done with a single button push. And I'm bothered by the cheapening of the car's looks; the pillars used to be covered with fabric, but now they're cheap plastic. The interior looks a bit more pedestrian and less well-made.

Worst of all, there's no DVD-Audio playback. Even if you opt for the DVD Entertainment system, the player won't play DVD-Audio discs, which is really short-sighted; that would have been a great way to keep the player and encourage veteran owners like me who have DVD-A discs to upgrade to the entertainment system even though we never have rear-seat passengers. So I have a couple of hundred great multichannel high-res audio discs that I can no longer listen to in the MDX if I go with the current model.

I have to give them credit in other regards, though. They've improved the ELS audio system in a number of other ways. XM Radio playback, which was always a weak point before, now sounds remarkably crisp. They've upgraded from Dolby Pro-Logic (for imitation multi-channel sound from two-channel sources) to DTS Neural Surround, which has a much richer and more encompassing sound field. And they've finally figured out how to make monophonic sound seem to fill the cabin, rather than always seeming to come from the front speakers only. (My Equus has handled this wonderfully, making me all too aware of how badly Acura handled both XM radio and monophonic music.)

Now I have to decide what I want to do. Thankfully, the vehicle I want won't be available for a couple of months anyway, so I'm not tempted to rush into a decision. But I have to admit that I really hate it when stepping up to a new model means stepping down insofar as some much-appreciated aspects of the vehicle are concerned...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Merry Mid-Yule Solstice!

Today marks the midway point between last Christmas and the next Christmas; we have reached that point of maximum distance from Christmases. Think back to last Christmas, and all the things that you wish you had done but just didn't have the time; you now have as much time to accomplish those holiday goals as you have had to regret your inability to do so last year!

For a long time now, I've used comparative chronology to measure time. That is, I often look at upcoming events and calculate how far into the past an equal measure of time would take me. When June weather seems hot, I think back three months to the coolness of March, which doesn't seem far away at all. Then I realize that three months from now it'll be late September, and that those three months will pass just as quickly as the past three  months have.  Suddenly, the summer mugginess seems much more ephemeral.

Since Christmas is one of the biggest annual landmarks for me, I tend to use it as a chronological touchstone.  This year, I've actually taken it to heart. Thinking back on some of the things I wish I had done better leading into the Christmas season, I have begun to plan ahead this year.

In the meantime, I'll listen to a few Christmas songs in the car today to mark the occasion.

Matheson Passes

Richard Matheson passed away today (well, yesterday as I write this, since it's now after midnight) at the age of 87, and I felt like the loss of such a masterful writer needed to be noted in some way. Matheson was one of the first authors I read when I discovered science fiction and fantasy back in the mid-1960s, starting with I Am Legend.

Matheson doesn't get the attention of a Lovecraft or a King, but he's every bit as skilled as a storyteller. He comes from that school of writing that emphasized storytelling over literary style; one of the strengths of Matheson's work is that you could be so drawn into the tale he was telling that you never really noticed his style at all. "Transparent writing," someone once called it, and I think that's a remarkable talent to possess. That's why so many of Matheson's works have been made into such strong films, while the works of HP Lovecraft generally make poor films. Lovecraft's works need his words to be most effective, whereas Matheson's words and ideas are so carefully blended that even without the words, the strengths of the story come through. That's also why it was so easy for him to make the move into television and film, I suspect--his storytelling always demonstrated a cinematic eye.

I think that's why many people love Matheson's stories, but few people name him as a favorite author. He's one of those writers that other writers tend to like tremendously, and with good reason; they recognize how skilled he is at making something so difficult seem so effortless.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome: 6/24/63 to 6/30/63

America's position as a global leader was in the news when President Kennedy paid a visit to Berlin, delivering his famous "ich bin ein Berliner" speech on June 26th in support of a united Germany.

Two of our most fondly-remembered shows from the early 1960s ended their runs in late June; both The Real McCoys and Leave It to Beaver saw their final first-run airings this week in 1963. Of course, both series would continue for many, many years in syndication, which is why many people who weren't even born in 1963 still remember both series with such fondness.

The push to bring a junior college to Rome and Floyd County continued as the Board of Regents had everyone on edge awaiting the word of their decision. Once the Board of Regents announced that Dalton had been given priority over Rome and Calhoun and that Floyd had NOT been chosen as a site for a new junior college, the continuing committee was already planning out its next move, which would include another bid for a junior college in 1964. The main reason given was that Rome already had two colleges--Berry and Shorter--and a junior college was thus unneeded. This was a startling setback for the area, and those who had prepared the bid were stunned, but they swore that this was far from a settled matter. By the end of the week, the Board of Regents had agreed to offer a further look at the Rome bid.

It truly was the end of an era: The old Rome High School on Third Avenue was torn down this week in 1963, after having been used for educational purposes for 90 years. The structure was built in 1873 as the Cherokee Baptists Female College (the predecessor of Shorter College). I must confess that don't even remember this building; like so much of Rome history, it fell by the wayside before I even realized its significance.

Rome's break-in spree resumed, highlighted by a break-in and burglary at Tilly Apothecary. Nowadays, the robbers would most likely go for drugs, but in 1963, the only thing they wanted was the $800 in a lock box. Two service stations were also victims of break-in burglaries.

If you wanted an electric typewriter, you apparently needed a healthy bank account: DavCo Office Supplies on Shorter Avenue was running an electric typewriter special for $249 after a $50 trade-in allowance on any typewriter. ("If you don't have a trade-in," they advertised, "we will sell you one for $2." So why not just advertise a $48 discount instead?…) Remember, with our inflation multiplier, $249 in 1963 dollars would be the equivalent of $1872.48 today, which means that an electric typewriter would cost proportionately more than a modern well-equipped computer!

No-Frost refrigerators were the order of the day at Rome Appliance Center; for only $299.50, you could enhance your kitchen with an 18.2 cubic lot Hotpoint frost-free refrigerator. (In 1963, 18.2 cubic feet was an enormous family-sized refrigerator/freezer; today, most economy refrigerators are larger than that!)

Couch's was offering Tip Top chicken breasts for 49¢ a pound, Dempsey's ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon, and bananas for a dime a pound. Piggly wiggly had 5-8 pound watermelons for 35¢ each, whole fryers for 19¢ a pound, and sugar for 63¢ for a five-pound bag. A&P offered seedless grapes for 33¢ a pound, ground beef for 37¢ a pound, and cantaloupes for a quarter each. Big Apple offered real Dempsey's ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon, spare ribs for 29¢ each, and 10 pounds of baking potatoes for 39¢. Kroger offered sirloin steak for 79¢ a pound, lettuce for 16¢ a head, and Oscar Mayer wieners for 49¢ a pound.

The first half of the week was marked by big lizard vs. big ape as King Kong Vs. Godzilla was on the marquee at the First Avenue. The DeSoto offered Paul Newman's Hud, while the West Rome Drive-In was showing Brigitte Bardot's Female and Flesh (far less titillating than it sounds). Then, in recognition of the upcoming D-Day commemoration, the First Avenue Theater began showing The Longest Day on Thursday, June 27th. The DeSoto was offering Walt Disney's The Castaways, while the West Rome Drive-In was showing Barabbas (that's quite a change of subject matter from what they were showing the first half of the week!).

The number one song this week in 1963 was (for the second week in a row) "Sukiyaki" by Kyu Sakamoto. Other top ten hits included "It's My Party" by Lesley Gore (#2); "Hello Stranger" by Barbara Lewis (#3); "Blue on Blue" by Bobby Vinton (#4); "Eaiser Said Than Done" by The Essex (#5); "Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer" by Nat King Cole (#6); "One Fine Day" by the Chiffons (#7); "You Can't Sit Down" by the Dovells (#8); "Memphis" by Lonnie Mack (#9); and "Surf City" by Jan & Dean (#10).


I just noticed that my last post, A Life in Four Colors (Part Thirty-Seven), was my one thousandth post here. So now, here's post 1001 to note the landmark...

That's all. Move on to the next post now.

A Life in Four Colors (Part Thirty-Seven)

It's hard for comic book newcomers to understand why annuals and 80-page giants were such a big deal in 1965. What publishers call an annual nowadays is generally a comic book with 10 to 14 more pages of story than the usual issue, for two-thirds to double the price. It's frequently just another chapter in an ongoing storyline, or a tie-in story that feels more like a fill-in issue because it's frequently written and drawn by creators not normally associated with the series. No wonder today's annuals are non-events...

But in 1965, things were radically different. An annual was a story that was truly worth a year's wait. Annual were summertime events, because kids were out of school in the summer and they often had more money because of summertime jobs or extra family chores that brought in a bit more spending cash. Marvel was the first publisher to truly recognize the value of the event storyline, and their annual were a home for such stories.

1965 was just such a year: Marvel pulled out the big guns that year, offering a number of annuals that culminated in the epic Fantastic Four Annual #3, which featured the wedding of Reed Richards and Susan Storm. That's right--comic book characters actually got married! Relationships actually moved forward! And the storyline itself was an all-star event that brought together some of Marvel's best known heroes and villains, ending with a brief guest appearance by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby themselves, who were unable to gain entry to the wedding. The 72-page 25¢ annual offered almost three times the story content of the average comic, making it an entertainment bargain as well (even though only the lead story was original--the second and third stories were reprints of Fantastic Four #s 6 & 11, which were only two and a half to three years old in 1965). And no fill-in creators here: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did the honors for this story, which was quite possibly the best Fantastic Four tale published in what was already a landmark year for the series. Of course, 

Meanwhile, the second Spider-Man Annual offered a real Steve Ditko treat: an extra-length team-up of Ditko's two signature creations for Marvel, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. Again, this was no fill-in, but a full-length story by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko; the remainder of the book featured reprints of tales from Amazing Spider-Man #s 1, 2, & 5.  You might think that fans would object to reprints of such relatively recent material, but far from it: Marvel was attracting so many new readers that everyone was quite pleased for a chance to read these hard-to-find issues.

Other 1965 annuals included Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos Annual #1 (which presented a tale of the gang's exploits in Korea), Journey Into Mystery Annual #1 (which introduced Greek mythology into the Marvel Universe with the first appearance of Hercules), and Marvel Tales Annual #2 (an all-reprint collection that featured the first issues of Avengers and X-Men along with the origin of Doctor Strange and an early Hulk story).

When you think about it, it's amazing how much mileage Marvel was getting out of relatively recent material; some of the material they were reprinting was two years old, and the very oldest was only three-and-a-half years old. And yet Marvel had us all enthusiastically shelling out a quarter a book for a blend of new material and reprints of stories we very possibly already had.

The secret was Marvel's appeal to completism. For many of us, a complete Marvel collection (beginning with Fantastic Four #1) was a reachable goal--but in order to maintain that complete collection, we needed to add all the new Marvel titles to our collections as well. For collectors, that urge for completism is a powerful thing; I've seen it used by major record labels, book publishers, trading card manufacturers, and even mundane magazine publishers to encourage readers to buy material they might not ordinarily purchase.

Meanwhile, DC comics was taking a totally different approach with their annuals. Because DC's superhero line dated back much further than Marvel's (and some titles, such as Superman, Batman, Action, Detective, and Adventure, to name a few, had numbering that continued unbroken back to the 1930s and 1940s), a complete DC collection was a virtual impossibility. That was the drawback. However, DC had one powerful advantage: they had a much larger library of classic material they could draw from in their reprint lines. Where Marvel's reprints could go back no further than 1961's Fantastic Four #1 (well, at least until they ventured into Golden Age reprints with Fantasy Masterpieces), DC would routinely include stories from the mid-1950s onwards in their annuals.

Marvel relied on the allure of original event-focused lead stories, along with the desirability of a complete Marvel collection, to encourage readers to buy its annuals. DC offered no new material in their 80-Page Giants (yes, DC gave us eight extra pages of story for the same 25¢ cover price), so they found another way to convince us we had to have them all: they created a series called 80-Page Giant that featured different characters in each issue. 80-Page Giant #13 would feature Jimmy Olsen; #14 would spotlight Lois Lane; and #15 would feature classic Batman-Superman teamup tales. Sure, you could just buy the Batman-Superman issue if you didn't collect Jimmy Olsen or Lois Lane... but then your 80-Page Giant collection would be incomplete!

Later on, they  made it even more complex by adding two numbers to each 80-Page Giant--an 80-Page Giant issue number and an issue number for the corresponding series. For instance, 80-Page Giant #16 was also Justice League of America #39--so if you collected Justice League and wanted to keep your collection complete, you needed to buy the 80-Page Giant even if you had all the stories it reprinted. Then, of course, you had a lone issue of 80-Page Giant in your collection, crying out for 80-page companionship... and before you know it, the collector mentality had you buying all the 80-Page Giants, which might then lead to your picking up regular issues of the series it reprinted. Oh, publishers are a crafty lot!...

We didn't feel like we were being manipulated back then, though; instead, we were thrilled that the publishers were offering us a way to add all these classic stories to our growing collections. Remember, there were no comic shops in every major city back then, no back-issue collectors' market, and no internet to make it easy to find almost anything you wanted or needed. It was a very different and very exciting time for comic book readers....

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

On the recommendation of my friend Andy Smith, I picked up a copy of Fire and Rain by David Browne; the book is his unfiltered look at the music and culture of 1970 as defined by four artists or groups: the Beatles, CSNY, James Taylor, and Simon & Garfunkel.  It's a fascinating read, since it underscores the incredible potential and the tragic dissolution of all four.  It's a surprisingly similar story of squandered opportunity, unrestrained egos, personal excess, professional self-indulgence, musical genius, and culture influence on a level that is difficult to perceive today, when most musical acts are less important to contemporary culture than a Kardashian...

If you lived through this turbulent musical year (as I did--1970 is probably my own personal "golden age of music" year) Browne's chronicle will remind you of how important each of these artists were musically. Two of them are on the wane--the Beatles are in the process of falling apart, and Simon & Garfunkel have broken up in spirit already, as the lyrics of many of the songs on Bridge Over Troubled Water underscore. The other two acts are relatively new but already in trouble. James Taylor can't escape the demons of his own dependent personality, which leads him into drugs and away from the strength of his own music. Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young are driven by the frenetic and conflicting natures of their personalities that lead them to unite, confront, compete, condemn, and betray one another on a far too regular schedule.

But oh, the music--this was an incredible year for all four, giving us such wonders as Let It Be, Sweet Baby James, Deja Vu, Bridge Over Troubled Water, McCartney, Plastic Ono Band, All Things Must Pass, After the Gold Rush,  Sentimental Journey, Beaucoups of Blues,  "Instant Karma," and "Ohio." This was the year that some of 1971's greatest albums were begun, including Paul Simon, Songs for Beginners, If I Could Only Remember My Name (one of my five favorite albums of all time), Mud Slide Slim & the Blue Horizon... How could so much wondrous music have been created in  such a short period of time?

If you prefer to envision your favorite musical performers as dedicated artists driven by artistic devotion, then you're going to be very disillusioned by Browne's chronicle. There are egregious examples of prima donna behavior (CSNY creating an album cover that was so out of the ordinary that it required that a photograph be hand-glued onto each and every copy, or Paul Simon assembling some of the best studio musicians of the era and then attempting to teach them how to play their own instruments before finally just dismissing them entirely). But the book reminds us that no one was either wonderful or wretched--but every one of these stars could at times be both.

If you're not familiar with the stories of these performersm Fire and Rain is a fascinating read. But even more, it's a wonderful metaphor for what was wrong with our culture in 1970.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome: 6/17/1963 to 6/23/1963

Members of the Rome Boys' Club Choir--which included several Chieftains in its numbers--embarked on a 1300 mile, two week concert tour on Sunday, June 23rd. The tour took them through Georgia and Florida.

Did you know that the Rome City and Floyd County libraries used to be two totally separate agencies? Well, they were up until the summer of 1963, when the Rome City Commission approved an agreement to merge the Carnegie and Tri-County Libraries into one library system.

On the other side of the country, Disney made history when they debuted their first audio-animatronics in the Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland. (At this time, the area around Orlando, Florida, was largely undeveloped land, with Disneyworld still years away…)

On June 19th, 1963, President Kennedy sent to Congress the legislation that would become the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The city commission also approved the creation of what would become Gala Shopping Center, with the stipulation that the shopping center would not contain a "super-discount" store.  Apparently Big K didn't qualify as a "super-discount" store, since it was the anchor store in Gala when it opened just a couple of years later.

Coosa Valley Tech held its first graduation this week in 1963; 22 students earned their diplomas as part of the first graduating class.

Summertime means ice cream time… and there was no better place for ice cream than West Rome in 1963! Not only was Candler's Drug Store offering their nickel one-scoop and dime two-scoop ice cream cones as well as other treats, but just a block away on Shorter Avenue, the Dairy Queen was celebrating its 23rd anniversary with a 29¢ banana split.

Belk-Rhodes was either very early or very late: in the middle of June 1963, they were running a big special on automatic electric blankets at $11.75. Did people really stock up on electric blankets the week that summer began?…

The Georgia Department of Revenue began investigating the possibility of raising the sales tax from 3% to 4%, with the commitment that this would allow them to eliminate the Georgia income tax entirely. As we know all too well, the government always follows through on tax increases but rarely does so on tax cuts--the sales tax did eventually increase to 4% statewide, but the income tax never went away…

Small cars aren't a new thing: Rome Lincoln-Mercury was advertising their new line of Ford Anglia automobiles this week in 1963. "The world's most exciting light car" offered a 997cc OHV engine, got up to 43 miles per gallon, and had a "roomy interior" that seated four. (I don't remember the Anglia at all, but it did exist: it was a small British-designed car that was replaced by the Ford Escort. It was consistently more popular in Europe than it was in the US.)

Tired of grilling with charcoal? Well, 1963's sensation, the Safari Grill, was the thing for you: it cooked with rolled up newspapers rather than charcoal. (Insert joke about hot news here…)

McCullough's restaurant expanded its menu to include broasted chicken at both its Martha Berry Highway location and its Town House restaurant at 314 Broad Street. (I don't recall ever eating McCullough's chicken--and that's quite odd, considering how much my family loved chicken. Can anyone give us any reports on McCullough's and their menu?) If fish was more to your liking, Redford's on Broad Street had catfish filet dinners (including vegetables and hush puppies) for 50¢.

Piggly Wiggly offered chuck roast for 35¢ a pound, Coca-Cola for 79¢ a case (plus deposit), and Sealtest ice milk for 29¢ a half gallo. Kroger had baking hens for 29¢ a pound, peaches for a dime a pound, and fat back for 9¢ a pound (do grocery stores sell fat back now?). Colonial had smoked ham for 33¢ a pound, bananas for a dime a pound, and perch fillets for 49¢ a pound. A&P offered pork loin for 49¢ a pound, strawberries for 39¢ a pint, and tomatoes for a quarter a pound. Couch's, a West Rome favorite, offered ground steak for 69¢ a pound, cream corn for  a dime a can, and a 1 pound can of salmon for 49¢.

Rome started the week off with a touch of the risqué with The Stripper at the DeSoto Theater; the West Rome Drive-In offered more family-oriented fare with Disney's Bon Voyage, while the First Avenue continued with Mutiny on the Bounty for another week.  The monsters finally sunk the Bounty on June 21st when King Kong Vs. Godzilla premiered at the First Avenue Theater, while the West Rome Drive-In offered Five Weeks in a Balloon and the DeSoto continued their venture into the burlesque as The Stripper was held over.

The number one song this week in 1963 was "Sukiyaki" by Kyu Sakamoto. Other top ten hits included "It's My Party" by Lesley Gore (#2); "Hello Stranger" by Barbara Lewis (#3); "You Can't Sit Down" by the Dovells (#4); "Blue on Blue" by Bobby Vinton (#5); "Da Doo Ron Ron( When He Walked Me Home)" by the Crystals (#6); "Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer" by Nat King Cole (#7); "Still" by Bill Anderson (#8); "I Love You Because" by Al Martino (#9); and "One Fine Day" by the Chiffons (#10).

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 6/10/63 to 6/16/63

On a local level, summer 1963 began with a slow, lazy June; of course, that's pretty much the way high school kids like it, isn't it?

Civil rights made national headlines this week in 1963. On June 11th, Alabama Governor George Wallace's stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama to protest against integration, before stepping aside and allowing two black students to enroll That same day, President Kennedy promised that there would be a civil rights bill during his Presidency. Then, on June 12th, civil rights activist Medgar Evers was assassinated in Jackson, Mississippi.

The Rome Dairy Festival took place on June 11th and 12th, highlighted by the crowning of the Floyd County Dairy Princess at the Memorial Gymnasium. (Alas, Rome's contestant did not win this prestigious honor--the crown instead went to an entrant from Americus, who was no doubt udderly… err, utterly delighted to be chosen.)

Rome's employment rates continued on course, with teenagers looking for summer jobs faring much better in Rome than in the rest of the country, according to A.E. Hutchison, manager of the Rome office of Georgia State Employment Service. Rome's unemployment rate was .4% lower than the rest of the state, coming in at 3.6%. (Yes, you read that right--less than 4% unemployment!).

Rome got its official 30161, 30162, and 30163 zip codes for Rome were announced on June 14th by Postmaster Leo J. Russell; 30161 was the zip code for Rome home delivery, 30162 was the zip code for a post office box at the main post office downtown, while some designated areas outside of the city of Rome were initially designated as 30163. The postmaster urged residents to get used to these zip codes, as the post office would put the zip code program into effect beginning July 1st. The postmaster stressed that mail would still be delivered without zip codes, but delivery would be much slower. (I know that our zip code was 30161, and I thought that all of West Rome's zip code was 30161; did anyone have a 30163 code?)

Rome's newspaper, the Rome News-Tribune, won first place for general excellence among daily newspapers of less than 20,000 circulation; the honor was bestowed by the Georgia Press Association. Since Dad worked for the Rome News, I was particularly proud of this... and still am, since I'm gazing at one of Dad's many Georgia Press Association Awards that's hanging over my desk even as a type this!

Father's Day was celebrated on June 16th; it's amazing how many different stores sold Old Spice back in 1963!

The Rome Board of Education approved driver's training programs for East and West Rome High this week in 1963, operating under the direction of Don Unsworth (how many of us remember Mr. Unsworth and those gruesome driver's training films?). They also limited official school dances to five: homecoming, the Junior-Senior Prom, two senior dances, and one informal dance for sophomores and freshmen; and they voted to eliminate all floats in school homecoming parades except for the Queen's float.

With summer heat building up, it's no surprise that everyone was advertising air conditioners. A Gibson single-room window AC was advertised for $329.00; a Kenmore AC from Sears was a bargain at $299.99 (and remember, the inflation factor for 1963 is 7.52--so that $329 would equal $2800 in 2013 dollars!). Even Atlanta Gas Light was in the AC business, advertising their natural gas powered air conditioners (although they offered no pricing information). It's no wonder that most of us got by with fans during the summer of 1963!

Piggly Wiggly was pushing summertime grilling with sirloin steak for 89¢ a pound, hot dogs for 49¢ a pound, and kielbasa for 39¢ a pound. Kroger countered with ground beef for 39¢ a pound, Bob White hot dogs at the bargain rate of 59¢ for a two-pound package, and a 16-ounce bottle of Kraft barbecue sauce for 29¢. A& P had top round steak for 75¢ a pound, t-bone steak for 89¢ a pound, and the ever-popular summer beverage Coca-Cola for 18¢ for a six-bottle carton. Couch's had pork steak for 49¢ a pound, spareribs for 39¢ a pound, and Oscar Mayer hot dos for 55¢ a pound. A&P had sirloin steak for 83¢ a pound, chicken breasts for 42¢ a pound, and watermelons for 59¢ each.

The big film of the week was Mutiny on the Bounty, which was showing at the First Avenue during the week; the DeSoto was screening Miracle of the White Stallions (a Walt Disney film), while the West Rome Drive-In was showing Big Red (another Disney film).  The weekend brought Fall of the House of Usher to the DeSoto and Operation Bikini to the West Rome Drive-In, while Mutiny on the Bounty hung around at the First Avenue.

In comic books, Janet Van Dyne (aka the Wasp) made her first appearance, joining the Ant-Man in Tales to Astonish #44.

The number one song this week in 1963 was "Sukiyaki" by Kyo Sakamoto. Other top ten hits included "It's my Party" by Lesley Gore (#2); "You Can't Sit Down" by the Dovells (#3); "Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home)" by The Crystals (#4); "I Love You Because" by Al Martino; "Blue on Blue" by Bobby Vinton (#6); "Those Lazy, Hazy Crazy Days of Summer" by Nat King Cole (#7); "Still" by Bill Anderson (#8); "Hello Stranger" by Barbara Lewis (#9); and "Yellow Roses" by Bobby Darin (#10).

Sunday, June 09, 2013

The Walking, Talking Dead

Watched the three-part BBC series In the Flesh last night, and was quite impressed. The series stars Luke Newberry as Kieren Walker, a sufferer of Partially Deceased Syndrome. This is the medical term for the zombie-like condition that has afflicted the walking dead returnees who terrorized England in their zombie-like state until a drug was developed that would return them to their more-or-less-normal condition. Of course, they're not totally normal: they still have their zombie-like pallor, their eyes look dead (requiring that they wear contacts so as not to disturb the normal population),  they can neither eat nor drink normal food or beverage, and any wounds they have suffered will never heal. Nevertheless, so long as they undergo their regular drug therapy, they regain their normal mental faculties and are able to co-exist with unafflicted men and women.

Of course, many members of society object to these "rotters," as they call them, returning to the world of the living--particularly since, in their zombie state, the rotters terrorized and brutalized the living. Kieren's sister, Jem Walker (played by Harriet Cains), is particularly bothered by his return to the family home; she was part of a civilian army called the Human Volunteer Force that fought to control the rotters before the medical treatment was developed, and she seems to hold a grudge (for reasons that become quite apparent as the three-part series progresses).

Kieren soon crosses path with Amy Dyer (played by Emily Bevan), a fellow rotter who refuses to hide her condition or her past. Soon they are joined by Rick Macy (played by David Walmsley), a soldier who was killed by an IED in Afghanistan, only to return as a sufferer of Partially Deceased Syndrome. Problem is, Rick's father has a deep and abiding hatred for rotters; however, he puts the hatred aside as far as his son is concerned. Instead, he tries to convert his PDS sufferer son to his way of thinking, encouraging him to hate the other rotters. Again, there is more to his hatred than meets the eye, as writer Dominic Mithell makes clear before the three-parter wraps up.

While the symbolism of the names is hit-me-over-the-head heavy (the town is Roarton, which sounds all too similar to "rotten," and characters have names such as Walker and Dyer), the story is much more moving and human than I would have expected. It's also refreshing that Mitchell chooses to reject many zombie tropes (Kieren and others are constantly trying to explain that the bite of a rotter doesn't transform a normal person into a zombie, stressing that "this isn't a movie!" when people say that they know it does, because they've seen it in the movies), while creating their own rules in this world struggling to come to terms with an undead population that hopes to be accepted into society. There are also intriguing glimpses into a PDS commune set up by a masked leader to allow the sufferers to form their own society, beyond the judgment and prejudice of the human race; this remains largely unexplored in the first three-parter, although I suspect that Mitchell will develop it further in the second In the Flesh series, which has already been green-lit by  BBC.

If you're not burned out on the entire zombie concept, give this series a try; it's an intriguing story with fascinating characters, and it manages to be intensely emotional without being maudlin.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 6/3/1963 to 6/9/1963

This week in 1963, Pope John passed away after three final days of agony before he succumbed to cancer. Catholics were not alone in mourning the passing of the revered pontiff whose tenure lasted only five short years.

After months of promotion and preparation, Rome and Floyd County presented the State Regents Board with their hefty application for one of two proposed North Georgia junior colleges. Rome's push to become the site of one of those two schools was supported by neighboring counties, by large numbers of students in the area, by the business community, and by educators (which is why it came as no surprise that Floyd Junior College was one of the two schools eventually announced by the Regents).

This was the week that Powatan Beach opened for the summer of 1963. In the 1960s, this large sandy beach on a lake 7 miles south of Rome was a major recreational site for the Northwest Georgia area, offering swimming, miniature golf, a small private zoo, picnic areas, paddle boats, fishing, and more.

Floyd County's economic growth continued as the area showed a 3% gain in retail sales over the first quarter of the previous years. Rome and Floyd County remained the economic engine for Northwest Georgia; once again, the county's growth exceeded even that of Atlanta.

West Rome was the home of Rome's first martial arts dojo when the Tokyo Judo School opened on June 4th at 7 North Division Street (behind Henson's Drug Store). Sensei Mario Kohly was the director and chief instructor, with classes scheduled six days a week.

West Rome growth also led to the opening of Bently-Hayes Fabrics one mile past West Rome High School on the Alabama Road.

The Partridge Restaurant held its formal grand opening of its 330 Broad Street location on June 4th at 5am. The new space allowed them to seat 150 diners; the move also lead to an expansion of the menu and their hours of operation (open from 5am to 9:30 pm daily, 11am to 9pm Sundays). I had many meals at the Partridge in the 1960s and the 1970s, and never went away disappointed!

Piggly Wiggly had  a ten-pound bag of potatoes for 39¢, cantaloupes for 33¢ each, and whole fryers for 23¢ a pound. Kroger offered a 24-bottle case of Pepsi for 89¢, bacon for 49¢ a pound, and a pound of coffee for 49¢. A&P offered Campbell's Soup for a dime a can, peaches for a dime a pound, and celery for a dime a bunch. Big Apple had spare ribs for 29¢ a pound, Reynold's Wrap for a quarter a roll, and white corn for 6¢ an ear. Couch's had pro roast for 39¢ a pound, Poss Brunswick stew for 49¢ per 24-ounce can, and pinto beans for a dime a can.

The DeSoto Theater offered The List of Adrian Messenger for the first part of the week, while the First Avenue had Duel of the Titans and the West Rome Drive-In had Diamond Head. The weekend brought King of the Roaring 20s and Police Nurse to the DeSoto (if anyone has heard of or seen either of these films, I'll be amazed!), the First Avenue had Mutiny on the Bounty, and the West Rome Drive-In had The Kentuckian and Apache.

The number one song for this week in 1963 was "It's My Party" byLesley Gore. Other top ten hits included "Sukiyaki" by Kyu Sakamoto (#2); "Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home)" by the Crystals (#3); "I Love You Because" by Al Martino (#4); "You Can't Sit Down" by The Dovells (#5); "Two Faces Have I" by Lou Christie (#6); "If You Wanna Be Happy" by Jimmy Soul (#7); "Still" by Bill Anderson (#8); "Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer" by Nat King Cole (#9); and "Surfin' USA" by the Beach Boys (#10).

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Who Will Replace Matt Smith?

It's official: Matt Smith is out as the Doctor as of this year's Christmas Special. I'm particularly sad to hear this, since it was Matt Smith's quirky charm that first attracted me to Doctor Who after I was so turned off by the first two Christopher Eccleston episodes. Everyone who follows the series has a favorite Doctor, and Matt Smith was mine. Now I know how those David Tennant fans must have felt when they heard that Season 4 would be his last...

No idea who the next Doctor might be, but I'm sure he'll be someone quite different from Matt Smith or David Tennant or Christopher Eccleston. They've made a point of having each Doctor decidedly different from those who preceded him, and I'm sure this year will be no exception. But it'll be a different show without Smith, at least for me...

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 5/27/63 to 6/2/63

West Rome's outstanding students were announced at the Academic Awards banquet held Saturday, May 25th. The honorees included Elaine Darsey, Lee Davenport Susan Edge, Judy Oxford, Jack Peugh, Lynn Scherer, Steve Warren, Baxter Joy, Jimmy Green, & Steve Henderson (7th grade); Lane Chapman, Carol Culp, Walter Greene, Charles Murphy, & Judy Camp (8th grade); Charlene Lamb, Jean Jackson, Yvonne Housch, Thomas McMahan, Jan Nutt, Sara Whitworth, Ann Finley, Janet Jarrett, Cindy Latimore, & Pat Richerson (9th grade); Chris Lawler, Ann Payne, & Jerry Coalson (10th grade); Pat Merill, Alfred Fletcher, Jenny Stewart, Leigh Whittenberg, Sheryl Painter, Herman Trammell, Alice Evans, Dennis Greer, Pat Jarrard, & Carol Johnson (11th grade); Marge Budek, Ellen Cantrell, Anita Lowery, Patches Martin, Glenda Walters, Larry Parker, Bobby Murphy, & Carolyn Stegall (12th grade).

Work on the Alabama Highway upgrades from Burnett Ferry Road to the Rice Springs Railroad crossing, expanding the road from 2 to 4 lanes and adding sidewalks and gutters. I didn't even remember that, until this expansion project, Shorter Avenue ended at Burnett Ferry Road and the road was 2-lane from there to West Rome High School and beyond. The project was timed for early fall completion; the bulk of the work was to be done during the summer, when school was out, and Ledbetter Construction hoped to finish the road by September (if the weather was good) or October (if the weather was less cooperative).

Memorial Day remembrance ceremonies were held in Rome and across the country on Thursday, May 30th. Prior to 1971, Memorial Day was always observed on May 30th; in 1971, federal legislation changed the official date of Memorial Day to the fourth Monday in May (Their one and only reason? It would create more three-day weekends…) In 1963, most businesses and banks were open, and Memorial Day was not viewed as a "holiday" as such.

Sears was apparently your shopping source for pretty much everything in 1963: in late May, they were running a special on precision remanufactured engines for 1955-57 Fords for as low as $18 a month for one year. They also offered remanufactured automatic transmissions, believe it or not--and they had 247 other Allstate engines for a variety of cars and trucks!

West Rome's Pizza King held its grand opening celebration on the weekend of 5/31/63 through 6/2/63; they were located at 1922 Shorter Avenue, right across the street fro the West End Shopping Center. They offered small 8" pizzas for 80¢ and up, "queen size" 12" pizzas for $1.25 and up, and King Size 14" pizzas for $1.75 and up. A large four-item combo could be had for $3--not much more than the price of a single ingredient on a large pizza today! Unusual topping included tuna and lobster.

Sterchi's made it easy to start housekeeping: they offered a 64-piece houseful of furniture for only $499!  It includes a master bedroom suite, 12 pieces of furniture for a living room (including a sleeper sofa), a dining room set, and a stereo console!

Piggly Wiggly had Swift's Bacon for 39¢ a pound, chuck roast for 35¢ a pound, and Fleetwood Coffee for 55¢ a pound. Big Apple offered potatoes for a dime a pound, center cut pork chops for 57¢ a pound, and yellow corn for a dime a can. Couch's offered spareribs for 39¢ a pound, eggs for 35¢ a dozen, and ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon. A&P had yellow corn for 4¢ an ear, watermelons for 79¢ each, and ground beef for 33¢ a pound.

Julian Harrison Ford was offering some great deals on 1963 models, including a Ford Falcon 4-door sedan for $1759.00.  Rome Lincoln-Mercury countered with a brand new 1963 Comet 4-door station wagon for only $2495.00.

Comic book fans witnessed a historic meeting this month in 1963 as the Justice League of America met the Earth-2 Justice Society of America for the first time in Justice League of America #21, the first part of a two-part story that first introduced a lot of us younger comic book readers to the rich heritage of 1940s super-hero comics. Meanwhile, the Human Torch crossed paths with Spider-Man in the extra-length Strange Tales Annual #2. It was one great time for comics!

It was gonna be a sour summer: Sweetarts, the sour candy, were introduced in the Southern market in late May/early June 1963.  I remember being absolutely obsessed with the crumbly-sour candy tablets; buying roll after roll of them whenever I had a nickel to spare (yes, we could buy candy for a nickel back then--remember?).

If you wanted to see a film in Rome, your weekday choices were The Ugly American (with Marlon Brando) at the DeSoto; Operation Bikini (with Tab Hunter, Frankie Avalon, & Jim Backus) at the First Avenue; and Marco Polo (with Rory Calhoun) at the West Rome Drive-In. For the weekend, you could choose from The Traitors (with Patrick Allen, whoever he was) at the DeSoto, Duel of the Titans (with Steve Reeves) at the First Avenue, and a double feature of Dead to the World and Phaedra (neither of which had anyone who really mattered) at the West Rome Drive-In.

The Number One song for this week in 1963 was "It's My Party" by Lesley Gore. Other top ten hits included "If You Wanna Be Happy" by Jimmy Soul (#3); "I Love You Because" by Al Martino (#3); "Surfin' USA" by the Beach Boys (#4); Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home)" by The Crystals (#5); "Two Faces Have I" by Lou Christie (#6); "You Can't Sit Down" by the Dovells (#7); "I Will Follow Him" by Little Peggy March (#8); "Losing You" by Brenda Lee (#9); and "Sukiyaki" by Kyo Sakamoto (#10).

Bob Dylan's second album, The Freewheeling Bob Dylan, was released this week in 1963, as was Live at the Apollo by James Brown and Recorded Live: The Twelve-Year-Old Genius by Little Stevie Wonder. And of course, you could find them all at the Record Shop on Broad Street!

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 5/20/63 to 5/26/63

West Rome prepared for its fifth graduating class to march across the stage at West Rome High School on June 8, 1963; 109 Chieftains were on the graduation list.

The Rome City Schools' Summer Enrichment Program was open to students in good standing at East and West Rome High School; the six week program, which would be equally divided between the two schools, offered students the opportunity to study courses not normally offered in a high school curriculum; students got no credit for the courses, which carried a nominal fee for student involvement. (Did anyone reading this take part in the city's summer enrichment programs? I took part in a summer enrichment program at Berry College in the summer of 1970, but that was a slightly different program that allowed high school students to take college courses for college credit.)

West Rome surged into an early lead in the 1963 Floyd County Junior Varsity Track and Field Meet, held at Berry College. Dickie Sapp placed first in the broad jump and Jerry Coalson first in the discus, while the Chieftain mile relay team set a new record, breaking the old one by four seconds. West Rome ultimately won the event with 97 total points, 61 1/2 points ahead of second-place Armuchee.

A survey involving northwest Georgia high school students showed that 58% of those planning to go to college would be interested in attending a state-supported junior college in the Rome area. General Electric technicians helped to prepare and implement the survey; they forwarded their findings to the Georgia Board of Regents as part of their supporting evidence for the addition of a junior college in Floyd County. Furthermore, a Floyd County delegation also presented the Board of Regents with pledges to vote on a $1.25 million bond referendum to construct and equip the junior college should it be approved. (And as we know, it paid off--the strong outpouring of community support was integral in the creation of Floyd Junior College a few years later.)

Duke Tire Company held its grand opening on May 23-25, 1963, offering such special as Mohawk tires for $15 each  and retreads in all sizes for $11 per tire. (Ah, the wonder of retreads. When Susan and I were surviving on a college student's budget in 1971-75, I kept my '64 Volkswagen Beetle rolling on retreads, and never paid much more than $15 per tire for them...)

Piggly Wiggly had round steak on sale for 79¢ a pound, Shurfresh biscuits for a nickel a can, and white corn for 7¢ an ear. Kroger had baking hens for 29¢ a pound, a case of Pepsi Cola for 79¢ plus deposit,  and vienna sausages for 19¢ a can. Big Apple had ham for 27¢ a pound, canned tomatoes for a dime each, and the ever-popular 4-pound tub of lard for 29¢ (yes, people cooked with lard much more frequently back in 1963!) Couch's offered mayonnaise for 39¢ a jar, catsup for 15¢ a bottle, and Cudahy's smoked ham for 39¢ a pound. A&P countered with rib roast for 69¢ a pound, Foremost ice cream for 79¢ a half-gallon, and Ann Page peanut butter for 33¢ a jar.

Rome's mid-week movie schedule included Papa's Delicate Condition (with Jackie Gleason) at the DeSoto, Battleground and Go for Broke at the First Avenue, and Damon & Pythias and Escape from East Berlin at the West Rome Drive-In. The weekend brought a double-feature of Play It Cool (with Bobby Vee) and The Great Van Robbery (such a low-concept film that they didn't even advertise the names of the cast members) at the DeSoto; The Slave (with Steve Reeves) at the First Avenue; and The Manchurian Candidate at the West Rome Drive-In. (Wait a minute--you mean the only movie that anyone might want to see was showing at the drive-in and not a downtown theater?…)

The number one song this week in 1963 was "If You Wanna Be Happy" by Jimmy Soul. Other top ten hits for the week included "I Will Follow Him" by Little Peggy March (#2); "Surfin' USA" by the Beach Boys (#3); "Foolish LIttle Girl" by the Shirelles (#4); "I Love You Because" by Al Martino (#5); "Losing You" by Brenda Lee (#6); "Two Faces Have I" by Lou Christie (#7); "Take These Chains from My Heart" by Ray Charles (#8); "It's My Party" by Lesley Gore (#9); and "Another Saturday Night" by Sam Cooke. (#10)

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 5/12/63 to 5/18/63

The Rome City Schools board of education took under advisement a plan to establish an industrial arts shop at West Rome  High School; as Superintendent M.S. McDonald pointed out, only one half of the high school college graduates went on to attend college, and the other half might benefit from the industrial arts program. West rome was the only high school in the system which did not have such a program in 1963. The board also took under consideration proposed expenditures for new classrooms in West Rome's junior high department, since the school was growing by 60 to 75 students each fall in the early 1960s; landscaping, including top soil and trees for the West Rome campus; stage curtains for the auditorium; and painting of interior rooms that had bee left unpainted since the school opened in 1958-59.  There was also a proposal to expand the "Alabama Road School" (later officially named West End Elementary) from eight classrooms to twelve classrooms.

Rome's fiscal boom continued, with Rome department stores reporting the largest annual sales gains of any area in Georgia, posting an impressive 14% increase in business over 1962. Yes, Rome was growing even faster than Atlanta!

The growth in Rome meant that the old post office was rapidly proving inadequate, so the General Services Administration began looking for a new location for a modernized post office that could be opened by 1968 or earlier. We know that such a location was found, and the post office did abandon its historic downtown Rome site just a few years later.

West Rome's growth continued with the grand opening of Beverly Heights Subdivision, located off the south end of Paris Drive (which ran next to the Dairy Queen on Shorter Avenue). A full-page ad announced the grand opening of the subdivision, with refreshments served by the West Rome cheerleaders. Even better, one lucky attendee would win a free Shetland pony! (I know Beverly Heights well, because this was more or less my subdivision. That is, I lived in the area that became Beverly Heights, but it had no such name when we moved there in April of 1962. It grew to include new homes constructed on Paris Drive, Marchmont Drive, Norcross Drive, and Beverly Drive, and was at one time the home neighborhood for me and many of my fellow Chieftains, including the Greshams, the Terhunes, the Masons, the Boyds, the Rohners, and many others.)

Here was news that caused all sorts of confusion for my family over the years: Dan Biggers became the new headmaster of Thornwood School. Dan Biggers came to Rome from the University of Georgia, where he had served as the counselor to freshmen. As far as we determined, Dan Biggers was no relation to me or to my father, Don Biggers, but their names were only one letter apart, leading to frequent confusion. Later, Dan Biggers went on to become dean of students at Berry College, where he was known as Dean Biggers. As it so happened, my mother's name was Dean Biggers. And as you might suspect, this led to even more confusion... and may have worked to my benefit when I attended Berry College in the early 1970s!

Remember the Rome Bisons? Neither do I, but they were Rome's team in the Southern Professional Football League--and they signed former All-State Chieftain Butch White to their team this week in 1963. The Bisons played at Barron Stadium; anyone have any memories of watching the Bisons back in the early 1960s?  Just three years later, the owner of the team would be arrested for his involvement in burglaries in Atlanta and Marietta, so it appears the team wasn't very profitable!…

Shorter Avenue's days as a two-lane road west of Burnett Ferry Road came to an end when Ledbetter Brothers Construction began grading and preliminary work to widen the road to four lanes from Burnett Ferry all the way out to the railrroad crossing at Rice Springs. The road improvement also included money to ad sidewalks from Burnett Ferry to Wsest Rome  High--a decision that was certainly appreciated by those of us who occasionally walked to school! (It's worth noting that, at this time, Shorter Avenue actually ended at Burnett Ferry Road, and the name changed to Alabama Road at that point. Once the four-laning was completed, Shorter Avenue was extended all the way to West Rome High School.)

Scholastic letters were awarded at an assembly program in the West Rome Auditorium on Monday, May 12th.

Chieftains coach Paul Kennedy was chosen to serve as camp director for the Boys Club for their five-week camp scheduled for mid-June through late July, marking the second summer in a row that he has held the post.

The Chieftains lost to the Model Blue Devils 9-3 on Thursday, May 16th, knocking them out of the running in the City-County Tournament.

The West Rome Chorus, under the guidance of director Ronald Midkiff, presented its spring concert, "An Hour With Rodgers and Hammerstein," at 8pm on Monday, May 13th, at the meeting of the West Rome Chieftain's Club. The Chieftain's Club also installed new officers at the meeting, including President  Bill Garrett; executive vice president Mrs. Halsted Payne; academic vice president AW Dawson; athletic vice president Calvin Law; music vice president Charles Godfrey; secretary Mrs. Howard Fountain; and treasurer Mr. harry Warren. New board members for the 1963-64 school year included Robet Scherer, Fred Sapp, and Dolph Kennedy, with Mrs. Martha Payne serving as director. Obviously there were many parents who were quite interested in the school!

Rhodes Furniture celebrated its 88th anniversary with a big sale that included a three-piece Early American bedroom group for $119.00, an 8-piece maple dinette set for $149, and a full-sized sofa bed for $168.00. All of this included free delivery--and if you weren't happy with the furniture, they'd pick it up and take it back at no charge! Sterchi's marked their 75th anniversary with a 7-piece living room suite for $199.75, a chromed steel and formica dinette ensemble that included six chairs for only $75.75, and a full-sized Sealy mattress and box springs for $58.75.

Kroger had a case of 24 Pepsi Cola for 89¢ plus deposit (remember when drinks actually came in returnable bottles?), center cut pork chops for 45¢ a pound, and pork and beans for a dime a can... and they offered Top Value Stamps, which promised quicker redemptions with up to 10 % fewer stamps required than the S&H Green Stamp redemption levels. Piggly Wiggly countered with 24 cokes for 89¢ plus deposit, ground beef for 33¢ a pound, and a ten pound bag of potatoes for 49¢. Big Apple was touting the benefits of S&H Green Stamps' larger selection of merchandise (uh oh--stamp wars!), while offering beef roast for 37¢ a pound, eggs for 33¢ a dozen, and the ever-popular-and-always-enigmatic "lunch meats" for 29¢ a package. A&P had ham for 29¢ a pound, watermelons for 79¢ each (summer really was getting closer!), and Chase & SAnborn coffee for 49¢ a pound. Couch's offered saltines for 19¢ a package, Double Q salmon for 59¢ per tall can, and fresh squash for 9¢ a pound.

The big movie in Rome for the first half of the week was The Birds, held over once again at the First Avenue. Debbie Reynolds' My Six Loves was showing at the DeSoto, while the West Rome Drive-In offered Walt Disney's Moon Pilot. The weekend brought Wonderful to be Young (with Cliff Richard and the Shadows) to the DeSoto in a double feature with Hercules; Some Came Running (with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, & Shirley MacLaine) and A Little Hut (with Ava Gardner, Stewart Granger, and David Niven) to the First Avenue, and White Slave Ship and Journey to the Seventh Planet (both of which had no one you ever heard of or cared about) to the West Rome Drive-In, proving our assertion that no one went to the drive-in to watch a movie.

Jimmy Soul had the number one song this week in 1963 with "If You Wanna Be Happy." Other top ten hits included "I Will Follow Him" by Little Peggy March (#2); "Puff (The Magic Dragon)" by Peter, Paul, & Mary (#3); "Surfin' USA" by the Beach Boys (#4); "Foolish Little Girl" by The Shirelles #5); "Pipeline" by the Chantays (#6); "Losing You" by Brenda Lee (#7); "Reverend Black" by The Kingston Trio (#8); "Can't Get Used to Losing You" by Andy Williams (#9); and "I Love You Because" by Al Martino (#10).

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 5/6/63 to 5/12/63

The US stepped up its pace in the space race with the launch of Telstar-2, the first communications satellite with the potential to beam the first "live" intercontinental television pictures. Today, we take satellite technology for granted, but in 1963, it was treated like science fiction come to life, earning front-page headlines across the country.

William Faulkner's The Reivers, a Southern tale of misadventure, won the 1963 Pulitzer Prize for fiction this week in 1963; no award was made for drama, even though the committee had recommended the award go to "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

A heat wave pushed Rome into record high temperatures on Wednesday, May 8th, with an official high of 89 degrees. (Wait--does this mean there were heat waves before the whole global warming push?)

Even before West End Elementary School was officially opened, the Rome school board was already talking about a potential shortage of classrooms, particularly in the rapidly-growing West Rome area, where there were worries that West Rome High, West End Elementary, and Elm Street Elementary would all be over capacity within five years. (And those of us who had classrooms in trailers know that this prediction did indeed come to pass!)

What might have been…. fifty years ago this week, a Rome businessman offered a 120-acre site on the Cave Spring Road for construction of a proposed state junior college in Floyd County. As we know now, his offer was not accepted.

West Rome got a new restaurant this week in 1963 when the Pizza King opened at 1922 Shorter Avenue, across the street from Westdale Shopping Center, offering 28 different varieties of pizza in princess, queen, and king sizes. While that was only a mile or so from my house, I don't recall every trying it and don't even remember the restaurant; any readers with Pizza King stories to tell?

The Chieftains defeated Chattooga County 5-2; the game's most memorable moment came when Gerry Law hit a solo home run in the fifth inning.

West Rome came in third in the Region 3-AA sub-region meet at Darlington, with 33 total team points. West Rome went on to tie for fourth place in the Region 3-AA meet at North Whitfield--alas, not the Chieftain's finest showing...

Piggly Wiggly had Delmonico steaks for 99¢ a pound, strawberry's for 45¢ a quart, and Maxwell House Instant Coffee for 89¢ per ten ounce jar. Kroger had smoked ham for 29¢ a pound, medium eggs for 33¢ a dozen, and a quart of Dempsey's Orange Drink (who needs orange juice when you can have tasty orange drink!) for 10¢ a quart. Couch's had Oscar Mayer bologna or hot dogs for 49¢ a pound, Northern tissue for 35¢ per four-roll pack, and bananas for a dime a pound. Colonial offered T-bone steak for 89¢ a pound, catsu for 20¢ per 16 ounce bottle, and a large head of lettuce for a dime. Big Apple offered spare ribs for 29¢ a pound, Royal Crown or Diet-Rite Cola for 19¢ a six-pack (plus deposit), and Bama grape jam or jelly for 19¢ a jar.

Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds opened at the DeSoto Theater this week in 1963, with five showings a day scheduled throughout the week--a true rarity for the DeSoto, which normally did not run showings during the morning and afternoon except on weekends. The First Avenue was showing Escape from Port Bravo (with William Holden) and Ride Vaquero with Robert Taylor; the West Rome Drive-In offered lighter fare in the form of It's Only Money (with Jerry Lewis). The Birds flew over to the First Avenue for the weekend to make room for Gorgo and Atlantis: The Lost Continent at the DeSoto ( I never got to see this movie; this is the film that my parents were taking me to the drive-in to see in 1960 when a drunk driver ran a stop sign and slammed into the side of our car. Thankfully, no one was injured, but we never made it to the drive-in that night... and oddly enough, I've never seen the film since then!). The West Rome Drive-In offered Walt Disney's Nikki, Wild Dog of the North over the weekend.

The number one song this week in 1963 was "I Will Follow Him" by Little Peggy March, followed by  "Puff (The Magic Dragon)" by Peter, Paul & Mary (#2); "If You Wanna Be Happy" by Jimmy Soul (#3); "Pipeline" by the Chantays (#40); "Can't Get Used to Losing You" by Andy Williams (#5); "Foolish Little Girl" by the Shirelles (#6); "Surfin' USA" by the Beach Boys (#7); "He's So Fine" by the Chiffons (#8); "Reverend Mr. Black" by the Kingston Trio (#9); and "Losing You" by Brenda Lee (#10).

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Making Progress

Today, on a whim, Susan and I rode up to Jasper so that she could check out a quilt shop staffed by some folks she knew from Tiny Stitches, a quilt shop not too far from our house. More than anything else, it was an excuse to ride somewhere we haven't been before. We've driven past Jasper many times on our way to Ellijay and Blue Ridge, but have never gotten off Zell Miller Mountain Parkway to actually venture into downtown Jasper.

As I do whenever we visit a new place, I looked for a local newspaper. At first, I thought my search might be fruitless; I saw a Chattanooga paper, an Atlanta paper, and a Cherokee County paper, but nothing unique. A trip into Jasper Drugs on South Main Street paid off, though: they had a copy of this week's Pickens County Progress on the racks.

Maybe it's my newspaper-family background showing (in case you forgot, Dad worked for the Rome News-Tribune in a number of editorial positions during his lengthy career), but I've always thought a newspaper not only reflected the community it served, but also helped to define it. A well-written, well-produced newspaper is a powerful centerpiece for a town or a county; a second-rate newspaper is actually a hindrance, because it generally blocks something better from coming in.

Way too many newspapers that I pick up in our travels are little more than a collection of syndicated pieces--feature stories, reviews, soft news articles, recipes, etc. I was delighted to discover that the Pickens County Progress is totally different—a community focused and locally produced newspaper complete with news, human interest stories, reviews, commentary, and more... and none of it carries an AP or Reuters credit.

Right off the bat, the Progress looks and feels like a newspaper.  While many papers today have continued to shrink their dimensions (the Atlanta Constitution is just under 11" x 22" now, as is the Marietta Daily Journal), the Progress maintains the dimensions that seem right for a newspaper: a full 12 5/8" wide by 22" tall. I hated to see papers cut their width so radically over the past few years; today's narrow papers don't feel right--the ratios are wrong, creating a folded paper that's almost exactly square. We're not attuned to square media; neither books nor television programs nor movies are square (the former is generally taller than wide in  just under a 2:3 ratio, while the latter vary from 4:3 to 16:9 or greater, depending on whether it's a vintage film/television program, a standard HD program, or a widescreen film).  Open up an Atlanta or Marietta paper, and you have a product that looks too tall and/or too narrow; again, the ratios are all wrong.

Not the Progress, though; apparently its publisher has rejected this "news-narrowing" as not a sign of progress at all, choosing to maintain the more aesthetically pleasing ratio. Okay, I know that's all technical stuff that has little to do with the quality of a paper–but it's still important to me.

As for the quality—well, let's say that I was quite impressed with what I saw. Six stories on page one, all locally produced: a story about education budget cuts and how they'll affect the Pickens County 4H program, a story about Pickens High graduation, a story about a recent death that does not appear to involve foul play in spite of initial concerns, a story about local road-closure concerns, a story about the local fire department trying to construct their history, and a story about a new finance director in Jasper. Each story is clearly bylined (as all stories in the paper are), with reporter contact info given in the byline. The page is clean, neatly designed, and visually appealing, with excellent use of color and typography.

Inside, more solid content—and once again, all locally produced. An inspirational editorial for this year's high school graduates; a locally-drawn editorial cartoon that makes a strong point and reflects positively on human nature; an opinion piece... My favorite, though, is an excellent review of The Great Gatsby by David Altman that not only points out the aesthetic failure of inserting rap and other modern music into the film's soundtrack, but then goes on to explain why it doesn't work! Altman insightfully explains why the film fails, underscoring the distinction between plot and narrative. Would you have expected to find such insights in a small town paper?

More local news, plenty of local ads, detailed coverage focusing on the upcoming Pickens County High School graduation (including a list of all garduates), several letters to the editor that reflect an actively engaged community, obituaries, more news, local history, local sports... everything that defines a local paper is here, well written and attractively laid out on the page. There's even a page of high school news written and designed by the Pickens County High School journalism staff; producing a high school paper is one thing, but can you imagine the pride these students must feel to know that their work will be seen by the entire community, and held to the same standards expected from any professional journalist?

No national news (a local weekly just can't compete with the instant-access news cycle that the internet provides, so they don't try), no divisive political commentary filled with strident excoriations and condemnations—just rock-solid, responsible journalism.

Apparently the Pickens County Progress is a family effort: the publisher is John R. Pool, the editor is Dan Pool, and the managing editor is William Pool. All three men should be proud of what they've done here—and the Pickens County community should consider itself lucky to have such a vibrant and vital newspaper in a time when the local paper seems to be fading away. Heck, I'm considering subscribing, even though I live almost an hour away and don't know much about Pickens County... but I do know an outstanding paper when I see it.