Saturday, August 10, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 8/12/63 to 8/18/63.

With the 1963-64 school year rapidly approaching, West Rome High School was already facing overcrowding just five years after opening. Principal Dick McPhee said that West Rome's rate of growth had been more than one classroom per year since the building was occupied in 1958. The school had 40 teachers on staff for the 1963-64 school year, which was six more teachers than they had in 1958 (and eight more than rival East Rome was reporting). McPhee also said that, for its first five years of operation, had an 82% on-track rate for graduation, which far exceeded the Floyd County or Georgia state averages.  For the time, we were a cutting-edge school with a full art room, typing lab, drafting room, library, home ec facility, health clinic, and sick rooms--and in 1963, a school so well equipped was a real rarity.

Rome's Southern Professional Football League team, the Bisons, made their home debut on August 16th at Barron Stadium as they hosted the Huntsville Rockets. Rome's team was looking for their first win after two straight losses; alas, that was not to be…

The new elementary school, which had been referred to as The Alabama Road Elementary ever since construction began, was officially renamed West End Elementary this week in 1963.  The "West End" name began showing up in some reports earlier in August of 1963, but the name change wasn't formalized until the Rome City Board of Education meeting on August 12th.

The railroad underpass on Shorter Avenue got a lot of attention as Southern Railway's G.B. Williams promised the Rome-Floyd County Chamber of Commerce that the railway would work with the city and the county to widen the underpass to four lanes (believe it or not, this was a two-lane bottleneck in 1963!).

West Rome's Terri Green of Coosawattee Avenue won a girl's bicycle in the Melody Ice Cream Contest.  (Alas, I don't remember Melody Ice Cream at all--but I'll bet the Terri does!)

Rome's Chamber of Commerce, always looking for a way to boost business, launched Rome Dollar Days on August 16th; the two-day event was prominently promoted, with many stores across the city advertising specials (Hopkins-Gillam & Lee had women's shoes for $3 a pair, Esserman's had men's suits for $28.88 each, Kessler's had Levi's pants for $4.55 a pair, Enloe's had a home barber set just perfect for back-to-school haircuts for $5, Sears had Allstate tires for as low as $9.75 each…. it was quite an event, intended to keep local spending in Rome. And all of the efforts must have been paying off: Rome's department stores saw a 3% jump in June year-over-year, while furniture stores were down 1% (which beat the state average) and appliance store sales were down 2% (again, better than the state average).

A&P's grocery specials included chuck roast for 39¢ a pound, a carton of Pepsi for 19¢, and NuTreat ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon. Piggly Wiggly had whole fryers for 23¢ a pound, cantaloupes for 19¢ each, and watermelons for 33¢ each. Kroger advertised smoked hams for 39¢ a pound, Polar Pak ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon, and seedless grapes for 19¢ a pound. Couch's offered ground beef for 39¢ a pound, applesauce for a dime a can, and ketchup for a dime a bottle. (As I've mentioned before, it's interesting to see how many prominently-advertised brand names from 1963 no longer exist today: try to find Polar Pak or NuTreat or Super Suds or Taste o' South in grocery stores today and you'll be quite disappointed, but these were advertised brands back in the early 1960s.)

Rome theaters certainly didn't kick the week off with any box office smashes: The DeSoto had Walt Disney's Savage Sam, The First Avenue had a double-feature of Jacktown and The Young Racers, and the West Rome Drive-In brought back the four-year-old A Summer Place, pairing it with Troy Donahue's Susan Slade. The weekend was much more exciting, though, as Bye Bye Birdie came to the DeSoto Theater later in the week, while the First Avenue brought in The Great Escape and the West Rome Drive-In resurrected the venerable Hitchcock film Rear Window. (In the pre-VCR days of the early 1960s, theaters routinely brought back years-old films--and apparently they made money doing so! After all, we had few other choices of things to watch!…)

Little Stevie Wonder held on to the number one spot for the second week in a row with "Fingertips (Part II)." Other top ten hits included the novelty song "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh" by Allan Sherman (#2); "Candy Girl" by the Four Seasons (#3); "My Boyfriend's Back" by the Angels (#4); "Judy's Turn to Cry" by Lesley Gore (#5); "Blowin' in the Wind" by Peter, Paul & Mary (#6); "Wipe Out" by the Safaris (#7); "More" by Kai Winding (#8); "You're the Devil in Disguise" by Elvis Presley (#9); and "Denise" by Randy & the Rainbows (#10).

Comic book fans like myself were thrilled to pick up Flash Annual #1, an 80-page extravaganza reprinting the origins of the Kid Flash and Elongated Man, along with a Golden Age Flash story and much more. Of course, it was artist Carmine Infantino's short "How I Draw the Flash" feature that captivated me as an aspiring artist who loved drawing my favorite superheroes. I still remember buying my copy at the EZ Shop on Shorter Avenue; I read it and re-read it so many times that I finally had to reinforce the cover with tape along the spine to stop it from falling apart!

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