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).

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