Saturday, November 16, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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