Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 11/25/63 to 12/1/63

Rome continued to mourn and react to the 11/22/63 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, as residents took part in memorials in churches across the county. Meanwhile, Roman Charles Jenkins shared an odd tangential link to the historic event: he was in the same Marine unit as Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald's defection in 1959, and shared his memories of Oswald with the Rome News-Tribune, confirming that even in 1959 Oswald was very pro-communist and seemed very out of place in the Marines, so no one in his unit was surprised when Oswald defected.

Rome and Floyd County continued to discuss the possibility of merging the two school systems, but even then the biggest stumbling block was money: if the two systems were merged, the state of Georgia would cut education funding by almost $16,000, and an additional funding shortage of $322,000+ in tax revenues paid by city residents (payments in excess of county tax levels) to pay for city school systems. The joint commission also found that it would cost an additional $635,000 to merge the two systems and upgrade facilities so that all schools would be more or less equal in facilities and equipment. Needless to say, the merger never took place…

Floyd Hospital continued to grow with the announcement of a new half-million dollar addition set to begin in early 1964; this announcement came soon after the early-1963 completion of a multi-million dollar hospital expansion that brought capacity up to 250 beds.

West Rome faced off against Rockmart over the Thanksgiving weekend; alas, after surprising everyone with their victory over Berry in their first game, the Chiefs fell to Rockmart 54-52 in their second game. "We looked a little ragged," Coach Ralph Beeler said, "but I think we should improve and maybe we can be a contender by tournament time."

West Rome students sat through a pair of rather graphic drivers' safety films in a pre-Thanksgiving assembly that featured a presentation by drivers' education instructor Don Unsworth. (I'll bet every one of us remembers those films with their then-graphic accident photographs, shown in hopes they would shock us into driving safely; of course, today we see worse than that in the previews for a Walking Dead episode or the first five minutes of Gray's Anatomy or Bones.)

Nowadays we have Black Friday, but in 1963 the post-Thanksgiving sales event was Rome Days. Merchants all over town offered specials on Friday, November 29th, and Saturday, November 30th, as a kickoff to the Christmas shopping season. The event was sponsored to the Rome Chamber of Commerce, which was headed by Van Enloe (that name is remembered by many of us because of his family's ownership of the Enloe's Rexall Drugstores, a mainstay in Rome in the 1960s). Stainless steel cookware sets for !2.95 at Maxwell Brothers; women's fashion coats for $25 at Belk-Rhodes; Timex watches for $9.99 at Murphy's; Remington portable typewriters for $49.88 at Economy Auto; Norelco Speedmaster electric razors for $19.99 at Enloe's; electric blankets for $10 at Penney's; a mahogany spinet piano for $399 at Rhodes Furniture; a 23" console TV for $168 at Sears; a Zenith shirt pocket radio for $24.95—in 1963, it really was possible for a Roman to make all of his or her purchases in Rome and never venture into Atlanta. Oh, how different life was in those pre-big-box-retailer, pre-mall days!…

Piggly Wiggly had Butterball hen turkeys for 45¢ a pound, cranberry sauce for 19¢ a can, and Haas avocados (after all, what's Thanksgiving without guacamole?) for 15¢ each. Big Apple had hen turkeys for 43¢ a pound, whole or full shank ham for 43¢ a pound, and the ever-popular brown-and-serve rolls for 19¢ a package. A&P had hen turkeys for 39¢ a pound, five-pound canned hams for $3.79, and canned pumpkin for 12¢ a can. Kroger had hen turkeys for 39¢ a pound, celery for 9¢ a bunch, and large eggs for 49¢ a dozen. And West Rome's favorite local grocery, Couch's, had hen turkeys for 39¢ a pound, JFG coffee for 59¢ a pound, and canned peach halves for 19¢ a can. Those prices may seem cheaper, but don't forget that there's an inflation multiplier of approximately 7.5 that has to factored in; when you multiply it out, we actually can buy many of these times more cheaply today!

For the first half of the week, moviegoers could choose from Giant (with Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, & James Dean) at the First Avenue Theater or Mary Mary (with Debbie Reynolds) at the DeSoto. The last half of the week brought Lawrence of Arabia to the First Avenue, Palm Springs Weekend to the DeSoto, and Spencer's Mountain at the West Rome Drive-In.

The number one song this week in 1963 was the memorable "Dominique" by the Singing Nun (and hallelujah, this is one musician whose climb to the top of the charts didn't inspire a celebrity meltdown!). Other top ten hits included "I'm Leaving It Up to You" by Dale & Grace (#2); "Everybody" by Tommy Roe (#3); "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen (#4); "She's a Fool" by Lesley Gore (#5); "Sugar Shack" by Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs (#6); "You Don't Have to Be a Baby to Cry" by the Caravelles (#7); "Be True to Your School" by the Beach Boys (#8); "Washington Square" by the Village Stompers (#9); and "Walking the Dog" by Rufus Thomas (#10).

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