Saturday, December 28, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/30/1963 to 1/5/1964

A half-century ago, those of us old enough to remember watched the turbulent year of 1963 come to an end as 1964 began. We had high hopes for the new year, and in many ways it was destined to live up to those hopes. Locally, 1964 began where 1963 left off: with low unemployment, a growing economy, improving educational standards, a rapidly developing local infrastructure, and new businesses adding Rome locations each and every month. It's no wonder that so many of us remember those years so fondly!

Chieftains (and other underage Romans) were better behaved in 1963: as the year came to an end, juvenile delinquency-related charges had dropped by 32% during the twelve, falling from 177 in 1962 to 120 in 1963. Burglary was the number one area of offense, with 27 cases, followed by 24 cases of petty larceny and 11 cases of shoplifting.

West Rome's boys basketball team defeated Cedartown 47-38 in the consolation game of the 10th Annual Northwest Georgia Invitational Basketball tournament on the night of December 30th (delayed from its original pre-Christmas date due to inclement weather), which earned them a third place spot overall in the tournament.

Romans said farewell to 1963 in a heavy snowfall that left Rome with almost 3" of the white stuff by the time the New Year rolled in. The snow turned to ice as it melted and refroze, leaving travel in Rome a bit treacherous all the way through the weekend. This was the second measurable snowfall during the holiday season--a rarity for Rome!

If only we could find rates like this today: Citizens Federal welcomed in 1964 with a 4.25% APR rate on its saving accounts, and the only requirement was an opening deposit of $25 or more! The ever-competitive Rome Bank & Trust countered with an offer of 4.33% with the same $25 initial deposit requirement.

Sears welcomed in the new year with a  special offer: a huge (by 1964 standards) 13.6 cubic foot frost-free refrigerator-freezer for only $288.00, in white or the then-trendy copper tone. And in a move that seems a bit premature, Sears also offered 14,000 BTU window-mount air conditioners for $199.88.

Piggly Wiggly had sirloin steak for 89¢ a pound, canned corned beef for 49¢ per one-pound can, and canned biscuits for a nickel a can. Kroger had pork chops for 49¢ a pound, grade A large eggs for 49¢ a dozen, and Kroger saltines for 19¢ a box. A&P had stew beef for 59¢ a pound, Irish potatoes for 39¢ per ten-pound bag, and Sultana pork & beans for a dime a can. Big Apple had assorted flavors of Campbell's soup for 18¢ a can, ground beef for 39¢ a pound, and one-pound cans of fruit cocktail for a quarter each. Couch's had one-pound cans of QQ pink salmon for 49¢, Stokely's catsup for 19¢ for a 20-ounce bottle, and Shopper's Bacon for 49¢ a pound.

The week began with a pair of light-weight films: Who's Minding the Store? (with Jerry Lewis) at the DeSoto and Under the Yum-Yum Tree (with Jack Lemmon) at the First Avenue. The weekend brought Take Her, She's Mine (with James Stewart & Sandra Dee) to the DeSoto and the bio film Marilyn (narrated by Rock Hudson) to the First Avenue, while the West Rome Drive-In offered a weekend double-feature of Information Received and The List of Adrian Messenger.

The number one song this week in 1963 was "There! I've Said It Again" by Bobby Vinton. Other top ten hits included "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen (#2); "Popsicles nd Icicles" by the Murmaids (#3); "Dominique" by the Singing Nun (#4); "Forget Him" by Bobby Rydell (#5); "Since I Fell For You" by Lenny Welch (#6); "Surfin' Bird" by the Trashmen (#7); "The Nitty Gritty" by Shirley Ellis (#8); "Talk Back Trembling Lips" by Johnny Tillotson (#9); and "Midnight Mary" by Joey Powers (#10).

And the growing interest in this British phenomenon known as "Beatlemania" inspired Jack Parr to spotlight some footage from a British Beatles concert on The Jack Paar Show on Friday night, January 3rd--the first time that many Americans first saw a Beatles performance!

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Life In Four Colors (Part Forty)

Like so many of us, I remember a plethora of toys from childhood Christmases past, but my two most vivid memories are of books, and both date from the Christmas of 1965.

The first was Jules Feiffer's oversized book The Great Comic Book Heroes, which was my first significant exposure to Golden Age comics of the 1930s and 1940s (I had seen the occasional Golden Age reprint that DC would include in their Annuals and 80-Page Giants, but these were just earlier adventures of major characters like Superman). I was absolutely enthralled as I read through the book--not only were the Golden Age reprints captivating, but Feiffer's accompanying text explaining his life with comics was equally fascinating. Even better, this book wasn't limited to just Marvel or DC; it features great stories from both, as well as tales from All-American, Quality, and many others. Superman, Batman, Captain America, The Sub-Mariner, the Human Torch, Plastic Man, Wonder Woman, the Spectre, The Spirit, Hawkman, Captain Marvel, The Flash, Green Lantern... so many wonderful stories, all from an era whose comics I had never actually seen! Every tale was filled with energy, overflowing with vitality and excitement, and I dreamed of a time when I would be able to read more of these stories from the years before my birth.

 I read and re-read that oversized hardcover a hundred times, at least--and it was prominently displayed on the dark oak bookcase that my parents gave me to hold my growing library and collection.  Recently, I moved that bookshelf to the master bedroom of Marchmont, our second house--and one of the first items I put on display was my worn but still intact copy of The Great Comic Book Heroes. I still occasionally pull that well-read edition from the bookshelf where and thumb through it again, and I still feel the same excitement.

The other 1965 book memory involves the James Bond novels. I was a devoted fan of the James Bond movies by the time I was 12, but had not read any of the books. My parents were a bit concerned about the sex and violence in those Ian Fleming novels, but they also were reluctant to tell me that I couldn't read something that I wanted to read. I had put the entire series on my Christmas list, but wasn't at all confident I'd actually get them.

On  Christmas Eve 1965, my parents were going to a party at a neighbor's house for an hour or two, while I stayed at home to keep an eye on my sister Kim. As they were getting ready to leave, they gave me a hefty, carefully wrapped cube and told me to go ahead and open it early. As soon as I tore the corner of the paper away, I recognized the distinctive Signet paperback cover design of Live and Let Die; beneath it were the rest of the Signet editions of the James Bond novels in their matching cover designs. "We've decided that you're old enough to read these," Dad said. "And we thought you might want to start reading one of them tonight." I was doubly thrilled--not only because of all those novels I looked forward to reading, but also because Mom and Dad had enough faith in me to give me these books in spite of their concerns. 

And once again, even though I have subsequently acquired all of these novels in hardcover editions, I still  have those original paperbacks given to me by Mom and Dad 48 years ago. At Christmastime, I often take a look at those covers once again and smile, remembering how I was so excited and eager to read these books that, once my parents had come home and everyone had gone to bed, I turned on a small light and read for another hour or two that night.

Books aren't just filled with stories... they're filled with memories as well, and we as readers collaborate with each book's author to add those memories. Once they're added, they can never be stricken from those volumes, no matter how much time passes or how worn the books become...

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/23/1963 to 12/29/1963

The week of Christmas 1963 got off to an icy start  as snow and sleet fell on Monday, December 23rd, with temperatures dropping into the teens by Tuesday morning, rising to the high 20s that afternoon, and falling back to a low of 10 degrees on Christmas morning. Mrs. Juanita Lester at the Russell Field Weather Bureau said that this promised to be the first white Christmas in Rome in decades (even if it was just a light layer of residual snow and ice and not a fresh snowfall). The icy roads led to a few accidents with injuries, but no fatalities, thankfully!

The icy conditions forced a rescheduling of the consolation and championship games of the 10th Annual Northwest Georgia Invitational Basketball Tournament for Monday, December 30th. While West Rome didn't make it to the championship, the Chieftains were slated to face off against the Cedartown Bulldogs in the consolation match.

Meanwhile, West Rome's girls team surprised everyone by winning 44-39 against previously-undefeated West Haralson in the Dave Spring Girls' Invitational Tournament on Thursday, December 26th. Then, on Saturday, December 28th, the girls defeated East Rome 49-46 to win the tournament championship; their victory was largely cemented by Linda Lippencott, who scores 37 points in the championship game.

One of Rome's radio stations, WLAQ, changed ownership on December 28th as the Athens-based Clark Broadcasting Company purchased the station, ending its longtime local ownership. The new owners announced their plans to expand the station's broadcast day from 5am to 1am seven days a week; under its prior management, the station had operated only from 6am to midnight. The new owners also promised that Rome would get the best of CBS national news, more local news, more music, and the best in local sports coverage.

Big Apple had turkeys for 33¢ a pound, Irvindale sherbet for 49¢ a half-gallon, and 17-ounce cans of cranberry sauce for 19¢. A&P had sugar-cured hams for 45¢ a pound, baking hens for 39¢ a pound, and whole coconuts for 12¢ each. Piggly Wiggly was thinking ahead to New Years Day, offering black-eyed peas for 12¢ a pound, hog jowl for 19¢ a pound, and cabbage for a nickel a pound. Kroger had turnip greens for 15¢ a pound, pork & beans for a dime a can, and fresh fryers for 23¢ a pound. Couch's had pork chops for 39¢ a pound, Maxwell House coffee for 49¢ a pound, and Planters peanuts for 33¢ for a 7-ounce can.

The week began with a double feature of Don't Give Up the Ship and Rock-A-Bye Baby (both with Jerry Lewis) at the First Avenue and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm ("special limited engagement--uncut & original length!") at the DeSoto. Under the Yum Yum Tree (with Jack Lemmon) came to the First Avenue on Christmas Day, while the DeSoto had a rather strange double feature: A Ticklish Affair (with Shirley Jones, Gig Young, Red Buttons, & Carolyn Jones in her pre-Morticia days) and a sports film compendium entitled, unimaginatively enough, Football Highlights. In spite of the cold weather, the West Rome Drive-In opened on the weekend, showing Walt Disney's Son of Flubber.

The number one song this week in 1963 was "There! I've Said It Again" by Bobby Vinton. Other top ten hits included "Louie Loui" by the Kingsmen (#2); "Dominique" by the Singing Nun (#3); "Since I Fell For You" by Lenny Welch (#4); "Forget Him" by Bobby Rydell (#5); "Popsicles & Icicles" by the Murmaids (#6); "Talk Back Trembling Lips" by Johnny Tillotson (#7); "Quicksand" by Martha & the Vandellas (#8); "The Nitty Gritty" by Shirley Ellis (#9); and "Midnight Mary" by Joey Powers (#10).

And popular music was about to change forever: On December 26th, in reaction to listener response after an import copy of the song was played on WWDC DJ James Carroll's radio show, "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was rush-released by Capitol Records on December 26th, 1963. (The flip-side of the single was "This Boy," still one of the best examples of Beatles harmonies from those early years.)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

...Angels in the Room

"It won't be long now. There are angels in the room."

Eleven years ago, a kind, compassionate nurse spoke those words to me as we stood by Mom's bedside, watching her life wane away.  Ten minutes later, she breathed one final, labored breath, and then she didn't. The struggled rhythm of her breathing ceased, and she left us on December 15th, 2002, after a painful struggle with emphysema.

I will never know how she found the strength to fight for so long--almost a decade from initial diagnosis to last breath. Twice we thought we had lost her, and twice she fought her way back to us. But she knew that there would not be a third miracle. Always thinking of others, she did her best to prepare all of us for her passing. She gave us one glorious final Thanksgiving together at Kimberly's house. I spent all day with her and Dad on December 5th, meticulously copying photos from the family photo album while Dad prepared Irish stew using Mom's recipe, with Mom supervising and offering advice. After we ate, everyone agreed that it was good stew... it was Mom's stew. 

The house was in order. Christmas presents were wrapped; clutter was put away out of sight, as if Mom knew there would be company in the house soon after.

She went back to the hospital on December 9th, and we all hoped that it would be a short visit and she would return home before Christmas. On December 13th, she showed remarkable improvement, sitting up, talking to us, and eating a regular meal for dinner. I brought my computer to her hospital room and showed her the videos I had prepared chronicling her and Dad's early lives; our family's years together; and the treasured Christmases past. She watched, rapt, and smiled often. "That was wonderful," she said. "Thank you."

The next morning, when I came into her hospital room, all vitality was spent. Every breath was a battle; she was unaware of my presence, and did not respond to any treatment. At that time, all of us somehow knew that this time was going to be different. Mom no longer had the strength to fight her way back to us another time; the emphysema had done too much damage.

It was a gift that we were all by her side, our hands laid gently on her hands and arms and shoulders, when she passed, Frank Sinatra's "It Was a Very Good Year," one of her favorite songs, played softly in the background in those final moments.

When life left her, she looked as if a painful burden had been lifted.

"There are angels in the room," that nurse said.

And then there was one more.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/16/1963 to 12/22/1963

Six Chieftain football players were recognized at the Chieftain Banquet, sponsored by the West Rome Chieftain's Club. Ken Payne was chosen most improved player; Richard Edwards, most valuable lineman; Donnie Hill, winner of the annual Sportsman trophy; Chris Warren and AV Gray, most valuable backs; and Jerry Coalson was named as the Captain of the 1964 football team.

East Rome didn't rack up many victories over the Chieftains, but their wrestlers did manage to defeat West Rome's mat team 38-21, thanks in large part to three straight Gladiator pins in the upper weight classes.

West Rome's basketball team managed to pull out a 40-37 victory over Coosa on Wednesday night as they faced off in the 10th Annual Northwest Georgia Invitational Basketball Tournament. As a result, the Chiefs advanced to face off against Pepperell on Friday night. After winning that game 40-19, West Rome moved up to the semifinals, where they were defeated by Rockmart 53-47 in Saturday night's game.

Members of Rome's Senior Tri-Hi-Y went caroling at the Summerville Park Convalescent Home on Wednesday, December 18th, followed by a party for the Convalescent Home's residents sponsored by the Junior Tri-Hi-Y.

West Rome was shivering on Thursday morning, December 19th, as the temperature fell to 8 degrees, with the high never getting above freezing again until Friday afternoon, when it crept up to 35.

What was it that Robert Burns said about "the best-laid plans of mice and men..."? On December 20th, Jim Gillis, director of the State Highway Board assured Rome and Floyd County that they would have a direct connection with Interstate 75 via 411. Rome was so confident that the interstate connection was forthcoming that they added local money to state funding in order to construct the four-lane East Rome Interchange at the Highway 411/Highway 27 intersection so that Rome would be ready for the increased traffic that its promised direct I-75 connection would bring. As we know all too well nowadays, government promises don't mean very much at all, and Rome is still waiting for its direct connection to I-75 a half-century later…

Rome's economy was looking so good that Floyd County approached the end of 1963 with almost full employment; the Department of Labor said that unemployment was well below 5% in Floyd County, while local employment services said that they had more open jobs from area manufacturers and businesses than they had applicants looking for work. Pepperell, Celanese, Fox Manufacturing, General Electric, and Kraft all reported increases in hiring in 1963, and anticipated further growth for 1964.

Rome was moving into the high-tech age with the opening of the Magic Touch Car Wash on North Broad Street--"The South's Most Modern Automatic Car Wash!" Customers were invited to come by and watch a car go in dirty on one end of the facility and come out sparkling clean on the other! The December 17th grand opening included free soft drinks and leather key holders for all customers, and a free car wash with the purchase of 10 gallons of gas (without gas, the cost was $1).

In the era before video camcorders and multipurpose smartphones, 8mm film was pretty much the only way to save motion pictures of family events. With Christmas approaching, Brock's had a a high-quality Bolex home camera for only $330.00--but of course, if you wanted to watch those films afterwards, you'd need that $189.50 projector to go along with it!  It's no wonder that my parents treated their very basic home movie camera as if it were worth its weight in gold!

Meanwhile, Singer was promoting their sewing machines as the perfect gift--and while they had a basic model that started at $59.50, any machine that could do anything more than a straight stitch was $139.50 and up, topping out at $279.40.

If you wanted a gift for the whole family, both Chastain's Radio & TV and Rome Radio Company had a 19" color console television for only $550--or you could take the bargain route and buy a 17" tabletop color television for only $448.  Adjusting for inflation, that's more expensive than a 70" LED 3D Smart TV today!

If you weren't ready for Christmas yet, Sears allowed you to get into the Christmas spirit in the most trendy way with a 201-branch all-aluminum Christmas tree for only $15.54. For a brief time, these were de rigueur… then they were kitschy… and now they're hip collectible relics of a bygone time. The revolving multi-color light unit was an additional $6.99. (If you preferred your artificial tree in green, Sears also had a green vinyl tree for $21.98).

Piggly Wiggly had Christmas grapefruit (I can't say I ever thought of grapefruit as a Christmas fruit, but apparently someone did!…) for only 7¢ each, 2 pounds of Maxwell House coffee for $1.19, and jello for a nickel a box. Kroger had pork chops for 39¢ a pound, squash for a dime a pound, and five pounds of Gold Medal flour for 39¢. Big Apple had turkeys for 37¢ a pound, Stokely canned pumpkin for a dime a can, and Brach's hard candy mix for 39¢ for a one-pound bag. A&P had a four-pound canned ham for $2.99 (somehow, I made it through my entire childhood without ever eating canned ham!), ground beef for 33¢ a pound, and Banquet frozen chicken pot pies for 18¢ each. Couch's had lean pork roast for 39¢ a pound, Oscar Mayer bacon for 59¢ a pound, and fresh whole pecans for 33¢ a pound.

The week started off with a pair of less-than-stellar cinematic choices: Fun in Acapulco (with Elvis Presley) at the DeSoto or Of Love & Desire (with nobody you care about--its only selling point was that it was "not recommended for persons under 18 years old") at the First Avenue. The weekend brought Twilight of Honor (with Richard Chamberlain) to the DeSoto and Black Zoo to the First Avenue, while the West Rome Drive-In regaled viewers with a double feature of The Great Van Robbery and Sergeants 3.

The number one song this week in 1963 was "Dominique" by the Singing Nun, for the fourth week in a row. Other top ten hits included "There! I've Said It Again" by Bobby Vinton (#2); "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen (#3); "Since I Fell For You" by Lenny Welch (#4); "You Don't Have to Be a Baby to Cry" by the Caravelles (#5); "Drip Drop" by Dion DiMuci (#6); "Forget Him" by Bobby Rydell (#7); "Popsicles and Icicles" by the Murmaids (#8); "Talk Back Trembling Lips" by Johnny Tillotson (#9); and "Be True to Your School" by the Beach Boys (#10).

And while the Beatles had yet to officially release a record in the US, Walter Cronkite's broadcast of a story on the Beatles and Beatlemania in the UK (a story that was originally intended to air on  November 22nd, 1963, but never made it on the air on that day because of the Kennedy Assassination) convinced Ed Sullivan that the Beatles were going to be big. As a result, Sullivan was inspired to issue a press release in mid-December announcing that “The Beatles, a wildly popular quartet of English recording stars, will make their first trip to the United States Feb. 7 for their American television debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, Sunday, Feb. 9 and 16…The fantastic popularity of the Beatles in England has received considerable attention not only in British newspapers but also in the American press. Their first record release is scheduled for January.” In late 1963, US music fans had no idea how much popular culture was about to change in just six short weeks…

Sunday, December 08, 2013

A Life in Four Colors (Part Thirty-Nine)

1965 marked the year when I began to mature as a reader. Don't think for a moment that I gave up comics--I never considered reading comics to be a childish thing. However, I did begin to develop a critical sense. For the first time, I began to realize that not every comic I read was equally good.

Critical discernment is a two-edged sword; it helps you to recognize what's good and what's bad (and why), but it also leads to dissatisfaction. When I was younger, comics were a source of endless wonder, regardless of the writer or the artist or the publisher or the character. I had already begun to recognize artistic weaknesses as early as 1963. But by 1965, I realized that not all writers were equally good... and not all stories by good writers were equally good.

Marvel's second-tier titles--Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish, and Tales of Suspense--were the books that led me to this discovery. I loved the Human Torch in Fantastic Four... but gradually, I was becoming dissatisfied with the Human Torch stories in Strange Tales. The villains were forgettable, the storylines seemed rushed and undeveloped--and worst of all, nothing major ever happened. The stories were all churn with no advancement. I was thrilled when the Human Torch series was retired and Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD took its place because it was something different--something that didn't spin out of an existing story per se. (Sure, Nick Fury was a WWII sergeant in the Howling Commandos title, but this was so different that he was for all intents and purposes an all-new character.)

The Ant-Man (and later, Giant-Man) stories in Tales to Astonish were even worse. As much as I had enjoyed the Ant-Man concept, by 1965 the stories weren't even adequate... they were bad. I realized that the only reason I was reading them at all was because I was a completist.

The Hulk series in the back of Tales to Astonish was equally disappointing. I had loved the all-too-brief six-issue Hulk run in 1962-63--the stories had pathos, drama, suspense, and a genuine sense of wonder. None of that transferred to the lackluster Hulk installments, though. The stories were more simplistic, the drama forced and artificial. It seemed from the very beginning that the Hulk was no one's priority.

I was still a Marvel completist, but for the first time I was also a critical reader. This opened up all-new vistas for me: I was not only enjoying comics, but I was evaluating them as well. I was beginning to recognize the strengths of various creators, of various companies, of various types of books.

I was also able to re-read some of my childhood favorites and see them through a critical eye. I began to recognize themes and symbols and narrative styles--all the things that Miss Kitty Alford talked about in my seventh grade English class applied equally well to comics.

My relatively new-found awareness of fanzines helped as well. You see, fanzines often contained reviews, and that allowed me to see what others thought of the comics that I had read. It opened my eyes to new points of view, and it led to my awareness that criticism wasn't objective: the same story that a reviewer considered mediocre (or worse), I might rank much more highly. And that led me to ask why.

My comics reading--and in fact, all my reading--was moving into a very different phase. And no matter how much I enjoyed comics from this point onwards, I would never read them with the same childlike sense of wonder as before.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/9/1963 to 12/15/1963

West Rome faced off against East Rome at Memorial Gym on December 13th in the sports event of the week in Rome and Floyd County.  West Rome won handily, defeating the Gladiators 62-45, putting them in great position for the 10th Annual Northwest Georgia Invitational Basketball Tournament, which was slated to begin on December 17th. Alas, the girls team didn't fare as well, falling to East Rome 40-30.

Today, we take it for granted that polio is all but eliminated--but in 1963, it was still a very real threat, which is why the Floyd County Medical Society, led by Dr. C.J. Wyatt, launched plans for  a series of "Stop Polio" Sunday immunization clinics. The clinics were to be held in the spring at area schools, including West Rome High School, to make the Sabin oral vaccine available at no charge to anyone who had not been previously immunized.

Rome City School Superintendent M.S. McDonald reminded parents that students were scheduled to be dismissed after lunch on Friday, December 20th, for the Christmas holidays, returning to class on Thursday, January 2nd.

Garden Lakes scheduled their annual Santa Claus Parade and Christmas home decorations contest, which was slated for Saturday, December 21st. While Garden Lakes was in the county and not a part of West Rome proper, it was close enough that more than a few of us probably went to school there for a year or two before moving into the city, and many of us had friends who we would visit on the Santa Parade day in order to get a shot at some of the candy that Santa tossed from his parade vehicle as he rode down Garden Lakes Boulevard!

HO-scale electric trains were popular in the hobby market in 1963, as the Rome News-Tribune noted in their story on West Roman JW Clement of North Elm Street and his massive collection of electric trains.

West Rome High School's annual Christmas program took place on Wednesday, December 11th. The program, sponsored by the National Honor Society, began with a devotional delivered by Al Fletcher. Next, the girls' ensemble from the Chieftains chorus sang "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" and "When Christ Was Born of Mary Free." After their performance, Honor Society president Leigh Whittenburg introduced Father John McDonough, who spoke on the importance of understanding and enjoying the Christmas season.

West End Elementary presented its annual Christmas program on Thursday, December 12th, at 7pm, at the West Rome High School Auditorium. The theme was "Christmas Eve Journey Around the World."

The retail marketplace was so good in 1963 that businesses across the country were complaining of a coin shortage, noting that customers were making purchases at such a high rate that they were running out of almost all coins other than silver dollars. Even banks were asking people to put any saved coins back into circulation to help resolve the shortage.

Remember when fountain pens were a sure sign that you were growing up? Well, Wyatt's, Brocks, and even Enloe's had a full selection of fountain pens from Parker and Sheaffer, ranging in price from $7.95 to $15.00--and some of them even used cartridge ink rather than bottled ink! I still remember those pens, with the little lever that you'd lift upwards to draw ink into the pen… and as a left-hander, I still remember the ink smears on the edge of my left hand from dragging my hand across the still-wet lines of ink…

Georgia Power offered customers a chance to add a brand-new state-of-the-art 14 cubic foot frost-free Westinghouse refrigerator for only $319.95--and you could finance it through Georgia Power for only $11.07 a month!  (And yes, in 1963, a 14 cubic foot refrigerator/freezer was considered enormous!)

Piggly Wiggly had Sally Southern ice milk for 29¢ a half-gallon, Swift's beef stew for 45¢ a can, and fresh coconuts for 19¢ each. A&P had ground beef for 39¢ a pound (no one noted the lean-to-fat percentage back in the 1960s), bananas for a dime a pound, and a 16-ounce jar of dill pickles for 29¢. Kroger had pork chops for 49¢ a pound, Kroger canned biscuits for a nickel a can, and 12 ounces of Heinz ketchup for 19¢. Couch's had Nabisco saltines for 31¢ per one-pound box, tomatoes for 19¢ a pound, and spareribs for 39¢ a pound.

For the first half of the week, moviegoers could choose from Lawrence of Arabia at the First Avenue Theater and The Main Attraction (with Pat Boone & Nancy Kwan) at the DeSoto.  The weekend brought Elvis Presley's Fun in Acapulco to the DeSoto, while The First Avenue went low-class with a double feature of The Maniac and The Old Dark House. The West Rome Drive-In continued their weekend-showings-only policy with a double-feature of Donovan's Reef (with John Wayne) and The Traitors (with Patrick Allen).

The number one song fifty years ago this week was "Dominique" by the Singing Nun. Other top ten hits included "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen (#2); "You Don't Have to Be a Baby to Cry" by the Caravelles (#3); "There! I've said It Again" by Bobby Vinton (#4); "Since I Feel For You" by Lenny Welch (#5); "Be True to Your School" by the Beach Boys (#6); "Drip Drop" by Dion DiMuci (#7); "I'm Laing It Up To You" by Dale & Grace (#8); "Everybody" by Tommy Roe (#9); and "Popsicles and Icicles" by the Murmaids (#10).

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/2/1963 to 12/8/1963

Rome's annual Santa Claus Parade took place on Tuesday, December 3rd, with more than 17,000 people showing up for the big Christmas kickoff event. The parade ran from First Avenue all the way up Broad Street to the City Auditorium, where Santa officiated the lighting of the Christmas Tree and the Christmas street decorations that brightened Broad Street during the Christmas Season. The West Rome junior and senior bands performed in the festivities.

West Rome's boys basketball team defeated LaFayette 49-31 on Friday, December 6th, then best Cave Spring 43-20 on Saturday, December 7th. The girls team also bested LaFayette with a score of 49-28, but they lost to Cave Spring 43-27, with West Rome's Linda Lippencott scoring 25 of the Chieftain's 27 points.

Thirty Chieftain girls participated in the Betty Crocker Search for the Homemaker of Tomorrow Test given at West Rome on Tuesday, December 3rd.

On December 3rd, sixty members of West Rome's Future Homemakers of America dressed dolls for the Salvation Army Auxiliary for distribution during Christmas.

The Rome News-Tribune ran an article about West Rome High School's rapidly growing "pine forest" in front of the school. The article pointed out that both parents sand students alike were initially critical of the pine trees when West Rome opened in 1958, but everyone had not only come to accept them, but had actually grown fond of them. "I delight in coming to school every morning and beholding the 'greenies,'"  senior class president Patricia Annette Tompkins said. "They add to our school's character and replace the grass which is trampled underfoot."

Local retailers reported a great beginning to the Christmas shopping season, with one merchant explaining, "This is one year that no one will have to go out of town to shop, because Rome now has available any merchandise of equal quality that might be found in any metropolitan city. We hope shoppers will keep this in mind, because Rome dollars kept at home create prosperity for all the community." And the great thing is, this statement was true in 1963: it really was possible for a Chieftain to live, work, and make all his purchases in Rome without ever having to go to Atlanta or elsewhere to shop! It's no wonder that mid-sized towns like Rome grew so steadily during the 1960s and early 1970s--and it makes you miss that sort of community self-sufficiency today…

Seems like there has always been a debate over taxes: fifty years ago, many were wondering why the school systems were complaining about a lack of funds while tax money spent on education in Georgia had increased 112% over the prior ten years, while student enrollment was up only 29%. Local school officials pointed out, however, that a lot of that money went to reorganization of the State Education Department, which was reconfigured from seven to five divisions (with several of those divisions moving into new facilities). As always, very little of those extra funds actually made it into the classroom…

Did you remember that utility companies used to sell appliances back in the days before deregulation? For their "Holiday Bonus Sale," Atlanta Gas Light Company was offering a Magic Chef gas range with four burners and a 22" gas oven with glass window for only $269.00--and you could have it for only $1 down and $9.10 a month added to your gas bill! Even better, the appliance companies didn't charge any interest--and as a holiday special, they were including a free turkey or ham to cook in your new oven.

Piggly Wiggly had Bob White hot dogs for 33¢ a pound, turnip greens for 10¢ a pound, and a carton of six Coca Cola (6 ounce or 10 ounce bottles--although I never could figure out why someone would buy a 6 ounce bottle when they could get almost twice as much for the same price!) for 19¢. Kroger had sirloin steak for 89¢ a pound, apples for a dime a pound, and a 10-pound bag of russet potatoes for 35¢. A&P had whole fryers for a quarter a pound, bananas for a dime a pound, and Ann Page peanut butter for 33¢ for a 12 ounce jar. Big Apple had JFG coffee for 49¢ a pound, corn for 6¢ an ear, or the kid-favorite frozen fish sticks for 39¢ for a one-pound box. Couch's had streak-o-lean for 29¢ a pound, country sausage for 49¢ a pound, and Van Camp's chili for a quarter a can.

The week started with a cinematic choice of Palm Springs Weekend at the DeSoto Theater or Lawrence of Arabia at the First Avenue Theater. Lawrence hung around for the weekend at the First Avenue, while 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea came to the DeSoto for the weekend. West Rome Drive-In continued its weekends-only policy with a double feature of In the Cool of the Day (with Peter Finch & Jane Fonda) and The Password Is Courage (with Dirk Bogarde).

The number one song this week was "Dominique" by the Singing Nun, which held its number one chart position for the second week. Other top ten songs included "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen (#2); "Everybody" by Tommy Roe (#3); "I'm Leaving It Up to You" by Dale & Grace (#4); "You Don't Have to Be a Baby to Cry" by the Caravelles (#5); "Since I Fell for You" by Lenny Welch (#6); "Be True to Your School" by the Beach Boys (#7); "Drip Drop" by Dion DiMuci (#8); "There! I Said It Again" by Bobby Vinton (#9); and "Walking the Dog" by Rufus Thomas (#10).