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).

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).

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 11/11/63 to 11/17/63

The West Rome Hi-Y and Tri-Hi-Y helped the Marine Corps with their Toys for Tots drive beginning this week in 1963, under the direction of Sid Skelton and Mrs. C.H. Matthews. The groups set up a box for students to drop off toy donations, leading up to a special "Toys for Tots" day on November 21st that would be highlighted by a holiday assembly (for which the admission price was one toy donation).

West Rome set a cold-weather record on Thursday, November 14th, with a low of 19 degrees; the cold didn't last for long, though, with temperatures climbing back to a more seasonal 64 degrees by Saturday, November 16th.

Football season was officially over for the Chieftains, but there was still one unofficial game to be played: the Rome Boys club and the Cheerful Givers began promoting the annual East and West Mite All-Star Santa Bowl game, which was scheduled to be played on November 23rd.

Goodyear kicked off their holiday season with the release of their annual Great Songs of Christmas album, available for $1 at your local Goodyear store.  This was actually a common practice in the early 60s, with Sears, Western Auto, Goodyear, and many others offering their own collections  of Christmas classics for a bargain price.

Sears had pear trees (5 to 6 foot trees) for $1.98 for the holiday; no word on the price of the partridges to accompany them...

And as holiday shopping got underway, stores such as Miller Bros. and Kessler's and Belk-Rhodes announced their extended holiday hours, staying open until 8:30pm on Friday nights.

Romans got a new dining choice as the Chicken Shack opened on Broad Street, offering one breast, one wing, one leg, and one thigh (along with salad, french fries, and rolls) for $1.25 or all the chicken you can eat for $1.50.

A&P had fresh fryers for 25¢ a pound, Allgood bacon for 39¢ a pound, and bell peppers for a nickel each. Kroger offered chicken breasts for 45¢ a pound, canned biscuits for a nickel each, and Campbell's tomato soup for 9¢ a can. Big Apple offered ground beef for 33¢ a pound, whole coconuts for 15¢ each (I remember that Mom bought one of those at one time to appease my incessant requests for a fresh coconut, and I discovered just how much trouble a whole coconut could be!), and ten pounds of flour for 85¢. Couch's had whole smoked hams for 49¢ each, Maxwell House coffee for 59¢ a pound, and a dozen eggs for 49¢. (Y'know, when you adjust for inflation, eggs are one of the few foods that were more expensive in the 1960s than they are now--that price would equal about $3.50 a dozen today!)

The first half of the week offered moviegoers a choice of The VIPs (with Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton) at the DeSoto or Sword of Lancelot (with Cornel Wilde) at the First Avenue. The last half of the week brought All the Way  Home (with Jean Simmons & Robert Preston) to the Desoto and a double feature of Mill of the Stone Women and Then There Were Three (no, I've never heard of either of them) to the First Avenue, while the West Rome Drive-In was showing The Wild Party for those who considered it entertaining to brave a cold weekend evening in their cars.

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

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 11/4/1963 to 11/10/1963

Friday, November 8th, brought the football game of the year as West Rome faced off against East Rome at Barron Stadium. Coach Paul Kennedy admitted that the Gladiators had a tough team, adding that "mistakes will probably determine the winner." Alas, Coach Kennedy's statement turned out to be all too true, as a combination of an intercepted pass and two blocked punts led to a 15-7 Gladiator victory over the Chieftains--the first victory East Rome had posted in the history of the two schools.

The Hi-Y and the Tri-Hi-Y Clubs sponsored a sock hop at the West Rome gym after the East-West game; the student bodies of both West Rome and East Rome High Schools were invited to attend.

Rome Bank and Trust president J.B. Dodd announced that more than 5700 Christmas Club members (including, I'm sure, many fellow West Romans) had saved more than $762,000 (an average of $133 per person) during the year. The Christmas Club checks went into the mail on Thursday, November 7th. (You may remember Christmas Club accounts--these were no-interest savings accounts that were opened in mid-November and closed out in early November of the next year to help pay for Christmas gift-giving. The accounts were popular with residents old and young, with many students participating in the program.)

West Rome's band was one of five Northwest Georgia bands invited to appear at the annual Shrine Scottish Rite Hospital football game between the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech on Thanksgiving Day. The City of Rome agreed to furnish buses to transport the band members to the game, while the Shrine Club agreed to pay for a luncheon for the band members and the director.

Seven young ladies from West Rome were part of the second annual Junior Miss Pageant. Alice Evans, Patricia Tompkins, Pat Garrard, Janet Beard, Cynthia Blaylock, Diana Cambron, and Kay Milligan comprised one-third of the twenty-one entries in the competition, which was held at the Rome City Auditorium.

67 West Rome seniors qualified for Honor Study Halls; students had to maintain a scholastic average of 86 or higher to qualify, and if they did, they were rewarded with a totally free period during which time they could skip study hall and talk, play touch football, grab a soft drink, or relax. The only requirement was that they stay on campus and not disturb classes.

Belk-Rhodes advertised the availability of a new men's cologne , Jade East, for those who were looking for something other than Old Spice for a Christmas gift. Belk-Rhodes was one of a select few stores allowed to offer the cologne for Christmas 1963; the rest of the world had to wait until 1964 for the national rollout of the men's fragrance.

Piggly Wiggly had standing rib beef roast for 79¢ a pound, five pounds of Colonial sugar for 47¢, and a one-pound bag of Maxwell House Coffee for 59¢. Kroger had center cut pork chops for 49¢ a pound, Duke's mayonnaise for 39¢ a quart, and five pounds of oranges for 47¢. A&P had shank portion hams for 29¢ a pound, apples for a dime a pound, and center cut ham slices for 79¢ a pound. Big Apple had bread for a dime a loaf, bananas for a dime a pound, and sirloin steaks for 79¢ a pound.

The First Avenue offered a special Wednesday-only showing of Ronald Colman's Tale of Two Cities, which was targeted at area students, with special rates for group tickets. (Did any teacher take his/her students on a field trip to this showing, by any chance? Anyone remember?) Otherwise, movie choices for the week included Gunfight at the OK Corral and Last Train from Gun Hill at the First Avenue and The VIPs at the DeSoto. The West Rome Drive-In, which operated only on the weekends through the winter, was showing Gidget Goes to Rome (Italy, not Georgia).

Fans of comic books and of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan were undoubtedly thrilled with the release of Korak, Son of Tarzan #1 by Gaylord DuBois & Russ Manning this week in 1963. My Favorite Martian #1, based on the hit TV series, also made its debut, along with Outer Limits #1, Fireball XL-5 #1, Navy War Heroes #1, Marine War Heroes #1, Wagon Train #1, and Burke's Law #1 (comics based on new television shows were quite popular in the wary 1960s, as the big Silver Age superhero boom was just beginning). The Outer Limits was also cover-featured on Famous Monsters of Filmland #26, also on sale this week in 1963--and it was such a striking cover that I passed on a couple of comic books to pick up this magazine instead!

The number one song this week in 1963 was "Deep Purple" by Nino Temple & April Stevens. Other top ten hits included "Sugar Shack" by Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs (#2); "Washington Square" by the Village Stompers (#3); "I'm Leaving It Up to You" by Dale & Grace (#4); "It's All Right" by the Impressions (#5); "Maria Elena" by Los Indios Tabajares (#6); "She's a Fool" by Lesley Gore (#7); "Bossa Nova Baby" by Elvis Presley (#8); "Everybody" by Tommy Roe (#9); and "500 Miles Away from Home" by Bobby Bare (#10).