Sunday, May 11, 2014

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 5/11/1964 to 5/17/1964

One of Rome's largest employers in the 1960s was General Electric, located just a mile or so down the road from West Rome High School on Redmond Circle. To those of us in school in the 1960s, it seemed like GE had been a part of Rome forever, but this week in 1964 they were celebrating their tenth anniversary in Rome. "When we decided to build the plant in Rome, we knew we were making a wise choice," plant manager D.B. Lawton said. "I am proud of the almost 1200 employees who are a part of this business.They deserve much of the credit for our success of the past ten years." As part of the tenth anniversary celebration, the GE plant was upgraded with its first-ever computer, a massive half-million dollar GE-225 with two work stations that filled a 10' x 12' office. (Alas, GE's time in Rome was destined to end at about the same time that West Rome High School ceased to exist... a dual loss for Rome, which could use more quality employers and more community focused schools.)

One of the ten "most wanted" in the United States was captured in Floyd County after a high-speed chase that began at Conn's Grocery in West Rome. The fugitive, Sammy Earl Ammons, was wanted for his role in the death of two children; he was arrested with his wife on Alabama Road after police were called when he attempted to cash a forged check at Conn's. The police pursued the couple at speeds up to 105 miles an hour before police shot out the fugitive's tires and forced him off the road.

West Rome teachers James Finley and Eugene Mann were chosen to take part in a contemporary economics course held at the University of Georgia in July and August. The purpose of the course was to assist teachers in economics education and a changing economic model of the 1960s, which was moving more into technology and away from an agrarian society (you can say that again!). The Rome-Floyd County Chamber of Commerce, which covered the tuition for both teachers picked these two educators from a number of area teachers who applied to participate in the program.

And speaking of technology, Rome benefited from upgraded technology at the local Weather Service office: for the first time, Rome's office began getting weather updates via teletype after a special teletype line was installed from the main office in Atlanta to the local office in Rome. Until that time, Rome had relied on a manned weather station office that received telephone updates four times a day.

West Rome's baseball team faced off against the highly-ranked East Rome Gladiators on Wednesday, May 13th. Alas, the Gladiators won the game 12-8 after being behind 6-1 at one point in the game. The Chieftains fared better against Darlington on Friday, May 15th, pummeling them 16-2 in a game that set up a second West Rome-East Rome face-off early the next week, with the 1964 City-County Baseball Tournament Championship on the line. (How did it turn out? We'll tell you about it in next week's column!)

The West Rome Honor Society elected its officers for the 1964-1965 school year. Jackie Lupo was elected president; Chris Lawler, vice-president; Barbarie Helie, secretary; Yvonne Housch, treasurer; and Charlene Lamb, chaplain.

The Future Teachers of America elected new officers for the 1964-65 school year. Barbara Keith was chosen as president; Alice Jeffries, vice-president; Ginny Burnett, treasurer; Gwen Otts, historian; and Jackie Lupo and Judi Burns, reporters.

Apparently home decor was significantly cheaper in 1964: Penneys was advertising a wide selection of drapery fabrics for 15¢ a yard. Even adjusting for inflation, that would be just over a buck a yard at today's prices!

I don't even remember Silver Dust Blue laundry detergent, but Mom must have used it, because I immediately recognize the Libbey's Silver-Leaf design drinking glasses that were included in every box. We had a full set of four of the large size glasses and a couple of the smaller glasses, which means that Mom must have bought at least six boxes of Silver Dust detergent back then!  Unfortunately, the idea of free drinking glasses in a box of detergent fell by the wayside a long time ago; as frequently as I manage to chip glasses nowadays, it would be helpful if the concept was resurrected today!

Piggly Wiggly had Roxey dog food for a nickel a can, Morton's frozen cream pies for a quarter each, and a case of Coca-Cola (6 ounce or 10 ounce bottles) for 89¢ plus deposit. (A lot of readers may not even remember the day of deposit bottles, but back in the 1960s, all soft drink manufacturers encourages recycling and reuse of the heavy glass bottles by charging 2¢ per bottle deposit. If you returned the empties with your next purchase, you got the credit towards the deposit on that case; if you didn't, you got charged an extra 48¢ for a 24-bottle case. I know I'm not the only person who made extra spending money by picking up discarded empty bottles along the side of the road and taking them back to Couch's Grocery or another store to get the deposit cash!) Big Apple had sirloin steak for 79¢ a pound, eggs for 39¢ a dozen, and sliced pineapple for 12¢ a can. A&P had baking hens for 29¢ a pound, corn for 6¢ an ear, and watermelons for 89¢ each (and these were the kind filled with seeds; I don't recall anyone offering seedless watermelons in the 1960s or early 1970s, so we all developed our seed-spitting skills during melon season)/ Couch's had Blue Plate mayonnaise for 39¢ a quart, large heads of lettuce for 15¢ each, and ground beef for 33¢ a pound.

For the first half of the week, cinemagoers had pretty slim pickings: Muscle Beach Party (with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello) at the First Avenue and Tamahini (with Nancy Quan) at the DeSoto. The weekend choices were slightly better, with The Comedy of Terrors (with Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, and Peter Lorre) at the First Avenue and The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (with Tony Randall & Barbara Eden) at the DeSoto. The ten-year-old me couldn't have asked for a better choice of movies than this: a light-hearted horror film with some of my favorite actors at one theater and a special effects-laden fantasy at the other! The West Rome Drive-In's weekend offering was The Young and The Brave, with no one you care about.

Mary Wells scored the number one song this week in 1964 with "My Guy." Other top ten hits included "Love Me Do" by the Beatles (#2—and this was their only song on the top ten this week in 1964... well, at least the only one they recorded...); "Hello, Dolly!" by Louis Armstrong (#3); "Chapel of Love" by the Dixie Cups (#4); "Love Me With All Your Heart" by the Ray Charles Singers (#5); "Bits and Pieces" by the Dave Clark Five (#6); "(Just Like) Romeo & Juliet" by the Reflections (#7); "Ronnie" by the Four Seasons (#8); "It's Over" by Roy Orbison (#9); and "World Without Love" by Peter & Gordon (#10--and while this song is recorded by Peter & Gordon, it's written by Lennon & McCartney, giving the Beatles a second appearance of sorts in the week's Top Ten).

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