Saturday, December 27, 2014

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/28/1964 to 1/3/1965

The US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare gave Rome a very clear ultimatum this week in 1964: either end all forms of school segregation, or lose access to all forms of federal funding. The Rome City School System was slated to lose $74,400 in annual funding if segregation was not immediately discontinued, according to Superintendent Milton S. McDonald. The Board of Education was set to make this their first order of business at their January meeting.

West Rome's boys basketball team may have been eliminated from competition early in the Rome News-Tribune Winter tournament, but West Rome's girls advanced in the Fifth Annual Cave Spring Basketball Tournament, defeating East Rome 41-22. Alas, they had to settle for second place after they were defeated 24-20 by Cave Spring in the final round of the tournament.

Rome still had a train station with passenger service in late 1964, but no one was taking any of the four Southern Railway daily passenger trains at the end of the year due to a Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen & Engineers strike. Freight service continued on a limited basis, but passenger service was shut down, so riding the rails was not an option for a couple of days, until a federal judge ordered the striking workers back on the job on December 31st.

What we would give for interest rates like this today: The Rome Bank & Trust was offering 4.75% interest on a one-year savings certificate (the 1964 version of a certificate of deposit) this week in 1964.

Piggly Wiggly had cabbage for a dime a pound, sweet potatoes for 9¢ a pound, and fresh whole fryers for a quarter a pound. Kroger had the mandatory New Year's Day hog jowl for 15¢ a pound, smoked hams for 39¢ a pound, and blackeyed peas for 9¢ a pound. Big Apple had cabbage for 8¢ a pound, smoked hog jowl for 17¢ a pound, and pork roast for 29¢ a pound.  A&P had chuck roast for 35¢ a pound, turnip greens for 15¢ a pound, and grapefruit for a dime each. Couch's had blackeyed peas for a dime a pound, stew beef for 35¢ a pound, and JFG coffee for 69¢ a pound.

The cinematic week began with Topkapi (with Melina Mercouri & Peter Ustinov) at the DeSoto and Pajama Party (with Tommy Kirk & Annette Funicello) at the First Avenue. The midweek switchout brought The Disorderly Orderly (with Jerry Lewis) to the DeSoto, Goldfinger (with Sean Connery) to the First Avenue--what a way to end the year!), and a double feature of Send Me No Flowers (with Rock Hudson & Doris Day) and Move Over, Darling (with Doris Day & James Garner) to the West Rome Drive-In.

The number one song this week in 1964-65 was "I Feel Fine" by the Beatles. Other top ten hits included "Come See About Me" by the Supremes (#2); "Mr. Lonely" by Bobby Vinton (#3); "Love Potion Number Nine" by the Searchers (#4); "Downtown" by Petula Clark (#5); "Goin' Out of My Head" by Little Anthony & the Imperials (#6); "Amen" by the Impressions (#7); "The Jerk" by the Larks (#8); "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" by the Righteous Brothers (#9); and "The Wedding" by Julie Rogers (#10).

And that's how 1964 ended and 1965 began. We all said farewell to an auspicious year as we looked forward to more good things in 1965. For me and my classmates, 1965 would be the year that we moved from elementary school to West Rome Junior High--and for America, it would be a year unlike any other! But we had no idea what the next 12 months would hold...

Just My Type

The very first time I saw an IBM Selectric typewriter was in the front office of West Rome High School in late 1965. I had grown up around typewriters, both manual and electric, since Dad was a newspaperman, so I knew what typewriters sounded like. I had gone to the office for some routine errand (I was at West Rome Junior High that year, which was located on the south end of the same building that housed the high school), and while I was waiting, I heard an unfamiliar machine-gun sound. I thought that it might be the sound of the fastest typist in the world, so I looked in the direction of the sound and saw something I'd never seen before. The office clerk was typing, but nothing on the typewriter appeared to be moving--the carriage didn't even appear to be movable at all. I stepped closer, ignoring the fact that I was no treading into territory that should have been off limits to lowly seventh graders, and I saw the most amazing thing: a tiny ball, whirling and twirling at phenomenal speeds as it moved across the page, leaving typed letters in its wake.  I was in awe; I must have watched the typist for three or four minutes before she noticed that she had an audience. "What kind of typewriter is that?" I asked.

"Selectric," she said.

And I knew then and there that someday I would have to own a Selectric. That stationary carriage, that spinning typeball (yes, it was officially known as a type element, but I never heard anyone call it anything other than a typeball), that sleek futuristic-by-1960s-standards boat-anchor metal body, and that wonderful sound that made any typist sound ultra-proficient--if anyone could fall in love with a typewriter, then I had discovered typographic love at first sight.

The problem was, the Selectric was an incredible investment--over $500 in 1965 dollars, and holding that $500 to $600 price through most of the 1970s. My parents rarely paid much more than $500 for a used car at that time, so they certainly weren't going to spring for the cost of a Selectric.

But Gary Steele's parents... now that was a different story.

I've mentioned Gary before; he was my best friend through high school, and both he and I got into fandom at about the same time. In 1968, Gary and I both joined a couple of amateur press alliances (the most important of which, in our eyes, was Myriad, an apa begun by Stven Carlberg, of which we were both charter members), and while I was producing my apazines on a portable manual Remington or Dad's Rome News-Tribune Royal or Underwood typewriters, Gary somehow got a Selectric.

To be honest, I know how. Gary's mother was particularly doting on her only child, and she was more than willing to spoil him, even if that meant giving in to his entreaties and spending a small fortune of $500+ for a new Selectric. Emphasis on the "plus"—while old IBM pricelists show $520 or so as the price for a new Selectric at that time, Mrs. Steele repeatedly cited $700 as the price that they paid, and I believe her. It wouldn't be unusual for Riddle Office Supply, the only source for Selectrics in Rome in 1968, to have added dealer mark-up on the machine--and it's possible she bought a couple of extra typeballs at the same time. Any time the subject of the Selectric came up, though, she always referred to it as "that $700 typewriter," so I'm convinced that is indeed how much they paid. And this was a the same time that Mr. Steele was still driving a 1956 Chevrolet he had bought new!

My parents, however, were far less willing to give in to my whining, so no Selectric for me. From time to time, I used Gary's Selectric—we each had our own specific typeball to identify our fanzines (I believe that mine was Letter Gothic, although it may have been Prestige Elite while Gary used Letter Gothic).

It would be 1973 before Susan and I owned a Selectric. More specifically, we became the owners of a used Selectric II, which we bought  (along with four typeballs) from the now-defunct House of Typewriters in Marietta for $375. Bear in mind that I was in college in 1973, working part-time while Susan worked full-time, and together we earned about $9500 a year before taxes. Nevertheless, we managed to scrape together $375 in cash for a wide-carriage Selectric II, and we produced hundreds (maybe even thousands) of fanzine and apazine pages on that typewriter.

I got rid of that Selectric in the mid-1980s, selling it cheaply to a friend who needed it to do his apazines. I had a new Macintosh and was convinced that a computer eliminated my need for a Selectric. And for the most part, I was right. But need and want are different things.

In recent years, I've repeatedly thought how handy it would be to have a typewriter to do checks, envelopes, note cards, and other related items that don't print quickly and/or well on a ColorQube 8570 printer. There's a certain convenience to just rolling a piece of paper into a typewriter, turning it on, hitting a few keys, and being done.

I bought a Brother daisywheel typewriter while it was on sale, but it just wasn't the same. There's this aggravating lag—you hit a key, and there's a fraction of a second delay before the key strikes the paper. Type several letters quickly, and three or four keystrikes occur after you've finished typing. It's positively off-putting, and I frequently find myself worrying if I've mistyped something. Even worse, this lag actually encourages typos—apparently I rely on auditory feedback more than I realized!

Then today, this Selectric II came my way as a Christmas gift. It's used, of course, but in remarkably good shape for a forty-year-old machine—and its provenance includes an unusual link to my and Susan's past, as it turns out. (I've been asked by the seller not to go into too much detail in print, so I'll respect his wishes.)  I've tested it, putting it through its motions, and everything seems to be working fine. So now I once again own the world's best typewriter--and this time, I'm not letting it get away, computer technology notwithstanding!

And  today, when I watched that Selectric typeball in action, I remembered that day in the West Rome High School office when I was awestruck by my first vision of a Selectric... and it still seems just as incredible today as it was then!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Fifty Years Ago This Week - 12/21/1964 to 12/27/1964

After a cold snap dropped temperatures into the teens the in the final week of autumn, Rome warmed up for the beginning of winter, with temperatures rising into the 50s for highs and dropping into the 40s for lows during Christmas week. All those dreams of white Christmases melted away with the warmer weather—but at least it was great weather for testing out new Christmas bicycles!

Since the Chieftains lost in the early rounds of the Rome News Tribune Winter Basketball Tournament, it was a week off for all West Romans, including our high school athletes.

The Rome City School System offered a little glimpse into its costs of operation, and what probably seemed pretty steep in 1964 seems amazingly inexpensive by today's standards. For example, the total cost to operate the Rome City Schools (including West Rome High) for one year was $1.63 million, or a total amortized cost of  $243.73 per student per year just for salaries and instructional costs. Even allowing for the $7.54 inflation multiplier, I suspect that we're spending a lot more than that in 2014... and getting much less impressive results!

Belk-Rhodes was touting what they claimed would be the Christmas gift of 1964: the Insta-Brewer coffee maker, with a special pressure plunger that forces all the coffee through all the water all at once, thereby making an entire pot of real coffee (not instant) in thirty seconds. Since I don't recall too many people making coffee in this $9.95 wonder back in the 1960s, my guess is that Belk was slightly overestimating the impressiveness of this half-minute marvel...

Piggly Wiggly had tom turkeys for 35¢ a pound, a 24-bottle case of Coca-Cola or Tab for 89¢ plus deposit, and Mrs. Filbert's mayonnaise for 59¢ a quart. Kroger has smoked hams for 39¢ a pound, Country Club ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon, and Chase & Sanborn coffee for 69¢ a pound. A&P had pork roast for 49¢ a pound, raisins for a quarter a pound, and bananas for a dime a pound. Big Apple had hen turkeys for 37¢ a pound, already-cooked fruit pies for 59¢ each, and oranges for 15¢ a pound. Couch's had pork sausage for 29¢ a pound, Campbell's tomato soup for a dime a can, and Aristocrat ice cream for 39¢ a half-gallon.

As was normal for the time, Rome pretty much shut down on Christmas Day, with even the Rome News-Tribune taking the day off. The post office went one step further, taking off both Friday the 25th and Saturday the 26th, leaving Romans without mail for three days in a row.

The cinematic week began with a double feature of Flipper (starring a dolphin) and Gold For the Caesars (a year old grade B film starring Jeffrey Hunter) at the Desoto and a double feature of  What a Way to Go (with Shirley MacLaine, Paul Newman, & Robert Mitchum) and Move Over, Darling (with Doris Day & James Garner) at the First Avenue. The midweek switch out brought Topkapi (with Melina Mercouri & Peter Ustinov) to the DeSoto and Pajama Party (with Tommy Kirk & Annette Funicello) to the First Avenue, while the West Rome Drive-In's weekend films were 1001 Arabian Nights  (with Mister Magoo) and Barabbas (with Anthony Quinn) at the First Avenue--and that just may be the strangest double-feature in Rome cinematic history!

The Beatles held the number one and number four positions on the top ten charts this week in 1964 with "I Feel Fine" and "She's a Woman" respectively. Other top ten hits included "Come See About Me" by the Supremes (#2); "Mr. Lonely" by Bobby Vinton (#3); "Love Potion Number Nine" by the Searchers (#5); "Goin' Out of My Head" by Little Anthony & the Imperials (#6); "She's Not There" by the Zombies (#7); "Amen" by the Impressions (#8); "The Jerk" by the Impressions (#9); and "The Wedding" by Julie Rogers (#10).

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/14/1964 to 12/20/1964

This was the final week of school before the Christmas Holidays for all of us Chieftains--and the vacation was slated to continue until students returned to school on January 4th, 1965! In the 1960s and early 1970s, students didn't always get two full weeks off, so when we did, it was a cause for extra celebration!

West Rome's wrestlers defeated Rockmart 35-17, winning a total of nine matches--and four of them were won with pins, thanks to the athletic prowess of Mike Murphy, Anthony Salfta, and Greg Ray.

West Rome's basketball team fell to Berry Academy 56-48 in the 11th annual Northwest Georgia Invitational Basketball Tournament.

Chieftain halfback Dickie Sapp was named to the 22-player Class AA all-state team picked by the Associated Press, the only Chieftain named to the team and one of two Romans.

The West Rome Junior Tri-Hi-Y, under the leadership of Regina Swinford, was chosen November club of the month, earning a whopping 190 total points--almost twice times the number of points earned by the second-place East Rome club.

Len Willingham of the West Rome Hi-Y presented principal Dick McPhree with a handsome Bible that was to be designated as the official Bible of West Rome High School. (No one protested, no one sued... yes, the 1960s were a very different time indeed!)

The West Rome National Junior Honor Society inducted seven members to the club. The new members included Matt Oldham, Mike Witte, Patricia Dawson, Myra Beth Boggus, Pat Finley, Teresa Deleski, and Linda West. Debbie Cook was chosen as the first honorary member of the group; she met all the requirements for membership, but because she was unable to attend school, she was taught at home, making her ineligible for full membership.

A cold front moved into Rome on Friday, dropping temperatures to the low teens, with daytime highs in the mid thirties. I'm sure I wasn't the only kid in West Rome hoping for a little bit of snow to go with all that cold weather!...

The holiday season continued strong in Rome Department stores, with a 20% sales increase over year-to-date 1963 and a 16% decline in charge account balances--proof positive that Romans were buying more and paying for it sooner. For the Rome economy, Christmas 1964 was proving to be a boom period indeed!

Doc Elliott's Discount House broke out appliances and electronics for Christmas 1964, offering a ten-cup percolator (remember when that was the standard way of making coffee at home?) for $9.95, a 40-cup percolator for $14.95, a battery-powered tape recorder for $12.95, an eight inch portable TV for $60.00 (although why anyone in Rome would want one, I don't know, since we were too far from Atlanta or Chattanooga for any portable TV to pick up a signal without a very large outdoor antenna), and a transistor radio for $9.99. As was all too common in 1960s ads, no brand names were mentioned.

Piggly Wiggly had Fleetwood coffee for 59¢ a pound, tom turkeys for 35¢ a pound, and chocolate covered cherries (a luxurious Christmas favorite in my house, to be rationed and savored into early January if at all possible) for 89¢ a pound. Kroger had chuck roast for 39¢ a pound, fruit cocktail for 18¢ a 16-ounce can, and tangerines for 35¢ a dozen. Big Apple had baking hens for 39¢ a pound, a five-pound bag of Ballard flour for 49¢, and king size cooked fruit pies for 59¢ a pound. A&P had sirloin steak for 89¢ a puns, Sealtest ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon, and red delicious apples for a nickel each. Couch's had smoked cured picnic hams for 27¢ a pound, a five-pound bag of Dixie Crystals sugar for 29¢, and Saltines for 19¢ a box (I don't think that's what they mean when they talk about the British tradition of Christmas crackers...).

The first half of the week offered moviegoers the choice of The Fall of the Roman Empire (with Sophia Loren, Alec Guinness, and James Mason) at the DeSoto Theater and a very forgettable double feature of Guns at Batasi and Apache Rifles at the First Avenue (with only two indoor theaters in Rome and oodles of major studio films being released, they still dredged up these throwaway B-movies from time to time). The midweek switch out brought two "rerun movies" to the DeSoto—McLintock (with John Wayne) and A Hard Day's Night (with the Beatles). The First Avenue was showing The Lively Set (with James Darren), while the West Rome Drive-In was screening a forgettable double feature of Street of Mystery and 13 West Street on the weekend. Of course, as cold as it was that weekend, most people going to the drive-in saw nothing more than a fogged-up windshield...

The Beatles returned to the top of the charts with "I Feel Fine" this week in 1964. Other top ten hits included "Come See About Me" by the Supremes (#2); "Mr. Lonely" by Bobby Vinton (#3); "She's a Woman" by the Beatles (#4); "She's Not There" by the Zombies (#5); "Goin' Out of My Head" by Little Anthony & the Imperials (#6); "Ringo" by Lorne Greene (#7); "Dance, Dance, Dance" by the Beach Boys (#8); "The Jerk" by the Larks (#9); and ""Time Is On My Side" by the Rolling Stones (#10).

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/7/1964 to 12/13/1964

Apparently there were lots of ambitious plans in the 1960s that never came to fruition: A Georgia state legislative committee talked about launching a study of the possibility of developing Rome into a major inland port. They committee was confident that the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Alabama Power Company, and the US government were going to expand the Coosa-Alabama River system into a fully navigable waterway capable of bringing cargo barges to Rome. The committee recommended that $12 million be budgeted to develop plans for Rome's ports as well as a railway expansion to move shipments from the ports to other cities across the Southeast. The committee proposal indicated that the port and docks should be up and running by 1971.  Alas, this was yet another governmental pipe dream, as neither the waterway expansion or the port development ever came to be... I guess the Shrimp Boat restaurant in Central Plaza was as close as we ever came...

More segments of I-75 opened this week in 1964, including a 16-mile section between Calhoun and Dalton and a 19 mile section from the Tennessee Chattanooga state line to a location just north of Dalton. And showing that hope springs eternal, Rome and Floyd County civic leaders were optimistic that a direct link from Rome to I-75 would be completed by 1972.

On December 10th, WROM was granted a permit to construct and operate its very own FM station  at 97.7 megacycles. WROM president Charles Doss said construction of the Dempsey-Covington Building studios and broadcast center and the Mount Alto Road tower would take just over two months, and the station would be on the air by February 1965. (Can anyone build anything on this scale in two months today?)

While West Rome's girls had a good weekend, defeating East Rome 27-23, the boys basketball team didn't fare as well, falling to the Gladiators 43-37. Diane Bell was top scorer for the girls with 13 points, while Rusty Oxford was tops for the Chiefs with 10 points.

The American Cancer Society sponsored an anti-smoking chapel program on Thursday, December 10th, in the West Rome auditorium.

The West Rome Tri-Hi-Y and Hi-Y clubs placed decorated goodwill boxes in each homeroom this week in 1964; the students filled the boxes with canned goods and other food items to be given to needy families to make their Christmas holidays a little brighter.

The Rome News-Tribune and the Associated Press made it easy to remember the historic events of 1964: they began taking orders for 1964: The World As We Lived It, a handsome $3 hardcover that offered a month-by-month view of the most important news stories, complete with hundreds of black & white and color photos. The Rome News-Tribune offered gift cards for those who wanted to give the book as a Christmas present, since the book wouldn't actually be available until late January or early February 1965. I fell in love with these books as soon as I saw the first volume, and still have a set of all the volumes published until the series was discontinued in 1977.

National City Bank increased its savings certificate interest rate to 4.5% this week in 1964 (if only we could earn that interest rate today!). Rome Bank & Trust was advertising an interest rate of 4.375%.

Just how expensive was a color television back in 1964? Well, B&L Appliance Center had a 21" Westinghouse console with VHF and UHF tuners, complete with an all-wood cabinet in maple or  oak, for only $18.95 a month... for 36 months! That's $682.20 total--and when you allow for the inflation multiplier of 7.54, that makes the total cost equal to $5,143.00 in today's dollars. Meanwhile, Rome Radio had a 21" RCA color console in a similar all-wood cabinet for $19.25 a month for the same 36 months; that's a total of $693.00 in 1964 dollars and the equivalent of $5225.00 today. The bargain color TV of the season was the Zenith Clayton model, a contemporary console priced at $498 or $15.60 a month for 36 months--that's $561.60 total, which equals a mere $4234.00 in today's dollars. If you think a 65" 4K UHD television costs a lot today, just imagine how much better it looks than this 1964 21" set.

Piggly Wiggly had Wilson pork sausage for 33¢ a pound, oranges for a dime a pound, and eggs for 45¢ a dozen. Kroger had center-cut pork chops for 49¢ a pound, pork & beans for a dime a can, and a 14-ounce bottle of Heinz ketchup for 15¢. Big Apple had sirloin steak for 87¢ a pound, five pounds of Domino sugar for 39¢, and tangerine for 25¢ a dozen. A&P had fresh whole fryers for a quarter a pound, five pounds of Gold Medal flour for 49¢, and Sealtest ice cream for 69¢ a half-gallon. Couch's had cured ham for 35¢ a pound, Double Cola for 89¢ a case plus deposit, and the always-popular-in-my-home Campbell's Tomato Soup for 9¢ a can.

And just in time for sandwiches made out of upcoming Christmas leftovers, Merita began promoting their "ultra-long giant loaf" of white bread, which had 30 slices plus the two end pieces, for only 29¢.

The first half of the week offered moviegoers a choice of Fail Safe at the DeSoto Theater and Take Her, She's Mine (with Jimmy Stewart & Sandra Dee) at the First Avenue. The mid-week switch out brought The Fall of the Roman Empire (with Sophia Loren & Alec Guinness) to the DeSoto, Connie (with Connie Francis & Jim Hutton) to the First Avenue, and a double feature of Blood on the Arrow and The Thin Red Line to the West Rome Drive-In (which has still showing films on weekends only).

The number one song this week in 1964 was "Come See About Me" by the Supremes. Other top ten hits included "I Feel Fine" by the Beatles (#2); "Mr. Lonely" by Bobby Vinton (#3); "She's Not There" by the Zombies (#4); "Ringo" by Lorne Greene (#5); "Time Is On My Side" by the Rolling Stones (#6); "Going Out of My Head" by Little Anthony & the Imperials (#7); "Dance, Dance, Dance" by the Beach Boys (#8); "I'm Gonna Be Strong" by Gene Pitney (#9); and "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks (#10).