Saturday, June 27, 2015

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 6/28/1965 to 7/4/1965

Rome's economy was doing so well this week in 1965 that the Rome City Commission voted to give all city employees a 5% raise effective July 1st. The city also began the first steps to annex the General Electric Co. plan and property into the city, which would boost city tax coffers (including the school tax, which would mean more money for West Rome High School and all other city schools).

West Rome's very own Lucille Smiderski was the director of Project Head Start, which was first launched in Rome in the summer of 1965. She said that the program had gotten off to a wonderful start in its first year. About 225 children were participating in the program, which was being conducted at six schools in the area, including Elm Street. Mrs. Smiderski said that children were "learning to be responsible and to learn through play," adding that she was "very pleased by how well the children were getting along with each other." She said that she hoped the program's success would lead to its eventual expansion into a year-long program.

Meanwhile, Rome City Schools began training English teachers to teach "new English" using what they were calling "transformational-generative grammar." The gobbledygook that the city presented to describe the new approach included the statement that "it taught us to generate the structure of the sentence the way a chemist generates a solution by adding required ingredients... encouraging us to begin with broad generalizations and work up to specific ideas." It would stress "kernels and transforms" over nouns and verbs, and would teach the value of dialect to give students more social mobility. And much to the dismay of brilliant teachers like Miss Kitty Alford, diagramming was to be entirely dropped from he curriculum. Alas, school officials always have been all too hasty to jump on every jargon-filled idea that comes across their desks... *sigh*

The state began adding color photos to driver's licenses this week in 1965; until this time, all driver's license photos had been black and white. According to one license official, the color photo process was taking a bit longer because people were primping more for the photos (because of course, everyone has always confused their driver's license photo with a professional portrait...). Because of the extra cost of color photography, the license fees increased to $2.50 for a 2-year license and $5.50 for a five-year license--an increase of 50¢ per license.

Federal officials threatened to cut off federal funding for Floyd Hospital, saying that the hospital was failing to comply with anti-discrimination provisions of federal law. The hospital said that no operations would be curtailed as a result of the funding cutbacks, but they were also setting up meetings with federal officials to address the complaint that had been filed by the local NAACP and try to avoid the loss of funding.

Johnny Reb Food Store opened at 2209 Shorter Avenue this week in 1965. The grand opening celebration includes free cases of Coke to the first 75 customers, free balloons and bubble gum for kids, and a drawing for a free $50 gift certificate. (Yes, in 1965 a food store called Johnny Reb, using the stars and bars in its advertising, wasn't at all controversial.)

Of course, the approaching Fourth of July holiday led to the usual admonitions about the use of fireworks, including the notice that both the city and county police would be issuing citations for anyone observed using anything other than sparklers over the holiday.

Piggly Wiggly had Lay's twin packs of potato chips for 49¢ each, Sunshine cookies for 33¢ a bag, and Swift premium hot dogs for 39¢ a pound. Kroger had watermelons for 49¢ each, ground beef for 39¢ a pound, and a 24-ounce bottle of Hunt's ketchup for 29¢. Big Apple had spare ribs for 37¢ a pound, tomatoes for 15¢ a pound, and Irvindale ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon. A&P had chicken breast quarters for 35¢ a pound, cantaloupes for 33¢ each, and a case of Coca-Cola or Tab for 99¢ plus deposit. Couch's had ground chuck for 59¢ a pound, a pint of Blue Plate mayonnaise for 25¢, and a case of Double Cola for 69¢ plus deposit.

The cinematic week began with The Yellow Rolls Royce (with Ingrid Bergman, Rex Harrison, & George C. Scott) at the DeSoto, I'll Take Sweden (with Bob Hope & Tuesday Weld) at the First Avenue, and a double feature of The Man Who Could Cheat Death (with Christopher Lee) and Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (with Christopher Lee & Peter Cushing) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out brought  Von Ryan's Express (with Frank Sinatra & Trevor Howard) to the DeSoto, The Family Jewels (with Jerry Lewis) to the First Avenue, and a double feature of Tarzan the Magnificent (with Gordon Scott as Tarzan and Jock Mahoney as the bad guy) and Tarzan's Three Challenges (with Jock Mahoney as Tarzan--he got a promotion!) at the West Rome Drive-In.

The Rolling Stones took the number one spot this week in 1965 with their hit single "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." Other top ten hits included "I Can't Help Myself" by the Four Tops (#2); "Mr. Tambourine Man" by the Byrds (#3); "Wonderful World" by Herman's Hermits (#4); "Wooly Bully" by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs (#5); "Yes, I'm Ready" by Barbara Mason (#6); "Seventh Son" by Johnny Rivers (#7); "Cara Mia" by Jay & the Americans (#8); "You Turn Me On" by Ian Whitcomb (#9); and "What the World Needs Now Is Love" by Jackie DeShannon (#10).

The Beatles hodgepodge album release Beatles VI took the number one spot this week in 1965, breaking Mary Poppins' months-long hold on the number one position.

The biggest new release album this week in 1965 was There Is Only One Roy Orbison by..., well, I'll be you can guess who. Alas, Orbison no longer had the chart power that he once had, and this album itself failed to break the top forty albums, while the only single, "Ride Away," made it no higher than #25 in the US charts.

Reed Richards and Sue Storm got married this week in 1965 in the pages of Fantastic Four Annual #3, a guest-star-laden extravaganza of a tale that made it clear that comic book fans had no problems with married superheroes. My favorite part of the comic? The brief cameo by creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who are stopped at the door when they attempt to attend the wedding.

This was also the week that Jules Feiffer's amazing Great Comic Book Heroes was released. For those of us who had been intrigued by the glimpses into the Golden Age that DC's Earth-2 stories had offered, a book of commentary on the Golden Age was fascinating--but it was the heaping helping of Golden Age reprints featuring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, the Human Torch, the Sub-Mariner, the Spirit, Green Lantern, the Flash, Hawkman and many others that made it a must-have. I added the book to my wish list that summer, but wouldn't get my very own copy until Christmas, when my parents gave the me the copy that still sits in a position of honor on my bookshelf today.

And there was one other book with which I have a personal connection: Charlie Chan #1 from Dell Comics. You see, Charlie Chan was created by a distant relative of mine, Earl Derr Biggers--and he and I actually share the same birthday, although separated by many decades. (Even more surprising, Earl Derr Biggers and I both had major heart attacks at almost exactly the same age to the day... but Earl didn't fare as well as I did, succumbing to his heart attack soon thereafter. Years later, when I finally got a copy of one of Earl Derr Biggers Charlie Chan novels autographed by the author, I was taken aback to see that his handwriting almost precisely mirrored my father's, even down the the same distinctive flourish on the B and the double-g's in Biggers.)

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