Saturday, November 28, 2015

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 11/29/1965 to 12/5/1965

Interest was so high in the Georgia Class AA football championship game slated for Saturday night in Atlanta that West Rome officials announced that they were selling tickets for a bus for adults who wanted to see the game but weren’t keen on making the drive. (This was in the years before I-75 was opened, so the preferred route from Rome to Atlanta involved a long drive down US 41 through Marietta.)

Ultimately, almost 3500 Romans made the trek to Grady Stadium in Atlanta to watch the Chiefs defeat St. Pius 6-0. West Rome’s touchdown came in the second quarter when quarterback Mike Souder threw a 34-yard bomb to Arbie Lovell for the game's only scoring play.

Sandy McPhee of East Rome High School walked away with top honors in the baton competition at the National Baton Twirling Association meet in Columbus. So why am I reporting it here? Well, because Sandy’s dad was West Rome principal Dick McPhee, and as her father he was undoubtedly quite proud of her accomplishment, even if she did attend school on the other side of the river!

The Chieftains also launched their basketball season with a 56-43 victory over Chattooga in a Region 3-AA game. “We accomplished what we set out to do,” Coach Randall Kent said. “We played the game only to give our boys some experience before they meet East Rome next week, and we accomplished that aim. The fact that West Rome won was icing on the cake.”

The West Rome Seventh Grade Tri-Hi-Y sponsored a rummage sale on Saturday in front of the old depot building on Broad Street.

The city of Rome began discussion to annex the Old Airport Community near GE in West Rome in order to correct “unhealthy conditions” caused by old, improperly installed, overflowing septic tanks. The city hoped to complete annexation by the middle of 1966.

Governor Carl Sanders visited Rome on November 30th to announce major construction and development plans in the works involving Fox Manufacturing and Trend Mills. Trend confirmed plans to double the size of its carpet manufacturing facility, while Fox was expanding its furniture processing facility. “Since January of 1963, Rome and Floyd County have witnessed nine new planet developments,” Governor Sanders said, “in addition to nineteen major expansions of existing industries. By their decision to locate here, the officials of these firms have sown tangible confidence in the economy and in the people of Rome and Floyd County… In ten years’ time, the total payroll for Floyd County has doubled.” (It’s perfectly understandable why so many of us felt like we were living in the glory days of the Rome-Floyd County area back in the 1960s—because we were!)

Belk-Rhodes received a big shipment of go-go boots for $5.99 to $9.99 a pair… which may be official proof that the go-go craze was coming to an end.

Beginning December 1st, Sears extended its hours until 9pm every night until Christmas (except for Sunday, of course!). “Shop at your one-stop Christmas store,” Sears touted—and back in the 1960s, it pretty much seemed to be true!

Most sheriffs devote a lot of time to trying to keep the jail’s occupants safely locked away, but Sheriff Joe Adams spent two days trying to evict a dog who slipped into the jail to spend time with its owner. A lot of Romans were outspoken in their belief that the dog should be allowed to stay, but the sheriff ultimately took the dog to a kennel to be held until its owner was released.

The Floyd County Home Demonstration Club kicked off their annual three-day Christmas Show beginning Thursday, December 2nd. The show at the Civic Center drew almost 6000 attendees who came to see its displays showing how Christmas was celebrated around the world, with a holiday craft bazaar offering attendees a chance to buy handmade gifts, toys, decorations, and more.

Piggly Wiggly had JFG coffee for 69¢ a pound, sirloin steak for 89¢ a pound, and pecans for 99¢ a pound. Kroger had ground beef for 43¢ a pound, Mel-O-Soft bread for 20¢ a loaf, and Scott bathroom tissue for a dime a roll. Big Apple had smoked picnic hams for 39¢ a pound, Bartlett pears for 19¢ a pound, and Sealtest ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon. A&P had whole fryers for a quarter a pound, tangerines for 39¢ a dozen, and a five-pound bag of Irish potatoes for 33¢. Couch’s had Oscar Mayer bacon for 79¢ a pound, Van Camp’s chili for 29¢ a can, and bananas for a dime a pound.

The cinematic week began with Harum Scarum (with Elvis Presley) at the DeSoto Theatre and Agent 8 3/4 (with Dirk Bogarde & Robert Morley) at the First Avenue. The midweek switch out brought The War Lord (with Charlton Heston & Richard Boone) to the DeSoto, while the First Avenue went for a low-budget horror film schlockfest with Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (with an “I’ve-never-heard-of-them” cast that included James Karen & Marilyn Hanold) and Curse of the Voodoo (starring the equally-unknown Bryant Haliday & Dennis Price) at the First Avenue. Apparently The War Lord was a pretty big deal, because it also played on the big screen at the West Rome Drive-In over the weekend.

The Byrds took first place this week in 1965 with “Turn! Turn! Turn!” Other top ten hits included “I Hear a Sympony” by the Supremes (#2); “Let’s Hang On” by the Four Seasons (#3); “I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown (#4); “Over and Over” by the Dave Clark Five (#5); “I Can Never Go Home Any More” by the Shangri-Las (#6); “1-2-3” by Len Barry (#7); “A Taste of Honey” by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (#8); “Rescue Me” by Fontella Bass (#9); and “I Will” by Dean Martin (#10).

This was a big week for album release, with The Beatles’ Rubber Soul, the Rolling Stones' December’s Children (And Everybody’s), and The Who’s  debut release, My Generation, all reaching record shops this week in 1965. The Beatles also released their double A-sided single “Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out” to accompany the album’s release.

Marvel Comics became famous for their super-heroes, but Fantasy Masterpieces #1—released this week in 1965—celebrated their pre-hero science fiction, monster, and weird fiction comics from the 1950s and early 1960s, reprinting stories by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, and Joe Sinnott. The oldest story in the comic was published in 1959, while the most recent was a scant three years old when this comic was published!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 11/22/1965 to 11/28/1965

“Why do you spend so much time writing this every week?” The young woman asking me the question wasn’t being rude—just curious. It didn’t make sense to her, I guess. With all the time I spend at the keyboard writing Comic Shop News every week as well as writing fiction, why devote a few hours every week writing about unimportant things that happened a half-century ago in the west side of a small northwest Georgia town with city-sized ambitions?

Because we were different. Different, just like millions of other kids who grew up in the US in the 1960s. We lived in a  time that we assumed was the most technologically advanced in history (and it was!). We never imagined that the children and grandchildren of our generation would spend every day surrounded by technological advancements that we’d never even heard of back then. We didn’t know that our lives would scatter us across the country and around the world… and that all too many of us wouldn’t be here a half-century later to reminisce with us.

And we took for granted the people in our lives back then, and the places, and the little things that amused us and entertained us and frustrated us. We didn’t really appreciate how much they shaped us, and how long they would stay with us.

Preparing this column every week makes me remember not only the events that I chronicle here, but also the dreams and hopes and sorrows and joys and disappointments and surprises that were a part of our lives in the 1960s. We’re not the people that we were then… but we couldn’t be the people that we are now without going through what we went through then. It helped us, it shaped us, it made us… for better or worse.

Every week, I find little shards of memories scattered in the events that I retell here. The retelling polishes them a little bit, preserves them, makes them sparkle again for a moment or two, at least. The glint of the past reminds me that this is the way we were fifty years ago, and this was the place where we lived, and these were the things that we did.


The Chieftains faced off against Chamblee on Friday night for the North Georgia championship…and the Chiefs walked away with a 13-7 victory. “You know, it’s the first time a Rome school has won the championship since 1948,” a very proud Coach Paul Kennedy said after the victory. David Garrett scored the first touchdown for West Rome, while Mike Souder threw a touchdown pass to David Garrett in a play that pushed West Rome to victory.

More than 800 officers, members, and advisors of 39 Y clubs from 11 area schools (including our own West Rome, of course!) participated in the Rome-Floyd county Hi-Y and Tri-Hi-Y induction service at the Berry College chapel. West Rome Principal Dick McPhee, chairman of the Adult Hi-Y Committee, presided over the event. West Rome’s Becky Wood was installed as first vice president, while Jane Cox was selected teen editor; other committee members from West Rome included Lee Willingham, Jamie Cook, Tom Williams, Henry Kennedy, Diane Smith, Cynthia Morgan, Linda Morgan, Lee Davenport, Diane Massey, and Becky Wood.

Moses Construction Company of Rome was the low bidder for four school construction projects, including four classrooms at West End Elementary School, a library at Elm Street Elementary School, and four classrooms at West Rome High School. (The fourth construction project was on the east side of town.) All of this was necessary because of the continued rapid growth of the West Rome area—growth that was running about 6% per year ahead of predictions made when West Rome High School and West End Elementary were constructed.

Oh, the times, they were a’changing: Floyd Hospital warned residents that anesthesia rates were likely to go up because all three staff anesthesiologists had resigned as of November 24th and were going into private practice. This meant that the hospital would no longer have a staff anesthesiologist whose fees were built into the cost of various hospital procedures; instead, the hospital administrators warned Romans that those without insurance could expect to pay as much as $50 per procedure more for anesthesia because of the change, since the private anesthesiologists would be setting their own rates.

The draft was calling more Romans: the Selective Service office announced that 75 young men from Rome and Floyd County would have to report for pre-induction examinations on December 15th. The notices went out this week so that those expected to report could make necessary plans to be there. Mrs.. Virginia Turpin of the Selective Service Office said that they expected that about 40% of those tested would be drafted within a month of their examinations. Suddenly, the draft and the war and Vietnam were becoming much more of a local worry for Rome teens…

Rome bank activity indicated that the community’s economy was growing at about a 5% annual rate—not quite as strong as the two years prior, but still enough to pump an extra $5 million a month into the local community.

Thanksgiving's aftermath included the post-Thanksgiving-Day Rome Days sales event. Almost every store in town was running special sales on Friday and Saturday, including $39.98 Murray bicycles at Sterchi’s; a $12.99 Electrovoice tape recorder at Enloe’s; an all-wool sport coast for $12.00 at Wheeler’s; a 6-piece French provincial maple living room suite for $399 at Rhodes Furniture; leather handbags for $7.95 at Esserman’s; an Admiral table radio for $15.88 at Buy-Wise; a 23” Zenith console color TV for $589 at Rome Radio Company; an electric Pro Football game (you remember, the thing with the buzzing, vibrating field and the little plastic players with felt bottoms that wobbled around, bumping into one another?) for $19.88 at Murphy’s. And then there was my personal favorite: The VacuForm for $16.88 at Sears! (After all, what better gift for a kid at Christmas than a toy that heated up metal plates to the pound that they melted plastic sheets so that you could shape them into crude toys using a vacuum pump? What  possible harm could befall a child with a toy like that?! And yes, I really had one of these… and yes, I must have burned my fingers about fifty times while using it…)

Piggly Wiggly had sweet potatoes for a dime a pound, pecans for 33¢ a pound, and fresh hens for 39¢ a pound. Big Apple had Tom Turkeys for 33¢ a pound, fresh coconuts for 19¢ each, and celery for 19¢ a bunch. Kroger and turkeys for 31¢ a pound, fresh cranberries for a quarter a pound, and a case of Coca-Cola for 99¢ plus deposit. A&P had turkeys for 37¢ a pound, potatoes for a nickel a pound, and cranberry sauce for 22¢ a can. Couch’s had Puritan fully-cooked hams for  79¢ a pound, English peas for 19¢ a can, and roasting chickens for 29¢ a pound.

The cinematic week began with Sands of Kalahari (with Stuart Whitman) at the DeSoto and The Outlaws Is Coming (with the Three Stooges) at the First Avenue. The midweek switchout brought Harum Scarum (with Elvis Presley) to the Desoto and Forty Acre Feud (with Ferlin Husky, Minnie Pearl, George Jones, & Loretta Lynn) at the First Avenue. The West Rome Drive-In took advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday week to add a special Wednesday night showing of Mary Poppins (with Julie Andrews & Dick Van Dyke) to its otherwise-weekends-only schedule.

The Byrds took number one this week with their biblical “Turn! Turn! Turn!” Other top ten hits included “I Hear a Symphony” by the Supremes (#2); “1-2-3” by Len Barry (#3); “Let’s Hang On” by the Four Seasons (#4); “I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown (#5); “Rescue Me” by Fontella Bass (#6); “A Taste of Honey” by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (#7); “Ain’t That Peculiar” by Marvin Gaye (#8); “I Can Never Go Home Any More” by the Shangri-Las (#9); and “Over and Over” by the Dave Clark Five (#10).

The big album release this week in 1965 was Do You Believe in Magic? by the Lovin’ Spoonful, which delivered not only the title song but also the destined-for-hit-status song “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?” Both songs were written by the group’s lead singer and autoharpist John Sebastian (were the Lovin’ Spoonful the only 1960s rock group to use the autoharp in their music?).

This was also the week when Arlo Guthrie was arrested on Thanksgiving Day in Massachusetts for littering; the resulting events would ultimately be preserved forever in Guthrie’s song “Alice’s Restaurant,” but it would be two more years before we would hear that little ditty.

The cosmic spirit of the DC Universe made his first Silver Age appearance in Showcase #60, on sale this week in 1965. The Spectre was resurrected in a tale by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson in an atypical tale that pitted a superhero against the demon Azmodus. Also on the stands this week: Teen Titans #1, featuring Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, and Aqualad, fresh from their final trial-run appearance in September’s Showcase #59.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 11/15/1965 to 11/21/1965

The final equipment for West Rome’s new state-of-the-art industrial arts shop arrived and the program shifted into high gear this week in 1965. Thanks to a $90,000 investment by taxpayers and the Rome City School System, West Rome’s newly constructed brick industrial arts building had a modern drafting department at one end of the structure and an electronics lab, a metalworking shop, and a woodworking shop at the other end. Thomas Couey and R.L. Matthews shared instructional duties in the expanded industrial arts department, and both had a full roster of students for their expanded course offerings.

Dickie, Tommy, Johnny, and David Sapp were spotlighted in the Rome News-Tribune on November 17th. The article focused on the family’s football skills (Dickie was a halfback for the Darlington Tigers, Tommy was a junior halfback for the Chieftains, Johnny was a part of the Rome junior midgets team, and David was involved with the mite leaguers. “I’ve never pushed them to play football,” their father, Fred Sapp, said. “However, the fact that they were interested really pleased us. The game has meant a lot to them.”

With a Region 3-AA title game against Dalton on the schedule for Friday, November 19th, Coach Paul Kennedy was justifiably concerned when center Doug Meadows suffered an jury in the East Rome game that took him out of the Dalton game. Coach Kennedy moved Benny Padgett to center, while Lane Warner took Padgett’s offensive guard position. Jim Ryan was also out with a broken nose, Jerry Wiseman missed two days of practice with a shoulder injury, Richard Camp had an injured foot that impacted his kicking game, and Lane Brewer was playing with a knee injury that had slowed him down. “Our boys’ spirits are high and we’ve had really good practice sessions,” Coach Kennedy said, “but we’ve got to be ready to play our finest ball game against a tough club. In fact, I think we’ll have to play as good as, if not better than, we did against Kingsport and Rossville.”

In spite of all the injuries, though, the Chieftains managed to defeat Dalton in a 14-7 game, thanks to quarterback Mike Souder, who threw both of West Rome’s touchdown passes—one to Arbie Lovell and one to David Garrett. This advanced West Rome to the next level of the playoffs, setting them up to take on Chamblee.

Piggly Wiggly had baking hens for 35¢ a pound, bacon for 69¢ a pound, and lettuce for 15¢ a head. A&P had hen turkeys for 37¢ a pound, bananas for a dime a pound, and all butter pound cakes for 69¢ each. Kroger and five pounds of Colonial sugar for 38¢, large eggs for 49¢ a dozen, and Tom Turkeys for 31¢ a pound. Big Apple had hams for 59¢ a pound, celery for 19¢ a bunch, and yams for 12¢ a pound. Couch’s had fruit cake mix for 33¢ a pound, pork roast for 59¢ a pound, and ten pounds of potatoes for 45¢.

The cinematic week began with Casanova ’70 (with Marcelo Mastroianni & Virna Lisi) to the DeSotoTheater and Red Line 7000 (with James Caan) at the First Avenue. The midweek switch out brought Sands of the Kalahari (with Stuart Whitman & Susannah York) to the DeSoto and The Hill (with Sean Connery) to the First Avenue. The West Rome Drive-In had a weekend double feature of The Ballad of Cat Ballou (with Jane Fonda & Lee Marvin) and Fate Is the Hunter (with Gelnn Ford and Rod Taylor).

The Supremes held on to the number one slot this week in 1965 with “I Hear a Symphony.” Other top ten hits included “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by the Byrds (#2); “1-2-3” by Len Barry (#3); “Let’s Hang On” by the Four Seasons (#4); “Get Off My Cloud” by the Rolling Stones (#5); “Rescue Me” by Fontella Bass (#6); “A Taste of Honey” by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (#7); “Ain’t That Peculiar” by Marvin Gaye (#8); “I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown (#9); and “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” by Silkie (#10).

The Yardbirds released their second album, Having a Rave Up With the Yardbirds, this week in 1965. The album featured the guitar skills of both Eric Clapton (who performed on four songs) and Jeff Beck (who played on the remaining six songs).

This was also the week when NBC introduced the first full-color national news broadcast. The Huntley-Brinkley Report became the first newscast to use color for both the studio presentation and the news stories filed from locations around the world.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 11/8/1965 to 11/14/1965

Back in 1965, almost all phone calls between Rome and Atlanta were carried on a single phone cable—so when a construction company cut that cable on Monday afternoon, November the 8th, it also cut off all phone communication between Rome and Atlanta. Southern Bell was able to reroute some of the calls by late Monday evening, and the phone line was repaired by 5:30 am on Tuesday. (It’s hard to envision a scenario in which one cable cut could shut down all phone communication for more than twelve hours… But it could be worse. This was also the week that New York City had a total blackout after a power grid failure, so there’s that…)

West Rome growth was so strong that the city was looking to expand West End Elementary with four new classrooms, as well as a new library at Elm Street. The Rome School Board began taking bids for the construction this week in 1965, with construction set to take place over the summer.

The Rome News-Tribune named West Rome’s David Garrett as the Back of the Week because of his outstanding performance in the November 5th East Rome game. And it was no surprise that Paul Kennedy was named Coach of the Week after leading a team from two scoreless games at the beginning of the season to a Region 3-AA South Championship with their victory over East Rome.

West Rome’s Future Business Leaders of America selected its club officers this week in 1965. The roster included Pat Richardson, president; Ellen Sosbee, vice-president; Diane Wade, secretary; Jennie Pittman, treasurer; and Pat Hicks, reporter. The club was sponsored by Miss Charles McCarter and Mr. Bill Finley.

Piggly Wiggly had eggs for 45¢ a dozen, T-bone steak for 99¢ a pound, and fresh baked apple pies for 59¢ each. Kroger and the ever-popular streak-o-lean for 49¢ a pound (was it really that expensive?), Spam for 49¢ a can, and Country Club ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon. Big Apple had chuck roast for 39¢ a pound, five pounds of Dixie Crystal sugar for 39¢, and a 32-ounce jar of Jif peanut butter for 95¢. A&P had ground beef for 38¢ a pound, Poss chili for 39¢ a can, and emperor grapes for 13¢ a pound. Couch’s had pork steak for 59¢ a pound, bananas for a dime a pound, and Bama jelly (in an 18-ounce jar that could be used as a drinking glass) for 25¢ a jar.

The cinematic week began with The Cincinnati Kid (with Steve McQueen & Ann-Margret) at the DeSoto Theater and Love & Kisses (with Rick Nelson) at the First Avenue. The midweek switch out brought Casanova ’70 (with Marcelo Mastroianni & Virna Lisi) to the DeSoto and Red Line 7000 (with James Caan) at the First Avenue. The West Rome Drive-In had a weekend double feature of Red Line 7000 (yes, a second-rate racing movie was screening simultaneously at two Rome theaters!) and The Family Jewels (with Jerry Lewis).

The Supremes clinched the top spot this week in 1965 with “I Hear a Symphony.” Other top ten hits included “1-2-3” by Len Barry (#2); “Get Off of My Cloud” by the Rolling Stones (#3); “Rescue Me” by Fontella Bass (#4); “Let’s Hang On” by the Four Seasons (#5); “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by the Byrds (#6); “A Lover’s Concerto” by the Toys (#7); “Ain’t That Peculiar” by Marvin Gaye (#8); “A Taste of Honey” by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (#9); and “You’re the One” by the Vogues (#10).

The week’s big album releases included Beach Boys’ Party! by the Beach Boys and Four Tops’ Second Album by the Four Tops. But the number one selling album this week was The Sound of Music, which bounced the Beatles Help! off the top of the LP charts.

The problems of Salem and its residents came to television for the first time on November 8th, 1965, with the premiere of Days of Our Lives. The soap opera originally began as a half-hour show; it wouldn’t expand to an hour long until 1975.

Monday, November 02, 2015

The Passing of a Friend

I wasn't a close friend to Mark. Still, he was my friend, and he was a good man with a kind heart and a generous spirit, and he shouldn't be dead... but death doesn't pay much attention to shoulds and shouldn'ts.

Mark was a handyman, a repairman, and a contractor. And he was exceptional at what he did. So exceptional, in fact, that he did almost all of his work in our neighborhood, because so many people admired him and his work that they kept him as busy as he wanted to be. I first hired Mark about five years ago for a few little jobs; when we acquired our second house, we used him and his team for a number of repairs there.

In general, contractors will disappoint you... the questions are when and how. But not Mark. He did what he said--and if he couldn't do it, he said so up front, and pointed you to someone who could.

After the first few jobs, I quit asking Mark for an estimate, because I realized it was unnecessary. Mark's charges were always fair, and if he said the job needed to be done, then it needed to be done. He was absolutely trustworthy, and honorable to a degree unheard of among repairmen and contractors.

But I was glad to get to know Mark as more than a handyman and a contractor. He was in the neighborhood all the time, traveling from one job to another--and I walk a lot. Inevitably, our paths would cross--sometimes more than once a day, in fact. So we would talk. He would pull his Ford Explorer over to the side of the road, and we'd talk about all sorts of things. We talked about music and TV and books. Mark and I liked a lot of the same music, which led to numerous conversations. And sometimes we would just talk about nothing in particular.

Mark knew I had some health issues; so did he. You'd never know it from looking at him, though. But he and I had talked about them over the years, so I knew that he had problems with pains in his legs related to an auto accident a few years earlier. He had high blood pressure, and was trying to deal with it. Like me, he exercised a lot.  We often talked about our exercise routines; his was much more demanding than mine, but his busy schedule made it impossible for him to exercise with the frequency that I did. He always wished that he could, he said. "Maybe next year."

Last week, Mark's days ran out. I don't know the details; they really don't matter, I guess. But it seems wrong that he's dead. He was always cognizant of his health, and he was trying to do what he could to improve it. He didn't live to excess, and he didn't take chances.

And he died. I saw him on Monday. Tuesday, I got the news that he had passed away a few hours after I saw him.

Mark was a good man. He deserved more than the 55 years that life gave him.