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.

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