Friday, December 25, 2015

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/26/1965 to 1/1/1966

The old year ended and the new year began with very little fanfare fifty years ago. Kids were out of school, the weather was seasonably cold but still pleasant, nothing major was happening in Rome… it was a quiet ending to a very good year.

The Rome City School System received a $167,000 grant for the purchase of material to develop “the most complete reading program in Georgia.” Superintendent McDonald said that there were “no strings attached” to the grant, which would enable the school system to purchase two mobile reading laboratories that could serve approximately twenty-five students; the labs would contain the latest in reading materials, electronic gear, special testing equipment, and more. In addition, the school system would have funds left over to purchase projectors, tape recorders, overhead projectors, and more for in-class reading programs, as well as extra funds for after-school study programs.

Rome merchants found a solution to the problem regarding pinball machines being seized as gambling equipment: they agreed to quit giving free games to high-scoring players. City police chief Nelson Camp said that as long as merchants let people “pay for play,” the police would have no problems with pinball machines.

GE announced plans for an $11 million expansion of the Rome plant, located just a mile away from West Rome High School on Redmond Circle. The new expansion would add 200 jobs to the Medium Transformer Department.

How great is this? Rome banks increased their interest rates on savings certificates to 4.5%, while the interest rates on regular savings accounts rose to 4%.

Piggly Wiggly had whole fryers for a quarter a pound, two pound bags of dried black-eyed peas for 29¢, and fresh collards for 19¢ a pound. Big Apple had Morrell bacon for 69¢ a pound, Irvindale ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon, and Maxwell House coffee for 79¢ a pound. Kroger had four-pound Wilson’s Corn King canned hams for $3.89, bananas for 9¢ a pound, and applesauce for a dime a can. A&P had sirloin tip roast for 99¢ a pound, tomatoes for a quarter a pound, and a one-pound can of Nestle’s Quik for 41¢. Couch’s had pork steak for 59¢ a pound, Nabisco saltines for 33¢ a box, and ten pounds of potatoes for 49¢.

Rome’s cinematic week began with Boeing Boeing (with Tony Curtis & Jerry Lewis) at the DeSoto Theater and Pinocchio in Outer Space at the First Avenue. The midweek switch out brought Do Not Disturb (with Doris Day & Rod Taylor) to the DeSoto and the James Bond spoof The Second Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World (with Tom Adams) to the First Avenue. The West Rome Drive-In offered a double feature of McLintock (with John Wayne) and Jason & The Argonauts (with Todd Armstrong and Honor Blackman, as well as special effects by Ray Harryhausen) to the West Rome Drive-In.

The number one song on New Years Day 1966 was Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence" (amazing what a difference it makes when some talented session musicians add an electric guitar and drums to a song originally released about a year earlier!). Other top ten hits included “We Can Work It Out” by the Beatles (#2); “I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown (#3); “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by the Byrds (#4); “Over and Over” by the Dave Clark Five (#5); “Let’s Hang On” by the Four Seasons (#6); “Fever” by the McCoys (#7); “Ebb Tide” by the Righteous Brothers (#8); “England Swings” by Roger Miller (#9); and “Make the World Go Away” by Eddy Arnold (#10).

The Dating Game debuted fifty years ago this week on ABC TV, allowing single people to embarrass themselves on national television as they engaged in a search for a suitable date.

This was also the week that ABC began running commercials for a new show that was destined to become a major television success in 1966—a show starring Adam West as a guy named Bruce Wayne…

Jim Warren’s Creepy magazine was so successful in recreating the vitality of EC’s horror comics that he launched his companion magazine, Eerie, this week in 1965. The magazine actually began with its second issue—the first was a 200-copy ashcan produced just to lock in the title when they heard that someone else was considering a competing magazine with the same name. Archie Goodwin, Frank Frazetta, Gene Colan, Jonny Craig, Reed Crandall, Gray Morrow, John Severin, Angelo Torres, and Alex Toth contributed to Eerie #2, making it one of Warren’s finest showpieces.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/20/1965 to 12/26/1965

On December 21st, the school system announced that Jean Jackson (clarinet), Sue Pilgrim (French horn), and Matt Oldham (baritone horn) were chosen to perform in the University of Georgia Honor Band on January. The honor band consisted of 140 student representatives from 160 Georgia high schools (so the fact that West Rome had 3 students in the honor band was quite an honor indeed!).

The Chieftains defeated Model 65-46 on December 20th in the first round of the Rome News-Tribune Holiday Festival; Rusty Oxford, Stan Dawson, and Benny Padgett  were the top scorers for West Rome, contributing 3/4 of West Rome’s point total.

West Rome went on to beat Fairmount 82-80 in the second round of play on December 21st, advancing to the semifinals. Rusty Oxford was responsible for 50% of those points by himself making him the star of the game.

Alas, West Rome’s winning streak ended on December 22nd with a 76-57 loss to Calhoun, taking them out of the running for the championship. Stan Dawson was the Chieftains’ high scorer with 22 points.

An armed gunman stole $1200.00 from the cash register of West Rome’s Super Discount Store on Shorter Avenue on December 23rd, holding up the store even though it was filled with almost 50 shoppers. The robber, driving a car with Rhode Island plates, brandished a pistol, but thankfully left without firing a shot once he got all the cash from the register. Police quickly identified the robber as Rome resident Horace Eugene Kell, issuing an all points bulletin for his arrest.

Parents looking for a last-minute gift could pick up a 20” sport bike at Firestone… but they’d better be prepared to pay a pretty penny for it, since the bike cost $39.99 (the equivalent of $300 today, adjusted for inflation). No wonder Firestone was offering a $5 per month payment plan! Or you could go for the educational gift and pick up a complete set of the Illustrated World Encyclopedia for $39.95 at the Fahy Store (a $70 discount off last price)—and it also included ten years of annual supplements. If that price was too high for you, the Fahy store also had troll dolls for $1 each. Sears took a different route, offering a Christmas special of Allstate Motor Oil for 22¢ a quart. Nothing says Christmas like an impromptu oil change…

Piggly Wiggly had turkeys for 39¢ a pound, pecans for 33¢ a pound, and five pounds of Dixie Crystals sugar for 9¢ with the purchase of a four-pack of Plymouth light bulbs. Kroger had Morton’s TV dinners for 33¢ each, Coca-Cola, Tab, or Sprite for 99¢ a case plus deposit, and Cornish hens for 69¢ each. A&P had turkey breast quarters for 59¢ a pound, apples for a dime a pound, and JFG coffee for 69¢ a pound. Big Apple had Sealtest ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon, Southern Maid sausage for 75¢ a pound, and fresh coconuts for 19¢ each. Couch’s had a five-pound boneless Wilson’s Corn King ham for $4.79, Old Favorite band ice milk for 33¢ a half-gallon, and a 10-ounce jar of Maxwell House instant coffee for $1.19.

The cinematic week began with When the Boys Meet the Girls (with Connie Francis & Harve Presell) at the Desoto Theater and the “shocksploitation” documentary Ecco at the First Avenue. The midweek switch out brought Boing Boing (with Tony Curtis & Jerry Lewis) to the DeSoto and Pinocchio in Outer Space (with the choice of Arnold Stang) to the First Avenue. With school out for the holidays, the West Rome Drive-In expanded its schedule to add Wednesday and Thursday nights to its weekend schedule, offering a double feature of Straitjacket (with Joan Crawford) and Ride the Wild Surf (with Fabian and Shelley Fabares).

Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel scored their first number one hit with “Sounds of Silence” this week in 1965. Other Top Ten hits included “We Can Work It Out” by the Beatles (#2); “I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown (#3); “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by the Byrds (#4); “Over and Over” by the Dave Clark Five (#5); “Let’s Hang On” by the Four Seasons (#6); “Fever” by the McCoys (#7); “Ebb Tide” by the Righteous Brothers (#8); “England Swings” by Roger Miller (#9); and “Make the World Go Away” by Eddy Arnold (#10).

The number one album this week in 1965 was Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass’s Whipped Cream and Other Delights, an album that immediately attracted the attention of many of us with its sultry image of an unclothed woman strategically covered with whipped cream, leaving those “other delights” to our imagination. Turn out the music was pretty good, although I’m not sure how many copies actually got played; to this day, I still find this album in flea markets, thrift stores, and yard sales on a regular basis, and many of the albums are in remarkably good shape, although the covers are sometimes the worse for wear…

For me, Christmas of 1965 was memorable for the remarkable book The Great Comic Book Heroes by Jules Feiffer. This book, which went on my Christmas list as soon as I saw a copy at Wyatt’s, offered a paean to comics by Feiffer along with a heaping helping of classic Golden Age comic book reprints featuring Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, Hawkman, The Spirit, Captain America, the Blackhawks, the Sub-Mariner, the Flash, Green Lantern, the Human Torch, and many others. I don’t think I ever re-read a book as many times as this one; I think I pretty much had every word balloon memorized after the first few months!

This was also the year that my parents gave me a complete set of James Bond paperbacks. They were going to a  Christmas Eve party at a neighbor’s house for an hour or two, while I stayed at home to keep an eye on my sister Kim. As they were getting ready to leave, Dad gave me a hefty, carefully wrapped cube and told me to go ahead and open it early. As soon as I tore the corner of the paper away, I recognized the distinctive Signet paperback cover design of Live and Let Die; beneath it were the rest of the Signet editions of the James Bond novels in their matching cover designs. "We've decided that you're old enough to read these," Dad said. "And we thought you might want to start reading one of them tonight." I was doubly thrilled—not only because of all those novels I looked forward to reading, but also because Mom and Dad had enough faith in me to give me these books in spite of their concerns. I have subsequently upgraded my James Bond novels to hardcover editions, but I still have those Signet paperbacks, well worn and slightly yellowed with age. At Christmastime, I often take a look at those covers once again and smile, remembering how I was so excited and eager to read these books that, once my parents had come home and everyone had gone to bed, I turned on a small light and read for another hour or two that night. Thanks again, Mom & Dad…

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/13/1965 to 12/19/1965

The Rome Boys Club Choir—which included a number of Chieftains—held a concert at the Boys Club on the evening of December 13th to raise money for the Cheerful Givers, which used its funds to aid needy families at Christmas. The organization hoped to aid 950 families during the Christmas 1965 season.

West Rome’s basketball teams defeated Cave Spring in both games on Friday, December 17th. The girls won 34-32 in an upset, with Anne Peery scoring 20 points. The boys then posted a 59-35 romp over Cave Spring, with Stan Dawson scoring 15 of those points and Rusty Oxford scoring 11.

Friday, December 17th, marked the last day of school before the holiday break; students were scheduled to be off until January 3rd.

Did you know that any and all pinball machines were considered to be “gambling devices” in 1965? Well, the city and county police departments knew, because they embarked on a push to confiscate machines all over the county, based on a then-recent Georgia Supreme Court decision that the free games that players could win constituted “a thing of value,” and that made pinball machines illegal gambling devices. The city seized more than two dozen machines, while the county confiscated at least thirty more.

The proposal that wouldn’t die returned yet again: Rome and Floyd County Boards of Education announced plans to meet in order to discuss a merger of the city and county school systems. (This is the third time this proposal surfaced since I began doing these “Fifty Years Ago This Week” pieces in 1962, which makes you wonder just how much money was wasted on unnecessary studies, meetings, and negotiations that went nowhere and accomplished nothing.)

And while we’re talking about fruitless studies and proposals, here’s another one that made a return this week in 1965: a House study committee once again proposed that Rome be turned into an inland port with the construction of a system of locks and dams that would allow barge and boat traffic to move up from the Gulf of Mexico to Rome’s proposed docks. If you don’t remember Rome’s docks, it’s because this proposal was just as DOA as the school merger…

Coach Paul Kennedy had high hopes for West Rome’s wrestlers in the 1965-1966 season, but he was forced into rebuilding mode instead when some of the members of his squad didn’t return to the mat. “We have enough boys out, but they don’t have the necessary experience,” Coach Kennedy said. “Five or six boys decided not to participate this year, including three first-string boys.” Veteran wrestlers who did return included Mike Murphy, Bobby Kerce, Gary Fuller, Richard Marable, Greg Quinton, Jeff Anderson, Greg Gray, and Anthony Slafta.  Coach Kennedy and the boys were struggling to prepare for their first match on January 7th at LaGrange.

Piggly Wiggly had a three-pound Merita fruitcake for $1.39, Fleetwood coffee for 69¢ a pound, and tom turkeys for 39¢ a pound. Big Apple had sirloin steaks for 87¢ a pound, Banquet cream pies for 41¢, and yams for 12¢ a pound. Kroger had round steak for 79¢ a pound, eggs for 53¢ a dozen, and Ocean Spray cranberry sauce (the jellied kind, of course) for 19¢ a can. A&P had shank portion hams for 53¢ a pound, oranges for 13¢ a pound, and a 12-ounce cans of mixed nuts (with no peanuts!) for 95¢ a pound. Couch’s had Swift’s premium bacon for 79¢ a pound, Nabisco Saltine crackers for 33¢ a box, and Angel Flake coconut for 27¢ a can (I tried on many occasions to convince Mom to just buy a can of coconut and let me eat it rather than using it on a cake or in a pie, but she wasn’t buying it… literally!)

The cinematic week began with Return from the Ashes (with Herbert Lom & Maximillian Schell) at the DeSoto Theater and Old Yeller (with Dorothy McGuire & Fess Parker) at the First Avenue (not what I’d consider an upbeat Christmas film!). The midweek switch out brought When the Boys Meet the Girls (with Connie Francis & Harve Presnell) to the Desoto and the “shocking” documentary Ecco (promoted with the slogan “an incredible orgy of sights and sounds”) to the First Avenue, with the warning that “If this film frightens you, it’s because the world is frightening!” The theaters obviously were pinning high hopes on the audience interest in Ecco, because they also showed the film over the weekend at the West Rome Drive-In. Apparently they thought a lot of people were willing to pay 75¢ each to see such noteworthy clips as “a tour of the Grand Guignol theater in Paris, a man who sticks long needles through his body, footage of reindeer being castrated, and film of lesbians and strippers,” according to IMDB. Boy, if those who considered this content shocking could only spend an hour or two looking at the internet today!…

The Dave Clark Five pushed the Byrds out of the number one slot this week in 1965 with “Over and Over.” The Byrds held on to the second-place position with “Turn! Turn! Turn!” Other top ten hits included “I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown (#3); “Let’s Hang On” by the Four Seasons (#4); “Sounds of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel (#5); “Make the World Go Away” by Eddy Arnold (#6); “Fever” by the McCoys (#7); “England Swings” by Roger Miller (#8); “Ebb Tide” by the Righteous Brothers (#9); and “I Can Never Go Home Again Any More” by the Shangri-Las (#10).

And an oversight from last week: On December 9th, 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas made its television premiere. This was the first animated Charlie Brown feature, and it cemented the role of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip in American popular culture. It also made humble, spindly Christmas trees a bit more popular…

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 12/6/1965 to 12/12/1965

Before we go on to our coverage, I must remedy a major omission: Somehow, I failed to report on a a big Rome event that occurred back on November 8th, 1965 (due in part to the fact that the Rome News-Tribune didn’t run a story on the event at all, even though they did run ads for it beginning in the late summer). That was the day that Rome hosted a concert as a part of Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars…. and what an impressive concert lineup it was! The Byrds, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Bo Diddley, We Five, The Duchess, Dale Wright and the Wright Guys, Men of Action, and The Results all performed. Most of the groups came to Rome on one tour bus, but the Byrds insisted on driving their own RV to town, and they almost got lost on their way here from Nashville (where they played the night before). The concerts were more of a variety act than a concert as we think of it: the two lead bands (the Byrds and the Raiders) were given 15 or 20 minutes to perform, while all the other acts got 10 to 15 minutes each. None of the acts brought in their own sound equipment (although the Byrds did bring their own guitars), so the sound was less than perfect, to say the least—-but that didn’t matter to the sold-out crowd who loved a chance to hear nationally-known top ten acts perform in beautiful downtown Rome!

And now, back to our regularly scheduled fifty-years-ago retrospective.

The Chieftains took on the Gladiators on Friday, December 10th—and the crosstown rivalry was almost as heated on the basketball court as it was on the football field! Alas, it was not a good night for West Rome: even though the Chieftains were picked to win the game, East Rome’s boys posted a 48-35 victory, while East Rome’s girls won 35-33. The Chieftains found some consolation in a Saturday night 65-56 victory over Lafayette; Stan Dawson scored 28 points, while both Rusty Oxford and Mike Souder scored 10 points each. Alas, the girls lost 34-33 after missing a foul shot with 15 seconds left on the clock.

City revenues were so good that the Rome City Commission increased its budget by $195,000 for the last part of 1965, an increase of almost 10%. The biggest part of the increase was a 5% pay increase for all city employees that was implemented in July. City Manager Bruce Hamler credited “above normal tax collections” for the increase in revenues, but an $87,000 grant from the state as reimbursement for street improvements also helped a great deal. (When was the last time we heard talk of a city government having a 10% increase in tax revenues above expectations?)

Sales tax was also a big part of that, and great retail sales were responsible for higher sales taxes revenues. Rome and Floyd County saw a $3.7 million jump in retail sales in the third quarter of 1965 over the previous year. This reflected an 8% growth in retail spending in one year… a pretty amazing accomplishment!

Remember Christmas Club accounts? Those non-interest-bearing holiday savings accounts were quite popular in 1965: Rome banks disbursed almost a $1 million in Christmas Club funds to almost 5300 Romans in November, setting an all-time record. An unnamed Broad Street business owner enthused, “I think the people have got the money to spend and they’re going to spend it. This year is going to be the best ever, and I think next year will be even better.” Oh, for such fiscal optimism nowadays!…

The Elm Street PTA held their December 9th meeting at the West Rome Baptist Church. the West Rome Baptist Youth Choir, directed by Fred Barr, supplied the Christmas music for the meeting.

Work continued on the US 411-Hwy 27 interchange, with the first section (including the 12th street bridge) scheduled for completion by December 31st. The entire interchange was on schedule for a mid-1966 release, which was welcome news to any Romans who had to make the drive from Rome to Cartersville, Marietta, Atlanta, or Cedartown.

“Solid State” was the electronics phrase of the year for RCA, who was advertising both solid state stereo systems (a home console complete with two 15” woofers, two 7” midrange speakers, and four 3.5” tweeters… a pretty impressive array, even by today’s standards!). The 56-watt combination AM-FM radio and turntable also had jacks for an optional tape recorder. This impressive system was priced at $439.95, which would be the equivalent of $3200 adjusted for inflation—more than most people would ever pay for a stereo system today! Meanwhile, a solid state 23” console color TV could be yours for only $595—the equivalent of more than $4000 after adjusting for inflation.

Piggly Wiggly had whole fryers for 27¢ a pound, Mann’s Golden Harvest sausage for 59¢ a pound, and large tangerines for 49¢ a dozen. Kroger had pork steaks for 59¢ a pound, Kraft’s mayonnaise for 49¢ a quart, and Campbell’s tomato soup for a dime a can. Big Apple had a four-pound Cudahy Bar-S canned ham for $3.99, Happy Valley ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon, and Luzianne coffee for 59¢ a pound. A&P had chuck roast for 35¢ a pound,Super-Right chili for 29¢ a can, and an 8-ounce box of Cheez-It crackers for 23¢. Couch’s had Peach brand sliced bacon for 69¢ a pound, a one-pound bag of chocolate drops for 29¢, and Showboat pork & beans for 19¢ a can. (One of the fun parts of reviewing grocery store ads from fifty years ago is noting all the brands that we rarely or never hear about today. I can still find Cudahy Bar-S meats at a few stores, but I’ve never hear of Happy Valley, Super-Right, or Peach brand bacon nowadays.)

The cinematic week began with The War Lord (wth Charlton Heston & Richard Boone) at the DeSoto Theater and a double feature of Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (with James Karen & Marilyn Harold) and Curse of the Voodoo (starring—if that’ the right word for a low-budget film like this— Bryant Haliday & Dennis Price) at the First Avenue. The midweek switch out brought Return from the Ashes (with Herbert Lom & Maximillian Schell) to the DeSoto and Old Yeller (with Dorothy McGuire & Fess Parker) to the First Avenue. The West Rome Drive-In’s weekend feature was The Hallelujah Trail (with Burt Lancaster & Lee Remick).

The Byrds held on to number one with “Turn! Turn! Turn!” Other top ten hits included “Over and Over” by the Dave Clark Five (#2); “I Got You (I Feel Good) by James Brown (#3); “Let’s Hang On” by the Four Seasons (#4); “I Hear a Symphony” by the Supremes (#5); “I Can Never go Home Again Any More” by the Shangri-las (#6); “Make the World Go Away” by Eddy Arnold (#7); “England Swings” by Roger Miller (#8); “Fever” by the McCoys (#9); and “I Will” by Dean Martin (#10).