Friday, March 25, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 3/28/1966 to 4/3/1966

What a boom period the mid-1960s were! Rome’s building permits topped the $1 million mark in March, marking the third month in a row that more than $1 million in permits were issued. This included permits for new construction as well as for renovations. (Bear in mind that this was in a time period when the average new home in Rome sold for $24,000.)

It’s hard to imagine how much the draft cast a shadow over everything for young men in the 1960s, but the monthly draft report serves as an uncomfortable reminder. Georgia announced that the state would, for the first time since WWII, draft a thousand men in the May draft selection. This was an increase of more than 25% over the number of Georgians drafted in January of 1966, and the Georgia Selective Service System said that it was likely that the number would continue to increase for the rest of the year.

The Chieftains defeated Darlington 69-67 in a hard-fought track meet; the match was decided by a three-yard margin int final race, when Lane Warner crossed the finish line on the last leg of the mile relay to give West Rome the victory.

Coach Nick Hyder was optimistic about West Rome’s prospects for the baseball season, but he said that he saw the battle for the region title going “right down to the wire. I can’t see one team dominating it. I believe several teams will battle it out. It could go into a playoff before the winner is decided. But I think this team is as goo as, if not better than, the team we had last season.”

Piggly Wiggly had Plymouth bacon for 69¢ a pound, tomatoes for 19¢ a pound, and Fleetwood coffee for 69¢ a pound. Big Apple had leg o’ lamb for 79¢ a pound, Irvindale ice cream for 49¢ a pound, and Libby Vienna sausage for 20¢ a can (judging from the ads, we all ate a lot of Vienna sausages in the 1960s). Kroger had fresh fryers for 29¢ a pound, Morton cream pies for a quarter each, and Gorton fish sticks for 39¢ a box. A&P had chuck roast for 39¢ a pound, fresh-baked cherry pie for 45¢ each, and apples for 19¢ a pound. Couch’s had sirloin steak for 99¢ a pound, a 12 ounce jar of Blue Plate peanut butter for 29¢, and a 10-ounce jar of the ever-popular Maxwell Instant Coffee for $1.29. (I remember thinking that instant coffee had to be one of the greatest ideas of the 20th century… the only problem was, it didn’t really taste very good—sort of like powdered milk…)

The cinematic week began with The Silencers (with Dean Martin) at the DeSoto Theater and The Ghost & Mr. Chicken (with Don Knotts) at the First Avenue—and both films proved so popular that the hung around for a second week! The West Rome Drive-In weekend schedule included a double feature of The Fall of the Roman Empire (with Sophia Loren, Alec Guinness, & James Mason) and Thunder in the Sun (with Jeff Chandler).

The Righteous Brothers took the number one slot this week in 1966 with “You’re My Soul and Inspiration.” Other top ten hits included “Daydream” by the Lovin’ Spoonful (#2); “19th Nervous Breakdown” by the Rolling Stones (#3); “Bang Bang” by Cher (#4); “The Ballad of the Green Berets” by Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler (#5), “Nowhere Man” by the Beatles (#6); “Secret Agent Man” by Johnny Rivers (#7); “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by BJ Thomas & the Triumphs (#8); “Sure Gonna Miss Her” by Gary Lewis & the Playboys (#9); and “California Dreaming” by the Mamas & the Papas (#10).

Sam & Dave made their album debut this week in 1966 with Hold On, I’m Comin’. That was one of several major albums released fifty years ago this week; other noteworthy LPs included Big Hits (High Tide & Green Grass), a greatest hits compilation  by the Rolling Stones; Boots by Nancy Sinatra; Color Me Barbra by Barbra Streisand; Hold On! by Herman’s Hermits; Daydream by the Lovin’ Spoonful; If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears by the Mamas & the Papas; Woman by Peter & Gordon; and a pair of eponymous premiere albums, The Young Rascals and Love. (Since my allowance only allowed one album a week in addition to my comics, the Rolling Stones won out—but I was lucky enough to get  free copy of the Herman’s Hermits album through the Rome News-Tribune, where no one wanted the review copy that came in so Dad brought it home to me.  This was my first experience with free review copies, and I must admit that I found the idea to be very appealing... so appealing, in fact, that a few years later I would start a science fiction review fanzine in order to get review copies of books.)

Color Me Barbra was the official soundtrack that accompanied Barbra Streisand’s television special of the same name, which debuted on CBS on Wednesday, March 30th, 1966.

And this was also the week that the last new episode of The Flintstones aired on ABC. This brought the six-season run of the popular prime-time cartoon series to an end, although it would survive for decades in syndication.

Monday, March 21, 2016

"My--Look at the Time..."

When I was a kid, I couldn't wait to become a grown-up so that I could do whatever I wanted, when I wanted.

My childhood was burdened with school and homework and household chores--all those things that kids have griped about for many generations. And yet I somehow found time to read comic books and listen to records and play at playing guitar and do fanzines and write letters to friends and produce my own comic books and and assemble model kits and read for hours and rummage through bookstores and rebuild mimeograph machines and build campfires and throw a football with friends under the Marchmont streetlight and ride a home-made skateboard and a bike and walk to stores and walk in the woods to that secret place with the thirty-foot drop-off to the creek below and play putt-putt golf at the little course next to Dairy Queen and climb water towers on Watson Street that we had been told never to climb and talk on the phone so much that my parents finally got me my own phone line so that they could receive calls too...

Now I'm an adult. Tonight, I enjoyed my grown-up freedom by doing the weekly accounting work for my comic shop, preparing employee paychecks, preparing a big reorder, buying a few groceries, backing up some files, and in general wondering where all that freedom went. And every day and every night is similarly regimented.

How did I manage to do so many wonderfully fun things in my childhood while simultaneously feeling so overburdened and oppressed? Now, I'd love to have the same free time that I had back then. Each day, each week, each year seems to pass by a little more quickly than the one before, and I realize that I can't count on getting to all those fun things eventually, like I did when I was a kid.

So I get up a little earlier in order to have some time to read, or I sit down at the computer at midnight to squeeze out some "fun writing," or I read part of a Doc Savage novel on my phone while I'm walking through the neighborhood. And all the while, I realize that there is never any free time--not really. Every minute has six different claims against it, and I have to pick and choose what to do with those minutes. And every now and then, doing absolutely nothing is the best thing you can do with a few of those minutes...

But I'm realizing more and more that the fun things are as vital to me as the duties and responsibilities. So I'm making the time to listen to records and write my own stories and send emails to friends and play with vintage stereo equipment and look at comics and walk alongside the creek and read for the heck of it and talk to friends on the phone and rearrange books and watch TV and build a model kit and take a 2am walk just because I want to.

We never get the lives we thought we wanted. But that's not a bad thing, really. Sometimes we don't know enough to want the lives we eventually end up with. And other times, we're so busy living them that we don't realize that some of the things we wanted are still there, within reach.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Noteworthy Words

My childhood training to save dessert for last is so deeply ingrained that I always force myself to schedule the more enjoyable activities on my schedule at the end of the day, after I've taken care of the necessary but more tedious tasks.

Saturday is the day I do my almost-the-end-of-the-week accounting work--entering sales in the spreadsheet, entering checks (both those that I've written and automatic billpay payments) into the ledger, etc. I try to do that for Monday through Saturday so that the bulk of the work is done when I sit down on Sunday evening to enter the last day's data, write paychecks, and place my hefty Friday-Saturday-Sunday reorder with Diamond Comics Distribution.

Tonight, I was able to wrap all that up by 9pm or so, which meant that I had almost three solid hours to do what I really wanted to do: get back to the novel in progress. I was able to rework on section that I had written some notes on, then add 3000 more words to the manuscript before calling it quits for the night. Even better, as I'm nearing the end, all the various loose threads are resolving themselves quite satisfactorily, and now everything is right in line with the detailed outline I had already prepared for the last two major sequences. 

I called it quits tonight just as I wrote the last scene prior to the segment I've outlined. That means that, the next time I sit down to write, I will scroll to the beginning of the outline and begin fleshing it out in novel form.

Sometimes I think I must feel the same way as did the classical musicians that the Beatles brought in to fill in the chaotic orchestral sequence of "A Day in the Life." They were told that they were to play for 24 bars; they were to start on this low note; and they were to end on this high note. In between... well, that was up to them.  The resultant organized chaos is one of my favorite parts of the song, almost a musical metaphor for the two discordant lives depicted in the Lennon and McCartney segments of the song.

I knew where I was; I knew where I needed to be. I had to find the way to bridge the gap and get from point A to point B. Tonight, I hit the note.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Writer's Math

So far, I've written about 100,000 words of a 70,000 word novel. Still have about 10,000 words to go.

No, it's not a 110,000 word novel. I think it's still going to wrap up at 70,000  words, give or take a couple of thousand.

So where do all those extra words come from?

I took the scenic route, I guess. Even with an outline in front of me, I occasionally wander off course. I get ideas that I think will improve the story. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don't.

Several times, I've written a few thousand words and realized that I didn't like where this scene was going, or I didn't like what this was doing to the character... or I just didn't think any of those words really belonged in the book. So they went away. One entire 7,000 word sequence that sounded so good in my head was lifeless and static on the screen.

I intend to finish those last 10,000 or so words by the end of March. After that, I already know at least five things that have to be worked into the first segment of the book to foreshadow things that happen at the end of the book.

But at least the end is in sight.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 3/21/1966 to 3/27/1966

The spring remained slow and uneventful; like many small towns in the 1960s, Rome wasn’t a particularly busy place. Basketball was over, baseball had yet to start, and football was wrapping up its spring practice.

West Rome held their spring intra-squad football game on March 24th, pitting the Greens against the Whites. Coach Kennedy said that he had been both pleased and displeased with the team’s progress during spring practice; Kennedy said he was particularly concerned with the weakness of West Rome’s kicking game and the inconsistency of his offensive line.

The West Rome Music Department performed at the Tuesday afternoon meeting of the Rome Lions Club, which was held at the Forrest Hotel on Broad Street.

The city of Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce filed the paperwork to become a party to an April hearing regarding regularly scheduled flights from Chattanooga to Rome to Atlanta and back.Chattanooga spokesmen said the city had “a close community of interest with Rome” and that all three cities would benefit form regularly scheduled shuttle flights.

The draft continued to ramp up, with 111 men transported by bus to Atlanta on March 24th for pre-induction physicals. Mrs. Virginia Turpin, head of the Floyd Selective Service System, stressed that not all 111 would be drafted, but the physicals were being conducted to determine which (and how many) of the draft-eligible Romans might qualify for military service. The group included some childless married men; Mrs. Turpin said that she expected to add college students to the draft-eligible group by the end of the year.

Piggly Wiggly had shoulder roast for 69¢ a pound, fresh-baked pecan pies for 79¢ each, and vine ripe tomatoes for 19¢ a pound. Big Apple had Oscar Mayer bologna for 79¢ a pound, Stokely pineapple for 33¢ a can, and bananas for a dime a pound. Kroger had ground chuck for 69¢ a pound, Showboat pork and beans for 12¢ a can, and (in the strangest Kroger offering I’ve seen in the four years I’ve been doing this) a three-pack of  “Official Gary Player golf balls” for $1.33. (Kroger carried golf balls? Who knew?) A&P had Libby’s vienna sausage for 23¢ a can, cubed steak for 89¢ a pound, and Cheese Nips for a quarter a box.Couch’s  had ground beef for 33¢ a pound, lettuce for 15¢ a head, and Aristocrat ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon.

The cinematic week began with The Chase (with Marlon Brando) at the DeSoto and The Nanny (with Bette Davis) at the First Avenue. The mid-week switchout brought The Silencers (a Matt Helm film starring Dean Martin) to both the DeSoto and the West Rome Drive-In and The Ghost & Mr. Chicken (with former Andy Griffith show cast member Don Knotts) to the First Avenue.

The Dick Van Dyke Show filmed its final episode this week in 1966. The episode, which wouldn’t be seen until later in the spring, centered around Rob Petrie’s book of humorous incidents from his years as a television writer—a book that Alan Brady liked so much that he bought the rights for a television series.. In other words, the fictional character Rob’s book was destined to be the basis for a show about a TV writer and his boss, Alan Brady… in other words, The Dick Van Dyke Show! (How meta this was, at a time before the concept of metafiction had really entered the public lexicon!)

The medical drama Ben Casey aired its final episode this week in 1966.

For yet another week, Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler held off a charge by the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and others to keep his single “The Ballad of the Green Berets” at the top of the charts. Other top ten hits included “19th Nervous Breakdown” by the Rolling Stones (#2); “You’re My Soul & Inspiration” by the Righteous Brothers (#3); “Daydream” by the Lovin’ Spoonful (#4); “Homeward Bound” by Simon & Garfunkel (#5); “Nowhere Man” by the Beatles (#6); “California Dreaming’” by the Mamas & the Papas (#7); “These Boots Are Made for Walking” by Nancy Sinatra (#8); “Bang Bang” by Cher (#9); and “Sure Gonna Miss Her” by Gary Lewis & the Playboys (#10).

DC poked fun at the superhero craze with E. Nelson Bridewell & Joe Orlando’s Inferior Five, who made their first appearance in Showcase #62 (DC's rotating-feature tryout book) this week in 1965. The team consisted of a group of not-so-super heroes, including Merryman, Dumb Bunny, Blimp, Awkwardman, and White Feather. While not particularly clever or innovative, The Inferior Five nevertheless did well enough that it graduated to its own comic book series in the spring of 1967 after starring in two more Showcase tryout issues. And yes, I bought all of them—the Showcase and the Inferior Five issues. I was quite the omnivorous comics reader, you see…

It Was Thirty-Nine Years Ago Today...

...That Susan and I officially became residents of Cobb County.

For almost six years after we got married, we lived in Cedartown. Susan grew up there. I had family in Cedartown (and lived there for about two years in the late 1950s), so I was familiar with the town. It was a good place for us to begin our married life. Rent was cheap, costs were low, we had family nearby to help us out in a pinch, and we were able to survive on more-or-less one income. (Susan worked while I went to Berry College on scholarship; after I graduated, I worked while Susan got her certification in computer programming at Coosa Valley Tech.)

Susan got her first significant job offer from Management Science America (MSA) in early March of 1977. They needed her to start right away. So on March 11th, we came to Marietta and found an apartment on Franklin Road (which was, in 1977, not the dangerous place that it is now--it was, in fact, a desirable and trendy upscale area in Marietta). On March 14th, she began working at MSA; she stayed with our friend Larry Mason that first week. On March 16th and 17th, Gary Steele and Barry Hunter helped me box up all of our belongings at the house on Olive Street that Susan and I called home. And on March 18th, movers loaded up our belongings at took them to our apartment at 1029 Franklin Road. (I couldn't afford movers; my parents covered that cost as a moving present for us.)

I often think how different life might have been had Susan not taken that job. If she had found work in Rome or Cedartown instead, I never would have moved to Marietta. I never would have found Dr. No's Comics... so I never would have gone to work for Artie Decker, ordering comics for his store. As a result, he never would have offered to sell that store to me in 1982, and I most likely would never have gone into comics retailing.

I would have continued to teach at East Rome High School rather than taking a job at North Cobb High School. The many wonderful friends I made there would have remained strangers to me.

I never would have met Ward Batty. We would have never begun doing fanzines together. We would have never become partners in a comic shop. And we would have never started Comic Shop News.

I would have never met Charles Rutledge, who has since become my best friend. My life would have been the poorer because of that, and I think Charles's life might have been different as well.

Lanny Lathem. Brett Brooks. Randy Satterfield. Jim Moore. Lisa Fowler (now Lisa Huskey). Alan Huskey. Dave Johnson. Mark Bagley. Buck Turner. Tom Kater. Jared Miller. Julie Hadden. Whitney Donald. Jason Brewer. Sage Tipton. Matt Davidson. Amber Livesay. Jenni Pate. I would have never crossed paths with any of them.

Bob Wayne. Chris Powell. Steve Geppi. Herb McCaulla. Pat Henry. Carol Kalish. Steve Saffel. All of these people, and so many more, would have remained strangers to me, our lives never intersecting.

So many things are so very different now, all because of that job and the subsequent move. I sometimes wonder how my life might have been had we stayed in Rome. But I never, ever regret the move, or all the wonderful things it has brought into my life in the 39 years since.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 3/14/1966 to 3/20/1966

The big crime fifty years ago this week was stealing building supplies from the many homes under construction in Rome. The police reported burglaries of water heaters, ovens, ranges, light fixtures, bathroom cabinets, toilets, and various tools from sites on Burnett Ferry Road near Fellowship Baptist Church as well as on Black’s Bluff Road, Horseleg Creek Road, and in Garden Lakes.

The draft continued to call up more and more of Rome’s young men. Mrs. Virginia Turpin, director of the Floyd Selective Service office, said that the draft board would begin calling up childless married men for the draft at the end of March; until this time, married men were given an exemption from being drafted. Mrs. Turpin said there were no plans to draft married men with children in 1966, but did not rule out a change in that policy for 1967 or beyond.

Students got a day off from school on Friday, March 18th, so that teachers could attend the Georgia Education Association meeting in Atlanta. Of course, the reason why was unimportant to students—the only important thing was a Friday off!

West Rome got a new TV and radio repair shop this week in 1966 with the opening of Carnes Radio & TV at 615 Shorter Avenue. Of course, fifty years ago entertainment electronics were designed to be repaired… something all too rare today!

H&R Block was advertising their tax service with an illustration of an elephant and the caption “Even Elephants Can’t Remember All the Changes in the Income Tax Code!” So what was the going rate for having Block do you taxes? A whopping $5 for both federal and state forms!

Home Federal raised the bar on interests-bearing accounts by offering 4.5% interest on all accounts—savings or checking! Oh, if only we could find a bank that offered 4.5% interest today!…

BF Goodrich held the grand opening for their new store at 711 Broad Street. While we think of Goodrich as a tire store, back then they were a full service home electronics and appliance store, offering refrigerators, stoves, TVs, radios, stereos, small appliances, power tools, and much more.

Piggly Wiggly had cut up fryers for 33¢ a pound, russet potatoes for 8¢ a pound, and Lady Allen ice milk for 33¢ a half-gallon. Kroger had rump roast for 99¢ a pound, collard greens for 29¢ a bunch, and Gebhardt chili for 25¢ a can. A&P had Allgood bacon for 75¢ a pound, cantaloupes for 33¢ each, and Jane Parker fresh-baked apple pies for 39¢. Big Apple had tom turkey for 39¢ a pound, JFG coffee for 59¢ a pound and Heinz baked beans for a dime a can. Couch’s had smoked picnic ham for 49¢ a pound, Heinz ketchup for a quarter a bottle, and JFG peanut butter for 35¢ a jar.

The cinematic week began with Made in Paris (with Ann-Margret) at the Desoto Theater and The Great Race (with Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Natalie Wood) at the First Avenue. The midweek switch out brought The Chase (with Marlon Brando) to the DeSoto and Ten Little Indians (with Hugh O’Brian, Shirley Eaton, and Fabian) to the First Avenue. The West Rome Drive-In’s weekend offerings included Young Fury (with Rory Calhoun & Virginia Mayo) and The Man Who Could Cheat Death (a 1959 oldie with Christopher Lee and no one else you ever heard of).

Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler maintained his iron grip on number one in the Billboard charts with “The Ballad of the Green Berets.” Other top ten hits included “Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown” by the Rolling Stones (#2); “Nowhere Man” by the Beatles (#3); “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” by Nancy Sinatra (#4); “Homeward Bound” by Simon & Garfunkel (#5); “Daydream” by the Lovin’ Spoonful (#6); “California Dreaming” by the Mamas & the Papas (#7); “You’re My Soul and Inspiration” by the Righteous Brothers (#8); “Elusive Butterfly” by Bob Lind (#9); and “Listen People” by Herman’s Hermits (#10).

Barry Sadler also had the number one album this week in 1966 with The Ballad of the Green Berets. In other album news, Waylon Jenning released his first major-label album, Folk-Country, this week; the album marked his first collaboration with producer Chet Atkins.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 3/7/1966 to 3/13/1966

March of 1966 reminded us that winter was not yet over: the week was cold, with temperatures falling all the way to 18 degrees on Tuesday, March 8th. The cold came without accompanying precipitation, though, so life continued on as normal on the west side of town, and high climbed back to a more seasonal 57 by the end of the week.

The era of segregated schools was finally coming to an end: Rome City Superintendent Milton S. McDonald and Floyd County Superintendent Harold Lindsey said that, after meeting with a federal education official, they were informed that schools would have to be fully integrated by the beginning of the 1967 school year, and the system whereby Floyd County contracted to send all black students to Rome City Schools would have to come to an end. The faculties of the city and county schools would also have to be integrated. It’s hard to believe now that such a system still existed  in Rome in 1966, but apparently Floyd County had no system at all to educate black students, preferring instead to transport them to schools in the Rome system instead. The fact that it’s now a part of history is good… but the fact that it was still in existence in 1966 is a shame…

Georgia Secretary of State Ben Fortson came to West Rome High School for a special assembly program held on the morning of March 10th. Sponsored by the YMCA, the “Youth Wants to Know” program features presentations by local and state leaders on various themes; Mr. Fortson spoke on the theme of “Honesty and Integrity.”

Rome was still a manufacturing community in 1966, and manufacturing was going so strong that Trend Mills announced plans to add a 100,000 square foot addition to the Rome facility on Redmond Road. Plans called for the addition of another 120 jobs as a result of the building, boosting an already-strong economy.

Did you know that Floyd County was still “dry” in 1966? It was fifty years ago that a petition drive began to put the sale of alcoholic beverages within the county to a vote.The push stressed the fact that legal alcohol would be controlled alcohol, while the moonshine and bootleg liquor being sold in Floyd County at the time was uncontrolled, unregulated, and untaxed. As one might expect, the churches of the area immediately spoke out against the proposal… but all of us who lived in West Rome know that their opposition ultimately made no difference.

Piggly Wiggly had chuck roast for 45¢ a pound, tomatoes for 19¢ a pound, and Swift’s corned beef hash for 39¢ a can. Big Apple had hen turkeys for 45¢ a pound, a five pound of Dixie Crystals sugar for 39¢, and a two-pound bag of Ore-Ida frozen french fries for a quarter. Kroger had smoked hams for 49¢ a pound, medium eggs for 39¢ a dozen, and Morton frozen dinners for 33¢ each. A&P had ground beef for 45¢ a pound, strawberries for 35¢ a pound, and Surf detergent for 28¢ a box. Couch’s had ground steak for 69¢ a pound, baking potatoes for a nickel a pound, and Blue Plate mayonnaise for 33¢ a quart.

The cinematic week began with the Man from UNCLE film The Spy With My Face (with Robert Vaughn & David McCallum) at the DeSoto Theater and The Great Race (with Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, & Natalie Wood) at the First Avenue. The midweek switchout brought Made in Paris (with Ann-Margret) to the DeSoto, while The Great Race hung around for another week at the First Avenue. The West Rome Drive-In’s weekend film was The TNT Show, a musical performance feature that included rock acts, country performers, and more.

Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler’s grip on the number one slot continued as “The Ballad of the Green Berets” held that position for yet another week. Other top ten hits included “Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown” by the Rolling Stones (#2); “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” by Nancy Sinatra (#3); “Nowhere Man” by the Beatles (#4); “Elusive Butterfly” by Bob Lind (#5); “Listen People” by Herman’s Hermits (#6); “California Dreaming’” by the Mamas & the Papas (#7); “Homeward Bound” by Simon & Garfunkel (#8); “I Fought the Law” by the Bobby Fuller Four (#9); and “Daydream” by the Lovin’ Spoonful (#10).

Gold Key specialized in comics based on television shows, so it should be no surprise that The Wild Wild West #1 showed up on the comic book racks this week in 1966. Meanwhile, over at Marvel, Daredevil faced off against Spider-Man in Daredevil #16 (I always though of it as returning the favor, since they first crossed paths back in 1964 in Amazing Spider-Man #16), and Giant-Man (formerly Ant-Man) changed his monicker to Goliath in the pages of Avengers #28.