Friday, June 17, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 6/20/1966 to 6/26/1966

Peter Graham once wrote, “The Golden Age of science fiction is twelve.” For me, this was not only true of SF, but also of television and comic books and music. The summer of 1966 was perhaps the best year of my childhood, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I was twelve years old, which was old enough to stay up late, but too young to get a part-time job; old enough to watch pretty much anything on TV, but young enough to enjoy comics and monster models and toys in the days when those items seemed to have an upper age limit as far as many people were concerned. And oh, how I enjoyed comics and monster models and toys and television during that summer! During the week, I usually got up by 8:00 or so—just in time to watch Cartoon Carnival on Channel 11 (WAII) out of Atlanta, then switch over to Cartoon Time on Channel 12 (WDEF) out of Chattanooga. Then it was Andy Griffith and Dick Van Dyke on Channel 5 (WAGA)—at which point Mom was usually so tired of my sister Kim and me watching teevee that she sent us outside to play. Once we stepped out the door, Kim and I went our separate ways; we could watch television together, but that was the extent  of our shared interests that summer! I usually got back home by 3:30 in the afternoon to watch You Don’t Say, followed by The Match Game, with Mom and Dad, since Dad usually got home from work by about 3:30 or so (one of the advantages of his newspaper job—he went in incredibly early, by 6am or so, but he got him earlier as a result). We ate dinner at about  5pm, at which point I’d go back outside to hang out with my best friend Gary Steele, or with John & Jimmy Ball.

The weekends were still special for a teevee and monster-movie fan like me, since Friday Night was the right for Channel 5’s Big Movie Shocker, hosted by Atlanta’s very own horror host Bestoink Dooley. Saturdays mornings were filled with cartoons and old movies—I would actually get up early to see the Tarzan movie on Saturday morning, or the latest chapter of the Flash Gordon serial, or a pair of Three Stooges shorts, followed by the Jetsons, Atom Ant, Secret Squirrel, The Beatles (yes, I watched their cartoon show every week!), Top Cat, and Magilla Gorilla. Saturday night and Sunday morning were mostly television wastelands, although I did sit through a few episodes of Gumby & Pokey or Davy and Goliath n Sunday mornings.  And I almost always had a comic book to read through at the same time—I was a multi-tasker even as a kid, apparently! And I had almost two and a half months of television watching, comic book reading, and model kit building before school started back in late August!

This was a slow news week in 1966; the local highlight of the week involved the loss of one of Rome’s best-known homes. One of Rome’s oldest continuously-occupied residences, Hillcrest on River Avenue, burned to the ground on Wednesday, June 22nd. Firemen from three different companies, including West Rome, were called in to fight the blaze; the firemen remained on duty until 6:30 am Thursday morning, but were unable to save the home. Fire Chief Lindsey Ford said that they were hampered by the large number of spectators (estimated at well over a hundred) who came to see the historic site as it burned. “They just interfered with us in general,” Chief Ford said. “We couldn’t keep them away from the fire. They were in too close. They also interfered when we tried to give first aid to a fireman. The home, originally built in the early 1890s by Arthur Tedcastle, was occupied by the J. Meredith Graham family; the Grahams were staying at their summer house in Ontario at the time of the fire, but were notified by phone.

The cinematic week began with In Harm’s Way (with John Wayne & Kirk Douglas) at the DeSoto, A High Wind in Jamaica (with Anthony Quinn & James Coburn) at the First Avenue, and a double feature of Beach Blanket Bingo (with Annette Funicello & Frankie Avalon) and Susan Slade (with Troy Donahue & Connie Stevens) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out brought Arabesque (with Gregory Peck & Sophia Loren) to the Desoto, Maya (with Clint Walker & Jay North) to the First Avenue, and a triple feature of Donovan’s Reef (with John Wayne & Lee Marvin), Blue Hawaii (with Elvis Presley), and Diamond Head (with Charlton Heston) to the West Rome Drive-In.

Piggly Wiggly had round steak for 79¢ a pound, cabbage for a nickel a head, and a case of Coca-Cola, Tab, or Sprite for 99¢ plus deposit. Kroger had baking hens for 37¢ a pound, creamed corn for 20¢ a can, and bananas for a dime a pound. A&P had boneless brisket for 89¢ a pound, ripe tomatoes for a quarter a pound, and Campbell’s tomato or vegetable soup for 15¢ a can. Big Apple had ground beef for 37¢ a pound, Banquet frozen cream pies for 24¢ each, and Irvindale ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon. Couch’s had pork roast for 59¢ a pound, 24 ounce bottles of Stockily catsup for a quarter, and  Bama strawberry preserves for 39¢ (and when you finished the preserves, you could use the jar as a drinking glass—this was one of Bama’s advertising pitches in the 1960s, and I know it worked for my family, since I drank out of many former jelly jars in my childhood!).

Frank Sinatra finally got his solo number one this week in 1966 with “Strangers In the Night.” Other top ten hits included “Paperback Writer” by the Beatles (#2); “Red Rubber Ball” by the Cyrkle (#3); “Pain It, Black” by the Rolling Stones (#4); “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” by Dusty Springfield (#5); “Hanky Panky” by Tommy James & the Shondells (#6); “Cool Jerk” by the Capitals (#7); “I Am a Rock” by Simon & Garfunkel (#8); “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?” by the Lovin’ Spoonful (#9); and “Barefootin’” by Robert Parker (#10).

(And speaking of “Paint It, Black”… Someone dropped me a note last week to ask why I
keep putting a comma in that title, since it’s obviously grammatically incorrect since I’m not telling someone named Black to paint something. Well, ,I put the comma there because that was the name of the song in 1966! Nowadays it’s listed as “Paint It Black,” but the original single and album release included the comma in the title. Some have said it was just a Decca Records error, but that error seemed to have made its way around the world in 1966, with pretty much every label in every country including the comma.)

Those of us in the United States got a new Beatles album this week in 1966 with the release of Yesterday and Today, an “odds and ends” album including tracks from British LPs that had been left off their US equivalents, along with singles and three cuts from the not-yet-released Revolver album. The songs were great
regardless of their lineage, but the album cover generated some controversy: the original cover depicted the Beatles in white butcher’s coats accompanied by decapitated baby dolls and assorted slabs of meat. That was considered too disturbing for 1966, so the cover was replaced with the more traditional “Paul in a trunk with the other lads around him” photo. A few of the original covers got out, of course—and dos have money, Capital just pasted the new cover over a number of copies of the finished album with the old cover, inspiring some collectors to carefully peel the new cover to reveal the socially incorrect original photo. Today the original album covers demand a very high price indeed--but the market has been flooded with so many counterfeit and bootleg versions of the cover that many people assume they have a valuable rarity when they really just have a cheap knockoff.

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