Friday, June 24, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 6/27/1966 to 7/3/1966

Last week I mentioned my morning television viewing habits in the summer of 1966—but evening and prime time viewing was a different experience back in 1966, too. Nowadays, news junkies can watch news 24-7 if they feel so inclined, but in the 1960s, news was relegated to a rather tight schedule. The three Atlanta VHF stations (2, 5, & 11) and the three Chattanooga VHF stations (3, 9, & 12) each offered a mix of local news and network news. Some channels offered a half-hour of each, while others (Channel 11, for instance) offered 15 minutes of each. Channel 5 opted not to run the CBS network news with Walter Cronkite at all, preferring instead to fill the time with syndicated programming instead. Prime time broadcasts started a half-hour earlier in the 1960s, at 7:30, but that still meant that local stations had  more time slots to fill.

Early afternoon schedules were filled with a mix of syndicated talk shows (Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas), local kids shows (Officer Don and The Popeye Club on WSB Channel 2 in Atlanta, Bob Brandy on WTVC Channel 9 in Chattanooga), and a variety of reruns (Leave It To Beaver, Superman, Maverick, Cisco Kid, Lone Ranger, and so on). Then prime time kicked in—but the summer was the season for reruns, not new programming. Of course, that didn’t stop me from watching television; I was more than willing to sit through shows I had seen just a few months earlier, of course. The concept of summer series and miniseries was pretty much unheard of in the 1960s; instead, the networks would pick the best 13 or so episodes from the prior season (most seasons ran 39 episodes, so there was plenty to choose from) and fill their schedule with those reruns. Local news began at 11pm and ran for 15 minutes (Channel 9), 20 minutes (Channel 12), 25 minutes (Channel 11), or a full half-hour (everyone else). At that point, some channels ended their broadcast day; other channels offered a syndicated movie, while Channels 2 & 3 (our  NBC affiliates back then) offered The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. By 1am, though, the television day was done, and the test pattern would be out only viewing option until it all started over the next morning.

Of course, during the school year, I never got a chance to see the end of the television broadcast day—but in the summer, everything was different! I would stretch out in the floor of our living room and watch TV with my parents (usually reading comics at the same time) until about 10pm, when I was supposed to go to bed… but with school out, bedtime was pretty lax. Instead, I’d get ready for bed, then go to my room, turn off the lights and turn on my portable black-and-white TV, and watch Johnny Carson until the broadcast day ended (or until I dozed off, which happened fairly regularly. Then, on the nights when I actually stayed awake until the end of The Tonight Show, I’d turn the TV off, turn on the box fan that sat about a foot away from my bed, and let it blow the humid Southern summer air across me to provide whatever small bit of cooling it could. Like most everyone, we didn’t have whole-house air conditioning back then, so we did what most everyone else did in the summer—we got by.

Oh so close!… Rome nearly landed direct flights to and from Washington DC this week in 1966… until Eastern Airlines muscled the Civil Aeronautics Board to deny the Southern Airways bid, claiming that they were interested in expanding their once-a-day flight service to Atlanta with two-a-day north and south flights to Atlanta and Chattanooga.

The state of Georgia accepted bids for a juvenile detention home to be constructed in West Rome; the plans called for construction of a $200,000+ facility with space for 30 juvenile detainees. West Romans expressed concern about  the location of the facility, but it seemed that those concerns fell on deaf ears.

How good was the economy in the mid-1960s? So good that, once the 1965 books were audited and closed, the City of Rome posted a profit of $52,000 and Floyd county posted a profit of $138,000. Property taxes were primarily responsible for the profits; both the city and county intended to roll the surplus forward and reduce the tax millage rate for the next year.

And what a great time for savers—both Rome Bank & Trust and National City Bank boosted their savings certificates rate to 5.1%, while pretty much every bank in Rome was paying 5% for savings accounts.

Piggly Wiggly had spare ribs for 49¢ a pound, whole watermelons for 69¢ each, and Sealtest sherbet for 33¢ a half-gallon. Big Apple had fresh whole fryers for 29¢ a pound, Dixie Chef pork & beans for a dime a can, and Oak Hill pickled peaches for 19¢ a can (there was a limit of four cans per customer at this price—was that really necessary? Were there people who tried to stock up whenever pickled peaches went on sale?). A&P had Super-Right hickory smoked hams for 45¢ a pound, Pillsbury canned biscuits for 9¢ a can, and a 12-ounce can of spam for 53¢. Kroger had cubed steaks for 99¢ a pound, Morton’s frozen cream pies for a quarter each, and Hormel vienna sausages for 20¢ a can. Couch’s had ground beef for 45¢ a pound, Aristocrat ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon, and fresh okra for 13¢ a pound.

Rome’s cinematic week began with Arabesque (with Gregory Peck & Sophia Loren) as the DeSoto Theater, Maya (with Jay North & Clint Walker) at the First Avenue, and a double feature of And Now Miguel and Out of Sight (neither of which has any cast members of any significance) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out brought Nevada Smith (with Steve McQueen) to the DeSoto, The Singing Nun (with Debbie Reynolds) to the First Avenue, and an offbeat double feature of Beach Ball (with Ed “Kookie” Burnes) and Las Vegas Hillbillies (with Jayne Mansfield & Ferlin Husky) at the West Rome Drive-In.

Soap operas turned towards the dark and gothic this week in 1966 with the debut of Dark Shadows on ABC on June 27th. The show struggled for its first year until the vampire Barnabas Collins was introduced in 1967.  And in a sign that even the networks realized that there was something special about this series, every episode (except one) of the horror soap opera was preserved, which is why you can buy (almost) complete sets of the series if you want to relive the creepy fun. (You can watch Barnabas all you want—I’ll keep an eye on Angelique, thank you very much…)

The Beatles once again took the number one slot, this time with “Paperback Writer.” Other top ten hits included “Red Rubber Ball” by the Cyrkle (#2); “Strangers in the Night” by Frank Sinatra (#3); “Hanky Panky” by Tommy James & the Shondells (#4); “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” by Dusty Springfield (#5); “Wild Thing” by the Troggs (#6); “Cool Jerk” by the Capitals (#7); “Little Girl” by the Syndicate of Sound (#8); “Paint It, Black” by the Rolling Stones (#9); and “Along Comes Mary” by the Association (#10).

This is also the week that the world was introduced to the weirdness of Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention, thanks to the release of their debut album, Freak Out!

Following not he popularity of their Captain America Golden Age reprints, Marvel reprinted a Golden Age battle between the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner in Marvel Super-Heroes Annual #1, which also reprinted Daredevil #1 and Avengers #2. The latter two books were only two-and-a-half years old and  three years old respectively at the time that Marvel Super-Heroes was released—but the inclusion of a Golden Age tale more than a quarter-century old made this a true event!  (And in an odd coincidence, two of those stories—the Daredevil tale and the Sub-Mariner/Human Torch tale—were drawn by the very same talented illustrator, Bill Everett!)

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