Friday, July 29, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 8/1/1966 to 8/7/1966

The push to improve airline service to and from Rome ramped up this week in 1966—and the difference in air travel fifty years ago and today is remarkable (and the modern-day changes are most definitely not positive ones). One of the biggest advantages of Rome to Atlanta air travel, according to the Rome Chamber of Commerce, was that a traveler could arrive at the airport at 12:40 to catch the 12:45 flight from Rome to Atlanta and be in Atlanta a half-hour later. “In less than 45 minutes, a traveler can complete a journey that would take more than two hours by car, and can relax and prepare for his business in Atlanta rather than traveling across one of Georgia’s most dangerous highways.” (Remember, I-75 ended near Cartersville, forcing travelers to make most of the journey down US 41, which was a very different road then than it is today.) Rome was pushing to have Eastern Airlines’ once-a-day-service contract cancelled and replaced by a  Southern Airways twice-a-day contract—but the Chamber of Commerce was adamant that daily flights between Rome, Atlanta, and Chattanooga were essential. Of course, with today’s arrive-two-hours-early requirements, flight delays, and more, that drive to Atlanta is far, far less time-consuming than any flight would be!

Rome’s first coffeehouse, Prometheus Bound, opened at the Art Gallery on Jackson Hill—but don’t think Starbucks. This coffeeshop, which was targeted towards customers in their late teens and early twenties, was your stereotypical 1960s beat-generation coffeehouse, complete with burlap covered tables, abstract sculptures, flickering candles, poetry recitations, folks musicians, painting demonstrations, dramatic monologues, modern interpretive dance performances, and more, complete with audience members who snapped their fingers to show approval rather than applauding. And you thought that things like this only happened on Dobie Gillis reruns… Maynard G. Krebs must have been so proud. (The Rome News-Tribune kindly refrained from pointing out that this sort of coffeehouse was already a popular culture clichĂ© in 1966. Of course, Rome wasn’t always on the cultural cutting edge…)

Chieftains Coach Paul Kennedy, who was tapped to coach the North team for the Georgia High School Association All-Star Football Classic, delivered on his promise to play a passing game—and his approach paid off big time, with the North team winning 22-0 in a game held at Georgia Tech’s Grant Field on Thursday, August 4th.

Rome City Schools announced that tax revenues were so strong that they would be able to add a $200 annual local pay raise for teachers to the state’s $200 pay raise. The combination of the two raises would push the base pay for a beginning teacher in the Rome City system to $4300.00 a year, with the average pay for a Rome City teacher coming in at almost $6000.00 a year. (Adjusted for inflation, this would be the equivalent today of $32,400 for beginning teachers and $45,000 as a systemwide average.) If teachers seemed a little bit happier when we started back to school in late August of 1966, now we know why!

Piggly Wiggly had fresh whole flyers for 27¢ a pound, Blue Plate mayonnaise for 49¢ a quart, and Northern bathroom tissue for 9¢ a roll. Kroger had baking hens for 37¢ a pound, tomatoes for 19¢ a pound, and medium eggs for 33¢ a dozen. A&P had stew beef for 69¢ a pound, strawberries for 39¢ a pint, and Ann Page coffee for 59¢ a pound Big Apple had chuck roast for 59¢ a pound, five pounds of Dixie Crystals sugar for 69¢, and Heinz pork & beans for 12¢ a can. Couch’s had Southern Maid sliced bacon for 69¢ a pound, Aristocrat ice milk for 33¢ a half-gallon, and Castleberry’s beef stew for 49¢ a can.

The cinematic week began with Lt. Robin Crusoe USN (with Dick Van Dyke) at the DeSoto Theatre and The Wild Angels (with Peter Fonda & Nancy Sinatra) at both the First Avenue Theatre and the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out brought Three on a Couch (with Jerry Lewis & Janet Leigh) to the First Avenue Theatre and yet another run of Stagecoach (the remake with Ann-Margret & Red Buttons) to the West Rome Drive-In, while Lt. Robin Crusoe USN hung around  at the DeSoto for another week.

The Lovin’ Spoonful took the number one slot this week with “Summer in the City.” Other top ten hits included “Li’l Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs (#2); “They’re Coming to Take Me Away Ha-Haa!” by Napoleon XIV (#3); “Wild Thing” by the Troggs (#4); “The Pied Piper” by Crispian St. Peters (#5); “I Saw Her Again” by the Mamas & the Papas (#6); “Sunny” by Bobby Hebb (#7); “Mother’s Little Helper” by the Rolling Stones (#8); “Somewhere My Love” by Ray Coniff & the Singers (#9); and “Sweet Pea” by Tommy Roe (#10).

The Beatles boycott was going strong this week in 1966, with Romans being urged to quit buying Beatles albums in response to John Lennon’s statement that “we’re more popular than Jesus now.” Some ministers in Rome were discussing a potential Beatles bonfire, similar to what had been done in Birmingham, but everything was still in the discussion stages.

On August 6th, 1966, Howard Cosell became the first major sports reporter to honor the former Cassius Clay’s request to be known as Muhammad Ali; until this time, most reporters had made a point of using the Cassius Clay name in direct conflict with Ali’s wishes. Once Cosell honored Ali’s request, however, most other reporters began to follow suit—which might explain why Cosell and Ali remained friends for the rest of Cosell’s life.

Spider-Man confronted the Avengers in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #3, a 72-pager published this week in 1966, while the modern-day Human Torch faced off against the Golden Age Human Torch in Fantastic Four Annual #4.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in Wset Rome - 7/25/1966 to 7/31/1966

 Summer is often a lazy time in the South, and this week in 1966 was no exception. Dental groups held meetings, government agencies talked budgets, and ambitious road plans were made (but never actually implemented)... but for most of us, we stayed out of the sun, sat in front of fans or air conditioners to keep as cool as possible, and even went to movies that we didn't particularly care about because the air conditioning was so good. A trip to Candler's Drugstore for a 5¢ one-scoop or 10¢ two-scoop ice cream was always a good way to beat the heat--or, for me, a 25¢ coconut milk shake with a couple of extra drops of coconut flavoring, because Mr. Candler remembered how much I liked coconut.

Rome’s hot summer continued, with daily highs in the mid to upper 90s and hardly any thunderstorms to break the heat.The one major thunderstorm that occurred that week came on Monday, July 25th, and it was so severe that it caused flooding of the creek behind Conn Street on Paris Drive. City officials promised that plans were underway to dredge and clear the creek to reduce flooding (even though some dredging had been done just a few years earlier, with only limited results).
This week in 1966, Coach Paul Kennedy began assembling his North Team for the Georgia High School All-Star Football Classic game, which was schedule for August 4th at Georgia Tech’s Grant Field. Coach Kennedy’s first action was to tap his coaching team, which included Chieftain coaches Nick Hyder and Robert Green, as well as Namon Wiseman from Armuchee. “We’re going to play a passing, kicking, and defensive game,” Coach Kennedy said. “ After looking at the South’s team, I believe we’ll be able to throw against the South’s pass defense easier than we can run against their running defense.” Since rules for the North-South game didn’t allow for alternates to be called up if any players were injured in practice, Coach Kennedy said that his practice sessions would avoid contact work—something that he wasn’t very happy about, since that wasn’t his typical practice strategy at West Rome.

Clearing continued on the Gala Shopping Center site this week in 1966, with grading progressing ahead of schedule due to a relatively dry summer. Developers were hopeful that this would mean that Gala would be able to open for business by the summer or fall of 1967.

Piggly Wiggly had fresh whole fryers for 29¢ a pound, Georgia grown peaches for a dime a pound, and Maxwell House instant coffee for $1.29 a jar. Kroger had ground beef for 45¢ a pound, applesauce for a dime a can, and A 20-pound bag of whit potatoes for 69¢. Big Apple had hen turkeys for 37¢ a pound, Banquet frozen TV dinners for 39¢ a pound, and bell peppers for a dime each. A&P had chuck roast for 37¢ a pound, cantaloupes for 39¢ each, and Campbell’s tomato soup for 15¢ a can. Couch’s had rib steaks for 79¢ a pound, Aristocrat ice milk for 34¢ a half-gallon, and Showboat pork & beans for 19¢ a can.

The cinematic week began with Around the World Under the Sea (with Lloyd Bridges & Shirley Eaton) at the DeSoto Theater; Munster Go Home (with Fred Gwynne & Yvonne DeCarlo) at the First Avenue, and The Trouble With Angels (with Hayley Mills) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out brought Lt. Robin Crusoe, USN (with Dick Van Dyke & Nancy Kwan) to the DeSoto Theater and The Wild Angels (with Peter Fonda & Nancy Sinatra) to the First Avenue and the West Rome Drive-In.

The Troggs took number one this week in 1966 with “Wild Thing.” Other top ten hits included “Li’l Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs (#2); “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful (#3); “The Pied Piper” by Crispian St. Peters (#4); “They’re Coming to Take Me Away Ha-Hah!” by Napoleon XIV (#5); “I Saw Her Again” by the Mamas & the Papas (#6); “Hanky Panky” by Tommy James & the Shondells (#7); “Sweet Pea” by Tommy Roe (#8); “Mother’s Little Helper” by the Rolling Stones (#9); and “Somewhere My Love” by Ray Connie & the Singers (#10).

The Association made their album debut this week in 1966 with And Then… Along Comes the Association, featuring such hits as “Along Comes Mary,” “Cherish,” and “Enter the Young.” Also debuting this week: Tim Hardin’s eponymous first album, which included his signature song “Reason to Believe.”

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 7/18/1966 to 7/24/1966

After many years of looking the other way, the City of Rome and the Rome Police Department decided to crack down on prostitution this week in 1966, with orders issued to close down two “houses of ill repute” operating in the Maple Street area of Rome. While not identified by name in the orders, one of these houses of prostitution was Peggy’s, which had attained near-legendary status by the mid-1960s and was perhaps one of the most famous (or should I say infamous) houses of prostitution in the US. The brothel was operated by Peggy Stone Snead; reports from her many satisfied customers indicate that she ran a very clean business—and in the very rare case that a client came down with any sort of sexually transmitted disease, Peggy actually covered the cost of medical treatment! Peggy’s had attained an international reputation by the 1960s, and the business operated virtually with impunity for decades, even though governmental and law enforcement officials knew of her operation. Rome businessmen praised Peggy’s business acumen, saying that she could have been successful running almost any other sort of business—but Peggy didn’t want to run any other sort of business. The push to close her brothel came as a result of an organized effort by Reverend Wayne Niederhuth and the Rome Ministerial Association, which sent a group letter demanding that the city close down both Peggy’s and a competing brothel operating just a couple of blocks away. The city finally issued a closing order on July 19th, instructing law enforcement officials to “enforce all laws, particularly those prohibiting prostitution and alleged vices.” For many Romans, it truly was the end of an era; although Peggy’s would continue limited operations for a few more years before her business was burned out in 1971, it never operated with the sort of tacit legal acceptance than it had until this time. While Peggy’s isn’t the sort of business that too many Romans would admit to visiting over the years, it undoubtedly enjoyed the support of many residents (including Chieftains) during its decades of operation.

In spite of continued criticism from West Rome residents, plans were on track to begin constructing a regional juvenile detention center in West Rome, on a tract just off Lavender Drive.

A study conducted by the Rome News-Tribune revealed that the most dangerous railroad crossing in Rome was located in West Rome, on Division Street. Nearby manufacturing buildings limited much of the view down the tracks, leading some drivers to attempt to cross when a train was too close; according to the Rome News, “a vehicle has to be almost on the middle of the crossing to get a clear northeasterly view because of a building obstruction.” In spite of the dangers and the fact that several collisions had occurred at the intersection (including one in the spring of 1966), there were no automated railroad crossing bars at the intersection—or at any intersections in Rome, according to the newspaper!

Burglars broke into the Western Auto Store in Westdale Shopping Center on Shorter Avenue on the night of July 21st, stealing a dozen guns—a mix of rifles, pistols, and shotguns. The burglars then drove across town and broke into the Western Auto store in Central Plaza, where they stole more than a dozen more guns. The burglars also made of with $50 cash from the West Rome store and $538 cash from the Central Plaza store. “Both burglaries were apparently pulled by the same person,” Detective Bill Terhune said. “They entered the building and left the same way at both places, and seemingly knew what they were doing.”

It may have been the middle of July, but the Rome City School System was already talking about the start of the school year. Thankfully, summer break was a bit more sacrosanct in 1966 than it is today, which is evidenced by the fact that the 1966-1967 school year wasn’t scheduled to start until August 29th! Nevertheless, the school system was already reminding students to begin their summer reading assignments now to ensure that they were ready for class when school started back!

Piggly Wiggly had whole fryers for 29¢ a pound, locally grown squash for 15¢ a pound, and whole watermelons for a 59¢ each. Kroger had pork loin roast for 59¢ a pound, bananas for a dime a pound. and a 12-ounce twin pack of Country Oven potato chips for 39¢. A&P had Swiss steaks for 65¢ a pound, Eight O’Clock coffee for 65¢ a pound, and a loaf of Ann Page bread for 25¢. Big Apple had sirloin steak for 89¢ a pound, American Beauty pork & beans for a dime a can, and Irvindale ice cream or sherbet for 49¢ a half-gallon.  Couch’s had center cut pork chops for 89¢ a pound, a 12-ounce jar of Maxwell House instant coffee for $1.39, and home-grown white corn for a nickel an ear.

The cinematic week began with Stagecoach (a remake starring Ann-Margret & Red Buttons) at the DeSoto Theater and Blindfold (with Rock Hudson & Claudia Cardinale) at both the First Avenue Theater and the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out brought Around the World Under the Sea (with Lloyd Bridges and Shirley Eaton, who was better known to many as the Golden Girl from the beginning of the James Bond film Goldfinger) to the DeSoto Theater and Munster, Go Home (with Fred Gwynn, Yvonne DeCarlo, & Al Lewis) to both the First Avenue and the West Rome Drive-In (pretty good reception for a film based on a critically panned TV series!).

The Troggs took number one this week in 1966 with “Wild Thing.” Other top ten hits included “Hanky Panky” by Tommy James & the Shondells (#2); “Li’l Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs (#3); “The Pied Piper” by Crispian St. Peters (#4); “I Saw Her Again” by the Mamas & the Papas (#5); “Hungry” by Paul Revere & the Raiders (#6); “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful (#7); “Sweet Pea” by Tommy Roe (#8); “Mother’s Little Helper” by the Rolling Stones (#9); and “Somewhere My Love” by Ray Connie & the Singers (#10).

The Byrds ventured from folk-rock into early proto-psychedelia with their album Fifth Dimension, which was released this week in 1966; the track list included “5D”, “Eight Miles High,” “Mr. Spaceman,” and “Captain Soul,” among others.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 7/11/1966 to 7/17/1966

The moment we were all waiting for finally arrived this week in 1966: groundbreaking began on Gala Shopping Center, the large Big K shopping center planned for the land directly across the street from West Rome High School. Shorter College had several students on site gathering some of the hundreds of fossils that were found as the large bulldozers began moving earth to prep the site. According to Professor Phillip Greear from Shorter College, “The huge earth moving machinery… expose in short time, and at no expense to the geologist, strata of earth deeper than an individual could hope to reach. The site was once the bottom of a great sea. And the rankest amateur can find fossil shells and plants there within minutes of reaching the area.” (For those of us lucky enough to attend West Rome High School after Gala Shopping Center opened, the addition of a major regional center in our back yard was a dream come true… and it offered tempting reasons to leave campus without permission at lunchtime!)

The City of Rome launched a pre-emptive strike to keep people interested in the downtown shopping area, though, by unveiling a beautification program that included planters, shrubbery, ivy, and more along the Broad Street corridor.

Shorter College launched its College Preview program for high school juniors/rising seniors who were in the top 10% of their junior class. The program allowed those students to take two summer courses at Shorter without paying any costs other than textbooks and supplies. If the student chose to attend Shorter, he or she would get full credit for the courses taken in this program. Twenty-nine area high school students took part in the program that summer, including West Rome’s very own Dianne Massey. (Berry College would start a similar program a year later; I remember it well, because I took part in the program in the summer of 1970.)

West Rome’s varsity cheerleaders took top honors at the Tennessee Tech Cheerleading School competitions; they also won the Spirit Award for three of the five days, competing against more than 75 other high school cheerleading squads. West Rome’s cheerleading squad included Susan Sprayberry, Janet Amspoker, Sylvia Brumbelow, Debbye Shannon, Elaine Freeman, Penny Andrews, April Garrison, Rita Robinson, & Susan Wade.

Vandals broke into Garden Lakes Elementary School and tried to set the facility on fire on Wednesday night, July 13th. The would-be arsonists tried to start fires in six different locations, including in the gymnasium, where the freshly-varnished floor was highly flammable. However, the arsonists didn’t actually try to set the varnished floor on fire; instead, they tried to start a fire in the trash cans, where it smoldered but did not flare up. (While Garden Lakes wasn’t a city school, it was still a place where many of us Chieftains went to school early on; I know that Jamie Cook and Kay Duffy were both at Garden Lakes with me, and I’m sure they weren’t the only ones!)

The Picnic Restaurant on 1900 Shorter Avenue suffered a break-in on Wednesday night. About $200 was stolen by thieves who broke in through the basement door.

Apparently a change in the soft drink market was big news in the 1960s: The Dr. Pepper Bottling Company (yes, Rome had its own Dr. Pepper Bottling Company back then!) was also the bottler of the ever-popular NuGrape Soda, and they got a lot of free publicity with the news that they were changing from a 6-ounce bottle to a 10-ounce bottle. (I drank NuGrape, but what i remember most about it was its incredible ability to stain almost anything an intense purple… including the teeth and lips of those of us who drank it!)

Rome endured a heat wave this week in 1966, with temperatures hitting the hundred degree mark on July 12th, 101 on July 13th, and 100 on July 14th.. Temperatures stayed in the upper 90s the rest of the week—and this was a time when most of us didn’t have central air conditioning! My family had one in-wall air conditioner in the living room, so we tended to gather there after dinner to watch TV and enjoy the coolness. When it was time to go to bed, though, box fans were the only cooling device available at my house—so I routinely slept about 12” away from a large fan that pushed the summer air straight at me all night long. It must have worked, because I have no memories of losing sleep because of excessive heat.

Piggly Wiggly had chuck roast for 39¢ a pound, home grown tomatoes for 19¢ a pound, and a two pound back of Gorton fish sticks for 39¢ (and boy, did I love fish sticks when I was a kid! It was one of those go-to things that I’d ask my parents to make for me if they were going out for dinner, or if they were cooking something that I didn’t like. In the latter case, of course, my request was typically refused—in the 1960s, kids weren’t consulted on the dinner menu, merely notified.) Kroger had Swiss steak for 69¢ a pound, cantaloupes for 33¢ each, and Kroger brand coffee for 49¢ a pound. Big Apple had smoked hams for 49¢ a pound, watermelons for 69¢ each, and Irvindale ice cream or sherbet for 49¢ a half-gallon. A&P had Porterhouse steak for 99¢ a pound, fresh-baked apple pies for 33¢ each, and seedless grapes for 29¢ a pound. Couch’s had whole fryers for 29¢ a pound, okra for 15¢ a pound, and a one-pound box of Dixie Belle saltines for 23¢.

The cinematic week began with The Russians Are Coming (with Carl Reiner & Eva Marie Saint) at the DeSoto Theater and Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number (with Bob Hope & Phyllis Diller) at both the First Avenue and the West Rome Drive-In. The Russians Are Coming hung around for the rest of the week, but the midweek switch out brought Blindfold (with Rock Hudson) to the First Avenue and a double feature of Four For Texas (with Dean Martin & Frank Sinatra) and Youngblood Hawk (with James Franciscus & Suzanne Pleshette) to the West Rome Drive-In.

A traffic-accident-of-a-game-show (you know--it's bad, but you can't help but look) began this week in 1966 when The Newlywed Game premiered on July 11th. Bob Eubanks was the host of this Chuck Barris production, which became famous for its frequent use of the euphemism “making whoopee”… as well as for the questionable and often embarrassing answers given by some of its guests. (A little bit of trivia: many assumed the theme song was performed by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, but it was actually written by Chuck Barris and recorded by the Trumpets OlĂ©, a group that imitated the stye of Alpert’s band but got paid a lot less.)

The Miss Universe Pageant was aired in color for the first time this week in 1966—but with only 15% of American homes having a color TV at this time, most of us didn’t notice any difference.

Tommy James & the Shondells claimed to the top of the charts this week in 1966 with “Hanky Panky.” Other top ten hits included “Wild Thing” by the Troggs (#2); “Li’l Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs (#3); “The Pied Piper” by Crispian St. Peters (#4); “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” by Dusty Springfield (#5); “Paperback Writer” by the Beatles (#6); “Hungry” by Paul Revere & the Raiders (#7); “Red Rubber Ball” by the Cyrkle (#8); “I Saw Her Again” by the Mamas & the Papas (#9); and “Sweet Pea” by Tommy Roe (#10).

The Silver Surfer, who had proven very popular in his initial appearances in Fantastic Four #s 48-50, returned in Fantastic Four #55 in a story that also involved Doctor Doom.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 7/4/1966 to 7/10/1966

More than 10,000 people turned out at Briggs-Hamler field and along the levee on Second Avenue to watch the third annual July 4th fireworks display. What they saw was a little less than what was planned, however, because five of the twelve boxes of fireworks that the city of Rome had ordered failed to arrive on time, including almost all of the ground displays. “The important thing, though, is that the people—particularly the kids—still seemed to enjoy it,” Rome Recreation Department Director Walt Attaway said. Many of the aerial fireworks could be seen from West Rome, although a levee seat offered the best view.

Camp Gazelle Dew, the Girl Scout camp in northern Floyd County, was closed this week in 1966 because of “lake issues.” The lake had turned murky greenish-brown due to an algae bloom, and the smell was described as a combination of rotten eggs and dead fish—probably caused by the presence of copper sulphate in the water (as well as—you guessed it—dead fish). Girl Scout troops were being re-routed to Camp Pine Acres on Lake Allatoona instead.

The ongoing legal war against bootleggers and moonshiners heated up this week in 1966 after a still was found of Martens Bend Road… but this wasn’t just any still. This 2,000 gallon unit utilized a repurposed tank previously used to store a poisonous compound that would be particularly volatile in alcohol. A test of the moonshine revealed high levels of both poison and fertilizer—high enough that it could prove fatal.

We certainly paid a lot for our photographic memories in the 1960s: a Polaroid Type 104 color camera was on sale for $49.95 at Enloe’s Recall Drug Stores this week in 1966, with a ten-pack of film available for $5.99. That’s the equivalent of $375 for the camera and $45 for the film, adjusted for inflation—and if you remember the mediocre quality of a Polaroid print in the 1960s, you know that this was a hefty sum to pay for photographic instant gratification!

Piggly Wiggly had fresh whole fryers for 29¢ a pound, Tetley tea bags for 59¢ a box, and ten pounds of new red potatoes for 39¢. Big apple had ground beef for 45¢ a pound, lettuce for a dime a head, and tomatoes for 19¢ a pound. A&P had chuck roast for 33¢ a pound, seedless grapes for 29¢ a pound, and a massive four-pound container of Sultana peanut butter for $1.49. Kroger had round steak for 79¢ a pound, nectarines for 33¢ a pound, and Stockily green beans for 20¢ a can. Couch’s had pork chops for 59¢ a pound, Maxwell House instant coffee for 79¢ a jar, and Old Favorite ice milk for 33¢ a half-gallon.

The cinematic week began with Nevada Smith (with Steve McQueen) at both the DeSoto Theatre and the West Rome Drive-In and Big Hand for the Little Lady (with Henry Fonda) at the First Avenue. The midweek switchout emphasized laughs with The Russians Are Coming (with Carl Reiner & Eva Marie Saint) a the DeSoto and Boy Did I Get a Wrong Number (with Bob Hope, Elke Sommer, & Phyllis Diller) to both the First Avenue and the West Rome Drive-In. Before the movie started on Thursday night, though, the West Rome Drive-In hosted an hour-long musical performance by the Nightriders. (A concert at the West Rome Drive-In? I don’t remember it, but apparently it took place!)

Tommy James & the Shondells took the number one slot this week in 1966 with “Hanky Panky.” Other top ten hits included “Wild Thing” by the Troggs (#2); “Red Rubber Ball” by the Cyrkle (#3); “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” by Dusty Springfield (#4); “Paperback Writer” by the Beatles (#5); “Strangers in the Night” by Frank Sinatra (#6); “Along Comes Mary” by the Association (#7); “Little Girl” by the Syndicate of Sound (#8); “Li’l Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs (#9); and “Hungry” by Paul Revere & the Raiders (#10).

The summer of ’66 was an amazing time to be a comics fan. A year prior, Jules Feiffer’s The Great Comic Book Heroes had spotlighted some of the remarkable comics heroes of the 1930s and 1940s, and that had apparently inspired several publishers to bring back some of those bygone heroes. Marvel had added Golden Age Captain America, Human Torch, and Sub-Mariner reprints to their Fantasy Masterpieces and Marvel Super-Heroes books; Harvey Comics relaunched Will Eisner’s The Spirit for a short-lived comics run; DC brought back Golden Age heroes like The Spectre in new solo tales; Dell resurrected The Lone Ranger and reinvented the Bram Stoker’s vampire as a superhero in Dracula; Gold Key turned to the classic pulps for Doc Savage and G-8 & His Battle Aces; and Charlton… well, Charlton went in a slightly different direction with reprints of Gorgo and Konga (but at least they featured Steve Ditko art—and since he had left Marvel a few months earlier, Charlton was one of the few places we could see Ditko’s distinctive linework!).

Of course, 1966 was the year that Marvel really began to dominate the comics market. Jack Kirby was doing some of the best work of his career in Fantastic Four and Thor, John Romita was revitalizing Spider-Man, and the whole Marvel line was coalescing into a sort of linked universe the likes of which readers hadn’t seen before. DC, driven by the success of Batman, had decided to get campy with “go-go checks” atop every book (at least they were easy to spot on those “Hey Kids! Comics” wire spinner racks back then!), but their books raged from the almost silly to the amazingly adventurous. Tower’s THUNDER Agents, Dynamo, and No-Man offered a continuity-driven superhero universe alternative to Marvel—and with Wally Wood as their primary illustrator, they had some of the best-looking books on the stands. And Warren Magazines was reinventing the horror comic, with contributions from creators like Frank Frazetta, Al Williamson, Alex Toth, Joe Orlando, Reed Crandall, George Evans, Otto Binder, Archie Goodwin, Gray Morrow, Steve Ditko, Gene Colan, and John Severin. Their magazines equalled—and perhaps even surpassed—the classic EC Comics of the 1950s.

And if comics weren’t enough, it was also a great time for heroic adventure paperbacks. Doc Savage was so popular that Bantam accelerated the publishing schedule from quarterly to bi-monthly in mid-1966, meaning that we could get a new adventure of Doc and his aides (complete with a stunning new cover painting by James Bama) every other month. Lancer Books had brought in Frank Frazetta (whose distinctive style was evident on many of the Creepy and Eerie covers) to supply the cover painting for Conan the Adventurer, the first offering in a series of paperback compilations of the Conan stories by Robert E. Howard (along with Lin Carter, L. Sprague de Camp, and Bjorn Nyberg). Belmont Books (a division of Archie Comics) continued their original series of Shadow novels, reinventing the Shadow as a master of espionage. And Ballantine Books expanded their Tolkien library with the first US paperback editions of The Hobbit and The Tolkien Reader.

I remember making regular trips to Wyatt’s and Liberty Newsstand on Broad Street in the summer of 1966, accompanied by my friend Gary Steele, as we searched out the latest paperback releases and the new comics that we couldn’t find at Couch’s Grocery, Conn’s Grocery, Candler’s Drugstore, Hills Grocery, Hunt’s Drugstore, the Handee Shop, or the EZ Shop in West Rome. Liberty Newsstand was the only store that got every comic in 1966 (and they sometimes sold out of a book very quickly); the various groceries and drugstores got only a random selection of titles, which meant that frequent treks to Broad Street were essential.

For me, the problem was finding a way to pay for it all—and finding a place to put it in a  10 1/2’ x 12’ room with one small folding-door closet!