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!

No comments: