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.


paul howley said...

I'm NOT trying to nit-pick your extremely enjoyable columns, but as a fellow blogger, I hope that our blogs will be around for people to enjoy for decades! With that thought in my mind, I assume you want corrections. Anyway, I'm pretty sure you MEANT to write "with impunity" NOT "without impunity", right?

Cliff Biggers said...

I appreciate you catching the mistake, Paul!