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 Olé, 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.