Friday, August 26, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 8/29/1966 to 9/4/1966

Forget what the calendar said: West Rome students knew that summer was definitely over as of August 29th, because they were sitting in a desk inside a classroom at the old alma mater (along with almost 6400 hundred other students at various other schools in the Rome City system). And of course, right on schedule, the temperature climbed to almost 90 degrees for the first day of school—and as uncomfortable as 90 degrees is today, it was even moreso in 1966, since West Rome had no air conditioning.

Rome got its first voting machines this week in 1966, setting up a demonstration machine at the county courthouse and another at the municipal auditorium so that interested citizens could come by and familiarize themselves with the new machines prior to the November elections. These weren’t computerized machines; instead, they simply used an automated punch system to mark the ballot (which would eventually give birth to the “hanging chad” phenomenon of the 2000 election).

West Rome’s football season was already facing challenges this week in 1966. Even before the first game. Starting quarterback Jimmy Culberson, who was injured during drills, came off the injured list for one day, only to be put on the sick list the next day because of a severe respiratory infection. This forced Coach Paul Kennedy to move Greg Quinton (who was previously known for his performance as a corner linebacker) to the quarterback position. “We were trying to get two teams ready to play against Dalton,” Coach Kennedy said, “but we’ve thrown that plan out the window and now we hope to get one team ready.” Coach Kennedy had high hopes for Friday’s season opener against Dalton, mentioning the impressive running of Roger Weaver.

In spite of the team's challenges, West Rome managed to avoid a defeat—but they didn’t rack up a victory, either Instead, they played Dalton to a 0-0 tie on Friday Night, September 2nd. While the Chieftains didn’t manage to score, Coach Kennedy said that he was nevertheless quite impressed with the running of Roger Weaver and Johnny Rimes.

West Rome graduates looking for a job in Rome were undoubtedly happy to hear that United Parcel Service was hiring for their new operation in Georgia. UPS announced plans to open a Rome facility, and they were offering $2.50 per hour starting pay, with a raise to $2.70 an hour after 90 days, with no prior delivery experience needed. (Remember that the inflation multiplier is 7.43, so the starting salary that UPS was offering for new drivers would equal about $18.50 an hour today.) Oh, what a different a robust economy and very low unemployment made insofar as competitive wages were concerned!...

Underscoring how different things were a half-century ago: the first bale of cotton for the 1966 season arrived on the Rome market on Tuesday, August 30th, and it was such a big deal that it actually earned a story on the main local news page of the Rome News-Tribune. The bale was grown in Horton, Alabama, ginned in Centre Alabama, weighed 510 pounds, grown from Carolina Queen cotton seed, and was received at the Georgia Alabama Warehouse on East Fourth Street, where it went up for auction on Saturday morning, September 3rd.  Can you imagine anyone today dedicating this level of attention to the arrival and sale of a bale of cotton?

Piggly Wiggly had ground chuck for 69¢ a pound, tomatoes for a quarter a pound, and Sealtest sherbet for 39¢ a half-gallon. Kroger had Butterball turkeys for 39¢ a pound, Chase & Sunburn coffee for 69¢ a pound, and bananas for a dime a pound. A&P had fresh whole fryers for 29¢ a pound, seedless grapes for 19¢ a pound, and Poss’s beef stew for 53¢ a can. Big Apple had spare ribs for 39¢ a pound, corn for 6¢ an ear, and Coca-Cola or Tab or Sprite for 29¢ a six-pack (plus deposit). Couch’s had sirloin steak for 89¢ a pound, squash for a dime a pound, and Double-Cola for 69¢ a case (plus deposit).

The cinematic week began with The
Glass Bottom Boat (with Doris Day & Rod Taylor) at the DeSoto Theatre and the West Rome Drive-In, and Emil & the Detective (with Walter Slezak) at the First Avenue Theatre. The midweek switch out brought What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? (with James Coburn & Dick Shawn) to the DeSoto Theatre, Born Free (the wonderful lion movie with Virginia McKenna & Bill Travers) to the First Avenue, and Sergeants Three (with Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin) at the West Rome Drive-In.

The Supremes took the number one slot this week in 1966 with “You Can’t Hurry Love.” Other top ten hits included “Sunshine Superman” by Donovan (#2); “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles (#3); “See You in September” by the Happenings (#4); “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful (#5); “Land of 1000 Dances” by Wilson Pickett (#6); “Sunny” by Bobby Hebb (#7); “Workin in the Coal Mine” by Lee Dorsey (#8); “Bus Stop” by the Hollies (#9); and “Guantanamera” by the Sandpipers (#10).  (I can never hear that song without remembering the musical spoof “One Ton Tomato.”)

Rock had yet to take control of the album charts, however: The Beatles’ Revolver was the best-selling album this week in 1966, but the next four slots were held by the Doctor Zhivago soundtrack (#2); What Now My Love by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (#2); Somewhere My Love by Ray Conniff (#4); and The Sound of Music soundtrack (#5).

And on the other side of the country, The Beatles performed their last concert (unless you want to count a rooftop performance on the Apple building that was filmed for their Let It Be documentary) on August 29th, 1966, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

Steve Ditko, who had left Amazing Spider-Man and Marvel Comics a few months earlier, introduced a new hero with some very Spidey-esque moves this week in 1966 in the pages of Captain Atom #83. Ditko’s Blue Beetle was nothing like the Blue Beetle who had appeared in years past; this character, clad in a distinctive costume redesigned by Ditko, was a successful inventor with all sorts of gadgets, including a high-tech flying Beetle aircraft that he referred to as “Bug.” While he wisecracked like Spider-Man, Ted Kord lacked the angst that defined Peter Parker.

No comments: