Friday, November 25, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 11/28/1966 to 12/4/1966

Santa and his reindeer touched down in Rome on November 28th, headlining the Rome Christmas Parade that began at Barron Stadium, progressed up Broad Street, and ended at the City Auditorium. The West Rome Marching Band, under the direction of Charles Davis, took part in the festivities. An estimated 5000 people showed up for the parade and the lighting of the Christmas tree on the lawn of the City Auditorium.

West Rome’s basketball program was as “green” as the coaches had feared: both the girls team and the boys team lost to Lafayette on Friday night, December 2nd.

Coosa Valley Vocational Technical School continued to grow—and that meant that more classrooms were needed. The Floyd County Board of Roads and Revenue finally approved that expansion this week in 1966, allotting $327.928 to add 19,000 square feet to the facility, including at least a dozen classroom. Fifteen full-time instructors would be also needed to meet the growing demand. The expansion would make it possible for Coosa Valley Tech to serve twice as many students.

Eastern Airlines’ efforts to pull their airline service out of the Rome airport were stymied for a few more years by the Civil Aeronautics Board, which ruled that Eastern had to continue honoring its commitment to offer two flight circuits a day—one to Atlanta and one to Chattanooga.

Color television prices continued to drop, while the televisions were getting larger: Rome Radio Company had a 25” RCA Victor color TV in a Mediterranean styled wooden console cabinet for $695, or a contemporary styled TV/Radio/Phono console unit for $890.00. Savage TV offered a 25” Westinghouse color TV for $598.00, while Sears had a General Electric color TV in a traditional maple cabinet for $648. (Yeah, that’s a lot of money compared to today’s prices—that would equal about $4500-$5000 for a 25” TV, adjusted for inflation—but it was still a 15% drop in price over the year before, along with a 2” larger screen (measured diagonally, of course).

Rome Radio, Chastain Radio, and Camera & Craft were also pushing an RCA portable reel to reel tape recorder for $39.95. “No letter to write,” the ad posted. “You can talk and then send your voice to a loved one.” The recorder came with a dozen personal sized reel to reel tapes and a dozen mailing boxes to make it easy for you to send your recordings to family members. (I got a portable reel to reel recorder for Christmas 1966, but I didn’t use it to send messages to friends. Instead, I would diligently hold the microphone near the television speaker in an effort to create a library of audio recordings of my favorite television shows. Needless to say, the quality was less than stellar…)

Piggly Wiggly had Seminole brand bacon for 49¢ a pound, Swfit’s premium bologna for 39¢ a pound, and lettuce for 19¢ a head. Kroger had ground beef for 39¢ a pound, Sealtest ice cream for 79¢ a half-gallon (a major price jump over the 49¢ price they offered the previous holiday season!), and Pepsi Cola for 27¢ a carton plus deposit. A&P had rib roast for 75¢ a pound, Bama pear preserves for 29¢ a jar, and Blue Plate mayonnaise for 49¢ a quart. Big Apple had ground round for 77¢ a pound, Maxwell House coffee for 59¢ a pound, and grapefruit for 9¢ each. Couch’s had Tip Top roasting chickens for 29¢ a pound, Double Cola for 89¢ a case, and a five-pound bag of Dixie Crystals sugar for 39¢.

The cinematic week began with Spinout (with Elvis Presley) at the DeSoto Theatre and Born Free (with Virginia McKenna) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out brought Texas Across the River (with Dean Martin & Joey Bishop) to the DeSoto and Poppy Is Also a Flower (with Stephen Boyd & Yul Brynner) to the West Rome Drive-In. The First Avenue Theatre remained closed for renovations.

The retro-gimmicky New Vaudeville Band took number one this week in 1966 with “Winchester Cathedral” (you remember--the song with the megaphone-enhanced vocals). Other top ten hits included “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys (#2); “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by the Supremes (#3); “Devil With a Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly” by Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels (#4); “Mellow Yellow” by Donovan (#5); “I’m Your Puppet” by James & Bobby Purify (#6); “Lady Godiva” by Peter & Gordon (#7); “Born Free” by Roger Williams (#8); “Poor Side of Town” by Johnny Rivers (#9); and “Last Train to Clarksville” by the Monkees (#10).

The Bat-family gained a new member this week in 1966 when Barbara Gordon debuted as Batgril in Detective Comics #359, courtesy of Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino, & Sid Greene. Batgirl would go on to play a major role in the Batman TV series, where she was played by Yvonne Craig.

 Meanwhile, Marvel unveiled their “new” Western hero, Ghost Rider, courtesy of Gary Friedrich, Dick Ayers, & Vince Colette. (While Ghost Rider was new to the Marvel Universe, the character had starred in his own series from Magazine Enterprises in the 1950s, which was also illustrated by Dick Ayers; because the trademarks had lapsed, Marvel was able to roll out their own version of the Western hero. Marvel would later use the “Ghost Rider” name for their flame-headed motorcycle-riding spirit of vengeance, changing the Western hero’s name to Phantom Rider instead. For a lot of who grew up in the 1960s, though, the real Ghost Rider will always be the spectral-looking figure on a white horse who dispensed justice in the Old West.)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 11/21/1966 to 11/27/1966

Today most students get a week off for Thanksgiving, but in 1966 we got two days off (Thursday and Friday) and were glad to get it. Aside from a few restaurants and the Discount House on Division Street (which was open 8am to 9pm on Thanksgiving Day, with Santa on hand for photos with kids), almost everything else was closed for business on Thanksgiving Day 1966. Churches were busy, though, with almost every church offering a morning Thanksgiving service and some offering an evening service as well.

Now that the football season was over, it was time to think about basketball—and Coach Randall Kent was apparently giving it a lot of thought (and more than a little worrying). He described the Chieftains basketball team as being “as green as grass,” going on to say it was “the most inexperienced team that West Rome had ever had, and undoubtedly the smallest.” He did add, though, that “They’re real hustlers, though, and give you 100% all the time.” June Hyder said almost exactly the same thing about the girls’ team, adding that “we’re rebuilding and I’ll play a lot of girls in the early games until I can find the right combination.”

A Rome crime ring was shut down on Wednesday, November 23rd, when four teenagers (including one boy from West Rome whose name was withheld because of his age) were arrested for a hubcap theft ring. The thieves had been stealing hubcaps from cars parked at the bowling lanes, a skating rink, the DeSoto Theatre, and the First Avenue Theatre, as well as from numerous car lots around town. The hubcaps were estimated to have a value of $80 to $150 per set of four—and that’s $560 to $1100 adjusted for inflation!

The Partridge Restaurant on Broad Street (right next to Liberty Newsstand, where I bought a whole lot of comic books in the 1960s and 1970s) made it easy to enjoy Thanksgiving without too much work: they were serving a roast turkey dinner for $1.75 ($1.25 for children under 12), which included turkey, dressing, giblet gravy, choice of two vegetables from a selection that included mashed potatoes, green beans, candied yams, buttered rice, or creamed cauliflower), choice of salad (pineapple salad with grated cheese, tossed green salad, or Caesar salad), choice of desserts (mincemeat cobbler, pumpkin pie, apple cobbler, with or without vanilla ice cream), rolls, and choice of beverage. Even adjusting for inflation, that would equal $13 or so in today’s dollars—and that’s one heck of a bargain!

The Christmas shopping season in Rome officially kicked off on Saturday, November 26th, with the launch of Rome Days. The retail “Christmas creep” hadn’t kicked in yet, so most stores launched their big Christmas push on this day (and not on the Friday after Thanksgiving—the concept of Black Friday apparently hadn’t set in yet). Most banks let customers begin withdrawing the balance from their Christmas Club accounts on Friday, November 25th, so that they would have cash on hand for the event. (Remember Christmas Clubs? These were non-interest-bearing accounts that required a weekly deposit commitment for at least 48 weeks, usually beginning in early or mid-December. Then, right after Thanksgiving, you could empty out the account and use the money for holiday gift shopping. They were very flexible on the amounts—I remember opening a Christmas Club account with a commitment of 25¢ a week and the bank never questioned it.)

If you wanted an unforgettable Christmas gift, Am-Lo Pony Farm in Summerville was offering Shetland ponies for $100 each, with more than 150 ponies to choose from. If you didn’t want to drive all the way to Summerville, they were making it easy for you: Am-Lo was setting up in the Sears parking lot on Saturdays in December with a dozen of their best ponies there for your holiday pony-shopping.

234-1611. If you grew up in Rome in the 1950s or 1960s, you probably recognize that as the number that you’d call to get the time. According to the National City Bank, they received their 25 millionth call this week in 1966, with calls coming in at a rate of more than 5000 a day (or about a call every 20 seconds. With the number of calls growing every week, National City Bank worked with the phone company to expand their incoming call capabilities so that they could handle up to 10 calls a minute. Today, with accurate digital watches and clocks quite common and mobile phones serving as our default timekeeping devices, it may seem odd that there was a time when people called a phone number for the time—but I must have dialed it a thousand times in my childhood and teenage years’ and to this day I still remember the number.

Piggly Wiggly had whole ham for 39¢ a pound, Ocean Spray cranberry sauce for 19¢ a can, and celery for a dime a bunch. Kroger had pork roast for 39¢ a pound, Sealtest ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon, and ten pounds of Domino sugar for 77¢. A&P had a four-pound Armour canned ham for $3.39, pickled peaches for 35¢ a jar (a food I have avoided for all of my life, even though my grandmother really liked them and always had them on the table at Thanksgiving and Christmas), and fresh cranberries for 29¢ a pound. Big Apple had baking hens for 37¢ a pound, Libby creamed corn for 19¢ a can, and mince meat or pumpkin pies for 29¢ each. Couch’s had hen turkeys for 39¢ a pound, yams for a dime a pound, and JFG Coffee for 79¢ a bag.

The cinematic week began with Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (with James Coburn) at the DeSoto Theatre and Moonlighting Wives (with numerous nobodies) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out brought Spinout (with Elvis Presley & Shelley Fabares) to the DeSoto and  a triple feature of Spencer’s Mountain (with Henry Fonda & Maureen O’Hara), Four for Texas (with Frank Sinatra & Dean martin), and Racing Fever (with Joe Harrison). The First Avenue remained closed for renovations.

The Supremes hung on to number one for another week with “You Keep Me Hanging On.”  Other top ten hits included “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys (#2); “Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band (#3); “Devil With a Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly” by Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels (#4); “Poor Side of Town” by Johnny Rivers (#5); “I’m Your Puppet” by James & Bobby Purify (#6); “Last Train to Clarksville” by the Monkees (#7); “Lady Godiva” by Peter & Gordon (#8); “Mellow Yellow” by Donovan (#9); and “Born Free” by Roger Williams (#10).

Joan Baez released her Christmas album Noel this week in 1966. The album, which featured Baez's versions of older, more traditional Christmas songs, was arranged and conducted by Peter Schickele, who would later gain fame with his silly pseudo-classic recordings released under the name of PDQ Bach. (As much as I love Christmas music, I have never been able to develop a true affection for Baez's album—there’s something about her voice here that is like an auditory stiletto in my ears. I keep buying it--having it on both vinyl and CD-- because I feel like I should, but my appreciation of it is “a work in progress"…)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 11/14/1966 to 11/20/1966

With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, this week in 1966 was a very slow one. Fifty years ago, the Christmas push still waited 'til after Thanksgiving for the most part, so most (but not all!) advertising stressed Thanksgiving food and family gatherings.

One newsworthy event did occur, however: West Rome faced off against Dalton in Barron Stadium on Friday, November 18th for the AA title, and the end result was a West Rome loss that stopped their dreams of a state championship. Roger Weaver led  the Chieftains with 40 yards gained in 15 carries, but it wasn’t enough to defeat the Catamounts.

Atlanta Gas Light began a test drilling project in various locations in Floyd County—including some just a couple of miles past West Rome High School heading west—for underground caverns where natural gas could be stored. The geologists were looking for porous rock formations into which natural gas could be pumped and stored, creating and underground storage facility similar to ones already in operation in 24 other states.

The Jewel Box had a rather strange gift offering just in time for Christmas: an 18-piece Pearl drum set for $399. I’m not sure what motivated a jewelry store to expand into percussion, but they were advertising these pretty heavily—and they were offering no-interest layaway until Christmas Eve,knowing that the expense (the equivalent of $3000 today) would mean that most people couldn’t easily afford to pay for them all at once. (Drums for Christmas? I once gave my nephew a drum set as a Christmas gift, and I’m not sure my sister ever totally forgave me for that…)

Kentucky Fried Chicken decided to venture into the Thanksgiving business with a Turkey dinner with all the trimmings for $12.95. This included a 12 pound turkey, dressing, a quart of gravy, a quart of green beans, and a pint of cranberry sauce. (I never recall KFC offering already-cooked turkey dinners when I was a kid—but apparently Rome had many restaurant offerings of which I was unaware!)

Piggly Wiggly had Butterball turkeys for 45¢ a pound, oranges for a dime a pound, and five pounds of Dixie Crystals sugar for 39¢. Kroger had sirloin steak for 89¢ a pound, Maxwell House coffee for 55¢ a pound, and bananas for a dime a pound. A&P had chuck roast for 39¢  pound, Pillsbury biscuits for 9¢ a can, apples for a dime a pound. Big Apple had hen turkeys for 39¢ a pound, Ocean Spray canned cranberry sauce for 23¢ a can, and sweet potatoes for a dime a pound. Couch’s had whole picnic hams for 39¢ a pound, Irvindale ice milk for 35¢ a half-gallon, and grapefruit for a nickel  each.

The cinematic week began with The Liquidator (with Rod Taylor) at the DeSoto Theatre and Way, Way Out (with Jerry Lewis) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out brought Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (with James Coburn) to the DeSoto and Moonlighting Wives (a risqué film with an “all star cast” that no one ever heard of) to the West Rome Drive-In. So what happened to the First Avenue Theater? Apparently they were closed for renovations, leaving Romans with even fewer movie-going options than usual.

The Supremes hung on to the number one slot this week in 1966 with “You Keep Me Hanging’ On.” Other top ten hits included “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys (#2); “Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band (#3); “Last Train to Clarksville” by the Monkees (#4); “Poor Side of Town” by Johnny Rivers (#5); “Devil With a Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly” by Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels (#6); “I’m Your Puppet” by James & Bobby Purify (#7); “96 Tears” by ? & the Mysterians (#8); “If I Were a Carpenter” by Bobby Darin (#9); and “Rain On the Roof” by the Lovin’ Spoonful (#10).

Friday, November 04, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 11/7/1966 to 11/13/1966

Benny Padgett was chosen as Offensive Player of the Year by the Rome News-Tribune and the Kiwanis Club of Rome. Padgett was an almost unanimous choice for the honor. Coach Paul Kennedy called Padgett “one of the finest young men I’ve ever had the privilege to coach—or to be associated with.”

And speaking of Coach Kennedy, he was chosen as the 1966 Coach of the Year for the Rome area. Kennedy said that the honor should be shared by all of his assistant coaches, who deserved the bulk of the credit for making the Chieftains region champs.

Roger Weaver was selected Back of the Week by the Rome News-Tribune for his outstanding performance in the West Rome-East Rome game, which ended in a 21-0 West Rome victory—with every point scored in the last sixteen minutes of the game. Weaver racked up another 177 yards gained in that game, pushing him to 1198 yards and 61 points for the season.

West End Elementary won the Boys Club Mite League championship after defeating Central Primary 6-0 on Tuesday, November 8th. Sammy Johnson ran for the one and only touchdown in the game.

Lester Maddox may have won statewide in the 1966 gubernatorial race, but in Rome he came in second to Howard “Bo” Callaway, who got 51% of the vote in an election that saw 15,834 Romans cast ballots out of 26,240 registered voters.

For the second time in two weeks, thieves raided Oaknoll Cemetery in West Rome, stealing dozens of bronze urns valued at $50 each. Oaknoll was the only cemetery hit by the metal thieves. Police had no leads, although they believed that both crimes were committed by the same robbers.

Piggly Wiggly had chuck roast for 39¢ a pound, 16 ounces of Maxwell House instant coffee for $1.59 (remember when instant coffee was a Big Thing?), and banana for a dime a pound. Kroger had spare ribs for 39¢ a pound, Kroger saltines for 27¢ a box, and fresh corn for 6¢ an ear. A&P had sirloin steak for 85¢ a pound, Sultana fruit cocktail for 35¢ a can, and Marvel ice cream for 49¢ a pound. Big Apple had calf liver for 69¢ a pound, Post Toasties for 49¢ a box, and Hormel Vienna sausage for 20¢ a can. Couch’s had ground beef for 35¢ a pound, grapefruit for a nickel each, and Coca-Cola/Tab/Sprite for 99¢ a case plus deposit.

The cinematic week began with Fantastic Voyage (with Raquel Welch) at the DeSoto Theater and American Dream (with Stuart Whitman & Janet Leigh) at both the First Avenue and the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out brought The Liquidator (with Rod Taylor) to the DeSoto Theatre and Way, Way Out (with Jerry Lewis) to the First Avenue Theatre and the West Rome Drive-In.

Johnny Rivers took the number one slot this week in 1966 with “Poor Side of Town.” Other top ten hits included “Last Train to Clarksville” by the Monkees (#2); “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys (#4) (#3); “96 Tears” by ? and the Mysterians (#4);  “Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band (#5); “You Keep Me Hanging’ On” by the Supremes (#6);“Dandy” by Herman’s Hermits (#7); “If I Were a Carpenter” by Bobby Darin (#8); “Devil With a Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly” by Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels (#9); and “I’m Your Puppet” by James & Bobby Purify (#10).