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"…)


paul howley said...

Did you mean to write "default" here?..."as our defect timekeeping devices"

Cliff Biggers said...

You are correct, sir! Thanks for the catch--