Monday, May 30, 2016

Going Commercial

I blame RCA.

Back in late 1977, I got my very first VHS videocassette recorder--an RCA SelectaVision VBT-200. It could record in 2-hour mode (SP) or 4-hour mode (LP) on a cassette that cost somewhere north of $25 plus tax if you bought 'em locally, or $20 each if I ordered a case of twelve from a mail-order supplier in California.

The VBT-200 didn't have a wireless remote--just a wired pause/play-record switch with about fifteen or so feet of cord. When I was watching a TV show I was recording, I'd routinely pause the unit during the commercials to conserve tape--but since much of my recording was done for time-shifting purposes, that wasn't feasible. So about 20-25% of what I was recording was actually commercials, end credits, etc. That

I was actually the second person in my family to buy a VBT-200. My dad bought one two months before I did. Which meant that we had access to two machines. So once every couple of weeks, I'd lug my machine to Mom & Dad's and we'd hook up the output of one machine to the input of another to dub off tapes.... and of course, we'd pause the recording unit during the commercials, editing them out to conserve tape.

Shortly after that, I bought a second VHS unit and could edit recordings in the comfort of my own home... which I did on a regular basis.

And thus began my rejection of commercials.

Today, when I look at recordings of old shows (yes, I can still play back my VHS tapes and my Beta tapes on a few old units I have that are still functional), I wish those commercials were still there.

That's the funny thing about commercials. At the time you're watching commercial programming, you want to see the show, so the commercials are an intrusion that delays instant gratification. Skip ahead a few years, and you see it somewhat differently, though: the commercials are a link to the past, a shard of culture and society that creates a link ot another time in our lives.

I have a dozen or so tapes and DVDs of old commercials, carefully preserved by popular culture historians and aficionados who recognized the value of such gems. Cereal commercials, toy commercials, car commercials, antacid commercials--they're all here, along with ads for movies and television shows and so much more.

When I was a kid, I watched commercials routinely. I had no choice. Sure, we would all use some of that time to grab a snack, or maybe to go to the bathroom, but for the most part, we watched. We talked with other people in our family about commercials. We made purchase decisions based on them. Kids like me made Christmas lists and grocery-store wish lists based on what we saw advertised on TV. Heck, we even bought records of music originally done for commercials ("No Matter What Shape Your Stomach's In" by the T-Bones, or "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" by the New Seekers).

Pay-TV cemented the anti-commercial sentiment. We could pay extra money each month and watch movies without commercials. then came Sirius and XM, which allowed us to pay extra money each month and listen to music without commercials.

For a while, I've edited out commercials on TV shows that I record on my Mac. As I convert the recording from MPEG-2 to MP4, I tag the commercials and drop them out of the transfer; it's an easy enough process, and it saves me about 18 minutes of recording time for an hour-long program. But I didn't edit out all the commercials; I began leaving in a few commercials that I liked. For November and December programming, I began leaving in even more commercials as a sort of memory tag for the holiday season.

A few weeks ago, I drifted away from my iPod, from Pandora, and from Sirius-XM and began exploring the FM dial once again. I found a few stations I enjoyed listening to, and I found myself listening to the commercials as well. Concert ads, jewelry store ads (Tom Shane, anyone?...), grocery store ads, TV programming ads... they're all still there on various radio programs, and many of them made me remember the ads I used to hear on WKLS-FM 96 Rock back in the 1970s. The first time I ever heard of a new hamburger chain called Wendy's, I was listening to 96 Rock. I first learned about Peaches Records through a radio ad, and made the two hour drive from Cedartown to Atlanta to experience the wonder of a record store the size of a Kmart.

There's something about a commercial that creates a connection, a link to a larger world. And every now and then, I find a commercial that is as good as--or even better than--the program itself. 

Don't get me wrong--I'm still going to edit out commercials on some programs. But I'm going to leave the commercials in on others, just as a way of saving a little slice of life. A few years from now, I think I'll  be glad I did.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Happy Rebirthday to DC!

(If you are obsessive about spoilers, come back and read this after you've read DC Universe Rebirth #1.)

One of the first comics I ever read was Superman #127, the Titano the Super-Ape story. I got that, along with an Archie, a Richie Rich, and a Classics Illustrated, just prior to having my tonsils taken out. At that point, I was hooked on comics in general--and on DC in particular. I was fascinated with this world where a chimpanzee sent into space could return as a giant ape with super-strength and kryptonite-beam eyes (you'd think that Reed Richards would have heard about this before he sent himself and his three best friends into space, wouldn't you?). I wanted more! Thus began my decades-long fascination with DC.

I haven't been a happy visitor to the DC Universe lately.

I have no problems with iconoclastic, deconstructionist, realistic-bordering-on-naturalistic comics. I was right there reading Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns with everyone else, and eagerly waiting for the next issue. What made these series so popular, though, was that they were different from the norm; they took comics in a new direction, telling a great story that couldn't have been told in the standard comics of the day.

Unfortunately, too many people assumed that the iconoclastic, deconstructionist, realistic-bordering-on-naturalistic was what made these books successful, and not the great storytelling. So over the years, those elements became the norm in comics, gradually invading one comics universe after another.

And finally, in 2011, DC fell to the invasion when The New 52 became the norm. The characters we knew were gone; in their pale were younger versions of the heroes in Nehru-collared costumes, armed with bad attitudes and invested with revamped continuity. How different were they? Well, comics legend George PĂ©rez walked away from Superman after a few issues because it wasn't his Superman; he wasn't enjoying the character whose exploits he was presenting. George was the canary in the coal mine that DC had fouled up... but things only got worse, not better.

Until now.

With DC Universe: Rebirth #1, the company offers us the first tantalizing glimpses into a DC Universe with optimism and happiness and hope. And it all begins with the Flash, which is appropriate: it was the Flash, after all, who launched the Silver Age of comics back in 1956 with his appearance in Showcase #4, so he should be the one who relaunches a revitalized DC Universe now.

But it's actually a later Flash, Wally West (who we first met as Kid Flash almost six decades ago), who is the real catalyst. He is the link to a universe that has been forgotten, and he has been forgotten as well... wiped out of this reality. He wants to return, but he needs a link—he's DC's Tinkerbell, needing someone to believe in him before he fades away entirely. And ultimately, it's Barry Allen who becomes his anchor point, paving the way for a growing realization that something has been missing... intentionally.

And very appropriately, it turns out that it's the most powerful figure in The Watchmen who is responsible: Dr. Manhattan. Metaphorically, the book that changed the tenor of comics becomes symbolized by its aloof hero who has created his own reality... one that contains a skewed version of the true DC Universe.

Superstar storyteller Geoff Johns is the man who brought it all back. That's appropriate: now he's the iconoclast, rejecting the formerly-iconoclastic norm and saying "These are heroes... these are legends... these are stories that inspire us."  Along the way, he manages to avoid recasting Dr. Manhattan as a Darkseid-level villain, which is admirable; he isn't condemning the grim 'n' gritty revolution, after all, just saying it's time for a return to something better, something that has been forgotten.

And along the way, we get the return of the classic Batman as a master detective and the classic Superman, the epitome of ethics and justice. Farewell to the New 52 Superman, who was much better in his dying than he was in his living; welcome back the Superman who inspired us--and watch as he now inspires his and Lois Lane's super-son to follow in his footsteps.

Can other writers follow Johns' road map and make the various Rebirth oneshots (and the ongoing series that follow them) equally exciting? I don't know--but I have high hopes. And isn't "hope" what the DC Universe was all about?

Friday, May 27, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 5/30/1966 to 6/5/1966

Summer was so very close this week in 1966. We were in our final week of school; seniors got a shorter week than the rest of us, since they finished up two days earlier than the rest of us to give them time for graduation practice (graduation wouldn't come around until the next Monday, June 6th). The week began appropriately spring-like, with highs in the upper 70s and lows in the upper 40s, warming slightly to the low 80s and the low 50s by the end of the week. Compared to so many Georgia Mays that end as early warnings of a hot summer to come, this was a great way to wrap up a school year… The end of school also meant the end of spring sports; there were no track meets, no baseball games, no golf matches this week in 1966.

Imagine if West Rome had been given its very own interstate! That was the idea that was being promoted by T. Harley Harper; Harper announced the formation of a group to promote the creation of East-West Interstate 30, which would run from Columbia SC to Memphis TN, passing through Huntsville AL and Rome GA in the process. The proposed Interstate would have come within four miles of West Rome High School. (Like many great projects that could have benefited Rome, this one never came to pass…)

The Batman phenomenon was going strong in 1966, thanks to the success of the ABC-TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. That explains why Belk-Rhodes was advertising that they were Rome’s “Batman Headquarters,” complete with “Bat Man” T-sirts, hats, masks, and capes. (And yes, they managed to misspell Batman as two words in their big ad... bad form, Belk's!).

Piggly Wiggly had Swift’s Premium ham for 59¢ a pound, Morton’s frozen cream pies for a quarter each, and tomatoes for a quarter a pound. Kroger had fresh fryers for 29¢ a pound, cantaloupe for 33¢ each, and Sealtest ice cream for 49¢ a pound. A&P had turkey breast for 79¢ 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, French’s mustard for a dime a jar, and Hormel vienna sausage for 20¢ a can. Couch’s had pork steak for 59¢ a pound, Showboat pork & beans for 19¢ a can, and Maxwell House Instant Coffee for $1.49 a jar.

The cinematic week began with The Trouble with Angels (with Hayley Mills) at the DeSoto, Promise Her Anything (with Warren Beatty & Leslie Caron) at the First Avenue, and a double feature of Money Trap (with Glenn Ford & Elke Sommer) and Girl Happy (with Elvis Presley & Shelley Fabares) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out brought Cast a Giant Shadow (with Kirk Douglas & Senta Berger) to the DeSoto, Tiko & the Shark (with no one you’ve ever heard of) at the First Avenue, and Last of the Secret Agents (a spoof wwith Marty Allen & Steve Rossi) to the West Rome Drive-In.

The Rolling Stones took the number one slot this week in 1965 with “Paint It, Black” (is this tune mournful or malevolent?… you decide!). Other top ten hits included “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?” by the Lovin’ Spoonful (#2); “I Am a Rock” by Simon & Garfunkel (#3); “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge (#4); “A Groovy Kind of Love” by the Mindbenders (#5); “Strangers in the Night” by Frank Sinatra (#6); “Monday Monday” by the Mamas & the Papas (#7); “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” by James Brown (#8); “Green Grass” by Gary Lewis & the Playboys (#9); and “Barefootin’” by Robert Parker (#10).

The Beatles made another appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday night, June 5th—this time taped, not live, featuring the premiere of the music videos for “Rain” and “Paperback Writer.”

The Dick Van Dyke Show presented its final episode on Wednesday, June 1st—an episode that had Rob Petrie (played by Dick Van Dyke) selling the television rights to a book he had written about his career as a television writer! What a perfect way to end one of the best situation comedies ever made…

Tower Comics’ THUNDER Agents was doing well enough that the publisher added a spinoff title, Dynamo, this week in 1966. This double-length issue (Tower Comics were 64-page books priced at 25¢ each, while most other publishers were offering 32-page 12¢ comics) included work by such talents as Wally Wood, Reed Crandall, Mike Sekowsky (best known for his work on DC Comics’ Justice League of America), and Steve Ditko (who had just left Marvel’s Amazing Spider-Man and the Doctor Strange feature in Strange Tales). Meanwhile, the cover of DC’s Batman #183 depicted a Caped Crusader who was too busy watching the Batman TV show to respond to an emergency call! And demonstrating the this was the week of zany covers, The Flash #163 featured a Scarlet Speedster staring straight at us, holding his hand up and ordering us to “Stop! Don’t pass up this issue! My life depends on it!” Go-Go check trade dress and strange covers—that’s what DC was best known for in the 1960s!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 5/23/1966 to 5/29/1966

Garden Lakes residents met with Rome City officials at West Rome High School on Monday night, May 23rd, to discuss the annexation of Garden Lakes into the city of Rome. The residents were eager to have their children become Chieftains, pointing out that they were much closer geographically to West Rome than they were to Coosa. (We know that the annexation never came about, which seems odd, since the newspaper article talks about how overwhelmingly positive the residents were about the annexation.)

A Rome News-Tribune investigation into Rome and Floyd County Head Start expenditures revealed that the per-pupil cost for each preschool child taking part in the five-hour-a-day head Start during the January-August time period was $631—more than twice the cost of attending a private nursery day-care preschool program for nine hours a day, two-and-a-half times the cost of sending a student to private kindergarten, and almost exactly the cost to send a student to Berry College or Shorter College for nine months. The cost was far, far above the initial estimates for $360 per student per eight-month term. (Wait a minute… you mean that the government spent a lot more money for something than they initially said it would cost? That’s crazy talk!…)

West Rome’s JV track team won the Floyd County Junior Varsity Track & Field Championship on Tuesday, May 24th, with 101 points. They defeated Model (80 points), Berry Academy (76), Darlington (61), Georgia School for the Deaf (48), Armuchee (33), and Cave Spring (7). Roger Weaver took first place in the hundred yard dash, while Wayne Worsham took first place in the high hurdles.

The fourth annual Rome-Floyd County Tri-Hi-Y and Hi-Y recognition banquet was held on Saturday, May 28th, at the General Forrest Hotel in downtown Rome. The Hi-Y and Tri-Hi-Y chorus provided the musical program, “Sounds of ’66.” West Rome principal Dick McPhee was the host of the program. bestowing awards and commendations on individual members, sponsors, and on various school clubs for their outstanding work during the 1965-1966 school year.

Kentucky Fried Chicken (they hadn't become KFC yet) was still pushing that Brunswick stew that I can’t seem to remember: their combination special for the week was a half-pint of Brunswick stew, one piece of chicken, french fries, and two biscuits for 89¢.

Summer was coming, so various stores were pushing window-mounted air conditioners. Economy Auto had an 18,200 BTU Temp Master air conditioner for $248, while Sears had a 20,000 BTU Kenmore for $275.

The cinematic week began with Inside Daisy Clover (with Natalie Wood & Christopher Plummer) at the First Avenue and Where the Spies Are (with David Niven) at the West Rome Drive-In. And at long last, the DeSoto Theater reopened on Thursday, just in time for the mid-week switch out; the theater renovation brought new seats, a new screen, improved air conditioning, and other renovations to Rome’s premiere theater. The DeSoto reopened with The Trouble with Angels (with Hayley  Mills & Rosalind Russell), while the First Avenue and the West Rome Drive-In both showed the country music concert film Music City USA (complete with the tag line “So big, gay, and musical that it’s playing two theaters in Rome!”).

Piggly Wiggly had pork steaks for 59¢ a pound, corn for 6¢ an ear, and watermelons for 99¢ each. Kroger had baking hens for 37¢ a pound, tomatoes for a quarter a pound, and medium eggs for 33¢ a dozen. A&P had stew beef for 69¢ a pound, strawberries for 39¢ a pint, and Blue Bonnet margarine for 31¢ a pound (“Everything’s better with Blue Bonnet on it…”). Big Apple had prime rib roast for 69¢ a pound, Happy Valley ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon, and Heinz pork & beans for 12¢ a can. Couch’s had Armour Star bacon for 69¢ a pound, Libby’s beef stew for 49¢ a can, and JFG coffee for 79¢ a pound.

Percy Sledge held on to number one for the second week in a row with “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Other top ten hits included “A Groovy Kind of Love” by the Mindbenders (#2); “Paint It, Black” by the Rolling Stones (#3); “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?” by the Lovin’ Spoonful (#4); “I Am a Rock” by Simon & Garfunkel (#5); “Monday Monday” by the Mamas & the Papas (#6); “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” by Bob Dylan (#7); “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” by James Brown (#8); “Green Grass” by Gary Lewis & the Playboys #9); and “Strangers in the Night” by Frank Sinatra (#10).

Friday, May 20, 2016

People Matter

I've heard all the condescending remarks about comics fans. Nerds. Geeks. Dweebs. Lonely guys who use comics as a substitute for social interaction.

And it's no more valid than any other stereotype.

In the thirty-four years I've owned Dr. No's, I've been lucky enough to get to know many people. I've seen couples fall in love... propose... get married. I've seen men and women become proud parents, sharing their joy with us. I've seen readers become writers and artists in their own right. I've seen parents bring in kids who grow up over the years, become parents on their own, and bring in their own kids, continuing the cycle. I've seen people go through school, embark on a career, and become successful. And I've seen so many smiles, so many  customers who truly love comics, who leave here every week even happier than they were when they arrived.

And I've seen sadness. As those kids grow up to become adults, their parents have also grown older. Sometimes age can be cruel. Heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, stroke, infection... I've watched once-healthy parents struggle against all of these and so much more as age has taken away the vitality that we all take for granted when we're younger.

Today I was visited by a customer I've known since he was a boy, when his Dad or his Mom would bring him in to pick up his comics week after week. We'd chat, and I got to know them. Sometimes they'd stop by looking for books for their son; sometimes they'd just stop by to say hello.

Over the past couple of years, it was obvious that his father was struggling. The smile was there, but sometimes the sparkle in his eyes was missing, replaced with anxiety and apprehension...  and confusion. His son verified what I had suspected—his father was suffering from Alzheimer's.

After that, the visits were less frequent, and all too brief when they did occur. His father quit coming in by himself; when he did come in with someone else, he was more withdrawn. The clever, gregarious man I remember was now taciturn and hesitant.

Today, I found out that this kind, remarkable man was in hospice. His son stopped by to say hello, picking up a few comics to offer him some momentary escape from the solemnest of days.

As he told me about his father, I could still vividly see those cheery visits, hear those joking conversations, remember the days when we all thought life would go on forever.

This afternoon, I stopped by the hospice to say hello one more time. I wanted tell him how much I enjoyed those  visits over the years, how much I admired the  love and understanding he showed his son, how much I hated the cruel hand that life had dealt him.

I couldn't get out all the words I wanted to say to him. I was able to thank him for his friendship, to express my regrets for what he was going through.

As I saw this good man struggling with the final cruelties of an illness for which there is no cure, I was reminded once again that so many of the people I see every day aren't just customers. They're friends who I have been lucky enough to get to know, people with whom I've been able to share joys and sorrows. I may not know them well, but my life has been made better by the moments when it intersected with theirs.

Those moments are really all that matters, aren't they?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 5/16/1966 to 5/22/1966

This week in 1966, Harbin Clinic announced plans to build a new medical center on Martha Berry Highway at Redmond Road. The Rome City Commission had already rezoned the land for this use. Harbin Clinic said that they would keep their facility on Third Avenue at East First Street, but wanted to have a location more ready accessible for West Rome and for Georgians who lived north of Rome.

I don’t remember "nudist literature "being a major problem in Rome in the 1960s, but apparently the Rome City Commission knew more than I did, because they passed an ordinance that would ban the sale of all nudist publications to persons under 18 years of age. The law would defined “nudist literature as magazines “principally made up of pictorial material portraying naked or partially clothed physically mature human beings with genitalia exposed to view.”  (Did they intend to specify Playboy, the leading men’s magazine of the time? Perhaps so, but the definition actually didn’t apply to Playboy, since nude photos typically made up 10% to 15% of its overall content.)

Rome and Floyd County began looking at a proposed East-West bypass to take traffic off Shorter Avenue and alleviate West Rome traffic jams. Because of rapid growth in West Rome, Shorter Avenue had become the most heavily traveled street in the city, based on a 1964 survey. The bypass was eventually constructed, more or less—although it took almost fifty years!

Speaking of Shorter Avenue, it was the site of a crime spree on Wednesday night, with break-ins at Martin’s Appliances (2413 Shorter Avenue), Adams Refrigeration & Air Conditioning (2447 Shorter Avenue), and Shorter Avenue Lawn Mower (1946 Shorter Avenue). A small amount of cash and a lot of equipment was stolen in the break-ins.

West Rome coach Nick Hyder was chosen to head the North Squad in the annual Georgia High School Association all-star high school baseball game scheduled for June 6th at Atlanta Stadium.

Meanwhile, West Roman Rusty Oxford was chosen to represent West Rome on the North Team in the Georgia High School Association All-Star Basketball game, slated for August 3rd at Georgia Tech. Oxford was the first West Rome player ever picked to be a part of the all-star game.

West Rome’s Student Council officers were honored at the first annual Student Council banquet. 25 members of the Student Council received awards, as did sponsors Susie Underwood and Betty Higgins.

Television prices began to drop—and screen sizes began to grow—in 1966. Floyd Outlaw Furniture & Appliances offered a 25” Olympic color television with both VHF and UHF tuners for $549, or a 23” console unit with television, radio, and phonograph also priced at $549.

Piggly Wiggly had Blue Plate mayonnaise for 44¢ a quart, medium eggs for 33¢ a dozen, and chuck roast for 39¢ a pound. Big Apple had lamb shoulder roast for 59¢ a pound, Pride of Georgia ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon, and red delicious apples for 19¢ a pound. Kroger had 10 pounds of Domino sugar for 69¢, Cardinal sliced bacon for 69¢ a pound, and a 2 pound bag of frozen french fries for 29¢. A&P had t-bone steak for 99¢ a pound, yellow corn for a nickel an ear, and a strange three-cans-of-tomato-rice-soup-and-a-pound-of-saltines special for only 49¢. Couch’s had picnic hams for 39¢ a pound, yellow squash for a dime a pound, and Old Favorite ice milk for 33¢ a half-gallon.

Rome’s theaters continued to show lackluster films; this week, it was Weekend at Dunkirk (a two-year-old French film with Jean-Paul Belmondo) at both the First Avenue and the West Rome Drive-In—it’s like they wanted people to stay away from the theaters! The midweek switch out brought The Loved One (with Robert Morse & Jonathan Winters), which was billed as “the motion picture with something to offend everyone), while the West Rome Drive-In offered a bad-science-fiction double feature of Time Travelers and Reptilicus (a two-year-old B-movie and a five-year-old dubbed Danish film).

Percy Sledge took the number one slot this week in 1966 with “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Other top ten hits included “A Groovy Kind of Love” by the Mindbenders (#2); “Monday Monday” by the Mamas & the Papas (#3); “Paint It, Black” by the Rolling Stones (#4); “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” by Bob Dylan (#5); “I Am a Rock” by Simon & Garfunkel (#6); “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?” by the Lovin’ Spoonful (#7); “Good Lovin’” by the Young Rascals (#8); “Love Is Like an Itching in My Heart” by the Supremes (#9); and “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” by James Brown (#10).

This week also saw the release of two of the 1960s’ greatest albums: Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan and Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. This was also the week that a British audience booed Bob Dylan and the Band when they began their concert with electric instruments. Little did they suspect that this new approach would launch an entire folk-rock subgenre.

This was also the week that Perry Mason solved his final case on weekly television. After nine seasons, the CBS legal drama Perry Mason aired its final original episode on May 22nd, marking the end of an era. (It wasn’t the end of Raymond Burr’s television career, however, as he would return to play Ironside a year later.)

Friday, May 06, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 5/9/1966 to 5/15/1966

The push for a junior college in Floyd County picked up steam once again when a group of Northwest Georgia officials met wit h the State Board of Regents on May 10th. According to those who attended the meeting, the Board of Regents was open to the idea and seemed very impressed with the preliminary planning that the group had done. Of course, much of that planning was done a few years earlier when the group of officials first proposed building a school in Floyd County…

West Rome took the Region 3-AA track and field championship, the climax to a perfect track season. Artie Lovell set two records (15.2 seconds for the 120-yard high hurdles and 41’ 2.5”  n the triple jump) and won three first places in the Saturday afternoon track meet.
Academic Achievement Awards were presented to 43 outstanding Chieftains during a a Tuesday assembly conducted by Chieftains Club president Kirk Felker and Principal Dick McPhee. The students receiving awards included (Twelfth Grade) Jean Jackson, Pat Barna, Linda Camp, Jane Cox, Stan Dawson, Yvonne Hosch, Tom McMahon, Wayne Walker, & Danny Mackey; (Eleventh Grade) Mary Anne Witte, Diane Massey, Greg Quinton, Belinda Ritter, Oscar Horne, & Danny Cook; (Tenth Grade) Elaine Darsey, Patricia Finley, April Garrison, Anita Smith, Marie Edwards, Baxter Joy, Judy Oxford, Steve Warren, Sandy Witherington, & John Berry; (Ninth Grade) Debbye Morris, Sheila Reynolds, Robert Blaylock, Beverly Hall, & Beth Watson; (Eighth Grade) Susan Gardner, Paula Lane, Cynthia Morgan, Belinda Rodgers, Janet Webb, & Charles DiPrima; (Seventh Grade) Phyllis Cox, David Gardner, Rosalind McKibben, Greg Carter, Cliff Biggers, Peggy Jones, & Ricky Fairfield. (I remember this because my parents were so proud of the fact that I had won an Academic Achievement Award in my first year of junior high; I suspected that the school must have told them ahead of time, since Mom had already planned to make my favorite meal, Irish stew, to commemorate the event. I have always associated Mom's Irish stew with special occasions because of that, and I still remember that it was the last meal that I shared with her and Dad before emphysema took her from us; she was too ill to make it, but she supervised as Dad made it to her exacting standards, and it was so delicious that Mom said it was "almost as good" as hers. Dad justifiably took that as high praise...)

More than 300 students participated in a Thursday evening band concert conducted and directed by Clyde Roberson. Students from fourth War, Elementary Street, West End, West Rome Junior High, and West Rome High School took part in the concert; proceeds went to buy new band uniforms.

The next evening, The East Rome Chorus and the West Rome Chorus presented a joint concert at the East Rome High School auditorium. The West Rome Chorus performed selections from The Nutcracker Suite, Czechoslovakian folk song, and a medley from the musical The Fantasticks. (The Nutcracker Suite in May? I guess it doesn’t have to be limited to the Christmas season!…)

West Rome students who were interested in learning first aid or in working in the school clinic had the chance to take part in a first air class offered at the school beginning on Tuesday, May 10th. Students would be excused from class to take part in the session (wonder if that motivated anyone to sign up?).

Representative John W. Davis said that he had decided to support a plan to raise the minimum wage from $1.25 an hour to $1.40 beginning in 1967 and to $1.65 beginning in 1968. The bill exempted farmworkers and employees of any small business that did less than $250,000 of business per year.

Romans had one fewer dining choice this week in 1966: DiPrima’s Steak House was closed for the week for remodeling.  (I only ate at DiPrima’s a few times, although my parents would occasionally go there to celebrate an anniversary or a special occasion; I always thought of it as a “special occasion” kind of restaurant as a result. It’s also noteworthy that, back in the 1960s, it seemed like almost every town had its very own upscale steak house.)

We forget how very real the threat of nuclear war seemed back in the 1960s, but it was a legitimate concern, as the Rome-Floyd Civil Defense Unit reminded everyone with its announcement that it was beginning a government study of individual homes in the area to determine their safety in the case of nuclear attack. Rome wasn’t a primary strike target, but we were close enough to Dobbins and to Atlanta to be impacted by a nuclear attack on those targets. The Civil Defense Unit was analyzing structural integrity, air filtration, and radiological protection… and as you might expect, most Rome homes did not pass muster on the latter two. The Civil Defense Unit was also updating plans to use area Civil Defense Shelters—including one located in the West Rome Auditorium. The Civil Defense Unit was training more than a hundred Romans to serve as stewards and stewardesses (their terminology) for the shelters in the event they had to be used; these people would take charge of the shelter, handle food and water distribution, etc.  Reportedly, emergency supplies of food and water were stored beneath the stage area at both West Rome High and East Rome High, with both designated as emergency shelters. I remember reading articles like this back in 1966 and worrying about how real the threat was and what would happen to my family and friends if a nuclear attack occurred. Let’s hope that children today never have to worry about any of that…

Piggly Wiggly had chicken breasts for 49¢ a pound, Maxwell House Coffee for 69¢ a pound, and cabbage for a nickel a head. &P had Oscar Mayer bologna for 49¢ a package, ground beef for 45¢ a pound, and Cheerios for 33¢ a box. Kroger has salmon for 49¢ a pound, 20 pounds of Idaho potatoes for 99¢, and five pounds of Gold Medal flour for 49¢. Big Apple had pot roast for 79¢ a pound, Happy Valley ice milk for 39¢ a half-gallon, and bananas for a dime a pound. Couch’s had lamb roast for 49¢ a pound, Bama blackberry jelly (in an 18-ounce jar that could be used as a drinking glass once it was empty) for 39¢, and Old Favorite ice milk for 33¢ a half-gallon.

The cinematic week began with The Flight of the Phoenix (a year-old film starring James Stewart) at the First Avenue and Madame X (with Lana Turner and John Forsyth) at the West Rome Drive-In. (Why the indoor theater was running a year-old film while the drive-in was running a brand-new film, I’ll never understand. I also don’t understand why, during the time the DeSoto was closed for renovation, the other indoor theater not only failed to pick up the slack, but seemed instead to slack off on the quality of its film choices.) The midweek switch out brought A Shot in the Dark (a 1964 film with Peter Sellers & Elke Sommer) to the First Avenue and Cat Ballou ( 1965 film with Jane Fonda & Lee Marvin) to the West Rome Drive-In. (Yes, more “theatrical reruns”…)

The Mamas & the Papas took first place with “Monday Monday” this week in 1966. Other top ten hits included “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” by Bob Dylan (#2); “Good Lovin’” by the Young Rascals (#3); “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge (#4); “A Groovy Kind of Love” by the Mindbenders (#5); “Kicks” by Paul Revere & the Raiders (#6); “How Does That Grab You Darlin’” by Nancy Sinatra (#7); “Message to Michael” by Dionne Warwick (#8); “Sloop John B” by the Beach Boys (#9); and  “Love Is Like an Itching in My Heart” by the Supremes (#10).

Herb Alpert’ & the Tijuana Brass released their sixth album, What Now My Love, this week in 1966; this was also the week that the Small Faces (with Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane, among others) released their eponymous debut album.  This was also the week that the Rolling Stones released “Paint It, Black,” which would go on to become the first hit single to include a sitar (while the Beatles had used a sitar in “Norwegian Wood back in 1965, the song was not released as a single).

The final original episode of The Munsters aired on May 12th, bringing an end to television’s all-too-brief fascination with monster-themed TV shows (the final Addams Family episode had aired a month earlier). Boy, it was good while it lasted!…

Spider-Man faced off against the Green Goblin in the first chapter of a two-part story that began in Amazing Spider-Man #39 this week in 1966. This was a landmark issue for two reasons:not only would this story reveal the identity of the Green Goblin, but it would also mark the beginning of artist John Romita’s lengthy run on the series, replacing Steve Ditko (who had left Marvel earlier in the year and whose final work for Marvel was published in April 1966). I loved Ditko and  had trouble adjusting to Romita, who initially struck me as too bland and generic. The problem was, anyone who followed the distinctively quirky Ditko would seem bland and generic by comparison! I went on to become a big Romita fan, but it took a little while…