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.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Persistence of Memory

Funny how research can lead you to things that you never expected.

Researching a north Georgia murder from the 1950s took me to  a number of Rome News-Tribune archive pages; an article here would reference an earlier date, so I would jump back to that date, and so on.

Eventually, I was taken to the Rome News-Tribune for February 7th, 1956.

Head-On Crash Kills Five, Hurts Two in Polk County

The minute I saw that headline, I suspected I knew what I would find in that article.

"Five persons were killed and two seriously injured Monday in a head-on crash of an automobile and an auto transport truck near Rockmart, described by Polk state troopers as 'the worst highway tragedy we've ever had here.'

"The car and an auto transport truck collided on the Cedartown-Rockmart highway four miles west of Rockmart when the truck attempted ot pass another vehicle, the patrol office at Cedartown reported.

"Killed were James Edward Green, 30; Roy H Leming, 65; Henry Newton Brock, 30; Edward Elmo Mitchell, 23, all of Cedartown; and David Elton Waites, 21, of Rockmart..."

Roy H Leming.

My grandfather.

The minute I saw that headline, I knew that it was going to be about his death.

I never saw the article before now, and I didn't even know the date of Granddaddy's death.

I have scattered memories of him. I remember getting a gift of socks from him one Christmas (probably the Christmas of 1958), and not being very impressed with socks. What I wanted instead was some of his books; he laughed and said they were too old for me. I'm pretty sure they were Louis L'amour paperbacks.

How I have those memories, I can't explain. I was only two and a half years old when he died. I didn't think I had any memories of anything that far back in my life. Apparently I was wrong.

I've been told by many members of my family that I inherited my love of books from my grandfather. He was an avid reader, grandmother used to tell me; as I got older, she gave me some of the books that had at one time belonged to him.

It's hard to express the variety of feelings I had when I found the article about his death.

I didn't get to know you very well, Granddaddy.

I wish I could have.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 8/22/1966 to 8/28/1966

School registration began on Thursday, August 25fh, for students new to the Rome City School system, while returning students reported to school on Friday, August 26th, to pick up their schedules (9th graders at 9am, 10th graders at 10:30am, 11th graders at noon, and 12th graders at 2pm). Classes were slated to begin on Monday, August 29th, because back in the 1960s, school systems still believed in giving students a real summer break. (And as all of us who attended West Rome remember very well, the school had absolutely no air conditioning, so August classes were always a bit on the warm side…)

After weeks of tweaking and fine-tuning, Rome City Schools finally came up with a desegregation plan that passed Department of Health, Education, and Welfare muster. The new Rome plan allowed for Rome students and teachers to be granted transfers to any school in which students/teachers of their race were not predominant.

Burglars broke int o the Rome Coca-Cola Bottling Company on West Fifth Avenue, cracked the safes, and made off with an undetermined amount of cash in a brazen burglary in the early morning hours of August 25th. So why was it brazen? Well, the fact that the Rome City Police Department was less than 200 yards away from the site of the burglary certainly had something to do with it! The two safes that were looted contained the proceeds collected by Rome route delivery drivers on the prior day.

Rome City Schools also announced plans to develop an advanced placement program for Rome City Schools students. Superintendent MS McDonald said that the program would take a few years to roll out. “It must be developed step by step,” McDonald said. “We now have an enrichment program for the brighter students beginning  int eh seventh grade. We will continue toe expand that and will gradually work up to advanced placement.” Rome City Schools already had a limited program in place that allowed students to earn credit at Shorter College and Berry College in their senior year.

Piggly Wiggly had chuck roast for 39¢ a pound, corn for 6¢ an ear, and Strietmann’s pecan candies for 49¢ a pack. Kroger had ground beef for 45¢ a pound, tomatoes for 19¢ a pound, and Kroger sherbet for 49¢ a half-gallon. A&P had fresh whole fryers for 29¢ a pound, seedless grapes for 19¢ a pound, and Hydrox cooked for 35¢ a pack. Big Apple had Porterhouse steak for 99¢ a pound, okra for 23¢ a pound, and Around the Clock coffee for 59¢ a pound. Couch’s had sirloin steak for 89¢ a pound, watermelons for 69¢ each, and JFG salad dressing for 29¢ a pint.

The cinematic week began with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (with Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton) at the DeSoto Theatre and the West Rome Drive-In, and Namu the Killer Whale (with Robert Lansing) at the First Avenue Theatre. The midweek switch out brought The Glass Bottomed Boat (with Doris Day & Rod Taylor) at the DeSoto Theatre and the West Rome Drive-In and Lady L (with Sophia Loren & Paul Newman) at the First Avenue.

Donovan took the number one position this week in 1966 with “Sunshine Superman.” Other top ten hits included “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful (#2); “See You in September” by the Happenings (#3); “You Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes (#4); “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles (#5); “Sunny” by Bobby Hebb (#6); “Land of 1,000 Dances” by Wilson Pickett (#7); “Working in a Coal Mine” by Lee Dorsey (#8); “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Stevie Wonder (#9); and “Summertime” by Billy Stewart (#10).

Not only was “Sunshine Superman” the number one song this week in 1966, but this week also saw the release of Donovan's Sunshine Superman album; among the session musicians who played on the album was Jimmy Page, who would go on to achieve superstardom with Led Zeppelin a couple of years later.

Gold Key released the first issue of their Secret Agent comic book series this week in 1966, based on the TV series starring Patrick McGoohan. Ironically, this was also the week when Patrick McGoohan turned in his notice that he was leaving the Secret Agent TV series; he wanted to turn his attention to a complex new project he had in the works—an enigmatic series called The Prisoner, which many have speculated might be peripherally connected to Secret Agent

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 8/15/1966 to 8/21/1966

This was the last full week of summer vacation for West Rome students, since school was scheduled to start on August 25th. Every clothing store in Rome was pushing back-to-school clothes, while Owen’s Hardware was promoting jerseys in school colors for only $2.99. Buy-Wise had a pack of 200 sheets of loose-leaf notebook paper for a dime; Murphy’s had spiral notebooks for a nickel each; and Wyatt’s had fountain pens with a bottle of ink in your choice of blue, black, or emerald green for 99¢. (Yeah, I know that most of us were using pencils or ballpoint pens in 1966, but I always had a thing for fountain pens, particularly with green ink. I think I learned to appreciate fountain pens because of Mrs. Cook at Elm Street Elementary, who taught me how to write left-handed with a fountain pen without dragging the edge of my hand through the ink and smearing everything. Of course, her solution involved contorting my hand so that I was basically recreating a right-hand slant with my left hand… but it did work, and it kept my papers relatively smudge-free! As for green ink--well, I could say I liked it because green was a West Rome color, but I've loved the color green my whole life. Years later, when I became a teacher, I would grade papers using green ink rather than red ink; students seemed to find that much less intimidating.)

The Floyd Juvenile Court Advisory Subcommittee held a public hearing regarding proposals to curtail the availability of obscene and pornographic material in the Rome area. The committee brought with them a selection of pornographic magazines and books that had been purchased in the Rome area, including (of course) Playboy Magazine. Plans called for an organized boycott and a push to prosecute those who sold Playboy and other adult material to people under the age of 18.

Remember the railroad overpass near the Marine Armory at the end of Shorter Avenue? Well, if Southern Railway had their way, you’d apparently still be looking at it every time you drove from West Rome to downtown! This week in 1966, plans were unveiled to remove the overpass in order to widen Shorter Avenue and remove the traffic bottleneck. However, Southern Railway wanted written guarantees from Rome and Floyd County that, if they decided later on that they wanted the bridge back, the city and county would fully fund construction of an all-new overpass at the same location. Naturally, the city and the county were not so keen on this, since it sounded to them like Southern Railway was looking for a way to upgrade the existing railroad overpass on someone else’s dime.

The school year hadn’t even started yet, but the West Rome Drumbeat staff was already on the job, meeting on Wednesday at Mrs. Higgins’ house on Robin Street for an organization and planning workshop in preparation for the new year. (Anyone who ever worked on the school newspaper with Mrs. Higgins will remember how much she loved the school and the newspaper, so it’s no surprise she’d give up a day of her own time to host a meeting at her house to work with her new staff.)

Piggly Wiggly had whole fryers for 29¢ a pound, Hydrox Cookies for 35¢ a package, and a five-pound bag of Colonial Sugar for 39¢. Kroger had chuck steak for 49¢ a pound, Spotlight coffee for 55¢ a pound, and Country Club ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon. Big Apple had pork chops for 79¢ a pound, Tater Tots for 19¢ a bag, and pears for 19¢ a pound.  A&P had sirloin steak for 89¢ a pound, blueberries for 33¢ a pint, and White House powdered milk for $1.55 for a 20-quart package. (I remember powdered milk; Mom would buy it every now and then, but no matter how much extra powder we added to a gallon of water, it still tasted like the water that someone had used to rinse out a glass after drinking milk from the glass.) Couch’s had ground beef for 43¢ a pound, Kool-Aid for a nickel a pack, and white corn for 6¢ an ear.

The cinematic week began with Torn Curtain (with Paul Newman & Julie Andrews) at both the DeSoto Theater and the West Rome Drive-In, and Duel at Diablo (with James Garner & Sidney Poitier) at the First Avenue. The midweek switch out brought Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf (with Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton) to the DeSoto Theater, Namu the Killer Whale (with Robert Lansing, who was not playing the whale) to the First Avenue, and a double feature of 7th Dawn (with William Holden) and The World of Henry Orient (with Peter Sellers) at the West Rome Drive-In.

The Association took the number one slot this week in 1966 with “Cherish.” Other top ten hits included “You Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes (#2); “Sunshine Superman” by Donovan (#3); “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles (#4); “Bus Stop” by the Hollies (#5); “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep” by the Temptations (#6); “Black is Black” by Los Bravos (#7); “96 Tears” by Question Mark & the Mysterians (#8); “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by the Beach Boys (#9); and “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” by the Four Tops (#10).

Jefferson Airplane released their first album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, this eek in 1966. If the album sounds a bit different from the Jefferson Airplane you’re familiar with, there’s a reason: Signe Toly Anderson was the lead vocalist on the first album, and Grace Slick wouldn’t join the group until their second LP.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 8/8/1966 to 8/14/1966

A Monday Rome News-Tribune feature article on the dilapidated conditions at Russell Field (Rome’s airport) inspired almost immediate action. The Floyd County Board of Road And Revenue announced  plans to inspect, renovate, and repair the airport—replacing missing runway lights, upgrading the facilities, resurfacing the runways, etc.—in hopes of making the airport a worthwhile addition to Southern Airways’ flight schedule. County Manager Colquitt Hall said that the airport would be in tip-top condition before the end of the year.

A plane took out a new store under construction in Garden Lakes on Wednesday, August 10th. No, it didn’t crash into the construction site—it broke the sound barrier as it passed over West Rome, and the sonic boom caused the roof trusses that had just been put into place to shake and then fall like dominoes. When the trusses fell, they took down the concrete block walls upon which they had been resting—and thus, within two minutes, the entire building under construction right next to Garden Lakes Pharmacy was a pile of rubble. “It was just too unbelievable” Garden Lakes Construction Company contractor BS Elliott said. “If I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t have believe it was possible.”

Rome’s desegregation plans ran into a hurdle on August 11th when the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare rejected the city’s faculty desegregation assignments. The city’s plans would have concentrated black teachers in one school, which the federal government said was unacceptable.  Rome was given two weeks to resubmit a more acceptable plan.

Piggly Wiggly had sirloin steak for 89¢ a pound, cantaloupes for 33¢ each, and General Mills’ new snack food, Bugles, for 39¢ a box. Kroger had ground beef for 39¢ a pound; white seedless grapes for 15¢ a pound; and Coca-Cola, Tab, or Sprite for 99¢ a case plus deposit. A&P had cubed steak for 79¢ a pound, potatoes for a dime a pound, and Eight O’Clock Coffee for 63¢ a pound. Big Apple had chicken breasts for 49¢ a pound, nectarines for a quarter a pound, and Irvindale ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon. Couch’s had chuck roast for 39¢ a pound, cucumbers for a nickel each, and a four-pound carton of pure lard for 59¢.

The cinematic week began with Lt. Robin Crusoe USN (with Dick Van Dyke) at the DeSoto Theater, Three on a Couch (with Jerry Lewis & Janet Leigh) at the First Avenue, and Stagecoach (with Ann-Margret & Red Buttons) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out brought Torn Curtain (with Paul Newman & Julie Andrews) to the Desoto Theater and the West Rome Drive-In and The Gold Guitar (with Del Reeves & Roy Drusky) to the First Avenue,

The Lovin’ Spoonful took the number one slot this week in 1966 with “Summer in the City.” Other top ten hits included “Sunny” by Bobby Hebb (#2); “Li’l Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs (#3); “Wild Thing” by the Troggs (#4); “They’re Coming to Take Me Away Ha-Haa!” by Napoleon XIV (#5); “See You in September” by the Happenings (#6); “The Pied Piper” by Crispian St. Peters (#7); “Mother’s Little Helper” by the Rolling Stones (#8); “I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love” by Petula Clark (#9); and “Sunshine Superman” by Donovan (#10).

The Beatles released their experimental and innovative album Revolver this week in 1966 (well, it was released a few days earlier in the UK, but not too many of us were flying over to England to buy our albums). This album, which included tape loops, backwards recording, Indian instrumentation, classical strings, variable speed playback, and other musical innovations that gave the album’s tracks a sound unlike any Beatles album that had come before.

This was also the week in which John Lennon defused some of the uproar regarding his “Beatles are more popular than Jesus” remarks with an apology. "I suppose if I had said television was more popular than Jesus, I would have gotten away with it,” Lennon explained. "I’m sorry I opened my mouth. I'm not anti-God, anti-Christ, or anti-religion. I was not knocking it. I was not saying we are greater or better."