For me, it has always been Fantastic Four.
It wasn't my first comic. It wasn't even the first comic I actively collected (Adam Strange in Mystery in Space, Batman, Detective, Superman, Action, Adventure, Flash, Green Lantern, and Justice League all predated it). But to this day, when I think of comic book collecting, the first title I envision is Fantastic Four.
And I think I know the reason.
Fantastic Four was the first comic I actively collected from the very beginning of its run. I purchased my copy at the Enloe's Rexall Drugstore on Shorter Avenue, the day I first saw it on the stands. Didn't even know it was a superhero book. I recognized the art style as being the same as the art in of some of the pre-hero Marvel monster books I was buying and enjoying, and there were no costumes to identify these characters as superheroes. Heck, one of the good guys looked as monstrous as the behemoth he was combating!
So I bought a copy, and my life was changed.
The ill-tempered Ben Grimm. The intellectual Reed Richards. The brash Johnny Storm. The compassionate Sue Storm. Before I finished that first issue, I felt like I knew them. And right then, I knew that, if I saw another Fantastic Four comic, I was going to buy it.
Six weeks later, I stumbled across Fantastic Four #2 at Conn's Grocery. (The fact that I found it six weeks later meant that I was actually a couple of weeks late finding FF #1, since the title was bi-monthly to begin with. Imagine if I had been a few weeks later and had missed it entirely!...) I had already spent my entire allowance that week (mostly on comics, of course), but I cajoled my Dad into buying FF #2 for me. I finished it in the car before we got home.
And right then, I wanted the next issue. I couldn't wait to read more stories starring these characters and their bizarre, almost monstrous adversaries.
I was hooked. I was a collector. And I watched the entire world of the Fantastic Four--and the entire Marvel Age of Comics--unfold, month after month, as Marvel added more superhero titles and converted some of their existing titles like Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish, Tales of Suspense, and Journey Into Mystery into superhero titles.
No matter how good the book was, though, it wasn't Fantastic Four. Stan and Jack were doing their best work here; they really wanted to live up to that bragging "World's Greatest Comics Magazine" blurb. Even lackluster issues like FF #7 (an alien kidnap story featuring a forgettable villain named Kurrgo) or FF #13 (the Red Ghost tale that is memorable only for the stunning Steve Ditko inks on Kirby's pencils) or FF #24 (the Infant Terrible story that seemed to be taken right from the pages of a pre-hero Marvel) were fascinating because they were part of the greater tapestry of Fantastic Four tales.
No matter how much I enjoyed Batman or Superman or any of the other DC heroes, I could never experience them from the beginning. With enough money, I could acquire all those old issues--but I'd be reading them as a part of history. There could be no real suspense, because I had already read later issues and knew that everyone was alive and well. (I was too young to realize that all suspense in comics was largely artificial, because publishers back then were wise enough not to do anything drastic to their moneymaking characters.) But with Fantastic Four, I had no idea what might happen next.
There's a lot to be said for "getting in on the ground floor." In the case of Fantastic Four, it introduced me to the world's greatest comics magazine, and it made me appreciate the genius of the two men responsible for those tales.
So if I reduce my entire comics collection to one series, this is it. And I could be happy with that.
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
Sunday, August 27, 2017
I first heard the Beatles' "When I'm Sixty-Four" the month it was released. I was thirteen years old, soon to turn fourteen.
I didn't even consider that I might some day be sixty-four years old. It seemed so remote, so distant that it wasn't worth any further contemplation.
Now Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is a couple of months more than fifty years old, and I have reached the landmark year memorialized forever in Paul McCartney's clever song.
(I intentionally avoided posting this on my actual birthday, because I didn't want anyone to think that I was simply trolling for birthday greetings. I am now sixty-four years and one day.)
I am so fortunate to have reached this age. I was forty-six, not sixty-four, when I suffered a severe heart attack that led to this world and me "taking a break" for about seven minutes. That was about seventeen and a half years ago. Every day since then has been a gift. (There have been 6,361 such gifts thus far in my life. I keep count of them and try to appreciate each and every one.)
The thing is, I don't really feel radically different at sixty-four. I don't feel old, although I realize that I've seen a lot more days than most of the friends I see regularly. I still do many of the same things that I did when I was younger; I enjoy many of the same hobbies; I am enthused about many of the same things.
Unlike the narrator of the song, I don't really view sixty-four as a demarcation of old age. I've never been defined by my age, I guess; I don't fret over impending birthdays, I don't try to lie about my age as if I'm ashamed of it--and truth be told, I don't think about it all that often, except when external events force me to do so (when I'm filling out paperwork that asks my age, for instance).
I know some old people; some of them are younger than me. I know some young people; some of them are older than me. I hope that I continue to have more in common with the latter than the former, although I can appreciate both.
HP Lovecraft, a writer whose remarkable body of work has entertained and inspired me for many years, saw himself as an "old soul" in a younger man's body. I think I am his opposite in that regard: I see myself as a "young soul," no matter how many years have passed since my birth.
Belated happy birthday to me. Glad to be here.
Saturday, August 26, 2017
School was back in session for West Rome students as of Monday, .August 28th. (County schools got a couple of extra days off, though, since their school week began on Wednesday, August 30th.) Enrollment in the city school system was up by about 100 students over May 1967 enrollment, with the vast majority of the increase in high school students (39 new students at West Rome, 31 at East Rome). This pushed total city school enrollment to 6975 students.
West Rome kicked off its football season on September 1st with a tough game against Dalton. Even though the Catamounts had been widely seen as the likely victors in the faceoff, West Rome won a 7-6 victory, thanks to a phenomenal catch by Charles Williams early in the second half for the Chieftains’ lone touchdown. Roger Weaver’s extra point secured the win for West Rome. Weaver was also the leading ground gainer for the Chiefs with 95 yards in 16 carries.
Rome City Schools set school lunch prices at 20¢ for students and 40¢ for adults for the 1967-1968 school year. They kept prices low by utilizing $8 million in federal assistance for the National School Lunch Program, by taking part in the Special Milk Program, and by using donated surplus foods provided by the United States Department of Agriculture. “The lunch served in Georgia schools provides one-third to one-half of a child’s daily food needs of vitamins, minerals, protein, calories, calcium, and iron,” Ms. Josephine Martin, State School Food Service Supervisor, said. In Rome, almost 4800 students participated in the cafeteria program each day in the 1966-1967 school year (the last year for which full statistics were available), out of 6875 enrolled.
Archeology instructor Archie Smith of the University of Georgia headed a student excavation of a centuries-old Indian village located in an area being excavated near Plant Hammond, only feet away from the Coosa River. Ten students were meticulously shovel-scraping, sifting, cataloguing, and photographing the area as the preserved any artifacts before the area was scheduled to be cleared for Plant Hammond expansion. Georgia Power was paying all costs for the excavation of the site, was was estimated to be 1500 to 2000 years old.
Band directors’ lives got a little more complicated this week in 1967 after the State Board of Education implemented a new rule prohibiting marching band practice for preparation of half-time performances during the school day, even if the students were in band class. Under the new rules, “individual or group practice in activities of an interscholastic nature must be conducted after the end of the six-hour school day.” Prior to this rule, schools had tried to schedule marching band students for band class in the last period of the day so that they could practice before going home; with the new rule in effect, however, band directors would have to schedule all practices after school or cancel marching band halftime performances.
11-year-old Johnny Doan had a close call when he was struck by a car on Watson Street in West Rome on Wednesday afternoon. Doan was riding his bike through the intersection when a car struck him. Police determined that the young bicyclist had ridden into the road, so no charges were filed.
NASA selected West Rome High School as one of four schools in Georgia to be offered space-related industrial arts resources prepared by NASA and a committee of industrial arts educators. Tom Courtney, head instructor of industrial arts at West Rome, met with NASA representatives and regional industrial arts instructors to receive the material, review, it, and discuss how to implement it in West Rome classrooms. NASA representatives planned to return to West Rome on September 6th, 27th, 28th, and 29th to work in the classrooms with students and to share more information about industrial arts-related careers with NASA and other high-tech employers.
The situation looked grim for Rome’s proposed new post office and federal building: the Senate Appropriations Committee deleted the project from the appropriations bill. However, all hope wasn’t lost: the full Senate still had to vote whether to accept the recommendations or amend them.
Four Romans were injured on Redmond Road, just a few hundred yards from West Rome High School, when their car skidded into the path of a freight train at the Redmond Road crossing. According to the police, the driver attempted to stop when she heard the train whistle, but she was traveling at a sufficiently high rate of speed that she skidded 32 feet into the path of the locomotive, which struck her car and threw it 33 feet into a ditch. Surprisingly, no one was killed, although the driver was admitted to the hospital in critical condition after being thrown from the vehicle.
It was such a different economic environment a half-century ago: Celanese, a major manufacturing employer in Rome, announced that they were expanding their facility to produce a new polypropylene yarn to be used in the making of indoor-outdoor carpet. The expansion would result in the hiring of sixty more hourly and staff personnel. “We are delighted that Rome has been selected as the production point for this new addition,” plant manager BE Cash said. “It is a reflection of the high regard Celanese has for its long association with the Rome area and its people, as well as being a reflection of the long-range potential Celanese sees in its facilities here. This would push Celanese’s total personnel at the Rome facility to more than 500 employees, making them one of Rome’s largest employers—but definitely not Rome’s only manufacturing employer!
Kroger had Morton frozen dinners for 39¢ each, Mann’s Golden Harvest franks for 49¢ a pound, and cantaloupes for a quarter each. Kroger had chicken breasts for 39¢ a pound, Chase & Sanborn coffee for 59¢ a pound, and Sealtest ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon. A&P had rib steaks for 89¢ a pound, orange juice for 43¢ a half-gallon, and corn for a nickel an ear. Big Apple had pork loins for 69¢ a pound, lettuce for 19¢ a head, and Velveeta for 59¢ a pound.
The cinematic week began with Hurry Sundown (starring Michael Caine) at the DeSoto Theatre, Taming of the Shrew (starring Elizabeth Taylor) at the First Avenue, and The Dirty Dozen (starring Lee Marvin) at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switchout brought Walt Disney’s The Gnome-Mobile to the DeSoto Theatre, The Sound of Music back to the First Avenue (after it played nonstop for several months in 1966, we thought we were finally rid of it!), and Hell’s Angels on Wheels (“for mature adults only”) to the West Rome Drive-In.
The final episode of The Fugitive aired on August 29th, 1967, and it set viewing records for a prime-time dramatic show; it was, in fact, the second-most-watched TV show of the decade, only surpassed by The Ed Sullivan broadcast on February 9th, 1964, that introduced the Beatles to American viewers.
Bobbie Gentry maintained her number one position for a second week with “Ode to Billie Joe.” Other top ten hits included “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles (#2); “Reflections” by Diana Ross & the Supremes (#3); “Light My Fire” by the Doors (#4); “Baby I Love You” by Aretha Franklin (#5); “Come Back When You Grow Up” by Bobby Vee & the Strangers (#6); “Cold Sweat—Part 1” by James Brown & the Famous Flames (#7); “Pleasant Valley Sunday” by the Monkees (#8); “You’re My Everything” by the Temptations (#9); and “I Was Made to Love Her” by Stevie Wonder (#10).
It was a great week for eponymous album premieres, with Vanilla Fudge (the first album by the group helmed by Carmine Appice and Time Bogert), Big Brother and the Holding Company (the first album by the group the starred singer Janis Joplin), and Spanky & Our Gang (the debut album by the group best known for “Sunday Will Never Be the Same”) all making their premieres this week in 1967.
Friday, August 18, 2017
We’re so accustomed to thinking of I-75 as a “done deal” that it’s almost surprising to learn that much of I-75 through Georgia was incomplete fifty years ago. Plans were already underway to connect the various segments of the interstate, however, with work beginning on a major portion of the interstate between Atlanta and Macon in August, with more work scheduled to fill in the gap between Cartersville and Marietta later in the year.
Public outrage forced Rome City Commissioner Richard L. Starnes to quit selling plants, mulch, and landscape material from his nursery business to the city. Not only was Starnes approving sales from his private business to the city at a much higher than normal rate, he had also used his authority to convince the Rome City Schools to hire his wife to supervise the landscaping and maintenance of Rome schools—which meant that she was drawing a salary for paying her family’s business an exorbitantly high rate to maintain school property. Starnes’ company was immediately banned from doing business with the city on advice of the City Attorney; the school system said they would look into the “sweetheart deal” involving Starnes’ wife.
A little piece of Rome history was discovered to be in danger when painters found major wood rot in the timbers supporting the steeple on the Floyd County Courthouse. The steeple was determined to be so unsafe that the county determined they’d probably have to take it down entirely and replace it with a fiberglass replica. “With a hard wind, the whole thing could topple into Fifth Avenue, Sheriff Joe Adams said.
Chieftains were enjoying one final week of sleeping late and bumming around, since summer was about to come to an end with the August 28th start of school. That made this final vacation week particularly bittersweet, but we all tried to make the best of it (and especially me, whose August 26th birthday usually occurred in the first week of school-- but in 1967 I got to have not only a summer vacation birthday, but also a weekend birthday!
Just in time for school’s start, Murphy’s had a complete set of Illustrated World Encyclopedias for only $39.99—a 60% discount off the list price. In the pre-internet era, encyclopedias were considered a must-have by many parents and students. (Try to explain to students today why they should make space for almost three linear feet of books that had to be updated with annual supplemental volumes and see what response you get…)
Rome’s summer crime wave continued: the Lindale Pharmacy was broken into and $105.00 was stolen from the register (but no drugs were taken, surprisingly) on August 21st; on August 22nd, thieves broke into the Coke machine in front of Scott’s Super Market on Why 27N and stole approximately $30.00 in change. A similar vending machine break-in netted thieves almost $100 from various machines at Coosa Valley Technical School on August 23rd. Thieves then broke into Hanks-Saunders Supply Company on Shorter Avenue, stealing $400 in cash, on August 24th. On August 25th, thieves broke into DeSoto Beauty Shop on Broad Street and stole $250 in cash
On August 23rd, a seventeen-year-old drove up to Shorter Avenue Motors in a 1960 Ford and expressed an interest in a 1955 Chevrolet on the lot. He left his car while he “test drove” the Chevy; when he didn’t return by the end of the day, the car dealership called the police, who determined that the Ford had been stolen in Marietta earlier that day. No luck finding the missing Chevrolet...
A new business service came to Rome this week in 1967: “containerized refuse removal,” or what most of us today refer to as “dumpster service.” For the first time, a company was willing to provide Rome businesses with their very own dumpsters, and to arrange to empty those dumpsters every week! Dispos-All Services had begun its operations in Dalton, servicing the businesses that grew up around the Dalton carpet industry, but now they were moving into Rome, offering garbage service for businesses who had outgrown typical trashcan service. We take dumpsters for granted now, but in 1967 this was a Really Big New Thing for Rome!
Piggly Wiggly had sirloin steak for 99¢ a pound, tomatoes for 19¢ a pound, and 500 sheets of notebook paper for 39¢. Big Apple had lamb legs for 69¢ a pound, Maxwell House coffee for 59¢ a pound, and seedless grapes for 29¢ a pound. A&P had cubed steak for 89¢ a pound (and I’ve never understood why something as mundane as cube steak was more or less the same price as sirloin or T-bone steak), 20 ounces of salted peanuts for 49¢, and cantaloupes for 27¢ each. Kroger had chuck roast for 89¢ a pound, Blue Plate mayonnaise for 49¢ a quart, and lettuce for 10¢ a head. Couch’s had chicken breast for 49¢ a pound, ground beef for 45¢ a pound, and Bama jelly (in 18 ounce jars that could be used as drinking glasses) for 25¢ each.
The cinematic week began with Way West (starring Richard Widmark) at the DeSoto Theatre and the West Rome Drive-In and Taming of the Shrew (starring Elizabeth Taylor) at the First Avenue. The midweek switchout brought Hurry Sundown (with Michael Caine) to the DeSoto Theatre and The Dirty Dozen (with Lee Marvin) to the West Rome Drive-In, while Taming of the Shrew hung around for another week at the First Avenue.
“Ode to Billie Joe” climbed to number one this week in 1967, propelling Bobbie Gentry to stardom. Other top ten hits included “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles (#2); “Pleasant Valley Sunday” by the Monkees (#3); “Light My Fire” by the Doors (#4); “Baby I Love You” by Aretha Franklin (#5); “I Was Made to Love Her” by Stevie Wonder (#6); “Cold Sweat—Part 1” by James Brown & the Famous Flames (#7); “Reflections” by Diana Ross & the Supremes (#8); “You’re My Everything” by the Temptations (#9); “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum (#10).
This week in 1967, ABC’s Dark Shadows and CBS’s As the World Turns became the first soap operas to broadcast in full color. (It’s surprising that the supernatural-themed Dark Shadows, one of the strangest soap operas in network television history, was ABC’s choice to become their first full-color soap—but perhaps it was the gothic horror aspect of the series that convinced them that it would benefit from the addition of color.)
Saturday, August 12, 2017
Politics never changes: Floyd County residents were upset fifty years ago when they discovered that tax money had been used to pay for road paving for a road that only served one resident: Representative Sidney Lowrey. $1200.00 in tax money had been used to pave the road that was in effect little more than a private driveway. County ‘Attorney George Anderson said that the road was listed as county right-of-way on the land plat, so the paving was justified as a county expense, but he had no immediate response when residents asked why the county paved all the way “up to his carport, his tool shed, and his barn” on Rep. Lowrey’s private property.
Jean Smiderski, 1967-68 West Rome Student Council President, attended the National Student Council and Honor Society Leadership ‘Camp in Sandusky, Ohio.
Coach Paul Kennedy discussed the upcoming football season with Don Biggers of the Rome News-Tribune. “Injuries—or rather, the lack of them—will be the key to our season,” Coach Kennedy said. “We have only 29 boys on the varsity squad, and that means we don’t have much depth in any position. But because of the small squad, we have been able to devote more time to individual work.” Coach Kennedy also said that the 1967-1968 football schedule was the toughest in West Rome history, with the Chiefs facing off against Dalton, Carrollton, and Lafayette in the first four weeks of the season.
Five juveniles and one 18-year-old were arrested on Monday,. August 14th, for operating a regional car theft ring. The six-person theft ring were responsible for thefts in Rome, Cartersville, Marietta, and Atlanta. The dirty half-dozen were caught after they left one of the stolen cars parked in front of the home of one of the thieves.
The Big Apple grocery store in West Rome called in the authorities after they discovered several counterfeit $10 and $20 bills in the register of one of their cashiers. The US Secret Service was called in, and they reported tha the cashier had given a pretty clear description of the suspect who had paid with the bills. Once the news of counterfeiting got out, though other stores in West Rome also reported having received bogus bills in the prior week, including Super-Discount, Buy-Wise, Redford's, and Enloe's Rexall Drugs.
Piggly Wiggly had chuck roast for 39¢ a pound, bell peppers for 7¢ each, and Libby’s fruit cocktail for 20¢ a can (and it contained real cherries back then, not just grapes dyed red!). A&P had fresh whole fryers for 23¢ a pound, white corn for 6¢ an ear, and Ann Page bread for 25¢ a loaf. Kroger had smoked hams for 45¢ a pound, eggs for 35¢ a dozen, and potatoes for 9¢ a pound. Big Apple had ground beef for 39¢ pound, Banquet cream pies for 22¢ each, and honeydew melons for 79¢ each. Couch’s had chicken livers for 49¢ a pound, fresh okra for 19¢ a pound, and Blue Plate barbecue sauce for 29¢ a bottle.
The cinematic week began with Barefoot in the Park (starring Jane Fonda and Robert Redford) at the DeSoto Theatre and the West Rome Drive-In, and Taming of the Shrew (starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton) at the First Avenue. The midweek switchout brought Way West (starring Kirk Douglas) to the DeSoto Theatre and the West Rome Drive-In, while The Taming of the Shrew hung around for another week at the First Avenue.
The Beatles took number one this week in 1967 with “All You Need Is Love.” Other top ten hits included “Light My Fire” by the Doors (#2); “Pleasnt Valley Sunday” by the Monkees (#3); “I Was Made to Love Her” by Stevie Wonder (#4); “Baby I Love You” by Aretha Franklin (#5); “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” by The Buckinghams (#6); “Ode to Billie Joe” by Bobbie Gentry” (#7); “Cold Sweat—Part 1” by James Brown and the Famous Flames (#8); “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum (#9); and “A Girl Like You” by the Young Rascals (#10).
Saturday, August 05, 2017
We were still enjoying summer fifty years ago in West Rome, because school wasn’t scheduled to start back until August 28th (almost a full month after school’s 2017 starting date). The school buildings weren’t empty during the summer, though: maintenance workers were busy painting classrooms, stripping and waxing floors, repairing and/or replacing damaged equipment, and more in preparation for students’ return. (One thing they weren't repairing was the air conditioning at West Rome… because there wasn’t any!) The only thing that mattered to students, though, was that there were still two more glorious weeks of summer before school opened for the 1967-1968 school year.
Investigators came to Rome looking for evidence related to a theft of 412 sticks of dynamite from a Cartersville storage bin in mid-July. Some of the stick were used to build a bomb that killed Piedmont circuit solicitor general Floyd G. Hoard on Monday afternoon; Hoard was involved in a complex prosecution involving a car theft ring and a moonshining operation. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation would not give any information regarding their reasons for thinking that there might be Rome links to the crime.
The City of Rome authorized $156,000 in expenditures to improve and modernize the city’s transit system—although they didn’t have to come up with all of the cash. The Department of Housing and Urban Development was willing to put in $2 for every $1 that the city spent, so the real cost to the city was only $53,000. Plans called for 35 new buses to hit the streets of Rome within 30 days. Since Rome used city buses for school bus duty as well, this meant a safer, more comfortable ride for some students once the new buses were put into service.
Rome’s job options improved with the announcement that Trend Mills was building a major addition to its Rome facility. The expansion was expected to produce another 150 jobs in the Rome area.
Piggly Wiggly had 3-Pound Swift’s Canned Hams for $2.89 each, nectarines for 29¢ a pound, and Heinz tomato soup for a dime a can. Kroger had ground beef for 35¢ a pound, Sealtest ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon, and Kroger bread for 18¢ a loaf. A&P had round steak for 77¢ a pound, Eight O’Clock coffee for 49¢ a pound, and blueberries for 39¢ a pint. Big Apple had fresh whole fryers for 25¢ a pound, Duke’s mayonnaise for 29¢ a jar, and cantaloupes for 33¢ each. Couch’s had cube steak for 79¢ a pound, tomatoes for a dime a pound, and Coca-Cola/Tab/Sprite for $1.19 a case plus deposit.
The cinematic week began with El Dorado (starring John Wayne & Robert Mitchum) at the DeSoto Theatre and the West Rome Drive-In and A Guide for the Married Man (starring Walter Matthau) at the First Avenue Theatre. The midweek switch out brought Barefoot in the Park (staring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda) to the DeSoto Theatre and the West Rome Drive-In and The Taming of the Shrew (starring Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton) to the First Avenue. (Hard to believe that, with so few screens in Rome, the theatre owners insisted on running the same movie at the DeSoto and the Drive-in, thereby reducing our choices even more.)
The Doors held on to the number slot for another week with “Light My Fire.” Other top ten hits included “‘All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles (#2); “I Was Made to Love Her” by Stevie Wonder (#3); “Pleasant Valley Sunday” by the Monkees (#4); “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” by the Buckinghams (#5); “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli (#6); “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum (#7); Windy by the Association (#8); “Carrie-Anne” by the Hollies (#9); and “A Girl Like You” by the Young Rascals (#10).
What a n impressive list of albums in the Top Five: the Billboard list for the week included Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles (#1); Headquarters by the Monkees (#2); Flowers by the Rolling Stones (#3); Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane (#4) and The Doors by… well, you know (#5).