Saturday, September 23, 2017

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 9/25/1967 to 10/1/1967

Rome detectives broke up a Rome-based auto theft ring that whose operations stretched from Chicago to Birmingham to Savannah. The thieves were stealing cars in distant towns, then bringing them to Rome where they changed the vehicle ID numbers and resold them as used cars in the Rome market. Since the ring crossed state lines to carry out its crimes, the Rome police department called in the FBI to assist.  Eleven stolen vehicles were recovered, and police were going through records to try to determine how many other stolen vehicles had been sold to unsuspecting buyers.

Rome got an early hint of winter when temperatures fell to 39 degrees in the early morning hours of Friday, September 29th. (There were reports of frost at the top of Mount Alto, which is almost unheard of in Georgia in September) Temperatures dropped even more on Saturday morning, hitting a record low of 36 degree—perfect football weather!

Rome City Schools’ plans for an ambitious Headstart program were put on hold when the US Office of Economic Opportunity delayed approval of the plan. The school system was surprised by the delay, since they had been approved for funds for the 1966-1967 school year and thought approval for the 1967-1968 school year was pretty much an automatic thing… but apparently they underestimated the lethargy of the governmental bureaucracy.

The Chieftains faced off against the Wills Tigers in a hard-fought game that found the Chieftains behind 14-7 midway through the third quarter. West Rome’s defensive line recovered a blocked punt late in the third quarter and ran it in for a touchdown, then Roger Weaver scored on a 23-yard run in the fourth quarter to put the Chiefs in the lead. Mark Brewer’s on-target kicking secured the 21st point, giving the team another victory.

West Rome Junior High School published its first newspaper, Smoke Signals, this week in 1967, under the guidance of journalism teacher Norris V. Johnson. Journalism was one of two new courses added to the junior high school curriculum in the 1967-68 school year; the other was speech & drama (a single course combining both subjects), which was taught by Mrs. Huffstetler on the 7th grade level and Mrs. Brannon on the 8th grade level. The theaters were already working on plans to present two one-act plays to the student body during the school year.

Plans were underway for a four-lane east-west corridor highway linking Memphis, Tennessee, and Columbia, South Carolina—and those plans had the road coming right through Rome. While it wasn’t an interstate, the plans would have given Rome a new multi-line highway to access areas of the South that were previously not connected by any major thoroughfares. 

Big K estimated that more than 25,000 customers shopped in its new Gala Shopping Center department store in its first week of operation. This was far more than store management had initially anticipated, and they said that it showed how important the new Gala Shopping Center would be to the Rome economy once the other stores in the center opened. (We know that they were correct: the presence of Gala Shopping Center established West Rome as a shopping destination. Gala would remain Rome's busiest shopping area until Riverbend Mall opened almost a decade later--but even Riverbend couldn't replace West Rome as a shopping destination, it could merely supplement it. It was Broad Street that suffered due to the development of shopping centers and malls, although it would be several more years before Romans would begin to see the first downtown retail casualties.)

Piggly Wiggly had sirloin steak for 99¢ a pound, red delicious apples for 15¢ a pound, and a six-bottle carton of Coca-Cola, Tab, or Sprite for 39¢ plus deposit. A&P had center cut pork chops for 69¢ a pound, Poss Brunswick stew for 49¢ a can, and red seedless grapes for 19¢ a pound. Big Apple had baking hens for 29¢ a pound, Jif peanut butter for 39¢ a jar, and grapefruit for 15¢ each. Kroger had smoked hams for 39¢ a pound, cantaloupes for 33¢ each, and a five-pound bag of Domino sugar for 39¢. Couch’s had ground beef for 45¢ a pound, large eggs for 35¢ a dozen, and Maxwell House coffee for 69¢ a pound.

The cinematic week began with Heat of the Night (starring Rod Steiger) at the DeSoto Theatre and the West Rome Drive-In, and The Sound of Music (starring Julie Andrews) at the First Avenue Theatre. The midweek switchout brought Two for the Road (starring Audrey Hepburn) to the DeSoto Theatre and the West Rome Drive-In, and Up the Down Staircase to the First Avenue.

The Box Tops held on to the number one slot for a second week with “The Letter,” while Bobbie Gentry held second place with her hit “Ode to Billie Joe.” Other top ten songs included “Never My Love” by the Association (#3); “Come Back When You Grow Up” by Bobby Vee & the Strangers (#4); “Reflections” by Diana Ross & the Supremes (#5); “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie” by Jay & the Techniques (#6); “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” by Jackie Wilson (#7); “Funky Broadway” by Wilson Pickett (#8); “I Dig Rock & Roll Music” by Peter, Paul, & Mary (#9); and “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison (#10). 

Deadman’s second appearance in Strange Adventures #206 was released this week in 1967. Normally a second appearance isn’t particularly newsworthy, but in this case it most definitely is, because artist Neal Adams took over the series with the second issue and quickly made it one of his “signature series.” Many people forget that Carmine Infantino illustrated the first issue, because Adams’ art quickly came to define the look and feel of Deadman (Infantino understood, since he had taken over Adam Strange from Mike Sekowsky and instantly established it as his own, leading people to forget Sekowsky’s early issues). Fifty years later, Adams is working on a new Deadman series that picks where his original run left off—and I guess that proves that good things do come to those who wait!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Fifty Years Ago This Week in 1967 - 9/18/1967 to 9/24/1967

The jury deliberated for less than three hours in the case of Watson Street residents against Minge Cement Company before they issued a permanent injunction against Minge. The jury said that the facility definitely qualified as heavy industry; did not belong in or near a residential area; and that the dust, noise, and traffic was negatively affecting the quality of life of the residents nearby. Minge’s lawyers said that the company had not decided whether to appeal or simply to relocate the facility. Some residents were also asking that Judge Jerry Minge resign his position for abuse of authority, but Minge and his attorneys had no comment on that.

The 19th Annual Coosa Valley Fair was a highlight of this week in 1967, and the weather was perfect for fairgoing—no rain and temperatures in the low 80s during the day and the upper 60s in the evening. The West Rome High School Band performed a concert on Thursday, September 21st at 6:30 pm, just prior to the crowning of Miss Coosa Valley Fair, which meant that they had one of the largest audiences of any fair event. Special guests for the fair included Atlanta Falcons players Randy Johnson and Tommy Nobis, Harold “Red” Grange, and children’s TV show hosts Officer Don (from Atlanta) and Bob Brandy (from Chattanooga).

Coach Paul Kennedy was cautiously optimistic about the Chieftain’s home game against Lafayette. He didn’t feel that the prior week’s loss against Chattooga was a sign of things to come; instead, he said that the Chiefs played one of their better games, but they were simply outmanned by the larger, more experienced Chattooga team. Kennedy said that the West Rome offense was the key: if the Chiefs could bring their running game back up to its former levels, they would have a great chance of winning.

The offense didn’t let Coach Kennedy down, racking up 34 points against LaFayette on Friday, September 22nd, at Barron Stadium. Problem is, LaFayette also racked up 34 points, so the game ended in a tie. West Rome almost pulled out a victory  on the final play of the game, but Mark Brewer’s 23-yard field goal effort was three feet too far to the left.

Big K opened for business on September 21st, 1967—the first store in Gala Shopping Center to open. This department store, Gala's anchor store located directly across the street from West Rome High School, would be Rome’s first major chain-store addition in many years; their presence in Rome would make Gala Shopping Center a regional shopping destination and would shake up Romans' shopping habits. Big K opened even before the rest of the shopping center was completed, although A&P, Cole Drugs, Economy Auto, Gateway Books, Kay Ice Cream, Pat’s Bakery, and Ken Stanton Music all planned to open in the fall in plenty of time for the holiday shopping season. (Alas, Big K’s move into the Rome market would also begin Rome's transition from locally owned, community-founded department stores to big-box discount chain stores—a transition that would be repeated across the country. In Rome, it would lead to the demise of Miller’s, Esserman’s, and Fahy’s, among other Rome stores.) For its opening, Big K had jeans for $2.22 a pair, men’s and women’s shoes for $1.22,a pair, Cannon towels for 37¢ each, .22 caliber rifles for $39.95, chocolate covered peanuts for 47¢ a pound, and a large bag of in-store-made caramel corn for a dime… and as I read that, I can still remember that rich, sweet taste of caramel corn wafting through the store.

Rome Radio Company began offering RCA’s first full-color home entertainment centers this week in 1967. The six-foot wide oak console unit housed a 23” color TV, an AM/FM radio, a four-speed six-record changer, and two large stereo speakers—and it could be yours for only $1095.00! (That’s the equivalent of $8400.00 in today’s dollars—no wonder other stores were reluctant to carry this entertainment behemoth!)

Senator Herman Talmadge went to bat for Rome and Floyd County, making a Senate floor speech to request that funds be restored for Rome’s proposed new federal building. The project had seemed to be a go until the week of the 11th, when it was unpredictably cut from the budget. Talmadge was ultimately successful, and the Rome Federal Building was back on track!

Rome merchants were faced with a counterfeiting problem this week in 1967. Someone was passing a large number of counterfeit $10 and $20 bills at a number of locations, including the West Rome Redford’s and A&P. All of the fake bills were dated 1963, and every $20 had the same serial number (which is what led one alert cashier to notice them—she got two of the twenties in one transaction and saw the identical serial numbers), while the tens were counterfeited using three different serial numbers (since tens were much more common than twenties in most shopping in the 1960s).

Piggly Wiggly had chicken breasts for 49¢ a pound, Vienna sausages for 20¢ a can, and Lady Alice ice milk for 33¢ a half-gallon. Big Apple had chuck roast for 39¢ a pound, red delicious apples for 20¢ a pound, and six-bottle cartons of Coca-Cola, Tab, or Sprite for 33¢ plus deposit. Kroger had cubed steak for $1.09 a pound (I had no idea that cube steak cost more than sirloin or T-bone!), Chef Boy-Ar-Dee spaghetti & meatballs for 29¢ a can, and cantaloupes for 33¢ each. A&P had smoked hams for 37¢ a pound, Aunt Jemima syrup for 47¢ a bottle, and seedless grapes for 19¢ a pound. Couch’s had ground beef for 43¢ a pound, JFG coffee for 69¢ a pound ,and bananas for a dime a pound.

The cinematic week began with The Big Mouth (starring Jerry Lewis) at the DeSoto Theatre and The Sound of Music (starring Julie Andrews) at the First Avenue. The midweek switchout brought Heat of the Night (starring Rod Steiger) to the DeSoto Theatre and Up the Down Staircase (starring Sandy Dennis) to the First Avenue. The West Rome Drive-In was closed during the week for repairs, but they ran Heat of the Night on the weekend.

The Box Tops’ :”The Letter” knocked Bobbie Gentry out of the number one spot this week in 1967. Gentry still held on in second place with “Ode to Billie Joe,” which went from a pop song to a cultural phenomenon as people speculated just what was thrown off the Tallahatchee Bridge. Other top ten hits included “Come Back When You Grow Up” by Bobby Vee & the Strangers (#3); “Reflections” by Diana Ross & the Supremes (#4); “Never My Love” by the Association (#5); “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie” by Jay & the Techniques (#6); “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” by Jackie Wilson (#i7); “You’re My Everything” by the Temptations (#8); “I Dig Rock and Roll Music” by Peter, Paul, & Mary (#9); and “Funky Broadway” by Wilson Pickett (#10).

Bobbie Gentry’s Ode to Billy Joe album likewise climbed to second place, beating out the Doors, the Rolling Stones, the Monkees, Aretha Franklin, the Temptations, Jefferson Airplane, and the Rascals. Only the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band kept Gentry’s album out of the top slot.

More than a quarter century after his first comics appearance, The Spectre premiered in his very own series this week in 1967, after getting positive response to his appearances in DC’s tryout comic Showcase. Gardner Fox & Murphy Anderson handled the creative duties on The Spectre #1.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 9/11/1967 to 9/17/1967

The “dust case,” as it was dubbed in the newspaper, finally got its days in court—Floyd Superior Court, to be precise. Watson Street residents contended that the Minge cement company was operating a heavy industry in an area only zoned for light industry, and that the related dust, noise, and heavy vehicle traffic was ruining the quality of life for everyone who lived in and around Watson Street. Judge Jerry L. Minge —whose family owned the cement company--had allegedly pulled strings in the courthouse to have the case dismissed, but a public outcry attracted the attention of sympathetic county officials, who pushed to have the case heard. So how did the case turn out? Well, you’ll have to be here next week to find out!...

Coach Paul Kennedy shared his apprehensions about the week’s game against the Carrolton Trojans. “Our offense must improve at least 100%,” Coach Kennedy said. “I certainly wasn’t impressed with our offense against Chattooga… We’ve got to become more consistent with our offense.” Coach Kennedy apparently had every reason to be apprehensive, too: the Trojans won the game 26-0, allowing the Chieftains only one remote chance at scoring—and that chance was denied them by the intimidating Carrolton defense. This was the first defeat of the season for the Chieftains.

West Rome Honor Society president Pat Finley officiated at the induction of eight new members  on September 12th. The inductees included Cherri Dixon, Marguerite Diprima, Joanna Leffel, Laurie Bryant, Bonnie Logan, Elaine Darsey, Kathy Corpe, and Sharon Galloway. 

Way back in February of 1967, Floyd County inmate William Gaddis escaped from a work detail on Horseleg Creek Road. On September 14th, Gaddis walked into the office of Governor Lester Maddox and asked if he could turn himself in, “because I just got tired of running.” The governor’s executive secretary called the state patrol, who transported Gaddis back to Rome.

Burglars targeted the Floyd County Courthouse in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, September 12th, but there was was all too little reward for all that risk: apparently the only thing they found to steal was one empty whiskey bottle. What’s so odd about that is that they skipped right over radios, pistols, and other items to remove that one whiskey bottle from the evidence cabinet at the courthouse. Furthermore, the burglars ransacked desks in every office of the courthouse, but went to the trouble to try to put things back in a semblance of order so that it wouldn’t look like desks has been tampered with. 

We’ve all heard of bake sales to raise money for the band or a school group, but the Rome Civil Air Patrol took that concept to the next level with their light bulb sale to pay for the cost of a new CAP airplane. Either they expected to sell a lot of light bulbs, or that was one very cheap airplane…

With the Coosa Valley Fair slated to kick off beginning on September 18th, the Georgia National Guard announced that they would be offering firearms classes a the fair for boys and girls ages 10 to 14. “Waht we hope to do is impress upon our young people the importance of knowing how and when to use firearms,” a spokesman said. (Now imagine if anyone today announced a young person’s firearms course in conjunction with a county fair!) 

Piggly Wiggly had chuck roast for 39¢ a pound, Castleberry chili for 33¢ a can, and Hunt’s pizza catsup (I had no idea that such a thing ever existed—did anyone ever try this?) for 13¢ a bottle. Kroger had sirloin steak for 99¢ a pound, Sealtest ice cream for 69¢ a half-gallon, and fresh okra for 15¢ a pound. A&P had fresh whole fryers for 25¢ a pound (29¢ a pound if you preferred your fryers cut up), seedless grapes for 19¢ a pound, and Poss Brunswick stew for 49¢ a can. Big Apple had perch fillets for 39¢ a pound, tomatoes for 19¢ a pound, and an eight-bottle carton of Double Cola for 39¢ plus deposit. Couch’s had ground beef for 39¢ a pound, bananas for a dime a pound, and Chef Boyardee spaghetti for 29¢ a can.

The cinematic week began with Fathom (starring Raquel Welch) at both the DeSoto Theatre and the West Rome Drive-In and The Sound of Music (starring Julie Andrews) at the First Avenue.  The midweek switchout brought The Big Mouth (with Jerry Lewis) to the DeSoto Theatre and Circus of Horrors (with no one who matters) to the West Rome Drive-In, while Julie Andrews continued to deprive romans of a cinematic choice at the First Avenue.

Apparently we were obsessed with whatever BIllie Joe McAllister threw off the Tallahatchee Bridge: Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” held on to the number one slot for the fifth time this week in 1967. Other top ten hits included “Reflections” by Diana Ross & the Supremes (#2); “Come Back When You Grow Up” by Bobby Vee & the Strangers (#3); “The Letter” by the Box Tops (#4); “Baby I Love You” by Aretha Franklin (#5); “You’re My Everything” by the Temptations (#6); “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie” by Jay & the Techniques (#7); “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles (#8); “San Franciscan Nights” by Eric Burdon & the Animals (#9); and “Funky Broadway” by Wilson Pickett (#10). 

The Doors performed “”Light My Fire” on The Ed Sullivan Show on September 17th—a performance that resulted in their being banned from the show from then on. Sullivan had mandated that the group not include the line “Girl we coudn’t get much higher” in their performance and the band agreed—but then they performed the line anyway. Apparently Sullivan held a grudge, since he refused several requests by the Doors’ manager to have the group appear again on the popular Sunday night variety show.

That very same night, the Who made the news by destroying their instruments during a performance on The Smothers Brothers Show. Pete Townsend was injured when Keith Moon’s bass drum exploded after being packed with fireworks. Moon had secretly packed three times the planned amount of fireworks in the drums, causing them to explode in a thunderous burst that Townsend later blamed for his hearing loss; the pyrotechnics also set Townsend’s hair on fire. (Moon himself was injured as well, as shrapnel from his cymbals cut his arm.) The outrageous gimmick worked, though: for the first time, the Who were generating major news coverage in the US.


TV premieres this week in 1967 included The Carol Burnett Show (September 11th), Ironside (September 14th), and Mannix (September 16th). 

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 9/4/1967 to 9/10/1967

Mike Grass was named lineman of the week by the Rome News-Tribune for his performance in the season-opener Dalton football game, which West Rome won. Grass was credited with seventeen tackles against the  Catamounts; he also recovered a key fumble that contributed significantly to West Rome’s surprise victory over the Dalton team, which had been picked to win by almost ever sports prognosticator—including my Dad, the RNT sports editor who had picked Dalton for a two-touchdown win over the Chiefs. This time, Dad saw the light and picked West Rome to win over the Chattooga Indians.

And win they did: West Rome pulled off a 7-0 victory over Chattooga in their first home game of the season. Quarterback Jimmy Edwards scored the touchdown on a two-yard run in the very next play after Johnny Rimes’ diving catch that put the Chieftains in scoring distance.

(I remain impressed by my Dad’s skills at picking high school football games: he actually got 5 of 7 predictions right this week in ’67.)

Rome’s economy continued to boom, with a $2 million gain in retail sales in the second quarter of 1967 compared to the same period in 1966. (A half-century ago, when computers were monstrously large devices rarely used by government agencies, it took a few months to calculate quarterly figures.) That was a 10.6% percent increase in retail growth in one year—and that was before the scheduled late-1967 opening of Gala Shopping Center, planned to be the largest shopping center in northwest Georgia.

Burglars went for the big heist when they robbed the Coosa Valley Discount House on Division Street in West Rome in the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday, September 5th. The burglars stole nearly 400 items with a value in excess of $7,000.00 (that’s $50,000+ in today’s dollars!). The thieves obviously came prepared, because they made off with eight fullsized console television sets, six stereos three power saws, twenty fans, two sets of golf clubs, shotgun shells, rifles, pistols, and more than 220 watches.

Piggly Wiggly had beef liver for 29¢ a pound, grapes for 19¢ a pound, and Heinz tomato soup (yes, Heinz once made canned soup) for a dime a can. Kroger had baking hens for 29¢ a pound, bananas for 13¢ a pound, and Kroger brand bread for 18¢ a loaf (white bread, of course—I don’t even recall most grocery stores carrying whole wheat bread when I was a kid, although I could have simply been paying no attention). A&P had chuck roast for 39¢ a pound, corn for a nickel an ear, and Pickle Paton (I don’t make up these names, I just report them) hamburger dill slices for 29¢ a quart. Big Apple had round steak for 77¢ a pound, Bailey’s Supreme coffee for 59¢ a pound, and honeydew melons for 69¢ each (and considering that’s the equivalent of $5 each adjusted for inflation, I now see why we never had honeydew melons). Couch’s had pork chops for 49¢ a pound, Van Camp’s chili for 29¢ a can, and tomatoes for 15¢ a pound.

The cinematic week began with Walt Disney’s Gnome-Mobile at the DeSoto Theatre, The Sound of Music (starring Julie Andrews) at the First Avenue Theatre, and Hell’s Angels on Wheels at the West Rome Drive-In. The midweek switch out brought Fathom (starring Raquel Welch) to the DeSoto Theatre and Horrors of the Black Museum (starring nobody important) to the West Rome Drive-In, while The Sound of Music continued to deprive us of another cinematic choice at the First Avenue.

Bobbie Gentry’s enigmatic ballad “Ode to Billie Joe” held onto number one once again this week in 1978. Other top ten hits included “Reflections” by Diana Ross & the Supremes (#2); “Come Back when You Grow Up” by Bobby Vee and the Strangers (#3); “Baby I Love You” by Aretha Franklin (#4); “The Letter” by the Box Tops (#5); “All you Need Is Love” by the Beatles (#6); “You’re My Everything” by the Temptations (#7); “Light My Fire” by the Doors (#8); “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie” by Jay and the Techniques (#9); and “San Francisco Nights” by Eric Burdon and the Animals (#10).

NBC filled a hole in their prime-time schedule on Saturday night, September 9th, with a comedy special that combined slapstick gags, quick-cut jokes, light-hearted burlesque, guest-cameos, and oodles of silliness. The special, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, proved to be such a surprise hit that the network quickly signed up Dan Rowan and Dick Martin to bring the show back on a regular basis a few months later—and it went on to become one of the hottest comedy programs of the late 60s, making stars out of Goldie Hawn, Arte Johnson, Henry Gibson, Joanne Worley, Judy Carne, Alan Sues, Ruth Buzzi, and many more.

This was also the week that kicked off the Fall TV season, with several noteworthy show premieres, including He & She (with Paula Prentiss & Richard Benjamin) on Wednesday, September 6th; The Flying Nun (starring Sally Field) on Thursday, September 7th; and The Mothers-In-Law (starring Eve Arden and Kaye Ballard) and The High Chaparral (starring Lief Erickson and Cameron Mitchell) on Sunday, September 10th.

And for those of us who were comic book fans, there was great news: Spider-Man (“does whatever a spider can”) was one of two memorable cartoons premiering on Saturday, September 9th. The other was Jay Ward’s  Tarzan spoof George of the Jungle (“watch out for that tree”), which also featured Super-Chicken as as part of its half-hour zaniness.

It was also the end of an era for fans of DC Comics’ The Flash: Carmine Infantino, who had illustrated the Silver Age Flash ever since his return in Showcase #4, ended his long run with Flash #174 this week in 1967. It always seemed unfair that he ended with this issue rather than #175, which featured the landmark race between Superman and the Flash. Who could have possibly done a better job on that speed faceoff than Infantino? (Certainly not Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, who did their best but simply were not suited for the Flash.)
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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Life in Four Colors (Part Forty-Two)

For me, it has always been Fantastic Four.

Why?

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.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

When I'm Sixty-Four

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

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 8/28/1967 to 9/3/1967

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

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 8/21/1967 to 8/27/1967

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

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 8/14/1967 to 8/20/1967

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

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 8/7/1967 to 8/13/1967

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).