John Shearer: A Look Back At 50 Years Ago In Chattanooga And Beyond

Sunday, January 1, 2017 - by John Shearer
Rogers Theatre, shown here at its opening in the 1950s, was still a popular movie theater in 1967
Rogers Theatre, shown here at its opening in the 1950s, was still a popular movie theater in 1967
- photo by Courtesy of Chattanooga Public Library
Fifty years ago, Chattanoogans were celebrating the start of a new year – 1967.

They were also watching the exciting changes in technology designed to make life easier, but were also having to face age-old problems like crime and war.

And then there were the longtime American pleasures of watching college football bowl games and reading wedding announcements in the newspaper, diversions with which Chattanoogans of today could very easily relate.

Unfortunately, the pages of the Chattanooga News-Free Press and the Chattanooga Times from Jan. 1, 1967, were particularly tough to look at, because much of the news was sad.

For example, 85-year-old James Foster died the day before when he went the wrong way on the Interstate 75 exit ramp off Lee Highway and collided with another vehicle.

Also on that Dec.
31, police said a 16-year old was shot and killed at the Wallace Tile Co. on Latta Street by a Hamilton County patrolman who was on guard duty, while an 18-year-old was charged with killing his stepfather with a claw hammer in another incident. An intruder of Lefty’s liquor store on Main Street was also shot and injured by a detective hiding in wait.

At Woolworth’s dime store downtown, $1,775 was taken from a service counter desk by a young man, who simply grabbed the money and quickly exited the building. Needless to say, the local Woolworth’s officials likely made sure not to leave any more money lying around and visible to the public.            

On the national and international scene, a few somber concerns also dominated the thoughts, although conservative backers were glad former actor Ronald Reagan was getting ready to be sworn in as governor of California.

Among the challenging issues for 1967 depicted by an editorial cartoon were the growing Vietnam War, inflation, student unrest and the situation in Rhodesia. That state had claimed independence to delay a transition to black majority rule.

On a happier note in Chattanooga, some highly visible new job appointments were announced. Dr. Paul Ramsey, who had been the poet-in-residence at the University of Chattanooga, was to become a fulltime English professor there. John Mooney, meanwhile, had become a partner with the Stophel, Caldwell and Heggie law firm.

Also, prize-winning artist Robert Meredith, formerly of the University of Georgia, was to become the director of Gallery One at Eastgate shopping center. The facility offered a variety of fine arts classes, including drama and its popular ballet classes.

Good news was also found on the bridal pages of the newspaper. Announcing their engagements to be married were Maureen Elizabeth Kelly and Paul K. Frierson, Linda Dale Standefer and Edward Young Chapin IV, and Mary Helen McCall and Thomas Alan Mastin Jr.

Plenty of escapist entertainment could also be found if one wanted to avoid all the negative news locally and beyond. “Murderer’s Row,” starring Dean Martin, Ann-Margaret and Karl Malden, was playing at the Eastgate theater; Michael Caine was starring in “Alfie” at the Brainerd Cinerama, and Fred MacMurray and a young Kurt Russell were in “Follow Me, Boys!” at the Rogers Theatre in downtown Chattanooga.

The CBS/Channel 12 lineup on television for Monday evening, Jan. 2, 1967, included “The Lucy Show” at 8:30, “The Andy Griffith Show” at 9, “Family Affair” with Brian Keith at 9:30, and “To Tell the Truth” at 10. Popular Monday night shows on ABC/Channel 9 included “Peyton Place” at 9:30 and “The Big Valley” at 10.

NBC’s lineup that day included the still-familiar “Today” show beginning at 7 in the morning, while during the day it showed some of the bowl games, which had been moved from Sunday, Jan. 1, because of the pro games.

Florida and Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrier beat Georgia Tech and retiring coach Bobby Dodd, 27-12, in the Orange Bowl, while Alabama beat Nebraska, 34-7, in the Sugar Bowl. The Crimson Tide had another good year that included a national championship.

Purdue, led by quarterback and kicker Bob Griese, beat Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl, 14-13, in the most competitive game of the day.

But the most interesting bowl games as far as many Chattanoogans were concerned took place on Dec. 31. In the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Georgia added to its first SEC co-championship under Vince Dooley with a 24-9 win over Southern Methodist University.

Georgia that year had several local stars. Linebacker Happy Dicks, a 1965 Baylor School graduate, made an impressive 11 tackles, and Central High graduate Bob Etter kicked a field goal.

Catching a touchdown pass for Georgia from Kirby Moore was Billy Payne, who later became known for leading the effort to get the Olympic games in Atlanta in 1996 and is now the chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club.

An SMU student and Kappa Alpha Theta sorority sister at the time, although it is not known if she was at the game, was Laura Welch, later known as First Lady Laura Bush.

The bowl game that interested Chattanoogans the most, of course, was the Dec. 31 Gator Bowl, where Tennessee beat Syracuse, 18-12, with the help of some good passing by Dewey Warren. The win would become even more significant because Syracuse was led by running backs Larry Csonka and Floyd Little, who later starred with the Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos, respectively.

The pro games also drew some interest on Sunday, Jan. 1. Green Bay, coached by Vince Lombardi and led by quarterback Bart Starr, defeated Dallas, 34-27, in the NFL championship game in the Cotton Bowl, where Georgia had played the day before.

In the AFL championship game, the Kansas City Chiefs had an easy 31-7 victory over the Buffalo Bills at the Bills’ War Memorial Stadium. The Chiefs and the Packers would meet two weeks later in what was the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game. Of course, the latter game would later become known simply as the Super Bowl.

To watch the games on TVs, the Hannah-Adams appliance dealership at Brainerd Road and Belvoir Avenue was selling a portable color television for $397 – or $14.44 a month. The games could also be followed on a $19.95 transistor radio bought at the store.

Changing technology was apparent with other equipment besides TVs and radios, too. A General Electric spokesman said video tape recording was expected to become quite popular in education and training in the near future.

Also, Boeing won a government contract to produce the first supersonic airliner jet. The project would never get very far, although the French/English Concorde and a Russian jet would operate for a period as supersonic airline carriers. 

Chattanoogans could also follow some high school basketball at the dawn of the new year. Riverside High School’s basketball team led by coach Dorsey Sims and players Leroy Alexander and Ralph Jones was undefeated. Other local roundball stars in January 1967 included Steve Eaton of City High and Ron Zuker of Notre Dame.

Socially, one newspaper column was saying that a statewide push was now on to legalize liquor by the drink, or mixed drink sales, as it was then known.

For those who liked toasting, that was one of several reasons to celebrate a new year that was also being viewed with a little trepidation.

For me, early January in 1967 was simply time to get ready to go back to Ms. Adele Baker’s first-grade class at Bright School after a couple of weeks off for the holidays.

Jcshearer2@comcast.net
  

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