A tour of Labor Day weekend, 1967, through archives of Atlanta History Center
By Guest Columnist BO HIERS, who recently “semi-retired” from a 35-year career in the reinsurance industry and is a newly-minted volunteer at the Atlanta History Center.
So all this really happened 50 years ago in Atlanta. You can check it out yourself at the Atlanta History Center’s Kenan Research Center. You’ll need to drop by the check-in desk and create a Patron Card for yourself. You may even have to leave a few things in a locker as well, including any ink pens, before you are granted access. But once inside, you have a veritable treasure trove of historical gems at your disposal.
My goal was to take a look back at Atlanta 50 years ago, and the best method for this type research is the drawers upon drawers of microfilm from the long-ago editions of The Atlanta Constitution AND The Atlanta Journal. That’s right, the Journal and Constitution were separate weekday newspapers in 1967, and my parents subscribed to both. The very best part of getting two newspapers each weekday for me was two sports sections! The Constitution hit our Lullwater Road driveway at the crack of dawn, while the Journal arrived much later in the day.
My research zeroed in on all the happenings in and around Atlanta, as well as national news headlines, for Labor Day weekend 1967. How much did a car cost in 1967? How about a house in the suburbs, or a suit at Rich’s, Atlanta’s go-to department store from yesteryear? Who was hiring 50 years ago, and for what kind of jobs? What movies were playing in the local theatres and what was airing on the local television stations? For that matter, how much would a new television set you back, and how many commercial television stations were available (hint: you could count them on one hand). What about the local sports teams – the Yellow Jackets, Bulldogs, Braves and Falcons? Read on!
Friday, Sept. 1, 1967, edition of The Atlanta Constitution
On the national scene, page one stories in the Constitution included the escalation of hostilities in Vietnam, and a potential looming automobile strike sponsored by the United Automobile Workers Association. The UAW was threatening to shut down the Big 3 automakers – Chrysler, Ford and GM, while United States’ senators were requesting an increase in raids “as the Cong terror rises.”
Locally, The Atlanta Constitution’s Bob Harrell reported on three Atlanta women who volunteered to spend the night in a fallout shelter. Spoiler alert: They hated it. Looking ahead, mountain sages were predicting a rough winter in 1968. Their prediction was based on how close hornets were building their nests to the ground; the lower the nest, the colder the winter.
On the celebrity front, First Daughter Lynda Bird Johnson’s two-year relationship with actor George Hamilton had hit the skids. Marine Capt. Chuck Robb of Menasha, Wi., was Lynda Bird’s latest love interest.
Sinclair was happy to announce their Dino Dollars winner! Marion Bennett of Irish Lane in Decatur was the lucky winner of 100 Dino Dollars. I’m thinking in 1967 dollars, $100 constituted plenty of happy fill-ups for Mr. Bennett.
Mrs. Lester Maddox, wife of Georgia’s new Governor, was slated to announce the 1967 Georgia Homemaker of the Year at the Southeastern Fair on Thursday, October 5, 1967. In case you were wondering, Molly Kate Ward was the 1966 winner.
Before turning my attention to the fun stuff – sports, TV and movies! – I took a quick tour of a few random advertisements and want ads and turned up the following jewels:
Pike Nurseries, at the corner of Buford Highway and Clairmont Road (yes, Pike Nurseries was around in 1967!) was featuring various Hino, Coral Bell and Christmas Cheer Snow azaleas for 69 cents. Wait! That’s not all – several varieties of mums were available for 99 cents, and 3-foot tall gardenias baled in burlap were going for the measly price of 88 cents.
Rich’s pre-Labor Day Sale was offering two men’s long sleeve dress shirts for $5, famous brand shoes for $7.99 and men’s suits for – get this! – $25!
East Point Ford had bargains galore, including a brand spanking new 1967 Ford pickup for $1,895, equipped with bright hub caps, a horn ring, convenient right hand arm rest, heater and a rear bumper! Downtown Dodge on Spring Street was practically giving away vehicles too, offering a ’67 two-door sedan Coronet for $2,199.
World Electronics at 293 Peachtree (where the Peachtree’s meet) had a super deal: Buy three “car tapes” and get the fourth absolutely free! Checking the want ads, I saw that Krispy Kreme on Ponce de Leon was looking to hire young men, ages 22 to 25 years of age, to “learn the donut business.”
Best of all, from my perspective, I stumbled upon an ad for homes for sale in the Huntley Hills Subdivision in Chamblee, the very subdivision in which I’ve lived in since 1996. The ad boasted that “5 All Electric Homes” were available for the discriminating young executive, and the bragging didn’t stop there. You should know the kitchens were built with the housewife in mind. Prices ranged from $21,000 to $25,000, and for that you came away with three bedrooms, two full baths, a spacious family room, and the ability to walk to the new Huntley Hills Elementary School.
Turning my attention to media coverage, I learned that Sept. 1, 1967 was the very first day on the air for Atlanta’s fourth commercial television station, WJRJ, Channel 17 – the forerunner to today’s Superstation TBS. Constitution columnist Paul Jones opined the initial programming, “was not formidable and consisted mainly of old movies and reruns.” On a positive note, Jones added that the new station was in the enviable position of being an independent outlet, without network ties.
The station manager, W. Robert McKinney, assured Atlanta viewers that the station would serve them with the best programming possible, with an emphasis on sports and entertainment. Right out of the gate, Channel 17 scored a sports coup when it landed the rights to the second game of the AFC’s Sunday Football Doubleheader. Incidentally, the very first program aired on the future Superstation was an old Joan Crawford movie, Della.
From the perspective of television programming options, life was far simpler in 1967. Imagine sitting down and only deciding between Channels 2, 5 or 11. One thing is certain – today’s minimalists would be thrilled with 1967 television. Prime time viewing that Friday night included Tarzan and The Man from Uncle on Channel 2; The Wild Wild West and Hogan’s Heroes on Channel 5; and Time Tunnel, a Billy Graham Crusade, and Rango on Channel 11. That’s right, folks, the entire lineup covered in one sentence!
The year 1967 was a stellar year for movies. Labor Day weekend in Atlanta offered a multitude of classics, the very same movies you see now on Turner Classic Movies. (Raise your hand high if it’s ever dawned on you while watching a TCM movie that you saw that very movie live and in person when it first hit the theaters.) Even though I was 13 at the time, I could still easily pass as a minor, meaning I paid no more than 75 cents to see a flick back then. Even better, I could easily walk to Emory Cinema.
Checking the movie section, the first thing that jumped out to me was the vast number of operational drive-in theaters, both inside and outside the city. In all, I counted 20 drive-ins. The Peachtree Drive-In, located at 5687 Peachtree Industrial Blvd., was showing two top-notch films – The Cincinnati Kid with Steve McQueen, Ann-Margret and Edward G. Robinson, and The Dirty Dozen, boasting an all-star cast of stellar actors, including Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland and Jim Brown.
Martin’s Rialto, at the corner of Forsyth and Luckie streets, was showing Spartacus with Kurt Douglas and Tony Curtis, while Toco Hills Theater offered The Taming of the Shrew, with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. My mom took me to see Sand Pebbles with Steve McQueen and Candice Bergen at Rhodes Theatre at 1500 Peachtree, and there’s good and bad news to report from that evening: The good news was that I saw an excellent movie on a school night! The bad news was returning to my mom’s Dodge Monaco Station Wagon in the pouring rain and spying a flat rear tire when I reached for the door handle.
Local theaters were showing classic movies all over 1967 metropolitan Atlanta, including You Only Live Twice, To Sir, With Love, and the hilarious A Shot in the Dark with Peter Sellers. You knew that Lenox Square had a movie theater at the time, right? It was there that you could see two of the best actors of the time, Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier, starring in In the Heat of the Night. If you caught the matinee at Lenox, you still had time to hit up either of Lenox’s two anchor stores – Rich’s or Davison’s – and maybe even work in a little grocery shopping at the Colonial Supermarket, where three years later I would play the supporting role of cashier and bagger.
My microfiche reader finally located the sports section. Thanks to the arrival of the Atlanta Braves and the Atlanta Falcons in 1966, Atlanta was a freshly minted major league sports town in 1967. That weekend the Braves were hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers, while the Falcons were preparing for their second season as a new professional football franchise.
Braves Beat writer, Wayne Minshew, reported on a 4-3 Braves victory the night before, thanks to a clutch ninth inning pinch-hit double by Rico Carty. Hank Aaron reached another home run milestone in the game, slamming his 33rd homer of the year, and 475th of his Hall of Fame career, tying the great Stan Musial for ninth on the all-time home run list.
As it turned out, 1967 was not a memorable season for the Braves. Division play was still two years away, and the Braves were mired in sixth place on Labor Day weekend in the National League, a full 14.5 games behind the first place Cardinals, who boasted two of the all-time greats in right-handed pitcher Bob Gibson and speedy outfielder, Lou Brock. The Braves line-up wasn’t exactly shabby either, with the likes of Aaron, Carty, Felipe Alou and Joe Torre. Alas, we were still decades away from Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine, and pitching proved to be the ’67 Braves kryptonite.
Like most brand new franchises, the Falcons were a struggling team 50 years ago. One shining star on the team was its outstanding middle linebacker, Tommy Nobis, who went on to have a stellar career with the Falcons. For the record, the Falcons would only win one game in 1967, but Nobis did earn a spot in Pro Bowl.
I’m a life-long Yellow Jackets fan and current season ticket holder, and 1967 was the first time in 22 years that the Jackets weren’t coached by the legendary Bobby Dodd. Bud Carson was the new head coach; Carson was far more of a disciplinarian than player-friendly Coach Dodd. The article in the sports section indicated that Carson was thrilled to have Lenny Snow, a talented running back, on the squad. Carson also had high praise for returning left-handed quarterback Kim King, a local talent from Brown High School.
The 1967 Georgia Bulldogs football team had two future NFL Hall of Famers on the team – defensive tackle Bill Stanfill, and defensive back Jake Scott (Stanfill and Scott went on to play key roles on the legendary undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins team). The sports section featured a picture of All-American tackle George Patton and pre-season Playboy Magazine offensive tackle, Edgar Chandler. A sidebar article on the first page indicated that the Bulldogs freshman team, coached by Doc Ayers, would include its first African-American, James Hurley, a fullback from Carver High School in Atlanta.
One other notable write-up in the Friday sports section – the Cincinnati Reds were high on a young catcher from Oklahoma, who made his major league debut on August 28, 1967. If you haven’t guessed already, his name was Johnny Bench.
Saturday, Sept. 2 edition of The Atlanta Constitution and The Atlanta Journal
The front page contained more bad news from Vietnam. Viet Cong terrorists went on a rampage on the eve of a national election in South Vietnam. Slumbering U.S. Marines awoke to rocket fire in an attack which resulted in over 1,000 South Vietnamese casualties. A side bar story indicated that the total number of missing U.S. planes now totaled 670.
In more world news, Vazi Illse Koch, one of the many dreaded German figures of the Buchenwald concentration camp, hanged herself in her prison cell, where she was serving a life term for atrocities. Koch was better known to inmates and survivors of the concentration camp as “the Bitch of Buchenwald.”
On the national news front, police clashed with protestors during a civil rights march in Milwaukee Friday night, resulting in 13 injuries and 14 arrests.
As you’ll find in today’s Saturday editions of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, churches advertised their Sunday sermons in 1967, as well. Since I was raised a Presbyterian, my eyes were drawn to the advertisements from The Druid Hills Presbyterian Church on Ponce de Leon Hills and Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Buckhead. The Rev. Dr. William Williamson’s sermon at Peachtree Presbyterian was titled “Thou Shalt Not”, while Minister James Johnson’s sermon at Druid Hills Presbyterian at least had a livelier title, “Overcoming Worry Without Dropping Out.”
I took another tour of the want ads in Saturday’s joint edition and saw that General Electric Credit Corp., at Broadview Plaza, at the corner of Piedmont and Lindbergh, was seeking a keypunch operator. AT&T was offering career jobs for recent high school graduates. The AJC itself had an open position for “Artist – Layout.” Best of all, the ad stressed that this was a “permanent job with a good company, five-day, 40-hour week, excellent employee benefits, congenial surroundings and periodic merit increases.”
For $95 a month, you could have scored yourself a one-bedroom apartment at the Northgate Arms Apartments, on Shallowford Road in Chamblee. Lenox Arms in Buckhead was offering pricier apartments, with rents ranging from $140 to $325. It’s not surprising that even 50 years ago, Buckhead was considered a highly desirable location.
In the sports section, there was more coverage about the Yellow Jackets’ and Bulldogs’ upcoming season. Young Coach Vince Dooley was pleased with the accuracy of quarterback Kirby Moore, while the Jackets’ Bud Carson indicated that the starting quarterback job was pretty much up for grabs between the incumbent Kim King and Larry Good.
Despite three hits from Felipe Alou and Joe Torre’s 19th homer, the Braves fell to the Dodgers 6-3 at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium Friday night. Current Braves announcer and future Hall-of-Famer, Don Sutton, started for the Dodgers, while the Braves countered with a lefty of their own, Denny Lemaster. Neither Sutton nor Lemaster had their best stuff that evening, as both were chased from the mound by the middle innings. Paid attendance was only 10,033, and I’m wondering if the start of high school football might have depressed ticket sales.
Back in the 1960’s, the entertainment section of the Saturday edition featured “The Green Sheets”, and yes, the pages really were green. “The Green Sheets” were columnist Dick Gray’s baby, and featured all the information you would need regarding upcoming TV and radio shows scheduled that weekend. Gray’s feature article in the Labor Day weekend edition provided readers with an overview of the new television series beginning in the fall. New shows included Mannix, Gentle Ben, The Smothers Brothers’ Variety Show, and a very young Sally Field starring in The Flying Nun.
Despite shaky ratings in season one, Star Trek was brought back for a second season. TV critic Bob Thomas described Star Trek as a “thinking man’s television series.”
Channel 2 offered a strong television line-up on Saturday evening, with classics such as I Dream of Jeannie, Flipper, Get Smart, and the movie, Ironside, with Raymond Burr. Channel 5 went the sports route with two prime-time NFL preseason games, including the Falcons versus the Vikings. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m thinking Channel 11 had the lamest line-up of the evening with The Ernest Tubb Show, The Lawrence Welk Show and something called Picadilly Palace. On the other hand, some might say that Channel 11 more than redeemed itself by televising Live Atlanta Wrestling earlier in the afternoon.
“The Green Sheets” also offered readers information on the local nightclub scene. So that you know, the Jack Shafer Trio was performing at Top of the Mart. Opening Monday at The Playroom, located at 1006 Peachtree Road, were five members of the Grand Ole Opry – Jim and Jessie and The Virginia Boys. Billed as “Nashville on Peachtree,” it made perfect sense that performers of the Grand Ole Opry would make the trip down I-75 to The Playroom on Peachtree, where future breakout star Waylon Jennings would later perform in 1969.
A favorite section for many in “The Green Sheets” was the popular TV Mail Bag. This particular Saturday’s edition included a lengthy letter from a very worked-up reader from Chamblee who railed about WQXI Radio’s (aka “Quixie in Dixie”) “limited playlist.” In addition, the reader complained the station completely ignored songs from emerging new groups, such as The Who.
Unfortunately for WQXI radio, the reader was just getting warmed up. He further complained about frequently calling the station’s request line only to hear that they will try to squeeze his request in, but “they NEVER do!” The reader did apologize for the length of the letter, but managed to land one more dig against the station by adding that there are “a LOT of things wrong with WQXI!” Incidentally, I counted 18 AM stations and only 9 FM stations on the radio dial in 1967, none of which were yet playing rock music (such as The Who).
Atlanta’s CBS affiliate, Channel 5, advertised its Panorama Weekends, with news broadcasts at 6 and 11 p.m. Coach Friday and Art Bradley shared the sports assignments for Channel 5. Jim Axel was the primary news anchor, and would remain so until the mid-1990’s.
Sunday, Sept. 3, edition of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution
The front page featured a story on how thousands of South Vietnamese were ignoring the Cong terror threat to stand in to vote in the presidential election. There was also a terrific story about a well-dressed stranger walking into the Albany Chamber of Commerce and telling everyone that he represented a large firm that was looking to build a manufacturing plant in Albany. Thanks to the skillful five-month courtship of Albany Chamber boss, Walt Brown, who was 69 years young, The Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. announced plans to open a new manufacturing plant that would eventually employ 1,500 local residents and produce roughly 20,000 tires per day. Incidentally, it took the full five months before the stranger let on that he was representing Firestone.
Sunday’s front page also included a picture of five Doraville residents pointing to the exact spot where they discovered a suitcase containing $19,635. The article indicated the loot was taken during a Bank of Gray robbery in July. The youngsters pictured were Alan White, Dana White, Stan Severance, Lee Bartlett, Larry Ledbetter and Reed Severance. The clever headline read, “$hucks, We $hould’a Kept Our Mouth$ $hut.”
Street Scenes was a highly popular feature found on the front page. With a quick glance, readers could find out what crazy things happened on the streets of Atlanta the day before the paper arrived. Sunday’s Street Scenes alerted readers that a teenage boy was spotted driving down Piedmont Road with a live hoot owl seated beside him. The owl kept “turning those big weirdo eyes on startled motorists.”
Legendary AJC columnist Celestine Sibley shared a story of a concerned woman who sought guidance on how to best respond to her husband, who pitched a fit when she purchased a $70 wig. The reader wrote, “I bought one and my husband pitched such a fit you would think I was guilty of adultery or worse. He acts like a wig is a terrible obscene thing which no NICE woman would own.”
The husband challenged her to name six respectable women who wore wigs. If she pulled off that feat, she could keep the wig. I have no clue whether the reader met the challenge, but I thought that you might want to know that all this went down 50 years ago in the Sunday pages of the AJC.
Like today’s Sunday AJC, the Sept. 3, 1967 edition was loaded with advertisements. Brooks Brothers posted an ad alerting everyone that a “fine new store” was opening on the second floor of the Rhodes-Haverty Building at 134 Peachtree Street. Six Flags over Georgia placed an ad reminding folks they would remain open on Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 26.
Homes in the Dunwoody North subdivision were selling in the $30,000 to $45,000 range, an amount that pretty much constitutes a small down payment in 2017.
K-Mart was offering five-hole filler paper for 66 cents (one day only), and seamless panty hose for 93 cents (also one-day only). Peter Brown of Laredo fame was performing at Lake Spivey, which boasted 650 acres of crystal clear spring water. Those visiting Lake Spivey that afternoon could also witness a sky diving tournament. Hix Green Buick, at the corner of Peachtree and North Avenue, had a plethora of used cars available, including a four-door 1965 Buick Electra 225 with full power and air for only $2,595. If you were looking for a sportier ride, Hix Green was also selling a V-8 1966 Mustang with power steering and automatic transmission for a mere $1,995.
Not only was Davison’s department store looking to hire television technicians and a night watchman, they were also having a full-blown warehouse sale. RCA washers were going for only $184, and a floor sample color television was available for the low price of $299.
Today’s Arts and Entertainment section of the Sunday paper was known as Dixie Living in 1967, and its diverse content included Travel, Arts and Music, Garden News, as well as a weekly feature known as House of the Week. The House of the Week in Sunday’s edition of Dixie Living was a Spanish split-level with double front doors. The home was located at 2678 Lantern Lane in College Park. Interested parties were to call 766-6227.
Garden News encouraged readers to plan first, and to treat camellias with gibberellin to develop early blooms. Pansy seeds could be planted now, but readers were told to place the seedlings six inches apart. As reported by Edith Henderson, a proud member of the American Landscape Architects, squirrels were a despised nemesis to bird feeders in 1967. Some things never change.
I also learned in the Dixie Living section that Peter, Paul and Mary were scheduled to appear at the Civic Center Auditorium on Jan. 28, 1968. In the television era decades before DVR’s, there were hard viewing decisions to be made on Sunday evenings. Many would argue that television was never better than it was on Sunday evenings in the late 1960’s. Case in point, your 8 p.m. choices included The F.B.I. on Channel 11, The Ed Sullivan Show on Channel 5, and the final 30 minutes of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color on Channel 2. Incidentally, Ed Sullivan’s line-up that evening included The Smothers Brothers, Woody Herman, Mel Torme, Nipsy Russell and George Carlin.
Like dessert, I saved the Sports section for last. Thanks to a complete game effort from Pat Jarvis (later known as Sheriff Pat Jarvis) and three hits from shortstop Denis Menke, the Braves pulled off an 8-2 win over the Dodgers. The crowd was fairly scant, with a paid attendance of only 14,922. The Falcons were not so lucky in their Saturday night exhibition game, falling to the Vikings with a score of 16-3. A momentum-killing fumble by running back Ernie Wheelwright ultimately doomed the Falcons. The headline said it all: “Falcons Flounder under Vikings Fire.”
On the prep football scene, Woodward Academy rallied to tie crosstown rival, College Park. And thanks to excellent play from quarterback Bill DeGolian, St. Pius routed Roosevelt, 28-0. On the racing front, preparations were underway for the 18th running of the Southern 500 in Darlington. Richard Petty’s legendary Plymouth was in the pole position after posting a top track speed of 143 mph (Petty would win the race, collecting a total purse was $82,845).
If you could magically go back in time and talk to the 1967 readers of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, what would you tell them about the next 50 years? Personally, I’d leave out the really bad stuff, especially the Falcons epic Super Bowl collapse. Some things are far better off left unsaid. And would you really want to tell them about having 200 television choices at any given time on any given night? What about Atlanta traffic in 2017? There is no way I would share that sorry news with the readers. They might up and move.
But how could you refrain from sharing the really great stuff, like men walking on the moon, the 1991 and 1995 Atlanta Braves, the 1996 Summer Olympics, or the fact that our sleepy airport of 50 years ago would grow to become the world’s busiest? Oh, and remember Channel 17, the small local television station that first hit the airways on September 1, 1967? Yeah, that turned out pretty great.
Deep down, I’m an empathetic person. I sincerely hope the angry reader in Chamblee enjoyed many years of listening to The Who and other new bands on Atlanta’s future FM rock stations. I also hold out hope that the woman whose husband wigged out (see what I did there?) was able to partner with Celestine Sibley to come up with the names of six respectable women who wore wigs. After all, a $70 wig was at stake.
Note to readers: Raised in Brookhaven and Druid Hills, Bo Hiers is a fourth-generation Atlantan. An avid Atlanta sports fan, Bo takes the greatest pride possible in being an enthusiastically proud grandfather of Fletcher Andrew Hiers. Many, many moons ago, Bo was a sports editor for the Neighbor Newspapers, as well as a sports reporter for the DeKalb News Sun.