Babies – and more babies!

Watford’s birth rate goes on rising. Medical Officer of Health Dr W. Alcock notes that the birth rate has continued its slow upward trend, and rose by over one-third during the preceding 10 years – facts having a vital bearing on infant school places and jobs needed five and 15 (or so) years hence respectively. Watford’s infant mortality rate was also “substantially lower” than that for England and Wales, and lower than the rate for the whole county. No case of diphtheria had occurred for 16 years, and for the third successive year the borough had no polio case – “a remarkable achievement,” comments Dr Alcock.

[January 3, 1964]

Back to candles

Engineers were still working this week on repairs to the electricity sub-station in Parkside Drive, Watford, which exploded on Christmas evening. The explosion – at about 7pm – was caused by a failure in the high-voltage switch gear. It blew off the roof and the door of the brick building – and 500 residents in the Cassiobury Park area had to resort to candles. After putting out the small fire, firemen from Watford helped to clear up and stood by in case of further explosions.

[January 3, 1964]

Books and records lost

The latest estimate of the damage caused by the fire which swept through the Stanborough Park printing works on Friday morning is £120,000. Lost in the blaze was a library of 5,000 books, photographic files and articles from several magazines. Two departments were gutted, and the Adventists’ Youth Band, which uses the building for practice, lost many of its instruments.

[January 10, 1964]

Brightwell Court provides happy home

Anyone with any doubts about the success of what some regard as Watford Corporation’s Brightwell Court “experiment” would have had these dispelled had they seen and chatted with the tenants at their first Christmas dinner and party on Saturday. As many will recall, Brightwell Court, Watford’s first block of 20 self-contained flats for the elderly, was opened last May. “Old people’s community settlement” is the ministry description of this type of establishment, and the happiness of the tenants in their new environment and their appreciation of it was, perhaps, one of the main reasons why they invited along to their party some of those associated with its provision and opening.

[January 10, 1964]

Press-button safety

The new push-button pedestrian crossing has been in operation in Watford High Street, at the junction with Market Street, for exactly a week. A quick survey of interested parties – police, public, council and committees – shows that although the full effects have yet to be felt, the system will prove a valuable safety measure. A spokesman for Watford police commented: “It is much safer than the previous system, but the public are not very well acquainted with it just yet. They will have to educate themselves to use it.”

[January 17, 1964]

Teaching by machine

A hall full of teachers listened with some apprehension at Victoria Girls’ School on Wednesday evening as Mr L.B. Curzon (head of the business studies department at South West Herts College) outlined the details and advantages of teaching-machines. One teacher, Miss Hazel Clarke, told an Observer reporter: “I am very interested in the machines. They have great possibilities, but I think the human element must come into teaching.” Any fears that the machines will take over were dispelled by Mr Spreadbury, Divisional Education Officer, before the conference. He said: “Machines can never replace the teacher; what they will do is to supplement his work and thereby relieve him from drudgery.” The programme (lessons the machine presents) could be done by teachers only. The machines are similar in appearance to a television set and cost between £12 and £230.

[January 17, 1964]

Watford’s phone troubles

500 million pounds… That’s the astronomical sum the post office plans to spend within the next five years on improving the telephone service, Mr Charles Turner (North West London telephone manager) told Watford Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. Mr Turner, speaking at the chamber’s monthly luncheon, said that by about 1970 subscribers would be able to dial for themselves all local and trunk calls and 95% of them would be able to make their own trunk calls to foreign countries.

[January 24, 1964]


Rehabilitation with a difference is taking place at the Hendon and Aldenham Kennels Ltd, a familiar landmark off Watford’s busy bypass. For here dogs, often in “poor shape”, are brought from all over the country and restored to health before being sent to a suitable home. It is here that the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection has its main kennels. The union has branches all over the country, and its agents spend a good deal of time at livestock markets buying animals before they fall into the hands of biologists. It says much for the kennel staff that very few dogs must be destroyed once they are under the union’s care.

[January 24, 1964]

What was happening in the world in January 1964?

• President of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah survived his sixth assassination attempt (January 2)

• Pope Paul VI became the first Roman Catholic pontiff to fly in an airplane, the first to visit the Holy Land, and the first to venture outside of Italy since Pius VII in 1809 (January 4)

• The Mo-e-Muqaddas, an important Islamic holy relic which had been stolen seven days previously and the disappearance of which caused riots, was returned (January 4)

• Harold A. Franklin became the first African-American student to be enrolled at Auburn University in Alabama (January 4)

• The first presidential election was held in the Central African Republic. President David Dacko was the only candidate on the ballot (January 5)

• Sir Roland Symonette became the first Prime Minister of the Bahamas as the British colony was given self-rule in advance of its eventual independence (January 7)

• Panama severed diplomatic relations with the US (January 10)

• The People’s Republic of China made a step forward in its nuclear weapons program as its processing facility at Lanzhou made its first delivery of enriched uranium (January 14)

• A scale model of the new 16-acre World Trade Centre was unveiled to the public at a press conference in New York City (January 18)

• Fabulous, a weekly pop music magazine aimed at British teenagers, published its first issue (January 18)

• The film Dr Strangelove opened in select US theatres (January 29)

• 50,000 tenants in the Harlem neighbourhood of New York City refused to pay rent until housing conditions improved (January 31)