Parking costs anger

Car parking charges went up in Watford on Wednesday – a few days after retiring president and chairman of the town’s traders’ organisation had strongly attacked the borough council for ignoring the interests of retailers. Mr Sidney Trusselle told the annual meeting of the Watford Chamber of Commerce: “The council has refused consistently to take into account the interests of the commercial and retail businesses in Watford which make sure a significant contribution to the wealth of the community.”

[April 3, 1981]

Porn raids

Police applications to destroy a number of obscene publications confiscated from five shops in Watford have been made at Watford Magistrates’ Court. The shops were raided by police in February after warrants were issued under the obscene publications act. Among the businesses was Watford’s first sex store, The Private Shop, St Albans Road. The other four shops where articles were seized are newsagents.

[April 3, 1981]

Jobless teens

At least 800 teenagers will leave school in Watford this summer to join the 190 already on the dole. They will make the youth unemployment figures the town’s worst in living memory. Now youth careers officials, headed by Mr Mike Hinsley, have begun a drive to persuade employers to take some school leavers as part of Government job schemes. Mr Hinsley said: “The nightmare is just beginning. Unemployment blackspots in other parts of the country have always suffered this, but it is new to this town and there is nothing like it on the records. We are expecting about 1,000 teenagers will be out of work when schools break up for the summer. Parents and children are in for a big shock.”

[April 10, 1981]

Day’s strike

Workers are being urged by their unions to down tools in Watford for one day next month when the jobless 500 Liverpool-to-London marchers came to town. The demonstrators leave the North-West on May 1, trek through the Midlands and arrive to stay overnight in Watford on May 27. Party and union officials on the coordinating committee are trying to raise money to feed the 500 at the Town Hall and put them up at Watford Leisure Centre.

[April 10, 1981]

Air tragedy scare

Families now fighting a factory’s plans for a 70ft chimney fear it could cause aircraft touching down at Leavesden to crash into their homes or nearby schools. The Granose health food factory at Garston is only half a mile from the airfield and the stack is in line with the flight path to a grass runway. People in Sycamore Close near the works have organised a petition in the area, and are besieging the Town Hall with complaints. One of the organisers, mother-of-two Mrs Rose Moore, said: “If a plane is landing in murky weather and low cloud and hits the top of the stack, our homes only yards away are going to be hit.”

[April 17, 1981]

Canal protests

A flotilla of colourful narrowboats has gathered at Watford’s Cassiobury Wharf preparing for the biggest canal battle for a decade. A protest demonstration at Little Venice in Camden on Easter Saturday has been called by the newly-formed action group CANAL, the Campaign for Action on Navigation and Locks, to launch a campaign to “save our canals”. Leading the campaign is Watford boat enthusiast and marine engineer Mr Jim MacDonald. Mr MacDonald and fellow campaigners want people – particularly the Government – to wake up to the fact that unless vital maintenance and restoration work is done now, the 200-year-old canal system is in very real danger of collapse.

[April 17, 1981]

Worzel brings out crowd

An estimated 6,000 fans lined Watford High Street last Thursday afternoon to get a glimpse of the world’s most popular scarecrow. For Worzel Gummidge had gone missing from Ten Acre Field to open the new branch of Huckleberry’s, the latest fast food restaurant to hit the town. Fans of all ages clambered on the roofs of shops and parked vehicles as Worzel brought Watford to a standstill as he rode along the High Street on a tractor-pulled trailer.

[April 24, 1981]

What was happening in the world in April 1981?

• Syrian airplanes bomb Lebanese Christian strongholds in Zahlé and East Beirut, reneweing the Lebanese Civil War which had been on hiatus since 1976 (April 2)

• After two days, the attempted coup d’état in Thailand is put down as thousands of troops take back control of Bangkok without a fight (April 3)

• Bucks Fizz wins the 26th Eurovision Song Contest for the UK (April 4)

• Incarcerated at Maze Prison and on a hunger strike, Irish Republican Army member Bobby Sands is elected to a vacant seat in the British House of Commons (April 10)

• The arrest of a young black man in Brixton triggers the worst race riot in England’s history. The petrol bomb is used for the first time on the streets of Britain, and 279 policemen and 45 civilians are injured (April 11)

• The world’s first reusable spacecraft, the space shuttle Columbia, is launched from Cape Canaveral (April 12)

• The Inderavelly Massacre takes place in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, when police fired into a crowd of Gondi tribesmen, killing at least 60 (April 20)

• Four gunmen wearing Halloween masks rob the First National Bank of Arizona in Tucson, taking $3.3 million and accomplishing the largest American bank robbery up to that time (April 22)

• US President Ronald Reagan sends a handwritten letter to Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev to open a dialogue between the United States and the Soviet Union (April 24)

• The first successful fetal surgery is performed by Dr Michael R. Harrison at the University of California at San Francisco hospital (April 26)