The big boom in the gloom

Christmas comes but once a year… and even the gloomy economic outlook is not preventing Watford’s shoppers from celebrating the festive season in style. With less than three weeks to go to Christmas Day, the town’s stores report that business is booming. The general feeling is that people are buying about the same amount as last year – but having to pay more for it. The only noticeable drop has been in the sale of Christmas cards, no doubt because of the recent jumps in postage.

[December 5, 1975]

Operation Santa

The annual Christmas present from the citizens of Watford to the town’s elderly and infirm – Operation Santa – celebrated its 10th anniversary with customary efficiency on Tuesday evening. Over 500 old people from the area, some enjoying their first shopping trip since last year’s Santa, scoured the Clements and Co-Op stores in search of their Christmas buys. They were accompanied by over 400 youngsters from schools and youth groups in the area, and were transported during the evening by 200 voluntary drivers. A large contingent of police dealt with the traffic problems, and the St John Ambulance were on hand in case of accidents. The late night shopping spree was its usual success, with the organisers, guests, and beneficiaries all praising the effort of the voluntary helpers.

[December 5, 1975]

Youth will speak

Things have changed since the days when children were seen and not heard. Now youthful opinion is actively sought, on all manner of subjects – and an indication of the times is a competition being organised by Rotary clubs called “Youth Speaks”. Nine teams will take the stage at the first local heat at Watford College of Technology. Aged between 14 and 18, the young people have been given a list of possible subjects to discuss, but they are free to talk about anything they wish. They will be judged by a panel, and a trophy will be presented by the Mayor, together with cash vouchers.

[December 19, 1975]

Hospital celebrating as usual

In spite of the industrial troubles that have beset Watford General Hospital, they were going ahead with plans to bring Christmas to patients spending the holiday there. It was the Salvation Army band with carols sung by nurses, Holy Rood Brownies, St Michael’s Church Choir and vicar the Rev. Leonard Mayes that began festivities. As in recent years, as many patients as possible were being sent home for Christmas. Hospital administrator Mr Colin Starling said nearly everyone wanted to go home, and near miraculous recoveries had been noted as Christmas drew near.

[December 26, 1975]

Christmas – and beyond

Prices go up and up, and the bus and rail services seem to be under something approaching sentence of death – and Watford FC, so hopeful at the start of the season of a smart return to the Third Division, now find themselves languishing among the stragglers in the Fourth! Not much Christmas cheer there, it seems, and yet the past three weeks have given us ample evidence that the old spirit of goodwill is still very much alive. The parties for the young have gone on, and there has been, if anything, more determination and effort than ever to ensure that the old folk share in the celebrations. On the charity fundraising front, the reports are of greater support than ever before. All this represents something more than just Christmas weaving a magic spell. It reflects a fundamental kindness and desire to help the weaker members of the community that is of inestimable value in times of financial stringency.

[December 26, 1975]

What was happening in the world in December 1975?

• Sisavang Vatthana abdicates his throne as King of Laos. The monarchy is abolished the next day (December 1)

• The People’s Republic of China becomes the third nation to successfully conduct photographic reconnaissance from space (December 2)

• Gunmen seize control of the Credit Lyonnaise Bank in Paris and, the next day, receive a $2.2million ransom and a getaway car. As they drive away they crash the car and are arrested (December 3)

• ‘Black Saturday’ – the murder of four Lebanese Christians provokes the massacre of 200 Lebanese Muslims (December 6)

• The observation deck at 2 World Trade Center in New York opens (December 14)

• Sara Jane Moore, who had fired a bullet at US President Ford in September, pleads guilty to charges of attempted assassination (December 16)

• The US Metric Conversion Act is signed into law by President Ford, to guide the gradual replacement of the English system of measurements with the metric system (December 23)

• The British heavy metal band Iron Maiden is formed in Leyton, East London (December 25)

• The Soviet Union’s supersonic transport jet airplane, the Tupolev Tu-144, begins regular service a month before the British and French Concorde begins scheduled flights (December 26)

• 11 people are killed by a terrorist bomb placed in a luggage locker at New York’s LaGuardia Airport (December 29)