Park and ride popularity

With a little over three weeks to go to Christmas, Watford’s traffic troubles are already formidable. The picture in Beechen Grove on Saturday was of drivers forced to wait their turn patiently for a place in one of the car parks – and this despite the availability of 500 more parking spaces. Thank goodness, then, for the borough council’s foresight in introducing the park and ride scheme! The fact that 3,500 passengers were carried from Watford Junction on Saturday – and this before Christmas shopping reaches its peak – was justification for a move which has not escaped criticism. No one expected it to solve the traffic problem, but things would obviously be very much worse without it.

[December 2, 1977]

Pupil’s jobs

An attempt is being made to raise the number of hours that Hertfordshire schoolchildren can work at a Saturday job. They can work for only four hours under a county by-law and South West Herts MP Mr Geoffrey Dodsworth has asked the council to amend it. Mr Dodsworth has taken up the case of a Rickmansworth girl who got a job in Harrow. If she had been a Middlesex resident, she would have been allowed to work a full eight hour day. The Department of Health and Social Security will be asked to agree to the amendment to the county by-law.

[December 2, 1977]

Public transport courtesy

Something of an exercise in courtesy is being planned by London Country Bus Services. They intend to identify certain places on buses for use by the elderly and the handicapped, choosing for the purpose seats strategically placed by entrances and exits. “This is just one small way of making public transport a little more pleasant for them,” they say.

[December 9, 1977]

Box office hit

Kenny Baker, of Melbourne Road, Bushey, is one of the stars of the biggest box office hit in motion picture history – but he is never seen in the movie. For Kenny is concealed inside the metal and fibreglass “skin” of one of the scene-stealing robots, R2-D2, in the phenomenal Star Wars. He worked on the film for over six months last year, from research work to shooting in Tunisia and at Elstree Studios. Kenny, who is three foot eight inches, was one of the few actors of the right size to play the robot. He explained: “The producers wanted to find someone as small as they could but strong enough to move the robot.” Working inside the robot shell was not all that comfortable, 43-year-old Kenny admits: “I was sitting at a very funny angle and when I moved the legs my shins hit against the metal.”

[December 23, 1977]

Bumper shopping spree

Watford’s big stores have enjoyed bumper Christmas sales again. Store managers say trade has picked up dramatically in the last four weeks, with a marked return in shoppers’ willingness to spend. They believe this has been triggered by the recent tax rebate and the prospect of a 10 per cent pay increase in the New Year.

[December 23, 1977]

Jubilation at fields

1978 has begun well for hundreds of local residents. The plan to build houses on Watford Fields has been dropped, to the relief and delight of the residents’ association, formed to fight the idea when first it became public in the summer. The Benskin Brewery site sub-committee of Watford Council have now decided that development should be confined to the brewery site. Their decision follows the promised public participation exercise, which took place last month. The details of three proposed development schemes were put on exhibition at Watford Fields School and seen by over 300 people.

[December 30, 1977]

Appalling rate of destruction

In 1950 there were 121 historic buildings in Watford town centre. By January 1975 there were only 40. Such an appalling rate of destruction serves to illustrate the importance of recording and publishing timber-framed buildings in the town. Stephen Castle, the archaeologist who supplies the material for the Watford Observer’s architectural heritage captions, says the greatest tragedy in the destruction of old buildings in Watford was the demolition of the White Hart public house in High Street, which dated from the early 17th century.

[December 30, 1977]

What was happening in the world in December 1977?

• The first children’s cable channel The Pinwheel Network (later known as Nickelodeon) is launched (December 1)

• Jean-Bédel Bokassa, president of the Central African Republic, crowns himself Emperor in a lavish ceremony costing $20million (December 4)

• Egypt breaks off diplomatic relations with Syria, Libya, Algeria, Iraq and South Yemen (December 5)

• South Africa grants Bophuthatswana independence (December 6)

• Saturday Night Fever is released in cinemas (December 16)

• Queen Elizabeth II opens a £71,000,000 extension of London Underground’s Piccadilly line (December 16)

• Actor Charlie Chaplin dies at his home in Switzerland at the age of 88 (December 25)

• Serial killer Ted Bundy escapes from jail in Colorado (December 31)