A snapshot of life in January 1980

Rivals queue up for the cinema

Rivals for the prime Watford town centre site of the Carlton Cinema are lining up for a big planning battle. The site could become a nightclub, an office block, or an extension of the Palace Theatre next door. The leases on both the cinema and the theatre expire in July. The borough council wants to buy the freehold of the cinema and the theatre. The council’s plan would safeguard the civic theatre in the 80s, while the cinema would become theatre offices, rehearsal rooms, a coffee shop and a restaurant.

[January 4, 1980]

Protesters picket toy shop

Supporters of the Campaign Against Arms Trade have been distributing leaflets outside a toy shop in The Parade, Watford. Their spokesman, Mr Graham Everitt, said their large placard made the point “that while the shop was just selling war toys, the British Government, through its Defence Sales Organisation, is just as keen to sell real weapons as any trader.” CAAT hopes that a Government-sponsored exhibition of army equipment for overseas buyers, planned for June, will never take place. The leaflets stated: “We hope that 1980 will be a more peaceful year, a year when bold steps are taken to end the international trade in arms.”

[January 4, 1980]

Don’t ban Brian film

The minister of Beechen Grove Baptist Church has criticised the protesters who want the Monty Python film, The Life of Brian, banned in Watford. In his church magazine, Rev. Ronald Young regrets that much of the opposition comes from Christians. He writes: “This film cannot possibly do any lasting damage to the faith and I would not be at all surprised if some who see it will finish up with greater sympathy for the Christian point of view.” Another 335 people have written urging the borough council to ban the film.

[January 11, 1980]

Jobs boost at firm’s HQ

An electronic company is to double its staff and the size of its British headquarters in Watford. This will mean 62 more jobs and another 12,500 sq ft of offices and laboratories. The firm is Fluke, part of an American corporation which this month became a British limited company with a 1979 turnover of £4million. Fluke opened its Colonial Way headquarters just over a year ago. With new machinery, including a computer next month, the investment is about £750,000.

[January 18, 1980]

Vain bid to delay demolition

Another familiar landmark at Mill End is being demolished this week. Numbers 267, 269 and 271 Uxbridge Road – which includes the old saddlers shop – will soon be no more than a memory, to the dismay of immediate neighbours, who approached their ward councillor in a vain bid to delay demolition. The building, they pointed out, was Georgian and had been recommended for Grade II listing. A car park is planned for the site.

[January 18, 1980]

Male on maternity duty

The first male nurse to train at Watford Maternity Hospital has just begun his course. Chris Ramsey, 24, who is undergoing the 78-week training to become a State Registered Nurse, is studying obstetrics for four weeks under new European Economic Community directives. The EEC insists that all student nurses cover obstetrics, psychiatry, community care and geriatrics to become Euro-nurses. Watford has lagged behind hospitals in other parts of Britain until now. Since the 60s many male student nurses have entered maternity hospitals for part of their training.

[January 25, 1980]

What was happening in the world in January 1980?

• British steel workers go on a national strike (January 2)

• The president of Sicily, Piersanti Mattarella, is killed by the Mafia (January 6)

• The Pretenders release their first album (January 11)

• Paul McCartney is jailed in Tokyo for 10 days on marijuana possession (January 16)

• Pink Floyd’s album The Wall hits number one (January 18)

• President Jimmy Carter announces US boycott of the Olympics in Moscow (January 20)

• MS Athina B is beached at Brighton, England, becoming a temporary tourist attraction (January 21)

• Robert Mugabe returns to Rhodesia after five years in exile (January 27)

• The Rubik’s Cube makes its international debut at The British Toy and Hobby Fair in London (January 29)

• The Spanish Embassy in Guatemala is invaded and set on fire, killing 36 people (January 31)