A snapshot of life in January 1982

New fight over Asda store site

An expensive public inquiry will decide whether Watford will have a £2.5million hypermarket which promises 400 jobs. The Leeds-based Associated Dairies Group, which runs the Asda stores, is fighting the borough council’s refusal to allow the 70,000 sq ft development on a 10-acre site near the Watford Metropolitan line station. The council was swamped by objections from the town’s traders and families living near the station when the Asda company publicised its intentions last April. Protesters were worried that a superstore on the London Transport-owned land would increase traffic dramatically in west Watford, and force the closure of small firms on the site with the loss of more than 100 jobs. Now the council is to hire lawyers to back its decision to refuse planning permission.

[January 1, 1982]

Horticultural show is to restart

The recession has prompted Watford Borough Council to revive an annual horticultural show at the Town Hall from next September. Watford was the first town in Britain to hold a major show in the early 40s when wartime food rationing prompted a Ministry of Food campaign under the slogan of Dig for Victory. The Watford show became the biggest in Britain during its eight-year run on which other horticultural shows nationwide were modelled. Now the borough council’s amenities and recreation department believe the recession will ensure that more people will look to allotment gardening as a means of support. Gardening societies throughout the county and local and national firms have been approached for their backing for the show. It will coincide with the final day of Watford Week, a new annual venture promoted by the council in the town centre designed to attract Watford community and trade organisations.

[January 1, 1982]

Snow sets the scene for trouble

Many motorists stayed at home last Friday as arctic conditions returned to South West Hertfordshire with a vengeance – snowdrifts of up to seven foot were reported. But Watford Police claimed there were more minor accidents than when snow fell before Christmas and blamed motorists who failed to clear their windscreens properly before setting off. Despite the increase in minor accidents, there were no reported cases of injury.

[January 15, 1982]

Editor urges porn clean-up

The editor of a magazine read by more than 3,000 people in South West Hertfordshire is spearheading a campaign to stop newsagents selling pornographic magazines and books – and he intends forming a watch action committee to back the campaign. Mr Adam Gordon, a solicitor and editor of The Herts Praise, is publishing a coupon in the next edition, encouraging Christian volunteers to join the committee. He has already used the columns of his publication to encourage Christians to boycott newsagents who sell pornographic publications alongside sweets, toys and comics. Mr Gordon, a father of two boys, said: “I am most concerned for youngsters between 14 and 17. These are the ones with inquiring minds. I believe these magazines and books, which appear to be on the increase, make them hungry, lustful and immoral.”

[January 15, 1982]

Gas ads anger village

Advertisements on the advantages of using gas irritate Aldenham villagers because the village does not have a gas supply, and it is unlikely that it will ever get gas because the cost would be too great. A request for the supply was made to Eastern Gas by Aldenham Church Council and was supported by Aldenham Parish Council. Mrs Hilary Edgar, of Glebe Place, Aldenham, said: “I have seen the reply from Eastern Gas which says the nearest main is too far away to bring gas into the village without a great deal of expense. It is irritating to see all these advertisements for gas on the television and in the newspapers when there is no opportunity to do anything about them. It is a little strange to live in a village 20 miles from London which cannot have gas.”

[January 15, 1982]

Parents in school cuts battle

Parents of pupils at 49 schools in South West Hertfordshire are considering taking legal action against Hertfordshire County Council over the education cuts. More than 100 parents attended a meeting at Arnett Hills Junior Mixed and Infants School in Rickmansworth on Tuesday and a 12-strong action committee was formed. The parents feel the county council may be in breach of the 1944 Education Act because it is currently not providing supply teachers to cover for absent staff in secondary schools and it is not giving adequate remedial teaching. They are also protesting that parent-teacher associations are now buying school books and paper and pupils themselves are being asked to provide paper.

[January 29, 1982]

‘White elephant’ shops precinct

Charter Place, the shopping precinct in Watford’s town centre, was described by an upper-floor retailer this week as “a white elephant”. Mr Michael Cobb, a director of Watford Lighting Centre, was explaining retailers’ grievances and dissatisfaction with their landlord, the borough council, which was said to be considering quadrupling rents. Mr Cobb, spokesman for the Charter Place Retailers’ Association, reformed last week after a two-year lapse, said serious defects are appearing and repair costs are mounting. There are cracks everywhere, and there are leaks in the basement, said Mr Cobb. The retailers fear the rent review will reflect the repair costs. They say they have been told unofficially they can expect rent increases of up to 300 per cent. Shops are barely staying alive, said Mr Cobb, and rent increases will put them out of business.

[January 29, 1982]

Odhams saved

Odhams this week staved off closure following last Friday’s shock announcement that it was closing with more than 1,900 job losses. National Geographic Association leaders Mr Joe Wade and Mr Les Dixon have signed an agreement to save the North Watford print factory. Other national print union leaders were yesterday expected to endorse the plan involving 371 redundancies and new working practices.

[January 29, 1982]

What was happening in the world in January 1982?

• The Commodore 64 home computer is launched; it becomes the all-time bestselling single personal computer model (January 7)

• Mark Thatcher, son of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, disappears in the Sahara during the Dakar Rally; he is rescued January 14 (January 11)

• ‘Cold Sunday’ in the United States sees temperatures fall to their lowest levels in over 100 years in numerous cities (January 17)

• Heavy metal musician Ozzy Osbourne bites the head off a bat on stage in Des Moines, Iowa (January 20)

• For the first time since the 1930s, the unemployed population in the UK rises above three million (January 26)

• Italian police rescue James Dozier, a US Brigadier General, held hostage by the Red Brigade for six weeks (January 28)

• The first computer virus, the Elk Cloner, is found (January 30)