A snapshot of life in March 1988

Pupil power fights closure

Every one of the 300 or more pupils at Sir James Altham School, South Oxhey, has stood out in defiance of headmaster Mr Don Paterson’s closure call and petitioned MP Mr Richard Page to keep the school open. As the campaign to save the school mounted, staff, governors and parents representatives at Durrants School, Croxley Green, have held “confidential” discussions before meeting the county secondary schools advisory panel next Monday to consider the future of the school. The moves signify a heightening of tension and concern over the future provision of educators in South West Hertfordshire. Three secondary schools have already been lost.

[March 4, 1988]

Get the bug

Watford and South West Hertfordshire could soon be overrun with bugs. But there’s no need to worry. These aren’t germs or creepy crawlies. They aren’t even MI5 listening devices. They are Watford General Hospital’s latest Scanner Appeal fundraiser – CAT bugs – fluff heads of the Appeal logo cat Milford, already used on badges and bookmarks – and at a mere 50p each they’re bargains. The black and white Milford and his pink and white girlfriend bear the legend ‘I’ve helped Watford Scanner Appeal’. They will stick to anything and no doubt some imaginative places will be found!

[March 11, 1988]

Odhams work not approved

Publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell’s company is bulldozing through planning regulations at the Odhams plant, according to Watford Borough Council. A spokesman for the council says warning letters have gone out to Maxwell Communications. Council planners have confirmed that the company is revamping the North Watford factory without planning permission as it gets ready to print the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and The People next month. Despite a number of warnings, major work is underway to transform the frontage of the old “cathedral” building and to adjoin it to the more modern building next door.

[March 18, 1988]

Not a UFO

Rumours of a UFO sighting about the M25 are just pie in the sky, the Watford Observer can reveal today. A strange round white light spotted about Rickmansworth skies sparked alarm amongst star-gazers last week. And their fears grew when the Force came onto the scene. Traffic police on the motorway trained their cameras on the eerie appearance and recorded it on video. UFO fanatics have been inundating the Hertfordshire Constabulary with calls to release the spooky film, but police have vowed to keep it a secret. Now the Watford Observer can reveal speculation about the sighting really is out of this world because the “unexplainable” light is in reality only a planet. We discovered the truth after consulting our resident expert John Holman, author of the Scientific Observer column. He said: “It is obviously just Venus on a bright night that has got everybody talking.”

[March 18, 1988]

Exorcism tales

Bishop David Pytches has angered parents with his frank account of an exorcism in his church’s parish magazine. The evangelical head of St Andrew’s Church astonished Chorleywood parishioners with his description of the black magic ritual. “A village magazine just should not contain things like that,” said local mum Anita Cooper. “All that messing about with the devil – it’s not right. If Mr Pytches wants to do it in his spare time that is fair enough, but why force it on ordinary God-fearing people?” Bishop Pytches sparked the storm by telling how he talked with an evil spirit when it broke free from a man at an exorcism.

[March 18, 1988]

Fergie fever

The Duchess of York loves cabbage and sausages – and that’s official! Mum-to-be Fergie revealed her secret “craving” during her long-awaited tour of Leavesden Hospital on Tuesday morning. Chatting to 62-year-old patient Betty Newman about hospital lunches, the Duchess confided that bangers and cabbage were a royal favourite of hers. Betty, a regular of the hospital’s daytime elderly care unit, presented pregnant Fergie with a pair of hand-knitted baby’s booties – decorated with blue and pink ribbons to cover all eventualities! Hardly a moment passed throughout the two-hour walkabout without the approachable royal stopping for a chat with patients, staff or onlookers.

[March 25, 1988]

Piece of history

It’s the last straw – now even the historic clock, made in 1924 by Watford clockmaker B.S. Morse, has been stolen from the front of the town’s completely vandalised Peace Memorial Hospital. For three years, since patients and staff moved to the new Princess Michael of Kent Wing at Watford General Hospital, Watfordians and their visitors have watched with a fascinated horror as the well-loved building has taken scandalous hammering from vandals. All the windows have been smashed and this monument built by public subscription in memory of the gallant men who died in the Great War is now in a disgraceful state of dereliction. Redevelopment work was originally scheduled to start early this summer, but plans for the site have yet to be agreed.

[March 25, 1988]

What was happening in the world in March 1988?

• An avalanche at the Swiss ski resort Klosters nearly kills Prince Charles (March 10)

• The Seikan Tunnel connecting the Japanese islands of Honshu and Hokkaido opens. At the time it was the world’s longest (33.49 miles) and deepest tunnel (March 13)

• Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North and Vice Admiral John Poindexter are indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the US in the Iran-Contra affair (March 16)

• Three men are killed and 70 wounded in a gun and grenade attack by Michael Stone on mourners at Milltown Cemetery in Belfast during the funerals of IRA members killed in Gibraltar (March 16)

• An Israeli court sentences Mordechai Vanunu to 18 years in prison for disclosing Israel’s nuclear program to The Sunday Times (March 24)

• The first McDonald’s restaurant in a country run by a Communist party opens in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (March 24)

• The candle demonstration in Bratislava, Slovakia, is the first mass demonstration of the 1980s against the socialist government in Czechoslovakia (March 25)