A snapshot of life in July 1972

Visit makes history

Leavesden Aerodrome made history by becoming only the second British base to house an airship during the past 50 years, with the visit of Goodyear’s Europa. All other British-based commercial airships have used Cardington, Bedfordshire. The first airship to grace British skies for 20 years, Europa attracted tremendous attention during its five-day stay. The aerodrome’s switchboard was kept busy with a steady stream of callers trying, unsuccessfully, to beg a lift. With room for only six and a pilot, Europa was airborne for up to 12 hours a day taking press and Goodyear workers for half-hourly rides. Police have also been overworked to control sightseers who flocked to get a closer look.

[July 7, 1972]

Theatre in old pump house

I have been sitting amid the remains of Watford’s pump house in Local Board Road for much of this week, in what was the factory part of the building. Strange? Not really. The pump house has been taken over by the Pump House Theatre and Arts Centre, and although renovation is by no means complete, this week sees them presenting a Festival of Entertainment. The festival, which continues until Saturday, is a tribute to the achievement of the dedicated group of people at work in the pump house, and it is also an indication of a great artistic future for this building.

[July 7, 1972]

Vandals keep on daubing

British Rail are having to paint Watford’s High Street station up to six times each year in a bid to cover up the work of vandals. Benches, advertising bollards and a kiosk have been daubed with slogans and obscenities, and a British Rail official admitted: “There is very little we can do to combat the problem.” At present the work of football supporters and slogans heralding the strength of The South Oxhey Mob are on display on the two platforms. The station is due for another repaint soon, however.

[July 21, 1972]

Off with a bang

Stock car racing came to Garston Park with a bang on Sunday… or to be precise, a number of bangs. The sound effects came from the numerous spectacular crashes which really captured the imagination of the thousands who flocked to see the first ever motor racing to be staged in Watford. The event was an undoubted success with spectators. But a cloud did hang over the whole affair, a very dense cloud of dust which at times threatened to completely block the view. As well as being a great success for spectators, this was a triumphant day for Watford drivers. They claimed three outright wins, three seconds and no fewer than three thirds in the afternoon.

[July 21, 1972]

A weekend of celebration

With aerobatics over Leavesden, “banger” racing at Woodside, first-class tournament tennis at the West Herts Sports Ground and a VIP night at the Palace Theatre, not to mention the Leisure is Pleasure exhibition, Watford really seemed to be celebrating something over the weekend. It meant a busy time for the Mayor and Mayoress, Alderman and Mrs Robert Caton, who took in all the events, but no one was more pleased that the Borough’s charter jubilee programme had at last come to life. The success of the Leisure is Pleasure event was particularly pleasing. As a major commemoration of an historic occasion, it was fitting that so many local organisations should have been given the chance to participate. It provided a striking answer, too, to those who are apt to complain that “there is not much to do in Watford”.

[July 21, 1972]

What was happening in the world in July 1972?

• Announcements are made in North Korea and South Korea that the two nations had secretly negotiated an agreement to discuss reunification (July 4)

• In San Francisco, a team of FBI agents storm a hijacked airplane and kill the two men who had been holding 86 persons on board hostage (July 5)

• The first payment of “hush money”, via the Committee to Re-Elect the President, is made to the Watergate burglars (July 6)

• A ceasefire between the IRA and British forces comes to an end when British troops kill three civilians in Belfast (July 9)

• The British House of Commons narrowly approve the UK’s entry into the European Economic Community (July 13)

• Space probe Pioneer 10 becomes the first man-made object to journey through the asteroid belt (July 15)

• Explosives go off across Belfast at train stations, bus stops and other civilian targets. Nine people are killed and 130 injured in what became known as ‘Bloody Friday’ (July 21)

• The Washington Star publishes a story with the headline ‘Syphilis victims in US study went untreated for 40 years’ as reporter Jean Heller breaks the story of the infamous Tuskegee Study (July 25)