A snapshot of life in August 1975

Stork is a rarer bird

The sharp decline in the national birthrate is throwing a spotlight on the future of two local maternity units. At the Watford unit at Shrodells, one of the most modern in the county, between one-third and one-quarter of the 101 beds remain unfilled, and one suggestion for the future is to widen the catchment area. At Bushey it is planned to close the maternity hospital in Heathbourne Road where on one occasion recently there were only six patients for the 50 beds. As for the maternity unit at Shrodells Wing of Watford General Hospital, because of the decline in the number of births, the unit is underused.

[August 1, 1975]

Making the most of the break

A recent innovation on the family scene has been the advent of play schemes by local authorities and organisations. These have eased the annual parental burden of “What can we do today, mum?” throughout the six-weeks plus of no full-time education. Most of the local councils are running free schemes for children to have fun and for parents to have a breather. Many churches also have some brilliant schemes which bring fun and education closer together. Watford Borough Council this holiday have 14 centres open for supervised play for children between the ages of five and 13 in various venues ranging from recreation grounds to schools.

[August 1, 1975]

Making history

A Watford man has made history by becoming the first to be sentenced in Herts to do community service. At St Albans Crown Court, a 20-year-old labourer was sentenced on Friday to 120 hours’ community service – the first day for community service orders to be introduced into the county. Hertfordshire is one of several counties which started the scheme after successful experiments in other parts of the country. Instead of fining an offender or sending him to prison, judges or magistrates can order him to do a certain number of hours unpaid service in hospitals, old people’s homes, youth clubs, or a variety of schemes coordinated by a special community service officer.

[August 8, 1975]

Ovaltine is crumbling

Local press photographers, including Watford Observer’s Martin Weatherall, climbed up 187ft of scaffolding on Friday, to get shots of the first bricks being knocked off the top of the Ovaltine factory chimney – a local landmark since it was built 49 years ago. There to watch the ceremony (from the ground) was 80-year-old Mr Charlie Appleton of Kings Langley – a former steeplejack who, with the help of his uncle, built the chimney, originally 212ft high, in 1926. The first brick to be removed was later presented to Mr Appleton as a keepsake.

[August 8, 1975]

Show is all set

The first ever Watford Show to be staged in Cassiobury Park on September 5 and 6 is to be opened by singer Vince Hill. The show, organised jointly by the Watford Observer and Watford Corporation, promises to be a fun and action-packed two-day event throwing the spotlight on almost every facet of local community and industrial life. A full programme of main arena activities has been planned for both days while dozens of displays and demonstrations will feature the products, processes and activities of local firms, societies and organisations.

[August 22, 1975]

Haul for Help the Aged

Never let it be said the British people are not generous. As a result of their latest appeals, Help the Aged’s Watford Office is inundated with over 10,000 pairs of spectacles, a growing pile of jewellery, and two sets of false teeth. The spectacle appeal is so far the most successful, with “boxfuls and boxfuls” still rolling in. These are people’s cast-off glasses which are bound for people with poor eyesight in under-developed countries.

[August 29, 1975]

What was happening in the world in August 1975?

• Members of the Japanese Red Army terrorist group fight their way into the American consulate in Kuala Lumpur, then take 52 hostages (August 4)

• The death of fictional detective Hercule Poirot is announced worldwide by the publishers of Agatha Christie’s novel Curtain (August 6)

• The Banqiao Dam, in China’s Henan Province, fails after a freak typhoon, drowning over 26,000 people (August 8)

• A now famous interview with US First Lady Betty Ford is broadcast on the popular news show 60 Minutes (August 10)

• A terrorist attack by the Provisional IRA on a popular pub in Belfast, Northern Ireland, kills five people and injures 50 (August 13)

• Serial killer Ted Bundy is arrested after fleeing when a police sergeant approached his car (August 16)

• The New York Times becomes the first major American newspaper to call attention to sexual harassment of female employees (August 19)

• Bruce Springsteen’s album Born to Run is released in the United States, becoming a hit and making Springsteen a rock superstar (August 25)