A snapshot of life in August 1976

Woodside has a success problem

Only a month after opening, Watford’s new £1 ½ million-plus leisure centre has run into difficulties – because the Woodside complex is so popular! Activities at the modern sports and recreation centre are drawing much larger crowds than expected and staff are hard pressed to keep pace with demand. While congratulating staff on their hard work, councillors came up with a catalogue of complaints about the new centre. The main cause of the teething troubles was that more people than anticipated were using the centre during the summer, which was supposed to be a slack period. One councillor believed the centre was handling four times more business than expected, with an income of £4,000 a week instead of the estimated £800.

[August 6, 1976]

Every house a garden

Councillors want all new houses in Watford to have gardens of at least 1,000 sq ft to stop developers building “the slums of the future”. But individual applications for smaller plots will not automatically be ruled out. Members of the Development and Planning Committee on Tuesday endorsed the council’s policy of requiring a minimum area for gardens in new homes. Committee chairman Cllr Fred Hodgson said it was important to provide reasonably large gardens to maintain a high standard of housing. “I, for one, am not prepared to build the slums of tomorrow,” he said.

[August 6, 1976]

Palace link-up with Carlton?

A plan to save Watford Palace when the lease on the attractive Edwardian theatre runs out in 1981 has been revealed by one of the leading figures behind the town’s civic theatre. Cllr Ted Amey, chairman of the council of management, told the Patrons’ Club on Tuesday that he believed the most feasible plan was to retain the present theatre and enlarge it. He suggested the borough council could achieve this by buying the freehold of both the Palace and its next door neighbour, the Carlton cinema, in Clarendon Road. The councillor told patrons that building a new theatre as originally planned would almost certainly be ruled out by the economic situation. When the council had talked of a new complex to include a theatre, museum and art gallery several years ago the cost had been put at £650,000. Nowadays such a project would cost nearer £1 ½ million. Cllr Amey said: “We could achieve all the things we want by joining the two buildings. This would not be anywhere near as expensive as building a new theatre.”

[August 20, 1976]

Showbiz while you shop

If shopkeepers are willing to contribute money, the entertainment will continue in the pond shopping area of Watford High Street. For the past three weeks, the council have arranged activities in the precinct to reintroduce customers into the area, and according to Mr Alan Wallis the organiser, they have been successful. But he said it will take two or three months to get established. The entertainments are costing the council about £50 each week and Mr Wallis said the council could not foot the bill alone. This was why shops have been asked to help. Last week, shoppers were entertained by a Punch and Judy show and the Calico String Band from Oxhey. Tomorrow sees the last show of the three weeks’ experiment.

[August 20, 1976]

Goals with glamour

Watford Football Club, who staged a face-saving finale to a dismal 1975-6 season, open their league programme tomorrow and we are sure that despite past disappointments there will be a widespread desire to wish them luck. With Elton John having succeeded the much, and often unfairly, criticised Jim Bonser as chairman, the club’s performances will be watched with more than usual interest. Elton John’s presence, of course, will almost certainly ensure that Watford do not lack publicity, but it is their success on the field and their style of football that will decide whether the crowds are going to flock back to Vicarage Road.

[August 20, 1976]

The film is anything but a big bore!

A huge burrowing machine nicknamed the Iron Mole surfaced in Watford on Friday. The mole, strapped to the back of a lorry, toured the town centre and made a short stop outside the Carlton, Watford, to publicise the new British movie, At the Earth’s Core. Intrepid adventurers Doug McClure and horror star Peter Cushing travel in the Mole to the centre of the earth where they encounter monsters and primitive peoples. The film, now in its second week at the Carlton, is proving a big holiday attraction.

[August 27, 1976]

What was happening in the world in August 1976?

• Parts of South West England go for 45 days with no rain (July and August)

• The summer Olympic Games officially close in Montreal, Canada (August 1)

• Reigning world F1 champion Niki Lauda of Austria suffers a near fatal crash during the German Grand Prix (August 1)

• Big Ben in Westminster, London, suffers internal damage and stops running for over nine months (August 5)

• Scientists in California announce spacecraft Viking I has found the strongest indications to date of possible life on Mars (August 7)

• 10,000 Protestant and Catholic women demonstrate for peace in Northern Ireland (August 14)

• Gerald Ford wins the Republican presidential nomination (August 19)

• 100 police officers and 60 carnival-goers are injured during riots at the Notting Hill Carnival (August 30)