A snapshot of life in August 1979

West End rises may help Palace

Increased theatre ticket prices in the West End could prove a blessing in disguise for Watford Palace, according to general manager Chris Barron. “Prices have gone up considerably in London and people really are thinking twice about seeing a show, not only because of the dearer tickets, but also because of increases in train fares and petrol prices,” he said. “Maybe they will come to the Palace instead.” Mr Barron said that the civic theatre will hopefully get through the current 1979/80 financial year without any money problems, despite the recent VAT rise which will push up seat prices and production costs.

[August 3, 1979]

The future

Soon there will be chips – silicone ones – with everything! In future homes, lights will come on automatically as the sun sets and curtains will draw themselves together. Car dashboards will tell drivers when they are doing the most economical speeds. Washing machines will allow sensitive and individual choice of programmes. Children will play with real space-age equipment – the word toys hardly seems apt. What worries me is whether we are going to be bright enough to handle these new tools. Watford College lecturer Mr Larry Ball believes computers have suffered from a bad press, and too much mystique about them has been built up. If one or two people have to change their jobs through computerisation, this must confuse the issue, because most people will gain real advantages from the devices. The fear of widespread redundancies must be removed.

[August 3, 1979]

Hospital gets the go-ahead

A new hospital for Watford will be ready on the Shrodells site by 1983. The go-ahead for the £14million third phase of the building finally came through this week. This phase is a six-storey block with 368 beds. It is being looked on as hospital modernisation rather than extension. It will add an accident and emergency department, two theatres and ten recovery beds, orthopaedic and fracture clinics, an outpatient department, a dental surgery, a pharmacy, an X-ray department, and physiotherapy with a large gymnasium. The hospital would allow the authorities to plan services for Watford for the rest of the century, without having to try to keep outdated buildings up to scratch.

[August 10, 1979]

Cabbages could delay new hospital

A row of cabbages could delay the building of the new hospital for Watford due to start in the middle of next month. It all depends on the goodwill of some allotment holders. There are a few red faces at Watford Town Hall over a slip-up which has created the problem. When the contractors move in they are expecting to throw a cordon around a 2,000 sq yd area bought by the health authority from the Borough Council in 1973. But eight allotments are in the way. They are worked by allotment holders, who have signed agreements with the council. This week, said the Town Hall spokesman, the truth dawned. The council has been collecting rent and issuing allotment holder contracts for land which it does not own! Alternative allotments will be found for holders affected and the council will have to consider compensation for crops that will be lost.

[August 17, 1979]

Crackdown on hooligan fans

The police are clamping down with a vengeance to prevent Second Division fans from bringing soccer savagery to the streets of Watford. They are stringing barriers across Occupation Road running down one side of the ground so that visiting supporters can walk only towards Cardiff Road while Watford fans go the opposite way to Vicarage Road. They tried out their new plan using police vans as barriers when Watford met Colchester in Tuesday’s League Cup second-round decider. The police announced their intentions before the match ended – and it brought angry reactions from the home team followers. Chief Superintendent Michael Webber said: “If fans think there is any inconvenience, it is only for a few minutes. We don’t need to spell out what happens when football teams clash. Our priority is to keep them apart.”

[August 17, 1979]

Park and ride soccer plan

The possibility of introducing a “park and ride” service from an outlying car park to Watford football ground on match days is to be investigated. It is just one of a series of measures suggested by a borough council sub-committee set up specifically to tackle the problem of football match traffic congestion. The object of the exercise was to overcome hold-ups experienced by buses and emergency services on occasion last season due to the volume of private vehicles travelling to and from the ground and parking in Vicarage Road and adjoining side streets. It was anticipated that with the football club’s promotion to the Second Division the problems were likely to increase.

[August 24, 1979]

What was happening in the world in August 1979?

• Dictator Francisco Macías Nguema of Equatorial Guinea is overthrown in a bloody coup d'état led by Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (August 3)

• Michael Jackson releases his fifth album, Off the Wall, which sells seven million copies in the United States alone (August 10)

• The Machchu-2 dam in Morbi, India, collapses, killing between 1,800 and 25,000 people (August 11)

• Disgraced ex-MP John Stonehouse is released from jail after serving four years of his seven-year sentence for faking his own death (August 14)

• The controversial satirical film Monty Python’s Life of Brian premieres in the United States (August 17)

• Lord Mountbatten of Burma and two others are killed in a bombing by Provisional IRA assassins (August 27)

• Eighteen British soldiers are killed in Northern Ireland by IRA bombs (August 27)

• A national referendum is held in which Somali voters approve a new liberal constitution (August 29)