A snapshot of life in October 1985

Alien alert

An alien race could invade Earth, but if it did the nations of the world would unite to fight the foe – these are just two of the conclusions drawn from a survey taken in Watford High Street by a publishing company. Half of the 200 people questioned said there was a possibility that an alien race could invade Earth. In response to the question: “Do you think Earth has strong enough defences to resist an alien attack?”, 60 per cent said no, while 66 per cent said they thought the East and West would unite to fight off the alien attack. More than half of the people asked said there probably was life on other planets. The survey was conducted by New Era Publications after releasing a science fiction book by L. Ron Hubbard, called Battlefield Earth.

[October 11, 1985]

Sunday opening costs B&Q £1,000

A superstore’s foray into Sunday opening has cost them £1,200. B&Q do-it-yourself superstore in Watford Lower High Street pleaded guilty to four summonses at Watford Magistrates’ Court last Friday. Following a complaint about the opening of the store, an environmental health officer went there on July 28 and found the premises open for business. The assistant manager was seen and formally cautioned. Further visits were made on August 11, 18 and 25, and each time the store was open. Solicitors for B&Q Retail wrote in mitigation that the company was guilty of providing a service to the public which is greatly in demand. Magistrate Mr Alec Merrifield fined the company £250 for each offence and awarded the council £200 costs.

[October 11, 1985]

Opposition to hospital change

Three Rivers Council has joined forces with Watford in a bid to halt moves that could lead to the closure of Leavesden Hospital. Councillors this week gave unanimous support to a motion, already backed by Watford Council, that calls on Health Minister Barney Hayhoe to take steps to prevent a switch in management responsibilities for the hospital. The North West Thames Regional Health Authority has already ruled that the 1,000-patient hospital for the mentally handicapped should be taken out of the South West Herts health district. Instead it will be lumped in with Harperbury and Cell Barnes hospitals in North West Herts. The move will leave the way clear for the closure of one of the hospitals within the next ten years and many fear Leavesden will be the one to go.

[October 18, 1985]

Palace cannot afford to fail

New productions at Watford Palace Theatre cannot afford to fail – quite literally. As most shows have been playing to full houses budgets are prepared on a very high expectation of box-office income. That, civic theatre trust chairman Councillor Arthur Reynolds points out in the annual report, effectively denies any production the chance to fail. The annual report points out that, although audiences have continued to be very high, “certain more established sections of the regular audience appear less willing to sample new work”. Box-office income for repertory productions and the pantomime totalled £334,384 compared with £311,296 the previous year.

[October 18, 1985]

Halloween warning

Children will be apprehended by police if they are found “trick or treating”. They will be strongly advised to go home – or worse, if they are found in breach of the peace. The stern warning came in the run-up to Halloween festivities next Thursday and as police take a dim view of the annual game which is spreading from the States. It involves children dressing up in terrifying “joke” masks, knocking on neighbours’ doors and promising to play a “trick” on them unless they are given a “treat”. Police anticipate trouble if things go too far, and a spokesman said: “We have already had a number of complaints from people who have genuinely been frightened by children and been subject to tricks they don’t appreciate.”

[October 25, 1985]

Christmas lights get switched off

There will be no Christmas lights brightening up Watford High Street this year, after the failure of a campaign to raise money for the decorations from local shops and businesses. The attempt to put festive lights up for the first time in more than 20 years was launched by Watford’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry. They set a target of £15,000, but High Street businesses only came up with £3,000. At a meeting last week, the Chamber decided to abandon the idea – but there is a chance that the money which has been raised will be put towards seasonal decorations for the light posts in Charter Place.

[October 25, 1985]

The Peace deserves better

The Regional Health Authority must act quickly to rid the town of the swiftly deteriorating Peace Memorial Hospital. After five months standing empty, the once thriving hospital is turning into a frightening ghost town – a magnet for drunks, glue sniffers and young tearaways with no place better to go. The once proud wards have been reduced to vulnerable squats for passing itinerants, or into giant targets for bored young vandals. There will be many people in the community with fond memories of the Peace, who believe it deserves something better. So, in the meantime, why is such a vast resource, located in the shadows of Watford Town Hall and in the centre of town, allowed to stand idle for so long?

[October 25, 1985]

What was happening in the world in October 1985?

• The Space Shuttle Atlantis makes it maiden flight (October 3)

• PC Keith Blakelock is murdered as riots erupt in the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham, north London (October 6)

• The cruise ship Achille Lauro is hijacked in the Mediterranean Sea by four Palestinian terrorists (October 7)

• The first Nintendo home video game console in the US is released as the Nintendo Entertainment System (October 18)

• Emirates Airlines establishes in Dubai and performs its first flight (October 25)

• Nine paintings, including five Monets and two Renoirs, are stolen by gunmen in Paris (October 27)