A snapshot of life in December 1996

Help for homeless by the trolley-full

Young soccer supporters made sure there was a fantastic response to Watford Football Club’s food appeal on Saturday. Almost 5,000 youngsters took up the Hornets’ offer to watch the home game against Blackpool for free – and the majority of them responded to the club call to take along non-perishable food items to donate to Crisis, a charity that works on behalf of the homeless. The day was such a success there are plans for a similar event next year. The only disappointment for the young fans on the day was the result – Watford were pegged back to a 2-2 draw.

[December 6, 1996]

Post Office bosses hail new ‘flagship’

The new main post office for Watford will be at 77 to 79 High Street – currently the site of the Habitat home furnishings store. The controversial move of premises from the Market Street site was announced by Post Office Counters on Wednesday and met a barrage of opposition. Mr Tom Spooner, section secretary of the post office workers’ union, CWU, said: “A supposed public consultation showed the people didn’t want the move, nor did the staff.”

[December 13, 1996]

No to amusement arcade

Plans to turn a former shoe shop in Watford High Street into an amusement arcade have been blocked by Watford Council. The vacant shop at 56 High Street, which used to be Gordon Scott’s shoe shop, was the subject of a planning application to convert it into a slot machine arcade. Shipley and Sons hoped to revamp the shop front and provide a hi-tech haven of machines. But members of Watford Council’s development control committee threw the plans out, saying it was not a suitable use of the shop premises.

[December 13, 1996]

Joy as nursery school is saved

A nursery school threatened with losing half of its places and three full-time staff has been saved, following a campaign mounted by parents, teachers and governors. Almost 700 people signed a petition asking Hertfordshire County Council to reconsider its plan to cut Watford’s Central Primary School nursery in half as part of its nursery education shake-up, Nursery For All At Four. Now county councillors have agreed Central can keep 52 places, 16 more than they originally intended. The Derby Road nursery will now be able to remain open all day instead of just in the morning.

[December 13, 1996]

Charity trip for Chernobyl youngsters

Children from Chernobyl arrived in Kings Langley this week for their Christmas visit. Ten survivors of the 1986 nuclear disaster in the former Soviet Union landed in Gatwick on Sunday to begin their month-long stay. The trip was arranged by the Kings Langley branch of the Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline, which raises funds to support the children, many of whom are suffering from the effects of radiation. Organiser Mrs Chris Saunders arranged a packed itinerary for the youngsters. This included a visit to Derby Road Baptist Church, Watford, where the children chose items of clothing donated by local people.

[December 13, 1996]

Councils to get £6m cash boost

A rail link from Watford Junction to Croxley Green’s Met line underground station has moved one step closer following a £6million cash injection. Watford Council, in partnership with Three Rivers District Council and Hertfordshire County Council, has been awarded the cash, as well as being given permission to borrow a further £4.3million. The money from the Government’s Single Regeneration Bid and Capital Challenge funds will be ploughed into a series of projects in the west Watford and South Oxhey areas. Other proposed schemes include development of the disused power station site in the Cardiff Road industrial estate, a community sports hall at Westfield School, and improvements to The Centre in South Oxhey.

[December 20, 1996]

Stars turn out for film studios relaunch

Christopher Lee and Sir Nigel Hawthorne were among a host of stars who turned up for the official reopening of the Elstree Film Studios on Saturday. The celebrities were also marking the 70th anniversary of filmmaking on the site. The studios were saved from ruin by Hertsmere Borough Council which bought them earlier this year and have been transforming the site. Hundreds of films, including the Star Wars and Indiana Jones trilogies, were made at the famous British Studios before it fell into disrepair. But under the new ownership of the council, the studios are now fully operational and are currently filming spoof spy thriller Watch That Man, starring Bill Murray.

[December 20, 1996]

What was happening in the world in December 1996?

• Widespread student pro-democracy protests are broken up in Burma (December 2)

• South African President Nelson Mandela signs the country’s new constitution (December 11)

• Uday Hussein, son of Saddam Hussein, is seriously injured in an assassination attempt (December 12)

• Germany unveils the design for the new European currency (December 14)

• The Antarctic saga of British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes ends after 25 days when he is airlifted from the continent (December 14)

• Protests against Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic continue into their 26th day with 200,000 people packing the streets of Belgrade (December 15)

• The Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement takes 72 hostages in the Japanese Embassy in Lima, Peru (December 17)

• Six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey is murdered in the basement of her parents’ home in Boulder, Colorado (December 25)

• Guatemala and the leaders of the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity sign a peace accord that ends the 36-year Guatemalan Civil War (December 29)