Echoes of the past: Remembering the summer of 1976

Car washing in the Ford in 1976
Car washing in the Ford in 1976

This week I am going to take you back forty one years to that incredible summer of 1976.

Quality of life was reported as being much better with a more affordable cost of living back then – petrol was 77p a gallon, a pint of beer 32p and a loaf 19p. Crime was on a downward slope and of course there were far fewer cars on the road than today. Now for the bad news. The new year for many starting off really badly - chips were off the menu in many households. The price of potatoes had rocketed and were so expensive many people were turning to rice and pasta.

Mortgages were at a fixed 10.5 per cent, Richard Dunn’s chance at the world heavy weight boxing championship came and went. It was also the year that Percy Shaw the inventor of the reflecting road stud (cats eyes) died aged 86. By October the mortgage rate went up to 12.5 per cent and no sign of it coming down in the immediate future.

The one thing all those who were around in 1976 will remember above all else will be the weather. It got hotter and hotter that by June 24 Calderdale was declared a drought area. Temperatures were at record levels and the length of time without rain and such high temperatures soon started to have a major effect.

Extra drought powers were announced and by July 21 the district was on standby for standpipes being sent out. This was the time I was moving into our new home and standpipes were a strong possibility. So much so that along with my neighbours we were getting ready if it came to it to draw water from a well in our courtyard. The water was not fit to drink but it would if it came to it at least keep bathroom facilities working.

On 3 September standpipes were installed in Calderdale streets, and then within 18 days the first local prosecution under the hosepipe ban was heard at court. On the 25 September the heavens opened and the fire service was inundated with calls for flooding. October 5, standpipes were removed and many parts of Calderdale were suffering with the effects of flooding and by mid October reservoir levels were reported to be back to almost normal for the time of year. This brought an end to what was described as the worst drought for 150 years.

Here is someone taking advantage of the water in the Ford in Thornhill Beck Lane to wash a car. I do remember a number of people doing this with some getting into trouble with authorities at Yorkshire Water. I don’t have the names but perhaps someone will recognise them from all those years ago.