The History of the Horti: Chapter 4

The 1950s had been a period of innovation and development for the Horti and it would have been remarkable if this level of change had been repeated.

Building on Success

Instead it seems to have been a period of consolidation and building on previous innovations, continuing those that had worked well and introducing new ideas that enhanced the established reputation.

The Village Show – which was still called the ‘Annual Exhibition’ throughout the 1960s – continued to be the main focus of the Horti’s activities and to occupy most of the Committee’s time. The bulk purchase and sale of potatoes seemed from the Committee minutes to still be a major part of the discussions about the Show (with ‘potatoe’ still being spelt wrongly throughout the decade!).

Change at the Top

At the 1961 Annual General Meeting Roy Parker, after chairing the Committee for the whole of the previous decade, announced that he wanted to step down. At the same time his wife resigned from her duties as Secretary. The minutes report that the Committee tried in vain to change their minds but in the end could only persuade then both to stay on as Committee members.

The new Chairman was John Chapman who continued to serve as President, a change which perhaps raised questions about the purpose of the latter role. It might also have been a factor that caused the 1960s to be a period of consolidation rather than fundamental change. Chapman had been on the Committee throughout the 25 years of the Horti’s existence; only he and Fred Chandler of the original 1936 founders were still serving.

Potato problems

The resignation of Mrs Parker from her secretarial role coincided with other problems on the secretarial side. A Mr P Shurvell was brought in to replace her but William Milson – continuing as the Potato Secretary – stated at a 1961 Committee meeting that the burden of work was too much and that he needed help. The result was that two more Potato Secretaries were appointed as Frank Hopkins (now Treasurer) and his wife agreed to work with Milson on the Potato project. The minutes also showed that the Chairman John Chapman and a Mr Nelson were offered a special £2 honorarium for ‘all the time and labour spent on seed potatoes’. The Chairman declined to accept.

It is perhaps surprising that at no stage did anyone question whether the administrative burden was worthwhile and whether the potato buying should continue as part of the Show; it is likely therefore that the committee and members must have seen significant savings and other benefits from the activity.

The Show goes on

Though there were no fundamental changes in the Village Show or other Horti activities, there were some innovations during the 1960s.

In 1960 it was decided that the President should open the show with ‘a rocket’ though there is no indication that this was tried in subsequent years. In 1961, the Fancy Dress competition was extended to adults as well as children and each had to take part in separate parades. The Fancy Dress Football continued to be a popular feature; see photo below.

Some of the 1950s innovations did not pass the test of time. The Baby Show was held in 1960, the Reverend Wood taking over the judging from Doctor Riley (who presumably couldn’t stand any more flak from non-winning mothers!). Perhaps because the Reverend had similar problems, there seem to have been no more Baby Shows in the 1960s.

There was however a Dog Show, launched in 1965 after the local Gymkhana – which held a similar event – was cancelled. This was a feature that was to stay for all the 1960s and beyond; a special cup was donated by a Mrs Gregory. Less durable was the ‘Motorcycle Football’, organised in 1968 by the Berkhamsted Motorcycle Club, which seems to have been a ‘one-off’. Other ‘one-offs’ were an Archery demo in 1961 and a Judo demo in 1967.

A Cost Conscious Committee

Committee meetings included debates on which attractions and sideshows were worthwhile. It was suggested that the ‘Spinning Jenny’ – see below being run by Committee member Jack Winfield – did not have a high enough profit margin, nor did the Hoopla Stall; apparently the Coconut Shy and the Ball Board were much more profitable.

This is but one example of a Committee that was very conscious of the need to balance the desire to entertain with cost effectiveness. A Punch and Judy show was considered but was felt to be too expensive at £40. Another interesting discussion in 1967 was whether the fee paid by the Ice Cream supplier should be raised and whether this would need approval because of the Government’s new Prices and Incomes regulations.

There were also a number of discussions about the cost effectiveness of advertising in the local press and from 1962, there were adverts in the Bucks Herald for the three weeks before the show, also with Tring News and Bucks Life from 1967. There was however no move to build on the insertion of advertisements in the Show schedule; in 1961/2 there were adverts for several gardening magazines and Woman’s Own but all advertising was phased out from 1963. This coincided with a different format for the Show schedule, changing from a professionally printed edition to a lower cost, typed out version. There is no explanation in the minutes but presumably cost was a factor.

Opening Efforts

Throughout the 1960s there were determined efforts to find a celebrity or local personality to run the show and the results were often disappointing.

In 1966 the Committee agreed for the Minister of Transport in the newly formed Labour Government to be approached, which unsurprisingly came to nothing. In 1968 it was agreed to ask Group Captain Cheshire, well known war hero and author of the time, with similar results.

There was however more success when the ambitions were scaled down. It is not certain but it seems that Coronation Street actress Vanessa Forsyth opened the show in 1968; there is no mention of Vanessa on the Show schedule but it was confirmed in the minutes a month before that she had accepted the invitation.

There was also a special opening in 1967 which deserves and now receives a special mention.

The Brigadier beats the Retreat

In 1967 the Show had a special opening feature that seems to have been achieved via special contact earlier in the year with a General Wilson (who seems from the minutes to have been promoted to Brigadier by the time the show arrived!). A special separate leaflet was prepared with the title:

Beating of Retreat by the Corps of Drums of the

JUNIOR SOLDIERS COMPANY THE QUEEN’S REGIMENT

We learn from the leaflet that Drum Major Clark, who was leading the young drummers, was the longest serving Drum Major in the British Army. The leaflet also contains a list of the music played (see below) which showed remarkable flexibility, starting with a Marine Fanfare, through to ‘Donald where’s your trousers?’ and ‘Puppet on a String’ before ending with Soldiers of the Queen!

There was an interesting discussion at the Committee meeting later in the same year as to whether the Brigadier should be invited to become a VP. It was suggested that he might ‘add a little lustre’, perhaps not a great complement to those already on the list.

The search for VPs

This is but one example of the continued desire of the Horti Committee to increase the number and quality of VPs during the 1960s.

We mentioned in the previous chapter that there were 24 Vice Presidents at the end of the 1950s. By 1961 this had increased to a list of 28 on the Village Show schedule but this was still not enough to satisfy the Committee. At a meeting in 1962, a list of potential VPs was prepared with a view to increasing the numbers even further. It seems however that this initiative did not deliver the desired results because by 1969 the numbers had gone down to 20.

There was however an apparent answer to the question of why there was such a desire to increase the numbers. In 1964 Treasurer Frank Hopkins agreed with the Committee that he would write to those VPs who were non-payers and ask them to cough up! Nowhere else is there any reference to how much and how often but clearly the suggestion in the previous chapter that the provision of money was the main role of VPs seems to be confirmed.

Governance Issues

During the early part of the decade, the Committee became quite frustrated at the lack of attendance of other Horti members at the AGM, meaning that the Committee had no choice but to re-elect themselves en bloc. There was a clear desire to encourage non-committee members to share the workload. It is perhaps significant that comparing the main offices of Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary from 1961 to 1969, only the Secretary role was changed and that was Mrs R Parker being replaced by former Chairman Mr R Parker! It seems that Roy Parker had agreed to come back to solve the problems in filling that key role.

One notable change was the abolition of the separate Ladies Committee from 1963 though the members of the new integrated Committee were still separated into Mesdames and Messieurs. Another significant development was the tendency for certain families to increase their presence on the committee during the decade – in 1969 there were three Winfields, two Chandlers and two Gregorys all playing their part.

One key decision made by the Committee in 1964 was to make all show competitions open to allcomers though it was agreed that Cups could only be presented to residents.

More than the Show

The Village Show continued to be the bedrock and main focus of attention of the Horti during the 1960s. One setback was that the Annual Supper had to be suspended in 1961 because of lack of support. There was however the introduction of a Social/Dance in the Spring of 1963 which went well and became a regular event during the 1960s.

There were however no signs that the Horti was becoming known for organisation of a wide range of social events as has become a feature of the Horti Society of today. We will now look at the 1970s to see what progress was made in the following decade.

Next chapters:

The History of the Horti: Chapter 1

The History of the Horti: Chapter 2

The History of the Horti: Chapter 3

The History of the Horti: Chapter 4

The History of the Horti: Chapter 5

One Comment “The History of the Horti: Chapter 4”

  • Roger maybourne

    says:

    Very interesting lots things and people I remember

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