The elephant that fuelled interest at garage

  • Children made their lunch over a camp fire during fun days in Goffs Park
  • Copthorne Hotel staff raised money for charity
  • Children at Ifield School gave two teachers a retirement party to remember

What do the end of the Vietnam War, the opening of the new London Bridge, the launch of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and Roy Castle dancing 1,440 taps in a minute have in common?

They all took place in 1973.



While life in Crawley didn’t make history in the year Family Guy legend Seth MacFarlane was born and martial arts king Bruce Lee died, it did include an elephant at a garage.

Did Bruce Lee ever see an elephant at a garage? He did not.

These pictures all came from the Crawley Observer archive and show some of the events which kept the town talking.

The aforementioned elephant stopped off at the Target Motor Company garage and service station, in Three Bridges, on its way to a fete in Lingfield.

Did Bruce Lee ever see an elephant at a garage? He did not.

As well as giving free elephant rides to 200 visitors, garage staff offered a prize of £100 or a stereo tape cassette recorder to anyone who could guess its weight to the nearest pound.

Forecourt manager Don Martin, who organised the competition with sales manager Alan Burtenshaw, announced the weight at 3,416lbs - positively petite for a pachyderm.

In July of 1973, a series of one-day camps were held in Goffs Park, giving children the chance to pitch a tent, light a fire and cook lunch in the open air - all under the supervision of playleader William Ledger.

The spaghetti hoops tin being held by one of the girls sent older members of the Observer team into a childhood flashback - though none of them could remember what brand of hoops they were, just that they tasted really good on toast. Can anyone help?

While children were camping and riding an elephant, staff at Copthorne Hotel were raising £240 for the National Society for Cancer Research.

Onesto Lanni presented the cheque to Jan Bryant, secretary of the Kingswood Committee for Cancer Relief, at the Copthorne Hotel.

The staff raised the cash through a barbecue party, which was supposed to have been a small affair but ended up attracting 400 people - much to the delight of manager Paolo De Pol.

Over the years, many school pictures have been printed in these pages and the name Alan Reeson has come up time and time again.

From what his former pupils have recalled, he was one of those amazing teachers who were firm but fair and had a knack of enabling even the most testing of pupils to learn.

In 1973, while working at Ifield School, he retired.

The Observer reported: “More than 300 were at a presentation and entertainment honouring the retirement of Mr Alan Reeson and Mr Vic Mason at Ifield School.

“Mr Reeson was retiring from his position as geography master and head of Denman House.

“He had held many positions in the school and in the town and was a teacher in the area for more than 40 years.

“The entertainment included clarinet and oboe solos, singing and a dance sequence.

“The finale was Flash Back, a sketch devised by Denman House in which Kevin Stokes mimicked the mannerisms of Mr Reeson, who was moved to tears by the portrayal.

“After the entertainment, the presentations were made to Mr Reeson and Mr Mason.

Mr Reeson received a picnic set and chair, garden tools, a teak garden seat and a cheque.

“Mr Mason received an antique chiming clock and a barometer.

“Parents, teachers and pupils, both past and present, contributed towards the presentations.”

In 1973, the Observer had a page called Mainly for Women. One of the pictures showed members of the Langley Green Young Mums club taking their children and husbands on an outing to Littlehampton.

Do you recognise any of the families who enjoyed a packed lunch on the beach?

Back to Ifield School where the athletics records were tumbling on sports day.

Lyn Davis ran the 400m in 74.2secs, Lee Glenister ran the 800m in 2mins 24.4secs, Simon Head ran the 75m hurdles in 14.6secs and Lyn Wilson jumped 4.76m in the long jump.

The day was won over all by Tizard House, who scored 973.5 points. Denman were second with 825, Southwell came third with 721 and Warren narrowly finished fourth with 716.

The final picture was taken at the old sports centre in Haslett Avenue - where Pembroke Park now stands - and shows some of the 2,500 people who had gathered there for a festival.

Do you recognise anyone in the photo?

If you can provide any more information a bout these pictures and the people and events in them, contact Karen Dunn at the Crawley Observer.