Local Face: John How

  |  Published: Jan 1st 1998

John How is a Wendover man, born and bred. His mother's family had lived in Ivy Ccttage, Aylesbury Road house for over 100 years by the time John was born there in 1914 and he has not left his hometown.

His overriding memory of between the wars Wendover is of a real village where everyone knew everyone by name and called one another by apt nicknames. One of his schoolchums used to whip his top along the middle of Aylesbury Road from Perry Street to Wendover School by the Clocktower, not a car in sight. The local Scout troop was very strong and very progressive for the time. For four years running in the late 1920's, they went on an annual fortnight's camp to Jersey, costing originally a pound but eventually rising to thirty shillings (£1-50 in New Money). The first year they went, it was such a b1g event that their return to Wendover Station was greeted by a larger crowd than gathered to hear the news of the Relief of Mafeking!

At that time, Wendover had moved from being in feudal dependency on the local estate owner (Alfred Rothschild at Halton) to Garrison town for the RAP with many "overflow" personnel in digs here. Now tourists take up the extra beds.

Although John went on to pass the Oxford School Certificate at Aylesbury Grammar School, the Depression of the early 1930's meant he wondered if he would be in work by the time he was 20 but fortunately he was appointed to the post of Junior Reporter at the Bucks Advertiser. His weekly wage was 5/- (25p) and as he travelled everywhere by bicycle, worn tyres were replaced by the company on expenses! The job meant that he acquired a detailed knowledge of Aylesbuty Vale and all its villages. He covered Aylesbuty Town on Mondays, Tuesday meant villages to the South including lunch in Wendover, and Wednesday saw John venture North. He vividly remembers covering meetings at Buckinghamshire County Council where the route of the proposed Wendover Bypass was hotly disputed. By the time war broke out he had been Sports Editor for some years also covering Police Courts, Quarter Sessions and Bucks Assizes.

The war included a spell in the Far East for the RAF. It was fascinating to be in a bar in Singapore or Rangoon and exchange the usual "And where do you come from?" conversation starter. "Oh, how's the Sweat Box?" would come the reply from anyone who had served as an apprentice at RAF Halton. The "Sweat Box" was a wooden YMCA hut which had been moved from the Wendover School

playground to Bryants Acre after Worl War I. It was often used for dances. The organisers would put down soap flakes to make the floor slippety and the heat from two old tortoise stoves used to give it a steamy bathroom smell hence the "Sweat Box". In 1939, Miss Compton, housekeeper to General Sir Bruce Hamilton left £2,000 in her will for a Memorial Hall to be built in Wendover, an improvement to the notorious "Sweat Box”. The war intervened and eventually the Memorial Hall was built on the site of all the County Council Schools in Wharf Road. Now the plan is to improve the facility yet again at the Millennium. John returned to his job at The Bucks Advertiser and was editor when the Scoop of a Lifetime appeared in the shape of the Bucks Tornado m 1951. John was able to secure the only picture of a tornado in the UK as well as bringing half of Fleet Street down to see the damage.

John moved on to the West Hem Post in Watford and in the 1960's was at the Bucks Free Press in High Wycombe doing office hours for the first time in his life. He began to feel restless in the evenings and his wife Erica spotted that Wendover Parish Council was looking for a clerk so John took on another role. After fifteen years he decided to call it a day. The last person he signed on as a Parish Councillor was John Firmin in 1982, now the longest serving councillor and present Chairman.

At Wycombe, John launched the MidWeek Free Press in the 1970's as Editor before he retired in 1980. Retirement started with a part time job with Aylesbury Plus and some histoncal writing for Watford papers.

John's greatest commitment, however, has been to the Wendover and Chiltern Hills Bowls Club. He was present at the first wood up in on the Dobbins Lane Green in 1951 and joined in 1952, soon going on to the committee, finally becoming a trustee. Over 12 years ago he became the secretary and has watched it blossom. The Clubhouse is also home to groups who need a venue for meetings, especially in the winter. The quality of instruction is second to none so new members of any age are always welcome, especially youngsters.

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