THE imminent death of the car was proclaimed in the Adver this week in 1969.
That weekend, Apollo 10 was due to lift off from Cape Kennedy in the final dress rehearsal for July’s lunar landing, so stories about all things futuristic were lapped up by newspaper readers.
A 363ft rocket capable of hurling about 30 tons of equipment and three people at the moon would have been somewhat beyond the scope of a small team at the Royal Military College of Science at Shrivenham, but the young men did manage to build their own hovercraft.
“And if they have their way,” we said, “the prototype model will be a death sentence for that Sunday jaunt in the family saloon car.
“They believe that a four-seater family hovercraft, if mass-produced, could be bought for the price of a modest car – about £700.
“The team, who are breaking what they believe is new ground in the hovercraft world, have already had their craft hovering and in a week or two’s time they hope it will be in action.
“The four are Ed Billet, 25, Lieut Roddy Mullin, Lieut Howard Jarvis and Lieut Viv Hoyle, all aged 24.”
Their machine was designed for travel over land rather than water, and the team said they envisaged it as being more useful over open ground than on winding country lanes.
Swindon mayor Alf Bown also took to the air, reaching a rather higher altitude and promptly vanishing.
We said: “Everything looked black for the Mayor of Swindon, Ald AJ Bown, as he disappeared into a storm in a flimsy two-seater glider yesterday.
“The last that anxious officials of Swindon Gliding Club saw was the glider, piloted by Mr George Turner, chief flying instructor at the club, disappearing in a large black thundercloud.
“Forty minutes later, with still no sign of the glider and its Very Important Passenger, a light aircraft piloted by Mr Fred Butcher took off from South Marston Airfield in search of the missing machine.
“The Mayor, who was on a courtesy visit to the club in his last week of office, was found unhurt and unshaken in a field ten miles from the airstrip.”
Forced down by the sudden foul weather, the glider had landed safely near Acorn Bridge on the Swindon-Oxford road.
Mr Bown was no stranger to such adventures, having flown in many aircraft as a Royal Flying Corps sergeant mechanic during World War One.
Still in the realm of aviation, we ran one of our earliest stories about a man who would feature regularly in our pages over the next few years.
Aircraft engineer Michael Dolling was building an ornithopter – a muscle-powered flying machine with birdlike flapping wings.
When it came to human-powered flight, he insisted, the flapping wing was the only way forward – or upward.
“Nature is making a good job of it,” he said, “but for these chaps with degrees in aeronautics it’s difficult to get away from convention.”
He may have seemed eccentric, but many of his engineering principles were sound. It’s tantalising to think about what he might have achieved with more funds.
Another machine he envisioned, for example, was a cyclist-powered aircraft of a kind which many people dismissed as fantasy. In 1979, however, just such an aircraft, developed by an American, crossed the Channel under pedal power.
A national politician appeared in our news pages that week.
David Steel, the future peer, Liberal Party leader and co-founder of what became the Liberal Democrats was at that time the 31-year-old MP for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles.
He attended a public meeting at the Great Western Hotel organised by the party, at which he was handed a 4,000-signature petition calling for a Swindon by-election.
The town’s Labour MP, Francis Noel-Baker, had officially resigned two months earlier, although he had effectively left constituency work several months earlier still and gone to tend his family estate in Greece.
The election would come in October of that year. Conservative Christopher Ward won, only to lose to Labour’s David Stoddart in a General Election the following June.
The candidates in the 1969 poll included a young woman called Judith Gradwell, who won 518 votes for the Communist Party.
Judith, a child of veteran local political firebrand Ike Gradwell, appeared in the Adver during the same week as Mr Steel, but the story didn’t involve politics.
In fact, it wasn’t a story at all but a careers supplement we ran to advise school leavers about possible futures – and gather plenty of advertising from employers and colleges.
It would be several years before Britain had meaningful gender discrimination laws, so such supplements in those days tended to stereotype heavily.
By the standards of the era, however, we – and many employers - seem to have been quite enlightened.
Judith Gradwell, for example, was photographed before an architectural drawing board in her role with the planning division of Borough Surveyor’s Office at the Civic Offices.
Other advertisers included the NHS, Swindon College, Plessey, Raychem and Vickers Ltd.