A CRIME involving technology now obsolete was among our stories this week in 1973.

A letter was pushed under the door of a bank in Wootton Bassett, warning the manager that his life would be in danger unless £25,000 was paid.

“The note,” we revealed, “said that the money should be placed in an AA box on the Swindon to Wootton Bassett Road.”

AA boxes are unknown today, aside from a few Listed and otherwise preserved examples, but for decades of the last century they were familiar roadside landmarks from which members who broke down could call assistance.

They began to be phased out in favour of simple standing telephones in the late 1960s, and roadside phones were phased out altogether when mobile phones became common.

The AA box wasn’t the only period feature of the crime.

Our story continued: “Police believe a local man may be involved.

“They are visiting every house and business in Wootton Bassett, checking typewriters.”

One secretary at a local business said a CID officer had appeared in the office: “He got me to type out a sentence, ‘About a hundred yards down the road there is an Esso filling station, and just nearby there is an AA phone box. The door is open.’

“Then he got me to type out all the capital letters on the machine, and then a row of capital H’s.”

The unfortunate bank manager was reportedly in hiding with his family in London.

Although some police crime-fighting techniques of the day would have been familiar to fans of Agatha Christie, the officers of 1973 faced many situations familiar to those of 2017.

We sent a reporter out on panda car patrol with Swindon officers Sgt Alfred Kingsland and PC Lawrence Langdown.

His account began: “Saturday had just ticked over into Sunday and Swindon Police panda car Sierra Eleven reeked of drink.

“The man in the back, closely watched by Sgt Alfred Kingsland, was truculent, abusive and breathing threats.

“He had been arrested after midnight panic on a Swindon estate. Residents who called the police heard the crash of breaking glass behind an unoccupied house.”

The reporter’s ride-along had begun hours earlier: “A drunk languished in the cells and there had been seven football match arrests.

“All the accused had been bailed and released. But the adults among them also had a spell in the cells, stripped of shoes, ties belts and anything which could make an offensive weapon.”

One of the car’s final stops of the night came after the officers spotted a man soliciting a person they described as a known prostitute.

In 1973, much as today, people spoke of the good old days of policing. “The old bobby,” said one officer, “stood alone. He knew what discipline was and he had something about him – a forceful personality.

“If you saw him coming down the road you got out of his way.”

Another on-the-spot report came from an epicentre of a national craze.

Home organs had become so portable and so popular that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of British homes rang nightly to the strains of Paloma Blanca, My Old Man, Puttin’ on the Style and similar timeless classics.

All were belted out with varying degrees of skill using special effects ranging from horns to handbells and in tempi from Baroque to Bossa Nova.

Swindon was no stranger to the trend, and when local people felt the need to join it they generally headed for Swindon Music Centre in Faringdon Road, owned by the John Holmes Music and Organ Centres.

The family is still a major presence in the local music world.

Back in 1973 we wrote that the shop sold not only organs but every conceivable musical instrument and accessory, as well as the very latest in electronic gadgetry.

“The latest quarter-inch video tape system is very interesting,” we said. “It includes a portable tape recorder and camera which runs from built-in batteries or direct from the mains supply.

“Armed with this equipment on holiday or in the garden at home, the video enthusiast will be able to take film and instantly play it back through its own built-in monitor screen or through their own TV set.”

The Wyvern Theatre’s show that week was a play called Suddenly at Home, and one of the stars was a familiar face from 1960s television who would remain fairly familiar as the 1970s gave way to the 1980s.

Beth Ellis had appeared in Compact, a soap opera set among the glamour of magazine publishing. She also appeared in Z-Cars, a long-running police procedural whose stars included her husband, James Ellis.

Her future career would include appearances in another soap, Crossroads, and classic children’s science fiction serial The Tomorrow People. Later still she became a Christian missionary.

Another talented person in the news was the 17-year-old daughter of a Wroughton doctor, who was in the second year of a course at the Royal Academy of Music.

Patricia Calnan modestly told us: “When I was about ten and at Denford Park School in Hungerford, they were very short of violinists.

“They thought I looked faintly musical so they shoved me among the violins.”

She was about to give a recital to Swindon Music Club at the Arts Centre in Devizes Road.

Patricia Calnan went on to enjoy a very successful career as a musician, working with many famous conductors.