HOW many Swindon landmarks have been called The Oasis?

Most people asked that question will answer that there has only been one, and that it is the leisure centre which opened in North Star in 1976.

In fact, there have been two - and the first was one of the most notorious objects ever put on public display in the town.

In the last week of January, 1967, the Adver announced that reader Mrs Catherine Trudgen had won a prize of a little over £2 for naming the cube-shaped concrete water feature which had appeared in the town centre six months earlier.

It was generally referred to simply as The Thing - or by even less complimentary names.

Mrs Trudgen’s suggestion beat others including the Brain Drain, The Square Squirt, The Freak of Nature and - in a possible reference to rock-breaking hard labour at a notorious prison - What I Did in Dartmoor.

The water feature also had a bit part in another story, one which seems to have ruffled a few feathers at the BBC. Swindon had been featured in a TV programme called Let Me Tell You, in which residents of towns and villages were invited on camera to talk about the places where they lived and worked.

Some of the locals who appeared were less than positive about the cube and a few other aspects of Swindon life, which led to angry responses on our letters page.

This in turn drew a letter from an aggrieved BBC information officer, who laid blame for the tone of the programme at the door of Swindon people.

He said: “It is clear from your review of the programme and the letters published that the purpose of the programme about Swindon in the Let Me Tell You series has been misunderstood.

“Your reviewer and correspondents have been complaining that this was an incomplete and therefore distorted view of Swindon, concentrating on the drearier features and ignoring the pleasant ones.

“But whose fault is this? As you rightly said in your advance notice about the programmes in your news columns on November 9, 1966: ‘Giving a unique opportunity for the expression of personal opinions, the programme will be based entirely on material supplied by Swindon people themselves in airing their views about the town.’

“Exactly. This is a series based on local people’s impressions of their towns.”

On a more positive note, a new name was added to the list of Swindon people making a significant mark in the wider world.

John Davenport, 27, had just returned to his Roman Crescent home from the Monte Carlo Rally, where he had been co-driver with Swedish teammate Ove Andersson in a Lancia Fulvia.

The two were runners-up in what was then the world’s most famous and prestigious event of its kind, pipped in a photo-finish by Finn Rauno Aaltonen and British co-driver Henry Liddon in one of the Mini Coopers which all but dominated the sport at the time.

John was among competitors presented with prizes by Monegasque head of state Prince Rainier and Princess Grace during a ceremony in the grounds of their palace.

We said: “During the 2,600 mile trip from Hanau, near Frankfurt, Germany, through Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland and France down to Monte Carlo, they used 16 sets of tyres and burnt £100 worth of petrol.

“In one high speed section they wore out two tyres in one hour 45 minutes, and a set of tyres which should normally last for 15-20,000 miles would be finished in 280 miles, he explained.”

The week saw us run two pull-out supplements about Swindon’s burgeoning industrial scene, with companies old and new vying for advertising space and features.

Companies featured included Radio Rentals, which had moved the bulk of its operations, including its research laboratory, to premises in Shrivenham Road some years earlier.

The firm was best known for renting televisions to households. In an era when sets were expensive to buy and prone to breaking down, this was a popular option for many people.

Other lines ranged from tape recorders for school lessons to intercoms for nursing homes.

We also wrote about another firm which will be remembered by older readers, uniform manufacturer J Compton Sons and Webb Ltd, many of whose workers were young women.

The article is a reminder that the world was a very different place 52 years ago:

“The training of women for jobs,” we said, “mostly applies to girls leaving school at the moment.

“The training of older women for jobs is still very much in its infancy. It is hoped that training will come for women who want to to work after marriage.

“Another worrying aspect of female employment is that girls now marry much earlier and leave their jobs. Ten years ago, an employer would generally keep a girl until she was about 22. The figure now would be about 20.

“The average age of marriage 20 years ago was about 23 or 24.”