Wardown opportunity to provide work?

[Beds & Herts Tuesday Telegraph: June 10th, 1919]

An extension of unemployment pay to demobilised soldiers is announced. No one grudges the £1 per week while out of work, but we cannot help thinking of the 'splash' made by Mr G. H. Roberts MP when, in his position as Labour Minister, he told a Luton audience that men would be released only when there were jobs for them.

That men were prepared to face the prospect of unemployment rather than remain in the Army is a blow against conscription or militarism in any form, but there are scores of men who have bno prospects whatever of work. So fed up are they that many have re-enlisted, and are going back to a service they dislike as the only alternative to walking the streets.

Why should this be, so far as Lutonians are concerned? The staple industry is good, yet promises made to early volunteers, it is said, remain in many cases unfulfilled.

Quite apart from any promises, however, there seems to be a tremendous amount of work to be done if only the town sets about it in the right way, and brings to bear as much enterprise for the communal good as for personal welfare.

Particularly to public services is this applicable. How many men could be accommodated on street repairs? How many could be got to work on the preparations for the housing scheme? Is there room for improvement in the sanitary department? What about the cleaning of the Lea? Above all, what about Wardown and the other 'lungs' of Luton?

The Parks Department and its servants deserve all praise for the manner in which they have kept the parks during the four years of war, but no one visiting Wardown yesterday could feel other than that there is opportunity for much labour.

One gentleman expressed the opinion that the river badly needs cleaning and, as he pointed out the course growths rising from the river bed we perforce had to agree. Another expressed the opinion that the turf was in poor condition, and he incidentally paid a tribute to Mr West, the Parks Superintendent, and his staff for the work done during the labour shortage.

Another made the suggestion that in Pope's Meadow there was ample room for the laying of two cricket pitches, and he said that the whole of the recreation grounds could do with attention in this respect.

It is too late now to attempt this latter work, but we see no reason why the suggestions concerning the river could not be carried out.

The roads, the walks, the paths, the beds, the grass or the lake, we venture to say, have never since the Corporation took over the estate, looked in a worse condition than now. What is the reason? We know it is not Mr West's fault.

Is Wardown being starved? It looks very much as if the Council have tied up the purse strings very tightly. We humbly suggest they loosen out the cash a little, and if they cannot get any help through the Labour Exchange, well – there are other means at their disposal.

Another matter which elicited comment yesterday was the lack of any attempt to cater for holiday crowds. Of course, the railway companies are not likely to complain, but we feel that the town has good cause to find fault with the lack of entertainment at Wardown on Whit Monday. There was a cricket match, but nothing more – not even a scout display, so thousands of people went to Dunstable and Harpenden.

In pre-war days Harpenden had a 'multiple' show – fur and feather of almost every domestic variety, and sports, but that event is dropped. Why cannot something be attempted at Luton? Thousands of young people wandering aimlessly to and fro – Park Square to Wardown, “nothing to do, nowhere to go,” as one put it.

The caustic comments of one gentleman may amuse Councillor Primett, even if the ears of other member of the Town Council do not tingle. He said: “Talk about Wardown as a maternity home! It is an ideal spot, for the Corporation seems to have no other use for the park, except as a parade ground.”

Without going so far as the cynical gentleman, we may add here that the park and a considerable number of people in it on Monday were a funereal aspect.

By the way, we must admit one special feature of the entertainment in Luton. The Red Cross Band gave us a short entertainment in the morning – not music, but a spectacular display. They assembled in their scarlet, gilt and blue uniforms at Manchester Square, and then a gorgeous charabanc came along. The bandsmen clambered in, and were whirled away to that great and important centre – Sandy! Oh, Sandy! Two or three hundred people witnessed the departure, and it is not exaggeration to say that most of us would willingly have contributed had a tour of the town been made in the style reminiscent of Sanger or of Sequah!

Anything to relieve the monotony. As it was, we could only sigh and take a place in the funereal procession to, or a recessional from, Wardown.