It’s 20 years since the Spice Girls ruled the charts, mobile phones were in their infancy and a three bedroomed semi detached family home with a big garden in Vicars Cross would cost you just £67,000.
Once again we’ve raided the Chronicle archives at Storyhouse to see what was happening in the world and in Chester this time two decades ago back in December 1997, and some of the local issues of the day still ring true today.
Big news in the city this month was the opening of a highly controversial new McDonalds next to the historic Town Hall. Local hot dog man Geoff Mesney spoke to The Chronicle about his fears that its arrival could signal the end for his business, describing the situation as ‘David versus Goliath 1997’.
Planners had strongly opposed McDonalds' bid to move into Town Hall Square and turned down the application, but the company appealed and the plans were given the go-ahead following a two-day hearing.
As we know, both Geoff and McDonalds still remain in Town Hall Square today although questions have been raised at the future of the latter, as Chester prepares for the Northgate Development. But as far as Geoff’s concerns in 1997 go, it seemed he didn’t have to worry after all!
In other news, arsonists set the school staff room at Blacon High School alight and a taxi driver was fined after attacking a neighbour over a dispute about a parking space.
This was also the month that Chester Town Crier David Maguire resigned from his post citing a ‘lack of commitment’ from Chester City Council and the city’s Chamber of Trade and Commerce.
He said: “This year I have been under contract for a small firm in Chester who provided me with a steady amount of work. When that contract expired in October I turned to the council and Chamber of Trade for help but they offered me a paltry £4,000 a year and a small office. I’ve got four children and mounting debts to pay.”
In response, the city council events coordinator David Atkinson said: “We are sorry Mr Maguire feels he has to take this action but at the end of the day he is self employed man who sells his services. He has never been a fully paid official of Chester Council.”
Current Town Crier David Mitchell took up the post later that month following Maguire’s resignation.
Meanwhile in Hoole, the shopping situation was causing concern even then - with residents worried over unique shopping facilities in Faulkner Street, which was then referred to as a ‘shopping village’ as opposed to today’s ‘Notting Hoole’.
Back then Hoole residents were worried the shopping village could go ‘rapidly downhill’ if an existing mini garden centre was done away with, sparking concerns about the potential influx of transient traders which may ‘threaten the integrity of the street as a neighbourhood shopping centre.’
And over at the Countess of Chester Hospital, newly appointed chief executive Stuart Gray spoke of the changes he wanted to implement at the hospital.
Writing in the Chronicle, he said: “Since I took up this post in April of this year, I have sought to introduce changes in the approach to running the Countess. They are designed to turn round the financial fortunes of the hospital and should secure an exciting and successful future, providing security and certainty for the staff who work within it.”
Some of the key changes he mentioned included introducing a modern, innovative style of running the hospital and engaging more effectively with the public and communicating more widely to ensure a more informed public on complex issues.
As shown in Chronicle adverts, all the rage that year as the Millenium loomed, were PCs and CD ROMS - and you could buy a brand new system, complete with floppy disks for the bargain price of £899.
Although the internet still seemed to be a rare luxury, the prevalence of mobile phones was just beginning to emerge, with the Motorola d160 one of the top range products.
We were advertising the brand new Nissan Micra Ski which could be yours for £6,495 and the TV guide at the time consisted of Michael Barrymore’s Strike it Rich as well as the infamous Coronation Street episode where Les Battersby’s Christmas turkey made a bid for freedom.
And speaking of turkeys, films showing at the box office this month were Home Alone 3, George of the Jungle and Tomorrow Never Dies while riding high in the music charts were The Teletubbies and the Various Artists’ compilation ‘Perfect Day.’
With thanks to Chester's Storyhouse.