In My Day
the ramblings of Hubert James

In my day it was about this time of year that the town found itself embroiled in a smidgen of industrial espionage.

Now what you need to know is that this was around the time that folk discovered the caravan and caravaning. Course, we knew what they were. Some of us had seen them at Caister or Hunstanton, but this was different. These caravans were ones you could hook up to the back of the Ford Popular and tow hither and occasionally thither.

A home on wheels but mostlu only two of them on an axle across the middle, so it doubled as a see-saw. It gave you freedom to roam the countryside at frustratingly slow speeds before dropping anchor in some friendly farmer’s bottom meadow or in a handy lay-bye on the A1.

They became particularly popular with folk who liked a lot of privacy. You didn’t have to mingle with other humans in a B&B or hotel. And at home, you no longer needed to grow a privet hedge or invest in net curtains. All you had to do was manoeuvre it onto the front lawn and you could block out the entire outside world.

And that highlighted one of the drawbacks. Parking required skill and patience. Almost as much patience as you needed if you were driving along behind one.

Now there happened to be an engineer and caravan enthusiast living up Ewenfield who had had one of the new hip replacements. His name was Fred Hobbs and the new joint intrigued him and gave him the idea for a jointed towbar. He designed it and built a protype and it worked perfectly. He kept the design a closely guarded secret.

Now it happened that one of them countries behind the Iron Curtain got wind of it and sent an agent called Marko Reimus over to try and nick the plans. He weedled his way into Fred’s inner circle and could easily have got away with stealing them but, Marko liked Fred and also liked the lifestyle here. He decided to defect and not bother about caravans or secret plans. To be on the safe side he told Fred to take out a patent, which he did and made a bomb.

Hollywood got hold of the story and decided to make a film about it. The director’s first visit to Finedon coincided with Sean Connery being at Wicksteed Park. He was there rehearsing for Dr No. They were doing that scene where the girl emerges from the sea. The park lake stood in for the Atlantic and a girl from Tower Close called Elsie Andrews stood in for the girl. Sean agreed to play Marko and the film was made on a tight budget. You may have seen it. It was called The Hunt for Fred Hobbs Towbar.