The St Albans & District Driving Schools Association
In 1971 five driving instructors met up in the Victoria Cafe on Victoria Street in St Albans.
John Milne had called the meeting of his fellow instructors to discuss their future and how they could best help protect their industry against a changing and turbulent world. They had recently all been made aware that political unrest elsewhere on Earth could directly affect them, having seen petrol increase from 30 pence per gallon to 34.25 pence in just the last year.
Some of this price rise was blamed on decimalisation, but politics also played a big part. President Nixon was encouraging the USA to look towards Nuclear energy, and pulled out of the Bretton Woods Accord. This meant that the value of the US dollar was no longer linked to the price of gold. Britain and all the other industrialised nations soon followed, and as a result all the main currencies devalued. Because oil was traded in dollars, and dollars alone, the producers in the Middle East were earning much less per barrel. Tensions in the Middle East were rising resulting in the Yom Kippur war in 1973. A barrel of oil went from $3 to $15 and petrol from 34.25 pence to 77 pence per gallon in the years from 1971 -1976. Unrest was also stirring in the UK, with the 'Three- Day Week' being imposed by Ted Heaths government at the end of 1973.
John, being a family man with a wife & children to support, was also concerned about what would happen to his income if he couldn't work due to sickness. He had an idea for a sick club, whereby members would contribute a little each week, to be paid out to a member when he couldn't work.
The other four instructors in the Cafe were: John Flood, Brian Temple, Berry Challis and Ron Cameron.
John Milne, John Flood and Brian had all worked at the Swan National Driving School, which operated from the Swan National Car Hire Centre in Cavendish Road. Berry and Ron worked as independent instructors in and around St Albans. There had been rumours that Driving Instructors were going to be regulated, and even have to sit exams. The RAC registration had been voluntary, some instructors registered and proudly displayed their L Plates and RAC Reg. Number on steel mountings attached to the bumpers, others didn't bother. The Dept. of Transport brought in the voluntary ADI Registration scheme in the late sixties , making it compulsory in 1971. Swan National had encouraged its instructors to join the voluntary Registration Scheme in the late sixties so it could steal a march on its rivals boasting only fully qualified instructors. Unfortunately Swan didn't survive, offering to sell its cars to their franchised instructors and even allowed them to continue using the premises in Cavendish Road during the six months it took to wind the company up.
So it was against the backdrop of economic uncertainty, seeing their former employer go to the wall, rising fuel prices and the threat of greater regulation from the Dept. of Transport, that galvanised these five instructors to join together to form SADDSA.
At first meetings were held monthly, sometimes in the Cafe, sometimes the Liberal Club other times at a members house. As the months and years went by they grew in number; Fred Williams, Bill & Cindy Robinson, Betty Hale, Lorraine Carling, Ken Sutton, Keith Allen, Harry Bye, Tommy Gaud, Dermot Holloway, Tony & Leslie Hughes, Brian Hoare, Ray Smith, Ken Tomms, Jack Martin, Ron Bristow, Austin Banks, Bernard Shanley. All these instructors were working in the early seventies. Some joined SADDSA for a while, then moved on. Jack Martin became an examiner, then retired from the DSA after 20 years, in the early nineties and reverted back to being an ADI. Paul Colliss was on the committee, then became an examiner and climbed his way up to become a senior staff instructor at Cardington. Annie & Howard Jones were very active on the committee for many years, but about ten years ago retired to Wales. Dave Quilter and Richard Ford were members for awhile, and Dave is still working hard in Hatfield. Some stayed for a working lifetime. Harry Bye was trained by John Milne, one of his first, and only retired a few years back. Some never got round to joining, but are still working today.
In the early days SADDSA had a successful sick club, held social events at Christmas and in the Summer, went on educational trips to places like Cardington and Nottingham and enjoyed inviting 'Big wigs' down from The Department, to chat to them at their meetings. Annie & Howard Jones, both long time avid committee members held Summer BBQs on their palatial lawn in Harpenden to which all the St Albans Test Centre Examiners were invited, and a great time was had by all!
John Milne continued in his goal for improving the qualifications available to driving instructors. He was a founder member of the ADI National Joint Council, Fellow of the Institute of Master Tutors of Driving and in 1997 was awarded an MBE for his services to our industry. Sadly John died in 2005. His funeral was attended by all the Top Brass both past and present in the DSA. (To read more about John Milne MBE see separate page.)
Berry was still giving driving lessons on a part time basis around St Albans up until about ten years ago. John Flood & Brian Temple are still as busy as ever giving driving lessons in and around St Albans now into their fifth decade!
Thanks to John Flood, Brian Temple and Keith Milne for delving back into the past.