In my last ‘idle thoughts’ musings, I wrote of the fascination of old football memorabilia; programmes, handbooks, newspaper articles which could waft you back through the generations and provide you with a glimpse of life as it was in the days of our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers.

A typical Hammers’ programme of the early 1920s was of four pages, the front page given over to the editorial and lists of current goal-scorers, the back page to fixtures, results, league tables and the programme of music to be provided by the “K” Div., Metropolitan Police Band, with the centre pages showing the two line-ups, surrounded by an array of local advertisements.

The two teams would be shown in the old-fashioned way, not just listed as they are now, but in team formation, the goalkeeper (No.1), the full-backs (No.2 and 3) in the next row, the half-backs (No.4, 5, and 6) in the next row, and then the five forwards (No.7, 8, 9, 10 and 11). The player’s shirt number defined his position, his role in the team, sometimes even his whole career. The No. 7 will, for those of a certain generation, always mean Sir Stanley Matthews, Pele will always be No.10 and, of course, although Bobby Moore did, on occasion, wear the No. 4 or the No. 5 shirt, can we ever associate him with anything other than that legendary No. 6?

Amongst the advertisers in the club programme in February, 1922, was J. W. Gilding, of 410, Romford Rd., Forest Gate, who offered ‘Easy Terms, Suit or Overcoat, To Measure or Ready Made, Serviceable and Dependable, Small Deposit, Balance Weekly, NO UNPLEASANT ENQUIRIES’. W. Thirkettle offered ’Home and Foreign REMOVALS BY MOTOR’ (the days of the horse and cart seemingly numbered).

The ‘Boleyn Tavern’ described itself as the ‘Most Comfortable and Select Saloon and Lounge in the East End’; no doubt you could enjoy their ‘Beer, Wines and Spirits of the Finest Quality’ whilst also enjoying the cigar or cigarette you’d just purchased from ‘Old Tom Robinson, late trainer to the West Ham United F. C.’, at his shop at the ‘Back of the South Bank’.


Another advertisement was for the Greengate Electric Theatre, in Barking Road, Plaistow, which offered silent movies, seven days a week, continuous performances from 6.15 each evening; amongst the offerings in February 1922 was ‘Little Pal’, starring Mary Pickford.

By the mid-1920s, the West Ham programme had expanded to a 12-page publication, with greater editorial content, more advertising and even a cartoon. The ‘Boleyn Tavern’ still boasted its merits and ‘Old Tom Robinson’ still asked you to call in and see him. J. W. Gilding still offered easy terms for overcoats and raincoats, though he no longer found it necessary to reject those unpleasant enquiries.

The Greengate Electric Theatre was now simply the Greengate Theatre and had a rival attraction, the Poplar Hippodrome, which offered performances twice nightly at popular prices. Another new advertiser was Charlie Paynter, ‘Trainer to West Ham United Football Club’ and ‘Football and Athletic Outfitter’, whilst the Mansfield Cycle Works (which three years earlier had advertised as the Mansfield Cycle and Motor Works) was keeping abreast with the times by offering a ‘Wireless Battery Charging Station’, to enable you to keep your wireless fully operational.

A few years later, the West Ham programme dropped all of its advertising content to concentrate purely on football matters. The likes of Charlie Paynter, Old Tom Robinson and the Greengate Theatre would have to find somewhere else to advertise their services.

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