Programme Watch: 1951/2 & 1952/3

I’ve delved into my archive for another programme watch article, and discovered something new!

I didn’t realise that we kept the same programme design for two seasons in the early fifties, our promotion as champions from Division Three North, and our first season in Division Two. By ‘same programme’, I mean the same cover – there were fundamental differences, but the programme is essentially defined by the cover. You don’t see two with the same cover and think ‘one was the advert-free one’, do you? Well, you might after this article.

A bit of housekeeping first – the club have launched a ‘save our programme’ campaign, which you can read about here. You can do your bit by buying one tomorrow, and I’ll do my bit by liaising with those of you who expressed interest in putting recommendations to the club, and then speaking to them about possible ways to make it more attractive next season. You can read all about it here.

Ok, so on with the programme. We start with 1951/52, which was a big year for the Imps. We won the title, pipping Grimsby to promotion, scoring 121 goals. The opening game saw York visit the Bank, where 12016 fans attended. By the end of the season, we welcomed 21,501 as we saw off Stockport by two goals to one. That’s the programme we’re turning to.

The ‘lucky number’ on the cover is 1873, but in my collection I have them going as high as 6,000, which suggests the club were selling a lot of these. They’re still not easy to find on eBay though, and many elude me from this season, one being the programme from our 11-1 win against Crewe.

I can imagine this being a controversial programme at the time, because of two things; the first is a price rise. It went up from two pennies to three pennies, and the 50% increase wasn’t reflected in the quality. I like the programme, the design is quite cool, but I can picture the old boys turning up for the York fixture and not being happy. Why? Because their extra penny bought a lot less content.

Yep, that’s the first double-page spread of this 12-page programme. It’s all adverts. I quite like the fact that Musgrave Tools are still in town and supported the Imps back then, and there’s an advert for one of my old employers, Jewsons. Other than that, there’s literally no content to get yourself engrossed in at all.

Pages four and five are no better I’m afraid. For your extra penny, you get nothing on the first four pages of the programme. Can you imagine the uproar if it happened now? There is an existing business here, Stokes Coffee Shop, and a few I don’t recognise. It’s good for nostalgia, but I imagine it was angering for the paying public back in 1952. Remember, with no internet, this was one of the club’s primary forms of communication with the fans.

At last, some content! It’s really not that much though, remember this was a game we needed to win to secure the title. You’d imagine something more than a few words and bits of business, but that’s your lot. Bill Anderson wrote a couple of paragraphs, but that’s really it. We do get the teams, which were 100% accurate, and the season’s results.

I can imagine this was a hard, hard sell. Again, we’re into adverts, for the last two double-paged spreads. I like a programme for nostalgia, but if you’ve seen one from this season, you’ve really seen them all.

Ah, the sweet release of the back page, with the league table, Midland League fixtures and table. It’s not a lot for your money, but at least it’s not an advert, right? One thing I do note in the printer; C Keyworth of Lincoln. In the year before, the advertising was handled by a London company. I wonder if that explains (or excuses) the complete lack of content?

As for the next season, the price went back down to two pence, and there was a big change; no adverts. There was no extra content though; you got a four-page programme with exactly the same content as the year before, just without the adverts. Crowds were down from the Stockport game, this 2-2 draw against Southampton attracted 8,000 fewer fans.