The day I signed for Recorder, but alas, not West Ham FC

MADE it! Human nature being what it is (and mine notably more so), I have to confess to being tickled pink. Last month saw the 61st anniversary of my starting as a Recorder trainee reporter. That the Recorder is still carrying scribblings of mine means I

MADE it! Human nature being what it is (and mine notably more so), I have to confess to being tickled pink.

Last month saw the 61st anniversary of my starting as a Recorder trainee reporter.

That the Recorder is still carrying scribblings of mine means I've now beaten the record of my old guv'nor Basil Amps in terms of time-wise service. It may not seem a lot to others, but I hope they will excuse me the little personal vanity of being really bucked about it.

Let me add straight away, however, that any other equality ends right there.

The difference in our working lives puts them beyond comparison. Mine was mostly as sports editor. Basil had done all that before becoming editor, and then the Recorder's first group editor. Both roles he filled with rare ability and dedication.

Which is rather more than I managed with the very first job I was handed that September starting day in 1949.

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Arriving at the Recorder's old premises opposite the town hall well before nine, I still hardly had time to say good morning, sir, and then the editor's office was filled by people rushing in on all kinds of missions.

These included the two photographers who did the paper's pictures. I was to learn they had to be early every Monday so their pictures could be rushed up to a Holborn block-makers in time to get them back on Wednesday morning for that week's edition.

The editor first had to decide which ones he wanted, and then mark them up for required sizes.

He did this that morning, while refereeing a vitriolic barney between the pair of photographers.

Freelances, they had Ilford split between them, north and south, with the High Road the divider.

It was, I later discovered, routine for them to row about alleged infringements of each other's territory.

Amid all the coming and going, nobody gave a bemused new boy a second glance.

Except, that was, for an elderly scrap of a man in a long-sleeved, light brown overall who'd parked himself comfortably just inside the door, and leaned there making mickey-taking comments.

Each sally he accompanied with a wink at me.

Tommy Long, composing-room overseer, I found out in due course, so baited his old friend Basil every Monday.

His parting shot was always a mock-despair, "Try and get it right this week, eh?" Basil totally ignored him.

When somebody came in talking to Basil about chemists he cut them off and said to me: "Nip up to the chemist at the Broadway and ask him, yes or no, are we to include him in the duty chemists we publish."

Easy errand. To my dismay the chemist insisted on returning with me and bending Basil's ear for 10 minutes.

Not once did Basil flash me a dirty look.

At that early hour I still awaited the written version of the verbal contract agreed previously, so technically wasn't a Recorder employee on that first-ever chore.

Years later I leg-pulled Basil about the legal soup he'd have been in if, on that errand, I'd been run over by a bus, or had the chemist go psycho on me with a strychnine syringe.

"Yes, but what a result. Front lead at half-nine on Monday morning," Basil grinned back.

After my first day's Alice in Wonderland start, things quietened down a little.

I was found a chair but - with Basil and his deputy occupying the only desks - I had to sit on it in the one empty corner, dunce-like.

I guess I had some difficulty framing an answer when, on my going home for lunch, mum asked how I'd got on and if I liked it. Truth would've been, hadn't, and didn't.

In the afternoon, I had even less to do.

Basil suddenly remembered to fish out of his desk drawer my written contract, its blank spaces filled in with the sloping hand that would subsequently be so familiar.

The contract was not, alas, the kind I'd once hoped I might be signing at around that age, namely, for West Ham United FC.

Had it been, though, one thing is for sure. Sixty-one years on, no way would I be "doing a bit" for Hammers - like I still am now for the Recorder!

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