First Time On TV (Don Ward)

By: Don Ward
By: Don Ward

A first TV appearance, nothing to do with the news!

A FIRST TIME ON TV, A LONG TIME AGO

It was 33 years ago....today! (I know you're doing the math, I was 12 at the time!)

When I was a kid my father was in the US Air Force, stationed at RAF Upper Heyford in the Midlands of England.  It was the mid 1970's and my family lived in a small village off base.

At that time magic was a very popular form of entertainment.  I got into it at about the age of 10, and spent hours and hours practicing and performing. I would perform at kids' birthday parties, scout banquets, eventually even adult gatherings. I got to be pretty good.

There was a very popular childrens show that had been on the BBC for years and years.  "Crackerjack" was on every Friday afternoon after school. They had a segment on the show called "Young Entertainers". It was a talent contest.  Some neighbors had seen me perform as a magician many times and suggested that I audition for the TV show.

I applied for a spot.  I was told that I was in the Birmingham region, and I was given a day in late 1977 to show up at an old church hall in England's 2nd largest city.  I was told that the BBC people auditioned 500 acts that day, and they would be choosing just two to represent the Birmingham region on "Crackerjack."

I thought the audition went pretty well but there were a lot of talented kids there that day. Still, a few days after the audition I got a letter from the BBC informing me that I had been chosen to appear on "Crackerjack".  Opening that letter may have been the most thrilling moment of my short life to that point!

On February 7th, 1978, my whole family drove down to the BBC Television Centre (that's how they spell it) in London for the taping of the show.  It was great. I had my own dressing room!  There was one run-through as a rehearsal then the audience of kids was let in and we taped the show, as though it was live...no stopping!

As a 12 -year-old magician that worried me little. I was doing a trick called the cups and balls. There was no fancy equipment involved that automatically made the magic happen, it was all sleight-of-hand.....my nervous 12-year-old hands!  Things could go wrong and if I was bad it would air on national TV that way. I also realized that even though there were only a few hundred people in the studio, there would be millions watching on TV when it aired! 

It went fine. I remember being a little scared but I did well.  Three days later, on February 10th, the show aired.  I watched it at home with my family and the phone rang off the hook as soon as it was over. I was kind of a big deal for a couple of weeks afterwards at the English school I attended.  There had even been a couple articles in local papers previewing my upcoming appearance on national TV.

I didn't win that day to go on to the semi-finals and appear again.  A kid from Wales who played the organ did. He was good.  It was still a great experience, probably the highlight of my childhood. It's something I remember like it was yesterday...even though it was a THIRD OF A CENTURY AGO...TODAY!

Below are some screen shots from the show that aired on BBC 1, on February 10th, 1978. 

      

     

 I had no idea then that I would eventually make my living on TV! 

We moved from England to Colorado Springs just a few months after this.  I did a little magic for a little while here, then I wrapped it up by the time I was about 15...I guess I knew I'd never be able to top this!

We'll talk again soon.

Don Ward

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