One of my weekend pleasures is listening to the Danny Baker Show on Radio Five every Saturday morning. Two hours of trivia and silliness.
I suspect that he isn’t everyone’s cup of Darjeeling for the very reason that he is my cuppa thanks to his butterfly mind, useless facts (some apocryphal) and brazen nostalgia.
Like today when he was reminiscing about magic sets which prompted me to get my David Nixon Junior Magic Box (above) from its hiding place behind a row of books on a shelf for a brief sentimental journey back to my boyhood.
Baker is a few years younger than me and yet he seems to latch onto memories very much from my era. Today he was was talking about Mr Pastry which went whoosh over the head of his co-presenter Lynsey Hipgrave.
I remember the bumbling Richard Hearne character very clearly when I was four or five. I had my tonsils removed at Macclesfield Hospital, as was the norm, and watched Mr Pastry on the black and white children’s ward tv when we had no tv set at home.
Baker joked that after Noel Coward and Ivor Novello, Mr Pastry was the leading star of his time, but he wasn’t far off the mark.
Hearne had a thirty year career with the BBC. He was the first performer be given his own series and was also the first to be known as a ‘television star’. His brand of comedy also travelled well and he was a frequent guest on the Ed Sullivan Show in the America.
It wasn’t much of a leap from Mr Pastry for Baker to move on to trips to the cinema in the fifties and sixties and the phenomenon you just don’t see any more – staying in the cinema for as long as you liked and paying no heed to show times.
These days you have to check the time that the film starts, then try and time your arrival for about fifteen minutes later to avoid the endless ads and trailers. It can be a tricky business and at the end of the show, out you go.
Back then you simply wandered in at whatever time was convenient for you and if that meant you missed the first half of the film then you waited for it to start again to catch the bit you missed. Or you could stay and watch it all over again if you wanted to. Happy days.
By the time Baker had moved on to the rattle and clatter of the old film projectors, I was positively wallowing in nostalgia because one of my first jobs included setting up and running an old Bell and Howell projector, not unlike the one on the left.
It was when I was a junior in the Road Safety Office at Manchester City Council and the films we showed were obviously on that theme.
One that was very popular was a Walt Disney short made in 1950 starring Goofy and the mild mannered Mr Walker who turns into the maniacal Mr Wheeler when he gets into his car. Watch it below and you’ll see that not much has changed since then.