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It all began about the age of ten. Happening to be passing through a street market, I espied a conjuror just beginning the Bill in Lemon Trick. It is still vivid in my memory today, and also the excellent showmanship and misdirection that obviously astounded the audience. From then on, I wanted to become a conjuror, and my father, who was quite deft with a deck of cards, gave me my first lessons in card trickery. My father also introduced me to that grand fellow Percy Press, who showed me the back palm and spring shuffle, and thus it was that I succumbed completely to the magic bug. Even so, on reaching the age of sixteen I neglected magic by joining a dance band, in which I played the banjo and guitar, sometimes doubling on the piano. It was many years later (about 1936) that the fascination of magic again came back to me. At the beginning of the last war, I passed an audition for ENSA, but again, the fortunes of war altered all that, and being passed medically fit, finally ended up in the Royal Navy. Naturally, I gave many shows under varied conditions, but the incident that stands out in my mind was when on shore leave in Cochin, India, I was asked to show the natives some manipulation with coins, cigarettes and eggs. Having in mind stories of clever Eastern magic, I anticipated my efforts wouid be rather crude, but imagine my surprise when they stared open-mouthed and in genuine amazement and I was asked to repeat again and again. Talking of sleight of hand, the smartest magician I ever came into contact with, was a young Arab in Alexandria, who picked my pocket practically right under my nose—but that's another story.

My ship (an aircraft carrier) eventually berthed at San Diego in Southern California and was to be my base for the following twelve months. During this time I made three trips across the Pacific to the island of Guam, (south of Japan) and visited Honolulu, Hawaii en route, six times. Most interesting during my stay in California, I was introduced to

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Walter de Frece Page 281

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