IT was this snippet in the 50 Years Ago section that prompted Valerie Pye to get in touch with these glorious pictures of her exciting past when she was a dancer and comic actress Valerie Brooks.

Although popular in those days ‘blacking up’ was soon to become unacceptable.

Friday July 19, 1963 LITTLE MINSTREL: A little boy, dressed as a black and white minstrel, pictured above left, provided the highlight at the garden party arranged by the League Friends of Bridport Hospitals at Mountfield. Timothy Bailey, three-year-old son of the Rev David Bailey (vicar of Bothenhampton) stole the show when he presented Miss Valerie Brooks, star of the Black and White Minstrel Show, with a bouquet.

She wanted to know if anyone knew what happened to the little boy and if he remembers the event at all.

If anyone can help it’ll be News readers.

Her enquiry gave rise to an hour going down memory lane and poring over her youthful successes – so much so that there is too much to bell in one week.

Valerie was a leading light in the very famous Black and White Minstrel show, working her way up from one of the glamorous Toppers to the show’s first comedienne.

She’s worked alongside the likes of George Chisolm, Leslie Crowther , Stan Stenett, Benny Hill, Kenneth Connor, Charlie Drake and Ken Dodd. She even has a letter from the BBC dated October, 1960, thanking her for her ‘excellent’ contribution to The Ken Dodd Show.

It goes on to say: “I realise how trying television can be and the many demands it makes upon an artist.

“However, a great deal of the success of the show was undoubtedly due to your excellent performance and I would like you to know how much I appreciated it.”

She also worked on the Wilfred Pickles and the Des O’Connor show – she was happy to have her caricature in the Evening News’ TV guide beside the entry.

“It meant you’d really made it!” she said. She also graced the stage as part of the Folies Bergere at the Hippodrome when she was 17 – and it was this stint she says helped her lose weight.

“I was still a plump girl at 17!”

She also did a tour in Africa entertaining the troops on American bases.

As a youngster Valerie, who now lives in Swyre with her husband of 43 years, wanted to be a singer but a serious attack of scarlet fever meant she lost her voice.

She went to the Aida Foster School and learnt to dance and was soon playing in repertory – her first starring role as Sleeping Beauty opposite Neville Whiting. She was 14.

After touring she auditioned and got a part in the The Toppers, a dance group.

She then became the Black and White Minstrel Show’s first comedienne.

Next week we’ll tell you and show you more about Valerie’s life and how she came to spend her married life in the Dorset.