I wonder how many English immigrants to these shores have bought English and Irish products from Pasadena’s Rose Tree Cottage, either by mail-order, or with a visit accompanied by a spot of afternoon tea, served with traditional elegance by my friend Edmund Fry, looking for all the world like a properly dressed movie butler (think John Gielgud in Arthur).
He and his wife became a landmark on this West Coast, always waving the Union Jack, and even helping to organize the annual Birthday festivities of Queen Elizabeth in June, held this year at the luxurious Ritz Carlton Hotel. My wife and I attended View image, welcomed aboard by a bagpipe playing Scotsman in full military regalia. And Edmund part of the floor show, showing off his talents at the fox-trot and other favorite ballroom dancing. So imagine my horror when I just learned that their lease had been terminated, due to the land being sold to a developer, who’s going to raze the cottage, their home and shop for the last twenty-five years.
The Fry’s deserve better than this, and I hope others will join me in a letter-writing campaign to Pasadena’s mayor. They are under no legal obligation of course, but one would like to think that they will find a way to get them other premises in the neighborhood, a stone’s throw from the Huntington Library. We will all benefit from this if they do.
Here’s what I just mailed off:
To/
Mayor Bill Bogaard,
City of Pasadena,
117 E. Colorado Blvd.,
Pasadena
CA 91105
Re: Closing Down Rose Tree Cottage
Dear Mayor Bogaard,
I am an expatriated Brit these forty-five years, and an American citizen, and I have always thought of Rose Tree Cottage as a small but cherished haven, not just for us Englishmen, but also for the many well traveled Americans who are Anglophiles.
On my last trip there for a cup of tea with my old friends Edmund and Mary Fry, I was horrified to learn that the place will soon be closed down!
The circumstances were explained to me, sadly I may say, and I suppose one can understand that the city cannot interfere with what must be a private transaction.
However, please may I join in with multitudes of other voices to urge the City of Pasadena to make other arrangements for these good people. I understand that their dearest wish is to remain within your boundaries, and they will need help to make this happen.
Setting up shop again at their age must be a huge undertaking, and they need all the encouragement they can get.
Otherwise, and I could not blame them if they do, they may well move away, which would be Pasadena’s huge loss.
So please muster support among your city officials, and see what you can do. You will earn the gratitude of many Pasadena citizens (and voters!) Yes?
Yours most sincerely,
[signed] John Clark
This site will give the reader a better understanding of Rose Tree Cottage
Afterthought: Back in February, I posted a comment about a British supermarket chain’s plan to enter the California market in a new and surprising way. I’m talking about TESCO. Could they come to the rescue? I also posted a comment about our general frustration in efforts to keep alive our memories of homeland comforts, unlike most other ethnic groups.

Hello fellow ex Brits, want to see a really excellent website of a splendid little ancient farmland village where I was brought up, just Northwest of London and not far from Hemel Hempstead, the scene of the recent explosions?
Here my first impressions of life were formed, during the War (which one, you say, the Great War, WWII, or something more recent?). World War Two, of course. I’m sure World War Three, if it happens, will not be a path towards World War Four.
Anyway, it was here that I also got my first impressions of the “Yanks” from the nearby Bovingdon Airbase. Yes, those “over-sexed and over-here” guys. All of whom I greatly admired, and decided that over-there was where I wanted to be, one day! And here I still am, 62 years later.
Chipperfield Village website [Stored in “a space for nostalgia”]
This site will give you a history, which goes back to the 13th century, and a geography of the area. I’m not so sure it is still sleepy, though.
Enjoy it, and let your nostalgia run wild.

It was the night of May 4, 1945. I was twelve years old.
I’d recently ended a run at London’s Victoria Palace as one of Will Hay’s 3 schoolboy stooges in his famous classroom sketch (for those Americans who never heard of Will Hay, he was, perhaps, England’s equivalent of Jack Benny, only funnier, to the English anyway). The other pupils were grown up actors pretending to be kids.
V1 and V2 enemy missiles were about to be replaced by the allies’ version, the VE missile of peace.
London, all of England, was alive with the excitement of impending victory, and celebrations were being prepared all over the land.
The Royal Life Guards decided to hold a party at their barracks at Windsor. It would start at 8pm with entertainment provided by the top comedians and singers of the day, names still affectionately remembered, Arthur Askey, Tommy Trinder, Old Mother Riley, Stainless Stephen, Vera Lynn, Max Miller, Tommy Handley, and a host of others. Oh, and then there was me.
8 o’clock came and went, while we waited nervously in the wings of their small stage for the arrival of the honored guests, who happened to be King George, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary, and the children, Elizabeth 19, and Margaret 13.
It was the longest wait I’d ever experienced, and finally around midnight they came. The little curtain was pulled aside, and a head-spinningly funny and joyful show it was.
After it was over, with my mother ready to take me home, I heard there would be a private reception for the cast. I was deemed to be too young to attend, but guess what, somebody thought I might amuse the Royals, being so young, and they let me in. I joined the line filing past generals and other officers and leading up to the head of the group. There, for some reason, the king and queen decided to spend time with me, asking all sorts of questions, capped with what was it like to be up so late! I must have stood out like a sore thumb.
My mother was sitting out in the corridor and didn’t get to see this shining moment of my life. Only child actors with a stage mother will understand this. I made sure she stayed out there too, I didn’t want to spoil the moment, if it came. And I must admit I’ve always felt ashamed when recalling that fact!
Head still spinning, I left, with a sense that the peak of my career as an actor had come and gone in a single evening.
4 days later, the lights came on again all over England and Europe.

It was early 1960. First England, then Canada, and now an attempt to make a new beginning in America.
A member of American Actors Equity, I planned to attend my first Annual General Meeting which was being held in the Grand Ballroom of the Astor Hotel on West 45th Street.
A free-for-all shouting match it became, the hot issue at that time being whether actors should perform before segregated audiences in the South.
But meanwhile, in the union constitution, was a provision that permitted actors to refuse to perform alongside their fellow actors if such a person appeared to be tainted by association with a “Communist Front” organization, which was not clearly defined.
Time, this green fellow felt, to improvise a maiden speech followed by a Motion, along the lines of “First Things First”.
It seemed to him that there was something wrong about a noisy bunch of actors who seemed to care more about who they would not perform before, while not seeming to care about the rights of those fellow actors next to whom they would not perform, if they felt like it. No unity here.
Speech made, hushed silence, then a scream of wrath from the assembled membership. Motion denied. Who, they wanted to know, was this guy?
Meeting over, and somewhat bloodied but unbowed, this guy made his way out, to be confronted by a little old character actor with a pronounced British accent.
“My boy”, he asked politely, “are you a recent arrival?”
On being assured that this was so, he went on to say in measured tones “Take it from this old-timer, many years from the old country, and never forget what I am about to tell you.”
He looked right, then left, before continuing in a lowered voice.
“They look like us, they talk like us, but never forget, they are all foreigners.”
And with this bit of advice, he turned and went on his way.
And now, forty-five years on and still here, this guy has many occasions on which to remember his words.

In November 1950, eager to leave England’s shores and escape the notoriety of child star actorhood, I joined the Merchant Navy as a cadet, anonymous and unrecognizable to all, then being the day of the faceless radio actor. I talked my way past the Personnel obstruction, and then the reason I got in so easily, after my father signed the indentures, became clear. I could expect to not see my home for the next 4 years!
But the line’s ships were home-based in Los Angeles and never put in to an English port. There would be the ports of call from Los Angeles to San Francisco, Portland, Vancouver, Panama, Halifax, Boston, New York, Charleston, Galveston, New Orleans, Trinidad, Capetown, Durban, Karachi, Bombay, Colombo, Calcutta, Bangkok, Manila, Cebu, Jakarta, Surabaya, Port Swettenham, Belawan Deli, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Manila, Legaspo, Jeddah, Bahrain, Muscat, Port Said, Genoa. I was thrilled.
They placed me on the good ship “Silverwalnut”, a sleek twin screw diesel freighter of 7,900 gross tons, docked in San Pedro, and I spent the next 3 years compensating for my missing childhood. We tramped very slowly around the world, and my pay was $35 a month, which suited me just fine at that time of my life. Here she is:

My first ship, sailed on her for 2 years as an apprentice officer.

Adventures abounded. Life in such a small universe as a ship, with one’s mates made up of several different races and religions and cultures, and visits lasting a few days in most of the seaports of the world, is a growing-up choice not now available to our youngsters. And for career sea-goers in the Merchant Marine, well, these days you will be in and out of ports inside 24 hours, or stuck at the end of a very long pipe-line with the knowledge that you are getting very well paid for not seeing much of your family.
Sadly, photos of my travels have now gone missing, and the ship has long since been broken up. But amazingly I found her again – in a glass case at San Pedro’s Maritime Museum! Actually, to be truthful, this is the Walnut’s sister ship, the TSMV Silverpalm. She’s identical in every detail. Sadly, the Silverpalm was lost with all hands during the war, torpedoed and sunk, as were several of the line’s ships.
That would be my old cabin, on the boat deck. 4 of us apprentices were stuffed into that little space!
View image
Silver Line is mostly overlooked in any records of Red Duster archives that I can find. S & J Thompson’s company that ran Silver Line played a role in the design of the first Liberty ships that played so large a part in World War II, and I served on perhaps their last during my third year. This came about because I’d gotten myself repatriated back to England on compassionate leave, because my parents were talking divorce, and I wanted to talk them out of it. In the event, I later found out that they weren’t even married in the first place, my father’s first wife having refused to divorce him.
So it was that I was put on the “Silver Tarn”, an ugly and rusting example of the Liberty ship genre. I went aboard in Hull for a long voyage to San Francisco, and then on to Vancouver. In San Francisco, exhausted and invigorated at the thought of getting ashore at last, we upset the American immigration team who came aboard to ask us if we were Communists. We cheerfully replied that we certainly were, couldn’t get enough of it. And so we remained locked up on the ship until we sailed for Vancouver, marveling at the Americans’ apparent lack of a sense of humor! Here she is:

The Tarn at sea. My second and last ship, 1 year circling the globe, and goodbye.

In Vancouver, unaware that my father’s first wife and his 2 daughters lived there (I tracked them down some 50 years later), we picked up a cargo of wheat bound for Peking. We would be the first to run the American blockade and had a brief chance to see for ourselves what life looked like under Communism. It seemed that there they lacked humor altogether, and we were glad to get out of there.
Then we sailed on to Japan, where I fell in love for the first time, I mean r-e-a-l-l-y in love, with a perfectly respectable and legal prostitute in Nagoya. We had two blissful days together, but it quickly came to an end, and then we dodged bullets sailing off Formosa, now Taiwan, towards Singapore. I still shudder when I think of our captain ordering me to climb up on the roof of the charthouse and lie spread-eagled with a Union Jack, and with orders to spread it out to its full size. I fought the wind while desperately pointing to it to convince the pilot of a MIG so near I could see his eyes squinting down his gun sights, that we were not the Stars and Stripes.
We arrived safely in Singapore where the electric generators were replaced, then the fresh water system broke down, then there was a mutiny aboard in Colombo harbor. We fled like rats when she finally put into Hull again, for repairs. And I fled on to Canada to dodge the draft, which was waiting. I felt I’d done my bit in uniform.
I’d love to hear from old Silver Line survivors. Any still around?

 

WORLD WAR II
A sleepy little village called Chipperfield, in the farmland of Hertfordshire, England, was where I grew up, and got “discovered” by a BBC radio producer, on a bus. I noticed that they were now running a not so sleepy website, and I couldn’t resist offering my twopenny worth of wartime memories under the heading “Chipperfield Reunited“, and hoping to maybe turn up some childhood friends. If you’re interested, take a look.