Grandma’s Grand Tour Part 5: Lots More London


Days 18 through 25 of my grandmother’s 1936 trip to Europe, covering the rest of her time in London and her trip to Stratford on Avon.  (Previously: Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.)

Saturday Eve, July 11 [1936]

Our trains got in this afternoon about 3:45 and by the time we had reached the hotel we just had enough time to get cleaned up and ready to go to theatre, where we saw “Pride and Prejudice.”  It was an excellent show very well acted.  After theatre as we were formal we went to the Savoy for supper.  There were the 5 of us & Marion Gaylord & her mother.  (People we met on this last week’s tour.)  The meal was only fair; the place beautiful; the floor show awful & the price quite high but all in all we decided that if we hadn’t gone we never would have been satisfied.  Live & learn!

This show of Pride and Prejudice seems to have been at the St. James theater, and starred Celia Johnson.  There’s a picture of the program at the link.

Saturday, July 12 [1936]

We decided that this morning we weren’t going to miss the changing of the guards as we did last Sun. so we were there at 9:45 & stood waiting until the eventful moment which was 10:30.  It was a very interesting and colorful picture, all of the guards dressed alike & marching so perfectly that they looked like wooden soldiers.  It sort of made you want to touch one to see if he was real.  From here we went back to the hotel where we parted for the afternoon.  Bert, Charlotte & Marie going to the conference & Jo & I going to Madame Tussauds wax museum.  This is a wonderful place & intensely interesting.  Their wax figures are all life size, with real clothes & robes.  Most all of the famous characters from the Crusades down to our present day kings, sportsmen, & political figures are represented here.  This evening we wet to “The Three Nuns” for dinner & then home & to bed early because we were just worn out.

The conference is presumably some kind of social worker’s conference.  Doris once told me in conversation that she was fortunate to go on this trip, which she took with “a group of social workers from the University of Chicago.”  I haven’t been able to find out any information on “The Three Nuns.”  UPDATE: Cait points out in the comments that it is probably “The Three Tuns.”

Monday, July 13 [1936]

This was our first shopping day in London and we certainly took advantage of it.  We started out by seeing some of Bert & Marie’s movies which turned out just grand; then we started looking for different stores that we had heard of and on the way got ideas for some of the gifts we wanted to take home.  The most important part of my shopping was two Wedgewood vases I bought for mother; which are beautiful things (in my estimation).  We spent the whole afternoon wandering up & down Bond street looking and going into all of the beautiful stores that we have heard & read about for so many years.  My favorite among these was Yardley’s I think because I have always liked their products so much & have looked forward to seeing this store in London.  This evening we had dinner at a little Turkish restaurant on Shaftsbury street called “Demos.”  We had a very good dinner which was concluded with Turkish cigarettes and Turkish coffee.  (Marie & cigarettes)  Then home and wrote a while & to bed.

Home movies did, in fact, exist in 1936 for people who could afford the camera and projector.  8mm home movie film first hit the market in 1932, and processing by Kodak was included in the price of the film.  These are presumably the films that were dropped off for developing on July 6th.  (Incidentally, my parents have confirmed for me that my family’s connection to Eastman Kodak was through George Eastman.  Apparently he and Doris’s father were best friends.)

Tues. July 14 [1936]

For the first time in quite a few days I slept a bit late this morning (9:00) then Joan & I met the girls at Selfridges and we had lunch at the soda fountain and had real sodas.  This afternoon we finished up our shopping and came back to the hotel.  This evening Bert & Charlotte, Marie & Kay went to the conference reception and Jo & I stayed home.

I hadn’t heard of Selfridges, but their website seems to be that of a company that is very much alive and kicking.

Wed. July 15, 1936

We left the hotel at a this morning for a trip through Stratford on Avon and Oxford.  Our first stop was Oxford where we were told all about the U’, and were shown the different colleges.  Oxford consists of 26 different colleges, 6,000 students and a faculty of over 3,000.  Each college consists of its own dorm, chapel, quadrangle, and dining hall.  We visited Oriole College which is typical of all.  Exams of all colleges are given in one central building and all degrees are given in the Sheldonian Memorial Theatre.  On our way to Stratford we passed thru villages of Cotswold cottages.  In Stratford we passed a memorial statue of Shakespeare which has the four statues of comedy, tragedy, poetry, and art surrounding it.  We stopped at the home in which Shakespeare was born, went thru the gardens and then on to Anne Hathaway’s cottage, which is very picturesque, then the Trinity church where Shakespeare and his family were buried.  There we read the famous epitaph of his which curses the man that moves his bones.  From here we went on to Warwick Castle which is a beautiful place still occupied by the Earl of Warwick (24 years old) and his family.  It is an immense place filled with many historic paintings and statues and surrounded with beautiful gardens.  Our last stop was Banbury where we bought tarts.  We had supper in our room this evening.  Sandwiches, tea, etc.

Except for Oxford, I’ve been to all the places she mentions in this entry.  There was no Earl living in Warwick castle when I was there.  It was sold to, yes, Tussauds in 1978 for management as a tourist attraction.

Thurs London July 16, 1936

To Hyde Park this morning to see the King (Edward VIII) present his colors to his guards.  We couldn’t get seats near the ceremony so we went near Buckingham Palace where we found seats on a very sharp iron railing along the street where the king was to march after the ceremony.  We waited here for 2 hours, making friends with the Bobbies who afterwards helped us out by not letting anyone stand in front of us.  The kids got quite a kick out of my offering to save the Bobbie’s place while he went to lunch.  We finally did see the king, all his brothers, Queen Mary and the Princess and the procession of Royal Guards.  It was a very picturesque sight and very colorful.  This was the first time in 15 years that this ceremony had taken place.  We had lunch at Selfridges and shopped the rest of the afternoon.  Shopped at the American Express on the way home and found that Emily had registered that morning.  Called her and she met us this evening at the Trocadero where we had dinner.  Quite a nice place, very good food.

Fri, July 17, 1936

Up at 5 A.M. to go to Covent Gardens to the flower market which was just about closed when we arrived.  We had breakfast at 6:30 and then decided to walk about London.  Some one had the idea that we go to Rotten Row and see some of the rotten riders.  We did but it was too early even for the horses.  Then we found a comfortable bench in Hyde Park and sat down for a few minutes, Marie going to sleep & Bert & Kay & I talking.  After 10 minutes of this we were nearly nutty waiting for time to pass so finally decided to go back in the hotel.  At about 10 we started for the Caledonian market.  We took the underground and got on four wrong trains, and were so mixed up we thought we would never get there.  It took us 3/4 of an hour to get to the place which was a regular 10 minute ride.  We went thru the market stopping at all of the stalls and examining everything.  Finally Bert bought a copper plaque which weighed about 8 lbs and we each bought sugar shakers and cheap suitcases.  We were quite a sight coming home with four suitcases; completely exhausted; and filthy dirty.  This evening we went to Simpsons for dinner and then to theatre to see “Call it a Day.”  When we got home we certainly did “call it a day.”  I can’t ever remember being so worn out.

Call It A Day was apparently made into a movie in 1937.  Some sort of light comedy about a family fraught with ill-conceived love affairs, with a redemptive ending.  More interesting: this was the day that the Spanish civil war started.

English Channel
Sat, July 18 [1936]

We went on a sight seeing tour of London stopping at the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament & St. Paul’s Cathedral.  This tour tied up our picture of London because for a while week before we had just been getting around by ourselves.  This evening we sailed from Horwich for Rotterdam.  So far the trip is quite rough.

Goodbye England.  When we next catch up with Doris she will be on the continent.

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  1. My best guess is that the pub she ate at after Madame Tussauds was actually “The Three Tuns”. This is a fairly common name for a pub as a “tun” is an old for a vat or large measure of wine or beer.

    There is a pub called “The Three Tuns” down near Marble Arch and Portman Square which is not very far at all from Madame Tussauds which is near Regent’s Park and would have been only a short walk

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