Autobiography of James Tilbury (1881-1972)

1959. A few weeks later I visited at Tyler, Texas, the daughter (Joan) I had not seen for a very long time. It was a very happy reunion. Her husband, also a very successful business man and admirable husband, plays chess. All three sons do also so I never had a dull moment. I regretted leaving but had to get back to Phila. to see how my wife was getting along. When I reached the Pennsbury she was very busy but happy. It is the kind of work just suited to her character and experience. I now joined the P.E. Church of the Good Shepherd, a mile away as bass, and it was a pleasure to sing in such a good choir.

On October 2nd., at the home of our daughter Betty and family, just 25 miles away (Paoli) we had a very jolly celebration of our Golden Wedding Day. During the year our daughter Joan and family, where I had been visiting earlier in the year, had moved from Tyler, Texas, to California, nevertheless, they flew East to be with us on this special occasion. The Vermont branch was also well represented and many old and new friends were present. Even my French sister in law, son and daughter in law were able to be there. It was a very full house and a very happy affair.

By December I was ready to go back to Bournemouth, England. I know of no finer seaside resort in England and what always pleased me so much was the fact that the Winters there were quite mild and when you don’t find many houses with central heat, that is an important matter to one who has spent so many years in the USA. I never did like the Phila. Winters, even though it was always pleasant and comfortable indoors. At Bournemouth I was only 30 miles from my birthplace and I was alongside the sea which I had always loved, there were several miles of attractive beach and a lovely bay. Five miles of promenades without shops or unsightly buildings, pines, firs, rhododendrons, evergreens, public gardens, parks etc. abound and all of this within easy walking distance of all of my apartments. Is it any wonder I so often broke away from the noise and comparative ugliness of a big City to enjoy the beauty, healthiness and quiet of Bournemouth. I am hoping that when my wife retires we can go there to live if the climatic conditions have not altered substantially. Transatlantic travel by ship and air has now got to the point where England seems close by and as for our children and their families I am willing for my wife to visit them on a 6 months Visitors Permit at least every other year.

I sailed on December 14th from New York aboard the Holland America Liner “Statendam” and. reached Southampton on the 22nd. Before leaving the Pennsbury I was asked to give an entertainment for the members of the Womens Club of Philadelphia at their Christmas gathering and dinner so, when packing my baggage for the "Statendam”, I kept out my entertainment "properties" for my use when performing at the Club. With the assistance of a Pianist I entertained for one and a half hours with songs and recitations, mostly in costume, and ended with the English farce "Box & Cox”. A few days after sailing an entertainment was planned and I, amongst other “Statendam” passengers, was invited to contribute to the progrnmme.

Had I not been engaged by the Phila. Womens’ Club before sailing, all my properties would, at this time have been in my trunk in the Baggage room and too much trouble to get at. As it was I was able to present my "Parson's Lament" in costume and also "Martha spanks the grand pianner”, both of which received enthusiastic applause.

1960. On reaching Bournemouth I rented an apartment at 4 St. Winifred’s Road. In March I rented a single room in the "Therapeia” boarding house which was in more beautiful surroundings. However, I also left that in June when some very good friends of ours asked me to stay at their beautiful home on Leicester Avenue during their month's absence holidaying on the Continent. The house was in easy walking distance from the beach and I thoroughly enjoyed the stay there.

When they returned I went to live at 50 Alumhurst Road, which was even nearer the beach and cliffs. By November 9th. I was back at the Pennsbury, having come over on the excellent Holland America Liner “Rotterdam".

1961. In May I joined the "Crossroads Choral Group” of the First Presbyterian Church in nearby Chelten Avenue. My wife sailed April 7th on the Holland America Liner "Maasdam" to visit her sick sister in Hove, England, during her 1961 vacation. She took with her our granddaughter Pamela, our daughter Betty Byecroft’s oldest child. I had returned in the previous November in order to take over as much of her Pennsbury work as I could in her absence. Very soon after her return I was yearning for another Winter and Spring in lovely (and quiet) Bournemouth so booked passage once more on the magnificent new "Rotterdam" of the Holland America Line lenving September 8th from New York. On arrival at Southampton on the 14th. I drove as usual through the lovely New Forest to Bournemouth and obtained accommodation once again at 50 Alumhurst Road. Two months later the owners told me they had sold the house with the intention of moving to Cornwall and I had to look around for another "home". Through the assistance of friends I had the good fortune to obtain an excellent apartment at 40 Swanmore Road and there I remained, very happy and most comfortable, until May of next year.

1962. On May 9th it was time to return to Philadelphia so I secured passage, Tourist Class as usual and I couldn’t wish for anything better, on the M.A.L. new m/s "Rotterdam” again, in order to relieve my wife once more so that she could use her vacation to repeat her visit to her sick sister now in a Hove Nursing Home. She came back in June and I was again free to pondcr my next trip to Bourncmouth. On October 19th. I left again on my favourite "Rotterdam” for England. I too had many relatives and numerous good friends to visit.

1963. I had been very lucky to arrive in Bournemouth this last time, just, when the excellent apartment at 40 Swanmore Road - occupied by me the previous year - was again vacant. Twenty four hours later and I should have lost it. I don’t know of any other place where I would rather have been during the cruel Winter which was coming. At its end it was reported officially as the worst in 100 years. There was much suffering and, to make matters worse, the Meteorological Office stated that similar weather must be expected in England for the next TEN YEARS! The house I was in was of the unheated type, which was not surprising in Bournemouth where pleasant mild Winters had been the rule, but I couldn’t have been with nicer, more thoughtful, people who did so much to ensure my comfort. Of course we were well provided with gas fires and electric heaters but they are, at best, a poor substitute for a house with central heat as in the USA. On May 4th. my wife arrived once more on her vacation. After staying with me for a few days I gave up the apartment (with much regret at having to leave such kind and considerate friends, the owners) and we drove to Hove to see my wife’s sister and eventually most of our relations and friends in the South of England. We ended up by returning to the home of our old-time very close friends who live in the Old Courthouse at Christchurch, six miles East of Bournemouth. We stayed there from May 26th until the 29th. On that day we drove to our ship at Southampton, escorted by four cars full of friends and relations. We invited them on board the "Rotterdam”, having previously secured the necessary passes etc., and there we finished up our stay in England with a very jolly cocktail party. Thus ended, with the sailing of the "Rotterdam", my 23rd. transatlantic crossing since 1910 and my wife's 31st. since 1904.

Before coming to England in May of this year, and because of somewhat cramped conditions for the two of us at the Pennsbury, my viife had rented an apartment in the home of friends nearby - 118 W. Coulter St. - where I now spend most of my time. It suits me perfectly in every way. It is equipped with practically everything I could want, is very quiet and convenient and extremely comfortable. My wife comes over as often as she can consistent with the conscientious performance of her multitudinous duties and, although these visits are not as often as I could wish, it is much better of course than being in England where I have been spending so much of my time since 1910. I go over to the Pennsbury, 3 minutes walk, each day for meals and whenever I can be useful over there I am willingly available. As for our friends who own the house on Coulter St., they are kindness and consideration personified. It is wonderful how fortunate I have been throughout my life. I now have a delightful apartment in a house with central heat (which I never got in England), my good wife is nearby and at least one of our married children and family only 29 miles away and I am gratefully enjoying a very pleasant, happy and carefree existence. My old time chess partner is still around and we spend many an enjoyable hour in my apartment at the finest game ever invented. At the time I am writing, (Dec.1963) I am singing first bass in a male quartette, am rehearsing with a mixed quartette, which I have recently got together with the hope of giving a sacred concert for the Pennsbury guests, am a member of the Trinity Lutheran Church Friendship Group and last month was elected a member of the Germantown Group of Senior Citizens. Although I have sung in 32 Cathedral and Church choirs in various countries and am in my 83rd. year, I may soon be looking around for another church choir now that I have finished the strenuous work of writing this autobiography. I feel that I am a long way yet from being "down and out" in so far as singing and entertainment is concerned. Last month, with the help of a good pianist I gave an entertainment of an hour's duration at the Pennsbury Home. My wife, who still sings well at 75, joined with me in starting the programme with a duet. I followed this with my usual number of songs and recitations - humourous and otherwise – and, as that involved five changes of costume, I was glad to get the willing aid of a good friend to fill in with a song during these intervals. One most interesting and remarkable thing about the evening's entertainment was the fact that we had with us, as a decidedly alert and interested member of the audience, the dearly beloved and respected Founder of the Pennsbury Home, namely, Mrs. Sarah Emlen Moore. This wonderful lady is now 103 years of age!! It was only a few months ago that Mrs. Moore finally resigned from the Board of Directors. Up to that time she had attended the meetings regularly!! Mrs. Moore left her Coulter Street home, where she-had lived all of her life, this year and came to live in this Home which she had been instrumental in providing for others 55 years ago!! This sweet-natured grand old lady is, I am happy to say, still in good mental and physical condition and we all pray she will be with us for more years yet. This brings my autobiography up to the close of the year 1963. From a memory standpoint, it should not be too taxing to add to it annually from now on as I have a good diary in which to enter all future matters of interest as they occur.


J. Tilbury

December 30th 1963.


[1] Source David Tilbury, Oregon


  • April Boothe 2 years ago

    Thank you so much for posting this autobiography of my great grandfather, James Tilbury (1881-1972)! My dad told me many of these amazing stories about his grandfather over the years. It was such a blessing to find them here, print them out & share them with my dad who is now 76. I have one picture of myself as an infant with my great grandfather. My dad (James Tilbury Nutter of Connecticut/Texas)has even more info on the family, but alas, he is not a big fan of modern technology.

    • linden 2 years ago

      My pleasure April, glad it's been useful. Perhaps you could digitise all your father's gems of information? Cheers, Linden

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