Allerton House

 130 East 57th St

New York

Monday July 8th 1940

My dear Mother,

We anchored just outside New York Harbour about 3am. We were all up early and it was a thrill seeing green land again. We had a wonderful view of the Statue of Liberty. The harbour is large and looked very beautiful with ships and small pleasure steamers hooting.

Up to yesterday the weather has been cold and foggy but today the heat is gruelling. The Dr and Immigration Officers came off in a tug and 3rd class passengers were kept hanging around until long after 2 o’clock. I walked down the gangway at last clasping my only really valuable possession in this world, my passport, wondering what I was going to do.  Immediately a Travellers’ Aid Lady told me where to go and so I found my two wee suitcases under an enormous R.  A very charming young lady was there too from the ESU. She fixed things up and away we went in a yellow taxi, driving furiously past all the skyscrapers to a hotel – as above. Then after shaking hands she rushed off and said someone would have dinner with me.

So here I am in the lounge writing this to you, clad in my spotty dress and oozing heat. No money (the Banks closed at 3pm), no powder and no sponge-bag – the only thing I’ve lost.

As to the war, I know nothing but pray and hope all is well as possible in England. Our boat was crowded with children. Everyone was frightfully worried about the money question and all hope to secure jobs over here.

I believe that tomorrow I go to Chautauqua then afterwards back to New York sight-seeing. I certainly feel that we English can do some good – there is a great deal of false impression over here. Whether this letter is censored or not I do not know.

6 o’clock. July 8th

Front cover of Jim’s ESU booklet showing National Headquarters at the Rockefeller Center
Image from Jim’s ESU booklet showing the members’ room at Rockefeller Plaza

I went back to my room to study up some politics and Miss Patch has just phoned me from the hotel office to say she will dine with me at 7pm and I was to go on to the Roof Garden. Very nice up here, looking down on other people sitting on their roofs.

Later

At 7 o’clock Miss Patch phoned me and I descended to meet her. We dined at a restaurant, marvellous salad and ice cream. Then she took me on a bus to Rockefeller Centre wherein is the English Speaking Union.

We went on an elevator to the top and I have never in my life seen anything so impressive. You look down on the river, skyscrapers and lights – it really knocks you down. I’ve fallen for New York alright. It’s a great city.

After that we did Broadway. ‘Gone with the Wind’ is quite old here. The lights – well, you’d never bother about Blackpool again. The News keeps flashing round the Times Building.  Miss Stone arrived yesterday evening and went to Chautauqua this morning. It’s a day’s journey. I’m leaving tomorrow at 9.15 and being met by chauffeur and car en route. The ESU gave me 4 dollars to the £1 which is good because the rate is 2 dollars 50 cents.

July 9th 1940

Got up early. Had a whacking brekker then went out and bought some cosmetics.  The girls all wear silk stockings and the hats are marvellous. No-one is seen without one and they wear very dainty gloves. Shoes are mostly white too and such lovely shapes.

Ordered a taxi to New York Central and landed at the Bureau. Miss Patch rushed up, pushed a ticket in my hand, shook hands and rushed away. So here I am sitting in a sort of coach train, which is air-conditioned, and comfortable and spotlessly clean, speeding along the Hudson River. The waiters keep walking down to remove paper or brush the floor. The scenery is wooded, and many small islands. Every now and again there are little landing stages with yachts and boats of all kinds. No divisions between the fields. I’ve just seen my first grain elevator. The train for the last two hours has just travelled by the waterside and looks like doing so for ages yet.

12pm. We have left the lake and are passing through most beautiful country. The houses are of wood, in pretty pavilion style – imagine the Oxford boathouse and you have it.

We’ve reached Albany. What a big city and what a lot of automobiles. The platforms are flat as you see at the pictures and the people climb up.

6 o’clock. Just had a good meal. Cream cheese, jelly, rye-bread, coffee and butter. There is always iced water on the table and after the meal you use finger bowls.

We are now in Buffalo. I’m getting off at a place called Westfield which is the other side of Buffalo, Lake Erie.

There are 2 times here – Standard Time Daylight Saving and Standard Time one hour slower. This train doesn’t reach Westfield until 7.15 pm then that is only partway to Chautauqua. I finish the rest by car.

Later

At 7.15 the train drew up. The guard fixed the steps for me and I descended on the rails and was met by Mrs Potter and Miss A Stone. We drove through wonderful scenery and reached Chautauqua. It is a beautiful place, lovely lake with pavilions here and there. I‘m in a pavilion with a little study bedroom, hot and cold water, basin and everything for my use. The place has a few shops, very good bookshop, a post office and the usual quick-eat places.

July 10th

I’m sitting out on the pavilion outside my room gazing down at a most beautiful lake. Everything is so fresh and green here. I am going to finish this scrawl and post it to you now hoping that some of it will be of interest.

Goodbye, take care of yourself and write soon,

Much love,

Jim

PS The thing that astonished Mrs Potter most was that I came over 11,000 miles without a hat.