By Terry Miller
Just what is this “British Home”, and why is it in Sierra Madre?
This was one of many questions I had 16 years ago when I joined this newspaper group and learned of the place on Manzanita in Sierra Madre, known simply as The British Home.
As a British subject, albeit permanent resident of the States, I was naturally curious to see what it was all about. Plus I needed a nice cup of tea.
I can tell you, it is a brilliant, matchless gem – a residential care facility for seniors, both British and otherwise that had been a terrific part of the community for almost one hundred years.
Once I made myself known to the home, I was already ‘in like flint’ and was attending some pretty wild happy hours in those early days…complete with Watney’s Red Barrel on ice whenever I visited.
Often there would be a sing along and various guests would appear to entertain the residents… Even the Queen of England visited the British Home in the 1980’s, so you know you’re in good company.
Far and away the most fun experience, aside from talking with the wonderful residents and staff at The British Home is the annual June Faire which is slated for next weekend, June 7. However, before we get into this one should understand a little of the home’s history as I like to point out to my American cousins…take a look at America… take a good look. There are lots of British ex-pats here …”we’re slowly regaining the colonies,” I often say.
But I digress: The British Home’s history dates back to 1920.
In 1920 The British Home was founded by the Daughters of the British Empire and other philanthropic organizations as a not-for-profit retirement home for elderly British immigrants residing in the United States. The British Home later opened its doors to welcome older adults of all nationalities, and today enjoys a diverse mix of residents from many different backgrounds in many cities across the United States.
The British Home in California, Ltd. is a very unique life care facility. It was formally opened in 1931 by a group of British women affiliated with The Daughters of the British Empire (D.B.E.) in the Western District. Their vision of a place where elderly people could be cared for in a warm and kind environment continues to this day.
On September 22, 1931, Sir John Adams, Consul General of Great Britain, formally opened the British Home. Mrs. Florence Shaefer, of Long Beach, donated the money for the second resident cottage.
Even though we are divided by a common language, the British mother tongue will be well represented at the faire and if you need a translator… Bob’s your Uncle. There’s always someone willing to tell you what a Haggis is and what a tea cozy actually does! Actually the British Home hopes that you pop by and do a little more than ‘spend a penny” – (from the days when public WC’s in the UK cost a penny) and that you don’t get too knackered – (tired) walking around the gardens sampling the DBE’s wares.
But Blimey – (pretty good word to use when you are surprised) you won’t need your Brolly (umbrella) as the weather is always perfect for the June Faire. The something for everyone. Fancy a nice pickled-onion, or how about a sausage roll? Contrary to popular American opinion, English food is far from lousy and the beer most certainly is not served warm!
The British Home residents meet regularly throughout the year to make craft items that are then offered for sale from their own booths at the Faire. Members of the DBE (Daughters of the British Empire), organized into individual Chapters from the Western States, sell items from their colorful and often whimsical booths to raise money to benefit of The Home. These booths are also judged for decorations and creativity. The residents look forward to the festive atmosphere of this day, meeting old friends and new, eating traditional British food and having a nice cuppa tea!
English bangers are always a favorite as are the scones but only if you have some of the Devon Clotted Cream atop the mysterious sweet.
The Faire will open with a formal Presentation of the Colors accompanied by a professional bagpiper, followed by the American and British national anthems.
Colorful booths and boutiques situated on the beautiful 2½ acre campus will offer arts and crafts, books, tools, collectibles, personal accessories and decorative items for sale. All proceeds are donated and help to support the British Home.
Refreshments will feature Ploughman’s lunches, English bangers on a bun, home-baked breads and pastries, strawberries and ice cream, and children’s fare. An outdoor Victorian Tea Room will be open for faire-goers to enjoy a nice “cuppa” and delicious English sweets and savories.
A Children’s Area on the south lawn will feature a bouncy house and face-painting by the Home’s resident artist.
Live entertainment will include adults and youngsters performing traditional Morris, Scottish and Irish dances. A strolling British Bobby and Beefeater will be on the grounds to keep the peace.
The British Home is located in a residential area, with parking along Ramona and Manzanita Avenues, as well as on the side streets. For more information, please call (626) 355-7240 or visit their website: www.britishhome-ca.us.
The 2014 June Faire will be held at the British Home in California, 647 Manzanita Avenue, Sierra Madre, on Saturday, June 7, from 10:00 am to 2:30 pm. Admission is always free.