Life

The Day Queen Elizabeth Passed Through Cranford:  A Special Memory from 1957

I am a long-time admirer of The Queen who I think was a beautiful example of what it means to live a servant life guided by faith-filled principles. Her happy marriage to Prince Philip also inspires me and I have always been taken with her ability to stay-grounded yet flexible through the many tumultuous times that she witnessed and was part of during her seventy year reign.

Also, I am tea drinker of the snobbiest sort (I like loose tea, steeped in freshly boiled water for three minutes) and my husband, for years, has referred to my favorite hat as “The Queen’s Hat”. He means it in a nerdy way, but I take it as a compliment. See?

Imagine my delight, then, to learn via this article from silive.com last week that Queen Elizabeth once passed through my town of Cranford, NJ! The article notes that on October 21, 1957 Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip passed through Cranford en route from Washington DC to Manhattan with a detour through Staten Island so the Queen could fully enjoy the New York City skyline. Cranford is mentioned because that’s where they transferred at something called the Staten Island Junction.

I’d never heard about this royal pass-through before so I asked my husband whose family has lived here since the 40s. “Didn’t my mother ever tell you about this?” he asked. Ummm, no. “Well, let’s give her a call.” So that’s what we did.  “And put it on speaker phone, please,” he added, “because I want to hear it again too.” 

The next day, after my father-in-law had chance to hunt for them, I popped in to scan the pictures below which help tell this sweet mother/daughter story of the antics that happened the day the Queen and Prince passed through Cranford.

My mother-in-law’s family moved to Cranford in 1954, purchasing a brand new house on Aberdeen Court in a cheery new split-level development off of Walnut Avenue. The house was at the end of the cul-de-sac and the back yard bordered the Lehigh Valley Railroad. These days those tracks just carry freight, but back in the 1950s commuter trains still used them. 

Here are pictures of my mother-in-law, Abbie, as a teen standing both in front and in back of the house.

And here is a picture of the expansive back yard (with ducks!) and at the very back you can see the poles that flank the tracks.

It was October 1957 and the Queen was visiting the East Coast. Over the news Abbie’s mother learned that the route the Royal Party would be taking to New York City would pass by their back yard. This gave her the idea that they should be prepared with provisions in the event (and high hopes) that the train might stop by their house. 

After a quick trip to the market for ingredients, Abbie and her mother prepared tea sandwiches and more. Here’s a picture from that era of the two peeking in their modern 1950s fridge.

Almost fifty-four years later, my mother-in-law still remembers the spread in vivid detail. “We made three kinds of tea sandwiches”, she explained, “watercress with cream cheese, egg salad, and ham with cheddar. Mom had me cut up musk melon into pretty little chunks and we had cookies from the store.” All of the above were arranged on plates and the tea kettle was put at the ready.  

Continuing her story, Abbie said they then set up all the lawn chairs in the back yard. There was also a little table set up with the food. Then they waited expectantly.

Before long, they heard the train. As it got closer, they stood and waved. They waved some more.  “Well, did the train stop?” I asked.

Abbie laughed. Of course not. Her mother thought she saw The Queen seated in one of the cars, but that is not verifiable. One thing is for certain though, Abbie’s mother was disappointed.  “Oh, how I wanted them to stop!” Abbie recalls her saying.

And what happened to all those delectable items set out for The Queen? That’s easy.  Mother and daughter had their own tea party that afternoon.  

I’m so grateful I saw that little piece from silive.com that mentioned Cranford. Not only did I learn a new bit of trivia about both a Queen and a town that I love, I also got the chance to listen to my mother-in-law share a funny memory. 

And what did I tell her after our wonderful reminiscing? I bet you can guess. I said I would have LOVED to have been there with them that long ago afternoon. And what might I have added to the occasion?  Well, I think my contribution would have been to make a sign inviting Her Highness to tea which I would have waved with all my might. And, of course, I would have worn The Queen’s Hat!

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6 thoughts on “The Day Queen Elizabeth Passed Through Cranford:  A Special Memory from 1957”

  1. No matter what one thinks of monarchy or this specific monarch, Elizabeth II exemplified duty. This is something no longer part of the core values in the west. She didn’t get to choose her life or “be an individual” as her personal ethos was about doing her duty.
    As a hopeless anglophile (I know not why I’ve always been; I have no English ancestry) I only ever knew her as head of her state. Her passing makes one reflect on the span of one’s own lifespan.
    Thank you for sharing so beautifully a part of yours.

  2. What a wonderful story! Your grandmother-in-law and I were kindred spirits! When the Concorde flew over Little Rock in the 1980’s, a friend and I borrowed a US flag and an Arkansas flag, making our way to the roof to wave our fool arms off! Do you think anyone looking out one of the windows noticed us? Not likely. It just seemed like the right thing to do.

  3. Such a cute story of when the Queen passed by your mother-in-law’s backyard! Their preparing afternoon tea was such a tribute to her and, I bet if the Queen had known, she would have stopped!! With you I mourn the passing of such a lovely lady who always tried to care for her country and its people. My ancestry is British Isles through and through–Scottish on my Mum’s side (and yes, in Maine we said Mummy!), England on my Dad’s, and I married a very special guy whose family originally came from Northern Ireland! And I love your Queen’s hat!

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