Lily Smart

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    Bernard Tiller

    We think Lily is the oldest living Tiller Girl.

    We recently had an email from a lady by the name of Joan Johannes, she has told us about the lovely Lily who’s photos you see on this page.

    Lily started dancing with The Tiller Girls around 1911. She is still a spry lady and lives in her own house taking care of herself, she even plays bingo a couple of times a week. She is wonderful and has so many stories of her days as a dancer. She danced at the Follies in Paris and still remembers the address that the girls stayed at. Lily is originally from England and now lives in California. Lily celebrated her 105th birthday in April 2009 and is possibly the oldest Tiller Girl surviving today. At 18, Lily left her home in Manchester, England. She boarded a ship called Zeeland with The Tiller Girls on Aug. 6, 1922. She performed with The Tiller Girls in shows on Broadway and stayed on in America. She later joined the then new Rockettes training them in the Tiller Routines.

    Lily in 1920'sLily in the 1920’s New York

    Lily 1911 aged 7 Sinbad with the TillersLily 1911 age 7, Sinbad with The Tillers

    Lily stayed in New York for 19 years, she met trumpet player and first husband Frank Witriol. The pair eventually moved to California when it became difficult for to find work in New York. Frank died in 1946 and five years later Lily married again to Mr Christian Morrill and moved to Arcadia working at the Santa Anita Race Track.

    Lily has outlived two husbands and continues to live in Arcadia, she is still full of life and enjoys a glass of wine.

    We are hoping that Joan will be sending us some more information and photo’s of Lily during her dancing years.

    Updated information on Lily April 2008

    Hello Bernard,

    I know that it has been a long time since we had contact but thought that I would let you know that I had a phone call from Lily [nee Smart] today, she was absolutely thrilled that an old friends daughter found her on your site and somehow contacted her, “Lily was 104 last 30th March” and is still doing well.

    I am going to see her next week and I think I will ask her if I can have a photo of her from her Tiller days. I will send you a copy and maybe you can post a then picture of her as well, I still think that she is probably the oldest Tiller girl still living, she still lives in her own place and is out and about just about every day but she has given up playing bingo, her eyes aren’t as good as they were but she still goes on bus trips to the casinos, truly a remarkable lady.


    Joan Johannes.

    Updated information on Lily March 2009


    Hi Bernard,
    This is the most recent picture of Lily {Smart} it was taken on Thanksgiving day at my house, as you can see she is doing very well, her birthday is on March 30th and she will be 105, a big party is being held for her on April 2nd at the Elks Lodge in Arcadia and tomorrow, Tuesday, she is being interviewed by a daily newspaper. After that we are going to the Burbank studios to meet with Jay Leno, he is a talk show host and I believe that he wants to have her on his show on her birthday, he is aired nationwide here and quite possibly on cable TV in the UK, do hope so because my family would love to see her on TV. She still enjoys her trips to the Indian Casinos and apart from her eyes not being too good she is in great shape and still has a great sense of humour and enjoys a glass of wine every evening! Hope that you, your family and George are all keeping well,

    Joan Johannes.


    Lily & JessicaLily with Joan’s grandaughter Jessica

    Update on Lily 05/03/2010

    Hi Bernard, I took this picture of Lily and my daughter Rachel at Thanksgiving, as you can see, she was in fine fettle, she loves a glass, or two, of wine!

    Lily thanksgiving 003

    Unfortunately she is in hospital at the moment and going to have surgery this morning. She tripped when she got out of bed and broke her hip, they are going to put a pin in it and she will be off her feet for a while, she won’t be up to visitors tomorrow, so I will go see her on Sunday. They are keeping a very close eye on her because of her age and when I called to check on her a couple of hours ago they told me that she was sleeping peacefully, her 106th birthday is on March 30th. I had just started planning what we were going to do this year, probably have to be something quieter as she won’t be walking and I don’t think that she will be able to manage crutches and she will probably be in a chair. I will keep you posted, she is very much in my prayers at this time. Joan.

    We all wish Lily the best and a speedy recovery.

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