Home Oral History Interview - Ivanhoe Raymond

Oral History Interview - Ivanhoe Raymond


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Audio recording of an interview with Ivanhoe Raymond. Born in American 1926, he served during the Second World War.


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Ivanhoe (IR): My name is Ivanhoe Raymond, and I was born in 1926. I was born in America. 1415 Whitworth Avenue Chicago. .

My father was a steward; the Germans sank him in 1941. He was on a steward Nursing boat which was painted white, and which one was not supposed to target. But the Germans sank it in 1941. My mother had a big business and employed 6 people working in it. She made beaver fur coats.

Q: Military involvement?

IR: . I was drafted into the army when I was 14. 1 was very tall and big for my age, and they decided that I should fight in the Second World War. It was difficult, to live somewhere, where your parents have no jurisdiction or power over you. It is very difficult when you parents had no power over you. When a person comes and compel you and draft you and you couldn’t say anything, imagine what it was like. My mother asked ‘what the reason why my son must go and fight’, but they just said I had to go, or else they would put her in jail. They said ‘you love your country, you live for your country, you fight for your country, and you die for your country’. It was just through I was tall and big for my age. They didn’t go by age but by height and size. . But what does a child know about fighting? What is he going to fight for? Just for the greed of some men. I ask myself that question every day, but I can’t get any answer.

Men fight for power. God made this earth, and he made the earth for everybody to go from North, East, South and West. But man said, ‘no, I’m going to put a piece of paper over there and if you want to go there you’ll need permission’. That should never be. You don’t need God’s permission. That is why you find that they have way. You can’t sit back and allow thousands of lives to die while you gone underground when all the guns are firing. If you want the power you should go out there and fight.

You wouldn’t want to go back to a country that sends you out to fight other people’s war. You want to live in a country where you can communicate with the things that are true. I get a little more contentment here. I don’t feel that burden that weight on my shoulders, and you don’t know what the weight is. In the army you’re only known by your tag number. I was in the Navy. I was on a submarine. You don’t know what we had to face.

I was on a submarine. You have a big ship and cargo ships travelling in a convoy. In a convoy we underneath, and they are on top. You have to keep with the fleet. The fastest cargo boat you see run on the sea, that carry twin speed propeller, can travel is 30 knots, because you are in a convoy. First, I was on a minesweeper, it carry six planes. I spent 18 months on it before they transferred me to subs. I am still seeing the things that really occurred. However, I go out and I come back, but a lot of them never come back. Plenty coloured men died, I can tell you. Sometimes you see a tub a roll towards you, and you realise that it is a man without arms and legs. Some of them have to move about on their bottoms.

One of my stepsons is in the Royal Airforce in the Parachute Regiment, and one of the only blacks there.

Q: Why did you come to Britain?

IR: You don’t know what we go through. In those days if you go on a bus in America, and the bus is going through certain areas and you sit on the bus. Remember you are a coloured. You pray to God that you reach your destination before a white man come on the bus and say ‘nigger get off’ and the white man take your seat. It grieves.

When I came to this country in 1943, it was far different from now. This street was the main street and it was a one way street. There were trams travelling in the middle. They didn’t have all these cars. English cars in those days, were very different they were just small little Austin cars. You could leave your bicycle downstairs and nobody would touch it. You could leave it for days and months and nobody would touch it. You could go to work and leave your door open, and the milkman would come in and take the money that you had left out to pay him for milk, and leave the change. Sometimes he would even open the icebox and put your milk in the icebox. They didn’t pay high wages then. In the early days when I came here it was far, far different. One President who America ever had, and he is now dead, was Roosevelt. He was the only one who ever stand up for the coloured race. So when a man say he is going to America, and he goes to America, he don’t know.

I only went back once in 1993.

Q: Work?

IR: When I first came to Britain I worked in a hospital, in New Cross Hospital where I was a nurse for five years. When I left there I went to City Hospital and from there I eventually went to work in the children’s hospital in the laboratory.

Q: Racism?

IR: God gave us this colour and we can’t change it. We give God praise and thanks for what he has given us. It was very hard to get acceptance. I had a man who once said to me ‘nigger, how comes you wash your hands all day and it doesn’t change colour’. I said, ‘look here let me tell you something and I hope that you can take what I have to say to you. I said remember that Cain was a black man who turned white when he had leprosy. White comes from colour’. He never said one word. ‘What I have up here is what you want’.

You see I studied human biology. The first morning I came onto the ward I could take temperature, I could take the pulse. My mistake and it’s somebody life.

Q: Housing?

IR: When I came here it was very different, you couldn’t get work, and you couldn’t get
Accommodation. Is only Jews would rent you accommodation. There was an incident which was in the paper for weeks, where a man went to Richmond Road, Forest Gate to find accommodation, and when the woman came to the door and see it was a coloured man, she drop down and said it was the first time she had seen a coloured man and that was in 1954. The man was so frightened, because he was a teacher. It isn’t just one thing I have seen in this country. A lot of black men came up from Jamaica in 1943 as ammunition workers and all different tradesmen.

It’s not just one thing I have seen. One woman had a house with 32 people living there. When one went to work there was another sleeping in the same bed. Some people who rented houses, they would just put you out on the street. It could be winter, it could be raining. They would just put your suitcase out. Sometimes it was coloured doing coloured that. They would just turn you out.

You didn’t have a lot of coloured people then. People was surprised to find that we spoke
English. When I was young the only thing I could speak was Spanish because that was what my mother and father spoke.

I got married in 1978, and Millicent is the only woman whose house I come to live in. She had two small boys at the time and is she who give me strength.

The first thing I bought when I came to this country was a radiogram. A Gwndig which was made in Germany. When you turn it on the world now about it.

The money was different. We used farthings, halfpenny, and threepence pieces. From Tottenham down to Liverpool Street was sixpence.

Q: Children?

IR: They are plenty, plenty, plenty different. Children of today have no manners. In my day, you only need to hear one call. That one call, it didn’t matter what you were doing, you heeded it. You apply yourself to the call. They only see our age, not our knowledge or experience. Everything now, they need machine to do it for them. But no machine can beat the mental faculties. It is what you put from your head into the machine. How can it tell you things unless you feed certain things to that machine? The knowledge of men is far more advanced than a machine, because is your knowledge that make the machine. Look on a car. It is the generator the distributor and very basic elements which cause it to run. It is the knowledge of men that build things. It’s not the machine that build the man. After you have the knowledge and the experience you can build anything. What you learn in school you retain it and without retaining it you couldn’t give an account of anything.
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