Arrival of wives & children; social gatherings; problems
Esme Lancaster: Quite a few women were here and well settled because you have people that came here from the Caribbean that were from the Royal Air Force, came and had stayed on, and most of those men have sent for their spouse or their wives, whatever. There were hardly any children here at that time and they don't think that England at that time was a place for the black children because there was hardly any child-care provision.
Avtar Singh Jouhl: I like to here mention now about the migration of women. Why women were not here, number one that the perception among the migrant was after few year we will go back and also pay off the loan and for having a woman here it was considered that before inviting a wife it is important to have a house, not living as a lodger.
Esme Lancaster: It was hard to find yourself finding the people that you used to move with; the kind of people, the kind of way of life, because most of the people that came had to resort to some kind of recreation or the other. The only recreation they had seen when they first came here was the bingo house and the pubs and that was the only place they could have met with anybody, and this was the only thing they had, the pubs and the bingo halls. Coming from work they went home and had change and either to the bingo or the pub and I didn't go to any of those and so I missed out on the sort of things that I would have done at home, cos I run a youth club home and we did a lot of craft and art work. There was no way I could have done it here in those days. I want to cling to the church more than anything else cos there was where you find that you can have fellowship. We have social gathering and to me I find the church brought me the most of the kind of life that I used to live at home. I've never gone to any dance hall, any - I've come here and never went to a bingo hall, I've never gone into a pub cos we did not go there when we were in Jamaica. Those are places that we thought it wasn't very good for women especially.
Avtar Singh Jouhl: Around late '59, in Smethwick a few men they got together and then they started to hire a room in a school and they brought Guru Granth Sahib, Sikh holy book, from India and I like to mention in those days the only Gurudwara [Sikh temple] was in England was in London, there was no other Gurudwara, and now there are 2,500 Gurudwaras in whole of the United Kingdom. They started Sikh congregation in a school once a month and then every other fortnight and then every Sunday. Money was collected in the community, and then Guru Nanak Gurudwara was bought, an old church on High Street, Smethwick, which was converted into Sikh temple and it was also a point of social gathering.
Zahoor Ahmed: I wanted to pray Eid* one day, so I said, "Where to pray Eid?", and they took me to Digbeth Hall. Jumuah* prayers and Eid prayers were held in Digbeth Hall, you know Digbeth Hall? They used to rent, the Muslim community used to rent that Hall and everybody donated, you know, £1 each. Some people 50p, whatever you want to give, they would go there and pray and from that collection they will pay the rent for Hall and all that. So now got Mosque everywhere. There 144 Mosques in Birmingham.
Carlton Duncan: A Jamaican girl that I fell madly in love with but she, she just didn't bother to notice me at all. She went along to this Strand Palace Hotel on this occasion and she just fell head over heels for my cousin and they just hit it off in a big way on the night [laughs] and that really savaged me very much to the extent that I started mixing my drink and doing all sorts of things and I recall that - me getting up and going on the dance floor all by myself and putting on a demonstration. It was, Chubby Checker had just commercialised the Twist, in the early '60s, and there was me twisting away all on my own and I just - suddenly there was no music and all around me there were people and this red-coated toast-master came up to me and said, "Young man, you've won a prize!" and the prize was 20 Players cigarettes. And I then went back to my table still thinking about Fay and Hughie, when the same toast-master came up to me again and this time he had, he had a card in his hand and he said, "I'd like you to come up to 18 Charing Cross Road, the Tavistock Rooms on Wednesday," this was the Monday night, our do was on the Monday night, "You come up on Wednesday, I'd like you to give a live audition there, I think we can do something for you." I had read stories you know, I used to read a lot of comics as a kid and love story books and heard that film stars were discovered in this kind of way and so forth and I had visions of being discovered.
Avtar Singh Jouhl: Those women who come, who have come, now the women they didn't work and why they didn't work, one, was a stigma also, if a woman goes to work, our respectability goes down the drain and that was the major problem and also there was not work available. So they brought up their babies, children, and one story is that women living in the same area they got together during the month of summer, going to the park. When the workers go to work in the morning after that they get up, get ready, all this Surkhi powder, Surkhi powder means lipstick and [laughs] cosmetics and - but in those days it was plain Surkhi powder. And then it was a fashion to have two long tails [plaits], yeah, and placing their babies in the prams and go to Victoria Park and have a pram-race in Victoria Park and pram-racing with sometime not the babies in, babies playing on the grass and they having pram-race. And the other, which is that used to be said, the women that, when the whistle of the factories goes, they used to say, "Let's go home now before our husbands come back home!" [laughs]. And their occupation was during daytime to get to one another house and having cup of tea and playing music and also some dancing which is called Gidha, five, six of them get together and doing Gidha and that sort of activity was among the women.
Esme Lancaster: I wasn't frightened, I was more upset, more upset with the life that I had lived because I have not lived this kind of life before. Things, I missed home that thing I had treasured. I couldn't have it any more here. For instance my acquaintance with the people I used to move with, you came here and you lost them,
Saji Kaur: For my mother it was also very unusual experience because in Malaya she had already learned to adapt to a different society being able to speak a number of languages, whereas coming to this country she couldn't speak the English language and obviously being of a slightly older age now she therefore wouldn't be able to cope with learning something. So she began to adapt with a small narrow community and she only isolated herself completely into that and I suppose her way of overcoming everything was to conform to some of the ways and the means of that. But I suppose in a way it was a tragedy and this is something that you learn through the process of immigration that what you think may happen, or what you don't know what lies ahead of you is then experienced and I think that was very sad and I'm sure that, that was a kind of an experience that many of the older generation of the Asians had when they came here because they're not accepted into the society, they can't speak the language, they began to sort of stick with their own community. And often, in those days, there weren't all the so-called leisure facilities which we have got today. So it was very much of an isolated community.
Esme Lancaster: People could not understand our language, most of the ethnic minority, especially when it comes to the West Indians, they were saying that they could not understand.
Sakiina Haaruun: The only time I would ever say my life became unhappy is when I actually came to this country because things changed. Everything changed! I then inherited a father that I'd not seen for how much years, who then became the voice where my mother was that, and I had a relationship with my mother, that I could tolerate my mum's scolding and belting and telling off but I could not tolerate my father's because I would think, "Well who the hell does he think he is and how dare him talk to me like that, I don't know him!" But of course those were things that I was only thinking, I could not voice these things, cos I daren't even say that to my mother cos I might get another belting on top of it or she might have been supportive but I would not take the chance.
Saji Kaur: It was then that I for the first time began to see my father. I think it was interesting from the point of view that this man I've not seen for eleven years is therefore my father and he's far more conservative and he's trying to dominate me, he's trying to modify me into, "You better dress like a Sikh and behave like a Sikh", and this man has the right to do that to me who has never ever seen me for eleven years, you know. And all the anger suddenly begins to come out. So I suppose I reflect back on how many other Asians must feel because they were separated from their own family.
Joan Proctor-Monroe: I think racism was not as - it was there but you weren't as aware of it as you are today. ! feel it is even worse than it was then. I mean you had the things of people not getting work because you were black but you weren't as conscious then that this was the reason and they gave you various reasons and you think, well they can't be lying, you know, and they can't be using your colour against you. You are now aware that this is so.
Frank Scantlebury: Strange enough, I feel, and many people felt the same way too, that because of our colour we were easily spotted. That's why we became the target very often of abuse and criticism, much of it unjustified. Even if we as friends on Saturday evenings or any time when you went about in a group together there were always people who would seem to single us out as if we were going out looking for trouble. I remember a chap saying to me one day, "Why do so many of you coloured people walk about together?" And I said, "What do you mean?" and he said, "You're always in groups, are you planning something?" and I said, "What makes you think so?" I said, "I see very often Polish people walk about in groups, Italians, Irish, Australians, Canadians that live here in Britain, why it is that you always think that if you see three or four of us together that we are planning to do something wrong?" I said, "It's not like that at all." He said, "Well we don't walk about like that," I said, "Of course you do, every day.”
Sakiina Haaruun: I didn't recognise it then, no I really didn't cos I came into this country when I was, what, 13 I think it was, or 13 going on to 14, so I certainly didn't. It wasn't until I came into this country that I actually recognised this thing you know, the distinction of the black/white thing. I just didn't see it,
Avtar Singh Jouhl: We went to a pub named Wagon and Horses. There were two smoke rooms, one assembly room, and two bars and I opened the door of the assembly room and they were all white men. It was not my brother, someone else, he said to me, "We not going there." I asked, "Why we not going there?" He said, "Oh, Gaffa, he doesn't let us drink in that room." We were allowed to go in only in one smoke room and one public bar. We were not allowed in another public bar and another smoke room and the assembly room. And I asked about why we were not allowed in there and my brother said, "Well that is for white people, we are on this side." But in the public bar and the smoke room we were allowed in, there were white people as well in those rooms. And that was another shock for me. I said, "Why?" and he said, "The Gaffa says when we sit together we talk very loudly and white people don't like us talking loudly, the other thing that we talk in Panjabi and the white people are complaining that we are talking about them [laughs] in our language!" and these are the problems - but this was just the excuse but in real terms it was a colour-bar operating which I later found out that it was nearly in every public house in Smethwick and Handsworth, later on.
Esme Lancaster: When I first came to this country I was given my transfer to any church that is nearby where I am living, I would be living. I had my certificate of the Mother's Union and everything and I came and I handed it to the vicar of the church when I went to church but he told me to come back and each time I went to see him he's not always there. And I remember still going to church on Sunday and this Sunday when it was St George's Day I went to church and there he was pulpit saying, "I don't know why," he said, "people are leaving this country, going away and yet others are coming and enjoying the wealth ...", and he really went on. I sat there but I got up when the church was over and on my way out he stood at the door and he said, "I would ask you to find another church because I don't want to lose my parishioners." And he told me where another Anglican church is, quite some way from where I lived and my brother and I went down there to stay and when we went, it's only four old people in that church. I recall that that church was sold out not very long after that. They refused us coming into the churches and then as I knew that I must serve God, there were other avenues open. Pentecostal people were coming here and forming their churches, binding themselves together.
* There are two Eids: the first, Id-al-fitr, an annual festival commemorating the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting; the second, Id-al-adha, celebrating the sacrifice and the last day of the Hajj. Salatul Jumuah is a Friday noon prayer offered during Zuhr time in congregation; all adult Muslims must take part.
TRANSCRIPTION OF CASSETTE 2, SIDE A