Leslie Prince Raimond

Leslie Prince Raimond was born in North Carolina on December 6, 1940. One year later, she would celebrate her first birthday the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Her father later enlisted as a Navy officer, and she moved in with her grandparents in Washington state. Leslie’s father was deployed to the Philippines and helped oversee military operations. After the war, her family moved to Arizona where Leslie stayed until moving to Chestertown, Maryland to attend Washington College. Leslie’s husband Vince was an Air Force pilot during the war and shared many stories with her about his experiences. Leslie taught in Kent County, and the Raimonds helped found the Kent County Arts Council in the late 1960s. She has remained in Chestertown since.

In this interview, Leslie discusses her childhood, her father’s Navy service, her husband Vince’s service in the Air Force, the war’s effect on her family, and her life in Chestertown.

The War is Over

So the story that I would like to tell you all and that I do have a memory of, and the memory was always kind of vague and floating along, and I’d never really stopped to analyze it. But I do know that one time, I was at a beach, and a voice from the heavens came down (and this was an isolated beach which I’ll explain more exactly where it was) but this voice came from above which said, “The war is over, the war is over, the war is over,” And I’m with my mom, my sister, some cousins, and everybody’s screaming with glee. Later, much later like last week or something, I’m like how, what was I hearing? We were on this isolated beach. And as it turned out, we were not far from the Whidbey Air Force Base which blasted out over there, over the water. I think it was probably only a couple miles away or maybe only a mile that across the Puget Sound up in Washington state, this voice came out.

Filipino Culture Brought Back

One thing he always said, and I learned this later, there was a nightclub in San Francisco, and it was called Mabuhay. But I said mabuhay? That’s what my dad always said every time he would toast. He would have a beer or a drink or something. But mabuhay, that’s the Philippine toast, like a cheers. And it was like, when I saw the name of the nightclub, I was like, well now I know where that name came from. So that’s a silly little thing, but it’s something that remains as a family tradition. He brought home, yes—we have these beautiful little, kind of Fiji-looking dolls that were like soft sculpture dolls for my sister and me. And we had those for a long time, and actually I hadn’t thought about them until this instant as you asked me, but I do know that they might exist someplace because our family doesn’t like to throw stuff away so I might find a Fiji doll. If I do, I’ll share it.

Aunt Nancy Grace, a Rosie the Riveter

My aunt was, I had a Rosie the Riveter aunt in Seattle in the Boeing Air Force. Her name was Nancy Grace. My mother’s maiden name is Grace. So Nancy Grace, not the horrible right-wing person who now claims that name. There’s some kind of a TV personality, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that, but as I say it, I’m like oooh. But anyway, Nancy Grace was a divorcee even at that point and was sort of a single mom so she worked in the Boeing plant, and then her daughter became part of a big group of cousins that all lived in Seattle. And then we were all Seattle, Mount Vernon, Puget Sound, and the men were stationed hither and yon so there was a lot of family action and interaction. And Rosie the Riveter stories—I think it was just a great way to get out and be dynamic which my aunt always was and still was when she died at age 102.

Always Looking Forward

The thing about Vince, he had many a story. And they were all just so interesting, and he had so many experiences. But compared to the idea of after the war, did you have your uniform hanging in the closet, and did you bring mementos back and that sort of thing—. His story about getting out of the Air Force was a, yeah, is when after he was discharged, took the train back to Grand Central Station because that’s where his home was in New York. And he had the big duffel bag just stuffed with all the things from his many years there, his flight jacket and the uniforms and the hats and the many other things that we all hear stories about. And he got a key to a lock box there in the station, and he put the duffel bag in there, closed the door, locked it, walked out of Grand Central Station and threw the key in the trash, and that was it. And I always say he looked forward, he never even, he looked back to tell stories but not to like dwell on it. And he had things to do in the future, and I always thought that was kind of indicative of that.

War Changing Racist Attitudes

So as far as my dad’s experience, it’s true he was brought up in the deeply segregated South, but he was always a kind person and never was adamantly, you know, he was a product of his place and time. But going off to the West, everything changed. And I do know that because he talked about that later, that, yes, that exposure to a whole other culture and especially being in the Pacific, of course opened up his mind a lot. And by the time we were growing up in Phoenix, all of that had pretty much gone away. Any prejudice or racism or something that he experienced, he would not, he was no longer a racist. I think the war, just opening up in general. When you go out into the world, you’re stupid if you don’t like change your attitudes of things you see. And he was not a stupid person; he was a very wise and wonderful guy. So he saw it, and we all benefitted from that. So, yes, it was the thing that stirred up the pot and made a change.