My name at birth was Ivana Inez Hodge. I was born on September 21, 1926 as told by my mother. My parents’ names were Veronica Smith and Luther Hodge. My mother was from Tortola and my father was from St. Thomas. I have two brothers, Wilfred and Aubrey Titley and a sister, Yolander Bratwith. I came to St. Thomas at age 3 in 1929 on an open deck boat. My mother brought me to my grandmother because she said she had it hard trying to raise me. I arrived in St. Thomas at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. When I got to my grandmother’s house, she was living in a place called Barracks Yard. The Federal Building now stands in that spot. Well, my mother told me she will come back to get me, but she never did. After she left my grandmother’s, my Aunt “Titty” as we call her, was talking and fussing about me being there. And my grandmother replied she was not sure I was her grandchild (as told to me by my aunt many years later. My aunt told my grandmother not to say that, because she can swear for her son. Well they fussed about it until my aunt decided she would take me to live with her. GOD bless her. She took care of me the best she could.
When I was about 9 or 10 years old, she sent me to live with the lady she was working for to work as a maid. Her name was Sister Beulah Lanclas, a big hot shot in the community. I think the best days was when I was young. My first experience of what bad company was a girl name Elmira. Elmira was a friend of mine. One day we were going home from school and she told me the library was throwing away books. She asked me if I wanted to get some. So after school the next afternoon, each of us got a box and filled it with books. I hid mine under my bed. The next day when I got to my house, the police were at the gate. He asked me my name, and if I had some books. I told him what Elmira had told me. He said it was not true. The library was remodeling and they had to store the books on a porch near the street. He took the books and went. After he left, Mrs. Lanclas gave me a beating that I will never forget and that was the end of my friendship with Elmira.
After a while, Mrs. Lanclas moved into the country to live. I attended James Madison School, which is now Edith Williams School. I started school when I was 6 years old. In those days, there was no kindergarten, Head Start or day care. My first school was Thomas Jefferson, now renamed Jarvis Annex. I cried all day. In 1941, I graduated from the 6th grade, the only child in my class. In those days, there was no Charlotte Amalie High School. We went to the Senate Building and the Anglican Parish for class. Somewhere between September and October, my father came from New York.
After school Mrs. Lanclas told me to go by my grandmother because my father was waiting to see me. The first time I saw my father, he looked at me and asked me if I knew who he was. I said,“yes.” Then he said, “Is this the way they have you?” Meaning I was suppose to be dressed up with expensive clothes because the people I lived with had money. What did he say that for? The comments got back to Mrs. Lanclas and her husband told her to send me back to my aunt. I cried my heart out, but I could do nothing about it. When I went back to my aunt, my mother was living there in the same yard. So my aunt tells me since my mother is here now, I must go to live with her. My mother said my aunt is who I’ve been living with all the time, and to go back to her. This backwards and forwards kept up for a while, then my aunt decided to let me live with her. Living with my aunt, there were many days I had nothing to eat when I came home from school. Many days, the neighbors gave me some food. After a while I decide to quit school, which was the worst thing I ever did. I got a job scrubbing floors. Then I got a job cooking for some Puerto Ricans, but not for too long. A friend of my aunt’s that lived in the yard got to like me. She heard they wanted a young girl to work and live in the barracks in Puerto Rico at Fort Buccaneers, so she told me about the job. I got the job, and everything was good.
Three weeks after I got there, all the girls had to take a physical. Soon they found out that I was pregnant and I had to come back home. I was very sad and disappointed. I went back to live with my aunt, but it was hard. Nobody used to give me anything. I had met Warren’s father, a sailor, a few months before, so when I got back I told him that I was pregnant. He told me he didn’t believe it. It was about one week after his ship had docked and he was to leave for another port. He said he would write me, but him or the letter never came. Where my aunt was living was one a one-room house, divided into two. So I had to wait until she went to sleep for me to make up my bed on the floor. I got tired of that, so I decided to go on my own (I was working at the time). I found a room for $5 a month and moved out with nothing but my clothes. I used candles for light, and slept on the floor until I was able to buy a cot and a lamp. Then I started to buy furniture piece by piece. I lived there for a few months and had to move because I could not pay the rent. I got another place by the graveyard. The owner was the principal of the school I used to go to, when I lived in the country. When Warren was three weeks old, I went out to work again, but had to stop. I stopped because in those days it would rain for a whole week and everybody was telling me I was going to get sick.
Things were hard for me. I used to give my mother $5 a week to take care of Warren, and my landlord wanted the house to give to someone else. So I had to move again. While I was looking for a house, I met Angel’s father. I got a house and he promised to marry me, but he was too jealous. After a while he got married to someone else. I did all odd jobs, scrubbing floors, cooking, baby sitting, etc. Then I met Tilbert Turnbull (your daddy). He used to live by the ballpark and everytime I passed by, he used to throw stones to get my attention. After a while we met in the store. That was it. We got married. Work was scarce, so he decided to take a job in the country and come home every weekend. I told him I would live in the country. We were living at a place called Santa Maria, then to Johns Holly. I bagged coal, worked the ground, and sold mangoes when they were in season. Many days I did not see Warren then. I left in the morning and came back at night. In those days, there were no televisions and radio like now, only a few. We worked hard. The owner of the land felt we were making too much, so we got a house by the Airport Bourne field. That’s were Eunice was born. We did not stay to long there, because the neighbor I was living by felt we had too much, goats, donkeys, chickens, etc. We got a house in Nisky where I met my friend Miss Hodge, who is now deceased. That is where my third son got sick.
Things were all right. I used to work at Lockhart Bakery from 3-11pm. Sometimes I would work pass midnight or even until the next morning. I would get home so late. Because of immigration problems, Tilbert had to go back to Tortola. He came back and we went to live up Crown. After we left there we got an old rotten down house in Altona, what we now call an old house. When we moved there, James was months old and the neighbors thought I was crazy to go in that old house to live. But I knew we could fix it up. I was looking at the yard for the children so we started to work. By the afternoon the sides were fixed and we put boards to the door and curtains to the windows. Every day, when Tilbert (your daddy) went to work, I would take a hammer and saw and work until night. I fenced the whole yard, add on rooms until there was room enough for everyone. Most of the time I would forget to eat until the night.
Today, I am paying for it with gas. Well, I remember how the house used to leak and we had to put pans to catch water. I have so much to thank the Lord for. We take so much for granted in this life. Those years we lived in the old house were good years. We did not have all of the things like we have today, but we were happy. Then in August 1969, we moved to Bergs Home, Bldg. 7b, Apt. 24. That was 29 years ago. The Lord has blessed me with a house/home that I could lay down and sleep comfortable. The Lord has been good to this family, and me and we have lots to be thankful for.
In 1956, while I was working in the Lockhart bakery, one of the ladies invited me to a crusade in the ballpark, just below where I live now. I went and for the first time in my life I heard the gospel. After attending faithfully every night, the Holy Spirit convicted me, and that Friday night, I asked the Lord to save me. JESUS CHRIST saved me and I have not regrets. Every morning, I wake up between 3:30 and 4 am. After reading my daily scripture and praying, thanking the Lord for another day, I go for my daily walk. I walk about 45 minutes every day. When I get back I do some studying until about 6:45am. Then I go into my garden for about 3 hours. After gardening, I eat breakfast and watch my story, “Little House on the Prairie.” Then I go upstairs to take a rest. Monday nights I have a Bible Study class with some of the neighbors. Through the week I attend various functions at the church, such as Bible Study, Prayer Meeting, and Ladies Fellowship. Saturdays varies most of the time, but I usually do house work, and prepare for Sunday, along with everything else.
On Sunday, I attend church service in the morning and the evening, along with Sunday School. I also teach Sunday School on Sunday afternoons, for the neighborhood children. I thank the Lord for giving me health and strength. I also thank the Lord for my family, the church, my friends, and my enemies. Pray for me. By Ivana Inez Turnbull