In 1943, the railway guard Norm Raymond walked down the aisle of the Central Methodist Church in Ellenborough Street in Ipswich, Queensland, with his daughter on his arm. This was during the Second World War and Norm worked on the trains carrying troops to and from their Army camps at Redbank. I told a version of this story on West Bremer Radio.
His daughter was Private Hazel Raymond of the Australian Army Medical Womens Service and she worked at the 2/4 Australian General Hospital at Redbank where she met Leading Aircraftman Bill English.
Hazel and Bill were getting married now-that he’d sufficiently recovered from various tropical diseases that he’d brought back from serving in New Guinea with the No. 5 Airfield Construction Squadron.
Seated in the pews of the church was Hazel’s brother Eddie Raymond.
Eddie had shown great promise wearing costumes from an early age. When he was just eight-years-old he won a fancy-dress contest as Dick Whittington at the Toogoolawah Hospital Ball. Dick Whittington was of course the mayor of London in the 1400s who supposedly made his fortune when he sold his cat.
Eddie had been a junior member of the Methodist Church in Ellenborough Street where he met his future wife. After Eddie knocked down a fence while learning to drive, he lost all interest in cars and so he rode bikes for his whole life.
Eleven years before his sister’s wedding and Eddie was at this same church, which today is the Ipswich Central Mission. The date was Saturday the 3rd of December 1932.
Santa was there to celebrate Christmas with the children. The fat man was moving among the children with his bundle of toys. That’s when a boy, with some decorations in his hand, got so excited that he brushed across the lighted candles of the Christmas cake.
Immediately the decorations burst into flames. Santa, who was nearby, rushed to put the fire out. But as he approached, that’s when his beard caught fire. Now, the life of not only Santa and the boy were in danger, but also that of everyone in the hall, because pandemonium threatened to break out.
It was then that Santa pulled off both his beard and big red coat. He smothered the fires before panic could spread.
Santa not only saved the boy’s life, but also that of himself and dozens of frightened children.
Christmas is a magical time and working as Santa that day was a twenty-year-old Eddie Raymond. It was Eddie as Santa who saved Christmas.
The careers of those present that day flourished. The Reverend Herbert Denny who was the minister at the church, the following year he was elected president of the Methodist Church in Queensland.
Eddie Raymond worked as a labourer at the time. Following the fire, Eddie got a job with Queensland Railways first as a cleaner, then a porter, shunter, and ultimately as a railway guard to equal that of his father.
Eddie spent the last forty years of his life in the home that he bought with his wife Ivy at 3 Jordan Street at Ebbw Vale, and the home is still there today.
Heroes come in many forms. They’re not always soldiers, or our parents, but sometimes they can be a railway guard and Santa like Eddie back in 1932. We should remember him today because it’s Christmas.
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO A VERSION OF THE STORY TOLD ON RADIO
Gliderway Petrol Station, Brisbane Road, Ebbw Vale, 1959 – Picture Ipswich and Whitehead Studios
Edward Thomas Raymond – FamilySearch contributed by Betty Hartfiel, 27th September 2016
The Rev. H.A. Denny – Telegraph Brisbane, 25th February 1932, page 9