Blair Baillie, interviewed by Heather Read, 20 April 2015

Blair Baillie, interviewed by Heather Read, 20 April 2015

Abstract
Blair describes his memories of Depression era and wartime Vancouver, as well as giving political and historical context with respect to European and Asian history at the time. He discusses his early family life, and reaches the 1950s at the latest in his narratives. With respect to Landscapes of Injustice research in detail, there is an anecdote about racism directed towards a Japanese-Canadian schoolmate as well as a lengthy commentary about the injustice of the Canadian government's actions with respect to property that are worth exploring in more detail.
00:00:00.000
Heather Read (HR)
So this is Heather Read here with Blair Baillie at his wonderful home in West Vancouver on April 20, 2015, for the Landscapes of Injustice Project. So Blair, can you start by telling me a little bit about what you remember of your childhood?
Blair Baillie (BB)
Well, it’s a long story, if I could make it long.
HR
You make it as long as you would like to.
BB
It begins in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan where I was born. And where I spent about 2 years, the first 2 years of my life. And I do have vestiges. Particularly trips outside of the province and back again, to Banff, for example. In the early 1920s. I was born on the 23 of November, 1922. And my father was a bank manager. And in due course he was transferred to Vancouver. By 1925. In consequence of a bank robbery where he assailed the robber who had a sawed-off shot gun, caught him and put him in the vault until the police came.
HR
Wow, that sounds like a movie.
BB
The bank wasn’t very pleased, because they’re not supposed to do that kind of thing. But he had been in the last war, in the First World War, and he was kind of used to the rough and tumble. And we were out here, and originally we were living on 10th avenue, at the intersection of 10th avenue and Crown Street. And that was a very far west, and very, very Pause. scarcely settled. Very few houses out that way. A streetcar line at the time that I can recall, it went as far as Sassamat from the centre of the town, from the centre of Vancouver. And this was before the University of British Columbia was established out there in 1925. The area across the road from our house, we were on the south side, was all forest. And I remember a forest fire that took place there in 1926. I also remember the construction of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, across the street eventually. Gradually, the area filled in. But you could walk down through trails to Jericho Beach, which my parents did.
HR
Lovely!
BB
And you could walk west, towards where the university was being constructed, on a cinder path. The streetcar only went, as I said, to Sassamat, and eventually and that was the case for many years, you had to transfer to a bus to get to the university. I remember these little trips, by walking, and sometimes by go kart. Because I was four years old! It was very pleasant. I also had a small dog. Then my mother wanted to take me back to the place of her birth, which was in Scotland. So we went for almost a year in 1927, to Scotland. My father stayed home and earned the money. Laughs. And all my relatives were and still are, blood relatives, apart from my children, are in Scotland. Scotland and France. So that was my memorable. What a change Scotland was. In many places they didn’t have electricity where you would think they would. Gas lights, that sort of thing. Not in the big cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh and that kind of thing, but in smaller communities. And most people did not have automobiles. They had buses and trains and that kind of thing. Very small ice cream cones, quite disappointing to a four year old. But there, the relatives were kind and tolerated my rather rude remarks.
HR
Did you have brothers and sisters, or was it just . . .
BB
None. I was the only child. And I didn’t like that idea. I wanted more children around me. But that did not happen. I had to make my own friends. We returned, and in the meantime we had given up the house at 10th and Sassamat, at 10th and Crown. And we had moved to a little house in Kitsilano, in 1927. Which was quite an experience. I was very young, in what seemed to me to be a pretty tough rough neighbourhood. But then that was just the perception of a child who couldn’t take all the ribbing that would happen in in a large family, I’d say. Kitsilano, I don’t know how to say this, had its own sort of feeling at the time. I was sent to a public school called General Gordon, which might today be called an inner city type school, because it had children of many descent, many ancestry. Many ancestors, not Anglo Saxon or Celtic. And there were Chinese, and some Indian children, that is East-Indian children. Some French, oddly. Would come after the First World War. And some Hollanders, some Dutch children. So there was quite a sprinkling. Oh, and quite a few from the United States as well.
HR
Ok. Do you remember any Japanese people?
00:06:27.000
00:06:27.000
BB
I do, yes. I remember one in my first grade. And I remember that she was very good at draw-ing. And so was I. And I was compared with her, and she was compared with me. Laughs. I wish I could remember her name, off hand. It would come, but I don’t want to delay things. And so the first year of instruction was public, and I remember it well. They taught, they taught you how to read very well. Our readers were American. This is true of quite a few text books in the schools at that time. Because we didn’t have so much from Canada. We did have the Canadian readers, which were khaki coloured and graded for the grades, and they were very good. Their spellings were somewhat different from the other spelling that we’d have, which would be American. In fact, I learned to do both. Still sometimes — I think my computer is mostly American English.
HR
Probably, yea.
BB
Laughs. And so you could spell colour c-o-l-o-r or c-o-l-o-u-r if you wanted. And, but that’s a minor detail. The instruction was very good. My teachers were very good. And the class was about 40.
HR
That’s a large class.
BB
That’s a large class, but she handled it well. And then I went into the next grade, and the next grade and then I had a grandmother who came out from Scotland, and disapproved of the public education here. And compelled my father to put me into a private school for a while. Think-ing that it would be the same as they would have had in Edinburgh. But the one that I had was not the same as that. It was very English. It was St. George’s. So, I was there for about 2 or 3 years. And it was early days for that private school. Today, it is a very leading private school in this province. But in those days, it was somewhat skeletal. Laughs. It was in its formation. It was hard for them to finance these things, of course. They had to work hard to persuade peo-ple, because there weren’t very many private schools, nor an inclination to send people to pri-vate schools. There were very few of them.
HR
Would you describe the classmates as being a bit more Anglo-Saxon, Celtic in origin?
BB
Very much so. English, rather than Celtic either. I think I was probably, as far as I can recall, the only person there who was not of English derivation. That’s to the best of my recollection. It was all very English. And not Canadian at all.
HR
Oh, like British English.
BB
Very British English.
HR
Okay.
BB
We didn’t sing O Canada, we sang God Save the King at that time. And all was English history was stressed. Which was all right. Something to know. It was a time that it was not popular to teach Canadian history anyway. But it was an experience. I might have described it is as a cul-ture shock in a way. But it was fine. One of the problems was that they were embarking on a different form of teaching whereby you did your assignments with the other pupils around you, cooperatively, often. And then you were lectured in the afternoons. This had its disadvantages. To the extent that my parents and others took their children out, and returned them to the public schools. So I went back into grade six. And to the public system. And I went to Prince of Wales school in Shaughnessy. We had moved to Kerrisdale at that time. Our house was on the fringes of Shaughnessy Heights, so that was the nearest school. It was just about a year, be-cause the fashion then was to, after grade six, send your children to a junior high school, en-compassing grades seven, eight and nine. And I went to a very remarkable junior high school, located in Kerrisdale. Very advanced in terms of equipment and surround, at that time. We had a marvelous auditorium, which would do any movie theatre in Vancouver, or practically so, a good turn of competition. Good stage facilities. Motion pictures, that kind of thing.
HR
I’ll jump in with a question. I’m not as familiar with the neighbourhoods of Vancouver and what they are like. Can you describe, was your neighbourhood, a bit more middle class, or wealthy? To me that sounds like . . .
BB
Social demography?
HR
Yea, yea. If you could touch on the social demography of your neighbourhood that would be helpful. Laughs.
00:12:35.000
00:12:35.000
BB
Well, this then, we are in 1934, 1935, ’39. It was during a worldwide Depression. Certainly a continental wide Depression. Yet, it was what you’d call middle income, I guess, where we were situated ourselves. We were situated beside Shaughnessy Heights, which was upper middle income. And the rest of Kerrisdale, these were —people that you associate with could likely fill you in on this — was mostly middle income. A rather large, sparsely populated district of Vancouver. When I say sparsely populated, I mean the more south you went, the less set-tlement there was. The further west you went, not so much either. And so it was developing, you might say. And, social, sociology was middle-middle. The people lived in separate houses, most of the time. Detached housing was a rule. There was a scattering of apartment buildings and so on. I would say that it was called a white collar part of the, of Vancouver. Whereas east of Main Street, the generality of expression was blue collar, which meant lower income. And vast unemployment, and vast poverty in many cases. Not in all. It had at one time promised to be much more prosperous when the CPR owned parts of it and wanted to develop it, but they decided not to do so, after encouraging quite a lot of large houses and so on to be built, they moved their focus for residential development to Shaughnessy Heights, that I just talked about. But Kerrisdale was a comfortable place to be in, if not overly affluent. And it was, and this is what you’re really interested in, yes, it was an Anglo-Saxon environment, if that would satisfy our curiosity.
HR
Laughs. I mean, that does, but the overall picture as you remember it is what I’m interested in.
BB
People seemed to be comfortable by and large. By and large. And automobile ownership was almost universal in that area.
HR
And home ownership too?
BB
And home, home ownership as well. Rentals yes, but home ownership was . . .
HR
Not uncommon.
BB
Not uncommon — but not for us because my father was, always under the possibility of being transferred, so we rented houses. And they were nice houses. You could rent a nice house at a fair price. And we were in a good area. And it was quite comfortable. The school itself, the Unclear. junior high was very advanced in terms of facilities, as I’ve said. Shops for the boys, with band saws and all that kind of thing. And in other words it was a place where they tried to sift you as to whether you were good with your hands. You could do metal work. There were metal work facilities as well, drills, and all that kind of thing. Presses. Printing, individual print-ing in those days, which they had. Electricity. Some basic electricity. And then there was mu-sic instruction. There was a music class that was compulsory in the first grade there which was grade seven. And they had a phonograph, and they played classical music and other things, and then there was singing and all the rest of it. Art too. There was a good art department.
00:17:26.000
00:17:26.000
BB
And that was whole idea, was to try to see what you student could do, and what would he do when he went to high school. And after that I did go to a high school, which was again Prince of Wales which was in Shaughnessy, until I had passed my university entrance exams. When I did that, I went to another high school, because you could take your first year, your freshman year, in one of our other high schools. Not the one I was attending, but I went to McGee High School, which was in Kerrisdale as well, and it was a larger high school, further away from my house, when I went there. It was very well run, when I went there. It was a very good high school. I was in the senior part of it for one year. It was known as senior matriculation, ergo freshman. Really in some ways it was better, because the courses were longer and more complete than what you would get at your freshman year at UBC. And so, I went into university in my sopho-more year, and continued, and graduated in Commerce. Bachelor of Commerce. And that was a prelude to my studying law. In those days we did not have a law faculty. University was very basic. Fundamentally it was either courses in arts, the so-called arts, math and English and French and Latin.
HR
Yea, the broad perspective of arts.
BB
Yes, the broad perspective. And then there was Engineering. Mechanical engineering, Electrical Engineering, that kind of thing. No architecture, no medicine, no dentistry. No law. And the legal education at that time was formulated by your articling with a law firm, and then studying at night, and receiving lectures, however, time was made available for you to receive lectures from judges and other senior practitioners and so on. Which was very beneficial, be-cause you were, you were receiving instruction from people who were actually practicing law, and administering it. And each year, for three years, you were set examinations by the Law Society, which was responsible for legal education in the province. And I did that. I articled to a firm, and I came upon the time, I was not in the war because of my eyesight.
HR
Okay.
BB
I was drafted about three times, and I went each time to the drafting, recruiting centre, and they wouldn’t have me. And I urged them, I said, “Well, this is not fair.” Mind you, I didn’t want to go to war. But on the other hand, one had to offer what one had. I said, “I can drive a car. I can drive a truck. I can work in an office. I can do these things.” But they wouldn’t have any of that. They said, “No, you stay in the universities.” And that was a policy of the Canadian Government, for other people who were eligible to be in the army, but they felt that they should preserve a certain continuity of senior education. There was no conscription for overseas service. Not until very late in the war, and even then, it was marginal. But even so, the population at the university remained quite small, because most fellows, most men, were called up, and most wanted to go. And did.
00:22:00.000
00:22:00.000
HR
So can you help me with the time, did the war, it started in 1939. Were you in university at that point?
BB
Yes I was. I was just entering in 1941. My sophomore year was 1941-42, apart from the high school experience.
HR
Can you reflect a little bit, do you remember when the war started? Do you have memories of newspapers . . . ?
BB
Yes, very decidedly so. I was interested in those things, of course. I included history in my courses, while I was in university, and also we had relatively good history in the, within the precepts of social studies. We had a very good senior history in grade twelve, world history. So far as you can compress that within a grade twelve.
HR
Laughs. That’s true!
BB
But still it was better than you might expect. And then when I got to university, there were good lectures on world history between 1920 and 1940 — a very crucial time of course, because of all the factors in Europe that were contributing to a Second World War. Professors Sauer out there was quite an expert in this, and so I would, I was very enthusiastic about read-ing about, listening to the causes of the failure of the League of Nations and all the events of the advent of National Socialism in Germany, when Hitler became Chancellor in 1930-31. And when, by 1932-33, through various means, he managed to get hold of the Reichstag, and per-suade the President von Hindenburg to grant him unusual powers. Germany was in very bad shape economically after the First World War. He used that of course as an excuse — that is the National Socialists did — as an excuse to blame the rest of the world once more. And also to organize the public, through various national measure to keep employment going, either by raising troops or other organizations. Political organizations, and feeding people and all the rest of it. Which had an appeal at the time to a country that was economically stricken. However, I do remember that, and how little Europe was able to overcome the effects of the First World War in order to stop the National Socialist vote, which was gaining very, very quickly. And was also of course to be dealt with in Italy, where Mussolini, Benito Mussolini gained prominence and finally a dictatorship over the whole country, and started a war against Ethiopia in an effort to encompass the whole Mediterranean area. Mare nostrum, as they said. So, all these events were most interestingly presented in the media. In the newspapers. On the radio, which by that time had become quite important, in terms of communication of information, in North America. From about 1922, it gained rapidly.
HR
So, did your parents have a radio?
BB
Oh yes. They had eventually a radio, after I represented myself for my father, the judge. Laughs. We got a radio in 1929. It was, stood up on legs, and was like part of the furniture. He brought it home — I think he got it wholesale, I think the store that was selling it was going broke. He got it for about a hundred dollars or something. I remember when he brought it home, into the house, and he plugged it in, and it didn’t have an aerial at that time. Most peo-ple had aerials, but we trailed ours with Heather laughs as Blair gestures. with — it seemed sufficient. The first station that I heard on it was KOMO from Seattle. And I remember the first song. The first song was “Painting the Clouds with Sunshine.” Laughs.
HR
Wonderful! For a first song. Laughs.
BB
Quite trivial wasn’t it? Heather laughs. But you do remember those things, and I was, it was quite humorous, we were visited by a cousin from Scotland in 1930. And he was perfectly ap-palled by the radio programs that we received. Particularly from the States. He said, “What? Oh these things are just dance orchestras. All supported by people who want you to use their toothpaste.” Laughs. He had been used to the BBC. So that was the part of it. But on the other hand there was good informative stuff. NBC did a fair amount of that, in news broadcasts, and CBS as well. Both networks were going at that time. And the CBC had then been estab-lished. The CBC was actually a creature of the Canadian Radio Stumbles. Commission. And the humorous part of the establishment of the CBC is that it really originated as a result of the President of the CNR railroads trying to provide entertainment for people who were riding in the club cars or observation cars, as they passed through the wilderness of Canada. And the dreariness of the Prairies Laughs. This man saw to it that each observation car, as they called it, with a platform out at the back — have you heard of such a thing?
HR
Yea, I have.
00:29:32.000
00:29:32.000
BB
Provided entertainment to the passengers who were willing to wear earphones while a radio expert tuned the radio at the front of the car into various stations as they passed by. But they had to have something to listen to, and so the CNR railroad was instrumental or influential in establishing radio stations throughout Canada. Our first one here, the one here, was CNR-V, that is CNR-Vancouver. And they broadcast the news. It was all quite staid and formal. Even-tually by 1936, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was formally put in place and separated from the railroad and so on. But then there were private stations in Vancouver as well. Mostly recorded music. They carried news as well. And, the, we had the motion pictures, as well. Talking pictures came to Vancouver in 1927. And, that was quite an event, because up until that time, they had motion pictures of course, for quite a number of years, but they were silent. And they were interspersed with what was called vaudeville. And vaudeville consisted of stage presentations, dancing and one line humorists. All that kind of thing. The principle motion pic-ture theatres here were equipped with organs. Rather wonderful organs. Wurlitzer organs. Beautiful. There’s still one down in the Orpheum here, in Vancouver, sometimes it’s played. And so there was a variety of stuff that was available for people. There were also news broad-casts. Mainly American. Movie tune, Movie tone news was one. And this all provided some up to date information as to what was happening throughout the world, the way they could do. The progress of communications developed, where the programming got more serious. Where the, particularly the Canadian stations wanted to try, or were directed to try to promote Canadiana. And this they did rather well. Perfunctorily, but they did try. And they broadcast concerts from other cities. CBS was very fortunate in that they, or for us, or for me, that they broadcast the performances of the New York Philharmonic, every Sunday. Of course, I was musical, and I liked, I got to like classical music, when I was about 15 or 16. Largely due to the effect of my friends. It’s wonderful what your companions can get you into.
Heather laughs. 00:33:16.000
00:33:16.000
BB
I enjoyed that, and the Metropolitan Opera was also broadcast.
HR
Going back to the war briefly, there’s all these wonderful communication channels, did they start to kind of shift to talking about things in Europe?
BB
Very much so, as it was developing. There was a program called the March of Time. It was sponsored by the Rand Typewriter Company. And it was dramatized. But then also there were news commentators over NBC, CBC. And CBC, about that time, reproduced news from London, from the BBC as well. And at Christmastime, the incumbent sovereign, the Queen or the King, would give a talk, which was usually given just before Christmas, or at Christmas. Because we were then a monarchy. Still are. And this was greatly featured. The Royal Family were very much featured, seemed to be a feeling that they needed the support, and part of our history, and . . . and interest in the Royal Family was paramount. In fact they were, they travelled to Canada in 1939. And to the United States. It was felt at the time, and I’m sure it was true, that the impending prospect of war induced the English to mend their, or keep up their good ties with the United States.
HR
Okay.
BB
So that if war did break out —
HR
They’d have an ally.
BB
They’d have an ally, and some support. So they travelled to Chicago and other places. The, King George and the Queen. And they were well received, very well received. And, they went home. And that summer, of course, all hell broke out, when the Germans made their peace with the Soviet, with Soviet Russia in August. Which, of course, was viewed as a complete dis-aster. It left Germany free. Germany had already of course occupied the Czar. And the, and other territory that had been in dispute. And, uh, and the crisis after crisis took place along those lines. And in September of 1939 the Prime Minister, then, met Neville Chamberlain, en-deavoured to placate Hitler, when Hitler had occupied the Sudetenland, the German portion of then Czechoslovakia. And I remember that event quite prominently because our principal caused a radio to be placed — a very large one to be placed — in the auditorium of the school I was attending at the time, and Hitler’s speech was broadcast. And it was very disturbing. It was broadcast with translation intermittent, made intermittently. But I was sitting next to a Jew, a young man, who was regular in attendance — we had quite a few Jewish people in our high school and quite a few Catholics. It was rather an intermingling of faiths. This because, in, on Oak Street, which was near the school, there were about three synagogues as I recall. So they would naturally, and I think while they Jews had their junior schools, kindergartens and things like that, there were not in each of my recollection, there were not schools for Jewish students per se. So we had those, and also a sprinkling of Catholic schools — well, one or two — where there were nice Catholic girls. Laughs. Right across from us. Laughs. So they at-tended, we had noon hour dances. Laughs. Jazz concerts. Laughs.
HR
Very fun Laughs.
00:38:30.000
00:38:30.000
BB
Some of the girls came across and during their noon hour, not that the nuns encouraged it mind you. And so we had a nice time. It was a nice combination of people of different faiths. My people were, my parents were not particularly religious. They were Presbyterians, and they didn’t have any objection to either Catholics or — I think they had enough of extreme Presbyterianism in Scotland, and Calvinism in certain districts, that were not very tolerant. And they had enough of that. So, I was able to have people of all stripes come home. Now you’re prob-ably going to ask me, but yes, Heather tries to interject. what about the demographic situa-tion in that school? Well it happened to be in the most prosperous part of Vancouver, that’s true. I wasn’t, but the school was. And it’s logical to tell you that most of that was heavily Anglo-Saxon, with a sprinkling of the Jews and the Catholics. But the Catholics were mostly the English speaking kind of thing. And there were really no Orientals in the school, when I was there. I can think, I can just swear to that. There were not.
HR
Did you have a chance to — I’d love to get a picture of how segregated Vancouver was during your youth. Would you have Japanese friends outside of school time, or did everybody kind of stick to their neighbourhoods?
BB
I wouldn’t have had — neither I nor my friends would have had Japanese friends, because there were none living near us. The situation was, you should know, that most of the Orientals that we knew of, were resident in Richmond, and Surrey, and Lulu Island, that area, where they farmed. Many of them did. The Chinese had vast vegetable farms, and they had also had stores, roundabout in Vancouver. Quite a number of them. Dealing in vegetables. Chinese stores. And there were Chinese that ran them, and Chinese that worked in them. And these people generally went back and night to their places in Lulu Island and Richmond. And the same with the Japanese. The Japanese had a part of downtown, around Main Street and Powell Street, which was called Japtown. Terrible name. But that’s what it was called, colloquially. And they had a Japanese school there, to teach the children Japanese. The Japanese language, written, and so on, after they went to the regular school. One thing, probably one of the things that can be said about British Columbia and the state of Washington and California, was that public education was open to everybody. You know the Japanese were not excluded, the Chinese were not excluded. Everybody. It was compulsory, in fact.
00:42:50.000
00:42:50.000
HR
Which is wonderful.
BB
And although these, and so they were confined in various ways. A - I would say, they congre-gated together because it was natural for the parents speaking Chinese to other parents. These people had been in the province, many of them since the 1880s. Where the men had come to build, help build the railroads across the Rockies, that kind of thing. So they had, but they were very much to themselves. They were not able to bring their wives out here, for a long time, there was a time when they could though. So they were — but by the 1920s it was costly for them to do so, or they were forbidden to do so. And I’m hazy about that. But the fact of the matter is that they were, I hate to use the word marginalized — it’s a trite way of putting it — but the circumstances were such that, as I’m trying to describe them to you, that they are either being, in the case of the Chinese, they had their farms, they had their vegetable business. They went around the neighbourhoods, and sold their produce. They would come in an old model T Ford truck, all specially set out for the vegetables. And they would appear into the neighbourhoods such as Kerrisdale. I don’t think they came as far as West Vancouver, or anything like that, but they were travelling, selling their goods. Other things were delivered that way, fish that kind of thing. Bread. There was a lot of personal home delivery, where Mommy was at home, and could go to the door and look at the tomatoes, that kind of thing. But, as far as there being a, in the part of Vancouver that I was, just, the Chinese also served as servants in the houses in Shaughnessy. Some of the houses. They were called houseboys. They were very capable. Sometimes you could be frightened of them, because they ruled the roost! My wife’s grandmother lived there, and they had this sort of thing. We did not. Laughter. Not within my own memory, it was hers, but they spoke of Gene, Eugene, the houseman. And he ruled the house. He was the butler, I guess. And they had maids also, who were quite prevalent in this area, and in where I was living too, to quite an extent. Young ladies, young girls, who couldn’t find employment doing anything else, would be hired to do it all in the houses, at a very low rate of 15 dollars a month, plus food, of course, they’d get, and board. And be bossed around. It was not very happy for them, I don’t suppose, but if they’d got a good employer, they were better of there than they were elsewhere. A lot of them would come out during the Depression from the Prairies, where things were very bad indeed. And the young people who were desperate to get some kind of employment would go on relief, which is another story. The Chinese, I explained, did a combination of these things. They Pause. they did gardening, a lot of that. All the houses around. We did not have maids or gardeners. I was the gardener. Heather laughs. I mowed the lawn. But the houses around me, they all, hmm, quite a number, and um, in fact, the people next to us had come up from the States. They were from Tennessee, from one of the cities in Tennessee. And, they were looking around for people to help them, and they hired a Japanese woman. She was excellent, wonderful with the children. And then she married another Japanese man. And these people despite the fact that you might think that they were from Tennessee, they were given quarters with the rest of the family upstairs, not put to the basement, and treated very well. I think the Mcleods were exceptionally good to the people who did their chores for them.
00:48:19.000
00:48:19.000
HR
That kind of brings up a question. I wonder if you can talk about what you remember of how Japanese Canadians and Chinese Canadians were regarded after Pearl Harbour.
BB
I’m getting to it.
HR
Okay! Sorry. Laughs.
BB
I’m sorry.
HR
I don’t mean to rush you.
BB
This is all very circumlocutory. Heather laughs. Yes, well, of course we got to the war. And for the first two years of course, of the war, Canada was in it. Canada had declared war with Britain. Ready, eye ready. But Canada was divided about war. And about our participation. Principally from Quebec, and others, too. The United States was divided too, but generally wanted to keep out of the war. They’d been in the First World War and they felt that they didn’t want to go back and help Europe again out of its problems. And so the War was not very manifest from — I’m not denigrating people who had joined up, mind you — but it was really was not manifest for the first two years. We had no gas rationing or anything like that. We could come and go to the States and so forth. But after Pearl Harbour, things did change. And by that time of course, Britain and the European powers were at war with Japan, and all had declared war on Japan. And then, this was the matter of British Columbia, with its high Oriental population, had to consider what was going to be done, and its Canadian government. The, to go back a little bit, just to say that the Japanese were here, scattered, around the province a bit. Not so con-centrated as I recall, as the Chinese were. At my high school, that I was telling you about. There were Japanese students, and it’s something I should have mentioned before. There were young men and women, not too many. They had come from the South of Vancouver, by an interurban electric train, which came from that area to, through the suburbs, downtown. It was called the Interurban. And the tracks are still there.
HR
Oh wow!
BB
Big controversy about that, but it was an excellent way of going back and forth. They were reg-ular rail cars, as though they would be on a CPR rail. And they came up every day from their farms, or whatever their parents were doing. Fishing, was quite an industry for the Japanese, more so than the Chinese. And they fished on the Fraser River and other places. And they also would run fish stores and that kind of thing. And I remember the student that was in my math class, he was excellent in math. But my friends, you asked me, what was it like? Well, there was no interchange that I recall. If there had been more of them, there might have been more interchange. But the few that there were there, Long pause. the few that were there, intermingled with their fellows. And yet, I always regret this very much. The one in my math class was very keen to be accepted. And my friends, I regret to say, and I have to say this now, their dead, were not so forthcoming. And, I was appalled by that. Long pause.
00:52:50.000
00:52:50.000
BB
The, uh, they didn’t respond. And this poor fellow, to ingratiate himself with us, went across to the grocery and bought a pack of Coca Cola to share with us at our lunch, which we ate on the school grounds. I took my lunch to the school, it was quite far from where I was living, so I had to bike there with a lunch. And he wasn’t spurned, but he was not accepted. And he had done his bit to be accepted.
HR
Kids can be very, young people can be very cruel to each other.
BB
Well, yes they could. And at that time, the population was not all that accepting of their Oriental neighbours. In fact, there were very few Oriental neighbours in the districts I’m describing to you. In this area here, West Vancouver, the North Shore, the main development after about 1932 in the upper part of the district was conducted by the British Pacific Properties Limited. And they were, they had made their money in beer Laughs. in Ireland. And for $75,000, and in consideration of $75,000 and their undertaking to build the Lionsgate Bridge, the first narrows bridge that you probably are aware of, they acquired vast tracts of land from where we are sit-ting out west almost to Horseshoe Bay. And mind you, there was nothing, it was considered mountain land, and forest land. It had been forested in years before but the forest had grown up around it. And the British Pacific Properties Limited undertook to make it a residential, this part anyway, a residential area. Including the golf course here, and so on. Which golf course was visited by the Queen in its first year in 1939. Laughs. There wasn't much else, but the golf course and the Queen. Laughs. And my boss who had the first house, up here at the top of the hill, a nice big house, and they had all, the British Pacific Properties put all the roads in that we have today, very elementary roads, no sidewalks. Still no sidewalks. But the idea was to have a nice English countryside.
HR
Of course.
BB
Not too much electricity. Not too much public lighting.
HR
No one needs those things.
BB
No need for that, no, no. You’d have your chauffeur take you. Well it didn’t work out quite that way. I think they expected that this area was going to be first Shaughnessy that I just de-scribed to you. But it turned out that people were not able to afford the kind of residences that first Shaughnessy people were able to do in the early part of the century. And, so it didn’t develop in quite the way they had anticipated. Each person who bought a house, who wanted to buy a house here, would be subject to a deed, section four of which was that no coloured people, no Black people, no nobody of other than European descent, in essence, could own land here. They would not sell to anyone other than the European race. Preferably British.
00:57:12.000
00:57:12.000
BB
And that others who were Blacks or Orientals could be, could reside here as servants. That was a covenant. Well, this was quite interesting, because in 1953 or so, after I was married, in 1955 we wanted to build a house, to have a house. And we got some money together and a down payment and so forth, and bought a lot, on the other side of the golf course. And I was presented with this document, deed. And I said, you know, this is 1955, to put it in that . . . “Well you have to sign it.” “Well, I don’t have to sign it! Anyway, if I don’t have to sign it, I don’t have to obey it.” And I said, “You’re right quite out of date.” And I knew that it would not stand up, finally. “But why not?” “Why do you think not?” There’s nothing constitutionally that would prevent them from doing this, racial discrimination. There was nothing in the Canadian constitution. In fact Canada didn’t have a constitution except the Statute of Westminster, which was really an outline of government, but not a recital of human rights, such as a constitution here became to a large extent in 1982. Long time!
HR
Yea.
BB
For guarantees of that sort. So the result was that the large homes and the large establish-ments that were envisioned by the British Pacific Properties Limited didn’t arise then. The question of servants was not even a moot one, because nobody had servants by that time. And so, at least very few. I mentioned maids and that kind of thing. Very, very seldom. And so that kind of structure was, was, was not going to be carried out. And eventually the government was pressed to eliminate section four. It’s now been taken away, a long time ago. And all sorts of people come here. I have Chinese neighbours. And Chinese friends. And they’re just very fine indeed, need I say. But you know, that is the case. Right here, I think we are the only peo-ple of Celtic Laughs. extraction. Or Anglo-Saxon, but I’m not an Anglo-Saxon.
HR
When would you say, when would you say the kind of switch, change, like when did you notice years when the community changed, or was it kind of gradual that?
BB
It was gradual. This community, I’m just talking about this community for the moment.
HR
Yes, West Vancouver.
BB
After the war. The, it was gradual. And it was accepted. I don’t know of any real problem that ever arose from the advent of our having Chinese neighbours, and Japanese I’ll deal with in a minute. And that’s the case today. As far as the rest of Vancouver is concerned, my recollec-tion is that the infiltration of Orientals into the other parts of the city was also gradual. My par-ents and I lived eventually right in Kerrisdale, down by Marine Drive in the Southern part of the town. And it was a district that had been developed pretty well in the early 1930s on. Houses rather nice. Comfortable houses, in separate lots and so on and so forth. Reasonably prosperous. And we had only one Chinese family on the block. When for blocks around, they were very well off. They had businesses going and everything else. And they would not be governed by a restrictive covenant. Other parts of Vancouver were governed by a restrictive covenant. Right round what they call the township around Main Street. Long pause. I’m sorry, my memory’s not as good as it should be.
HR
No, that’s ok, do you mean Main Street in Vancouver?
01:02:52.000
01:02:52.000
BB
Yes. But there’s a name for it. And it had, it was quite an extensive piece of land in Vancouver, and it had a restrictive covenant as well, forbidding access in terms of living to Orientals. And so, as time went by, again, the Orientals were not living in Vancouver, except maybe some in the East End and so on, but not as you’ve noticed. Long pause. The university, when I went there, also had very few Orientals attending. I remember there were a couple of, but only two Chinese in my freshman class. Mind you it was a very small university. 2400 people.
HR
Wow, that’s tiny!
BB
2400 students. It had just moved there, as I said, in 1925, rather interesting, and it must have been the only province in Canada to have a university as late as that, as we had. You know, when you consider that the central provinces, who were just admitted from Rupert’s Land in 1908 and thereabouts. My father said he remembers that Saskatchewan was far ahead of anything here in BC. Laughs. But mostly again, Anglo-Saxon attendance. And, then, this is not a true picture, because I was there during the war. And so it was not a case of very vast admission into the university. And now, Pearl Harbour. I remember it well. I remember the radio, the Sunday, the 7th of December. We’ll all remember it. And that of course was a question of in terms of loyalty. We had a few Germans, people born here. Very suspect, you know. Germans here during the First World War were, some of them were interned. We had some prom-inent businessmen during the First World War who were Germans who fled to the United States, and then they got interned there, and so on. But, uh, the problem was that we were at war with Japan. And the problem was that we were very close to Japan, and that if you look at the great circle route, it’s just not very far from Prince Rupert to the Japanese islands. And it’s all very well to say that “Of course we’re separated by the Pacific Ocean,” but look what the Japanese had been doing and how fast they’d been doing it. In fact they’d been doing it since 1931 when they invaded China, and Manchuria and those provinces. And in defiance of the League of Nations. So when the United States was attacked by them, you could hardly believe it. That they would have the nerve to do this or the resources. What to do about then a population that conceivably could be hostile? They were not received very well here. They were tolerated, but they were not integrated. They were not Canadian citizens. In fact, I wasn’t a Canadian citizen either. There was no such thing as a Canadian citizen. We really have incrementally preceded from our status as a colony. I was very resentful of that. I thought it was, I was a Republican.
Heather and Blair laugh. 01:07:27.000
01:07:27.000
BB
However, that’s another story. And um, they were regarded not even as British subjects. I was regarded as a British subject, my father was born in Scotland of course, but I was born here. But I together, with all the others, were British subjects. The Orientals, I don’t know whether you would call them naturalized British subjects, but it doesn’t matter. The thing is that there they were. And to whom, to which government did they owe a primary allegiance? And uh, Long pause. one had to reflect on what had happened in Norway in 1940, when the Quislings who were Norwegian subjects of the Norwegian crown turned tail and cooperated with the German invaders, and in fact, encouraged them. Well, I don’t know this of my own knowledge, but it’s said that they did only encourage them, but actively engaged with the German forces. Whatever it was, it was insidious and regrettable, because they were supposed to be Norwegians. A friend of mine who was a Swede, or Swedish, said “You know, it’s not a surprise, you shouldn’t be surprised, because a lot of the people who were in Norway were descended from those who were in operation at the time of the Hanseatic League.” You remember from your history perhaps, the Hanseatic Free Cities. Trade cities. They had such in Norway, and through Northern Europe, and that they had never lost their German affiliations. I find that hard to be-lieve, because the Hanseatic League was fought in the 16th century. However, there was this allegiance, and they betrayed their country, and Norway surrendered. Probably had to anyway, but mind you, the British felt that because of the North Sea and the rest of it, German conquest was not really going to be that successful, but it was. And Chamberlain then had to resign, be-cause he had not been sufficiently vigorous in pursuing the war and pursuing Hitler. And so, with that in mind, the question arose here, “How many of these people who are at large and are in positions of some knowledge of the shoreline by virtue of their fishing, that kind of thing. And by virtue of wireless as they could have communications, are they trustworthy? Is this go-ing to be another Norway?” Um. And, so, very little time was lost in coming to the conclusion that we could not take that risk. And the result was, as you probably know, and I don’t have to tell you, that they were driven from their houses, and herded into camp, encampments at the exhibition grounds here in Vancouver, pending further disposition. Property was seized. Property was sold. Right under them.
01:11:38.000
01:11:38.000
BB
And their cars were lined up, up for sale.
HR
Do you remember seeing any of that in person?
BB
No, no I didn’t.
HR
Okay.
BB
We lived in the more refined area. Both laugh.
HR
Would it have been in the newspaper at all?
BB
Oh yes. It was. Of course it was. And it was disturbing, but in the light of what Japan had been doing to the Chinese, and to everybody else they came into contact with, it was somewhat Stumbles. it mitigated ones sense of indignation. I think. To my recollection. What did I think myself? Yes, I thought that perhaps the risk should not be taken. But when I saw their proper-ty being taken away from them, and realizing that likely their Pause. exportation would be temporary, I didn’t feel so badly. Because nobody was being tortured or anything. They weren’t being actually imprisoned. They were going to encampments, which is a virtual prison. I wasn’t outraged. And I don’t think many people were. And quite the contrary, those who had advantage in buying property cheaply would not be outraged. They would be encouraged in their antics. I didn’t like that part of it though.
HR
No?
BB
That was the part I didn’t like. Now you will say, “Property, property, you’re just interested in property.” Both laugh. Well, it’s pretty important. And it was important to them. And they’d worked hard for it. And so away they went, and then, following that, of course, there was the question of what about Japan next? Now, again, we were uncomfortably close to Japan. We didn’t realize it. We think of Japan as being far off, and it couldn’t happen here. It was like the British in Singapore, who said “It couldn’t happen here!” I said that to my father and I got a thorough scolding. Couldn’t happen here, couldn’t happen here. And indeed, I like to think that — I don’t like to think — but I think that we were right in being very concerned. Because here we were in a sparsely settled virtual colony, of 600,000, I believe, that is the case. And we had Japan at our doorstep, nearly, with how many million? 60 million? Something like that? And what was going to happen? Fortunately, most Canadians don’t like to think that this is the case, but we were very fortunate in having the United States, because they occupied Alaska. And you see their primary concern of course would be attack, from the Japanese, of some sort. There. You might scoff, and you might say, “Well, hardly so, the great United States couldn’t be overcome by the virtue of a Japanese attack in Alaska,” but indeed they came and occupied some of the islands just off the coast.
HR
Oh wow, I don’t think I knew that.
01:15:57.000
01:15:57.000
BB
No you might not. So, the American government acted very quickly and they got in touch with our people, our federal authorities, and of course our federal people cooperated in every way they could. And granted them passage, of course, with their troops, up to Prince Rupert. Fortunately, we have a rail line, and part of the CNR system and a branch from Jasper that went up to Prince Rupert. So the troops from the States came flocking into that rail line, up to Prince Rupert, and then fenced up to Alaska. And the forces were there. Now you could say that was a mere tea party compared with what was going to happen later abroad. But it did expel the Japanese invading force. Probably the Japanese didn’t expect much was going to happen for it, but who knows? And particularly who knows, when you have a province of 600,000 people? What were we going to do? Canada was not really — we had 10 million people? Fortunately, we had about 120 million people across the line, who were somewhat like minded. And then, consequent upon that, the US got permission to build an Alaska Highway, up through Prince Rupert, up to Alaska. We had no highways, we had very few. Our roads were very poor in BC. And no connection, no road connection to Alaska.
HR
Yea, no, I lived in Whitehorse for a year and so drove the Alaska Highway quite a lot. It’s fascinating to know that’s why it was put in place.
BB
Did you not know that?
HR
I did not, no.
BB
No, Canadians don’t get taught history very well, I don’t think, if you’ll pardon my saying that.
HR
Laughs. I think, I mean, this project is trying to help change that a little bit. We are taught about Europe still primarily.
BB
Yes, yes, it’s true. Well, the roads in British Columbia were few and far between, and if you wanted to take a trip to Chilliwack, or to Hope or to Kamloops even, it was pretty rough going. The Fraser Canyon highway was the only connection between Vancouver and the interior by road — not by rail, but by road — and it hadn’t changed, I didn’t think, from the pictures I saw, form the time it was a wagon train in the 1860s, to 1931 when my father took his Hudson car and drove us over this escarpment. Not over it, but through it. And that was the state of af-fairs. And so for the Canadian government to amass a force to deal with an invading group of, it would be unthinkable. Not willing. Couldn’t do it. I always remember my father when we were driving south through Washington, the state that is. There was a fort down there, Fort Lewis. And years before that he said, “Look at that. That’s going to be your defence when the Japs come.” Laughs. Well it wasn’t, because of . . . So in that atmosphere, there was apprehension, not jittering, but apprehension. And the Chinese were alright, they could conduct themselves just the way they did, and go to schools the way they did. But the Japanese were then isolated. I think they had schooling when they went, when they were in their encamp-ments. And there were, I can’t tell you that there were any incidents of disloyalty or dishonour or espionage that the dispossessed were guilty of, either before or after their expulsion. Now, that’s my recollection. People said there were. Some people said there were. Some people said they had evidence. University professor told me that she had some evidence, but she nev-er came forth with anything more.
Heather laughs. 01:20:57.000
01:20:57.000
BB
So, it again as time went on, they, the war ended, and Stumbles. and the cruelty and the misbehaviour of the Japanese became even more manifest as the curtain was lifted on what had transpired. It has never descended in South Asia of course. The curtain has never gone down. And you can see why. So this was a lingering business of people resisting, trying to resist being racist, but feeling that both the Germans and the Japanese had an awful lot to answer for, and it was just in their character, don’t you know. And that prevailed well. It prevailed here as to the Germans. My wife brought a few German young people out under the, a certain program for foreign children to come, young people to come to university here. And I regret to say that quite a number of the young Germans that came here were Laughs. . . .
HR
Not treated well?
BB
Yes. Were not, had not learned very much about the excesses.
HR
What year would that have been?
BB
1946-47. It was the overseas program, there’s a name for it that I’ve forgotten. Others came too. And they weren’t that numerous, but I was very disappointed that some of the young people certainly had Nazi proclivities. But then why not? They’d been brought up to it? It’s the same with the Japanese I suppose. But not the Japanese here.
HR
You mean Japanese who’d been living in Japan?
BB
Yea, of course. Now, the war ended and they came back to nothing. However, there were, they were very innovative. There was employment fortunately. The Depression unemployment had vanished during the war, and so there were possibilities. And these people were very clever, and independent, if they could be. And gradually, they were able to find employment, and quite a number went to Eastern Canada, away from the stigma, away from the surround, and stayed there, and did well there. I guess you’re familiar with that?
HR
I am. Yes, the, in Toronto, one of the partners on the project is the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, and there’s a number, there’s a large group of Japanese elders who I’ve met through there, who come to visit the centre. And talk about how they moved, or their parents moved after the war, and they set up homes in Rosedale, and all kinds of nice areas of Toronto.
BB
Yes. It was a blessing for them. And the same thing began to happen here. But there just not many of them within my sight.
HR
So even after the war you didn’t encounter . . . ?
BB
No! But that’s probably was just because habitually they weren’t living in Kerrisdale. Habitually they weren’t living in Shaughnessy. But probably they were living more part, more in the Southern part of the city, in Fraser view and places like that. Or the East End and the better parts of it.
01:25:01.000
01:25:01.000
BB
But because they had not been living in and around here — Chinese, yes, but Japanese, I can’t remember. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t any, or there weren’t a number. But then there were several commissions that were held, as people began to realize how unjust the treatment had been. And they themselves knew how unjust they had been, unjustly they had been dealt with. And so there were various commissions that were organized by the govern-ment, to inquire into the matter of compensation. And it’s difficult to say just how adequate the allowances were. Your research will undoubtedly uncover particulars, if you inquire into these commissions precisely. Were you aware of that?
HR
Uh, the, it’s not our research team specifically that will be looking to the particulars of things like that, but as far as I know people who are looking at the land title transfers will then be tracking how much people were compensated based on how much the value of the land should be worth. That sort of thing.
BB
I’m glad to hear you’re doing that. Because I’ve never been able to, just through the newspapers, ascertain. Or through other periodicals. And to tell the truth I should have looked into it more carefully, but I knew commissions were organized to do this. If they hadn’t been, I think I would have joined an organization to insist on that.
HR
Would you?
BB
Because I, it was a lacuna, in Canadian constitutional law. And it still is, for that, from that standpoint. And I will elaborate on that in a minute.
HR
You’re answering all my questions as they pop into my mind.
BB
Well, hardly. But, I did notice that they were being compensated, there were tails of inadequacies, but then the whole matter seemed to die down a bit. The person I alluded to at the the outset of our conversation, the person who’s prominent in Greenpeace, and actually the founder, was responsible, I believe for instituting more inquiry along those lines. That’s some-thing you’d want to Long pause. . . . see about.
HR
Yea, we’ll look into it for sure.
01:28:04.000
01:28:04.000
BB
So, then I thought to myself, or, began speculate on what happened to the Japanese in the States. Because they too were removed. And the difference between the two countries of course, I felt, was this. That in the US, they were by and large, United States citizens. Here, they were sort of tenants of the, of ease. But unease. And, the fact that they could have been removed that way is still today a matter of great concern among Americans who were thinking about things. And I have talked to some of them about this. Because they didn’t have their property sequestered like that. Now, what they did wasn’t perfect either. But I gather that they could put property in trust or have it managed in some fashion. And they did not lose it. Now that, that is perhaps a generous view of what happened. But nevertheless, the thing is, there was no massive auctioneering of their stuff, over their heads, while they were away. It was at least, in law, or more in theory, that it was not confiscated the way it was here.
HR
You don’t agree with what Canada did to the property?
BB
Oh absolutely not. I thought it was terrible. It was bad enough that they put these people into a place, but at least national security was then again when I look to the population situation, you know, what were we to do? How were we to know they weren’t Quislings? But the least we could have done would be to put their property in trust or something like that. Which they did in the States. And the reason is that the US constitution, section 5, 14, provides that there should be no confiscation of property, unless by due process of law, and then upon compensation therefore. That’s been in the constitution for a long, long time. We have had, we had no such ruling or constitutional law in Canada. We still don’t.
HR
Really? There’s nothing protecting property.
BB
No, no. Nothing to protect you from having your property forfeit to the federal authority, for example. They don’t have to compensate you. A lot of people are startled when they hear that. Now this is in the absence of a law which would compensate you. In other words there are laws which say, you know, if a government’s going to take over this forest, or whatever, you will be compensated. And there are acts of compensation, both provincial and federal. But it is not implanted in the constitution. And it’s, as I said, a lacuna. And it, it explains of course why people were able to take over the Japanese property, without compensation. And finally, by virtue of conscience, the matter was revised. But today, you know, but we have a Free Trade Agreement with the United States as you know. And so, part of that agreement is this, that if you are say from a United States company, and you want to open up a branch in Canada, you’d be nervous because . . . Blair mimes biting his fingernails.
HR
Laughs. You’d be biting your fingernails?
01:33:04.000
01:33:04.000
BB
Yes, you might have your property taken over by the Canadian government. The provision is that any foreign parties to this agreement, if their property is taken over by the government, they will be entitled to the same treatment in Canada as they would have if that happened in the United States. So the Canadian government has to compensate in accordance with provi-sions in the US constitution if they get that treatment here. But, a Canadian doesn’t get that protection here. This was a treaty. Interesting.
HR
Interesting.
BB
Well I stray, because we were talking about . . .
HR
No, it’s ok, it’s interesting.
BB
Well, that’s to do with the, with the argument about whether we should have had them . . .
HR
That’s a fascinating thing for you to talk about, because I know as, I remember when we spoke on the phone before, your legal perspective, your employment background as a lawyer lends a really interesting to lens to the history memories.
BB
Yes, it should, I think. It’s certainly a punctuation mark in our legal history. It’s never been changed, and all the provinces opposed an amendment to the constitution or an imposition to the constitution extending property rights in the manner that is done in the US constitution. And you might say that could happen to other people, like the Japanese. You might say that. Heather tries to interject Our constitution also has a clause which exonerates, excuses a province from various sections of our constitution for a certain period of time if it doesn’t want to, ok? Section 57. Oh, I’m talking at large here, I have to be careful.
Heather laughs.
BB
There are things that are just common to our own country. And the Japanese, I’m afraid I can’t really tell you much more about their experiences while they were in their camps. Or how people are thinking now. I think it’s fair to ask a person what is the situation now? It is that they are accepted wherever they are. They are capable. Undoubtedly they are employed in the government and in the professions. But they are not congregated in the way that the Chinese are. You see we have a Chinatown. And the Chinese are not ashamed of that at all. They think that’s just great. And we’re Canadians too, don’t forget it! And they’re great, I like them very much, down there. We go down there quite regularly.
HR
Chinatowns are always fun! For sure.
BB
Yes, and yet, one detects that among the younger people, the middle aged people, the getting older people now they are so long in the country. Born here and so forth, that they are utterly acceptable. So, more than that, I cannot say.
HR
Laughs. You’ve been a wonderful storyteller. I have a couple — I think you answered that question, you answered that question. I have two questions left as you were speaking. One, I’m curious if you can fill me in on what your parents perspectives were on this time. Did they, did you talk about the war with them? Were they scared? Did they communicate that with you, or was it more stiff upper lip?
01:37:31.000
01:37:31.000
BB
My parents talked very freely about that sort of thing. There was no one else to talk to but me. Well that’s not true, but family.
HR
Your family was small, yes.
BB
My father was interested. He was very interested in politics. He was interested in banking and commerce of course. And my mother was, they were not university people, they were like most people, they went into their trades or professions without being in a university. But they were well read, we got good magazines and things in the house, and books. So that topics were regularly politics, regularly foreign affairs, and so on. And my mother of course, they were both worried because they had their parents in Europe. They were in Scotland, and several of my uncles had properties in Glasgow which was bombed. And they were in the war. A lot of them.
HR
That must have been scary being so far away from your family
BB
Yes it was. Fortunately, we had gone there in 1937 when I was about 14 and I met them all, and that sort of cemented a familial relationship. And I listen to them talking and our seniors talking about things that are happening. They were greatly engaged of course, by Edward the 8th and Mrs. Simpson. You’ve heard of that?
HR
I have yes Both laugh. It would have been very exciting.
BB
Yes. Some very unpleasant things to say about Mrs. Simpson. And they were all Royalists, of course, and I was looked upon askance, because I had Republican leanings. Laughs. As a lot of North Americans did. And so it was an interesting experience, and they were very concerned about it. They were. And yet, they were hoodwinked in a way by the Germans, some of them. Some of them. They had been over there in the middle ‘30s in Germany. I remember one grown up cousin of mine said, “You know, they are very free!” I was only 14, and I wondered what he was blithering about. “Oh,” he said, “We were sailing down the Rhine, drinking beer.” I mean, how facile can you get? A number of them, younger people, didn’t think that their elders were justified in being as terrified as they obviously were. They hadn’t been through the First World War. And if they had, they might have changed their tune. So mother and father were accepting. Dad was always very critical of the Liberal government in Canada. Laughs. And my mother was fairly bland about it all. And, but we certainly did. And friends who came, talked. Violent arguments. I remember there was one case when the youngster of the family, graduating from high school, was questioning his father at dinner about all this concern about Japan. He said “Well, look at the British, they took over India. And they took over this and that, and the next thing, maybe it’s the Japanese turn.” And this created an eruption Laughs. at the table. But that was about the size of it, you know. I think that my parents were of course very pro-British. They were desperately so. And afraid for the family. And all that kind of thing. But on the other hand, my father was, we were very concerned about the American position. Two years, there is poor Britain carrying the can, and the United States aren’t doing anything, and they should have been doing something, and so on and so on. And, some of us younger people were inclined to say, “You know, you can hardly blame them in view of the fact that it was the Europeans who broke up the League.” And that was their business and that was their doorstep, and they could have stopped Hitler at a certain time in 1934. They could have, they didn’t. And you know you can hardly blame them. “Don’t talk nonsense to me,” was the response! Laughs. But my dad didn’t take that view particularly. He was interested in what was happen-ing in the States most of the time. We’d been down there a lot. I took, I told you about the roads in BC. They were terrible. The inclination of a lot of Canadians in the West anyway, was that if they were going anywhere for a vacation, or to shop, or whatever, was to drive south. The roads were good. I remember when I was five years old, we were able to drive with ease from Vancouver to the Mexican border. Concrete. Concrete roads.
HR
That’s a lot of road!
01:43:28.000
01:43:28.000
BB
That’s a lot of road. And so soon after the First World War, a scant ten years after the First World War, when automobiles were . . .
HR
Still very new, that’s true.
BB
So, he liked that, because it gave him a perspective on the commercial, commercial banking and how things were being managed during the Depression. The Roosevelt administration of course was very, very prominent in trying to deal with the collapse of the Stock Market and the subsequent massive unemployment. They really did more for their unemployed than we did. He instituted social security in 1935. I guess you know all that from your studies.
HR
I know a little bit from my studies, my father was also a strong Roosevelt buff.
BB
Was he? What did your father do?
HR
He just retired, he was a Justice of the Peace for . . .
BB
Oh yes, you told me!
HR
Prior to that he was a lawyer.
BB
Oh he was!
HR
And he also had polio, so when he was a child, his parents passed on biographies and stories about Roosevelt as an inspiration.
BB
Who also had been affected.
HR
Yea, and my grandparents did that deliberately, saying, look you’ve had this disease, but look at what you can do with your life. So he was a very — I’ve grown up hearing all about Roosevelt.
BB
The Roosevelt family was depicted on a public broadcasting presentation by Ken Burns, just re-cently.
HR
Oh that’s true, my dad watched that I think.
BB
I’m sure he would!
HR
Yes.
BB
The Roosevelts were plagued by ill health, I think. All of them had ill health. And they did very well. My wife’s family were, a large part on her mother’s side, they were all Americans. And they had come up to Vancouver at the end of the 19th century on business and stayed here. So, I, we have connections.
HR
That leads nicely into my last question for you. We were looking a lot pastwards. I wonder, do you speak about wartime a lot with your children at all, or grandchildren if you have them?
BB
Well, they aren’t terribly interested, I find. I think you have to, I think private interest varies.
HR
Absolutely, yeah.
BB
I’m rather disappointed in the sense that they don’t really concern themselves, as far as I know, and I try to bring the conversation forward, but it, I don’t, it doesn’t resonate a great deal. But I bet it does, I’m sure it does around other families. Just not in ours. Neither were my children, terribly concerned. And, uh, I question as to whether or not it’s tempting to blame the schools of course. It’s tempting to say it’s these schools. But on the other hand, I was in a group in-volving the Canadian future after the disastrous Quebec vote in 1995.
HR
Ah yes, yes.
BB
I was a member of some lawyers and others who were asked by the government who were asked to go around and inform Canadians about how wonderful their country was, and et cetera. I’m simplifying. It was interesting because I felt . . .
01:47:38.000
01:47:38.000
BB
But you try! And it’s lamentable, because a lot of us have taken French for quite a number of years. I have. I can read it. I have no trouble reading a little. But as soon as I get beyond a few paragraphs, I’m immersed in confusion.
HR
If you could, on the subject of education, one of the goals of Landscapes is to make teacher kits, and make a museum exhibition and a website that’s meant to be really informative about this part of Canadian history, but also to kind of spark people’s interest in Canadian history. This is maybe a rambly question that’s hard to answer, but could you reflect on what you would want people to take away from learning about the war time? Like is there a message about that time . . .
BB
About the wartime? Not the French question.
HR
Not the French.
BB
You mean the wartime. Oh yes, I think it would be advantageous to do that. History that is not known tends to be repeated. Perhaps. That’s not my word of wisdom. It’s attributable to somebody else. But it’s good. It’s a good slogan. But yes, they should know the history of Canada in the war. And before. I mean I like to think that they, they don’t think the place to screw up like topsy. It’s very hard. It depends how history is taught, too a lot of the time. I know I’ve heard people say, “My history professor is very boring, and therefore . . . ” And yet I had the lectures from that professor, and I didn’t find it boring. So it depends on your personal inclination. But also, too, in how it is done. I’ve heard people describe their professors in learn-ing, in high school, teachers, and in university, and they were susceptible, and would respect and take an interest. I had several teachers in high school who were commendable in that re-gard. They were very good. I remember them very clearly. And this in particular, with respect to Canadian history, in the junior high school. The history started out from Jacques Cartier, and went right through, right through to the Oregon territories, and the Oregon disputes, and the creation of British Columbia, and the advents of the provinces coming into being. The structure of town councils and provincial legislatures, and the House of Commons and the Senate, to-gether forming the Parliament. Yes. Had that in grade eight. And I remember much of that. Not just of my own reading. Oh, I supplemented.
HR
So, what, I guess this will be the last question. What makes a good history teacher? What makes a good presentation of Canadian history?
BB
One who is organized. I think that there’s a lot to be said — people say “Oh, don’t trouble me with dates. I’m not interested in dates.” But after all, dates are a measuring yard stick of what is happening. Now, in the future, in the past. The dates. Providing that you don’t just bury them in dates, you can say “Well, this is an interesting date, because this is when Abraham Lin-coln — just a few days ago in fact, Monday — was slain by Wilkes Booth.” That’s just a simplis-tic example, but you know, it can be interesting. I, you asked me the question before, how about my grandchildren, are they interested in this? I have to say, not a bit, as far as I can tell. In fact, I think they, they are well schooled, but I think that I bore them. And I was told so, by one of them.
01:52:30.000
01:52:30.000
HR
How old were they?
BB
Not very kind. But it’s better that we get it out. So I’ve tried to be less boring. Laughs. But I think there are others who are interested. Just a case of, they’ve got other good interests. So, how do you criticize people because they are not interested in what you yourself are interested in.
HR
No, history’s not for everybody, that’s for sure.
BB
They could do it by sheer interest. If the professor is himself, herself, interested, it’ll come across. And if they are good at putting little side issues, for example, you were talking about the 1920s, well you can say “This is how jazz came to the forefront, and they were doing the Charleston, and all that kind of thing. And what were the movies like?” I just was telling you.
HR
You were!
BB
Well, it’s a point!
HR
You’re totally right, it paints a broader picture of what life was like, which makes you more in-terested in what was happening.
BB
What were the automobiles like? Where could you drive in British Columbia, not? Well, people did though, through their cars, big cars that were high off the ground, they went over the roads. It was trying, but this is what happened. The development of public infrastructure. They could make that interesting. Radio! What kind of radios did they have? You just asked that question. Well, you know, they developed very quickly. I remember when they, all they had was ear-phones. Crystal sets even. But they developed and we got radios in the middle 1930s that were short wave, and that enabled a radio to have you tune into Radio Berlin, directly. It wasn’t awfully distinct at times, but you could do it.
HR
That’s quite a geographic distance to travel.
BB
It is! Because short wave is not very pleasant, it’s not as good as it should have been, and it still isn’t. Nevertheless, it’s possible, and I could do it. Long wave was good too at night. In the middle Thirties, when everybody thought I was in bed, I crept downstairs and I tuned in on XCER Mexico City, and listened to the music. It was great. Heather laughs.
HR
I bet!
BB
Yes it was. You had very good clear reception for long distances at night. So that was one of them that came forth. If you kind of lace your lecture with trivia Laughs. and things that they know about, and could be interested in. The women, what were the women’s styles like? They could do that. I had one French professor at UBC, she didn’t think much of me, she thought I was a dilettante. That I was! Laughs. And she, she was very good, she was youngish, and she was stylish. And she was able to report to us on the wonderful automobile exhibitions they had in Paris at the, in the Thirties at that time. We boys were all agog. We were interested. And the sports too! What was it like? She would describe going to a performance in the French theatre. And she’d say you have to tip the person who shows you her seat, and if you don’t, they’ll come running down the boulevard after you.
HR
She sounds like a great teacher.
BB
Yes. She didn’t do it all the time, but I had a social studies teacher, a history teacher, this would be grade eleven, and he was all over the place with things, but he was good. And he told me that when he was taking a postgraduate degree at U of C, University of Chicago, he and his wife that summer, made a point of going to a different church every Sunday. Just to see what they were like. That was something to do. So he introduced things like that.
01:57:58.000
01:57:58.000
BB
I think that a history teacher can ornament his course, and he’ll get listened to. She.
HR
My goodness, you should have been a history teacher. You’ve ornamented today’s talk wonderfully . . .
BB
Laughs. Just out of memory.
HR
Which is wonderful.
BB
Well, I take an interest in those things because, I follow dates. I’ve said dates I thought were important. I think they are. I can remember. If you give me a date, I have remembrances of that date, and the things that were on and done at that date. As you get older, I think our memories dim with respect to recent years. And well, you’re not so impressionable. You’ve seen it, you think. Which is not true. We’re in a very treacherous time right now. My good-ness.
HR
It makes research like this, that goes back and looks at past difficult times, puts present times into a nice context. And definitely feels like the research will be worthwhile and useful.
BB
I think it will be. I really congratulate you on it, and your colleagues, because what is lost is hard to recover. And this inspires you to get that and recover it. And try and present it to the teachers. Will you be having a, some liaison with the teaching association, profession on this?
HR
Yea, there will be. The whole project is seven years long. Right now we’re in the beginning of the research phase. It’s in the second, the second phase of the project that they’ll start reach-ing out to, I think the BC, whoever rights BC curriculum, and working with them to create education packages to give to teachers.
BB
I tremble to think. Because I, I don’t know, from what I’ve read in the newspapers, they are at 6s and 7s about projecting.
HR
Yea, I mean the luxury of the project is that it’s such a long — it’s a long lead time, so we have lots of time to adapt to political changes that happen. Teaching curriculum and teachers in BC.
BB
I’m just wondering whether, what they’re up to next is going to — one of the things that was of great concern to us was that my wife became a school teacher in her middle years. She always wanted to be a teacher. She was very short sighted, she eventually went blind. But she wanted to teach and she wanted to graduate, so she did. And, she was very concerned about the way in which things were being taught. Particularly this business, there was a fad for a while, of having all the grades, or several of the grades in one big class. You know? Grade 1-3, in a multi-tude.
HR
Cuts down the numbers.
BB
A lot of teachers were annoyed about that.
HR
Yea, I bet.
BB
And that didn’t make much progress. But, I think that they don’t plan, they just sort of let things go like topsy. My wife was very, very concerned about that. She, her specialty was kindergarten. She liked it. And she had very, very strong ideas about it, and how she went about it, and she was organized. And she organized the kids. And this of course went against the idea of freedom of kids. Whereas she made them put things away when they were finished. Made them do this and made them do that. Much to the gratitude of ensuing teachers in grades where they went. Laughs.
HR
I have some friends — I’ll say thank you officially on the tape —
BB
Is this still going on?
HR
Yes, it was still going-
End of Recording 02:02:32.000

Metadata

Title

Blair Baillie, interviewed by Heather Read, 20 April 2015

Abstract

Blair describes his memories of Depression era and wartime Vancouver, as well as giving political and historical context with respect to European and Asian history at the time. He discusses his early family life, and reaches the 1950s at the latest in his narratives. With respect to Landscapes of Injustice research in detail, there is an anecdote about racism directed towards a Japanese-Canadian schoolmate as well as a lengthy commentary about the injustice of the Canadian government's actions with respect to property that are worth exploring in more detail.

Credits

Interviewer: Heather Read
Interviewee: Blair Baillie
Audio Checker: Nathaniel Hayes
XML Encoder: Nathaniel Hayes
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Keywords: property; Vancouver ; Depression; law; Japan ; Hitler; Kerrisdale ; Shaughnessy ; 1920s - 1950s

Terminology

Readers of these historical materials will encounter derogatory references to Japanese Canadians and euphemisms used to obscure the intent and impacts of the internment and dispossession. While these are important realities of the history, the Landscapes of Injustice Research Collective urges users to carefully consider their own terminological choices in writing and speaking about this topic today as we confront past injustice. See our statement on terminology, and related sources here.