Oral History:Doreen Braverman, interviewed by Carolyn Nakagawa, 25 January 2018

Oral History:Doreen Braverman, interviewed by Carolyn Nakagawa, 25 January 2018

Abstract
Doreen Braverman was born in Vancouver and raised on Sea Island, BC in the Acme Cannery area. In this interview, she talks about going to Bridgeport School with Japanese-Canadian children and her grandfather’s cork mill business and involvement with the fishing industry. She describes how many Japanese Canadian families lived in shacks along the dike. She speaks about playing games with Japanese-Canadian children, and her family’s friendship with one family in particular, the Karnagi’s. Doreen recalls how before internment, one Japanese Canadian was investigated by the RCMP for signaling to Japanese submarines, and how they took him away and searched his home for a week. She narrates how strange it was for her to get on the bus with the Japanese-Canadian children for school one day, and then the very next day be alone at the bus stop. She recalls going to bed early and not knowing what happened to the families, learning later that they were removed during the evening. Doreen discusses how her grandfather was devastated at their removal, and that he took in furniture for ten families, storing their items in the basement, and then later delivering them or somehow returning them for all but one family. She still has two pieces. Doreen speaks about her grandfather keeping track of people and staying in contact, visiting them in the interior and taking her on trips in the summertime. Doreen also discusses her father buying a Japanese-Canadian fishing boat from the government that originally belonged to Toshi Karnagi; when Toshi returned from internment, her father gave it back to him and his son Leonard. She thinks her father may have bought the boat out of nostalgia for the family friend. Doreen also talks about the book she is writing on Sea Island, and how she’s done research on this history only in recent years. She ends the interview by saying she hopes that if anything comes out of her work other than the history of the area, that it will make people think twice about what happened to Japanese Canadians.
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Doreen Braverman (DB)
This is Carolyn Nakagawa. I'm here with Doreen Braverman, in her home in Vancouver. It's January 25th, 2018, and I'm here to record her oral history for the Landscapes of Injustice project. So, Doreen, I'll just ask you to start off by telling me a bit about your life and specifically your childhood in Sea Island.
DB
Yes. I wasn't born on Sea Island, I was born in Vancouver, but my grandfather and grandmother lived on Sea Island. And my grandmother was very ill with cancer, so my mother moved us back with them. I guess I was probably two, or three? And in that time, they lived in a cannery house. The area was called Acme Cannery, and it was mostly the people who lived there were Japanese, or Japanese origins. And my grandfather had what you call a cork mill. They didn't make corks, but they made cedar floats, and he made them for the fisherman to put on their gill (?)/gail nets (?). And a lot of the Japanese people helped him, and got the logs for him, mainly, because most of them were fisherman. Or worked in the mills. Grandpa knew them all-they all knew each other very well. All nice families. So many of them. And then my grandpa built a new house, or somebody built it for him. It was about a block away, along Shannon Road, very close to Acme Cannery. We lived there until the 50s, when the airport expanded. They took over everybody. But in the meantime, what year was it? `41? '42? That the Japanese were all moved out, incarcerated. It was a very strange situation for me because one day we're all getting on the bus to go to school, and the next day, nobody. None of them. And I didn't really know what had happened, because I went to bed early. And I guess whoever moved them out came in the evening, and just, they were gone. In the meantime my grandfather, who was so friendly with so many of the families, he took in the furniture-the good furniture-for about ten families. And it was stored in our basement. There was nothing that you could do in the basement, it was just floor to ceiling furniture piled up. And eventually, when they got moved to wherever they were moved to, they got in touch with Grandpa, and he sent them the furniture. Also, he visited them a lot, in the interior. And he didn't go out of the province, but he did go all the way up the valleys and saw a lot of them. And I went with him, too. The closest family to me, well I knew them all quite well, but the closest one to me was the Asari's because I was very good friends with Kikwei Asari (?). I haven't found her yet. But, anyway, it was very sad because all of a sudden all your neighbours are gone, and you don't know why. Most of them were Canadian citizens. There were some of course that weren't-I think they were senior ones. But, you know, you just don't do that. And, they did. There was another cannery not too far away, it was called Vancouver Cannery. It was maybe, oh, half a mile west along the dyke. And I knew a few families from there. Not too many, but if they went to school I knew them on the school bus. And I never could find any of the friends that I had, we just didn't know where they went to. Except for ones that grandpa found, in the interior. So, anyways, that's sort of the head of the story. But I always felt bad about it, so I decided to put it into the book I'm writing about Sea Island. Yes.
Carolyn Nakagawa (CN)
Great, thank you. I wonder if you can tell me a bit more about your memories from before Japanese Canadians were removed from Sea Island? Their daily life, and-
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DB
Well, both my-my father and my grandfather were both in the fishing industry. Grandpa had the cork mill, and he ran that in the times when the Japanese were fishing. And then, when they stopped fishing, well then they'd be getting logs for him and whatnot. But in the fall, he moved over to, he had a scow, and he moved it over to the north arm of the Fraser River, and he bought fish. Of course, a lot of the Japanese would come over and sell him the fish, because a lot of them, if they had their nets purchased from the canneries, well then they were supposed to take their fish back to the cannery to help pay for the nets. But, some of them wanted to take some money home for food. So they'd sell to grandpa and grandpa paid cash. But I remember those families well. Along the dyke there were quite a few Japanese families, and they lived in little shacks, but they were spotless and clean. So were the people. And some of them had little gardens on the other side of the dyke, there were a few of homes-small homes, and a couple of bigger ones-that belonged to the Japanese families. But then there was fields, and they would have gardens out there. And I don't really think anybody owned the fields, they were just part of the landscape. They grew, oh, all sorts of things. Raspberries, strawberries. And I always thought it was strange because they kept all the urine from their families, and they poured it into their gardens. Laughs. It obviously grew nice raspberries. As a kid, I thought that was funny. The Koyanagi's (?) were close to our family. He did some fishing, but he also had a packing boat. What they call a packer. It looked like an ordinary fish boat, but it was a little bigger. And he would go out and collect fish for the Japanese fisherman. But he was very close to my dad, too. And Shuz (?), his wife, she cleaned our house once a week. So we knew them very well. And they had a son Leonard, but Leonard was born after they were incarcerated. The other families, there was one there, he build ships. Matsumoto, I think, was his name. And he lived there, but his shipbuilding place wasn't there. I don't know where it was. Later, he had it in North Vancouver, but that might have been during that time, too. You know, I was only ten when they left, so there's some things I don't remember. Baba's (?) Store was there. It was a regular little convenience store, it had absolutely anything anybody would need in an emergence. And everybody shopped there. Lots of the kids, they bought candies there. I wasn't allowed to buy it because I had such bad teeth. I think I had nineteen cavities filled by the time I was seven years old, so that's how bad my teeth were. So my mother wouldn't let me have candy. But, anyway. It was where the rest of the kids got it. And other families moved in that were very close to the Japanese. The Bicknell's moved next door. The Matheson's (?) first, and they had kids that knew the Japanese very well. And then the Bicknell's. There's none of them left, they've all died. But there's not too many non-Japanese families. The Bicknell's, the Matheson's (?), ourselves, Golespies (?) at the other end. Charlie Golespie (?) was the manager of Imperial Cannery, and it was the big, big cannery at Steveston. And my dad was also in the fishing industry, so they all knew the Japanese in more than one way. As neighbours, and as fishermen.
CN
Do you have any memories of going to school and playing with the other Japanese Canadian children?
DB
Oh, definitely. I started school when I was five, and the reason I did is that another little girl who lived on the island, I played with her every once in a while, and she was going to school, so my mom thought I could go to school with her. Which I did. And at school, there were quite a few Japanese families. At Ridgeport School (?). One of the shortest little Japanese boy, in grade one, his name was Isabaro Ito (?), and whenever we had to do any sports together or dance together, as we had to dance the Maple/Maywell (?), Isabaro (?) and I were always partners. And I don't know where he went, and I can't find, there's just too many Ito's around, I can't find him. And Emy Kamori (?) was another one. She didn't live on Sea Island, she lived somewhere in Richmond. But she was a friend, too. Yeah, disappeared.
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CN
Could you describe to me what a typical day might have looked like for you at that time?
DB
When I went to school, you mean?
CN
Yeah.
DB
Well, we'd walk up, where we were, at Acme Cannery, we'd walk up about close to half a mile to get the bus. The bus came along, the school bus. And Mr. Jewel (?) was the driver of the bus, and he would come down the island, the time to get us to school in the morning. And first of all go down Cannery Road, and then come back up on to Miller Road, and then come down Miller Road, and we got it at Shannon and Miller. So, that was where I'd walk up the street with all the kids that were going to school. There was also a Japanese School there that they went to after school, but it was at Vancouver Cannery. And I don't really remember the location of it. And we came home to school, all of us, right after school because the bus came back right after. We weren't allowed to-we didn't have time to play around at school after school. So we'd all walk down back to our homes together, and then they went off. So I really didn't see them at that time. I don't think they were in school for too long, I can't remember. I'm sure not more than a couple of hours, yeah. And that was a normal day. Getting up in the morning, walking up the street, going to school, coming back, playing. And when we played, most of the times we just kind of played out of the street or in the backyard, that sort of thing. Just ordinary stuff. We didn't have any teams, there's no teams to, there weren't enough of us for that. And one family, I believe his name was Fukoshima (?), and I mean, I'm trying to double-click that one, but I think it is. And that man was, he was signalling to the Japanese submarines that were in the area. And the RCMP came and, I don't know, whether they took him away. Probably did. Because they had to stay down at our place, they didn't live at our place but they came to our place and they stayed all through lunch time and left all their stuff there, and then came back. They were there for about a week, going through his home. Trying to, you know, get nformation and all that. But he was the only one that I know of that would have done that sort of thing. I mean, I wouldn't even thought that we would do that sort of thing, but he was the only one that was apprehended. Fukoshima (?). He had kids, too.
CN
Did you know the kids?
DB
I think one was Kimgi (?)? But if it was Kimgi (?), Kimgi (?) was kind of a brat. Carolyn laughs. He liked to throw snowballs at you. Rocks and stuff. At girls. Both laugh. Not just me, but most of them. I'm trying to think of some of the others. Like I say, the Koyanagi's we knew them really, really well. And I knew the Asari's. The other families-I didn't know them personally. My mother would have. But, because my mother worked at the cork mill too, so she would see them. But that's about it.
CN
Who did you walk to the school bus stop with?
DB
Well, Kimgi (?) was one. Carolyn laughs. And Kikwei (?). And I'm trying to think of who else would have been there. I don't remember any of the other names. And I don't even see faces in front of me. So there might not have been that many kids that age.
CN
Do you remember about how many of you would walk together?
DB
Oh, probably, maximum four.
CN
And would it have just been kids who lived close by?
DB
Yes. At Acme Cannery. You see you could get the bus at Vancouver Cannery, too, so if you lived on the dyke and were closer to Vancouver Cannery, you'd get the bus there. And once we were on the bus, you jabbered away to the person who sat next to you, but that's about it. It was so noisy.
CN
Do you remember being conscious of Japanese Canadian children versus other non-Japanese Canadians?
DB
No.
CN
There was no difference?
DB
Kids were kids.
CN
Laughs. What kind of games did you play, after school?
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DB
Oh, we played ditch tag (?). Carolyn laughs. And we skated. In the wintertime, if it was a cold winter, there was a pond in the field across the street from Shannon Road and we'd go skating there. There would be a lot of tag. Talked a lot, too. We sat and talked. There wasn't a lot of fancy games, we didn't play fancy games like hockey and stuff like that. None of that. The boys might've, but we didn't. No, that's all I can remember.
CN
And you mentioned when the Japanese Canadians were taken away from Sea Island-
DB
Yes.
CN
You just woke up one morning and they were all gone?
DB
They were all gone, yeah. And grandpa was telling me all about the furniture. We did hear from some of them. There was, I think it was a Koyanagi family-a different one though -and she had about thirteen kids, and I think she was pregnant. We heard that she died along the way. Yeah, there was a few sad stories like that. But they were related to me by other people, you know, I wasn't aware of them. I didn't see it happen or anything because they were gone. I don't know where they went to. They must have been taken away by bus of some kind, and I understood they were put on trains and sent inland. That's all I know.
CN
What was your daily sort of school life like after they left?
DB
Well, you know with kids, you just do the normal things. And we had a lot less kids in the class. Mr. Fitch, he lived at Acme Cannery, he was the grade four teacher. I was in his class. He told me my tongue was tight in the middle and wagged at both ends. Both laugh. I guess I talked too much. Anyway, he became the principal later, but that was long after they were gone. They would have been gone by grade four? Grade four I guess. In my grade four.
CN
About how many kids-do you remember like about how many kids were in your class before and then after?
DB
There were probably... There weren't that many Japanese that lived at the north end of Little Island. Most of them lived in Steveston. So the only Japanese kids that would be in school with us would be the ones from Sea Island. There might have been the odd family that lived around, I think Emy Kimori (?) lived along River Road. But there wouldn't be more than maybe half a dozen that I could recall.
CN
So they were gone?
DB
Yeah, they were gone.
CN
Yeah, and then how many people were left in your class?
DB
Well, the classes in those days, they would be about sometimes as many as forty kids.
CN
Okay, so it wasn't a huge amount?
DB
No, it wasn't a huge diminishing. No. A couple moved up their seats, I guess, that's about it. Carolyn laughs. You had to sit in rows.
CN
Right. Do you remember it being talked about, that your classmates were gone?
DB
No. And I don't remember any of the teachers talking about it, either. Maybe they thought it wasn't right? I don't know. No, I don't remember that. My family did, that's all.
CN
And what did your family say?
DB
Well, they were devastated. And I told you, my grandfather tried to keep in touch with them. My mother couldn't, because she had to look after my dad and me. But grandpa did. And he kept us informed. He had a big piece of paper along the kitchen wall, and he wrote down the names of the people that he'd contacted, and you know things like that. I don't know where the paper went to. That's too bad. Probably threw it out along the way. Yes. You know, because I wasn't very old, I don't remember a lot.
CN
Do you remember going to the interior with your grandfather?
DB
Yes, I do. Because I traveled with grandpa quite a bit, as long as it was in the right season for me. I didn't miss school for it. But, yeah, we went up to visit several families. And the only one I remember visiting was the Asari's. I know we visited others, but I can't remember. I can't remember which ones they were.
CN
Did you go on one big trip or did you go there multiple times?
DB
No, we went more than once. Two or three different trips. And I don't remember grandpa taking furniture. I don't remember furniture in the car-well it wouldn't probably wouldn't go in the car, anyway. But I do remember that it all left, except the four pieces that were left behind. And I still have them, or I have two of them.
CN
What was that like to make the trip from Sea Island to the interior of BC? Do you remember driving through into the interior?
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DB
Yes, yes. Well, it was the same route as they take today. You drive up, you know, towards Chilliwack way, and then carry on. I think the one time we went, I remember we went through Osoyoos, and then took a road up from Osoyoos. That's all that I can remember of the travel. Probably I'd be reading, sitting in the back reading funny books or something. Laughs.
CN
This would have been in the summertime if you were out of school?
DB
Oh yes, summertime.
CN
Was it hot?
DB
Well, some summers are hot. Some are nice and warm. But yeah, it would be warm.
CN
Do you remember how you felt sort of driving through? Were you excited to see people?
DB
Oh, yes. Always. Wherever we were going, grandpa would be talking about them. Talking, sort of refreshing my memory at the time.
CN
And so did you get to see some of same people that you were friends with at school?
DB
Yeah, I saw Kekwei (?), and we had a nice day together. Then we went on. These are people, the people we went to see were the same families that left furniture with us or grandpa worked with. He just always checked up on people.
CN
Do you remember, like would you also play games with-I guess you would have been a bit older when you went to visit them?
DB
Yeah.
CN
LWould you be playing games? Would you be talking?
DB
No, mostly talking. Yeah, mostly talking or walking around their district to see where they lived.
CN
And what were the towns where they lived like?
DB
Well, those little towns, I guess they had to expand a little bit to take some of the Japanese families in? But a lot of them haven't changed that much. If you go up there you can see new buildings, of course. But they were pretty small. They had little neat houses, which are probably still there. It wasn't anything different, because where we were on, where I would travel on Lulu Island, that's Lulu Island was like, too. Tiny little houses. Nobody had mansions. The house we had on Sea Island was three floors, that was pretty big. It got moved three times-two times, by the government.
CN
Sorry?
DB
By the government. Our house we lived in.
CN
Your house did? Oh.
DB
Yeah, because it's right where the airport is now. And they moved it from Shannon Road, and first of all it went down to the end of Ferguson Road, and then where it went to wasn't far enough, so it ended up on Tap Road.
CN
The same house-
DB
Same house.
CN
-was lifted up and moved?
DB
Yep. Just picked it up and moved it.
CN
Wow.
DB
Yeah, it was well built. Carolyn laughs. Three stories.
CN
Yeah, three stories survived that.
DB
It's still there, somebody told me. But I don't know how you get to Tap Road. I was going to try and find out.
CN
I'm interested in that. What was the process like? How old were you the first time it happened?
DB
When they moved us?
CN
Yeah.
DB
Well it was 19-What year did the Japanese get moved up?
CN
'42.
DB
'42. I think the airport came in '50. 1950.
CN
Okay.
DB
So I would have been 18?
CN
Okay, so you were already an adult?
DB
Yeah. Still living at home though. And that year my grandfather took me to England for the summer, when I was 18. But I do remember having to move out. They moved first, my mom and grandpa. In the meantime, my dad had died. But they moved first to Lulu Island, and then later they moved to Ladner. Not Ladner, but Boundary Bay. And that was later. But I moved when I was 19. I married, and I moved to Burkville. Which is where the houses that Boeing built for the workers in Boeing's during the war. And I was there for three years. So I was still on Sea Island, but Acme Cannery was no longer around. It got torn down right away, in the 50s.
CN
I see.
DB
And my grandfather's cork mill got torn down, too. He had to quit doing what he did. So he bought a boat and went fishing. Laughs. Yeah, he didn't stop working.
CN
Do you remember how you felt when these changes were happening, like when your family's house was moved and also when the cannery was closed down?
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DB
Well, you know I don't remember. Well, the cannery had been closed down, both Acme and Vancouver Cannery had been closed before I was born. But they still called it Acme Cannery and they still called it Vancouver Cannery. But the net wracks were there. Where the fisherman from the canneries had their nets. And they stayed, and of course the houses that the Japanese were in were there, too. But when they moved us out, we were gone and we didn't see anything come down. They came in and wiped it out very quickly. So I don't remember it going. I mean certainly we were nonplussed about what had happened. But what could you do? We had no choice. And it was a busy time in my life, because when I was 19 I met my husband. He was an airline pilot. We got married, and then I had twins. And another one. Laughs I had three kids. You know, when you have those kinds of activities, you can't look after everything.
CN
Yeah, yeah. Do you know much about what happened to the places where the Japanese Canadians on Sea Island used to live, their homes?
DB
Well, there were three or four nice homes. Like, you would consider them proper homes. The rest of them lived in shacks on the dyke. Or shacks along the dykes. But those nice homes, first of all, the officers at the airforce moved in. They were given an opportunity. Some of them were married-they had been married overseas they'd been married, and so their wives would be brought over and they lived there. My mother was sort of the, I don't know how you'd explain it, but she kind of looked after the whole area. And a lot of the women that the air force people brought over, the husbands went back overseas again and the women are there with their children. And they were mostly from Britain. But you know, they weren't the best mothers in the world because they'd go downtown and leave their kids alone. And my mom would have me watching over the kids. The one house that was closest to us, there were two little kids in there, and they'd be running around. The doors are never locked, there was no reason to be afraid of anybody. So mother would send me over to make sure they got into bed okay. Laughs. I don't know whether the kids ever said anything, but you know, I'd watch them. And then later, after the war, the houses were sold. And the Fukashima (?) house was sold to the Chutters (?). I was, I used to help look after their kids, the Chutters. And then the other one that was on the-Tisherama's (?) I think owned it, yes Tisherma's-the Matheson's (?) bought it. They had been down there at Acme Cannery before, and then some of the kids came back and bought houses. And I can't remember who ended up in the one beside us, but there were three nice houses. Three. Not four, I said four, but three.
CN
And you said that your grandfather kept some of the furniture for some of the families.
DB
Well, there was the one family that didn't come back. So later, it sat in the basement for years, and when we had to move, it had to go somewhere. So I ended up getting it, but I didn't have room for it all. So I stored a couple of chairs. And then later on, I gave it to my son.
CN
Do you remember the name of the family that didn't come back?
DB
No, I don't know. If I did, I would have contact them, but I don't remember who they were. I don't even remember the names of all the furniture we looked after because grandpa...
CN
He was the one who kept track of all of that?
DB
Yeah.
CN
But you said that most families actually did come back and claim their furniture?
DB
They all, except one. They didn't necessarily come back. They contact grandpa, and he shipped it to them. And knowing grandpa, he wouldn't have charged them, either. Carolyn laughs. That's the kind of guy he was.
CN
So it wasn't a matter of people returning? It was, settling their affairs-
DB
No, no. He'd send it to wherever they were. Some were in Ontario. I remember that part. I don't remember which ones.
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CN
Do you remember how long it took for them to send for their things? Was it a period of a couple years, or ten years?
DB
No, it was much faster than that. It went out quite fast. I think once they got into where they were settled-which could have been you know two weeks or four months-it was very fast. It cleared out. Some of it might have taken a little bit longer, I don't know. Just the one family didn't come.
CN
Did your grandfather every talk about that process of taking care of the furniture?
DB
No, once it was there he just went back to work and didn't think about it. If they contacted him, he sent it to them. That was it. He was a matter-of-fact type of person.
CN
I see.
DB
Yeah. Laughs. But he kept in touch with them, too.
CN
Even afterwards?
DB
Oh yeah. Yeah, they kept in touch. Well most of them came back. They didn't all come back.
CN
I see.
DB
But some of them did come back, and they went back to Steveston. And of course, as I said my dad and grandpa were in the fishing industry still, so they knew each other.
CN
Did you see much of those families after the war when they came back?
DB
No, I didn't. By that time, you know, I'm on my own with my own kids. And I only stayed in Burkville for three years. And when Laura was born, the house was too little. Those houses were very little. They only had two tiny bedrooms. And so I moved to River Road on Lulu Island. And later we moved to Beach Grove by Boundary Bay. So I lost check. I lost track then. And there weren't any Japanese down at Boundary Bay, none that I can recall.
CN
Can you tell me about how your grandfather got into the fishing industry?
DB
Well I don't really know how he got into it, but he came from England in 1907 with his wife. They arrived in Montreal. He had a bad heart, and always right till the end of his days, took heart medicine. His wife was a frail person. But grandpa's brother, he was the twelfth of his family, grandpa was the twelfth, and his brother was the eleventh. And they were very close. And his brother's name was George Golding (?). But when he was, I don't know how old George was at the time that he did it, but he impregnated a woman, and so he had to leave England. I don't know. There wasn't a law, but I guess he was embarrassed, or forced out, or whatever. So he told grandpa he was going to Australia or Canada. So how he got there, we don't know. But when grandpa was married, he wanted to find George. So this is before my mom was born, my mom was born in 1912. So they came in '07, so 5 years. So he decided that he was going to find George. So he got to Montreal. He was too sick to work, but my grandma worked in housekeeping. Somehow-god only knows how they found the money, because when they came they had eleven dollars. These days, that might have been about one hundred dollars. Phone rings; tape is momentarily paused.
DB
So, and then somehow they got to Montreal to Winnipeg. And at that time, they were boarding with a farming family, and they could both work. She worked in the house, and grandpa worked in the barn somewhere. And in the meantime, he'd found a George Golding, but it was the wrong George Golding. The George Golding he found was in Ontario, somewhere, and he was an Olympic Walker. A Champion Olympic Walker. So grandpa kept in touch with him because their names were the same and everything else, and he probably was from England originally, anyway. And then, somehow, they got to Vancouver. Now, this was still before my mother was born, and I don't know where they lived right away, but they got to Sea Island-Acme Cannery area. And I don't know how grandpa started the cork mill, I never found out how he started it. But everything in there, he made himself. He was a really, really industrious craftsman of any kind. For example, I went to England with him when I was eighteen-went on a trip around Europe. And we're in the bus, and the bus broke down. And so, we were stranded. And so grandpa said, “Well let me try.” So he got a big cloak and put it on, from the driver, and he went under the bus, and he fixed the bus. That's the kind of guy he was.
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00:35:38.000
DB
And in his cork mill, all the equipment he had, he'd built himself. He'd made it himself. So he was just a really ingenious person that way. And all his life he was like that. He had a workbench downstairs in our house, an you know he'd make anything. He made all my Christmas presents for me when I was a little kid. And I know they were quite poor before I was born, because they were walking down the dyke towards the cork mill, and it was almost Christmas, and my mom told me that grandpa saw something floating down the river, which he thought might be money. And he got his knife out, and sharpened this twig, and sure enough he went down to the raw edge of the river, and he stabbed this thing and it was a ten dollar bill. My mom said that paid for Christmas dinner. So that's the difference, these days. Laughs. So you know, it was poor times. And the Japanese weren't rich either. They fished and they got a bit of money out of that. And some of them, they also worked fixing fish nets because we had one set up in our basement, but they had them too. And the nets didn't have a binder on them for the corks. So we had to crochet like a binder on them.
CN
To keep the corks on the nets?
DB
To keeps the corks on, yeah. A big thick rope. And then that would hold the corks. But I know it took us days to do one net, maybe two or three of us doing one net. And I think they paid us fifteen dollars. Laughs.
CN
Wow.
DB
So we'd each get five bucks. Both laugh. No, it was interesting times.
CN
So you'd do that work with your mom?
DB
No, not my mom. I'd do that work with other people. Other people in the neighbourhood, neighbours.
CN
Oh I see. Just neighbours.
DB
Neighbours, yeah.
CN
Would there be Japanese Canadians?
DB
Yes, it could have been. But I think it was probably after that I did it, because I'd have to be old enough to do it. But I remember, it's always been done in our basement. And then there were other places, too. Before they had refrigerators. They had these huge things, about this big, round.
CN
That's about, what, two feet high?
DB
Yeah, about from here to there.
CN
About two feet?
DB
Yeah. Big, round. You'd dig a hole. Grandpa would dig a hole in the ground, outside. And you'd fill it full of water. Then you'd put butter and stuff that in it. That was how you'd keep things cold.
CN
Oh, I see. Just like a cylinder of underground water?
DB
Yeah, yeah. There's a special word for them, I can't remember what it was. But we all did that. And I remember the Japanese did that, too. Yeah, there was no refrigerators for quite a long time.
CN
So after he had the cork mill, you said he actually went and started fishing himself.
DB
Yeah, he got himself a little fish boat. And he also went on other boats, too. He'd go on tugboats, or was it seiner's and that sort of thing? Yeah, he worked on different boats. But then he got his own boat. And he worked right up-he died when he was 93, but he worked into his late 80s. I remember. He'd go on boats and help.
CN
On the ocean? He'd go out and-
DB
Not really on the ocean. They'd go in the rivers.
CN
Oh, yeah. But nonetheless, doing active physical labour in his eighties.
DB
Yeah, he was active. He was very active. He was very healthy, except for his heart. Laughs.
CN
You mentioned-so how did he get his fishing boat?
DB
Oh, he bought it. He bought a small fishing boat and he just went fishing. I'll tell you a funny little story, One day I said to him, I said “Grandpa, what did you catch today?” “Oh girlie”-he always called me girlie-“Girlie, I just got a couple of french safes.” Laughs.
CN
What's that?
DB
Condoms. Both laugh. I guess they were floating in the river there, or something. That's what he told me. He was a character.
CN
Around when did he start, get his own boat, and start fishing?
DB
He would have been in his 70s, anyway. Late 70s.
CN
And what year would that have been?
DB
Mmm, I'm trying to think what year that would have been. I don't know, my math's not that good.
CN
Do you remember when he was born?
00:40:35.000
00:40:35.000
DB
He was born in 1879.
CN
1879? So he would have been in his 70s in the 50s. So after the end of the war?
DB
Yes, oh yes.
CN
But did he say there was a Japanese Canadian connection to his boat?
DB
Not his boat. My dad's boat-
CN
Oh, your dad's boat.
DB
My dad's boat. Yeah, my dad bought Toshi Karnagi's boat. And that was a packer. And he bought it from the government, because the government had taken everything over. And then when Toshi came back, he came back to Steveston. And he gave the boat back to Toshi. And Toshi and his son used it. Toshi died young. But Toshi and his son used it for several years, and then the son Leonard gave it to the museum. I don't know why he gave it.
CN
So, what's the timeline of that? So your father bought it. Did he buy it right in '43, right when they were selling off the boats?
DB
Probably, in there. Yeah.
CN
Was that his first boat, too, or was he already fishing by that point?
DB
No, he was never a fisherman. He was a cannery manager. I don't recall that he ever had a boat before. His brother was Sam Montgomery, and Sam owned Richmond Transfer. Which transferred all the fish from Steveston to wherever it was going, and brought stuff in, of course, too. To all the canneries. He was the only transfer company that seemed to be in there. First of all, my dad worked for Sam, Uncle Sam, for a long time. And then he got a job at a mill along Marine Drive someplace. I can't think of the name, but right now but it's not that important. And then he got a job at Colonial Cannery as the manager. And he was the manager there for quite a long time. And then he got moved to Saint Mongle Cannery (?), which was in Richmond but very close to New Westminster, at the very far end. And Johnny Clark was the president of Colonial Fishing Company, and they all knew each other. I think they belonged to the Masonic (?) Lodge or something together. They all knew each other. So Pa was in that part of it. But when Toshi was incarcerated, well then dad bought that boat. And that was when he was in Steveston, at the Colonial Cannery, and he didn't run it. Somebody else ran the boat for him.
CN
So he rented it out?
DB
He'd take it out sometimes. Occasionally. Maybe weekends or something. And I went with him a lot, on the boat. It was nice.
CN
Would he take it out and fish? Would you be fishing at this time?
DB
No, no, no. It was a packer. He'd go out to other boats and he'd get fish from the other boats. And then he'd bring them back. Grandpa did the same thing with his scow, when he took the scow out. He would get the fish. And then he had a big boat and he'd take it around to Canadian Fishing Company, which was downtown. He'd take the fish down there. But that was after. That was more after the Japanese left.
CN
And when did your father give the boat back to the Koyanagi's?
DB
After Toshi came back. I don't remember the exact year, but whenever they came back to Steveston. And he had Lenard then, the little boy. I don't know exactly when the year was.
CN
Would it have been sometime in the 50s? Around there?
DB
Probably, around there. In the 50s or I'm sure Toshi came back as soon as he could, because he wanted to be in the fishing industry.
CN
Right. And this was the family where the mother would clean your house?
DB
Yeah, Shuz (?).
CN
So you were actually quite close to that family?
DB
Yeah, there was a little poem we had. Something about Shuz. I can't remember, I might think of it later.
CN
Okay, well let me know if you do. Did your father ever talk to you about how he felt about buying this boat that had basically been taken from his friend?
DB
No. No, he-I think there was nostalgia there. I think he didn't want anybody else to have that boat. And he probably thought, “He'll come back some day.” Because he just gave it back. Yeah, no he didn't really need a boat. He had a good job as manager. But he was proud to have it. They were a very close family. Quite nice.
00:45:31.000
00:45:31.000
CN
Do you remember any other stories that your father or your grandfather told you about their connection with Japanese Canadians that you can share?
DB
I'm trying to think. Pauses. I'm not... Just let me look at these notes and see if I've written anything down about it.
CN
Sure. Jog your memory. Doreen lists a few words while flipping through papers.
DB
That was our neighbours. On the boardwalk. I told you about the gardens that they had. They fertilized it with night soil it was called. Not with urine. And oh yeah, that was Fukashima had a son, Kimgi, who used to throw rocks at me. Toshi Koyanagi had a long boardwalk. His wife Shuz cleaned our house. They had a son Leonard. Born in New Denver. If I told you the boat was the Ioma (?). Takahashi was a boat builder, I remember him. He didn't have a belt, he used fishnet to hold up his pants. Both laughs. I think that was cute. Nobody said anything. They were the ones that had a big garden next to our place, too. And they grew strawberries and raspberries. Baba's Store, I told you about that. The Asari family-they had a big family. I only remember Kekwei (?). We played together a lot. My grandpa visited the Japanese families who were living in BC. I went a few times. They lived, oh I told you it was Fernie, it was New Denver they lived in.
CN
Okay. Yeah.
DB
Yeah. Vancouver, Canada, there were also Japanese families. But I don't remember their names. There was a store there, and after the Japanese left, Percy Bicknell (?) who was our neighbour, took it over. We also got invited to a lot of Japanese events. If some of the Japanese had weddings or anything like that, they'd invite us. And they give gifts to the guests. Did you know that? I still have a pillow slip that my mother and me saved. We all went to school, Ridgeport School, and then Richmond High School on Sexsmith Road. But that was later. hey had their own school at Bangford (?) Cannery, which they attended after school. One morning, got up, and they weren't coming to the school bus. They'd all been rounded up and shipped by train at least a hundred miles inland.
CN
Did you know beforehand that they were leaving?
DB
I didn't. We didn't hear. I think they just came and scooped them up. I don't think they had time to do much else but just grab their assets. Fish boats, businesses, and furnishings were taken over by crown assets. I assume that they were paid for them, but apparently they weren't at first. I don't know, they were shipped out. And this all about them bringing their furniture over. A Japanese family that-one of the Koyanagi's had fifteen children. Mother died. Going inland. A bit about the officers to live in their homes. Later they were sold. And the RCMP came to Mr. Fukoshima's (?) house to search it. That's about all I can remember.
CN
Do you remember, you said you went to New Denver, do you remember any of the other places that you went to in the interior?
DB
No, I don't. I don't. I'm sorry I don't.
CN
That's okay.
DB
Gone from my memory. At my age, you forget things. You forget names, too. I'm glad I had them written down.
CN
Yeah, that's great. I wanted to ask you about after the war. Any sort of memories you have? You mentioned trying to find Japanese Canadian friends that you'd had?
00:50:25.000
00:50:25.000
DB
Yeah, I did. And I spent quite a bit of time. I'd look through the names that I recalled. And I'd look through, go online through the directory. Vancouver first. And then BC after. And then Alberta. And I contacted quite a lot of people. Some of them got back to me and said, “Oh yeah, my mother, she came from-she knows people at Sea Island. But she died.” You know, laughs that was the kind of thing I got. There was not too many that were-I don't think I got any. The one family, I didn't hear from the one family and I'll tell you which one it was. And I didn't even remember their name that much until he gave it to me. It was the Kami Takahira (?). I talked to somebody in that family on the phone. And he remembered my Grandpa Golding, and you know. I can't recall if he said or remembered me. But you know, I put that name down, because I should have remembered it but I didn't. Carolyn laughs.
CN
So around when were you doing this kind of search? Was it something that you started in recent years?
DB
Yes, it's in recent years. And the trouble is, if I had started this episode before all the people died like Gordie Bicknell (?) and people who had worked for my grandfather would have remembered a lot. Because they were, a lot of them were younger than me. For example, I'm trying to think of the other Bicknell kid, Robert Bicknell. I went to his funeral quite a number of years ago, ten years ago. And he was a lot younger than me. And you know, if those people, if I had talked to them then, we could have got a lot further. But they're all gone. And I met a woman at the Sea ISland, they have a meeting once a year, and last year I met her. And she was the daughter of Gene Glassby, who was one of the Glassby's that lived at Bangford Cannery. And Gene married. And this woman was her daughter. So it was really interesting. WE had lunch together, just reminiscing. But it was mostly-like she was a lot younger than me, so she didn't remember that part either. But she did remember some of the names. Not the Japanese names, but family names.
CN
What motivated you to start looking these people up so many years later?
DB
Well, the Sea Island Heritage Society, they have an enormous album-must be thousands of pages-about Sea Island. But they had very little about Acme Cannery and Vancouver Cannery, because those places were gone by the 50s. And I don't think the Heritage Society started up. As a matter of fact, when I was married and living on Sea Island at Burkville, I was on the board of the Sea Island Community Association. And you know, they didn't know anything about Acme Cannery. Because all the people had to move out, and they started a place called Cora Brown. Which was on the north side of the island, about halfway down. It's gone now, too. The airport took it out, after. That new runway that just went in a few years ago? That took out Cora Brown. But Burkville is still there. So, Sea Island, they're very active. So I went to a couple of meetings and they found out where I lived, they were very anxious to find out about it. So that encouraged me to start writing it. Well I could remember, “I was so sorry I didn't do it earlier. When other people were around.” That's why I say I'm not doing any research. Well there's one fellow, Terry Slack (?), who lived on Iola Island. He might know a lot that could go into this. But I'll let him put it in himself, because it's not what I know. And I didn't really want to-I didn't have enough time to do proper research. So, just what I know.
CN
And that's for the Sea Island Historical Society?
DB
Yeah.
CN
To sort of fill out the history that they're gathering?
DB
Yeah, they didn't know very much about the Japanese either. So they will when I give them the book. So I don't know how much more I can help you with because I don't know a lot.
CN
Well that's already a lot of wonderful stories, thank you. I do have a couple more questions. Do you remember in the 1980s when the Redress Movement was happening?
DB
No.
CN
No? Yeah, I was just curious because in the 1980s, Japanese Canadians were trying to get acknowledgement from the government for the internment.
DB
Well, I knew that the government had acknowledged, but I didn't remember-
CN
Right. It wasn't something that you remember at the time?
DB
No.
CN
Okay. I'm always curious about people who were around at the time, what they thought of it. Especially if they had some kind of personal connection. You mentioned before we started recording that some of the items in your home are Japanese origin. I was wondering if you could tell me a bit more about what that means to you to have them here and where they came from?
DB
Well, I cherish them. Do you want to see them?
CN
Yes. Doreen takes Carolyn downstairs. The tape gets paused.
CN
So we're back. We just went downstairs to see a sort of small table and one smaller table that are made in a same design.
DB
I think that larger one would probably be like a little coffee table.
CN
Yeah, and the one like a side-
DB
A side table.
CN
Yeah. Beautifully made.
DB
Yeah, they are.
CN
And you said those are the ones that the family never came back to, or never sent for?
DB
Yeah.
CN
But you also mentioned even around this room that we're in that there are several Japanese styled artworks?
DB
Yes, I don't know. I can't be 100% sure where they came from because a lot of them came from my mom and she didn't tell me, you know. She passed away in 1979. So I don't know. But I do have quite a few pieces.
CN
But that sort of connection to Japanese art, do you think that came from the friendships with Japanese Canadians?
DB
Oh, definitely. Definitely. And as a matter of fact, one of my tenants was here one day. And he came in, and he's from South Korea. And he came in and he was just fascinated with the pieces that he saw and recognized, you know. So the next time he came, he bought me a beautiful piece of china from Korea. Laughs. He said, “You've got a lot of Japanese things, but you've got to have something from Korea, too.”
CN
Wow.
DB
That was funny. I have this table for example, when I moved here, my dining room suite was too big for this room so I gave it to my daughter. And I bought this, but it was made in China. You can't find a Japanese manufacturer, so I got a Chinese one. Both laugh.
CN
So, collecting a different variety of things?
DB
Yeah.
CN
I'm wondering, especially since you're writing a book of your recollections, if you've thought about what you think is important to take away from this history of Japanese Canadians along the coast?
DB
Well, there's a lot of racism in our world right now, and some of it's in Canada, too. It's very difficult to know how to stop it, but it has to stop. And what happened to the Japanese should never have happened, and if there was somebody taking pictures of the submarines, well okay get him, that's bad, you know. But that's all you have to do. And the rest of them were good Canadians. And you just don't treat-you know, nobody who was a non-Japanese would treat-and then also, I do recall the Germans, there were a lot of Germans in Richmond at that time. And a lot of them were pro-Hitler. And I had a girlfriend, and this is all sort of the same era, and her parents were really pro-Hitler. And I can't remember which one it was, Himmler or Heir, or whatever his name was-came here. And I remember they were just so excited about what was going on. And yet they did nothing about them. Nothing. And yet, the Japanese because they have a different colour of skin, you can pick them out and turf them out. You know, just like they were useless. No, it was very bad. And I would hope that we never have anything like this happen again, but it is happening, sometimes. You're gettin it in mosques and places like that. But it's pretty hard because there's parts of the world where they're killing people off. So, I'm hoping that Canada stays doing the right thing. Doreen's dog makes some noise of excitement. Doreen speaks to her.
01:00:39.000
01:00:39.000
DB
I'm hoping that if nothing else comes out of this besides the history of the little area, that it will make people think twice about what happened. A lot of people don't even think about it. And I remember in those days, there were people who thought the Japanese were bad. You know, hearing adults talk that thought the Japanese were bad. But that's because of the war, you know. We were at war with them. And they knew it was a bad war, too. They know that, now. Doreen checks on her dog.
DB
No, it won't be in my lifetime, but hopefully the world will smarten up. Carolyn laughs. It's in pretty bad shape, right now. Africa and Asia. And then you've got Trump with his crazy ideas.
CN
Is there anything that you also want people to take away just knowing the local history of Sea Island?
DB
Well that's the purpose of my book, it's the local history.
CN
And are there lessons there-
DB
But, but I think being fair and kind to people is also very important. All people. All the people I know, they are. But there are a lot of people that aren't. Pauses. just got back from Maui, and those islands are lovely. But the people are also lovely, too. There are so many generations and so many different nationalities there. Sometimes they'll have, some of them will have six or seven different nationalities in their family, you know? Married here and married there. Now you don't look like you're 100% Japanese.
CN
I'm 50%.
DB
50%? So your father was Japanese and your mother-
CN
My mother's family is from Newfoundland and England.
DB
Okay. My family's from England. Well, I told you my son, my grandson is married to a half-Japanese girl. And I have all sorts of friends who have intermarried, which is nice.
CN
Have you ever talked to your daughter-in-law about this history?
DB
No, I haven't. Because first of all, she's an airline stewardess, and she's usually away when we get together. Both laugh. And I haven't seen her for a very long time. But I am going to talk to her. And also I made a list because I'm downsizing, I've got to get rid of all of this stuff. I made a big list of it and gave it to the family and said, “Tick off what you'd like to have.” It was funny because some of them wanted just all the expensive stuff like my sterling silver and my good dishes and things like that. Other's they wanted the sports equipment that my husband had. It's funny. Anyhow, I was trying to downsize a bit, and I've got to get my Japanese-I've got to get Rita over and get her to see what she'd like. Because if there are things that are sort of Japanese oriented, she might like them. I don't know. Maybe she doesn't. Can't put words or ideas into other people. Just let her see. But my grandson thinks she'd like them. The problem is that all those those kids.,they're all married but they live in tiny places. It's all they can afford. And so, they don't have a heck of a lot of room for furniture and things, you know. So, I don't know. Maybe sell it and get some money. Both laugh.
CN
Well that's just about all the questions I have. So I just wanted to wrap up by asking if there's anything else that you wanted to share that we didn't get to.
DB
Well, I don't think so. I'm going to write down Bob's name, because I was going to ask him about those chairs. He might not have them, because being stuffed in, they might be too old. That's my card if you want my card if you want my card.
CN
Thank you, thank you very much.
DB
If anything pops into my mind, I'll call you.
CN
Sure. Thank you, thank you very much.
01:05:43.000

Metadata

Title

Oral History:Doreen Braverman, interviewed by Carolyn Nakagawa, 25 January 2018

Abstract

Doreen Braverman was born in Vancouver and raised on Sea Island, BC in the Acme Cannery area. In this interview, she talks about going to Bridgeport School with Japanese-Canadian children and her grandfather’s cork mill business and involvement with the fishing industry. She describes how many Japanese Canadian families lived in shacks along the dike. She speaks about playing games with Japanese-Canadian children, and her family’s friendship with one family in particular, the Karnagi’s. Doreen recalls how before internment, one Japanese Canadian was investigated by the RCMP for signaling to Japanese submarines, and how they took him away and searched his home for a week. She narrates how strange it was for her to get on the bus with the Japanese-Canadian children for school one day, and then the very next day be alone at the bus stop. She recalls going to bed early and not knowing what happened to the families, learning later that they were removed during the evening. Doreen discusses how her grandfather was devastated at their removal, and that he took in furniture for ten families, storing their items in the basement, and then later delivering them or somehow returning them for all but one family. She still has two pieces. Doreen speaks about her grandfather keeping track of people and staying in contact, visiting them in the interior and taking her on trips in the summertime. Doreen also discusses her father buying a Japanese-Canadian fishing boat from the government that originally belonged to Toshi Karnagi; when Toshi returned from internment, her father gave it back to him and his son Leonard. She thinks her father may have bought the boat out of nostalgia for the family friend. Doreen also talks about the book she is writing on Sea Island, and how she’s done research on this history only in recent years. She ends the interview by saying she hopes that if anything comes out of her work other than the history of the area, that it will make people think twice about what happened to Japanese Canadians.

Credits

Interviewer: Carolyn Nakagawa
Interviewee: Doreen Braverman
Transcriber: Jennifer Landrey
Audio Checker: Jennifer Landrey
Final Checker: Jennifer Landrey
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Vancouver, British Columbia
Keywords: 1940s-50s.

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.