Eileen Carefoot, interviewed by Pam Sugiman and Elena Kusaka, 26 April 2015

Eileen Carefoot, interviewed by Pam Sugiman and Elena Kusaka, 26 April 2015

Abstract
Eileen Carefoot begins describing her friend’s memories of living in Steveston and having been “sent away.” She then moves on to her own family’s story of how they moved from Saskatchewan to Vancouver due to the depression and crop failure which plagued the region during the 1940s. Eileen recalls an event where her brothers began banging on the walls in their rented home and heard a hollow sound. After removing the boards, the brothers discovered several items including a set of Japanese dolls stored for safekeeping by Japanese Canadian families. Eileen also recalls trucks arriving in the neighbourhood to hall away the valuables in the houses. She speaks about how the Japanese Canadians reestablished themselves upon returning to Steveston (i.e. creating Buddhist churches, martial arts centers, etc.).
00:00:00.000 Getting set up and taking photos of materials.
Pamela Sugiman (PS)
What's the name of that school?
Eileen Carefoot (EC)
Lord Byng, in Steveston. No pardon me ... It's an elementary school. Darn it, where am I? Maybe it's my husband's.
PS
Maybe you can't find yourself.
EC
Here's another one. This is after the war. There's some Japanese girls. There's me down there. That's my friend Yuki Teraguchi (?) . She's one of the first people to come back to Steveston.
PS
And who's this one?
EC
I can't remember her name. There's no boys, no Japanese boys laughs.
PS
Look at how the girls are dressed. They're so well dressed.
EC
We had to wear skirts, yeah. Our teacher Mr. Windrom (?) , he was the principal but also you had to teach in those days.
PS
Oh, the principal had to be in the classroom, too. It wasn't a large class by today's standards.
EC
I guess not. We were all very polite laughs. No swearing.
PS
I'm sure you were. Not like today laughs.
EC
You got the strap. Even girls got the strap.
PS
I remember that from when I was in school, the strap. I mean, I never got the strap because I was so good, but laughs ...
EC
I don't know if she's there, one girl I know did, she was so tiny and we were all crying. This is a Native girl, Arleen Point (?) , and one Native boy up there. It's funny, I still know most of them. Roberta Blair (?) , they're a pioneer family. Her dad was, they called it Reeve (?) , mayor, and we meet her and friends for coffee once a month.
PS
That's wonderful, to have those longstanding connections.
EC
Anything else you want to see? I'm going to talk about this after. Very interesting, some of this stuff. Some isn't but I didn't really know how much you wanted.
Elena Kusaka (EK)
This is great.
EC
So you're doing a book or what?
00:05:00.000
00:05:00.000 Microphone is being moved and a casual conversation takes place.
EC
This is interesting, about the... This is 1940 September.
PS
And this is from the local paper?
EC
Yeah local paper. It's still in business, Richmond Review.
PS
Blackout regulations.
EC
They were afraid we would be invaded. Our government.
PS
I wonder if we could take a picture of that.
EC
Sure.
EK
Mhmm. I can take a picture of all of this after.
EC
Okay. We used a lot of this in our, we had a display a few years ago. The Nikkei Centre helped alot, and local people. It was really good.
Not transcribed: Brief discussion of schedule and the purpose and objectives of the Landscapes of Injustice project.
00:09:04.000
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PS
Not transcribed: Pam discusses what she has accomplished up until the time of the interview and her family's history. Pam also elaborates on the structures of the Landscapes of Injustice Project.
EC
There are stories that are sad and some are very happy. Not happy in a way, but ... In fact, my friend Toki Okino, I don't know if she's been interviewed. She's probably a couple years older than me. Born in Steveston, her and her brothers, at the old hospital. They had a hospital there, they did, the Japanese built it. I just talked to her a couple of days ago and she was very keen but she didn't really say she wanted to be interviewed. I said, “Well, what are your memories?” She said, “Oh, we were so happy when we were kids”, her and her two brothers. She was the eldest, they lived in a, we called them cannery houses company, right on the dyke with a big ditch. They were very basic. But, she said “we were happy. Mum worked in a cannery and dad fished” and how the story about how they were supposed to stay in bed because mum was working and dad was coming and they were all young. Something happened, a big wave came and the house was shaking so they all jumped out of bed and ran down the boardwalk screaming to the cannery and mum had to stop work.
00:15:09.000
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EC
Anyways, she said that was her memories of living here and then when they got sent away they went to a place called Kaslo. She said it was sort of a mistake but they got there and were put into a really nice house that the postmaster owned. It was right by the lake. So everyday her and her brothers would swim and have a great time and it was so much fun and everybody was so friendly and happy. There was electricity and water. Then the government decided to move them to another town. Anyways, she said it was horrible, horrible. No electricity, no bathroom, and lots of people but I guess they banded together and got housing. Her father was very mechanical, because I was telling her we had a Japanese bathtub in one of our houses, and he built a big one, the Japanese bath, and everyone took turns using it. But she said most of her memories were pretty good and that she was pretty happy to get back to Steveston.
PS
But she's no interested in an interview?
EC
Well, I'll ask ... I don't know if you'll have time but ...
PS
Well, I'll be back.
EC
She has a bit of a problem with her throat. I don't know what it is but she kind of can't talk too long. But both her brothers are deceased and she lives alone in a nice big house and she keeps saying “Eileen, do you think I should move? Should I go to the seniors?” and I'd say “no, please don't go. Stay where you are.” And of course, she has her little shrine and every once in a while brings some cookies over for her brothers and give them a little kiss laughs because they were such good friends, her brothers too.
PS
That's a wonderful story.
EC
She's just a wonderful friend. If I go there, I phone, and she'd say “Oh, misses so and so is here.” “But she speaks English.” I said, “I don't care if she doesn't speak English, you can interpret.” I drop in sometimes and I guess they're a little embarrassed but I just say “go ahead, and I like listening to your language and you can tell me what she's saying, especially the older ladies.” They love to visit and have tea with my friend Toki.
PS
Not transcribed: Pam discusses with Eileen what will be done with the information being gathered.
00:19:50.000
00:19:50.000
PS
Not transcribed: A minor discussion about interviewing fisherman in the 1960s and 70s.
EC
I sat out on a bench with a good friend for an hour one day. He was cleaning his, they call them lockers. The canneries all have a locker for storage... net shed. And they go over there to store their gear and papers and he was quitting so he gave us a bunch of papers. And we talked and talked, in fact, this is a picture of him. Harry Thompson. And his boat, as you can see... Where do you want me to hold this?
EK
Oh it's okay, I'll take a picture after.
EC
These numbers on it. And, that's Harry, he told me every boat with a motor had to be ready for war. Even his little boat. And so he gave me the picture, I thought, “well that quite amazing, what on earth could you do?” Laughs. So, did you know that?
EK
No, I didn't they had to be... He's wearing his little, is that like a army kind of hat?
EC
No it's just a hat, they wore any old thing out fishing. Pause.
PS
You have so much to share. Maybe we can start with information about your own childhood, your own past. Did you grow up in this area?
EC
Yes, I did. We came with a lot of other people. In the depression, in 1941 I believe, we left Saskatchewan. The crops had failed and we were starving, we were, because mom cooked everything up that we had and I don't know if you've ever had them but the beef bones, it's got marrow inside, and it tasted okay to me I can't remember, but we ate it. My father, I guess he's got enough money to take the train to Vancouver, because that was where the jobs were with the war on. He stayed with my aunt who lived in Vancouver. It seemed like everyone was moving west at that time. So my mother had to have an auction of everything we owned. I still have the papers at home.
00:25:07.000
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EC
Even my doll cradle, that little doll cradle, and uh, the cow, pots and pans, everything. She got enough money, I guess, for the train trip. There were five of us. My little brother was only, I guess I was five and he was three, then my sister was four years older than my two older brothers. So we got the train to Vancouver and I asked my brother “what train ... where did we stop because I don't remember going?” Maybe we stopped in Jasper because we had our first ice cream cone. My mom said, “hurry up, we have to get on the train.” I tripped and fell and my ice cream went flying so they had to share it. We got on the train and some nice lady gave me some candy. I remember that and she took her finger like this and I had no idea what that meant, when you wiggle your finger to come here. My mother said, “she wants to see you” and we were all very shy being from the prairies and not seeing many people but there was a school. So we got to Vancouver and my dad met us and he said “I'm sorry, but we don't have a home, yet.” He said he had a room above a building in Chinatown above a restaurant. I laugh because, I say that's probably why I like Chinese food, but I don't remember. So, we got there for a few weeks, probably, and then we rented a house on Main and Thirty-Third in Vancouver, in the back of an old store. Well, that was really great because we had a bathtub and running water, a toilet, and electricity, and we did in Vancouver but none of my family knew anything about flushing the toilet, “wow, a switch”, because of course on the prairies you didn't have anything like that. So we lived there for about a year and I remember them bringing the horse and buggy delivering milk and bread. We were quite close to that graveyard, uh, Frasier? There's a big ...
EK
Across from the school?
EC
Yeah. There's a big ... yeah. The hearse would go by a lot and my mom would always tell us that somebody had died. So we really didn't know much. There was a Japanese little store across the street on Main and he left. My mother tried to explain, I guess. Then my dad found a house in Steveston, it's gone now, but it was up on the dyke and we moved here. There were lots of empty houses. That one was pretty good because we had electricity and we even had a toilet and the Japanese bathtub. So, I was only six then and my sister was ten and my little brother was three. Mum went to work right here in the cannery in the Gulf of Georgia on the herring. I remember mum saying, “don't leave the yard. Don't ever leave the yard” because of the river. A lot of children were drowned in the river. My dad got a job, I do have a photo of him here. He was a guard at Boeing Aircraft. They were building fighter planes on Sea Island. The Boeing Company which, of course, is stationed in Seattle. He was pretty happy to get a job and he was issued a gun. He, of course, said “I would never shoot anybody.” But he was told if anybody came in a boat to ... I guess they had a code or something to halt them and inspect them. Anyways, in the house that we rented we were pretty happy because upstairs the people had left, well they left almost everything. The beds, they were homemade wooden beds with a mattress so, we didn't have anything, so we slept in the beds. Downstairs there was kindling, my mom was very sad, I remember she said “isn't this terrible?” The people even had to leave their kindling, they left their spices in the cupboards because, of course, they could only bring a few clothes. My brothers, who were very curious went upstairs and they were banging on the walls and, of course, they heard something or they could tell it was hollow.
00:30:05.000
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EC
They pulled the boards off and oh, they stored their belongings, their pictures, and those lovely Japanese dolls in the cases and, being children, we played with them. My aunt came out and she said that was a shame so she took one home, but we didn't have any idea what they were. The custodians, they were given the job of looking after, supposedly, the belongings of the Japanese people. I don't know if they were allowed to sell them or what but my mum needed a sewing machine and there was one in a house down the street and, of course, we couldn't take anything but later, at night, you could hear the trucks coming up down the road from Vancouver and they were taking everything of value from the houses and nothing was being done. So my brothers went over and they said “well, we might as well take the sewing machine.” It was a pedal sewing machine for mum. There were a lot, a lot, of nice furniture. In the house we rented, there was a homemade trunk so we kept that when we moved. We had so much freedom, later when we got older, when we could go out, there were so many children all along this Fourth Avenue and right here there were cannery houses. They were all rented out to people who worked in this cannery and all up the dyke there were houses so people came from all over. Caucasians and Natives, they all rented them off the canneries. So, it was really a fun time because there was no people getting molested or anything and we'd go up on the Garry Point dyke and we'd build bonfires. In summertime, we'd spend the whole day and the Chinese gardener would give us cucumbers and potatoes and we'd hall them up there and, you heard the cannery whistle a few minutes ago? Well, we'd kind of live by the whistle because at suppertime, five o'clock, we'd hear the whistle and we'd all have to run home. At noon, of course, we'd ... School days you'd hear the whistle and at a quarter to one you'd have to make sure you got back to school. Another tradition, I mean it was really good that the Natives that lived here, at the time, they knew we were all poor and sickly and they gave us all kinds of good fish. The Chinese gave us fruits and vegetables. One of the traditions, the fishermen, when they went out, the first sockeye, the spring ... it didn't matter they'd bring it home. If the neighbor didn't have any you'd share it. I remember coming home at noon for lunch and the whole neighbourhood, wow, it smelt like frying fish. So that was one of our traditions. We had a good life and went to the little school, Lord Byng School, and then we heard that the Japanese were coming back. I know my parents always said, you know, they thought it was a shame the way things had happened and that everything was taken from them; their boats and um ... but before that my brothers, of course, they wanted to make money so they were always, they called them skiffs, the rowboats around. Somebody gave them one, I guess, and they went down to the government and bought a fishing license for one dollar and somebody gave them a net and told them how to go out. So away they went, out in the river. Neither of them could swim. In fact, hardly any fishermen knew how to swim. They caught salmon and sold them and they thought “boy, this is a pretty good place to live.” Later on, they got summer jobs at Boeing Aircraft and in the canneries, of course. Everybody worked in the canneries. My sister, when she was fifteen, she worked in this cannery but they found out she was fifteen and her girlfriends and they said “no, no, no. You have to be sixteen.” Anyways, Steveston had a lot of new people moved in and then when, I'm not sure exactly, probably 1947 or 1948, when the Japanese came back and our teacher Mr. Windrom and our parents all said “the children are just like you and treat them nice when they come back.”
00:35:14.000
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EC
So, of course, they were just like us so we didn't ... we all got along great. It was fine, and a family moved in next door to us. My mother and dad lived down the road and, I'm not sure, I can't remember the name, Shindy, and they had several children and grandma and grandpa lived there too in not a very big house but ours was small too and we had five children. It was really fun for them to move there and I remember Grandma, little tiny thing, she always carried one of the babies on her back and the parents fished and worked. They had their gramophone and they loved the Japanese music. So it was kind of neat to hear all the Japanese music with the door open. They lived there for a long time and they were like everybody else. They had hardly any money when they came and they worked hard and bought houses like we did, eventually. So it was good that we had cheap housing to rent. My mom and dad did buy the house over on Chatham Street. That was an awful place. It didn't have a toilet. We had an outhouse in the backyard. Later on we did get a toilet in there and cold water so we had to heat the water on the stove. So when we talked to my Japanese friends and they say “gee, you had it just as bad as us when we were interned. We came this way and you went that way.” We didn't have ... of course, that was war and nobody really had too much money. So that's some of my memories and ... so we went to school and one of the things that happened, which we all think is great, intermarriage and shortly after, my children's age, when they got older, of course they all grew up together, so it was natural that they all got married to each other and so, how am I doing? Any questions? 00:37:50
PS
I was wondering about what it was like when you were ... did you say you were six years old when you first arrived in Steveston and went to the house and there was that Japanese bath and your brothers found things in the walls ... do you remember what your understanding was of why those things were there? You said you parents ...
EC
Yeah, mom told us. My mother and dad they knew of course, what had happened. My mom was so busy, I guess, that she didn't really think to put them away. My dad worked all the time and he fished a bit so I think it was just a terrible thing but a lot of the houses did have that. I've heard stories from other people, so yeah, it was really bad that we played with people's belongings but, uh ...
PS
But you wouldn't have known, you were kids.
EC
Yeah, we were kids, yeah. Fortunately, my aunt did keep the one lovely doll but I understood later that some of the people that did leave their belongings with local people to keep for them. I don't know if you've heard of the Steves family, Steveston was named after them, Steves' Town. Harold and I went to school together, he lives in the family home just up the road in a big old house and his mom and dad had lived here for many, many, well, I guess his grandfather, great grandfather, and their neighbours, of course, were being sent away so they asked Mrs. Steves if she would keep some of their belongings. One of the things that she kept and shared with the community, well, our museum post office, I don't really know if it's a whole case with all of the, it's not a wedding but it's a little doll and the warriors, it's a whole story and it goes from here to there on shelves.
00:40:07.000
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EC
They're about this big and they are beautiful and every, I think it was something to do with girls day or something, we would put them up in our museum. Well, when they came back, the people came and Mrs. Steves had them all nicely and they said, “no, you've taken such good care of them. You keep them.”
PS
The people who originally owned them, they came back?
EC
Yup, they came back and probably they had some other things that Mrs. Steves kept for them. Harold has them now, and I hope, I think he's still is, his mother is gone and dad, because he's seventy-seven years old and whenever there is an occasion he shares them with the community.
PS
What other kinds of things do you remember people finding?
EC
Hm, finding, hm. PAM: There were the dolls and the ...
EC
Lots of books, wedding pictures, not wedding but photo albums and I remember our old house up there, years and years later, much, much later, a man, he was kind of a bit senile and he would come up there and he wanted to see his house, an elderly man, so we'd let him in. This was in the 1980s so we would let him in, this house that we owned, and he would remember all the rooms so it was very sad. My mother and father in law, my father in law was in the Second World War so he'd probably know that after the war they were given, not given, they could buy a house and a piece of land and it was something to do with the War Act. So all around Richmond there were all kinds of acreages were left and my in-laws bought a house on number two road a little farther out. It wasn't finished but it was a lovely home that belonged to a Japanese doctor, evidently. So they got that for a very low down payment. I think my husband said it was $6000 on an acre of land, in the house. They had a very low mortgage and, I guess, lots of people returning from the war, and probably all over Canada. So they did finish the house. It was a three story, very well built, and the owner did come back to see it many years later. He was a doctor and he was very happy, well, I guess not really happy, but glad that the family had fixed it up and mother had chickens in the big garden. Mhm.
PS
That's interesting that people have come back, maybe not to live, but to look at their old homes.
EC
Mhm, but a lot of the houses they did not own here in Steveston. They were company houses and they were actually, we'd call them shacks because we lived in them too and the ones that the canneries built were a little better. Well, we do have photos of them. Lots of the Japanese lived in them too after the war and we used to ... well because everybody had large families. The McDonalds had several and the Rosses had probably eight. The Japanese all had big families, so this whole street was full of children and the fathers fished and the mothers worked in the canneries. There was always a game going on or a fight or something going on laughs. Some of the things that the Japanese, after they came back, you probably know all that, they opened up stores and we had a restaurant, Joe's Café, a friend of ours opened it Shirley and Steve Moroshita and my girlfriend worked for them. We'd go there after school, they had a jukebox, of course, and they knew all us kids and they used to laugh and then after we got married we still knew them.
00:44:59.000
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EC
We'd go and they opened up a grocery store after, Marine Grocery, and they were the nicest people and Steve learned, he just died a few weeks ago, how to be a butcher and everybody would go there and buy their meet. One of the neat things, if you didn't have much money or fishing you could get credit. In the drawer he had all those little books, you know, with your name and very discreet because I had to ask him one day, well Shirley, she said “oh, of course you can. You can charge.” So whenever I would go in she would kind of bring the book out so nobody would ... we all knew that we'd charge there anyway. After, my children and one son collected coins and stuff and Murray and they'd all say “we've got coins for Murray!” if different coins came in and invariably, every time you'd go there they'd always have a treat for the kids and I really miss them. It was a part of my life. Sorry, I'm getting emotional.
PS
No, there's nothing wrong with that. Just take your time
EC
I remember the blackouts during the war when we lived up in the house on the dyke, mom would say that we could have a little light on but we'd put sheets or blankets over the windows because they really thought that we were going to be invaded, I guess laughs. There was a, I don't know what he was called, but the fellow would come around and checked to make sure. It just seemed like it was just a short few years until all this was over, and being children we didn't really know much about it but I remember when the war was over we were all playing ball on the street and somebody announced it so we're all hugging and jumping up and down but we didn't really know what for laughs. I guess I was older then, I must have been about twelve or thirteen, but I really remember when they came back and it was really hard because there wasn't that much housing around then and for them to live in so there were some really bad, well, small houses on the dyke that are long gone now and they had to live there for a while. It didn't seem to take long until they got established again. Of course, they had all kinds of stores in Steveston, jewelry store, I have a list here but it doesn't really matter. Then they built a martial arts center in Steveston and anybody could go there to learn Kendo and Judo. Their Buddhist church, Japanese cultural center, that was another thing when they got the money back from the government. A lot of them didn't want to. Some of them did, they put it towards the Japanese Cultural Center which is behind our community center and my husband, who was a contractor at the time, that was probably in the 1970s maybe, they hired him to help make a Japanese garden with his . They brought a fellow out from Japan. It's still there, it's really neat. It's all got rocks like a gully it all means something and my husband had a hard time communicating with him because he's saying “here, there” and they finally got it right, so it was kind of fun. My husband likes beer, so him and the old fellow had a few beers after work.
PS
You were saying that some, many of them didn't want that money?
EC
No they didn't, no, no. They were very proud and they thought that ... well, it was like, um, how would you say, it was like a slap in the face kind of, to say “you send us away ...” It was the older people. The younger ones were quite happy to get it. I remember they had a list, the community center, for donations for their new Japanese Center and everybody gave something towards it. A lot of them gave it all. I worked in our local little post office at the time and Steve, the one that had the grocery store, lots of them, they always sent parcels to Japan, to their families, especially at Christmas, huge parcels and they wrapped them so nicely. My nickname was Tootsie and he called me that and he came in one day “Tootsey! Tootsey! Send money home, send money home!” I said, “okay, okay.” We had to send the order in Yen, of course. So he'd want to send, I don't know what he sent, some of the money, so I did that.
00:50:04.000
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EC
A lady was there and she said, “wow, you sure understand Japanese!” I said, “what?” because he'd talk very clipped and fast and I said “oh, my friend Steve, I've known him so long I guess I understand him” laughs. But, no, a lot of them didn't want it but some of the younger ones put down payments on houses, some of them went to Las Vegas, whole gang bought a car and had a good time. Yeah, it was an exciting time with everybody. I don't know if you know but our government at the time, I think it was Mulroney, but I'm not sure. He made a mistake. He didn't realize that there were that many that were born, I think they had to be born a certain year, and so it was kind of a joke on the government that they had to give all the, well, not a joke, but because there were so many that claimed that they were born in that area, so it was good.
PS
What do you think of that redress settlement? Do you think the government should have apologized?
EC
Well they did apologize, too. Oh, yes. Definitely. I think so. I think they should have, I mean that was war, that was the time, the prairie people had a terrible time and we, of course, didn't get anything. I guess it's the same with the Natives. They are getting help now. It's a hard ... and the Chinese and the East Indian, well that was a disaster but that was another thing, the boat that they'd left them on. But, it just took years to learn that you don't treat people that way. It's good that ... yeah we were glad that everybody got something back because, of course, they didn't get their land back. Some did because they did have money and they came back and bought land but a lot of them were bitter for years like one family, they were good friends, lived down the road, their kids grew up with mine; Rose and Tom Hiroshi. I asked her, “where did you go?” and they had to go to Alberta and they worked in the beet farms and she said, “oh, I don't even want to talk about it. It was so bad, and so cold, and awful.” But Tom, her husband's family, had some land in, they were farmers, in Steveston and he was quite vocal about it for a long time and Rosie would tell him to “shut up, don't talk about it.” But they prospered. He had his own shop in Steveston where they sold fishing gear for a long time. He was one of the few that owned the building which they sold just a few years ago. All their kids grew up, they're teachers and all got good jobs and Tom used to help at the Buddhist church. In fact, we'd all go there for Bingo and he was the Bingo caller. It was really neat because at half time the ladies would, they still do I think, we could buy chow mein. So growing up in Steveston, certainly was good for myself and my family to have such a big mixture of friends, still do.
PS
Do you remember what it was like right after when they came back and were trying to find homes? Did some of them think that they were going to go back to the same homes that they had left?
EC
I guess they did but, like, I said some of the cannery houses, they got in there. I didn't know that they really knew they thought they would come back, that the government had disposed of most of them, I mean sold them or ... I don't know how many really owned, I guess there were really quite a few, I have no idea. It seemed like a lot of them were renting from the companies. But I didn't really think much about that.
PS
I just wonder if there would be fear on the part of people ...
EC
No, but I know in the fishing industry it was bad for a while. In fact, there's something in one of these papers about it. I don't think that my family were fishing then.
00:55:01.000
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EC
No, they worked in the canneries but some of the fishermen were quite vocal and they had yelling sessions, I don't know if actually fights, but they'd got ... when they came back to ... the canneries had loan them boats. I think they had tried to supply housing. And, of course, they were good fishermen and the local fishermen thought they were taking over I guess so it took a while. But then the same thing happened about twenty-five, twenty-some years ago when the Vietnamese came. They were helped by the government too, and a lot of older people were selling back their boats to the government. So they came and they were very good fishermen so there was more fighting along the waterfront. That took a while to cool down but I do remember that a lot of the fishermen didn't like it. But as far as the merchants, they just fit in and opened up stores and we were lucky we could sample Japanese food and one of our friends, who had a jewelry shop, he was always reasonable and grocery stores, most of them are gone now, there's hardly any merchants and there used to be four, I believe, shops that sold for fifteen years and now there's only one. Of course, the fishing industry isn't what it used to be. So, that's about all. I did ask my sister, she's older but she doesn't remember much unfortunately. She just remembers going to school and, yeah.
PS
What was it like in school?
EC
It was fine. Like I said, my teachers had a talk with us before and they just said that there wasn't any their fault and it wasn't our fault that this happened ... to greet them and try to get along, which we did.
PS
Are many of them still living in Steveston? The Japanese Canadians.
EC
Well, I went to Steve's funeral and I couldn't believe it. The Buddhist church, I would say, I don't know it was standing room only, 200, maybe 300? Lots of old people. Old. I don't know where they lived, maybe they're in Vancouver laughs. There are some here but not that many that I know of. It was a real celebration and, of course, after they have so much food its like a huge, huge meal. Everybody goes but, yup. There are still quite a few and they always had lovely gardens, beautiful flower gardens. There are a few up on Monkton Street farther up but, of course, lots of the houses are being torn down and putting in townhouses. They were famous for their beautiful gardens and one other thing they did every spring, I guess somebody would go to the Gulf Islands and get seaweed and it was so neat because they'd all have their racks out on their front porch. They don't do it anymore because it was the older ones drying seaweed. Same thing, if they had fish they would share it, you know, it was just the way people did it in those days. I think there is, yeah there's still quite a few families around. Like I said, there's a lot of them intermarried.
PS
Those who intermarried are still in the area?
EC
Oh, yeah. They're children of friends that I grew up with and they have their festivals every year still. A lot of them belong to the United Church over here and they helped when they were building the new church, they all helped put money in. It's funny because at the funeral, some of the ladies were saying “how come you don't go to the United Church?” I said, well, because I was a member I said “I haven't got time.” You know, that's a bad excuse. But, yeah there's still quite a few. Have you interviewed any in the Steveston area?
01:00:18.000
01:00:18.000
PS
No, no. So it would be nice to come back in the summer.
EC
Yeah, good friends of mine, Sakai, he was a builder. He's retired now and his son Mark was our manager a few years ago, here. His two children are probably in their twenties now. When he was here, well, I've known him all his life, but I guess about ten years ago he sat down, he said “Eileen, I want to ask you, what happened with the war?” I said, “well, don't you know? My family wouldn't talk about it and my grandparents told me not to ask.” I said, “Oh, Mark.” But anyways, books were coming out then, a lot of books. He had one and we kind of went over it and he said the old people were ashamed, I guess that's what it was, that this happened to them but the younger ones, of course, you don't really know what the conditions, a lot of the conditions, were really, really bad. One lady that I talked to, she's deceased now and I don't think she was interviewed, and she said “they wanted to stay together, grandma and grandpa and the whole family.” I don't know where they were sent. They were sent to this terrible, terrible farm. She said, “I think they were Dutch, but I'm not sure.” The only accommodation they had was an old chicken house. She said, “oh Eileen, it was just terrible, terrible. We cleaned it up as best we could and finally the government agent came and they moved us.” But they did stay together and they were the ones, you had a choice after the war if you wanted to go to Japan, and her father was so bitter that they went to Japan. She said it was terrible there because the village, after the war, they had nothing. They didn't want the Canadians here, over there. She said her Japanese wasn't the same as theirs, speaking. She said, “we didn't stay long. We had to leave because it was just, terrible.”
PS
They came back to Canada?
EC
They came back to Steveston, her dad got a boat, and she worked in the cannery for many years. She just died a few years ago.
PS
What was it like in the cannery?
EC
Well, my mom worked there. I was too young but she loved it. I wished I had taken pictures because when the cannery, they all had white uniforms on, and different canneries, I think the BC packers had green kerchiefs and this one had red so you knew which one. There would be groups of ladies with their gumboots on chugging down the road to work, so many of them, and men. Everybody was cheerful because they were making good money. The Japanese women were very, very good at fileting, it's called. My mom and most of us just, when I worked there later on, we just washed fish on the line. I know that Japanese ladies offered to teach us how to filet and cut fish like and I said “no.” They were so fast at it. I said, “no, I'm not working. I'm only here for a few weeks in the summer.” So I never did learn how to filet but, yeah, there was just so many of them. It was great because they needed all these canneries that were canning fish. At least four of them, so there was lots of work.
PS
There were other groups as well in the canneries, or out in the fishing boats? You mentioned aboriginals and ...
EC
Oh yeah, there were lots of aboriginals and German ... I guess anybody that could buy a boat or work for the cannery, they could. Yeah, my friends were from Germany and they had quite a hard time in Canada for a while. They were from Saskatchewan but his dad was from Germany. He said, “yeah, they, you know, being the war people thought Germans were bad.” But, of course, they weren't. They didn't have any idea what, the kids, what the war was about. Well, we knew but it was so far away.
01:05:11.000
01:05:11.000
PS
Yeah.
EC
I guess Canada, the states, they did the same thing. They sent everybody from the coast. I talked to one man I met, and he worked in racetrack in California, near LA, and he said it was terrible. He said, “I remember working there”, the same as they did here, they housed them in the barns for I don't know how long, but they did that, I know they did. Lots of the older people they can't stand the smell of manure and being housed in the fairer grounds.
PS
People do associate those things with experiences. Just a smell or a song can bring back a whole place.
EC
I love the smell of a barn, I guess because being from the prairies I remember going in the barn with the cows and the, my brothers used ... this is off the story but I remember my brothers had to milk the cows and if we were in there they'd squirt the warm milk laughs. I don't know if mom knew or if it wouldn't harm the cow anyway, but they probably hated milking.
PS
When they were in the cannery, did they perform the same jobs regardless of their background?
EC
Mhm, yeah, didn't matter. We had four ladies that were both Japanese and Caucasian and the men too, but some of the ladies couldn't speak English. Everybody worked hard and knew their jobs, so it was good.
PS
And they'd get paid the same rates?
EC
Mhm, everybody got paid the same, yup. I went back in later years to BC Packers, probably in the 80s, 90s, can't remember, and they changed it to equal pay for men and women because women could operate tow motors and men had to work at the same job cleaning fish. Very repetitive, you just stand there with your knife and a lot of the men, I guess their backs are different, they can't stand for long hours. They hated it. Someone left their gym back behind. Pam and Eileen try to assist the young lady. ███████
PS
I'm just going to go to the washroom quick. Pam leaves the room, door shuts.
EC
So many kids volunteering, it's wonderful isn't it?
EK
Yeah. Pause. They look at the materials Eileen brought. Who is... (? unclear)
EC
It's sort of a, it's just memories of my mum.
EK
Oh this is your mum's.
EC
Of people we knew like in Steveston.
EK
This is your mum's scrapbook?
EC
Yeah. And this is um, on Canada day, we always had, still do... Silence while they read the materials. I don't know if this is the one... No.
EC
Not sure. No it's not. Somebody had wrote a letter about something.
EC
Mhm, yeah that was it. 1949. Silence while they read the materials.
EK
I wonder what, did your mum keep lots of scrapbooks?
EC
No, no. She might've but this is the only one that survived.
EK
Hm. Coughs.
EC
Isn't that interesting, how many, a whole bunch of people showed up for this meeting and they had a secret ballot.
01:10:01.000
01:10:01.000
EK
That was in 1949 eh.
EC
Mmhmm. Eileen reads from document. “Policy should be in view of the fact that some Steveston fisherman have already been discriminatory...” Pauses. “Did not support the terrorist tactics being used. Well that throughout, Japanese Canadians were accepted as brother union members and treated with the same respect.” Door clicks.
EC
Policy should be in view of the fact that some Steveston fishermen had already been discriminated at and did not support the terrorist tactics being used, now that Japanese Canadians were accepted as brother union members and treated with the same respect.
EK
What was the major union here?
EC
The UFAW, United Fishermen and Allied Workers, but they had different unions. They had shore workers and the Japanese had one.
PS
So the Japanese had a different union?
EC
I think they did earlier. We had all this stuff, we had all the information because we did a big display on it. That's quite interesting, isn't it? Talking about discrimination, at least it says '49, and they had a meeting. The union, they had a vote, and they said there were terrorist activities.
EK
And this one says that, this is 1944, it says that the houses that were burned down were formally occupied by Japanese. I wonder which paper this is.
EC
It's probably the province. And this is my brother laughs. I haven't read this first stuff. “Roberto's was saved at ...”
PS
Oh, there was a big fire?
EC
Oh yeah. It says ... Oh, I know, in Chatham Street there were two houses. They burned down. ELENA Oh, so your brothers went around and ...
EC
Yeah, and collected ...
PS
What was the role of the cannery owners?
EC
Good question. I don't know. Make money laughs.
PS
So it didn't really matter if you were Japanese?
EC
No, no, no they didn't care. In fact, I don't think hardly anybody knew the owners. You knew the manager, they always had a manager. Mr. Frasier, Ken Frasier, was one of the managers. I knew it when I worked, when I was in my teens at BC packers. His son just lives down the road still and we're all kind of scared of him. He was kind of rough and tuff. He said, “you really want a job?” and would look at you. But, no, they hired ... I know later on when I went back to work they must have ... I don't know if they didn't have enough workers. A lot of the East Indian ladies came out from Vancouver and it was funny because they didn't really like it and they all wore masks over their face and they'd kind of ... I don't know if they lasted very long. Another time, I worked ... The Nishi family opened up a small fish plant down the road for roe herring because it's a delicacy in Japan. They ran out of herring in Japan in the 1970s, overfish, so our herring are the same. They came over and tested it and they said, yes, so the fishermen went out. They got huge money for roe herring, huge, like thousands of dollars a ton compared to hundreds. They were hiring, so I went and got a job there and they asked me if I had any gumboots or rubbers because all these women were coming and they couldn't get help coming from Vancouver. She said, “I know they won't have proper boots on” so everybody hunted around and gave them their own boots. Sure enough they came in sandals to work in this cannery with cold water. So I worked there for a while but it was too cold, like the herring were salted and then, I was called a herring popper, when I do it two or people think that's really funny. So you'd just go like this and roe would come out and you'd put it in a tray, the roe. It's very tasty, too. Some of the ladies used a chopstick, but I couldn't, to break the skin open. That job wasn't bad but then you'd have to wash it all. You'd sit on a stool on the floor and water coming down and make sure this roe is clean. The water was so cold I said, “I'm sorry, I'm going to get arthritis.” A lot of women did get arthritis, so I quit. But by that time they had a crew anyway.
01:15:21.000
01:15:21.000
PS
Where and at what point of the fish do you break?
EC
It's kind of stiff, you just go like this. Now they have a sexer machine because, of course, they only want the females but that's going back quite a few years. I guess it's the 1980s. It just popped out but a lot of women, rather than pop them, they took the chopstick and just went like this along the belly and then the roe would come out. Yeah, it's a good job.
PS
Yeah, did it pay well?
EC
Oh, yeah. The canneries always paid well. Very good pay. In the summertime when they were busy you'd work long hours, overtime, like four or five hours. If you worked weekends it was double time. So say you got five bucks an hour then it would be five and a half, then ten, and yeah.
PS
Would it be seasonal or would it be steady?
EC
Yeah, it was seasonal and the nice thing about it was you could collect unemployment insurance all winter. Everybody, of course, did but a lot of people got caught because you're supposed to be available and they would be taken off to Hawaii or somewhere. So then they would cheat and somebody at home would fill them out but they finally got caught laughs.
PS
You mentioned earlier that there were some Chinese Canadians, maybe aboriginal people. Were they buying the homes, too?
EC
We found out later, a lot of Chinese had bought business stores in Steveston. Nobody really thought about it. I know one of my friends, Kobi, bought the pool room and I think he still owns the building now but very few owned the buildings. One family who lived in the ... They had river radio it's called, it's now a café, they lived upstairs so they actually owned the building but they must have bought it through the government also because they came when the war was on. There were quite a few people that lived here before the war. In one of the books there's . Gerry Miller who worked in Britannia Shipyards, he spoke fluent Japanese because he grew up in Steveston with the kids. I didn't know that but a lot of them, the kids, of course they all spoke Japanese, except at school, and one story in there they had to stay back a year to go to high school because they couldn't speak English good enough so they had to teach them before they went to high school.
PS
Also, I know you have a lot of stories about how life was like for the Japanese families when they were interned. Did they share them with you, gradually, over time?
EC
The younger ones, like now they all talk about it, a lot of them do, but I think their parents, the old people, didn't want to talk about it. Now the old people, most of them are gone. I don't know about the Nikkei Center, if they talk about them, the war.
EK
At the home? Oh, I don't know. My granddad he was there but she was in Japan during the war.
EC
No, I don't know if my ... Unfortunately, I never asked my mom much about it but they all, you know, like I said, they all worked in the cannery. We all had one theatre in town, the Teve-O. We all went when we were kids to the theatre. They had teen town. I didn't go. I was too young, but my brothers and everybody went. Have you ever heard of teen town? That was another thing. During and after the war somebody organized ... I guess it was maybe Canada-wide. It was just teenagers that got together and had dances and raised money or something, yeah.
01:20:05.000
01:20:05.000
PS
Were you a good dancer?
EC
Well, we all learned how to jive. We use to have street dances also, on Canada day. Right on our main street they'd have a street dance. Yeah, it was fun.
PS
And everyone from the different ...
EC
Yeah, everybody came, yup. Whoever wanted to. The one store would put speakers out and play, I guess it was records. Yeah, it was records laughs. There wasn't too much to do in those days. We finally got, not Steveston, but we did have a bowling alley in Richmond, one bowling alley. We had our local Steve Theatre and they always got good movies there. I think it was only a nickel and everybody would, matinee, we'd all get lined up. “Yay, a movie!” laughs.
PS
There was no special seating for one group or another group?
EC
No, no, no, no. I never even thought of that. No. There were not too many Chinese. They had a huge, huge acreage up on Monkton Street and the family all went to school with us and they had a big vegetable farm. Natives would come in their boats every year for fishing and some lived here. Some stayed, lots of them. Not too many families but they got better treatment, not treatment actually. If they were on the reserve, because they got more money from there, and if they wanted to build a house they could build one. That's still true on the reserve rather than off the reserve. I have a little booklet here on ... We have a ceremony every year, the fishermen's memorial. It's just up on the park and it's a big fishing, you know, the needle that they repair boats with, nets with. The needle, and it's a huge aluminum ... you can see it coming in on the boats. So we have a ceremony, in fact, that's Tuesday and it's got all the names of fishermen that perished from Steveston, not at sea.
PS
That must have happened a lot.
EC
Yeah, it did. Not much now. But it's got, I don't know how many names, it's got a heck of a lot of names and the names of their boats. So I think a lot of towns have that. As you can see there's a lot of Japanese names, too.
PS
Did people pass down the business, the fishing business, the boat to their sons, probably not daughters?
EC
Oh, yeah. Some did
PS
Are there any women who did this?
EC
No, my girlfriend was the first Native skipper on the coast and she wanted me to go wither her laughs. I had young children, she did too, but she got a baby sitter. She was a skipper for a while. She had a hard time getting a crew because a lot of men didn't want to be bossed over by a woman.
PS
When was that?
EC
That was in the 1950s.
PS
That was pretty brave of her.
EC
I know, but her family, from Campbell River, they were in the fishing industry forever and she was a deckhand with them for years. The opportunity came up to get a sailboat from, I don't know, some company so they hired her and she did it for one season.
PS
Do you know many of the ...
EC
We had a ceremony and we read out the names here at the cannery. I know some who had perished a long time ago. But if you ever have a chance, it's worth going up to see and we have a really nice ... The, uh, workers compensation put it on, like all over. They have a memorial for different, not just fishermen but ...
PS
Yeah, there are a lot of Japanese names here.
01:25:00.000
01:25:00.000
EC
Yeah, and we probably get about fifty people, one hundred people out. It's always cold it seems, every year, on the water and lots of boats go by and toot their horns, like, you know, in memory and a rescue boat comes. We started, the last few years, we invite people here in the cannery for a cup of coffee. But, like I said, growing up here was great and my kids, I think they had a good life. My sons all used to go down on and sports fish, same thing as we did, they'd have bonfires. Later on they'd have big parties on the dyke. You'd hear them all yelling and the cops would come and kick them out laughs.
PS
Is your family all still here in Steveston?
EC
My mom and dad are deceased, of course. My sister lives here and two brothers have passed away, and my older brother is in a seniors home in Maple Ridge but he was a fishermen for quite a while. They all worked in the canneries. My younger brother worked in BC Packers until they closed. He wasn't that old but a lot of them got depressed after, because it was a way of life, you know. They'd all go for a beer after supper and he, kind of was only, in the 60s I guess and he just didn't bother with anything after. It was really sad and my sons worked at the big cannery. They were really ticked off when they closed. They figured that it was the Weston family, it was all money but it was becoming old and needed repairs. They had ... so everybody they didn't get any payoff because they were just, more or less labourers. My one son moved to Vancouver Island and became a farmer, and the other son is an antique dealer. But they loved working there, everybody did, and it was very sad because the government had some kind of program to teach them, I was included I don't know why, but I took a photography course with them, and they fixed up and cleared up the waterfront. They'd have groups, I remember them, the men walking down the street arm in arm. They were such good friends and to, you know, clean up the waterfront but, of course, the money ran out and whatever courses I don't know what happened ... Most of them, a lot of them retired and some continued to fish, there's still a few that go fishing.
PS
I guess it's difficult to make a living.
EC
Yeah, a lot of them just work for bigger companies like the prawn boats are pretty profitable and halibut is huge. The price you pay for halibut know, and it's all quota which is very good so they can't fish them out, you know, like they used to just go out whenever they wanted but now they know when they're spawning and there's only certain times of the year, so there still are. Last summer was a huge sockeye run so everybody made lots of money. There's still lots of old timers who still have their boats and if you ever have time you can see the boats but the mortgage is pretty reasonable. Now they're talking about getting a big area for sports, fishermen, and leisure boats because we don't need all that space anymore. So, anything else?
EK
I wanted to ask you, do you remember going to the United Church
EC
Do I what?
EK
You're a member of the United Church? Did you go to church every Sunday?
01:29:55.000
01:29:55.000
EC
The United Church, yeah. Good thing you mentioned that because it was really a good part because we knew the reverend and his wife and they would take us on little outings and we went to the United Church once every Sunday when we were kids and then later on I went for a while after I got married. Yeah, it was ... they were really nice people and fun, nothing too deep or serious. I know every Christmas we'd be asked to bring canned food to people, or something.
EK
Were there many Japanese people who went to the United Church?
EC
Oh, there's lots that still go. Mhm.
PS
There's a Buddhist church as well?
EC
Oh, it's a lovely Buddhist church, mhm.
PS
When did they build that?
EC
Probably in the 1950s, 60s, yeah. They have a pretty big congregation and anybody can go, you can go and learn. They also have the ministers home, they built alongside ... they have a beautiful grounds, it's really well ... the members donate their time to keep the flowers and they had to sell off a piece of it because, of course, they needed money. In fact, my friend Mark Sakai bought a house there. There's just a little row alongside maybe five, or six houses and they still have room and they're thinking of building a seniors home one day and a lot of the seniors now are mostly women because, you know, women outlive men and they all had nice houses in Steveston which are now worth a million dollars or around there, doesn't matter. The lots were a small thirty-three foot lot, it was worth $700,000 so as they got older, and they had two lots, so they sold out and helped the children and now a lot of them have moved into our local seniors home, a lot of them. My friend Toki said, “should I move to the Maple?” and I said “no” but it's about $3000 a month and they do everything for you but we had a kind of laugh because the cook didn't understand that the Japanese had to have rice everyday so now they make sure they have their rice laughs.
PS
When they moved back, did they have those kinds of food supplies, the Japanese families, when they came back here after the war?
EC
Well, I'm sure they got it from Chinatown or somewhere. One of the stories that I heard from my friend Toki, one of the guys was so enterprising somehow he got, her mother did too, they got the train to bring rice to the internment camps and they would sell it laughs. They made money on selling rice.
PS
Some people are pretty enterprising.
EC
A lot of the men, I think, were sent to logging camps. We had one friend that, in the interior, he had to become a logger but he said it was okay and they got paid something, I don't know how much.
PS
What's behind your interests? What prompts you to do so much work in this area?
EC
I'm just interested, I guess, in everybody and it's just, you know, the last, I don't know, twenty years or so since I've learned more from my friends and ... I never thought about ... I'm interested in Native culture, well, I have relatives that are Native and my husband is part Cree.
PS
I was wondering by your name ...
EC
Well, it's actually English, Carefoot. But my father in-law didn't like English people so he said he was Irish. It's a long ... goes back ... We found out, my daughter and I went to Ireland and England and we found out that Carefoot meant “foot of the hill” or something and after the Potato Famine there in Ireland they sent English people over to teach the Irish how to grow other crops so my husband's ancestors were sent to Ireland to live on the farm and teach people and then they came from Ireland to Ontario in the 17-1800s, his family. My family were English, my mother was born in England.
01:35:08.000
01:35:08.000
PS
How did you meet? Did you meet here?
EC
Oh, yeah. We sent to school together. My dad was an American, he came ... I could have dual citizenship but I didn't want to. His family were from Ireland too and he was born in Milwaukee. So they all came out and, funny, people just moved around and came to the west coast.
PS
And stayed
EC
But my uncles were in the Second World War, my father couldn't because he was a farmer. He didn't want to anyway and my brothers were too young, fortunately, so they didn't have to go but a couple of my uncles ... but by the time they joined the war was over anyways laughs so they didn't have to go to Europe or anywhere.
PS
Fortunately
EC
Fortunately, yeah. No, I mean it was terrible. Nobody agreed with the war but what could you do? But I remember, all we knew about when we were kids was at the movie because they'd always have a film on. They'd have cartoons and then they'd have a film on the news that would show bombings and stuff but we didn't pay much attention. We liked the cartoons better. So anyways, did you want to look at any of this or do you have to get going?
PS
Oh, we'd love to look at it.
EC
That was my dad, with his kind of a uniform on.
PS
He looks like a tall man.
EC
He was, he was six foot.
PS
And the hat, that makes him look like .
EC
Yeah, that was issued to him. He had to give it back after the war.
PS
It looks like you wouldn't want to mess with him.
EC
He was very glad that he never had to arrest, or do anything. And these are just school pictures, 1948.
PS
You said, Robert Byng?
EC
Lord Byng, it was just down the road. Gone, I mean, we have a new one now, a new school.
PS
It's really interesting to see the way people dress in these photos, the hairstyles.
EC
This girl Shirley, assumed, she was a native princess, when she got older.
PS
(unclear) princess?
EC
Mhmm, her dad was the Chief. (Elena coughs.) 1951. I can see the date up there.
PS
How can you remember their names?
EC
I remember Yuki because she was the first one. Yuki Teraguchi. Isn't that funny? And I just can't remember...
PS
Do you remember what happened to her?
EC
She grew up here. And the family are still here, I don't know about Yuki but I know the family are the Teraguchi's. I think her brother had a lot to do with getting the voting and things you know. Inaudible voices and coughing in background.
PS
Who is this young man?
EC
This one here?
PS
Yeah.
EC
He's a native boy. Pause.
PS
Do you remember what his name is?
EC
No I don't. I think it was George something but I can't remember. Fenneman, Fentamens,? (Unclear) My brother married his sister. And he's still in the interior somewhere. Marvin Tridell, he passed away. Mr. Windrom, it looks like he's got the same suit on there. Eileen and Pam laughs.
PS
You have one suit for...
EC
And she had polio. Pause. And this girl, she was from Denmark. She was only at our school for a while, and she couldn't speak English too well. That's me and Grace, Grace
PS
You're the one girl who isn't wearing a light coloured top.
01:39:43.000
01:39:43.000
EC
Mhmm you're right. Got sweaters on behind. This one I'm blocked, somebody must have scratched my face out, I guess they didn't like it. But this is 1949. Pause. Big class. Forty something kids in there. Pause. There's only, one East Indian girl It was kinda sad, her younger sister had to marry an older fellow, old man, in Victoria. Yeah she was really sad about it, she said, “they won't let... I won't do that.” I said... but we all thought it was so terrible, I guess in those days you did as you were told.
PS
Oh it was an arranged, marriage?
EC
Mmhmm it was, yeah. She was only about 15, her sister I think. Awful eh?
PS
So this is not the same girl?
EC
No. Pause. Maybe that was Yuki then, I'm not sure. She's cute.
PS
Yeah. And where are you in this one?
EC
I'm scratched myself out I guess. Or somebody did, maybe my brother got mad at me and did it. Everyone laughs.
PS
Oh and you've got all their names.
EC
Oh yeah, goody goody.
PS
Layton .
EC
Oh from Vancouver. This is my dad's, no this is my friend's boat. I'm on there somewhere. Mr. Webstern's brother. That was the little gillnetters.
PS
How much would a boat cost back then?
EC
Gosh, I think $1000? Not sure. Let's see, we'd go on outings to cross the river to Ladner and every winter, that was another thing, we had no liquor store here so every winter they'd pile all us kids and adults on and go across the river, you know, where Ladner is and there is a liquor store there. They'd moor the boat, and they'd go to the beer parlor and all us kids would play around the wharf and we'd have ice cream and then, finally, the parents came with their load of liquor for Christmas laughs. We also used to go on the trap line with our girlfriends dad, he was part Native so he had a trap line.
PS
What's a trap line?
EC
They used to trap muskrats for money over on the island across Westham Island and only certain, I don't know how you got one, you could pass it on or put your name in for one, and to subsidize fishing he'd go over there and we'd go over with him in winter and he'd collect the pelts from ... it's pretty bad and, you know, he'd bring them home. They lived up in a cannery, an old house up here and he had ... we never watched him skin them. We didn't want to watch. He had made boards and he'd put them ... clean them off with a razorblade and then put the pelt up to dry and then take them to Vancouver and sell them.
PS
He probably got quite a good price.
EC
He got a good price, yeah. That was just another memory. So I think that's about all I can think of.
PS
Well, this was fascinating.
EC
This was, oh this was my, 1987, my future daughter in law did this little booklet. “In 1940, 975 Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, U.S enters the war, and cost of living jumps seventeen percent” reading off of paper. I think she had a few pictures in here. I guess I helped her with this a bit and she got a good mark, anyway.
01:44:48.000
01:44:48.000 Eileen skim reads outloud through her daughter's history project regarding the internment and dispossession of Japanese Canadians.
EC
You've read all this, I'm sure. PAM: YeahI don't know where she got this photo. It's a real photo.
PS
I wonder who they are.
EC
I guess they built roads too? That wasn't Steveston though, somebody said it was New West. Look at the houses! Holy cow! They said 250 families were evacuated from Steveston, so if you figure, two kids per family.
PS
250 families, whew. One community alone.
EC
I guess she interviewed me. “Eileen, at the age of ten, picked potatoes in late summer and early fall” reading from daughter's project. Taking care of my younger brother, I didn't like that, looking after my brother.
EK
How much younger was he?
EC
Pardon?
EK
Your brother, you had to look after your brother.
EC
Yeah, he was three years younger. That was later on when I was older and, of course, he wouldn't listen to me. He always took off with his friends and one day he came home and he must have fallen on glass. I took his gumboot off, it was full of blood and I was very calm. I remember lifting him up onto the, we didn't have a bathroom sink, kitchen sink and washing his foot off and bandaging it. That's all I could do. We did have a doctor in Steveston but, no, he wasn't very good I understand. We didn't have a television and my brother would sing and play his guitar with friends. Oh this is some more school, I guess, North Van. Air raid drill, we never did that here. You ever hear of that?
PS
Yeah, the air raid drills.
EC
Nope, I don't remember that. This is originals, school. Some kids burned it down.
PS
Do they know who?
EC
They found out much, much later. We had the little school, that was nice.
EK
Eileen, is this your mom?
EC
Yeah, that's my mom and me on the porch of our house just down the road. It's gone, of course.
EK
Are you wearing a hat?
EC
Probably. laughs.
EK
I can see the broom nearby, too.
01:49:59.000
01:49:59.000
EC
No, I don't think so it's just my hair was longer. Maybe I've got a cat on my lap or something. We always had cats. Mom's all dressed up, she must have been going somewhere.
EK
It looks like she's wearing like a fur or something, not a fur but something.
PS
People got so dressed up for photos.
EK
Yeah, they've got the curls.
EC
I don't have, hardly any in their uniform.
EK
You were talking about how cold it was, the water. I was remembering, my dad told me that he, didn't, I don't think he did like, the washroom, but he was lifting the fish from one place to another and I think I was complaining about how my hands hurt from work because I was doing a lot of finger work, and he was like “well, you know, in the canneries women would be working with ice cold water.” He was like, he tried it once and his hands went numb after a couple minutes.
EC
It's true, a lot of the women worked there for years; and men. A lot of them. They'd ride their bicycles and they got arthritis. In fact, I know of two ladies who worked there. I think they had lied about their age because they were older. I know my mother in law said she was younger and she worked in, she ended up in Vancouver in the cannery.
EK
Vancouver cannery?
EC
It's a Canadian fish town. She worked there until she was about seventy. She loved it. It wasn't just the money. It was the people and getting out.
PS
Yeah, it's often that.
EC
But one lady, I know, she rode her bike all the time and worked there forever. She finally had to quit and about 3 months later she died.
PS
It's important to keep busy, if you can.
EC
These are just aerial photos. Now, this would show you that there were a lot of houses then and this is our cannery here and you can see right here, that's right here on this road here. This was a big bunk house. See all these little houses, they're all gone. They weren't made to last. That's a school over there, we lived down here. Farther down. This was a big women's bunk house and that also burned down. I think there was a fire bug around here.
PS
Yeah, sounds like it
EC
Here, some of these houses one of them became the Chinese laundry. I remember when I was a kid they had clothes lines with all these nice white sheets hanging out and this would be the main street down here and the garage, that's still there. Right here, I guess, is where that huge new building is. No, it's right here because there's a little park in-between. Yeah, that big building. Lots of farmers' fields are gone. That was our fire hall and that burnt down laughs.
PS
That's got to be cause for concern laughs.
EC
It wasn't being used anymore. And this house is still being used over here right across the street. My friend, the turner's house. We had an elderly lady, a few years ago, come to the cannery; very elderly. Maybe eight, nine, ten years ago. She said, “I used to live across the street.” I said, “where?” “Right over there. Would you like to see it?” So I phoned over so they came and got her.
PS
So a lot of Japanese people came back to look at their homes?
01:54:51.000
01:54:51.000
EC
It's up there, we call it dyke. It's a very old house. We actually donated to Britannia Ship Yards. There's two houses that are still there. They moved them over to show what the original houses looked like and one man, he's the only one that came and wanted to look at his house. My mother in law and my father in law, the doctor, yeah, he came to look. This is our little United Church. It's still there but now it's a thrift shop. They built a new one right here. Man, sure changed.
PS
You really know it well.
EC
Yeah, too bad it didn't go farther down. Right here, this house here I think, it was called the honeymoon house before this building was built. It was the smallest one and it was ... the newlyweds would live there. My brother and his wife lived there for a while.
EK
Do people ever tell you stories about how they named their boats?
EC
How they named them? Well, they named them after family. My friend Bud Sakomoto, oh gosh I wish you had time to see this boat it's beautiful, his dad built it and they named it, I can't remember, after his sister. It's a wooden boat and it's called the pond. It's a calm area. He wanted to donate it to the cannery but we just didn't have the money because it would cost a lot to put it out somewhere and keep it. So I think he did. Bud's about, in his seventies now. He still lives here and he's got two grown daughters. I think he did fish it last year, with the big one. I said, “if I ever win the lottery, Bud, this boat is coming up here somewhere”.
EK
His dad named it after his sister?
EC
Crystal S. I remember, for Sakomoto. My brother's first boat was called Chief Wahu. I guess a Native owned it, I don't know laughs. Another one he had was called Sea Bee.
PS
What does that mean?
EC
I don't know. He didn't name it. He bought it. It was already named. My neighbours built a boat and his sister was into, what do you call it, numerology so she named it, I can't remember, but it was quite odd. But it's really fun to look at boat names.
EK
Yeah. I mean, they're mostly girl names. But there's one called Honky Maru which is a Japanese ... because maru means boat.
EC
That's kind of silly, Honky. Hm. George Tousey's boat was named Tousey. Queen Mary laughs. Barbara Jean. That was my friend, Bell Windsor. I mean, the family I used to baby sit for the children, Barbara, because the dad was drowned and the mother was the post mistress for many years. Boat unknown, this one. I guess maybe they didn't, see, not, yeah ... Hm. See, this one didn't have ... it was just a skiff, Columbia River skiff. Isn't that cute? Spring bride laughs.
02:00:05.000
02:00:05.000
PS
Thank you so much, Eileen.
EC
Well, you're welcome. I hope I was some help
PS
Oh, very much. Very interesting.
EC
My granddaughter, she always says “grammy, oh, you're going to be famous. You talk so much.” laughs.
PS
Well, if you talk a lot and you have something important to say then ... laughs.
EC
Unfortunately, my sister, older sister and brother, I don't know if they don't want to remember but it's sort of a shame, you know. I never asked my mom a lot of things like about coming here from the train and what happened. I knew at the time we were very hungry. I remember being hungry. Mom had a big thing of that cereal, shredded wheat, or something and we always used to eat that because it was filling. Awful, eh? So when we got here, we were very fortunate that the neighbours shared their food with us and then my mom and dad both got jobs and it was like the land of plenty.
PS
Yeah, in comparison
EC
And, of course, the weather was better but we sure had a lot of fog in those days. I don't know why but it just seemed like days would just go by with the fog horn going.
PS
And you can't be out on the water?
EC
Oh, we went to school but we couldn't because there were hardly any street lights so you wouldn't know how to get home.
EK
You mentioned that there's lots of intermarriage now. Do you remember any Japanese marrying outside of non-Japanese people when you were going to any weddings?
EC
It's kind of funny in a way. Most of us grew up together and there's a family down the road they were, I mean this shouldn't be on there, but I guess German but the Japanese mother, she was going a bit senile and I met her. She used to walk a lot and she said, “you know, my daughter married that German guy. I don't like him.” I don't know if she meant it. I said, “oh well, they're happy and she's got two nice sons.” She said, “oh, I know. I love my sons but ... ” It was just kind of funny the way she'd came out.
EK
Just came out with it. laughs.
EC
There's a lot of different marriages, even now, too.
PS
Yeah, I would imagine.
EC
My good friend Kay Vinishee. They were interned, I think in Toronto, and her husband and their neighbours worked in a chicken farm and they called it a chicken sexer. I said, “how do you do it Joe?” He said, you take it and you just look. He said, “I know.” And they hired them after they'd come back. He fished here and he'd go back and make quite a bit of money but now I think it's all done by machine. I don't know how they do it.
PS
So that's what a chicken sexer does. I never really understood, I guess because I had never asked.
EC
Yup, yeah he just said “you go like that” and you could tell right away. You just squeeze them or something.
EK
Oh really? Would you just blow the feathers away? I don't know. laughs.
EC
We used to laugh because he was such a character anyway. I still visit Kay and her family, of course. I think she had two girls, and three boys, or four boys. She still lives in a big home with her daughter and their big dog. She said, one day, “Eileen, it's so funny, all my kids married Caucasians.” I said, “well, that's nice, isn't it?”
PS
That's like my family.
EC
She still has little, like, different traditions, like, take off your shoes and put on the Japanese shoes. We used to be neighbours, I'd make bread and bring buns over and she'd make chow mein laughs.
PS
Did you take some photos of ...
EK
Yeah, there's a couple.
PS
Maybe I'll turn this off.
EC
Okay.
02:05:31.000

Metadata

Title

Eileen Carefoot, interviewed by Pam Sugiman and Elena Kusaka, 26 April 2015

Abstract

Eileen Carefoot begins describing her friend’s memories of living in Steveston and having been sent away. She then moves on to her own family’s story of how they moved from Saskatchewan to Vancouver due to the depression and crop failure which plagued the region during the 1940s. Eileen recalls an event where her brothers began banging on the walls in their rented home and heard a hollow sound. After removing the boards, the brothers discovered several items including a set of Japanese dolls stored for safekeeping by Japanese Canadian families. Eileen also recalls trucks arriving in the neighbourhood to hall away the valuables in the houses. She speaks about how the Japanese Canadians reestablished themselves upon returning to Steveston (i.e. creating Buddhist churches, martial arts centers, etc.).

Credits

Interviewer: Pam Sugiman
Interviewer: Elena Kusaka
Interviewee: Eileen Carefoot
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Richmond
Keywords: Vancouver ; Chinese; Race; Steveston ; Saskatchewan ; The Depression; Gulf of Georgia Cannery ; Boeing Company; Sea Island; Lord Byng School; Chatham Street; Steves Family.; 1940s – 1980s

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.