Joe Franceschini, interviewed by Carolyn Nakagawa, 09 April 2018

Joe Franceschini, interviewed by Carolyn Nakagawa, 09 April 2018

Abstract
Joe Franceschini was raised in Cumberland, BC. In this interview, he talks about interacting with Japanese Canadians in the community and his good friend Toshiaki Ogaki. As a child, his father took him to a Japanese-Canadian lady barber close to home; Joe explains that he liked going there for the comics. Joe recalls numerous Japanese-Canadian children in his school, playing together at recess and after school. Joe narrates Japanese Canadians leaving, watching them at the top of the alley on Third Street, and how it looked like they were marching in a parade. Joe talks about his Italian background, knowing Italy was at war with Canada, and feeling sad for his Italian relatives and the Canadian families who lost their sons to the war. He describes receiving letters that were censored from his relatives in Italy, telling them if someone had passed away. Joe speaks about people, mostly miners, moving into the houses in No. 5 Japan Town and No. 1 Japan Town after the forced removal. He recalls hearing how Japanese Canadians were forced to sell their property. Joe talks about keeping in contact with Toshiaki Ogaki through Christmas cards and letters, and one time when Toshiaki asked Joe’s father to dig up some Japanese rhubarb from No. 5 Japan Town and send it to them in Tashme. Joe narrates how when he was an adult, Toshiaki showed up in his driveway in Cumberland, in the early 190s and their friendship solidified. He describes learning a little bit about Toshiaki’s experiences, and showing him Cumberland even though Toshiaki couldn’t recognize it until they drove through Japan Town. Joe talks about being aware Japanese Canadians were uprooted when he was a child, but not how dramatic a thing it was because of his age. Towards the end of the interview, he discusses how traumatic it must have been for them to pack up and leave their home.
00:00:00.000
Carolyn Nakagawa (CN)
This is Carolyn Nakagawa with Joe Franceschini. It is April 9, 2018, and we're here at Joe's home in Cumberland, recording Joe's oral history for the Landscapes of Injustice project. So, Joe, I'll start off by asking you to tell me a bit about your childhood growing up here in Cumberland, and your memories of Japanese Canadians at the time.
Joe Franceschini (JF)
Growing up from my first eleven years-well, my first association with the Japanese would be when my dad took me to the Japanese lady barber for my haircut. Then, when I went to start at school, then I became friends with Toshiaki Ogaki (?), and the friendship continued until his passing several years ago. We got along fairly well with the Japanese community, but when you see it from the aspect up to an eleven-year-old boy, it's not the same as seeing it when you're twenty-one, or thirty-one, or forty-one. Yeah. I would say generally speaking, we got along good with them, with the ones that were our classmates and schoolmates.
CN
Were there a lot of Japanese Canadians in your class?
JF
Yeah, there-I'm not sure just the numbers, but there was numerous boys and girls. Not as many as the caucasians, of course, but there were more Japanese than Chinese. But, yeah quite a few.
CN
And Toshiaki (?) was one of your best friends?
JF
Well, in the school pictures, we always stood by each other. Now I guess that means something. Laughs.
CN
Do you remember how you first became friends with him?
JF
Not really. Not really.
CN
Would you play together in a group, with other friends, or what were some of the games that you would play?
JF
Well, probably I would think at that age, there were no organized games. But I think most of the playing would be on the merry-go-round, and slides, and there was another-a bunch of ropes hanging from a pole. Just school playground equipment is where we would be playing before school, and during recess. After school, not so much I don't think.
CN
Can you tell me a bit about what your daily life was like at that time, going to school? What would happen in an ordinary day?
JF
Well you would go to school. After school you would go home, and probably change your clothes and go out to play. And in those days, the organized sports the way it is now and even at that age, you know, you weren't into baseball or whatever sport was going on in season. But you just played. I would think games like tag, and hide and seek. And you had to be home by supper, that was the only rule. It was quite, if even we never had watches or anything, and you might be playing too far from home to hear even your mother call you, but it was quite common for the mother to just go out to the back door and holler, “Supper time.” So it might not be your mother that you heard, but you know, if it was supper time for somebody else, it was supper time for you too. Both laugh. Joe pauses. You spent, in those days, I remember they didn't have babysitters. Whenever my mom went to visit friends, usually it was a group that would card, wool, or do something like that. The children all went along, and we would play, we learned to play simple card games, and bingo. It was, you never thought about it, you know. We didn't have too many chores to do, not at that age. You know, up to age eleven, you do more after that, chores at home. But you just had fun doing whatever you wanted to do. Both laugh.
00:06:15.000
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CN
Were you aware at the time, like were you conscious that Toshiaki (?) and the other Japanese kids were different from you? Is that something that you thought about or knew about?
JF
It was-we knew they were different, like different skin colour and stuff like that. But at the time that I was growing up in Cumberland, there were a lot of different nationalities and you didn't really think about the nationality, you just think they're a person that you likes or they're a person that you didn't like. Pretty well the same with the Japanese and the Chinese. It wasn't, other than Japanese and oriental, you know, you never really thought about them being different.
CN
Was it normal for you to visit each other's houses? Did you ever visit each other's houses and things like that?
JF
Not at that age, we didn't. No.
CN
You mentioned earlier that you used to go to the Japanese barber, and that that was in the Japanese part of town. Can you tell me a bit about going to that area of town?
JF
Well, the first few times that I went to the barber, I was taken there by my dad. But then after I got to know the route, I was sent there by myself, and I was a little apprehensive going there because I guess... I don't know. I never went to a barber uptown, but it probably felt different going to the Japanese. I don't know why. I used to like to go there because of a big pile of comic books. But I was always glad when I got inside. But then there were parts of town that I didn't like to go to by myself either, unless with a friend. Pauses.
CN
Do you know why you went to a Japanese barber rather than a different barber uptown?
JF
I think perhaps there was one that was close to home, and we had to pay. Now I don't know whether it was less than you would have to pay uptown or not-it was close to home. Just actually, you know, a quarter of a mile, you know. It was not very far. I really don't know what the hair cuts would cost uptown, I think it was only ten or fifteen cents per haircut.
CN
Were there other reasons why you would go to the Japanese part of town, or was it only for the barber?
00:10:10.000
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JF
Only for the barber.
CN
So it felt different.
JF
Hmm?
CN
So it felt different to be going for your haircut, because of that?
JF
I don't quite understand that.
CN
Sorry, it was-you only went to that part of town to go to the barber, right?
JF
Yeah, yeah.
CN
And it was one part of town that you didn't feel comfortable being in by yourself, but it wasn't the only part of town like that?
JF
Yeah, well of course, you know then I'm only at that time, I'd be what? Six years old? Seven years old? You know. We weren't afraid of the Japanese in that sense of the word, you know, but I guess it was just going to a strange part of town. I don't know.
CN
What parts of town were you more comfortable in?
JF
Well, you could be uncomfortable at any part when you were young like that. You know, kids are kids, and for no reason or other someone might want to pick a fight with you, or you know. That was just part of growing up. But if there were two, there were three together, it didn't seem-I guess one gave each other confidence. When you're six, or seven, or eight, anywhere you go might be a little bit scary. Or not scary, but, I don't know.
CN
Do you remember the barber at all?
JF
I just remember she was a lady. A lady barber.
CN
Did you like seeing her?
JF
Pardon?
CN
Did you like seeing her? Were you uncomfortable when you went there by yourself?
JF
No, no, no. Not once I inside, you felt you were safe. Both laugh. And she had a lot of comic books.
CN
Right. What comic books did she have?
JF
Well, those I guess would be The Katzenjammer Kids, and I don't know if Popeye was around then or not. Both laugh. But the Little Orphan Annie. You're testing my memory now.
CN
Laughs. Yeah. Both laugh. Do you remember who else was at the barber shop, other than you. Were there other boys your age? Were there Japanese people?
JF
I don't really remember being too many people at the one time. I don't know. It was a Katzenjammer Kids, that was another. Little Orphan Annie. Now they're coming back. Yeah. Pauses. No, I don't really remember too much about it other than the route to get there. I don't remember the barber's name.
CN
Are there other Japanese Canadians you remember interacting with?
JF
Not really too much at the time, just some of the boys that were in my room, you know. One probably closer to being when I was eleven, and I know that some of the Japanese boys are quite good carvers. They used to carve out of yellow cedar. I'm just trying to think about what we used to do there. Of course it's sleigh riding in the winter, and we used to get an old pair of wagon wheels. We used to call them bugs, like a little car. There seems to be seasons for everything. Flying kites, like I guess it was this time of year when the weather's getting a bit better. Of course we wouldn't be flying the kites, we'd be just watching them. You were a bit older when you made your own kites. It's funny how you don't remember a lot of these things, what you did and that.
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CN
Was it ordinary for caucasian children, and Japanese children, and Chinese children to play these things together? Or would they mostly be separate?
JF
I think it would be probably separate, unless it happened to be things that were done on the schoolyard. For sure, everybody would be going down the slides, and riding the merry-go-round. That was everybody all mixed up. I don't know, there was... Everyone used to play close to home, you know. Pauses. Not like when you get older and then you know, then you visit different friends and play different games, cards or something, at their houses. I'm just trying to think. At that age, you know, we didn't.
CN
So you and Toshiaki (?) would mostly play just at school?
JF
Well, I don't, you know, I don't really remember how we-we must have spent time at school. I don't know what we did at recess, but like I said in my school pictures we were always, well a couple of school pictures, you know. Later, closer to when they moved away, we were standing by each other to have the school pictures taken. I don't think I was ever at his house, and I don't think he was ever at my house. Although we kept in touch. Our friendship solidified when we were adults, and all this was over. And we sort of reconnected. I don't really remember too much about the... I remember, you know, playing when my mom and dad would go to visit friends. I would go and play with their sons and daughters, whatever they had. You know, the parents would visit and the kids would visit. I don't think at that age I went too often to visit a friend at their house. Some things are coming back a little better now that I'm talking about it. Like you know one of the things we used to go to the show, and you might meet at the show and walk home, you know, if you lived in the same direction, you know, walk home together. And then I would go one way and the other one would keep going. You know, or several friends that way. And we used to go to the show. Well when we were younger we went to the matinees on Saturday. When we were older we'd go to the show twice a week because they would change the show. And there's no TV then of course. I guess, you know, during recess you'd play games like tag or hide and seek. Yeah.
00:20:19.000
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CN
Do you remember when you were aware that the Japanese Canadian families were being forced to leave Cumberland?
JF
We were aware because we knew they had to move. We knew that there was a war on. We knew that they were going to be moving away. But at that, looking back at that time, we didn't realize how dramatic a thing it was for them. Because just too young, you know. It wasn't until I was much older that I realized what a traumatic thing it must have been.
CN
Your own background is Italian, is that right?
JF
Mmhmm.
CN
Is that something that you were aware of at that time? That Italy was a country that Canada was at war with?
JF
Yes, I was. You know, the Italian people were Allies in the First World War, and in the Second World War, they weren't. But I didn't really think any of the worst of the Italians or any of the better of the Allies. I just thought it was a terrible thing, period. For everybody. Because I had relatives that lost sons, and they felt just as sorry as Canadian people that lost sons.
CN
Your relatives that lost sons, were they Italian relatives.
JF
Yeah.
CN
Sorry, were they fighting for Italy or for Canada?
JF
They were fighting for Italy.
CN
Mmm.
JF
You know, the correspondence was still, you were still able to communicate. But letters were all censored. But you know when so and so was missing in action.
CN
From letters from Italy?
JF
Mmhmm.
CN
Wow.
JF
Yep, I'm sure an Italian mother losing a son felt the same as a Canadian lady losing a son.
CN
Mmhmm. Well coming back to Cumberland, did you see any Japanese Canadians when they were actually leaving their homes?
JF
I remember there was a whole group of them. They marched just like they were in a parade. And I stood at the top end of the alley, because I was at the top of the alley where-my folks lived on Fourth Street. Third Street is the route the Japanese took when they marched from Japanese Town down to wherever, I don't know where the transportation was that was taking them away. But I just saw them go by, and I waved to my friend. That's all I remember about it. I don't know where they were, what part of town they were actually heading for.
00:25:40.000
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CN
Do you remember how you felt when you saw them go by?
JF
Well, I don't remember my emotions really. I was probably a little sad to see my friend go, but other than that, I don't know.
CN
Do you remember, were there conversations that you heard in your family talking about what was happening at the time?
JF
The only things I remember hearing was that the Japanese had to dispose of all their stuff. There were, of course, people they weren't getting very much money for it. Because they were forced to sell. Imagine people trying to get it to ... But I don't know how much the stuff they actually sold or how much they had to leave behind.
CN
Do you remember if your parents had an opinion about what was happening?
JF
I remember that they were very sad that it was happening. But you know I don't really know what their emotions were.
CN
Were they close with any Japanese Canadians? Did they have any Japanese friends or coworkers?
JF
I don't think so. The most-I don't think there was many Japanese work around the mines. They were-a lot of them in the Cumberland area worked for the Royston Lumber Company. Had a saw mill, plus they had the people that were working in the saw mill, and they had the people who were actually logging the wood that was to be cut up. But I don't think very many worked in the mines. They may have at one time, but not later. I don't say none did, but not very many.
CN
How did the community in Cumberland change after the Japanese Canadians left?
JF
I don't think the Cumberland community changed too much. I think caucasians moved into a lot of the houses, and continued to live there for years. In the No. 5 Japanese Town. No. 1 Japanese Town, also had some caucasians living in there for quite a few years. But eventually it got down to one, and one's still there. Maybe because there was more houses built in town, or... But I don't think the community itself changed very much.
CN
You don't remember noticing a difference after they left?
JF
I don't think so. I mean they... Pauses.
00:30:09.000
00:30:09.000
CN
Can you tell me more about your friendship with Tokiashi (?) after he left Cumberland? You said you reconnected with him later. Or you kept in touch for a while.
JF
We kept in touch for a lot of years. Just Christmas cards, and then token gifts. But that was, it was usually just around Christmas. There was not too much. But we kept in touch. He sent me a picture of he and his bride. She was a Japanese Canadian. Someone knocks on the door, and Jacqueline greets them. Some background noise in the tape. But like I say, it was mostly at Christmas time. And that went on for a number of years, then it was sort of a-never heard from him until one day I was at the end of my driveway and he came up the driveway and said, “Joe? Joe Franceschini?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Do you know who I am?” I said, “Yeah. Toshiaki Ogaki (?).” Then we started talking. Appears that Carolyn paused the tape for a brief moment while the guest was at the door.
CN
Sorry, you said you had lost touch for a while and then?
JF
Yeah, and then he came in. We started talking. I asked him, invited him to come into the house to meet Jacqueline. He said, “Oh my wife is out there in the car.” I said, “Well, go get her.” So he went to get his wife and when she was walking up the driveway, I thought oh, she's a caucasian. So that's the reason for while he was going through the marriage breakup, we lost contact. And then his visit that evening started, you know, renewed our friendship, but now we're friends as adults. And the years that I had from that time until he passed away was when I got to learn something about his experience of when they moved away. And then I was old enough, now I was old enough to realize how traumatic it was.
CN
Was he very open with sharing about what had happened during the war?
JF
Yeah, he was. And it wasn't something that he talked about. It was just something that would come up. Although when I did ask him, you know, “Okay, tell me what happened after you left here.” He gave me a rough outline of what had happened to him, where he and his parents were, where they were during the war and where his brother's were, and then after the war how the brother's who had been working in the woods in northern Ontario moved to the Toronto area. And they got Tosh (?) and his mom and dad to go back to Toronto. Tosh (?) was the youngest of eight boys, and he was allowed to stay with the parents. But the other brothers were all moved back to northern Ontario. I'm not sure when exactly Tosh and his family moved to Ontario, but he finished his school there, I don't know how many years, but he finished high school in Toronto. And lived in Toronto until his passing. But he would come to the coast several times. Trade shows. He was in the electrical lamp business. And he would pop over to the island and visit with Jacqueline and I. He kept wanting us to go back to Toronto. He said, “Come back to Toronto.” He said, he'd get to Toronto, BC money is no good. Both laugh.
00:36:21.000
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CN
What does that mean?
JF
Eh?
CN
What does that mean?
JF
He'd pay for everything.
CN
Oh. Laughs.
JF
Wouldn't cost us anything. I said, “Well, Tosh (?), we're not really travelers.” Never did go. But kept in touch, and still in touch with his widow. And he had a family by his first wife.
CN
So you said he sent you Christmas cards once he left. Was that throughout the war years? Like pretty much right away after he left?
JF
Yeah. Yeah.
CN
Do you remember like when that was decided that you would do that? Or did it just kind of happen?
JF
Well, I guess I gave him my address or something. Or maybe in those days they could put “Joe Franceschini, Cumberland” and they'd get it. Laughs. I don't really know.
CN
And then, when he showed up in your driveway, around when was that? Around what year?
JF
I don't really know. If I spoke to my wife, she'd probably have a... Got to be ten years ago, anyhow.
CN
Oh, so fairly recently?
JF
Well, time goes by quickly. Maybe twenty. Carolyn laughs. You know, you know. Oh no, I know, she was teaching. Can you just wait a minute?
CN
Sure. 00:50:26
JF
Eh?
CN
So you found out from Jacquie what year it was?
JF
The mid eighties? Is that close enough?
CN
Yeah, that's close enough.
JF
Mid eighties. And 2008 he passed away. And, I don't know how many trips he was out. One with Charlie, once with Fred. Three or four, anyhow.
CN
And it was only from that time forward that you really learned what had happened during the war years with his family?
JF
Yep.
CN
You mentioned that there is a picture in your living room there that Tosh (?) gave to you of Japanese rhubarb, and that there was a story behind that.
JF
I didn't remember this, but Tosh (?) said when they were in Tashme, that he contacted me by letter. That would be-And he must have asked me to get my dad to dig him some Japanese rhubarb, which he sent to Tosh (?), or Tosh's (?) dad. Now, my dad had passed away, and I didn't remember that. But anyhow, one of his subsequent visits, he sent two beautifully framed pictures of Japanese rhubarb.
CN
Japanese rhubarb, is that something that only the Japanese residents would have used?
00:40:11.000
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JF
Yeah, I don't know how they cooked it. But I checked since Tosh (?) has been here, and in the area where No. 5 Japanese Town was, there still is Japanese rhubarb. And the unique thing about it is if you cut the stem of Japanese rhubarb, it's got a hole in the middle of it. Similar to the common rhubarb plant that we have. The stock is a little bit different. But it's got a round hole in the middle. And I don't know how they, you know, he may have told me, but I don't remember. I imagine they wanted it for cooking. They wouldn't want it to decorate. Carolyn laughs. They had other more important concerns, I think. Must have been a staple for them.
CN
I think there's actually some growing in Tashme, too. So maybe they planted it.
JF
Tashme?
CN
Yeah.
JF
Still there?
CN
Yeah. If it's the same vegetable I'm think of, yeah.
JF
Wow. Well, that's something. Because it's a tough plant.
CN
Yeah.
JF
Because I know, just laying, I've seen it outside in the area close to the Japanese town.
CN
So when Tosh (?) would visit here, you took him around town in the old parts that he would live in?
JF
We did the first time. But after the other time, we showed him, he was really interested in fishing. So we would go fishing. And we did go, when his brother came out, we did go up at Elk Falls (?). But most of the time was spent fishing at Comox Lake. We didn't stay overnight in the cabin, we just made day trips.
CN
What was it like to go throughout Cumberland with Tosh (?) that first time? Like, did he have certain memories or reactions that you remember? Or what was it like for you to hear him see these places again?
JF
About that again?
CN
You went to the Japanese Town?
JF
Mhmm.
CN
What was it like to visit that place with him?
JF
Well, I wondered what his thoughts were. Because the first time we approached it, he said “Now I know where I'm at.” And then we drove past the family house and he got out to have a look. The house was basically still the same. And most of the time we were just talking about fishing. Both laugh.
CN
Did he specifically ask for you to take him there? Did he ask for you to take him there?
JF
To No. 5?
CN
Well, I knew we would want to see it. Because we just sort of finished off the day driving around about the lake and whatnot. I took that approach to the town because it hadn't changed since he was there. That's why he said, “Now I know where I'm at.”
CN
So did it stay more the same than other parts of Cumberland?
JF
Yeah, just because it was a... Now part of it looks different, because the land has been cleared and there's more houses built closer to it. But some parts of Japanese Town is, that one particular, some parts are just the same as they've been for years. Although they're starting now to clear and there's some proposed plans for some houses in there. And I'm not sure how many acres it is, but there's thirteen people that still live in the same area where the Japanese lived. Some are still in some of the original homes, but they have, I'm not sure if it's seven acres? It doesn't matter. But it's a strata title with those thirteen people, because where the houses are are sort of all in one part of it. And part of it is a little dampish, but nowadays they can fix that by putting in drains, you know. It's fertile soil. The Japanese always had well-maintained yards and cherry trees.
00:45:18.000
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CN
So the families that moved to that part of town in the 40s and 50s, did they mostly stay in that area afterwards?
JF
Yeah, like in the No. 5 Japanese Town, yeah, some people have been in there for years.
CN
And do you know, was it mostly miners? Was it mostly people who worked in the same place?
JF
Well at one time it would be coal miners, but that era finished in the 60s. So now it's just people that... It's available housing, you know.
CN
But back in that time was it mostly one kind of person who moved in, or was it just anyone who was looking for a place?
JF
At that time, it would be people that were working in the mines. It would be young married people in a starter house. Some people lived there for a good many years.
CN
You mentioned that Tosh's (?) older brother also visited you when you went up to Moose Falls?
JF
Elk Falls (?).
CN
Elk Falls (?). Laughs.
JF
Mmhmm.
CN
What was it like-Did you know his older brother, beforehand? Before the war?
JF
No, no.
CN
So what was it like to meet him?
JF
Well it was, you know, he was a very sociable, down-to-earth person. We just sort of hit it off. But I didn't know him before, I just knew Tosh (?). I think Tosh (?) talked him into coming out to see, and other times he came out he had Maria, and other times he came out he had work acquaintances.
CN
So for you, learning more about this history from visiting with Tosh (?) later in life and thinking about it more as an adult-I know you said at the time you didn't register what was happening-but what is your opinion on what happened now?
JF
Well, Tosh (?) told me some of his experiences, but it wasn't his experiences that made me-I had realized not just because of Tosh (?) but when the subject came up or what I thought about it, I thought how traumatic that must be to have to pick up and leave with a short time to get rid of your stuff, and all you could take with you was what you were wearing and what you could pack.
CN
Was there anything that made you think about it in later years, that made you have that realization?
JF
I don't... It's just when you thought about it for whatever reason, you know. Not something I've dwelled on, or not something that I don't really remember when you thought about it, or I thought about it. It might have been just been when I drive by it, you know, thinking, you know, about what happened.
CN
Driving by the old Japanese town?
JF
Yeah, yeah. Because there's two of them. One's over this way and one's over that way. I guess there was a bit of a community down by the mill, too, but that was too far away for an eleven-year-old boy to know anything about that. Knew the mill was there, of course. And I knew they logged there.
CN
I know we're running short on time, so I'm just checking if there's any questions that I especially wanted to ask. But I also wanted to give you the opportunity if there was any other stories you wanted to share about Japanese Canadians or your memory of Cumberland. Is there anything else that you would like to share?
00:50:26.000
00:50:26.000
JF
I can't really think of anything. I don't think I really knew. I don't think that I knew very many other Japanese Canadians as well as I knew Tosh (?). Although there was one, Masao Ata (?), he came back to the Courtenay area and had business in downtown Courtenay. But he didn't live in the Japanese Town. I think his dad was a jeweler or a tailor. A tailor I think. He was... And this is a funny thing, I can remember the names of the Japanese boys that were in my class but I don't remember many of the Japanese girls. And there was a lady that was going to school at the same time as me, and she was just the opposite. She could remember all the names of the girls, but none of the boys. Because I guess that was too young for boy-girl stuff. Both laugh.
CN
So maybe the boy-girl divide was a bigger deal than the different ethnic backgrounds back then.
JF
Yeah, you know, like I said, you know, we had so many nationalities. And you know a brat is a brat whether he's Italian, Scottish, or Japanese. And that's all. He's a brat, it wasn't... But that wasn't always the case, but I mean that's the way most of the people my age feel. That he was either a good guy or a good gal or a jerk. Whether you were Japanese or Italian or English. We did have a majority. The majority of the people in town that worked in the coal mines were Anglo-Saxon, because they came out first to start the mines. But other than that, Italians were a big group. But there were a lot of smaller groups: French, German, Hungarian, Yugoslav, you know. But you didn't judge them by their nationality, you judged them by the person themselves.
CN
The Japanese Canadians, is that a topic you discuss with other people who have been in Cumberland a long time? Does it come up in conversations?
JF
Not really. I mean, if all of my age group, if it does come up and you talk about what happened to them, they think “Oh boy, that must have been awful.” But it's not something we dwell on. But I can understand how a person like Tosh (?) that went through it might dwell on it. You know. Or the fisherman. I have a book about the West Coast. There were a lot of Japanese fisherman on the West Coast, and you know how they had to, their boats were all confiscated and what have you. But, no. It's not something we dwelled on, but it's something that comes up every once in a while. The Japanese, all the ones that went to school, the majority were good students and participated and, you know, a lot of them were fast runners, I remember that. When we used to have the-there were four high schools in the area: Cumberland, Courtenay, Comox, and Tsolom. And once in the year there'd be the track meet, you know. The Japanese were all a little smaller and shorter, and I remember that some of the ones, the caucasians were taller and lankier, and took big strides. But the Japanese you know were generally a little smaller. Their feet were going ninety miles an hour, but their steps weren't that big. And the Anglo-Saxon, you know a six-footer, they were just not as many strides, but they took about one step was about two or the, you know...
00:56:25.000
00:56:25.000
CN
Did you go to a lot of those competitions when you were growing up? Did you watch them?
JF
Yeah, you started when you were in the elementary grades. I'm not sure what year. Yeah, each school had its own track meet and then they'd choose the ones that would participate in the district track meet.
CN
And the Japanese children did well in those?
JF
Well, the Japanese were pretty athletic. They were pretty fast runners. They were good baseball players, you know.
CN
Did you play baseball with them?
JF
We had just getting started in it. You know in those days we started early. There was no T-ball or anything like that. I think the Japanese would have been gone, you know. I know we never played basketball, but we were in grade seven, so I guess that's about the same time you started playing basketball. Twelve and thirteen. And you know, after, you asked before, well we did when we were growing up but once you got a certain age, you had your supper and then you'd go down to the park. And then someone else would show up and then you'd start playing catch. And then another couple would come and you'd start playing first base and back. And then when enough'd come, you'd pick two sub-teams and play.
CN
But that wouldn't have been until after?
JF
No, that was after. That would be closer to when you're thirteen, fourteen. Just a couple of years, but you know.
CN
Makes all the difference.
JF
Yeah.
CN
Okay. Anything else that you'd like to say before we finish up? Anything you'd like to share?
JF
I hope I've been some help.
CN
Oh, very much so. Thank you very much for speaking with me today.
00:58:55.000

Metadata

Title

Joe Franceschini, interviewed by Carolyn Nakagawa, 09 April 2018

Abstract

Joe Franceschini was raised in Cumberland, BC. In this interview, he talks about interacting with Japanese Canadians in the community and his good friend Toshiaki Ogaki. As a child, his father took him to a Japanese-Canadian lady barber close to home; Joe explains that he liked going there for the comics. Joe recalls numerous Japanese-Canadian children in his school, playing together at recess and after school. Joe narrates Japanese Canadians leaving, watching them at the top of the alley on Third Street, and how it looked like they were marching in a parade. Joe talks about his Italian background, knowing Italy was at war with Canada, and feeling sad for his Italian relatives and the Canadian families who lost their sons to the war. He describes receiving letters that were censored from his relatives in Italy, telling them if someone had passed away. Joe speaks about people, mostly miners, moving into the houses in No. 5 Japan Town and No. 1 Japan Town after the forced removal. He recalls hearing how Japanese Canadians were forced to sell their property. Joe talks about keeping in contact with Toshiaki Ogaki through Christmas cards and letters, and one time when Toshiaki asked Joe’s father to dig up some Japanese rhubarb from No. 5 Japan Town and send it to them in Tashme. Joe narrates how when he was an adult, Toshiaki showed up in his driveway in Cumberland, in the early 190s and their friendship solidified. He describes learning a little bit about Toshiaki’s experiences, and showing him Cumberland even though Toshiaki couldn’t recognize it until they drove through Japan Town. Joe talks about being aware Japanese Canadians were uprooted when he was a child, but not how dramatic a thing it was because of his age. Towards the end of the interview, he discusses how traumatic it must have been for them to pack up and leave their home.

Credits

Interviewer: Carolyn Nakagawa
Interviewee: Joe Franceschini
Transcriber: Jennifer Landrey
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Cumberland, British Columbia
Keywords: 1930s-40s, 1980s-2000s

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.