Bob and Sue Hori, interviewed by Erin Yaremko, 16 June 2016

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The LOI Research Team has flagged this record for containing sensitive information. This record contains the following sensitivities:

  • Egregious stereotyping (positive or negative) of a culture, group or person (beyond outdated language), especially vulnerable individual(s)/group(s).

Bob and Sue Hori, interviewed by Erin Yaremko, 16 June 2016

Abstract
Bob Hori narrates his childhood on Powell Street in Vancouver before being briefly interned in Slocan, and then later moving to Calgary and Regina. He explains how his grandfather came to Canada in the 1880s before his father immigrated in the 1890s. He discusses his father’s role in the Japanese-Canadian community as a successful businessman who during the Depression years gifted a sack of rice and pail of miso paste to those in need. Bob narrates his time working as a carpenter in the internment camps, building shiplack houses, and his experiences insulating the structures. He speaks about his work with the company Silk-O-Lina after being in the camps until he retired from the company in the late 1980s. One item he remembers packing with him for the internment camp is a heavy wool sweater purchased from an Indigenous woman, an item his mother said would help him with the cold. Later in the interview, Bob’s wife Sue discusses how racism is wrong and should not exist.
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Erin Yaremko (EY)
My name is Erin Yaremko and I am here recording for Landscapes of Injustice. I am here with Bob Hori and we are recording in Regina, Saskatchewan on June 16th, 2016. Would you like to start with your family history?
Bob Hori (BH)
Okay, yeah. My family’s history start in 1880 when my grandfather came from Hawaii to Vancouver, as working as a cook and as a railway worker. And my father came in 1890 and worked for the—with the grandfather as a cook and railway worker. Then grandfather started a business, a general merchant business, like grocery, in 1890. 1898 I think it was but the license plate I had in, recall in Vancouver BC. And he opened in 1898 around there and then Dad started working with him in 1905. Dad got married and took over the business. From 1905, dad run the business with children taking over gradually as they grew older. And during the depression, my father, one day my father was—somebody told me that “Your father,” my father, “was an angel.” I said, “What do you mean he’s an angel?” And he said, “Well you ask your dad.” So I asked dad one day what he means, during the depression years father took a sack of rice and a pail of bean paste, miso bean paste, to every family in one of the canneries in Vancouver. And for that, he was well known for his generosity, and because of that the cannery owner would not allow any other merchant to come onto his property. And therefore, you know, and as during the, after the depression, you know prosperity, getting about 1936, ‘37, as the cannery started coming in the depression was getting over, the cannery started prospering. And when it prospered the cannery owner said, “Only person that can work for the canneries through Mr. Hori’s recommendation.” Laughs. And so because of that he was quite busy with the cannery. But you know we had the other customers too, we used to look after the saw mills, the lumber mills, the farmers in the Fraser Valley. But then when the war broke out, we had to close up. But fortunately, we were the only store that was allowed to open right till the day of the evacuation, so we kept our store open till 1942, August. The rest were all closed. And during—so in August ’42 I was told that I cannot stay in BC anymore, so I went to Slocan, BC. As a carpenter. And to build the, you know those cabins for the people, to evacuees? And worked as a carpenter for—til—from August to almost end of November before the snow came. But young men used to live in a tent. And we kept on building the houses for the families first, with the children.
00:05:12.000
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BH
You have to have a home. Somebody had to build the home that’s about the size of a modern garage, about 14 by 28. And your family that used to live about 6 to 10 people per cabin and within our family we had eight people, so four boys and four girls, mother and dad, so we had that. So we had three rooms, two rooms. One middle room for the kitchen and family room, two side ends, one side for the girls and one side for the men. And a double-decker bunk beds. And there was just a single shiplack building, so the winter was so cold and you could see the crack, the shiplack shrinking, so you could see the outside. So we had to put the tar paper around for most all the houses in the whole valley, young men went, you covered the top with the tar paper so that the family will have a little bit, you know new windbreak. And then for a while, that wasn’t enough so we start put a second layer of wood shiplack around the. . . and. . . but I wasn’t I wasn’t happy with that kind, so I wanted to get out of the Slocan Valley, apply for the movement. They say, “You can’t go.” “What do you mean I can’t go?” “You have to have a job there.” “How can I have a job when staying here?” So anyway, one day I wrote to my uncle in Calgary, ‘cause being in Calgary that family didn’t have to move from BC. I wrote them asking, “There’s a lot of Japanese ladies with sewing machine, and during the war years there’s lack of merchandise. Would you like to send some cloth so the Japanese ladies can sew up the clothing and ship it to you?” And he didn’t think that wasn’t an idea good, so he wrote to his brother-in-law who lived in the same camp and asked him, “Bob’s idea, what do you think of it?” My uncle told them, my uncle that lives in Slocan told him, “That’s Bob idea. let Bob look after it.” Then my uncle in Calgary wrote and said, “Don’t bother, come and work for me.” Laughs. So I was going to Calgary but Calgary restricted against the Japanese. So I couldn’t get to Calgary, so I went ahead and my uncle had another store with his partner in Regina and wrote to his partner, “Can he come to Regina?” I wrote to Regina, wrote the mayor in Regina, at that time it was . . . can’t think of his name, but in 1943, it was, I can’t remember his name now. Yeah anyway he came to Mr. Kitagawa who had a branch store of the Nippon Silk, or now it’s known as Silk-O-Lina, to ask him what kind of person Bob is and he said, Bob is okay. His brother works for me in Regina.” “So okay, if I put this into the city council, there might be a repercussion of discrimination. So what do you think I do?” He said, “Why don’t you wrote a letter, say that he could come over without any public knowing about it?” So he wrote to say that I could come to Regina and I came to Regina in March. And March the 18th, was a blizzard! Laughs.
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BH
In March the 18th and here I come in my spring jacket, and it’s cold and I said, “What’s the big living in this kinda country?” But anyway I came to Regina, worked here for about a month cause my uncle wanted me in Calgary. So I went to RCMP again and asked them for a travel permit to Calgary. And went into Calgary through the back door. And that’s how I worked in Calgary for four years, in my uncle’s store, and got involved with the United Church. I got interested in the church work and it was done—a lot of church work was a delegate national convention, and at that convention I proposed all this discriminatory action against Japanese, and the council they presented to the government but the discriminatory action against Japanese. And that was said by the United Church. Then after working in Calgary, I was transferred to Regina. In 1949. I came to Regina in 1949 and worked for Mr. Kitagawa at the Silk-O-Lina and been here since and I became a partner in 1952, to the Silk-O-Lina. And I’ve been ever since, ever since I’ve been working here. And we had this store in Silk-O-Lina, expanded it to 20 stores in the prairie. Edmonton had five store, Calgary had five stores, Lethbridge has five stores, Medicine Hat, Regina has four stores, and we had 20 stores in there until about, what year was it? Oh we didn’t. . . we grew, we grew, and but 1985, ‘87, gradually as we get older none of the younger children of my partners and my own, they didn’t want to look after our businesses . “Dad’s worked too long.” Laughs. I used to work till from 8 o’clock to about 11 o’clock every day, Sunday included. But this I enjoyed it, I enjoyed it very much, I enjoyed my life very much, working all the time. But that’s what my wife said, “All you did was work.” Laughs. Yeah so I’ve been retired since 1960, no ’82. Pauses. Cause, ’82? Yeah ’82, then I started working for the law firm as a courier and worked for the Robertson Stromberg Law Firm as their courier and handyboy, handyman. I enjoyed it, and they had been one of the nicest employer I ever worked for. In fact, still keep contact with them, yeah. Well that’s about it, my life as a worker. Laughs.
00:14:46.000
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EY
Going back can you describe to me your childhood home?
BH
Childhood home? Oh, okay, we lived in the Powell Street: 453 Powell Street. That was my grandfather’s store. We had a grocery store, general merchant store, and in the back we had the living quarters. It had an upstairs, the store, we had the rooms rented out. There was one family left, and the rest were, most were single people. Anything else?
EY
Can you describe to me what the inside of your living quarters looked like?
BH
My living quarter, okay. The front of the I. . . I figured it out now. The front of the property was a store which is about. . . see now measurements 50 feet by 25, and back of the living quarters was about 50 feet too. Back section was a, we had a, we called it a parlor, which is the living room, then we had the kitchen or dining area was called kitchen and a cook stove. Behind the kitchen was mum and dad’s and young children’s, younger brother’s and sister’s bedroom. The brothers and other sisters had an upstairs of the store, there were two of us or you know the sisters would have two little girls living together, and the two brothers live together, in the about four of us. And other two—one was warehouse and one was just rented up for some of the. . . my dad’s nephews used to work sawmill or waiting camp, and canneries, and when the season’s over they used to come and live in dad’s and mother’s home. Yeah. The rooms are about Pauses. 8 by 10. Yeah quite—even smaller than that, yeah, and about half the size of. . . so two rooms is, yeah. . . see now, okay. We had the one, two, three backroom. One was used for warehouse, other was two, yeah two was for warehouse, other one would have been one bedroom. But other time we had more than that people Laughs. cause you know young men, nephews, nephews come back from waiting camp, logging camp, or sawmill, they come home and so they’re always bunking with dad and mother. Yeah. Anything else?
EY
Can you describe to me your neighborhood growing up? So the neighborhood around there?
BH
Yeah neighborhood is like any neighborhood. Houses were you know one after another, eh? And, just a minute I can show you some of the pictures. Bob moves towards his book shelf where he looks for a book. He shows Erin some pictures for 45 seconds with light shuffling in the background.
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EY
So these are photos from the community, around Powell Street. Long pause.
BH
These are all my pictures. Pause. If you want pictures. . . In this one. . . But these are mostly the fisherman and loggers. Pause.
EY
Did you attend Japanese Language school in the area?
BH
Yeah yeah.
EY
And what other schools did you attend?
BH
The public school, high school. I didn’t go, didn’t have enough money to go to university. Laughs.
EY
Do you remember any stories from going to school in the area?
BH
Not that I, you know nothing exceptionally special, only that in Vancouver when I went to public school, it was Strathcona Public School. It was mostly Italian, German, Chinese, and Japanese. And there’s only odd time that there’s a rumpus started among Japanese and Chinese boys, especially boys. And yeah I remember . . . but the on the whole, everything was quite interesting. Strathcona was one of the biggest public schools, they had four buildings besides the other auditorium, so. It’s one whole block of the buildings and you know it’s. . . it’s—I can’t remember last time, I haven’t seen it, haven’t gone to Vancouver in ages so I can’t remember what it looks like now. Yeah. Anything else?
EY
Can we go back and discuss your grandfather? I know you brought him up and your family when they came to Canada.
BH
Oh, my grandfather came in 1880s, far as I know. And my father came in 1890. And they started a business in 1898, in the Powell Street. And then my mother, my dad and mother, they got married in 1905, and they dad took over the business 1905. To them I guess it made our living, good living, and raised the eight children. Yeah.
EY
Can you describe to me your siblings?
BH
Who?
EY
Your siblings?
BH
Siblings, yeah. My oldest brother, he’s . . . well now Tom was young man, young business man, grew up to be a young business man. Played baseball with Asahi Japanese baseball team. Yoshiko, the oldest daughter, was sickly so she was raised in Japan by mother’s younger brother who was a medical doctor.
00:25:37.000
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BH
And my other sister Arisa lived in Vancouver at that time. And my oldest sister came back to Canada in 1931. The year that my mother—yeah yeah ’31—that was the year mother had birthed our youngest sister and she took the baby to Japan to bring my oldest sister back to Canada, because grandfather passed away and then nobody . . . he . . . During the depression years, we had a business, kept on growing the business. Dad was . . . Dad was quite a generous man. And depression year, when things were bad, my dad took sack of rice and miso paste to the cannery, to every family in the cannery, to give them at Christmas time, and because he is known, you know, known for generosity that one fisherman called him an angel. Laughs. But you know, Dad has always said, “Give them help, help the people if they need the help.” He was a generous man, even after finished high school, looked after dad’s business book and I’d look at all the people who owe them the money, and I said, “If you had all those money you would have been a rich man.” He says, “It’s alright, if they’re able to pay, they’ll pay.” But see I haven’t seen a penny since Laughs. but he said, “Nope it’s okay, don’t worry about it, they’ll look after if they are able they pay.” But that’s the reason that this fisherman said, “Your dad’s an angel.” Laughs. Yeah, yeah, and oh, when the war broke out, we were the only business that kept open until the—right to the evacuation day. Most of the stores in Vancouver, Japanese stores were closed, or you know confiscated, or closed. But I was still able to work for my dad in the store and used to go to . . . when we ran out of our Japanese goods, some of the Japanese goods stores, or you know, had Japanese good in there, so I went to the commission, or my mother went to commission and asked if they could buy some of the Japanese goods, said, “There of no use to letting it rot.” So we were able to buy those Japanese goods and sell it to the Japanese in the Hastings Park, and yeah. Yeah, and well, what else . . . In ’42 when they left, I had to leave in August, August of 19th. And went to Slocan as a carpenter to build houses, but . . . I said that before, didn’t I? Laughs.
00:30:07.000
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BH
But anyway, building the houses about the size of a modern garage size with the three separate, two partition, and the one for the . . . And in the winter time, it was getting cold. We had to put the tar paper all on the houses so the wind doesn’t blow in and then we put the shiplack over again to protect the houses. There was frost up to about four feet off the ground in the houses, but you know, that’s the only thing we could do, that was during the evacuation. That was only one year I stayed. Cause I wasn’t going to stay there. Yeah. And one year I stayed, being young and you know, carefree, we could live with it. But you know, young men. But I guess it was tough on the rest of the family. Went to . . . I told you about my going to Calgary, yeah?
EY
Do you remember any stories from your parents being in the internment camp?
BH
What?
EY
Do you remember any stories from your parents in the internment camp?
BH
Internment camp, the year that I stayed, the winter I stayed wasn’t that bad, come to think of it. But it was a cold winter, lots of snow in Slocan Valley. Gee now, I know I remember one time I had to look, we had a crew of four people in a truck to move in the goods and the families and all that, but one year I remember I had to look after the funeral pyre. Laughs. Burning the body out in the mountains. And then you had to stay up all night keeping the fire burning so that the casket would burn, and that was the worst experience I had in there, you know. During the experience of having to stay with the funeral pyre and stay there, and that was enough for me, I had to get out of here so I was trying to get out of there. I was hoping to go to Montreal. I wanted to go down to Montreal to learn dress design, eh? And all kind of design work. But I can’t go unless I have a job, I said, “How can I have a job if you don’t go there?” Laughs. So I said, “I’m not going to starve, I will work dishwasher, anything, to go out there.” But no. So I wrote my uncle about Japanese ladies having sewing machines, so during the war time there’s lack of goods, so send me their remnants and we will make the goods so you can sell it. My uncle wrote to his brother-in-law and said, Bob’s idea is this, what you think of it?” The uncle that live in Slocan said, “that’s Bob’s idea, let Bob look after it.” And my uncle in Calgary said, “No, don’t bother, you come and work for me.” Laughs. So I said, “Okay,” and I want to come to Calgary but I couldn’t get to a Calgary certificate, so I came to Regina. I had to write a letter to mayor, and I can’t think of his name now. But anyway I came to—wrote letter to mayor of Regina, asking if I could come to Regina, and at that time he didn’t know if he put it to city council there might be public hullabaloo. So he said he would see Mr. Kitagawa and would talk to him about it. “What do you think,” he said, “you see that good man?” “Yeah here’s a good man, so he can come in.” So I was able to come to Regina.
00:35:17.000
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BH
I came to Regina for one month as a working a Silk-O-Lina, or at that time it changed to Silk-O-Lina it was called Nippon Silk because of all the changes, switched the name to Silk-O-Lina. And I came to work with Silk-O-Lina for one month, then I went to RCMP and told them I have a job in Calgary, can I go there? And people in Regina, RCMP people, gave me a pass to go to Calgary and I’d be working in Calgary for four years, five years? Yeah, anyway. And then five years and then I got transferred back to Regina when my older brother Tom quit and started his own business. He started the dress shop, he had a—he and his wife, my sister Dorothy and another, his, Tom’s wife’s sister—had a dress making shop for the place that city hall is. That Victoria Avenue? That was, there was a row of confectionery stores, bakery, and the dress making store, and the radio center. And they opened a dress making shop, was doing okay until radio center moved out, and they took over that part also. The radio center opened in Lauren and 11th Avenue, where at present time it’s just an empty spot. Then after they opened there, they moved onto Victoria Avenue again, and then my brother and sister took over the Lauren and 11th Avenue store and opened as a baby stock, and ran it for about four years or so. Yeah, four—no about three, wouldn’t’ve been that long, yeah. Cause then Regina, yeah four years? Yeah that’s about four years or so. What else is there . . . of my life? Yeah I worked for the Silk-O-Lina for ever since I retired and became a partner retired in, when did I retire? Laughs.
BH
When did I retire? 1960, no. . .
AH
It’s quite a while ago.
BH
1980? 1988? 1988 was, yeah before Noreen got married, after Noreen got married. Right? Yeah 1988, ’89, somewhere there. Gosh I can’t remember, but after that I start working for the law firm of Robertson Stromberg, and worked there for as their courier for what? 13 years with them. Yeah, by that time I was 82 years old so I thought, “Oh I’ll call it a quits.” Laughs. And I’ve been retired since then. Yeah.
EY
So when, when were you born and do you remember, do you remember having friends? I know you said your school had several different backgrounds of people?
BH
Yeah.
EY
Did you have friends that were of different backgrounds?
BH
No, no they, most of the kids at the school you stay with your group, because we had clashes, you know how the boys are? Japanese against Chinese, and Italian and the Germans. Laughs. And that area was mostly the, you know, European. But friends, yeah my friends with . . . all somehow lost contact. Yeah.
EY
Do you remember a lot of racism back in Vancouver when you were young?
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BH
Yeah, yeah, racism, there was racism, there was always this. But that was caused by mostly the politicians. It was mostly the politicians’ fault, like Tom Reid and oh what’s his name? They were the cause of that racism. If they had kept quiet, it’d been okay. Sure, Japanese were enterprises, so they opened a little convector corner store, every corner had Japanese stores, corner stores and they complained about Japanese controlling the corner stores. Hey? Japanese controlling the corner stores, Japanese controlling the dry cleaning store, Japanese controlling the fruit market. That’s the cause of it, it’s a mostly the politicians fault. If they had kept quiet, I mean there may have been no problem. If it wasn’t for the politicians, there wouldn’t have been an evacuation. If, you know, the war stated against Japan, and Canada, there wouldn’t have been that problem if the politicians had kept quiet. I blame the politicians, like the guy like Tom Reid, oh gosh. Yeah. There’s a three politicians, that was cause of most of the trouble. If it wasn’t for them there wouldn’t be the evacuation, there wouldn’t be that trouble of this, you know. There wouldn’t be confiscating all those boats, eh? Bob shows the interviewer an image. This one, they’re confiscating all the boats during the war years? And yeah, yeah there’s confiscation and all the RCMP controlled all the boats. Confiscation of the cars, of the radio. Cameras. What else? Let’s see. Need anything else?
EY
So your journey to the internment camp, was your family evacuated? You said you had traveled as a carpenter. You didn’t travel with your family?
BH
No, I had, I had—cause they didn’t allow men to live in Vancouver, they had to be checked out. So most of them, a lot of them, young boys were shipped to railway camp or logging camp. See now, yeah mostly railroad camp and Chaplin—Chaplin, Ontario? The prisoner war camp there? Those who protested were shipped to the prisoner war camp. And those who agreed to stay had to work on their road camp, like a Hope Highway? Was built by Japanese labour. You know, Hope Highway, the highway was built by Japanese labour and the men working, have to work on there? And Tashme, up to Tashme I think was the most. Those who lived in Okanagan were safe. They were away from 100 miles radius from the coast. But there was no. . . you know, RCMP had none of the Japanese ever did any espionage, work for Japan. They had proven that, but yet you know, discrimination won’t die. As long as you’re different colour, you won’t die Laughs., right? Laughs. Always helped me with that, but yeah. Anything else?
00:45:35.000
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EY
Were there any people, any neighbors or any of the store owners that you remember leaving in Vancouver that were not of Japanese or Japanese Canadian background?
BH
Ah, no very few. Only through school time but at schools, you mostly congregated among their own race because of the—I guess because of the discrimination, you know during high school when you play there’s like baseball, soccer team, or anything like that, you played with all the occidentals, you made friends there but. . . Never—lost contact after high school, because I haven’t had a chance to even go to my own high school graduation. So, yeah. I was, yeah I had to work that day for my dad and mother. Laughs. Yeah, yeah.
EY
When you had to leave to be evacuated, what did you take with you?
BH
Just one suitcase. That’s about it. That’s all your clothing you know, yeah. There’s one thing I remember taking with me was my Indian Siwash sweater. That’s a surprise, the siwash sweater. What happened was just before we were leaving there was Siwash Indian lady selling these sweaters, so my mother said it might be cold so we mine as well buy one of those heavy siwash sweaters. Do I still have that? Did we give it away?
AH
I don’t know if you gave it away or not.
BH
The heavy sweater.
AH
You never wore it while we were married.
BH
I never wore it? Laughs.
AH
But it was hanging downstairs.
BH
Yeah? No I don’t think we have it anymore.
AH
Well it was pure wool so by now maybe the moths ate it. Laughs.
BH
Moth ate it. Laughs.
AH
Right? You know after hanging for that length of time.
EY
So were you friends? Or did you know any of the Aboriginal people in the area?
BH
Aboriginal people? Where?
BH
No. No, no, no. No, only Aboriginal people was the drunken ones that had lived in the cabin behind our house. There was a, you know, a tenement house, back of the house, and there was about 20 rooms there? There was quite a few Aboriginal people but they were always drunk. You could smell the milt in the Sterno’s to drink. Laughs. Yeah, yeah. So only one, only one, no none of the Aboriginal people.
EY
Do you remember hearing stories about what happened to the properties after you left?
BH
Oh after they was supposed to be saved kept for security, but they were sold. Right after, they were sold. Houses were sold too and then I don’t know what the buildings were sold to. But last time I went to Vancouver, when was it?
AH
When we got married.
BH
Yeah okay, that was ’69. That was ’69 when the our building was torn down. That was an empty lot there, so I could either something happened that they tore it down, so I don’t know. But that was empty lot. Yeah, the good old house. Laughs.
00:50:39.000
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EY
So when you came to Regina, you mentioned where you were working. Can you describe your life outside of work in Regina? Did you feel discrimination?
BH
Not that bad, not that bad the discrimination. But I found that the best way to beat discrimination is working through the church. So I wasn’t a church goer Laughs. I wasn’t a church goer, but I joined the church in Calgary, and used to go, you know, help in the young people’s organization and all that. Worked quite well for young peoples, and there’s two ministers I still remember. Horace Birkholder and Dwight Powell. They were two ministers who really supported me in presenting my idea to the public, and we used to, quite often I used to go down and I’d be working in the church quite often because they left me go into the church and use their mimeograph machine. And I used to. . . Horace and. . . Horace and what am I trying to say here? Anyway Horace Birkholder and Dwight and Alice, Alice, Alice Powell there were two ministers I used to quite get along and used to work together and I worked in the church basement quite often. Working away and they’d come and talk to me for a while, then I became a delegated the young people’s convention in. . . Stratford, not Stratford, by Kingston, by Kingston. Pauses. Oh I can’t think of the name, but anyway. Yeah . . . I thought I had a picture of that? An old picture?
AH
I don’t know.
BH
Walks over to his book shelf to look for a photograph. That picture. . . no. Long pause as Bob looks for a photograph. I guess not.
AH
It’s probably there somewhere by the time you look at the different photo albums. Laughs.
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BH
Old photo albums. Okay. And?
EY
Can you describe to me your siblings lives after the internment?
BH
What?
EY
Your siblings lives after the internment?
BH
Oh my, after internment they were, I came, left internment camp one of the earliest ones to leave cause I wasn’t going to stick around. Ah, I came to Regina.
EY
And where did your brothers and sisters go?
BH
They came to Regina ‘cause my oldest brother was living in Regina, my oldest brother was working for the Silk-O-Lina, it was called Nippon Silk but working for Silk-O-Lina so we all came to Regina. All my family came to Regina in . . . I was still in Calgary when they . . . yeah they came around about ’49, ’49 somewhere around there? Cause I left in ’44, went to Calgary, yeah. And family came to Regina ‘cause my oldest brother Tom was working in Regina, he didn’t have to evacuate ‘cause he was here. And he got married the year the war started, there were, he got engaged that year and married. The bride-to-be came to Regina when the war started, evacuation, so she came to Regina and lived in Regina and yeah.
EY
And what did your parents do after the internment? Did they work in Regina?
BH
No, no. They were retired, they were all retired because you know. They’re, at that age they should be what? Laughs. They would be all in 60s and 70s. So, you know. But Dad was active, he went to dishwashing, Chinese café called Exchange Café on the Row Street. And he worked as the dishwasher all the time you know. But he was in 60s then, but he enjoyed it. Yeah. Mother stayed home, but we all had some job to do so we had, yeah. We’re not a lazy people. Laughs.
EY
So how did the Japanese-Canadian community change after the internment? Did you still, were your family still doing traditional things?
BH
Out in Regina you don’t hear so much about that. It’s only lately that at Regina, there was very small Japanese group, very, very small. The one that’s in here in Regina is more good, 80% is newcomers. But, how many people? How many, no. Original Japanese left is, none left?
AH
Yeah, there’s not that many.
BH
Only Mable and Ohashi. Mable and the Ohashi’s were the only family that was here, rest is all passed away. There’s . . . you heard of Don Kobayashi and the . . . Laurie? They’re about the only family from original ones, and Mable Tomaki, Mable Kitagawa, and Roy Ohashi, they’re about pre-war Japanese. Rest is all came after the war or evacuation year.
01:00:20.000
01:00:20.000
EY
Have you passed on the story of the internment to your children?
BH
Nope, nope. Laughs. I haven’t told anything, unless they want to find out but I haven’t told anything about my internment. ‘Cause I didn’t stay in the internment camp that long. About six months is all, but I wasn’t going to stay there so that’s, yeah. I haven’t told anything about my internment to my children. Sue speaks to the family dog in the background. That’s it?
EY
Do you have any stories, any last stories that you remember of your family?
BH
What kind of stories?
EY
Or any stories from your life that you’d like to tell?
BH
Everything sounds okay with my family, our family, they’re all passed away. I’m . . . my, no my sister in Calgary, we’re the only two left now of all the eight children. My sis, yeah she’s 90 now. Laughs. No she’s what? Sue speaks to the family dog in the background. 1930, so she be 90? Chris is what?
AH
Chris is gonna be 86.
BH
86?
AH
Mhmm. And she was a nurse.
BH
Oh yeah, okay, 86, yeah. That’s right yeah.
EY
And what year were you born?
BH
’22. 1922.
BH
Yeah, yeah, in Vancouver. Yeah.
EY
And how many children do you have?
BH
Three. One, two, is my first wife, who passed away. And one with you. Bob points to Sue, everyone laughs Right, yeah.
EY
With Sue?
AH
Three you had, you’ve got three children.
BH
Three children, yeah
EY
And one fur dog, one fur baby.
BH
We’ve got lots of dogs!
AH
Oh we’ve had lots of dogs, about 14.
EY
Wow.
AH
That’s all through the years, we’ve always had at least two because they keep each other company.
BH
There’s our latest one. In the urn. Laughs.
AH
That’s our Toto.
BH
There’s how many in the basement in the shelves there? Laughs.
AH
We have them cremated.
BH
All cremated and so.
AH
They’re family you know they’re not just, they’re a dog so yes, but they’re still family. At least we treat them like family. They have a better life than we have. Bob laughs. They get fed, they get taken to the vet and. . .
EY
And how did you two meet?
AH
Pardon?
EY
How did you meet each other?
BH
Oh I was looking for—my first passed away—I was looking for somebody to look after my sportswear department. And then she was recommended by a couple of salesmen that came to Regina. So I went to interview her, had lunch with her, after that I had a date with her Laughs. and after that we had a date. Right?
AH
Oh you’re talking about me! Oh I thought you were talking about your first wife. No we didn’t meet that way, he interviewed me for a job.
BH
Yeah that’s how, yeah. That’s where we met. I knew she was—because you were a buyer for Army and Navy, and would see it as.
AH
That’s where I worked you know.
BH
So I interviewed her there and then after that. . .
AH
And then we got to know each other, you know. And he was on his best behavior, you don’t finds out what they’re like until you’re married to them.
01:05:15.000
01:05:15.000
BH
Laughs. She still wants to kick me out. Laughs.
AH
No, marriage is a give and take thing. Everybody’s got their say, at least that’s the way it should be. You know not only the husband be the boss, you’re both bosses.
BH
Yeah, yeah.
EY
And how long has your family been in Saskatchewan, Sue?
AH
Pardon?
EY
How long has your family been in Regina?
BH
Your family.
AH
Oh they were here, gee I don’t know. I think mother came. . .19, no 1914 they came.
BH
’14 they came to?
AH
Huh?
BH
1914 they came to, after the war or just after the war?
AH
Mother came. No it was just before the war, the war broke out.
BH
1914, so. Just before the war. Came from the Ukraine.
AH
But you know when I went to school—you were talking about school and Indian people—when I think back, that room was filled with all white people. I never thought of it before, because the only time we saw the Indians was when we went to the exhibition and I mean they just were all on the reserves. You know? But the Indians are, I think the Indians got a raw deal, really I feel bad for them. And you know so many of them come from homes where they see nothing but fighting and beat—there’s a reason why they are the way they are, you know? I can see why they get why they get into trouble, there’s a reason behind there, you know there’s nobody to sit lead them to the right spot.
BH
Right way, yeah.
AH
You have to think of that too you know, and just because some get in trouble you can’t judge the rest. There’s good ones, there’s good and bad in each race. That’s the way I look at it.
BH
Yeah, yeah.
AH
But yeah I never thought of that before.
BH
What?
AH
You know like I said they were all different language: Polish, Ukrainian, Romanian, German.
EY
So there were only a few Japanese people when you were here?
BH
No there was no Japanese in our school, it was all white. That’s all that was around. You know in those days, it was just all white people. And nobody discriminated against language, it was all, you know, they’d pick on kids “you’re too small, you’re too skinny,” or you know what kids are like. But as far as language is concerned, you know there was no nothing about that.
EY
And the Japanese population here in Regina now and in Saskatchewan is fairly small still?
BH
Yeah it still.
AH
It still is.
BH
It is ‘cause—
AH
There’s a lot of inter marriage now, a lot of white and Japanese.
BH
Japanese evacuation went to Alberta, Southern Alberta because they were sent in there as farmers you know, beet farmers? Or Manitoba as a beet farmers. And then Ontario was very . . . gee now when did they start going to Ontario, I think the same time but they weren’t allowed in Ontario much either until quite, until they accepted them, that they’re good workers. Laughs. Yeah, yeah, there’s one factory, that when I used to work: “If you know any Japanese people willing to work send em over!” Laughs. He used to say. You know?
AH
But as far as prejudice concerned, we’ll never solve—there’s always going to be somebody that, always, it’s too bad. People should get along, colours— when you look at a person, you don’t look at the colour you look at the person. Doesn’t matter if they’re pink or blue, but that’s not the way it is.
BH
You know in Vancouver, before the war, there was less Japanese in the prison then any races percentage wise. There were police chief said, “Japanese are the most behaved,” or most, “best citizens that they don’t get into trouble or anything like that.”
AH
They’re too busy working.
BH
Huh?
AH
They’re too busy working! Laughs.
BH
Well don’t forget that your parents treated you differently than what the Natives some of their parents, it was not those children’s faults. You know all the people don’t think of that!
AH
Yeah, yeah.
BH
That you’re background counts for a lot. If you see nothing at home that’s good, what are you gonna do? But we have to help those Native people.
AH
What is Tom, what is that guys name. . .
BH
We should give them more jobs and what not. Give them a try. They’re not all lazy, it’s just they try and try and nobody wants to hire them, so what happens? They get into trouble.
EY
It’s very true. So your parents were very hard working with their business?
BH
Yup, yup! They were hard working. Remember Dad didn’t come home till almost midnight. Those days didn’t have a car, had a horse, horse and buggy to deliver from Vancouver to New Westminster farm land. He didn’t come home till almost the midnight.
AH
Yeah, and then you worked hard too. All the kids had to work hard and help.
BH
It was almost midnight, I used to wait for him to get home so I could have supper with him too. Laughs. The midnight snack, that’s where my habit, that’s where I grew my habit of having the midnight snack. Laughs. Ever since small yeah.
EY
Well thank you for letting me interview you.
BH
Yeah. You’re welcome, welcome.
AH
It was a pleasure. Are you from Toronto?
EY
No I’m from Winnipeg, Manitoba.
BH
Oh yeah.
01:12:40.000

Metadata

Title

Bob and Sue Hori, interviewed by Erin Yaremko, 16 June 2016

Abstract

Bob Hori narrates his childhood on Powell Street in Vancouver before being briefly interned in Slocan, and then later moving to Calgary and Regina. He explains how his grandfather came to Canada in the 1880s before his father immigrated in the 1890s. He discusses his father’s role in the Japanese-Canadian community as a successful businessman who during the Depression years gifted a sack of rice and pail of miso paste to those in need. Bob narrates his time working as a carpenter in the internment camps, building shiplack houses, and his experiences insulating the structures. He speaks about his work with the company Silk-O-Lina after being in the camps until he retired from the company in the late 1980s. One item he remembers packing with him for the internment camp is a heavy wool sweater purchased from an Indigenous woman, an item his mother said would help him with the cold. Later in the interview, Bob’s wife Sue discusses how racism is wrong and should not exist.

Credits

Interviewee: Bob Hori
Interviewee:
Interviewer: Erin Yaremko
Audio Checker: Jennifer Landrey
Final Checker: Jennifer Landrey
Final Checker: Natsuki Abe
Encoder: Natsuki Abe
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Keywords: 1880-2015 ; Carpentry; Silk-O-Lina Company ; Racism; Powell Street ; Vancouver ; Slocan ; Calgary ; Food

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.