Linda King, interviewed by Carolyn Nakagawa, 11 April 2018

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Linda King, interviewed by Carolyn Nakagawa, 11 April 2018

Abstract
Linda King was raised in Trail, British Columbia. She begins this interview by describing how when she was a child, she travelled with her mother and sister to visit Dr. Shimotakahara in Kaslo. She recalls how she played with Japanese-Canadian children and her mother visited Amy Fugioka , a woman with chronic arthritis. Despite this experience, Linda explains that she only learned about the internment and dispossession in her 50s. This was when she moved to New Denver to own a shop and her friend Nobby Hyashi brought her books on the internment. When she moved to New Denver, she also met Tad Mori , a Japanese Canadian who in 1942 was in charge of guarding Doukhobor children. She recalls seeing the paper-thin shacks and feeling angry whenever this history is mentioned. Her mother had a kind attitude towards Japanese Canadians, and King attributes her perspectives today to the impact this had on her growing up. She recalls going to a garage sale at her Japanese-Canadian son-in-law’s grandmother’s house where they had jewellery and mink coats; she explains that this gave her the idea that this family was well-off before being uprooted from VancouverKing discusses how this history should never have happened, and says that the money from Redress was not enough.
00:00:00.000
Carolyn Nakagawa (CN)
This is Carolyn Nakagawa. I'm here with Linda King. It's April 11, 2018, and we're here in Nanaimo to record Linda's oral history for the Landscapes of Injustice project. So Linda, can I just start off by asking you to share some of your memories of interacting with Japanese Canadians in BC growing up?
Linda King (LK)
Yes. Pause. Would you like me to start right now?
CN
Yes. Both laugh.
LK
My first recollections was probably when I was five. And we would travel from Trail to Kaslo. My mother was quite ill, and so we had found, or she had found, a doctor by the name of Shimotakahara that was a specialist from Vancouver. And so we went up quite often to visit him. I remember when she was at his clinic, or his office, that we would go to the beach. And I remember playing with little Japanese children. Not thinking they were any different than I was, just they were from Kaslo and I was from Trail. My sister and I both had our tonsils taken out by Dr.Shimotakahara. I didn't need mine taken out but he thought it'd be a good idea seeing she's having hers taken out that I might as well have mine taken out. Laughs. So that was that. I remember it being exciting. It was like a holiday going up there, it wasn't a forced thing. And that's basically what I remember. There was a lady there, her name was Amy Fugioka, and she was confined to the hospital, I think. My mother became a friend of hers. And I know we would go to visit her. And she was a very tiny lady, very slim and slender. And she had, I think it was arthritis—terribly bad. And her arms and hands were very malformed. And I remember that as you know, somebody that we visited. Other than that I don't remember too much from that period. Just playing with the kids. Thinking it was a great idea to be in Kaslo. Carolyn laughs. Like holidays. Yeah. That's about it, from my childhood, that I can remember.
CN
Do you remember your family, or people in the community in Trail, talking about the war when it was on?
LK
Yes, I had two uncles that went to war. But it was more, they were—it was the Germans. I don't remember ever hearing anything about the Japanese. Until probably later, probably in my teenage years. I remember them being called Japs. And I couldn't understand that because they were our friends as far as I could tell. I didn't understand that it was a war. I did understand that we didn't like the German's for sure. Both laugh.
CN
But there wasn't any connection in your mind to the Japanese people that you knew?
LK
No, no. And that was maybe because there was no Japanese in Trail. So we didn't see them ongoing.
CN
But you met Dr. Shimotakahara.
LK
Yes.
CN
What was he like?
LK
My mother had great, great respect for him. And I remember him just being a gentle, gentle soul. I did hear later that he refused to go back. That Vancouver had asked him to return and work in the hospital there, and he had refused. And I think he retired, as far as I know he retired in Kaslo.
CN
And do you know how your mom became close with Amy Fugioka?
LK
No, I think maybe Dr. Shimotakahara said she'd like to be visited. That's the only way I can think of, because she was confined. She wasn't that old, either. I think she was maybe in her thirties. But terribly, terribly crippled. And very bored, that would be a very boring life. So we used to go and visit. And then after, even when we went up there for holidays, we'd visit her.
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CN
Can you tell me a bit about Kaslo was like at that time?
LK
I don't really remember. I just remember, you know, playing on the beach. I think I was too young to take in. . . I remember we used to stay in like housekeeping rooms, or. . . And my dad and my brother never came with us. It was just my sister and myself and my mother. But I, you know, that was all arranged. I never had to think about what—I don't remember meals or. . .
CN
How often would you go up there?
LK
Probably two or three times a year. And I don't remember going up in the winter. It was always summertime. So whether the roads—I remember the big, old buses. And it was a terribly windy old road. Nowhere near as bad as going to New Denver. New Denver was absolutely awful.
CN
Did you visit New Denver when you were a child, as well?
LK
Yes I did. Because I can remember that windy, scary road. Going up there. Yes. But I don't remember the Japanese from that time. And I don't remember why we went there, whether we were just passing through. I don't know.
CN
Was it common for people from Trail to travel into the Kootenays? Places like Kaslo?
LK
Yes. It was a lovely holiday spot. I actually had—My mother's sister was a schoolteacher, and she had actually taught up in Johnsons Landing. Which would be in the early 30s, I would think. 1930s. And she would have to take a boat from Kaslo up to Johnsons Landing. So that was something that I was always curious about. But I didn't get to go there ‘til probably fifteen years ago. And there's another terribly windy road. Laughs. Cliffy.
CN
Were there any Japanese Canadians that you played with in Kaslo who were your particular friends?
LK
Yes, there was one. And I used to have a picture of her. I don't remember her name. But we used to play. I can remember that.
CN
I also wanted to ask you about how you got involved in the New Denver community? How you came to live in New Denver later in life?
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LK
Well, I used to go up there with friends to visit an artist. And I fell back in love with that area. So I decided to move up there, and bought myself a little store. And became completely immersed in it. I think I was up there about twelve years. This is in my 50s. Made some very good friends. Nobby was probably my best friend up there. He used to come in everyday and play Keno in my store. And he was always a real gentleman. He was a delightful man. He used to bring me the books—The Interment. And he didn't preach about it. But if I asked, we would get talking about it and then he would bring me information about it. I don't remember the names of the books. And also while I was there, they filmed a movie called Snow Falling on Cedars with Ethan Hawke in it. And they built a shack, but it was a lovely little cabin that they built to do it. And it was up on what was known as Anderson's Farm. Which is a plateau probably within a mile of New Denver, up above. I don't know how many people were in that settlement, but there was a lot. But then they filmed this movie. And I don't remember talking to anybody about reactions to the Japanese moving in. They did stay a tight community, I know that. Most of the people that stayed there, stayed in what was called The Orchard. A section of New Denver. Pauses. I think the men were terribly bored. I think there was nothing for them to really do until they got into logging and mining. But other than that it was their gardens, their community baths—They built their little community baths for the men. They'd sit and smoke and gossip, I guess. There was quite a bit of promiscuity going on, amongst the community. And this was boredom. I think a few of the Japanese children would have had to be very careful about who they had relationships with, because they might even be brother's or sister's. Pauses. I wasn't in any Japanese home, at all. So they were pretty private. There was another couple there, their daughter actually still lives there. And they were the sweetest couple, they were in their 80s I think when I was there. He used to recycle, and he'd walk I guess it was two miles into town, and recycle every day. And it was like one bottle or one can. Laughs. They had a spot there. And he used to wear these gloves that were completely worn out, I mean the fingers you could see through them. And I asked him one day when he was going to get a new pair of gloves. And he said, “Oh, the only reason I wear them is to wipe my nose.” Laughs. And so, you know, it was cute. Nice guy. I can't think, maybe you could ask a question or two.
CN
Well around what year was it when you first moved to New Denver?
LK
I think it was around '92, '93.
CN
Okay, so after Redress.
LK
Yes.
CN
When did you first become aware that the Japanese Canadians had been forced to move to the Kootenays?
LK
Probably as a child. I would think that my mother would have told me that. But it didn't really mean too much to me. You know, as a child, other than visiting, playing with the kids, with the one little girl, actually. Yeah, I don't remember. I did learn a lot when I got to New Denver, because I was interested. But I don't remember a heck of a lot of it.
CN
Do you remember any change in the Kootenays when the war ended?
LK
No. No. I don't.
CN
Were you still visiting Kaslo in those years?
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LK
I don't think so. Then we used to go to the Okanagan. And I don't know why we quit going up to Kaslo.
CN
Do you remember the time when you had that realization that this had been a big event? You said when you were a child you didn't really register.
LK
I don't think it registered ‘til I became an adult and started to read about it. And then when I moved up there, of course, seeing movies and shacks and spots where people were herded into. And seeing how paper-thin they were. Then it hit home. But because we had no interaction, really, in Trail. No, I don't remember anything about that.
CN
Do you think you have a different perspective than other people who you've interacted with in Trail or otherwise, because of your visits to Kaslo? On Japanese Canadians?
LK
No, I think it was more my mother's attitude towards them. She was a kind, kind lady, and she made it seem like it was normal. Because I don't remember talking about it being a war or the people being moved there at that time. I don't remember anything derogatory at all about it.
CN
Did you ever talk with her or other members of your family about the Japanese Canadians, even later as an adult?
LK
No, I didn't. We might have mentioned Dr. Shimotakahara, but I think she felt like he was a saviour to her. But that's, you know, that was just like any other doctor. Laughs.
CN
Do you remember the discussion in the media happening during the Redress years, when Japanese Canadians were lobbying for Redress?
LK
No, I don't. By that time, I was living in Victoria. And I don't, but Nobby did bring me a book about it which I tried to read, but it was pretty documentary. Documents, and it was a pretty heavy book. And I don't remember them feeling like they got rich. I think they got 25,000 dollars, that's what I believe I heard. I do believe that they took it, but I don't think they believed it was enough. No. And I didn't believe it was—It was like a slap in the face as far as I was concerned.
CN
So you came into the New Denver community after that time. And I'm wondering if it was something that. . . Is that when your interest in the history started? Or was it before that you first started to read about it?
LK
No, I think it was after I’d moved up there and met some of the people. And then I got interested. Before that I had four kids, so I was busy doing mother things. Yeah, I became really interested because I found them quite fascinating. To know that some of them had stayed in the very same houses. . . That was quite something.
Phone rings. 00:19:37.000
00:19:37.000
CN
Sorry, it wasn't recording. I'll just get you to—Can I get you to start, just to tell me more about the community in New Denver, when you moved there in the 90s?
LK
Yes, there was quite a community of volunteers and children of the Japanese who had gotten the Nikkei Centre started. Which is a little memorial area. And the older women would make origami birds and sell them to the tourists in the summertime. For the Nikkei Centre. They were donated to the Nikkei Centre. All winter I suppose they worked on—
Stops mid sentence from technical difficulty.
CN
This is Carolyn Nakagawa, back here with Linda King. We had to resolve some technical difficulties, but we're going to wrap up the interview now. So just because we had to do a reset here, can you tell me a bit about what life was like in the community you grew up in Trail? Growing up?
LK
Sure. It's a smelter town, so everybody works. Pretty much 90% of the people worked for the—it's called Teck Cominco now. My dad worked there. All my friend's fathers worked there. Close knit community. Probably 40% to 50 to 60% Italian, who came over I would think late 30s, early 40s. A big sports—Because the company that ran the smelter, they built a great big arena. So everything, we had pretty much everything. But lots of skiing and hiking around. Yeah, yeah. One high school. Two or three elementary schools. Yeah, that's pretty much Trail. Both laugh.
CN
That's interesting that there's a large Italian population in Trail.
LK
Yes. A lot of bricklayers, that kind of thing. There's walls. They've even written a book about these Italian walls that have been built. Because it is a mountainside town, right on the Columbia River. I don't know the reasons why the Italians all came, but. . .
CN
Do you remember being aware of that during the war years, that Italy was one of the allies with Germany?
LK
No, not at all. I don't remember that at all. You see, I was pretty little. The war was over when I was five. I remember going to Castlegar to say goodbye to my uncles when they went off to war. There was a train station there. But that's about it, that I remember of the war. My grandmother was very sad at the time. But I was pretty little.
CN
How long did you live in Trail for?
LK
I graduated there. I was 18. And I after moved to Victoria.
CN
Why did you move to Victoria?
LK
My husband was going to university. And he became a schoolteacher. So we moved here, and then we moved back to Trail the following summer, after he had trained. Then he got a job back in VictoriaSooke, actually. So we came back.
CN
I see. And then did you spend most of his career on The Island?
LK
Yes, I was here for 35 years. The kids all grow up here. Victoria is their home.
CN
I see.
LK
But I kind of was a wanderer. Laughs. I moved back to Trail when my dad was dying. I looked after him.
CN
From Sooke you moved back to Trail?
LK
From Victoria. We lived in Victoria.
CN
You lived in Victoria?
LK
Yeah, and then I moved back to Trail. And then I moved up to New Denver.
CN
And what was it about New Denver that made you want to live there?
LK
It's a very, very beautiful little town. By then the highway was all reconstructed. It was easy to get there. It was probably my size of town, very small and quiet. Yeah, yeah. I love New Denver. It's ironic that, you know, to punish people they move them to this beautiful area. And it's not ironic for them, I mean it was very, very unpleasant, but. . . Yeah.
00:25:45.000
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CN
And I think that brings us back to what you were talking about before, when you were telling me about the community in New Denver.
LK
Yeah. I think most of them are gone, now. The 80 and 90 year olds, they were, by the time I got up there, 70s, 80s, and 90s. And my son-in-law, he’s a descendant, and he keeps me up to date on who's passed away. And I think most of them are gone, except for the—There's a few sixty-year-olds there that, are children, and that have stayed. There's a lot of people there that were there during the war. It would be a good place to do interviews. There are a lot of, I guess they'd be in their 80s and 90s now. They were there during the interment, and have stayed—Lived there all their lives.
CN
Do you find it's primarily a Japanese-Canadian community?
LK
No, oh no. It's very tiny, now. Yeah, it's very tiny.
CN
Is there a sense of a different community that is Japanese Canadian, or is everybody mixed together?
LK
Everybody's mixed together now. Intermarriage, yes. No, it's really mixed. Very mixed.
CN
And do you think that the interment history, does it have an impact on the way that you live your daily life in the town? Is it something that comes up very often?
LK
Not really. Not unless you were really interested in history. But, does it come up every day? Yes, because when I first was there, there was people, like in '95, there was people that had stayed. And their children would come every summer to visit as far away as Toronto. And then as I was saying now, there's people, children being brought from Japan to learn English, and to fill the school. It's a money-making profit. I mean that school would be closed if they hadn't brought in—And why they chose to bring in basically Japanese, I don't know. Unless it was the people that were running it that had a connection. But they didn't bring in other nationalities. And the people that were running it were not Japanese. Just one of those things. Laughs.
CN
I'm interested to know, because you've come to know this history of Japanese Canadians through reading, you said that Nobby Hyashi would bring you books?
LK
Yes.
CN
And how you see that as fitting into other aspects of Canadian history that you know?
00:29:49.000
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LK
To me, it's a very sad example of who Canadians are. My idea is that the people who sent them into the interior were very selfish money-grubbing. They thought it was a great thing, because then all those homes were taken. I went to a garage sale at my son-in-law's grandmother's house, and she had some absolutely beautiful jewelry. She had at least two to three mink coats. But I never heard where their wealth had come from before they got to—I mean they didn't have any money in New Denver. And I didn't—I have never asked Curtis about what they did in Vancouver. But there was a certain amount of—I don't want to say hidden wealth because they didn't have anything—but I think they had family treasures that they brought with them. Small hidden jewellery, that kind of stuff. So you had the idea that they were probably well-to-do people in Vancouver before. And I can't even imagine what it would be like to be shipped into the big barns in Vancouver, and then put on buses with one suitcase. And then never knowing how you were going to survive. No jobs. No, you know. So I guess it affected me that way. I get angry when I hear about it. Laughs. Because, you know, they were very, very good people. All the ones I met. Delightful people. Beautiful people. One of the people that I met up there, a man by the name of Tad, and I think his name was Tad Mori. Now he went up there in 1942, and I don't know if you know this about New Denver, it then—When the war was over, the RCMP started bringing in the Doukhobour children, the Russian children. Do you know that side of the story?
CN
I've heard it alluded to very briefly, but I don't know much.
LK
Yeah. And so, they had a big fenced in area where they put the children from the Doukhobour families in, to make them go to school. They had guards. So here we now have a Japanese fellow, who's a guard over these little Russian children. So that was another interesting part in New Denver. And there, I can honestly say that I didn't find a bitterness in the Japanese people. But I certainly did in the Doukhobour children, that are adults now. A terrible bitterness. Most of them turned out to be alcoholics. You know. A whole, completely different story.
CN
And are they still present in the New Denver community?
LK
There's a few. Every once in a while. They're more down the Slocan Valley, it's a very fertile valley. Farms. And that's what the families did, was farming. Communal farming.
CN
Was that typical for Japanese Canadians like Tad to be involved in the Doukhobour, in the Doukhobour children of New Denver?
LK
He was the only person that I heard about that was a guard there. And I don't know how many children were sent there, but I know there was a huge fence around them. So another sad part of history, too. And the native community—I mean there's no natives up in New Denver. But I mean everywhere else, it's a sad part of our history.
00:35:14.000
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CN
You mentioned to me that you have some other connections up in Kaslo? Or people who have roots in Kaslo?
LK
Yes. One of my girlfriends that I graduated high school with, her parents owned a farm at Shutty Bench. Apparently the farm was named after, or Shutty Bench was named after that family. And there's now an aunt left, and she would have been twelve to fourteen, so she would have remembered a lot more than I can remember. And so from the farm, they delivered eggs and milk—maybe butter. She mentioned eggs and milk. But my friend, they would go up there every summer and spend it with their grandparents. But she didn't remember a thing about—Because they wouldn't come into town. I think she said Shutty Bench is about six miles out of town. So they didn't go into town. And one night she was talking after I had talked to her, and she met this fellow by the name of Ed Glover, and I don't know his association with New Denver—I mean with Kaslo. But he does remember that boat builder that was up there.
CN
I'm interested in how Kaslo as a place comes up in conversation for you? As someone who has a connection to it, but not one that's specifically about the forced removal.
LK
I love Kaslo. Kaslo's a very, very beautiful town. Yeah, I have very good memories. I would go there again. Laughs. And New Denver as well.
CN
What was it like in the 40s to travel from Trial to Kaslo?
LK
I would think it was probably a four to five hour trip. Whereas now, it's maybe two and a half hours? Just because of vehicles and the highway system. I know we always used to go up in a big, old bus. And as I was telling you earlier, I sat with this elderly Japanese fellow, And he's my first recollection of Japanese people. and he had a terrible cough, but he also had a jar with him, a sealer. And he would spit into this jar, and it fascinated me. I didn't think anything was wrong with it, I just thought, “Oh.” But now in my old age, I think what would he have done if he didn't have a jar? Where would all of this fluid, you know, it's not pleasant to think about but it was a very sanitary thing he was actually doing. One of the recollections. Laughs.
CN
Was it common to see Japanese Canadians on the bus to Kaslo?
LK
Yes, but not a lot of them. And I don't know what reason they would have come out of Kaslo at that point. Although, I'm not sure. What year, do you know what year they were released and could go wherever they wanted?
CN
1949.
LK
Okay, so no. He would still have been held in. So for some reason, he had permission to onto the bus. I don't remember a lot of them, but I just remember him.
CN
Okay, well I think that's all the questions I have. But I just wanted to ask if there are any other memories of Japanese Canadians or stories that you want to share about the area of Kaslo or New Denver?
LK
No, I think I pretty much covered everything.
CN
Any other thoughts about the history that we're talking about today?
LK
It should never have happened. Definitely not. No, that's about it.
CN
Okay. Thank you very much.
LK
You're very welcome.
00:40:18.000

Metadata

Title

Linda King, interviewed by Carolyn Nakagawa, 11 April 2018

Abstract

1930s-40s 1990s
Linda King was raised in Trail, British Columbia. She begins this interview by describing how when she was a child, she travelled with her mother and sister to visit Dr. Shimotakahara in Kaslo. She recalls how she played with Japanese-Canadian children and her mother visited Amy Fugioka , a woman with chronic arthritis. Despite this experience, Linda explains that she only learned about the internment and dispossession in her 50s. This was when she moved to New Denver to own a shop and her friend Nobby Hyashi brought her books on the internment. When she moved to New Denver, she also met Tad Mori , a Japanese Canadian who in 1942 was in charge of guarding Doukhobor children. She recalls seeing the paper-thin shacks and feeling angry whenever this history is mentioned. Her mother had a kind attitude towards Japanese Canadians, and King attributes her perspectives today to the impact this had on her growing up. She recalls going to a garage sale at her Japanese-Canadian son-in-law’s grandmother’s house where they had jewellery and mink coats; she explains that this gave her the idea that this family was well-off before being uprooted from Vancouver. King discusses how this history should never have happened, and says that the money from Redress was not enough.

Credits

Interviewee: Linda King
Interviewer: Carolyn Nakagawa
Transcriber: Jennifer Landrey
Audio Checker: Jennifer Landrey
Final Checker: Jennfier Landrey
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Nanaimo
Keywords: Trail ; Kaslo ; Dr. Shimotakahara ; Vancouver ; Amy Fugioka ; New Denver ; Kootenays ; Johnsons Landing ; Nobby Hyashi ; Keno; Snow Falling on Cedars ; Ethan Hawke ; Anderson’s Farm ; The Orchard ; Okanagan ; Redress ; Victoria ; Nikkei Centre ; Teck Cominco ; Columbia River ; Castlegar ; Sooke ; Toronto ; Japan ; Tad Mori ; Doukhonours; RCMP ; Slocan Valley ; Shutty Bench ; Ed Glover

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.