Florence Kishi, interviewed by Joshua Labove, 09 November 2015

Florence Kishi, interviewed by Joshua Labove, 09 November 2015

Abstract
Florence talks about her earliest childhood memories and growing up in different parts of Vancouver until she was “evacuated” at four or five years of age. Her family had gotten permission to stay in Vancouver after October 31st but chose not to because the children and adults were “not very nice” to them. Florence states that the discrimination got worse after Pearl Harbor. Florence talks about her memories of her father and the type of man he was and the various jobs he held to support the family. She describes her high school experiences, working at a sawmill office with her father, and helping her family pack to move to Christina Lake during the “evacuation” of Japanese-Canadians. The interview closes with Florence explaining what she would like young Canadians to take away from the Landscapes of Injustice Project.
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Labove Joshua (LJ)
It is November 9th, 2015. I'm Josh Labove in Port Coquitlam BC, with Florence Kishi. So maybe just to start Florence, you could just tell me about your earliest childhood memories. Where did you grow up? Where were you born?
Teizou Kishi (TK)
Well, I was born in Vancouver General Hospital. Apparently, I was a very overdue baby laughs. Anyway, I grew up in different parts of Vancouver for a while. The part I remember most is living on McGill Street near Exhibition Park. That was from the time I was about four or five years old until we were evacuated. I don't know, I was always supposed to look after my younger brothers and sisters. They tagged along wherever I went. I didn't like doing any house work. I wanted to read instead. My mother was very upset with me all the time because I never did much of anything. Anyway, I managed. I did well in school. Not in Japanese language school. I only got about a B- or C+, but in English I did really well. My dad kept telling me if I got first in the class, I would skip, and he wanted me to skip in the worst way. So I got first several times, but I never skipped, they wouldn't skip me. When you consider the fact that I didn't speak English when I started school, and didn't even know my own name. Well, that's pretty reasonable.
LJ
So, let's go back to McGill Street in your childhood. What was it like over there and what sorts of things would you get up to?
TK
What do you mean?
LJ
Well, what sorts of things occupied your time, was there groups of kids that you would hang around with or...?
TK
Well, we went to school for 8:30 for choir practice. School didn't start until just after 9. Then school was out at 3:30. We would catch the streetcar and rush down to Jackson Avenue and run four blocks down to Alexander Street for the Japanese school bus.
LJ
Did you like Japanese language school?
TK
No, not very much. In English school, I did better and I could speak the language easily and I had friends. I don't know I did well in school.
LJ
What about your parents? Did they speak English at home or...?
TK
No, they spoke Japanese. My mother didn't speak much English so we spoke mostly Japanese. That's why I didn't even know my name when I started grade one, because they've been calling me by my Japanese name.
LJ
So, at this point you were all living in Vancouver. What is the timeline eventually your dad moves quite a bit and you moved with him I believe, no?
TK
You mean to Alpine Inn? Well, in September they wouldn't let us start school. So we were at home all the time. I wanted to go to Templeton Junior High because I finished grade six and we were supposed to go to junior high. My younger brothers and sisters were all starting school and going to school in Hastings school there. I don't know, it was a great disappointment that I couldn't go to school with the rest of my friends. Anyway, my dad got special permission I guess from the Canadian government that we could stay in Vancouver after October thirty-first which was the deadline. We told them we didn't want to stay anymore. The children weren't nice to us and even the grownups weren't nice to us. Well, we didn't feel like staying there.
LJ
And that happened pretty quickly right around the Pearl Harbor or was there some sort of defining moment for you where you felt like...
TK
Yeah, I think after Pearl Harbor it was worse. But before then even well there was a certain amount of discrimination. You would go to the store like Woodwards and want to get some cookies or something, there's a cookie counter and there's a big crowd around there. Well, I'd worked myself up to the front and then the clerk would go to the other side of the L shape counter. So I would have to walk over that way and work myself up to the front again. That was the reason my mother sent me down to Woodwards or anywhere else to go shopping because she couldn't get what she wanted and she was busy with five children while I was only about eleven and kind of small for my age too. So I don't know, it just wasn't pleasant at all.
LJ
So where did you all end up? Where did you go?
TK
Well we went directly to Christina Lake. My dad sent a telegram, which arrived the day we arrived at Christina Lake laughs. Yeah, he didn't know communication were like that and we were just very lucky as we were arriving at Cascades CPR station the people from Christina Lake Alpine Inn were picking up their mail and there were supposed to be an express or something so they happened to come. So they piled us all into this one car, a coupe which was very crowded. My sister was sitting on my stomach all the way. They got us all to the Alpine Inn and people there were very very surprised to see us because they weren't expecting us. There was no electricity there, that was the only...everything else wasn't too bad. No running water unless they got the pump going. There was this cistern on the fourth floor of the hotel. It was a three floor lodge. So when that water ran out, well we didn't have any water to drink or flush the toilet or anything. We were voted the friendliest retirement home in the tri-cities
LJ
It must have been quite a shock to go from Vancouver to...
TK
Yeah well, my dad had promised us that we were going to stay at a nice hotel. And of course I envisioned one of those tall buildings and we get to Alpine Inn. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the lodge that was there it was a kind of big lodge, three stories, big virandas in front and everything. It was very nice but that was not the kind of hotel I was thinking of laughs.
LJ
Did you have a sense of why you were going up there?
TK
No, just that the Canadian government said we should move there and it wasn't any fun being in Vancouver at all. And so I was just happy to be away from there and go to this new place.
LJ
And so you and all your siblings headed up there and your dad, and life was immediately different or...?
TK
Well yes, because I'm not used to having that many Japanese people.
LJ
So there were a lot of other Japanese Canadian families?
TK
Not around Hastings Park, not where I was living. And then all of a sudden I'm put into this community. It was only a hundred people maybe, from the infant right up to the oldest person. But they were all speaking Japanese, which I didn't quite understand. They were speaking a rough kind of Japanese dialect and that had English interspersed in it. I'm used to speaking all English and once in a while I have to speak Japanese to my mother. Anyway, it wasn't different but I didn't mind too much.
LJ
And what about school? Sounds like you were quite the student.
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TK
Well, there was no school. You know, at night of course it was dark and in the daytime too it was dim if it was winter time and it was October, November. It was getting darker and so they had gas lamps and coal-oil lamps. It was kind of dim all over. Anyway the people at Alpine Inn, the adults decided that the children should have an education. I understand that they got in touch with the department of education and they arranged to have a school for us. They got a room down in the basement of the hotel painted. It was kind of a darkish, not a dark blue but medium blue which isn't very good and it had only windows near the top of the wall. There are no teachers there because they were just ordinary people, nobody was going in for teaching. But we did have one person who had gone to university and we also had a lady who had graduated from high school, so they were hired. We started our school on first part of January or the second or whatever it was in those days. We started school at whatever level you were at when you evacuated. If you were half way or more than half way through grade six well then you got into grade seven. Anyway, but I think at Alpine Inn everybody was really smart. So we did well. Well in fact, come to think of it, there was another man who was a teacher. His father was the owner of a bookstore there. That was the only qualification he had that I could think of. But anyway, he tried to teach us. The high school graduate lady taught from grade one to three. Then this other guy was teaching from four, five, six, and seven. Then the university student, he was teaching grade eight plus helping with the high school students who were all taking correspondents courses. The high school students were in another room because their room wasn't big enough. There was one stove outside in the hallway, in the big hall. That was the only source of heat. That was kind of, I don't know, we did well I think. We were smarter than the teacher laughs and we outsmarted him a few times. But then in the spring, well he went off to work in the sawmill, so that was fine. We got the other man who was a university student so we got him to teach us instead. That was fine, we did alright with him. We did two years of school in a year and a half. You see, we started in January and then we went to the end of June and had two months of holiday. Started in September and by the following June we had caught up I said we were all pretty smart kids laughs. So after a while, they built a better place. Well it wasn't really built, it was already there. It was a horse barn but they went and fixed up the inside for a couple of rooms. One for high school and one for elementary school. The stove was inside the room instead of out in the hall. It was much lighter, brighter because it had more windows. I guess it was a little warmer too, they had insulated a little bit. So that was our new school. That was about a year after we started the school there. We all went there instead.
LJ
So, maybe you can just tell me about some of your earlier reflections about your dad. Certainly he is someone that I think evokes a lot of curiosity in people.
TK
Well, I always remembered him as a very well dressed man. He had a business suit, and it just didn't mean just a suit, he had a vest and he had a gold chain with his watch on the end and it was in his pocket. He had two or three suits like that. When he was dressing, I noticed he had garters for his socks, to keep his socks up. He had spats on his shoes, felt spats. He always had a hat. I don't think it was a bowler hat but I could be wrong. But he always had a felt business hat. In the summer it might be straw. He always looked distinguished that way. Just a small man though laughs he wasn't very big he was only 5'3 or so. Oh yes.
LJ
Did you ever as a kid wonder why he was so dressed?
TK
Well, I thought that he was in business so that's why he dressed like that. Other men well, if you're a store keeper you would dress for the occasion. We had an uncle who had a garden and eggs to sell, he would come around in his old truck and sell things off of that. Just like one of those Chinamen did.
LJ
So he was a sharp dresser. What else do you remember of him?
TK
Well, he was very proud of the fact that when he came to Canada he was only eleven or twelve years old. And he earned his own way through. He didn't get any help from his family. He had been adopted as a child to carry on the family name. When he was adopted the family was doing well financially. The young guy didn't know how to spend his money so he was broke. They came to Canada and I couldn't tell whether my dad stayed with his parents but I don't think so because he was delivering newspapers for his board and room. The Japanese newspaper, anyway. He walked miles every day to deliver them to all the different people. He said he wore out three pairs of shoes, no, a pair of shoes every three months. Anyway he would walk whether it was light or dark, whatever it was he would be delivering all those papers. That was why he was staying in this kind of ... sounded like a boarding house too because there were other people there with him. First he went to school in Alexander Street, the Japanese language school there. But then anybody who did well, I guess went to Strathcona school, he went to Strathcona school in a short while. And he went through grade one through eight in four and a half years. That's why he wanted me to skip. He thought I should be able to skip if I did well. I'm glad they didn't, because I was still immature. But he skipped from grade one to eight in four and a half years and he thought all of his children should do the same thing. Maybe not quite four and a half, maybe five years laughs. And then after that I understand he worked in a logging camp or something like that in the summer time. So he could earn enough money to go to grade eight and he was feeding the donkey they called it. Shoving all this firewood into the donkey engine, which made all the machinery go. I guess it was quite a strenuous job. Anyway at the end of it all, the company was broke and he never got paid. He went to a judge and they tried but they couldn't do anything. So that was the end of his education at grade eight at the end of grade six. So he did well for himself, considering with a grade six education he went into business and met with all the other businessmen and everything.
LJ
Was the fact that he never went on with his education something that he was upset about?
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TK
I think he regretted it because, you know, he made sure I got out of high school and we were in dire straits by this time. It was four years almost with no income and one income and a sawmill wage for seven or maybe sometime my grandfather would be there and it would be eight people. It's pretty tough going then so they could hardly wait for me to get out of high school but they let me finish and I didn't take any correspondents courses so I didn't finish until end of July. I finished grade twelve. So they made sure I got that which is very nice. The other children all went to higher education. Boys needed education because they were going to support a family. The girls had to earn their own way somehow so my sister became a teacher. She went to normal school for one year and after that summer school every summer. So she got her certificate. My younger sister, she went to Trail Business College for a year and came home ... “Oh yeah, sure I could type. I could type 163 words a minute or something” laughs. I thought that was really quite phenomenal just going to school for one year and typing that fast. So I tried her on a speed test. I took all my commercial courses, my correspondents, and so as a final year I only had grade twelve English. Everything else was correspondents courses. Anyway my younger sister said she could type that fast and I tried her. She couldn't type anything. She got a minus something on it because she made all kinds of mistakes and they never took off those mistakes. I could never get my fingers to move fast enough. I guess my ... I don't know what's the matter I ... There's a disconnect between my brain and my fingers. I know but after your first year you're supposed to be going twenty words a minute. After the second year forty words a minute. After the third year you're supposed to be going sixty and I could never... It was fifteen, twenty-five, and fifty-five. I just never could get as fast as I should but, oh well. In the office setting I did alright because I managed my time better.
LJ
You mentioned an office, did you end up in an office setting after all this?
TK
Yeah, well after school and then I had been working a little bit in that sawmill office where my dad was working but I'd been working on weekends and they decided I should concentrate on my schoolwork and finish everything and I did. After that I was working in a one man office. Did everything there but it was like a shed. Had knot holes in the floor, cracks in the walls, lots of empty air coming in which is fine in the summer; never mind about the grass going through. In the winter it was really cold. I had three pairs of socks on all winter long but just never got warm feet. I've had chilblains on my feet all winter long. They had plate glass on the desk because the desk was rough, not really rough but plain lumber but there was cracks and holes and it was uneven so they put plate glass on it. You'd put your hand on the plate glass and try to write something when it's really cold. They had a stove there and it was okay if you were facing there laughs. It gave off a lot of heat but we just didn't get it at that office. Under the eaves there where the roof came down and was supposed to be just over the wall, there was a space enough for a two-by-four between every post. That's where a lot of the cold air came in, and then mosquitos in the summer laughs.
LJ
So I'm wondering what you remember about your father. He would have gone down to New West Vancouver, and what you remember of that time...
TK
Not too much. He didn't say anything. He just said he had to go down to the coast and finish business. So, he went on a train at Cascade which is eight miles away. But he never sent letters to us or anything. I guess he communicated with my mother but there was no telephone or anything because there was no electricity. So, I don't know. I just don't remember much.
LJ
This would have gone on for a while, he would have gone back and forth.
TK
Well, he went for two or three weeks I think. A month or something and he came home. I know he told us stories about some of those fishing boats and I know he said that those prairie kids all want to be in the navy laughs. When they had all those fishing vessels at New Westminster, they were all clumped together there the navy was supposed to be looking after them and those boys, young kids, they didn't know and they took all the corks out of the bilge, whatever it is, at the bottom of the ship and he went in the morning to show a ship or two to somebody and all the boats were in the water, sunken down. He was saying how disappointed and disgusted he was and they had to fix them all up. But he didn't say too much about anything else. I know that when the government said that we're supposed to ... this is before the evacuation ... I know they went out to get registered but the government wanted all the cars and trucks and that at Hastings Park; cameras and radios and guns of course and other, you know, not fishing boats but pleasure boats. There weren't very many of them anyway but they wanted them all at Hastings Park. I know he talked about it but I never saw anything. I know that they took away our radio phonograph.
LJ
Yeah, I was going to ask you do you remember the things you packed up and left behind when you moved to Christina Lake.
TK
Well, we sold just about everything. We took most of what we had because my dad took the chairs and the sofa and all the beds. I think he took the beds. But anyway, I know the last day when we were leaving my younger brother next to me, Eddie, well he's the one that'd go downstairs to the basement where my dad was packing things and he'd tell me how many more tags to make. I had all this cardboard and I was supposed to make tags with our name on there. I don't know. My dad said “oh yeah, sure. He's going to take us, after we finish packing and all, he's going to take us to Marine building and we'll be able to meet Justice Smith and we'll see the inside of the Marine building.” By the time we finished packing it was pitch dark and nobody could do anything laughs. The first thing we did was to run down to Chinatown, somewhere around downtown and have Chinese dinner and then we met a girl who used to look after me as a child. She was all grown up and she had two children but she was married to a Chinese guy laughs. So they were eating Chinese food. That was a surprise. Anyway, we got on the train. My dad had arranged for berth and that. We didn't go on a day coach or anything. We had an overnight trip. We left at around eight-thirty or so and got to Cascade around four in the afternoon. After we had breakfast. It was nice and we went in the dining room and had breakfast. After that, well, our brothers and sisters were getting sick laughs. So we never did get to eat much else.
LJ
I guess thinking more recently when you learned more conclusively what your dad was doing during the war, can you explain how that came to be and how you came to learn who your dad was?
TK
I didn't learn much of anything. It was mostly hearsay. He did write a book and I remember him with great big ledgers with pages. I guess he had it on there, the list of the different fishing boats and how much they brought in and all this kind of stuff. He had very detailed records but the ledger was about like that thick and full of paper. I don't know much else. It was all written in Japanese I couldn't understand anything. He also had saved newspaper clippings from the Sun and that. So therefore they were mostly about how people were not nice to us.
LJ
To your personally or ...
TK
Just generally all the different ... well I think there was an MP in Ottawa saying bad things about Japanese and things like that. He had all those kind of clippings. I didn't read them all though, I didn't have time.
LJ
But you discovered in recent years, as you've said, that your dad was involved in the selling of fishing boats. It's a funny place in history to be.
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TK
Yeah, but I didn't know that much. You see my sister in Richmond, she knows more about it than I do. I only know that he was down in Vancouver and he was helping to sell. I didn't know much else.
LJ
As a child in a father-daughter relationship, you were the eldest. Were you closest to him?
TK
I don't know. He wasn't really close to any of us. He was a very strict person. He had very strict ideas about what we should or shouldn't be doing. Of course, it was good in some ways but not so good in others like when he expects you to skip and they don't skip anybody anymore. I'm the oldest and so I got more of that than the others did. In fact, he kept telling about how when he was eleven and a half or twelve years old he came to Canada and lived on his own and “I'll bet you, you couldn't do it.” I got sick and tired of hearing that all the time and I finally told him “well, if that's the case why don't you just throw me out on the road and see whether I can manage or not.” Then he never told me that anymore. He realized, I guess, that that was not a nice story to tell me and not nice to, you know, make me feel guilty because I didn't do the same as him. I know I was incapable anyway but ...
LJ
You couldn't have hacked it on your own in Canada?
TK
I don't think so. I was a very naive child. I didn't know anything about anything. I only knew that I had to look after my younger brothers and sisters.
LJ
So you weren't that naïve, you had to look after them.
TK
Well, yeah. I know but I didn't know much about anything else. I knew how to get down to church or wherever on the streetcar and that kind of thing but didn't know much of anything else.
LJ
Your siblings relied on you then to sort of ...
TK
Well, yes at that time because you were all so small. I was maybe six to twelve years old while they're all, well Eddie's two years younger than me, Blanche a year younger than that, Meech is a year younger than that, and Greg was two years younger than that. Inside of five years my mother had six children. So, I think that's what did her in. But anyway, I was responsible for looking after them. Eddie kind of looked after himself after a while because he had his own set of friends and he did things on his own, but I still had my two sisters and younger brother tagging along everywhere. I had to make sure that they didn't get hurt. Anytime my sister fell, the second one, the Blanche there. Not my second sister, this is my first sister. Anyway, every time she was a cry baby and anytime she'd be skipping along on the sidewalk and trip on the little bit of grass that rolls in between those blocks of cement, she'd fall and of course she'd cry because she was hurt and I got into trouble for it. It was my fault because I wasn't looking after her.
LJ
The bar was higher for you then.
TK
It was and I was to set a good example all the time, forever laughs.
LJ
Still?
TK
Well, I quit a long time ago.
LJ
Oh, really? Do they know that?
TK
Yeah, you know they all moved out of the home to go to school and different things so I couldn't keep track of them anyway but I still worried about them. One day I was having lunch with a couple of young ladies from Grand Forks I was in town then and I mentioned something and this older person says to me “you know, Florence, those children are older now. They're over eighteen and there's no reason for you to worry forever and ever about them. You have to let them go. When are you going to let them go?” I thought about it, I didn't know. But when I thought about it I could see that she was right. I shouldn't have to say anything all the time. It's up to them now. They're over twenty-one so I just let it go. And of course, I was still working in the sawmill but they were all going out to teach and do other work. My brothers are both at university, so they come home in the summer.
LJ
Your mom at this time, she was busy running around after the five of you?
TK
Yeah. See, when you don't have electricity you have to wash all your clothes by hand. You have to cook with a cooking stove. She made sure we did our homework by light. It wasn't easy for her. Not only did she have, well she had seven people to wash and cook for but then sometimes her father would come and visit and stay for a few months so there were eight of us and she was busy. And then, when you consider the fact that my parents are city people and move out to a place like Alpine Inn where it's all country, and other people all had gardens and my parents had never gardened before but they had a plot of land set aside for them so “I guess we'd better try” laughs. So they learned from the neighbours and that, made vegetables. After the war was finished they wanted us to either go back to Japan or go east. Well, my parents refused and we stayed at Christina Lake. The sawmill people were very good. They said “well, we'll buy some plots of land and we'll supply the lumber and you people supply the labour and then you can have homes, houses to live in.” So, that was what they did. Started building the houses on end of March and by May twenty-fifth Alpine Inn was empty. Everybody had either gone to Japan or gone east. The rest of us had gone to live out by, it was at Christina Lake. Down the lake.
LJ
Was there any conversation in your house about where you all would go?
TK
They talked about it for a while but not much because I think my parents always wanted to come back to Vancouver. So they didn't want ... My dad says “well, I'm not taking my family to Japan where everybody is starving.” We thought that was true. We don't want to starve. Well, there was nothing for him out east either. He didn't have any business connections or anything. We just waited until the government said we could go back to the coast. Then my dad went to the coast.
LJ
How long before you followed and did you get back to the coast?
TK
I didn't go to the coast. I was getting married laughs. In fact, I think I got married before they moved to the coast so I stayed at Christina Lake.
LJ
You met your husband at Christina Lake.
TK
Yeah, east of Steveston.
LJ
Oh.
TK
He's the ship builders Kishi family. Not the same Kishi family, they're cousins.
LJ
But a ship builder?
TK
No, he didn't build any more ships. He was working in the sawmill. He worked himself up from the ground, carriage edgers, trimmer, green chain, and all that. He knew how to look after the planer. He was a smart guy. Afterwards he knew how to tally lumber, make sure there was enough lumber going out to this place or that place. I don't know, he was the jack of all trades I guess. After a while though it got to be a bit much and he was working nine, ten hours a day.
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LJ
So you would have gotten married in Christina Lake? A fairly small ceremony or ...
TK
Yeah and my parents are not very fond of the in-laws but well, it's alright. I figured I'll get along with the younger people, we won't worry about the older people.
LJ
Yeah, I was going to ask you how they thought of each other but ...
TK
Well, they're both very stiff sort of families; strict too. The Kishi family, they had four sons and a little girl at the end. Also the father in-law, grandfather, staying with them. Poor Misses Kishi had to do all the work. She looked after everything. She's even helping her husband pile the wood for the wood stove. I don't know why the men weren't doing it. Of course, we all helped. My brothers were the ones that chopped up the wood and we girls were the ones that piled them up. They brought the wood into the house while we were cooking and ironing and other things.
LJ
Sounds like your dad had some pretty high expectations of you though...
TK
Yeah he did, of all of us. I think we were all pretty smart. We all got through university, except my, well my younger brother too. He didn't get through university the first two times. He was fooling around too much. After he went to work for Crestbrook in Cranbrook there for a while. He decided he was going to go back to university and there was a company, I don't know whether it was Reed Collins or something like that. They offered to pay for all his university and he went back four years at their expense which is very nice. My older brother, Eddie, he went to university for five years, I guess, got his masters, no not his masters, just his postgraduate. Graduated and then one year postgraduate study. By this time he was working at the sawmill in the summer. He did more flying around and surveying and stuff like that.
LJ
So all this pressure may have paid off.
TK
Oh yeah. I'm sure everybody, well we all did our best, except my younger brother laughs. He fooled around a lot. Eventually he caught up and he understood what he was to do so he's okay now. He never got married. He always just kind of fooled around. He was just this close to being trouble with the police. Never got into trouble with the police laughs.
LJ
I remember learning about your dad's story and it's unconventional maybe, or unexpected ...
TK
What part?
LJ
Well, the selling of fishing boats strikes people as...
TK
Yes, I'm sure that people didn't like him. Some who liked him and some who didn't but I didn't know anything about it. He never mentioned anything like that.
LJ
Yeah, tell me about that. At some point you've surmised this that there may have been people that ...
TK
Well, this is after I'd grown up and after he had died. I don't know. I can't remember but my sister said that some people didn't like him.
LJ
What was your reaction to this? FLORENCE Well, there's nothing I could do about it. Why should I worry about it? It's his doing and well, he's gone now and I never had a hand in any of it so I don't worry about it at all.
LJ
When I think about it I can only, sort of, imagine that it raises questions that you may want to have asked him.
TK
Yes, but I wasn't allowed to ask question of him, too many. He did mention one time he was telling the sawmill boss there “oh yeah, I worked for the government for all this time, I got paid. You know how much I got paid for it? One dollar!” He said.
LJ
If you could ask your dad a question about what he did, how he got into what he did, what would you want to know?
TK
I don't know. He went to Japan on business. This is before the war and I still have the doll he brought back the last trip he made. It was quite a lot tall Japanese lady doll and as soon as I saw it I knew that was the one I wanted laughs. He had brought two smaller dolls and my two younger sisters got it. See, I'm the oldest. I got the bigger ... and it's still there. It's a little faded. He came back from Japan just before the war started. He said that after he got home from Japan, well, there was just one more ship that came across the pacific and it landed in Seattle and that was it. So, that was just telling us how close he came to being stranded in Japan. Of course, he had sense enough to come home but there was a man at the Alpine Inn there that was stranded here and his family was in Japan. There were two or three of those kinds of men.
LJ
So he would go at least once back to Japan but did he make several trips to Japan?
TK
Yeah, he made about three I think. That was before the war. After the war I don't think he went back to Japan anymore. This friend of his told him that there were no business prospects in Japan, so he wouldn't go. My dad just took his word for it and did not go.
LJ
The ship building in particular is such a important part of the Japanese-Canadian story before the war.
TK
Yes, either that or the fishing.
LJ
Right, well yeah both right? Yeah, the fishing, canning, ship building. Certainly, you dad was there at the front lines of a very central part of the Japanese-Canadian story. The fishing boats are probably one of the most iconic pieces of the war in some ways for some people and certainly of the coast right?
TK
Well, I don't know. I never thought of it that way. My father in law and his cousin or something. That's the Kishi family. My husband's parents, or my father in law was the ship builder and my sisters married into the other Kishi family and they were also ship builders and they used to build ships together, I guess. I know that at Alpine Inn they did build a few ships.
LJ
Do you think that your family, or the in-laws and your family didn't get along or do you think that their individual professions and business prospects were getting in the way.
00:51:08.000
00:51:08.000
TK
No, I don't think it had anything to do with the business. My parents got along fine with my sister's in-laws but my in-laws were a little difficult. It was always civil but they just never became close friends or anything. That's the way things go. Oh yeah, sure. I was never all that close with my in-laws either because they kept to themselves so why should I try and break my back trying to get along with them so I just went my own way.
LJ
So how long did you stay in Christina Lake before your came back?
TK
Well, I came back in 2006 or 2007 all the way from 1942. Yeah, well, I grew up there and I worked there at the sawmill office and it was a one man office at that time. They were cutting anywhere from 1.5 million board feet. After a few years they were cutting 5 million board feet. Still I'm running around in a one man office. Finally, I told them I just can't do it all. I know there's work to do but I just can't do it all so then my dad said “well, then we should hire somebody to do part of the bookkeeping.” That took some of the pressure off. I used to do everything there, even first date laughs.
LJ
Right, and marriage?
TK
Yes, well I told him I was going to work three days a week and he said “you should work every morning, or every afternoon.” I said, “well, that's only, five times four is twenty hours a week and I'm going to work three days a week, three eight hour days, so that's twenty-four hours. I'll be working more my way than your way.” First he suggested that I work 100%. I said “I don't know enough about housekeeping to do that kind of work so I need some time to do my housework and that.” My husband didn't know anything either. He was even worse than me laughs.
LJ
But you learn on the job, right?
TK
Yes. So, I hardly knew how to cook properly. He didn't know how to pile wood either. I knew how to pile wood. We muddled along. We got along alright. There was electricity in the house but no water in the house that we got. We didn't want to live right close by all those other Japanese people. You'd see a curtain move and you know there's somebody looking at you. We decided we were going to get a different place and my husband found this place down by the lakeshore about two, two and a half miles away. We looked at it in February. The snow was up to my chest I guess but he shoveled away right in there and looked around. It was a summer log cabin but it was adequate. It had a kitchen, bedroom, living room, and there was another place for a bathroom but it wasn't in there yet. So you'd take a bath in the lake in the summer. There was an outhouse in the back, anyway.
LJ
You still had family there, in the area.
TK
In the Alpine at Christina Lake? No, they're all out here.
LJ
But were they out there when you first got out on your own out there?
TK
My parents are still there and so are his. We live next door to each other so after work my husband would go to his parent's place and pick up the newspaper. He didn't stop at my parent's place that often but my mother knew laughs. But anyway there was not much you could do about that. I didn't know how to drive yet. Some of my friends told me “you learn to drive in the first year you're married” and I said “okay” so that's what I did.
LJ
You had family close for a good while up in Christina Lake?
TK
Yeah, about three, two and a half miles away. You'd have to walk there if I didn't know how to drive.
LJ
That's right. If you don't know how to drive three miles is a good hoof, especially in the winter. But eventually your family spread out? So where did everyone go?
TK
As you know, Eddie came here to the coast. He was working in Merritt for a while but after he got married he was here. My sister was teaching in Richmond. My younger sister was working in the Ottawa hospital. She was a lab technician, and Greg he was mostly working in Cranbrook and then he got his degree and he started working down at the coast. There were just different lumber companies there. Acorn Lumber is one name I remember. So, I think he was selling lumber. I don't know, we're pretty stationary. We don't move around from place to place.
LJ
Well, you find something good that works right? It's nine years now that you've come down here. But your children would have been raised up in Christina Lake. So how many kids did you have in total?
TK
Three and when we first moved in ... I told you we were living in this little log cabin. Yeah, my husband put one in and he put in a washer-dryer too. He's pretty handy. He knew how to get a pump house for getting water out of the lake and that was what we were drinking. After the first baby was born, well, drafty log cabin, but we managed but then when we got pregnant the second time we didn't have room laughs. So we decided we'd better build a better place. We couldn't decide whether to add on to the log cabin or build a bigger place altogether. We decided to build a bigger place and then rent the log cabin out, which is what we did; rented out every summer. That was a friend on the other side that we went to the celebration of life ... we got to be friends after, I don't know, forty years and our children all grew up together. So when we went down, Arthur he took me down there and they were visiting all of them; they had a good time.
LJ
Were your kids, were they ever curious about your experiences in the war or ...
TK
No, not really. They just kind of grew up in Christina Lake with all the other kids and they never really cared much to ask questions and we never said anything much. We did get an interview or two by people going to Selkirk College. There was one boy who came over and he wanted to know something about it, so okay, he came over one evening and talked for a while, got his notes and he passed the course laughs that was it. My children were busy doing homework over at the other table.
01:00:30.000
01:00:30.000
LJ
Did you ever imagine or try to tell them, “oh, there's all these things I want to tell you about, what your mom and dad went through and ...”
TK
I'm going to write an autobiography one of these days, then that will tell them.
LJ
What do you think you want to talk about in your autobiography?
TK
Everything, from the time I was a little child. My first recollections as a child; I've already written about that in my dad's biography.
LJ
You wrote your dad's autobiography? What was that process like?
TK
It wasn't too bad. I just don't have time for it. Right now I'm trying to write my mother's biography but I don't have time. Yeah, and today was a very lax sort of a day. Well, that was the day I finished off my washing. I had a load full of dishes that were finished and then I put away the clothes that I wore down to the states. In the meantime I'm also trying to make some things for the bazar at the end of this month and then I had to cook supper and lunch but usually there's something else. Today I could have gone to meditation but I didn't go to it. I could have gone to book club but I don't belong there. I just refuse because I don't get enough time to read books and then they had a religious sort of a speech, kind of a talk and I didn't go to that either because I'm not a very religious person laughs. So, I didn't do anything. Tomorrow ... I do exercises here every day from nine-thirty to about ten o' clock. On Tuesday Thursday and Saturday we have this a physiotherapist who works for Ameca here. She assesses what you need to do and she assigns different things for each person to do. I have my own exercises and that takes about a half an hour more so I got another half an hour tomorrow and then after that my daughter ... I would have gone on the shuttle service which is a free ride to any place within five kilometers here. I had signed up for it but my daughter said she would take me around to a couple of places. They can only take you to one place because they leave you and then they go around drop off the others and then they come back.
LJ
So you really have to be committed to that place you're going to, yeah.
TK
Or at least tell them, you know, like if I go up to see my ophthalmologist the Safeway is just down the road so I could say “yeah, I'm going down to Safeway and I'll meet you there.”
LJ
So, here's something I've been thinking about lately because it's coming up on Remembrance Day, right?
TK
Well, what do you think I got this for?
LJ
Oh, yeah I see. You've got a very nice one there
TK
Yeah, I got it in Ottawa when I visited my sister
LJ
It's beautiful.
TK
Yeah, I know. That's why I got it.
LJ
So, my question is, I guess, who do you remember on Remembrance Day and yeah ...
TK
I remember when we were children my dad always went to the Japanese memorial in Stanley Park. He laid a reef there and so he'd hire a taxi and all seven of us would pile in there. That was in addition to Remembrance Day and what not that we did at school. During the evacuation we didn't do anything but after I got out it was a holiday, a work holiday, so I was busy at home working. But now I find time. I remember the soldiers that looked after us. I know there was one friend in Vancouver, she just moved from Saskatchewan so she didn't know about racial prejudice so she was friendly with us and her mother was working in a shipyard or something. And, I don't know, I knew there was a son, a young fellow who belonged to a family down the road on our same block and he was killed, I guess. I read in the newspaper afterwards that his mother had gone all the way out to Holland, I think it was, to see his grave or something. His name was Arney. They had four girls and then the one boy. The oldest was the boy and he got killed. I was thinking that's kind of sad too.
LJ
Yeah, for sure. Was there a large RCMP presence around the Alpine Inn or in Christina Lake.
TK
Yeah, they'd come once a month to check and make sure we're still there laughs. And when they came my dad, who spoke English, and a few others there they would have tea. The ladies in the kitchen would make tea and cakes or something rather. And so they would have some of that. But they did break the law a lot. I wouldn't say a lot, at Alpine Inn they did break the law. They were fishing in the lake, I think we fished the lake just about out of all the lingcod there. There was other people fishing on the creek; Kokanee and there. There was one guy who was catching little birds, song birds like Chickadees and stuff. He made a fish net, well you know there were a lot of people who were fishermen and they kept on making nets and so he knew how to make a net, he wasn't a fisherman but he knew how to make a net. He made a fine net and he hung it out in the pasture kind of a thing, flat land there with bushes and that and he'd chase all the birds in there and then he'd catch them and then he'd roast them laughs. Yes, down at the Japanese bathhouse. They'd stoke the fire in there so he'd stick his birds on the end of a stick and then he'd eat them; sparrows and stuff like that. Yeah, I know there was one man digging for worms out by the creek there one day and game warden came along and said “well, what are you getting the worms for?” “oh, for medicinal purposes” laughs.
LJ
In terms of provisions and things that you would have had out there, was everything through the Eatons Catalogue or ...
TK
Well, the groceries, well um, there was this grocery store at Christina Lake six miles away. We were on the lakeshore but the store was six miles away down the lake or else at Cascade which was about eight, nine miles away. They'd come once a week and bring your groceries and at the same time they'd pick up an order for next week. It was hard to keep things neat. You'd end up having your meat go bad because in the summertime, so my dad and everybody else they all made kind of a root cellar and it kept the things cold there but it didn't keep them for a whole week. They kept things like baloney and wieners and that maybe but not hamburger laughs. They used to get a shipment of fish once a week. A big box from, I forget what the name of the fishing company was, but they'd get a box around that long. Three feet wide and two feet deep and about five feet long and it would have fish in there all with ice. So then they would divide that up amongst themselves. I don't know how they divided it. I was too young and they kept me innocent anyways. So that was another thing that they used to get. So they would get the fish on Tuesday and grocery delivery might be Thursday or Fridays so somehow or the other they managed.
LJ
It's tough. Do you remember your mom or your dad having any favorite meals? Or your dad having anything that he really loved that your mom prepared or ...
01:10:30.000
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TK
I was talking to my youngest brother, and my mother used to prepare it for my dad. It was eggplant and green peppers and she would make it for him. In those days the eggplants always had to be soaked in water to get the acid out but she would make it and fry it in butter and then she'd put soy sauce and sugar in it and cook it down. I don't know, my dad liked that and of course we all learned to like it too except my children don't like it because they're allergic to peppers. I still like it. One day when I was expecting my youngest brother to come for lunch, or dinner I forget, anyway I made it for him and he said “you know what's funny? I never seen it on any menu anywhere.” I know that my dad liked the traditional Japanese foods so when he had quite a bit of dementia my younger brother would take him out to dinner every week and I know that one day he said “he disappeared into the kitchen and he didn't come out for a long time. I don't know what happened but all of a sudden here comes this boiled tofu like the way I used to have it all the time before. My was I ever happy” he says laughs. One time I went to buy some fish off of one of the lay people at the lake. The husband goes fishing and I went to get some sockeye or something from her and I look in the freezer and there are all these fish heads and I said what are you going to do with those fish heads. “Oh, feed them to the cat.” “Well, could I buy one or two from you?” “Oh yeah, I'll just give them to you or something.” So I got it and I cooked it up with soy sauce and sugar and my dad, oh he thought it was so good. He would stay down here for a while and then after a while Blanche couldn't stand it too long. Eddie was up north in and every time my dad had an operation or something go wrong Blanche and her husband would have to look after him. Anyway, Greg, you know he'd come over to visit with me for a while at Christina Lake. Well, he lived at Christina Lake and worked there for a while so he had a lot of friends and it's an older retirement place too so he had a lot of friends there and so he'd come and stay. But I know one day I made this fish and set them both on this plate laughs, he said “ohhh” he ate the eyeballs and he thought that was wonderful, he just loved the eyeballs. I didn't mind part of it but not all of it. He took all the meat out of the cheeks. He thought it was really good. He liked the traditional Japanese foods that my mother used to make for him.
LJ
It sounds like your father was not well towards the end of his life.
TK
Well, he had dementia. He used to drink and smoke so much. I didn't see him drunk that much but I know that he used to drink quite a bit. During business hours and stuff he would end up drinking. He'd come home tottering around, weaving his way into the house. He never drove. Always had a taxi then; Yama Taxi. Anyway, other times, well, I know he smoked all the time. He used to smoke two packages a day of those Big Player cigarettes. Well, he decided he was changing to Menthol cigarettes because every time his pals came along they would think that this players were their own and he'd find his cigarettes had disappeared. So, he decided he would just smoke the Menthol cigarettes which he did for quite a while until the evacuation and then he went back to players. He used to smoke two packages a day, and they were larger packages too of players in those days and he smoked two of those every day. He used to drink Colbey's Specials and he'd drink two of those a week. That's what I mean, he used to drink and smoke a lot. During the time I was working in the sawmill office the sawmill office is filled with his cigarette smoke and I'd breathe that all in and out. He said “oh, you don't have to worry, if anybody is going to get lung cancer it'd be me.” That's the way it was in those days. Everybody thought the smoker would get the lung cancer, now they're finding second hand smoke is worse. But I didn't know any better either and I couldn't tell him to stop. But none of our family smoked except him. We had a family gathering and nobody smokes. On my husband's side too they either quit smoking or they don't smoke at all. We had a family gathering with them and there's forty people and nobody's smoking. All the children and grandchildren, nobody is smoking.
LJ
At some point did you ever want to get your dad to quit?
TK
I couldn't get him to quit anyway, I knew that so I never mentioned anything. My mother was the only one who would have any control over that.
LJ
Yeah, and she couldn't.
TK
No. So I figured why should I bother it will only upset me and it will upset him too.
LJ
Sounds like he was a stubborn guy.
TK
He was, very stubborn. Sometimes he just would not give in.
LJ
Did he have a temper?
TK
Oh yes, he would get really mad sometimes too. But, well, you just have to get used to it he's your father. What can you do?
LJ
Not much I suppose laughs.
TK
laughs yeah. He was right most of the time. I said most of the time laughs.
LJ
You did. You said most of the time. When wasn't he right?
TK
I can't remember exactly when but most of the time he was right.
LJ
But you didn't always tell him that.
TK
No, I did what he told me to do most of the time. Yeah, just about all the time. He's the boss of me and the office. He had two bosses above him so I had three bosses actually.
LJ
So you were working for him in this one man operation and he was physically present every day with you or was he bopping back and forth still?
TK
Well, he was going out to the green chain and helping them there and he'd come back into the office. Well, in the summer time when there was a lot of retail sales he was in the office, in and out of the office a lot. But in the rest of the year he'd be helping down in the pond or he'd be helping on the green chain or different things like that .
LJ
In a time frame here, we're in the 1960s at this point or ... . So he would have been working with you, particularly in the 1960s, whereabouts would he have been?
TK
Well, he quit work in the early 1960s. Well, he got to the point where he was unmanageable and I told him off. He was quite upset about it but I told him you are expecting too much and I said “how can I do all of what you're telling me plus what I know I'm supposed to do and you're not doing your job. You're leaving out things and I asked you to fix that up and you told me you were getting to old and couldn't remember and if that's the case you should quit.” He was really hurt then and my mother wasn't really well. She had a lot of asthma and she had heart trouble and so they moved down to the coast in 1961-62 or something like that.
LJ
It's hard to work with family.
TK
It is and especially when they have such high expectations of you and he's the boss no matter what. So, it's hard. I managed laughs.
01:20:26.000
01:20:26.000
LJ
Did you ever think your younger siblings had it easier because they weren't working one on one with your dad quite as much?
TK
Well, not really because they had to strike out on their own whereas I stayed at home and my mother did all the cooking and I'd come home from work, well we came home for lunch and for supper. She had lunch ready and supper ready and I'd help in other places like, well, helping in the garden. Helping with other things. When the children were all home I used to make twenty to twenty-five dozen cookies a week every Sunday morning. Yeah, because we needed that much for everybody and their lunches and for my dad at tea time and the evening and things like that and after school yeah. There was seven of us eating those cookies.
LJ
So what's your classic cookie? Is it a chocolate-chip cookie or ...
TK
All kinds. Whatever ... my mother didn't say too much about what kind I should make but in the summer time she wanted me to make it early so the kitchen stove wouldn't heat up the whole house so she wanted me to finish baking all those cookies by around ten, eleven o clock and I'm not a very early riser. I'm a night own just like my dad was so it was difficult but, anyway, I understood what she meant. But the thing that got me was there was one lady who thought I should go to church on Sundays but I was working six days a week and eight and a half hours a day and on Sunday was the day that I had to change the bed sheets and help clean up and also make those twenty-five dozen cookies. You know, I didn't have that much spare time and she said “well, as a church member you have certain obligations to the church.” I said “I couldn't go because my mother needed me at home.” She says “well, there are certain obligations.” I said “well, I'm sorry I can't do it.” She was quite upset with me. Well, I knew that I had to help my mother. My sister Blanche is doing all the family ironing and my other sister was cleaning the house, you see.
LJ
Was religion important to your parents at all?
TK
No, I don't think so. My dad, he had been going to church more or less but when his mother got the Spanish flu and he asked for the minister to come over because my mother was dying, the minister said he was too busy. So he asked again a third time and he was still too busy. And my dad said “well, that's it with religion” and he never went back to church again. I think he went back to church to get married but that's about it and of course when my mother passed away, well, he went to the funeral but Blanche is the one that bossed him around and did things. But anyway, he didn't go to church very much. My mother used to try to go at Easter and at Christmas. But, you know, sometimes she was just too busy and of course when we got to Alpine Inn there was no church at all. I've been going to Sunday school every Sunday until the church closed down with the evacuation. The United Church minister would come once a month or so from Grand Forks but he's preaching a message for a three year old to a sixteen year old. It wasn't much fun.
LJ
So it didn't really resonate with you at that point.
TK
No, so I never went to church. I still don't go to church.
LJ
Your dad would have moved down here then? You parents moved down to the coast, not to here, not to Port Coquitlam per say but to the ...
TK
They moved to a place out by the Dunbar area. Mhm. Yeah, that was in the early '60s. Yeah, so I have their first grandchild and he's covered in eczema from head to toe and she tells me that I should just put liqueur chrome and swab it with boracic acid solution and swab liqueur chrome on him. Liqueur chrome is red. I said, “well, I have other things that my doctor told me to put on him.” She thought that ... we all had eczema too but it was in the crook of our elbows and the crook of our knees and that kind of stuff. Maybe a little bit on our faces or something. But my son, well we have allergies on both sides of the family because my husband's family is very allergic too. Poor thing, he was just covered in ... all crusty and everything else. He did spend two and a half weeks in the Trail Hospital. They still didn't have him in clothes. They had him spread eagled in the crib there, naked and they took him off of my milk and gave him soybean milk. The first fruit they gave him was bananas and he's allergic to that. They tried to give him some meat and they gave him a mixture of veal, lamb, and chicken I think it was, yeah. He's allergic to that. We go to visit him in the hospital and there he is all broken out. “Well, what happened?” “Well, we gave him some meat.” “and what was in the meat?” “chicken.” I said, “well, I gave him chicken at home and he was allergic to that.” I told the doctor and he says “mother knows best.” He's the first doctor that ever said anything like that to me. Until that the doctor always knew better but this is a very good pediatrician and I had to make splints for his arms and legs and have him spread eagled in bed. While he was in the hospital, he told me to use old material like old sheets and old pillow slips and use them to make the splints and stuff because they're well washed. “Don't take any new material and don't use any gauze” and all that kind of stuff.
LJ
Did your parents enjoy being grandparents? They were ...
TK
Oh yes but my mother at this time was so weak and she wasn't able to do much. When we went down, and my son was so used to us looking after him, he wouldn't go to his grandparents very easily either. But the very last day my mother was carrying him, well he'd put his head right to her forehead so that really pleased her. We had the second one about November to June, anyway, about sixteen months later and when we went down, well, my mother just couldn't hold her. She was sitting on the recliner chair and we put the baby in her arms, that's all she could do.
LJ
And your dad, was it like a ... I don't know my parents say that being grandparents is better than being a parent. Did your dad seem to take on that role?
TK
No, not really. Well, you know he never really took on the role of a father with us too much. He was around once in a while but my mother did all the work and all the disciplining and all the teaching. My dad would just give us some stories sometimes.
LJ
So he was a storyteller?
TK
Yeah, and there was a man down here the other day and he said “I understand that the Japanese people, instead of disciplining their children, they would tell them a story.” And I said “yeah, that's what my dad would do. He would tell a story.”
LJ
Did you like listening to his stories as a kid or was it sort of like ...
TK
Yeah, they were interesting. He always made them sound interesting because he was a good storyteller and his vocabulary was good.
LJ
Yeah, and he had traveled a lot.
TK
But he didn't tell us too much about his travels or anything. It was only when he was trying to tell us a story about our discipline laughs and stuff like that he would get quite verbal. But he didn't say too much about his travels. Josh and Florence discuss that it is getting late 01:30:37 – 01:31:20 Josh and Florence discuss that it is getting late
LJ
Your siblings, I sort of wonder, part of remembering is just sort of getting around and talking. You're the oldest. You must have lots you end up telling them about your family and about growing up. Do they have lots of questions for you?
TK
Nope, they all grew up on their own as far as they're concerned. And Blanche doesn't like to hear that she kept falling down on the sidewalk and whatnot. She was a crybaby and every time she cried I got into trouble so every time she fell down and cried I got into trouble for it.
LJ
Is she still in Ottawa?
TK
She's in Richmond. She's still falling down once in a while. She tells me to be very careful, which I appreciate that she wants me to be careful but she says “you might fall down.” I said “you're the one that's always falling down” laughs. “I do not fall down!” laughs.
LJ
So you've got one sister Blanche and another sister Beatrice in Ottawa and then two brothers and they're both in the lower mainland?
TK
Yes, just my sister Beatrice is in Ottawa.
LJ
She's still out in Ottawa?
TK
Yes, well her husband was working for the government.
LJ
I should look her up I go to Ottawa often.
TK
Well, I don't know if she'd have much to say. You might find something from her or maybe her husband. Jim is a little older than her but he's getting dementia now.
LJ
Yeah, it's a thing that seems to happen more and more.
TK
So it's important to get the people when they're young enough to remember. But I don't know if Jim would tell too many stories or not I'm not sure. I talked to him on the phone the other day. He seemed to be nice and he remembered to tell my sister that I had phoned. So she'd phoned back after.
LJ
Well, I think that that's a good time to pause. I guess I'll just ask before I ...
TK
Well, could I go to the bathroom first? The lady I just met, she's my next door neighbor. She's getting kind of forgetful. She has dementia, anyway.
LJ
Well, I guess what I was going to ask before we wrap up is, this interview here is part of a large project: Landscapes of Injustice. The hope is to produce material that will go to postsecondary students and to museums to educate Canadians and in particular young Canadians on what happened to Japanese-Canadians during the war with a particular eye toward the things that were lost, the property that was seized. The belongings, the property they had, and were taken. With that in mind, what do you wish that Canadians, your grandchildren, young people, know about the war and, in particular about dispossession and about ... bystander interrupts yeah, so, just a message to young people I guess.
TK
Well, I don't know. I think they should just learn from what happened and try not to repeat it and remember that all people are people, that race doesn't make any difference and that everybody should have an equal opportunity. That's it.
LJ
If someone from the Japanese-Canadian community wanted to understand better your father's role, what would you say to them?
TK
I'm sorry, I don't know too much about it because I really don't. My dad tried very hard to make sure that we weren't too prejudiced and he tried to make us all broad minded. So I don't know.
LJ
Is there ever a sense of closure in any of this?
TK
No, it's life and I don't know if there's any closure to anything. It's just life and you have your children and they will have their life and it will go on and on.
LJ
I think there's a newfound interest in ...
TK
Yes, I'm glad about that because for so many years nobody said anything and when we went to Alpine Inn I understand some of the old people were living alone in a house and they were really worried about these 'Japs' coming because all they'd seen were the terrible cartoons and stories. Some of them weren't true but they were really afraid. Once we got there they thought “well, they're just the same as everybody else. They're very nice people.” So they accepted us at Alpine Inn.
LJ
I saw a newspaper article from Life Magazine or Time Magazine from the time period and it talks about how to distinguish between a Japanese person and a Chinese person. “This person is the enemy and this person is not the enemy.” And I just thought, my goodness this is ...
TK
Well, what's the difference we look kind of alike. There is a Chinese person living here, a Chinese lady, and we have a Pilipino lady and ...
LJ
Here we are today and it just doesn't even cross our minds to matter.
TK
But there was a Chinese man living here, he passed away now but he was a little bit older than me and he said that when he got to grade eight, finished grade eight, his parents decided it was time he went to work. So he did and he worked for what is not BC Hydro and he worked himself up to being almost an engineer. He went up around the countryside and made sure that telephone, not telephone poles, power poles were built properly and those great big whatever things, towers, were built properly and he designed some of it and that. He was a very accomplished man and you know, but anyway. One day I gave him a piece of paper to read and he laughed “I can't read your Japanese writing there it looks different” laughs and he laughed at me. I forgot. He reads Chinese, a little bit just like I read a little bit of Japanese but I only read the Japanese symbols I don't read the Chinese at all. He looks at it and says “I can't read that” laughs. It was funny.
LJ
One thing that I noticed just in talking is there's so many terrible things that have happened but I don't sense that you've harbored any anger.
TK
Well, I think we were protected from it, from a certain amount because my dad and mother didn't say too much and at Alpine Inn the only thing that I missed was some reading material. I read the encyclopedia I was down from A all the way down to children something rather. But there was no reading material and no friends for me. There were boys but I can't play around with the boys. Boys aren't the same as girls at that age and my parents wouldn't have allowed it anyway. I don't know, that's the only thing. I was really quite lonely. I wish it hadn't been, I wish I'd had a friend or two but when the community is so small ... there's the next oldest was five years older than me. When you're twelve years old, twelve to seventeen that's quite a leap. And then twelve to six year old, that's the next youngest besides my two sisters.
LJ
So one would think though that you'd be on the next train out of town but you stuck around for a long time.
TK
Well, I was married by then
LJ
So you found some excitement in town after a while.
01:42:11.000
01:42:11.000
TK
I don't know if you'd call it excitement. We didn't get married until I was almost twenty-nine.
LJ
That was fairly late
TK
Yeah, because we just didn't have ... I don't know. I will say he had alopecia so we were waiting for his hair to grow in and finally he got to the point where he said “I don't care anymore, I want to get married.” That's what I was waiting for him to say and then we got married. It was a very small wedding. Just our families and a few people from the community and that.
LJ
But as a child I think you're more at your parent's mercy for the books that they provide and ...
TK
Well, there were no books they were put away in a carton and I couldn't get at them. There was no room anyway to put books. They said “oh, well there's a library.” So I went to see, maybe there's a book I can borrow. I went to see and they're all Japanese books. Shakespeare in Japanese. I couldn't read any of them.
LJ
In the local library?
TK
Well, the library at Alpine Inn. There's no way for me to get out of Alpine Inn. I got out once or twice a year to go to the dentist and I got car sick every time because you know you don't go into a vehicle at all and then all of a sudden you're in there and I was so sick going there and then we have to eat lunch and then after that we come home. I just hated going to Grand Forks but it was necessary.
LJ
So, you missed the books?
TK
Oh yeah, it's the reading material. Well, sure there was a newspaper but that was up at the hotel and we were living in the cabin by this time and so that was a block away. You can't read it during the daylight hours because we're going to school and doing other things and at night time, well, you don't go wandering around in the dark especially when you're a young girl. I don't think any harm would have come to me but you never know and there were bears and coyotes and dear around.
LJ
Fair enough. Well, Florence thank you so much for your time this evening it was a pleasure chatting with you. 01:45:15 – 01:47:43 Josh and Florence discuss worldly matters
01:47:43.000

Metadata

Title

Florence Kishi, interviewed by Joshua Labove, 09 November 2015

Abstract

Florence talks about her earliest childhood memories and growing up in different parts of Vancouver until she was evacuated at four or five years of age. Her family had gotten permission to stay in Vancouver after October 31st but chose not to because the children and adults were not very nice to them. Florence states that the discrimination got worse after Pearl Harbor. Florence talks about her memories of her father and the type of man he was and the various jobs he held to support the family. She describes her high school experiences, working at a sawmill office with her father, and helping her family pack to move to Christina Lake during the evacuation of Japanese-Canadians. The interview closes with Florence explaining what she would like young Canadians to take away from the Landscapes of Injustice Project.

Credits

Interviewer: Joshua Labove
Interviewee: Florence Kishi
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Port Coquitlam, BC
Keywords: McGill Street; Christina Lake ; Alpine Inn; Vancouver ; Grand Forks ; Fishing Boats; Ship Building; 1940s – 1960s

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.