Emiko Koizumi and family, interviewed by Michael Abe and Natsuki Abe, 18 December 2019

Emiko Koizumi and family, interviewed by Michael Abe and Natsuki Abe, 18 December 2019

Abstract
Emiko Koizumi, nee Nishibata, along with her son Ernie and grandson Kobe, discuss her life and family. Emiko speaks of her early life in Steveston – her parents, her summer jobs, when she first met her future husband. Emiko says that to keep the family together they travelled to Winnipeg (where she coincidently crossed paths with her future husband) before her family went to south to Emerson (and his north to Balmoral) to work on a sugar beet farm. Emiko speaks of the challenges of life in rural Manitoba and of spending the “off-season” working in Winnipeg. Her story continues when Riichi Koizumi moved to Emerson and they married. Emiko and Ernie talk about the family and their almost 30 years building a sugar beet sharecropper business that earned Riichi the moniker “Sugar Beet King of Canada.” They then talk about a major change in the mid-1970’s when the Koizumi’s moved to Campbell River, British Columbia and built up a successful boat rental and charter fishing business. Ernie mentions that for him, moving to BC made him realize that his parents both had a completely different life prior to their life in Manitoba that had been taken away from them instantly. All three generations reflect on the family’s success, the challenges, their Japanese/nikkei customs and culture.
00:00:00.000
Mike Abe (MA)
Today is Wednesday,December 18, 2019. We’re in the residence of Emiko Koizumi in Campbell River. My name is Michael Abe, Project Manager for Landscapes of Injustice. I am here with, Natsuki Abe, Japanese Canadian Community Research Assistant for Landscapes of Injustice and, our interviewees. Would you like to introduce yourself?
Emiko Koizumi (EK)
My name is Emiko Koizumi.
MA
Emiko, and. . .
Ernie Koizumi (EK)
Ernie Koizumi.
Kobe Koizumi (KK)
And Kobe Koizumi.
MA
And what is your relationship?
EK
Well, you can start Kobe.
KK
I’m Kobe and Emiko is my grandmother; Ernie is my father.
EK
Birth date?
KK
I was born in 2004. December 30th.
EK
I am Kobe’s father and the son of Emiko. My birth date is March 26th, 1960. I come from a family of eight siblings, of which seven of us are still alive. There was four older and four younger. And they were Kenny, as the youngest, Ernie, Arthur, Douglas, Karen, Tom, Eileen and Marvin. Actually was that reversed? Marvin. Oh, it went. . .
EK
Eileen was oldest.
EK
Eileen was the oldest and she passed in 2014?
EK
Fifteen.
EK
2015. And she was married to Gerald.
MA
And how old was she at the time of her passing?
EK
I think she was, what, 67?
EK
Oh. 67.
MA
She was the eldest of the. . .
EK
Yeah of the eight.
EK
No, oldest.
MA
Yes.
EK
So it was uh, Eileen, that’s right, Marvin, Karen, Tom, Doug, Art, Ernie, and Kenny.
MA
So you’re second youngest.
EK
Yeah.
MA
Okay.
EK
And Mom’s birthday is. . .
EK
October 5, 1924.
EK
Born in. . .
EK
Steveston, B.C.
MA
Steveston, B.C. So can we start with Emiko and just give us a brief overview, a timeline of your life from Steveston to here, in Campbell River. And then we’ll delve into a little more detail after that.
EK
Let’s see now. . .
EK
1925. . .
EK
I was born in Steveston.
EK
The school was. . .
EK
Oh, I went to Lord Byng School.
EK
Lord Byng School.
MA
Oh, Lord Byng, yeah.
EK
Yeah, which is. . .
EK
Yeah and then junior high. But what was that now. I can’t even remember.
MA
That’s okay. Was it Steveston, was it, Steveston proper that you were in? You were living at Chatham?
EK
Yeah on Chatham Street.
MA
On around Third Avenue or Second Avenue?
EK
Uh no, it’s. . .
EK
Right downtown.
EK
Just Chatham Street.
MA
Right on Chatham Street.
EK
Number 86 or something Chatham which is now a strip mall.
MA
Okay.
EK
Behind Gary’s Cafe or behind the. . .
EK
Yeah. At that time, there was an Anglican church, just across from us.
MA
Okay.
EK
But I think it turned out to be a bicycle shop later on. And that’s where I lived.
EK
Who operated the train, Mom, in Steveston?
EK
Yeah, that was a streetcar and that I don’t know. At the station there was Mr. Thompson.
EK
Mmhmm. Who was the policeman, in Steveston?
EK
I think it was Mr. Johnson. Mike laughs.
EK
Mr. Johnson.
EK
That was my many years ago but. . .
EK
And what do you remember, Mom, we visited, we had an opportunity just last year we were told to go down and take a look at Britannica shipyard.
MA
Yes, Britannia shipyards.
EK
And was that amazing to have Mom walk on the boardwalk and know George. . .
EK
Yeah, Murakami.
MA
Yes, oh yes.
EK
I went to school with him.
NA
Oh wow.
EK
Yes. With George. Yeah.
EK
And all the. . .
EK
And around Phoenix is where they lived. I don’t know exactly where they lived but I think it’s a museum now.
MA
Yeah, yeah, there’s the Murakami Boathouse and right beside it is the Murakami House.
EK
Yeah. Murakami. . .
MA
Right across from Britannia Shipyard.
EK
Murakami-san was a shipbuilder.
MA
Ship builder, yes.
EK
Yeah, yeah, at that time you know. And I know Mr. Murakami. And I remember Mrs. Murakami.
MA
Oh yes, yeah.
00:05:06.000
00:05:06.000
EK
And of course George and his sister. I mean George was my classmate so I know him really well.
EK
Tell them about your Dad growing up, what he did, Mom.
EK
Well, I really don’t know too much about my Dad, but I think he used to be a fish collector at one time.
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
When he was young. And later on, whatever happened to him I don’t know. He must have been in an accident or something.
MA
Mmm. Oh.
EK
When I was a teenager, growing up, I know the Dad was not able to do anything. His legs was, something happened to his legs. And, I think he sold his boat to his partner. All I can remember from there on is that mother had to start working, you know.
MA
Where did she work?
EK
Because, we weren’t fisherman. He was a fish collector. He didn’t have anything to do with the cannery people that, you know, the wives and the girls that worked at the cannery. If the parent was working for that fish cannery, catching fish, they were able to work.
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
My Dad had nothing to do with that. So she worked in fields, picking beans and peas. . .
MA
Oh okay.
EK
And you know, strawberries and some things like that.
EK
And your Dad’s boat name was?
EK
Oh. Active Bass. That was, I mean when we were growing up it was all gone, neh.
EK
Mmhmm.
EK
But I know, myself, I’ve been on it, as a little girl, so I remember that.
EK
And then you can tell them the relationship between you and Mr Hashimoto. Machan.
EK
Oh, Machan. Yeah, Mr. Hashimoto, he was my cousin.
EK
He was a very affluent Steveston resident with. . .
EK
Yeah.
EK
Them and the Shinde’s and. . .
EK
Yep. Well, Mr. Hashimoto lived in Vancouver before eh.
EK
Oh.
EK
And then he moved to Steveston. Yeah.
EK
He built the Buddhist Temple did he not?
EK
I really don’t know. But I think he had a lot to do with the Buddhist church. Yeah.
EK
Because when we went to his funeral, Emiko was the last surviving, kin to him.
EK
Mmhmm.
EK
So, when we went to the funeral they had a procession and they had like, very high people from the Buddhist Church. . .
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
Come from Japan, for his service.
NA
Hmm.
EK
Something about the fifth level or something.
EK
Yeah. I don’t.
MA
Okay.
EK
And then the family was all waiting for me. Because, I didn’t know that, but I was the closer one to him you know and yeah. I don’t. . .
EK
So you worked at the cannery too. Which cannery?
EK
Who?
EK
You.
EK
Oh, I just worked for little bit at the Georgia Cannery, that’s a museum now.
MA
Yes, mmhmm.
EK
We were canning, sardines. Herrings.
MA
Herring, yes, okay.
EK
Yeah, you know. And not salmon. And I worked there for a little bit but when I was younger I used to work, I worked at St Mungo Cannery. And that’s in New Westminster.
EK
Or was that Delta?
EK
Delta? Oh. . .
EK
Oh, I think that was on River Road.
EK
Okay.
EK
Just below Annieville.
EK
Oh okay.
EK
I think.
EK
I worked there when I was going to school, during the summery holidays.
MA
Did you commute there or were you. . .
EK
No you. . .
MA
Was there. . .
EK
Stayed in a bunkhouse.
MA
A bunkhouse, okay.
EK
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I was. . .
EK
What kind of car did. . .
EK
Huh?
EK
Dad have? Dad was a Delta guy.
EK
Yeah, yeah.
EK
Raised in Delta since. . . and he watched the Pattullo Bridge go together.
EK
Yeah.
EK
1938.
EK
Yeah, that’s right.
EK
But he was very privileged because he had a very nice car. . .
EK
Yeah.
EK
When he was young man. Was it a 38 Packard?
EK
Yeah. Those days, you know, people didn’t have cars, but he worked in a sawmill.
EK
Bronzeville?
EK
Bronzeville mill. And he had a car.
00:10:06.000
00:10:06.000
MA
Hmm.
EK
So nobody else had car nearby and there were two girls, that worked in the fishing cannery with me. And they were from Steveston, but during the nice weather they used to pick berries over at Gritches. My husband’s, at the time I didn’t know him, neighbours. And then he was asked from the neighbour to take that girls to the cannery on rainy days so they could work there. And my husband was only about 19 or 18 I guess, but he had the car, so he used to take those girls, two girls back and forth from cannery to the farm, you know. And did the taxi. Yeah. So that’s when I met him. And, shortly. Briefly.
EK
1938?
EK
That was in 1939 I think.
EK
Okay. And then, interesting.
MA
When did you get married, and was it in Steveston or was it in Manitoba?
EK
Me?
MA
Yeah.
EK
Uh, no. Then I didn’t see him.
MA
Okay.
EK
I didn’t know him. One time he did take me and my friend, and his, the two girls that he looks, after back and forth, to a dance or something. I can’t remember. I think it was a dance. And at that time I was only fifteen and a half.
MA
Oh, okay.
EK
So I, when he came I said “hello” and when he took, brought us back I said “thanks and goodnight” is all I said.
NA
Hmm.
EK
Anyways. Then, of course, the war broke out and he lived in Strawberry Hill and I lived in Steveston. And I really didn’t know. He was nobody at the time, really. So anyways when the war broke out, all us went in the train load, to Winnipeg. And the only reason we went to Manitoba was so that the family could stay. . .
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
Together because my Dad was a semi-invalid. And he wasn’t able to work or anything. So we wanted to stay as a family so we went to Manitoba. And where they put us was the old army barracks. And the men folks stayed in a different place, in that same building, and then lady with the children stayed on this side and about a week later another train load of people come, and whenever new people we always wanted to see who came so we would go to the front entrance to see. And you know, at that time I saw my husband. I mean I haven’t seen him. . . Chuckles. For years, coming up the stairs. And so he recognized me, no, saw my face and we said “hello.” And his mother was a widow. So they said that they too also wanted to stay as a family. . .
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
So, they came to Manitoba. In fact my husband said, “well this is a free ride, so let’s go as far east as we can,” you know. And he didn’t know where he was going he said. But anyways, they landed up in Winnipeg. And the mother had to stay with us. And of course, Riichi and the family stay with, you know my Dad and older boys, on the other side. And he used to come and you know, see how Mother was doing every day, to the ladies side, you know, because she was all by herself. And that’s when we really, you know. I was seventeen and a half and Dad is four years older than me so, yeah so. . .
EK
And then you branched away. Dad went to, Teulon was it or. . .
EK
Oh yeah. And then, the farmers came and picked the family they really wanted. And we came to Emerson which is about 68 miles south of Winnipeg. And then at that time they were still staying at where they were sent. But about a week later I guess, his people came to pick them up and they went up north. About 38 miles north of Winnipeg and you know, that’s where they settled.
00:15:23.000
00:15:23.000
EK
C.J. Main. Charlie Main.
EK
Yeah, yeah.
EK
Charlie Main.
EK
Yeah.
EK
And that was Teulon?
EK
And that was in Balmoral.
EK
Balmoral, Manitoba. And Dad and Grandma and Ted and, Uncle. . .
EK
Yeah.
EK
Bob.
EK
Yeah we went to Emerson.
EK
Not you, but Dad’s family.
EK
Oh yeah. Dad’s family, they all went to yeah. Dad had two brothers. . .
EK
Mmhmm.
EK
Ted and. . .
EK
Kunio.
EK
Kunio. And with Mother they went to Balmoral and in Balmoral Mr. Main was a very kind person. They, got settled in a little home, but still a new home. He got that to their yard. And my husband always used to tell me how kind and nice they were, you know.
MA
Mmm.
EK
For me, I can’t remember anything about, taking that train to Winnipeg. I just, just have no.
MA
No?
EK
Nothing. I can’t remem. . .
EK
Strange eh?
MA
Yeah.
EK
Her memory is so good at 95. She was 17 years old and she can’t remember nothing.
MA
No?
EK
Yeah, about that. . .
MA
Where did it leave from?
EK
From Steveston.
MA
It went from Steveston.
EK
Yeah, and I just can’t remember the train ride, or anything.
MA
You don’t remember friends coming to see you off or. . .
EK
I just don’t remember a thing.
MA
Oh.
EK
I can’t remember being on that train. The other day I just phoned my sister to ask. You know. And I said “you know, I can’t remember about that.” And uh. . .
EK
When she knew that you were coming.
MA
Huh, yeah.
EK
Yeah.
EK
Laughs. She wanted to find out.
EK
I just wanted to find. And then another thing that I can’t remember, was that trip from Winnipeg, in that building, to Emerson.
MA
Emerson.
EK
I just don’t remember anything at all. And that I had to ask them. My sister is just a little over a year younger than me and she says, “oh Emi, don’t you remember? It was the Jim McLean that came to pick us up. Not the Mr. Norman McLean, but his brother. And then, there were quite a few of us going, because my aunt and them apparently came too. And so they hired a Moore’s Taxi.”
MA
No.
EK
And said I can’t remember anything.
MA
Hmmm. Do you remember packing or, what you took, or. . .
EK
Shakes her head no.
MA
Wow.
EK
I just don’t remember anything about that. And because my Dad was a semi-invalid I knew that he had help. A technician came to help, you know, and board the windows and things like that. But after that I don’t remember anything. The only thing I remember is up ‘til that time, I don’t whether if it was everybody in Steveston or just Japanese. It’s curfew.
MA
Oh.
EK
I remember that. Curfew and we had to be in by 7 o’clock. And I know I’d be at my friend’s place and I have to really, you know rush like anything to get. . .
MA
Laughs.
EK
Home by that time. I remember that. But I can’t not remember anything about moving out.
EK
So that’s the cannery.
EK
Yeah.
EK
So just. . .
EK
So after the cannery you moved to Manitoba.
EK
Yeah, I worked in. . .
EK
Started farming. . .
EK
Gulf of Georgia.
EK
And who did you work for in, who were you with in Manitoba? Dad was with the Mains. You were with. . .
EK
Mr. McLean.
MA
McLean.
EK
N.C. McLean.
EK
N.C. McLean.
EK
Mmhmm.
EK
And what did you do for them Mom?
EK
What did I what?
EK
What else did...what would your family to do with them?
EK
The reason why we all went to Manitoba was to work in a sugar beet fields, right?
MA
Yeah.
EK
You know.
MA
Do you recall what that, the conditions were like. Was it, must, was very cold and. . .
00:20:08.000
00:20:08.000
EK
Tell me, tell him Mom. . .
MA
Do. . .
EK
About the floors.
MA
Do you remember much about. . .
EK
Manitoba?
MA
About the sugar beets in particular.
EK
Yeah I do.
EK
Tell him about the house you lived in.
EK
The sugar beet fields, were not like, after a few years my husband took over because a lot of Japanese people were very unhappy with the bosses they were working for. And so, this was after we got married, but they came to Riichi and said that, you know, “if you start growing sugar beets we would really like to work for you,” you know. And that’s what made him maybe, you know. So I think in about 1948 or something he started to grow sugar beets himself and all these people helped him and worked for him.
MA
Oh.
EK
But when we first moved to Manitoba, they put us in a vacant farm house. And nobody stayed there for many, many years and the floor was sort of all muddy. . .
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
Because it was wooden floor and I mean there was no running water. And there was a well.
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
But it was all dried up. And my Mother, I remember, you know those sembei cans?
MA
Yes.
EK
Yeah, they’re five gallon I think.
MA
Yeah.
EK
She had a branch between the two cans and had one, roped in the front, and one in the back and you know, she went and got Red River water, and. . .
MA
How far was that?
EK
That was, she had to go down the hill, with that and get the water and because Dad wasn’t able to do anything. . .
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
And I remember that so much, you know. And because of water, she didn’t want to lose too much water so she would get a twig from the tree and put it on top so water would stay there.
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
You know. That was one thing I remember really well. And also, at night time I’d be writing a letter to my friends. Those days you know everybody was writing letters and then with those lamps, and no electricity, and you hear the mice or the rats running down between the wall.
EK
Chuckles.
EK
And that is no lie.
EK
How about the weather? Southern Manitoba. . .
MA
Yeah, it’s very cold.
EK
And walking to that frozen river.
EK
And then to do any kind of shopping or, I had an aunt, she lived with us for a while, but they were a little bit different because my cousin was old enough to make money and work. And they lived closer to town. They moved out because they found this place. My brother, youngest one, was two years old and you know in the winter time, he even had to wear gloves. In the house. That’s how cold it was. And, you know, we shared the house with my aunt, and her husband, and her son, and his wife, and then I think they had one child at the time. But they were, you know, they didn’t stay there very long. They were able to move downtown to a real better living place. And you know we were poor and we just didn’t have that kind of freedom or money to move, so we stayed there all, for I don’t know how long, I know that my Dad, when he had to go for. Oh, one thing good that happened to him. He said, you know Manitoba must, the weather must be really, really good for him, because his leg problem went away.
MA
Oh!
EK
Yeah. And so he always said, so you tell, you know, whenever you are writing a letter to so and so, make sure you mention that, you know, he’s able to do a lot more. You know. And so he was able to work in a sugar beet field and that, you know.
NA
Oh.
00:25:08.000
00:25:08.000
EK
And he was so happy. And he said, this weather must be good, because in B.C. I used to have these kind of problem but, now my legs are good and. . .
NA
Hmm.
EK
He wanted us to let everybody know.
MA
Mmm.
EK
Like my cousins and them.
NA
Hmm.
EK
Yeah. But anyways. You know he would have two red, five gallons cans on the, sled to go and get drinking water.
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
From my boss’s place. Which is about I don’t know how many miles.
EK
Grinkies?
EK
No. McLean’s.
EK
Yeah, not to Newman’s.
EK
No.
EK
McLeans.
EK
Not that far.
EK
Oh, two miles.
EK
Yeah. That’ll be in the summertime, he’ll take it, the gallon tanks in the sled and then in the wintertime he had to take it in...no. In the wintertime in a sled, and during. . .
EK
Summertime.
EK
Summer in a wagon.
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
And for us go downtown to do any kind of shopping or visiting, gumbo. . .
EK
Red River gumbo.
EK
Yeah all the, you know, shoes and that, so we had to walk in a ditch. Where there was grass you know. Or, if it rained you just the gumbo. But, that’s how we went to visit my aunt that moved downtown, neh.
EK
What about reconnecting with Dad, in Manitoba? What year did you get married?
EK
Me?
EK
Yeah.
MA
Mmm.
EK
Oh.
MA
I was going to ask.
NA
Chuckles.
EK
Yeah.
EK
Yeah. That was in 1945. Um, 1945. I think it was in November. He moved to. . .
EK
Emerson?
EK
Emerson. Yeah.
EK
From Balmoral?
EK
From Balmoral.
MA
Was it because the war had finished that you were. . .
EK
Yeah.
MA
Able to move more freely?
EK
Yeah. That was in ‘45. I mean in it was in 1942 that we had to move from. . .
EK
Steveston.
MA
Steveston.
EK
Steveston. And in 1945, we decided to get married so he moved to Emerson. I think we still had to grow sugar beets so. . .
EK
Hmm.
EK
I’m sure that you didn’t have the freedom to do anything else yet.
MA
Oh, okay.
EK
I’m, sure and. . .
MA
Were you restricted from working or living in Winnipeg proper?
EK
You know. . .
EK
Mmhmm.
EK
With us, I didn’t have it, but no matter how much education you had, the girls, they were all nothing but house work.
EK
Domestic labour.
MA
Mm.
EK
Yeah. House work. And I remember myself, you know, working for. . .
EK
Mrs. White.
EK
White. Mr. and Mrs. White. We got $15 a month, at first. And then, after that you get to $20. But you know. And then they, we had one place that we go to in Winnipeg where we, all the Japanese Canadian, met on Thursdays and we would spend time together. And I know that street cars, is the only thing we used for transportation. But they’re cheap, you know. But I remember when we got the $15, or $20, of pay, I would keep about $5 and my sister used to work in Winnipeg too. The two of us, and we would send the rest to my parents, to help out, you know. And, those were really, really the hard times. Yeah.
EK
But not as hard as the times when you used to worked in the sugar beet fields from dawn ‘til dark for seventeen cents a day.
EK
Yeah. That whole time. . .
MA
Oh.
EK
I mean, it’s unbelievable. But you should see, it’s just all weeds.
EK
Weeds.
EK
You had to pick one sugar beet. And I mean you sure didn’t cover too many you know, too much. And when we figured it out, that’s what it came out to. But what can you do?. . .
MA
Hmm.
00:30:09.000
00:30:09.000
EK
I’m sure that we all went on relief, you know. I’m not sure, but I’m sure that’s what happened.
MA
Did, your parents stayed on the farm until, when?
EK
Yeah, I really don’t know but I don’t think, well. We found, my sister and I, found the job at the hotel, and I was working the kitchen, and she was cleaning the. . .
EK
Rooms?
EK
Rooms upstairs, we did that in the wintertime but in the summertime we all had to return to sugar beets.
MA
Sugar beets, okay.
EK
Yeah. Then after that I think, you know we didn’t do too much, on the farm or anything. Well we had to work at sugar beets but during that time I mean my sister and I we went to Winnipeg and worked house work, you know. So I mean, you know, we didn’t know too much more later on, because we worked on the sugar beet fields during the summertime but in the wintertime we worked away from that, you know. But it, I don’t know how long it all, it couldn’t have been very long, too many years.
EK
So Dad came in ’45, Mom. What time, when did you guys start farming?
EK
Oh well, in 1945 Dad came over and then we got married in spring, and that was in April, 27th of next year and we were all working like you know, in sugar fields for the farmers. But I think was about 1948 when the people weren’t too happy with working for the farmers. They came to see if Riichi would you know grow sugar beets on his own so that they can work for him. So I think they were about seven Japanese families moved to Emerson.
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
A lot of those people came to work for him so, he was able to grow sugar beets, on his own from that time on, neh.
EK
Mmhmm.
EK
Yeah so. . .
EK
So from 1948, so now he started having children and I was born in ‘60 and you finished farming in ’76, or ‘75? ‘75 or ‘76? I remember Dad reconnecting with, the Kanegawa’s out of Taber, Alberta, and finding out about Haru, and Chiyo.
EK
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s right. Yeah. That was. . .
EK
Kondo.
EK
Yeah, Mr. Kondo. . .
EK
Kajiwara.
EK
And Mr. Kajiwara. Yeah. We went on a holiday. Then. . .
EK
Mmhmm.
EK
Uh. . .
EK
1971. You went to Expo.
MA
70?
EK
In Japan. Yeah. And then I think it was shortly after that.
EK
I didn’t get to remember...
EK
Because Dad. We started coming out here, I think in around ‘71. He used to promise us a fishing trip.
EK
Yeah.
EK
If we got all of his fields done. And by ‘71 he was. He, you guys were almost, already the largest sugar producers in the country.
EK
Yeah. Yeah.
EK
I, so. . .
MA
Oh?
EK
I was born in ’60, so I remember my Dad offering us a fishing trip, if we thinned his fields twice by the first week of August. And we used to come out every year to Campbell River.
EK
Mmhhmm.
EK
Yeah.
MA
Oohh. I see. There’s the. . .
EK
So when I grew up in the sixties I remember my Dad had a whole community of Ukrainian people. . .
EK
Yeah.
MA
That helped him with his thinning, and hoeing, of his sugar beet fields. He had his own bus, that he used to collect people, every morning, to the east of us, and by the Stertbern what was his right hand man name?
EK
Uh. S. . . St. . .
EK
Peter Stephanchuk?
EK
Yeah.
00:35:14.000
00:35:14.000
EK
Stephanchuk? Stephanchuks? Out of Stertbern. There was uh Peter Cahoot. Right? Was it Pete Cahoot?
EK
Walter.
EK
Walter. He was a deaf and dumb guy. . .
EK
Yeah.
EK
But he was like my Dad’s right hand man.
EK
Yeah. Yeah.
EK
That was in the sixties and early seventies. Marvin was helping him.
EK
Mmhmm.
EK
I run into people who say, to this day, when our town was under 1000 people, and they said we’ve all worked for your Dad.
MA
Oh. And what was the name of the farm or what there, the. . .
EK
My Dad was a sharecropper. He was a sharecrop sugar beet farmer so he rented land. . .
MA
Land.
EK
From the land owners. . .
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
And he did such a good job, that, they kept asking all the farmers, from where we lived in Emerson, the closest town to the north was Letellier, so my Dad. . .
MA
Letellier.
EK
Had land for 11 miles I think, was the way Letellier we had farm, crops all the way to the next town.
EK
We didn’t own any land but he did the sugar beets.
MA
The managing.
EK
On a share basis, with all the farmers, by getting the farm work done and I think he supplied the machineries.
EK
Mmhmm.
EK
Yeah.
MA
And where did you, where did they send the sugar beets for processing at the time.
EK
We had a train. The CN and the CP right on the border of Manitoba and the United States. So, as kids we would go to the train station after school. And Mom would feed us after our school and pack us a little lunch and we’d go to one of our trucks. My Dad had a fleet of trucks, that would be bringing in the sugar beets from the fields to the train and then the, I think it was Fort Garry is where the train. . .
EK
Mmm.
EK
Process. . .
EK
Yeah.
EK
Dropped the sugar beets.
EK
Yeah, sugar beets.
EK
And then it was processed was processed by Rogers?
MA
Yup.
EK
Sugar beet company.
EK
Was it Rogers?
EK
I think so.
EK
Yeah. That was amazing. Amazing. I had, we all had a very privileged life. Growing up. At least the younger four.
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
Because he was established.
MA
So 1948, you got married in ‘46 and then you started the business in 1948 and then that’s when you started a family. Eileen was born in around. . .
EK
Forty. . .
MA
1948 or 9?
EK
Yeah, Eileen was born in ‘47.
MA
Oh ‘47. You said 1960, you’re second youngest.
EK
Yes. I was born in ’60, Kenny was born in, probably in ’61. Art was born in. . .
EK
’60.
EK
No, Art was born in ’59.
EK
’59 yeah.
EK
’59. Doug is ’55?
EK
‘55, yeah. And Marvin was born in ’48.
EK
Kenny is the youngest so he would be ‘62? or ‘61?
EK
No. Kenny was born in’61.
EK
There’s a bunch of us. Laughs.
MA
And, just, your parents, they were always in Winnipeg then. Until they, passed? Like, her parents.
EK
Yes.
MA
Emiko your parents.
EK
Oh yes. That’s right. My mother and father, they stayed in Winnipeg. Yup.
MA
Oh, in Winnipeg. Okay.
EK
Yeah.
EK
Yup. They died there and. . .
EK
And her sisters are still there.
EK
Yeah.
MA
Oh?
EK
I have. . .
EK
Itoko and Susie.
EK
I have two sisters.
EK
Spinsters.
EK
And a brother. In Winnipeg. And, well, my brother just lost his wife with cancer here not too long ago. But I have a brother in Thunder Bay and a brother in, Mori, where is he?
EK
Teulon.
EK
Teulon.
MA
Where’s that?
EK
Teulon, Manitoba.
MA
That’s in Manitoba?
EK
Yeah, it’s just north of Winnipeg. So get a load of this. My Mom’s sisters, Susie and Itoko, have never driven. And they are, 93?
EK
Yeah.
EK
Itoko is 93?
EK
Yeah, I think so yeah.
EK
And Susie is 90? 91?
EK
Pretty close, yeah 90.
EK
So Kobe and I go to Winnipeg to try to have a family supper every year. And they meet us at the airport and they say, “oh Kobe I have to go catch my bus.” So we come down the escalator at the airport, doors open up, she looks over and goes, “Oh here comes my bus.” So at, how old was she 90, 91?
00:40:13.000
00:40:13.000
EK
91?
EK
She could run as fast as him. All laugh. They never owned a car. And they’ve never seen a doctor.
MA
Wow.
EK
Crazy. Unbelievable.
MA
They’re in Winnipeg.
EK
They are so limber, at 90, because they walk everywhere. They leave the house in the morning, and sometimes they’re gone all day long.
EK
Yeah.
EK
And they walk. So tell us. . .
MA
That’s. . .
EK
Mom about. You remember coming out here fishing every year? Oh, tell them about Lucky Louie Boat Rentals. We love fishing so much, she bought the boat rental business.
MA
Huh.
EK
Well, we came here I think I told you, that without any jobs or anything.
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
And then this friend, man that had the store was...
EK
Johnson, no, not Johnson.
EK
Yeah, Mr. Johnson, yeah. He had brain tumor I guess, and I told you eh, and then his wife and his boys were running the boat rentals and I think they had eight boats at the. . .
EK
Six.
EK
Time. Six? Oh. Yeah. And, my husband, went and asked about the boat rentals because there was rumor saying that he was trying to sell. But there was a man that put in $5000 down payment and, they were waiting for him to make a final decision. But he wasn’t able to come up with the money so we were able to get that, the boat rentals and you know, it was really a fun business.
MA
Hmm.
EK
We had visitors from all over the world almost.
EK
Oh sure.
EK
We really, really had a nice time. And especially when the Japanese people came from Japan, neh, on the tour. Yeah. And one thing my husband said was, when the people from Japan comes, he knows that they spent a lot of money and come here and so he said I don’t have to make any money, as long as they go home with a good memory saying that they really had nice time. . .
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
In Campbell River. That’s all he wanted so Chuckles. so when they go fishing, we’ll take them to Koto’s and then have supper. ALl laugh.
EK
Yeah, that’s right. And now that kind of thing. And he just enjoyed that, you know. He said we don’t have to make any money as long as they go home with a good memory he says. He. . . Chuckles.
MA
He sounds. . .
EK
Yeah, he’s. . .
MA
Amazing.
EK
That type. . .
MA
Yeah.
EK
Of person. Yeah. So we really had a nice business and we met so many, nice people from all over the place. And from us across the street was a campground, and we got to know lots of people from there.
EK
Yeah.
EK
Life time friends.
EK
Friends.
MA
Yeah. Oh.
EK
Yeah. Like Bill Cook.
KK
Cecil.
EK
Yeah.
EK
So what’s amazing is when my Dad’s obituary went out, four or five years ago, the people in Campbell River, always thought, oh we’re going to read about Riichi’s obit, and his successful history as a small business person in Campbell River but they had no idea that he had like, two lives. . .
MA
Two lives, yeah.
EK
Before Campbell River. He had the farming life, and before the farming life, he had the Vancouver. . .
MA
Mmm.
EK
Pre-war years.
MA
Strawberry Hill. Is. . . Non-verbal reply. Yes. Non-verbal reply. That right? Bailey.
EK
Yeah.
MA
There’s a picture of his home in there, in the records we showed. Also, you were mentioning that, he, before, when we were talking earlier that he did a lot of volunteer work. He worked on the ice. . .
EK
Yes.
MA
The curling ice in Winnipeg.
EK
Hockey.
MA
Oh, hockey. Oh, hockey.
EK
Hockey and curling.
EK
He built, he did that ice making for 28 years in Emerson, Manitoba.
EK
Yeah.
EK
Free of charge. And he. . .
EK
He guaranteed the loan.
EK
Yeah.
MA
Wow.
EK
For the, the ice complex.
EK
Mmhmm. The. . .
EK
One of ten farmers, I think, they guaranteed the, the loan for the complex, to be built. The new complex in Manitoba.
EK
Sportplex.
EK
Sportsplex.
EK
Yeah. Yeah.
00:45:05.000
00:45:05.000
EK
And Dad. Let me see. Oh, he hosted, Emerson, Manitoba’s 100th year bonspiel. And I think had a hundred teams. . .
MA
Wow.
EK
Yeah.
EK
Register.
EK
Yeah.
EK
And he went to the final game against Ernie Richardson.
EK
Yeah.
MA
Oh. Chuckles.
EK
Yeah.
EK
World, famous curling champion.
MA
Yeah.
EK
No, he had his first game he, with. . .
EK
Oh, was it?
EK
Yeah.
EK
Was it?
EK
Yeah.
EK
It’s before my time.
EK
And they were curling on natural ice. So Riichi felt sorry for them and he said that he took you know the thing to scrape off the ice.
EK
Yeah.
EK
Yeah. And at the very last, I think they were very close game.
EK
Yeah.
EK
But he said that he just put it a. . .
EK
Rock.
EK
A rock right on the button to win it. Laugh. Yeah. But that was such a good experience. And then, of course after the game, they were from Regina, he brought a whole bunch, his gang from Regina. And one of friends, our friend’s son helped him with lead rock I think was.
EK
Rodney?
EK
Yeah. Rod Ross. Yeah. Yeah, because she was short. You know, before they went home, we had them to the house. And we fed them lunch, you know, something before they went home. And. . .
EK
So how many years has it been since we we’ve been in Emerson? I want to tell Mike about an experience I had two months ago.
EK
Oh. . .
EK
So I get a phone call from a fellow that says, “oh, you’re Koizumi.” I’ve got a couple of stories like that. “You’re Koizumi. My name is Ron Hunter. I’m calling you, because my wife um, lost her mother in Courtenay and we have to sell her house, and we know that you’re a realtor.” He says, “My, I, I’m Ron Hunter.” He said, “in the late sixties I grew up with your older brother, Tom, and I started, I was, drafted into junior hockey.” And he said, “one thing I remember is that everybody worked for your parents, including myself.” He said, “it was so important for us, as high school students to be, to know that we had a job. . .”
MA
Hmmm.
EK
“Thinning your parent’s fields before we did anything as far as, hockey or anything in the wintertime.” But he said that, “I know that, I wanna call you because your family has such a great, honest reputation, in southern Manitoba.” That. . .
MA
Wow.
EK
Yeah, that’s a long time.
MA
Mmm.
EK
A long time.
MA
So you said his funeral was just only five or six years ago. And he was four years older than, so he must have been, ninety. . .
EK
94.
MA
94 as well. Wow.
EK
Dad was 94?
MA
Long Japaniki genes.
EK
Born in Claxton Cannery.
EK
Oh, Dad died, you mean.
EK
Yeah.
EK
Yeah. I think so. He was born in 1920. And he died in, ’14 here.
EK
2014.
EK
2014.
EK
Yeah.
EK
Yeah.
EK
Skeena River.
EK
Yeah.
EK
Born.
EK
But, then...
MA
Skeena.
EK
You know, later on, like when...
MA
Yeah, Claxton Cannery.
EK
When we had the boat rentals, I met a, I didn’t know who he was, but at the front entrance of the casino I meet this young man. And he said, “oh, hi Mrs. Koizumi.” So I said, “hi.” And he said, “you remember me?” And I had just about forgotten him but he said that, “you know I want to thank you and your husband,” he said because he worked for us at and he said that, “your husband had taught me so much, that you know to this day, I really appreciate what he had done for us.” And he says, “so I wanted to thank you” and I just the other day. . .
KK
Oh yeah...
MA
Oh wow.
EK
Laughs.
KK
It reminds me of in the summertime I fish a lot and we met a cop, a fisheries officer that said the same thing and it’s pretty crazy how many people have worked with grandma. And even my sister, her first job, she got her first job a little while ago. And, same thing her boss. . .
EK
The owner of the store.
KK
The owner of the store. . .
MA
Hmm.
KK
Worked for grandma and grandpa so. . .
00:50:14.000
00:50:14.000
EK
Yeah, well we’re talking, two. . .
KK
This. . .
EK
Careers earlier.
KK
Yeah. All laugh.
MA
That’s something.
KK
We’re, this is the Campbell River now. Yeah.
EK
Yeah. Yeah.
MA
That is an amazing. . . Laughs.
EK
Timeframe. Yeah.
MA
Timeframe. Oh.
EK
My gosh.
MA
That’s an amazing life. Life times. Can I ask, go back and in another context, just ask a similar question, or theme about things you did, hobbies, and things. Also language, and also cultural things, that maybe, you. . .
EK
Oh, experienced.
MA
You brought along like. . .
EK
Yeah.
MA
I brought manju, and you go, “oh I Iove manju,” so where did that come from? Is that, like, that’s for Nikkei, that’s something sort of very. . .
EK
Traditional.
MA
Traditional and familiar.
EK
How about the JCCA, Mom? We used to always picnic with the JCCA. In Winnipeg, it’s the, I was growing up, and the Nikkei, the newspaper, it was the way that you guys, knew, you read the newspaper so that you could tell where the other people were.
MA
Mmm.
EK
Back in the day.
EK
You know, lots of younger, especially girls, they got married and their names changed.
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
So, I really don’t know where they went.
NA
Mmm.
EK
You know. You know, you just. . .
EK
Well, remember back, didn’t you like to see the Japanese newspaper, the Japanese Canadian newspaper.
EK
Yeah, I. . .
MA
New Canadian, Nikka Times.
EK
Nikkei.
EK
Nikkei Voice.
MA
Yeah.
EK
Nikkei Voice.
EK
And I still. . .
EK
You still get it.
EK
Yeah, I still take.
EK
I think Mike was part of that, weren’t you? Mike laughs.
EK
Eh?
MA
No, well I, we contributed, but our Japanese, the Victoria one. . .
EK
Yeah.
MA
The one out of Victoria, we used to do. But, they had the New Canadian and they also had the Nikka Times, way back.
EK
Oh. New Canadian.
MA
And those were the two, like the national ones that you would probably read, back in the day.
EK
What did you do Mom, remember?
KK
Grandma, do you want some water?
EK
Michael,
EK
Hmm?
EK
You were asking Mom. . .
EK
No, I have my tea, Thank you dear.
EK
Was it cultural events or?
MA
Or, so here’s the question, your parents, did they speak to you in Japanese?
EK
Yeah, all the time.
MA
All the time.
EK
Yeah.
MA
And yet, you, you spoke. . .
EK
English.
MA
English to?
EK
The kids.
MA
You’re third generation, I guess.
EK
Yep.
MA
You’re second.
EK
Mo, the thing is, before I got married, in Steveston it’s all Japanese.
MA
It’s all Japanese.
EK
Even the. . .
EK
Yeah.
EK
Hakujins were speaking Japanese. Mike laughs.
EK
Yeah, even the, yeah. The few hakujin people, went to school, they spoke Japanese.
MA
Yeah, so many Japanese people.
EK
Because they were, mainly Japanese. Coughs.
EK
Get her some water.
KK
I asked. . .
EK
No, that’s okay.
KK
She said she’s okay.
EK
My husband’s, the area he comes from there’s lots of hakujin, so I think he spoke mainly English, and only Japanese to, talking to his mother.
EK
Oh, okay.
EK
You know. So, like me, I mean, I spoke broken English, Laughs. but the kids, I learned to speak English, more, when I married him. . .
MA
Hmm.
EK
Because Dad spoke English, so then mostly English all the time with you.
EK
I never spoke Japanese because I don’t know a word of it! All laugh.
MA
Okay
EK
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Ernie laughs. Yeah.
MA
But. . .
EK
But did you know Mas, what’s his name?
EK
Fukawa.
EK
Fukawa.
MA
Uh.
EK
The author.
MA
Masako? Yes.
EK
Masako.
MA
She’s in Steveston. Her husband Stan and yeah.
EK
Yeah, she’s my cousin’s daughter.
MA
Oh. Emiko laughs.
EK
If you ever need to tie people’s, family like, in Steveston, in the early, early days, some of the things that, were probably socially not as acceptable today as they were then. She tells you how it all came together. It’s amazing.
MA
Yeah. Yeah, so Masako Fukawa, yeah, they, they’ve written a few books.
EK
Yeah.
EK
Yeah.
MA
The Nikkei Fleet and such.
EK
On the fishing. . .
EK
You should call them because Sam passed away.
EK
Oh yeah.
EK
A couple of months ago. So. Osamu.
EK
Osamu. Osamu.
MA
Osamu.
EK
Masako’s brother.
MA
Oh, okay.
EK
Yeah, passed away.
EK
Sam. Sam Shinde.
EK
Yeah.
EK
And.
EK
And it was his grandmother, their grandmother, that came from Steveston to. . .
EK
Emerson.
EK
Emerson, yeah.
EK
And that’s the ones that lived with your family?
EK
Yeah.
EK
The Shinde’s.
EK
Mmhmm.
00:55:00.000
00:55:00.000
EK
And who else was in Emerson? The Shinde’s.
MA
Oh.
EK
The Tasaka’s. There was uh. . .
EK
Tasaka’s.
EK
Yeah, Tasaka’s.
EK
And the fishing family.
EK
Yeah.
EK
West coast fishing family.
EK
Yeah.
EK
Out of Richmond.
EK
Yeah. And Teranishi’s. And Wakaye’s and the Goto’s – Jack Goto. Yeah. They were in Emerson. Yeah. Yeah, and, I think so.
EK
Ask her another question Mike. That’s interesting.
MA
So when you said you had to rush home from the curfew.
EK
Mmm.
MA
And you were at your friends’ places, so obviously they were not Japanese friends.
EK
Mmm.
MA
Ah. Or maybe you were visiting there. What were you doing, were you, what kinds of things did you do? Were you. . .
EK
Mo, I mean. . .
MA
You. . .
EK
That was, those days when I was still going to school or something.
MA
Yeah.
EK
Or. I mean. When the cur, I just don’t know what I was doing. But, I had friends and they were yeah, I guess, must be the friends that we used to work in, cannery.
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
And must be, yeah. But anyways, I just. . .
MA
Did you play cards? Or do you just. . .
EK
Oh no.
MA
Play uh. . .
EK
Just go to visit or something.
MA
Or badminton?
EK
Yeah. No, yeah.
MA
Just visit.
EK
After supper or something, and then you had to rush home. . . Laughs. Because of the curfew. Yeah.
EK
Curfew.
EK
Yeah. Yeah.
MA
Hmm.
NA
How many of your classmates were Japanese?
EK
Eh?
MA
How many of your classmates were Japanese? Um, versus hakujin.
EK
In Steveston?
NA
In Steveston.
EK
Oh.
EK
Oh, Lord Byng.
NA
In school.
EK
Yeah, Lord Byng School was mostly Japanese anyways.
EK
Don’t you have photos, Mom? I thought you had, gave me a photo album. We just cleared out her house here.
EK
Yeah.
EK
Oh, It’s too bad I didn’t bring the photo album. Because, wasn’t there old pictures of, your. . .
KK
Oh!
EK
Steveston?
EK
Mm, no I don’t. . .
KK
There’s those little envelopes.
EK
Steveston. I don’t think I’ve got any pictures of Steveston. Those days not too many people have cameras.
EK
Yeah.
MA
No, yeah.
MA
And you would have had to bring them with you.
EK
Yeah. Tell Mike about some of the stuff that Marvin took. You know Marvin’s got, we call it a mausoleum, in his backyard. He built a garage for a museum. Mike, Marvin is very interested in like.
EK
Hmm.
MA
I was just in Lethbridge on the Sugar Beet Bus Tour in October. It was very. . .
EK
That’s what he was asking...
MA
It was fascinating. And we did stop in. We went to Lethbridge. We went to Raymond. And then we were in Taber. And we stayed at the Heritage Inn. And, the, the owner’s daughters who were managing it. They came out and greeted us because we had our dinner there.
EK
So that’s Richard’s kids.
EK
Yeah. Heritage Inn.
EK
Yeah.
EK
It’s Richard’s yeah.
EK
That’s Stan’s, but it’s the girls, Shelly and.
MA
Shelly, yeah.
EK
Yeah.
EK
And your. . .
EK
Granddaughter.
EK
Granddaughter was probably there too. Kelly.
EK
And Kelly would be working there.
EK
No, working at the head office.
EK
Oh, the head office.
MA
Oh, okay, yeah.
EK
Yeah. Yeah. I think at that one time, Kelly’s grandpa and grandma were half owners of that Lethbridge.
EK
That’s right. Yeah. Yeah, but they had the farm too.
EK
Yeah, but they both passed away so. But Kelly works there.
MA
And the connection between, those sugar beet fields and. . .
EK
We taught. . .
MA
The Manitoba. Sorry.
EK
We taught them how to grow sugar beets. Laughs. My Dad was known as the Sugar Beet King of Canada.
MA
Oh my goodness.
EK
Yeah.
EK
So it was in that trip in 1970. . .
MA
Yeah.
EK
Where they connected with the family that found out through Stan Kanegawa that some, two of my Dad’s, like “sisters,” Chiyo and Harue, were in Campbell River and they said, “you know Chiyo and Harue?” And they go, “yes, they’re in Picture Butte right now.” And my Dad said, “take me to Picture Butte.”
MA
Mmm.
EK
So Stan took you. . .
EK
Mmhmm.
EK
And Dad to Picture Butte and Mary Osaka is related to Chiyo and Harue?
EK
Mary. May.
EK
May. Was related. And Dad got to see his, two, friends that he grew up with in the Skeena River, up there. . .
EK
As a child.
EK
As ‘a child. Got to see them. And they said, “Riichi, we live in a town called Campbell River. You must come. . .”
MA
Hmm.
EK
“Visit us.” So, that was the connection that started bringing us, every year.
EK
Every year, yeah.
EK
To Campbell River.
MA
Oh, okay.
01:00:00.000
01:00:00.000
EK
My Dad, by 1972, was a very large producer. And, sugar beets wasn’t that, popular, it was fairly new to southern Alberta.
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
So my Dad would develop equipment. Instead of doing six rows at a time he would do twelve. Instead of just cultivating, he would incorporate fertilizer on the same machine as he cultivated. Harvesting, same thing. He had the biggest equipment. He had the newest. Remember what we bought, that electronic thinner. It was like $10,000, piece of equipment and it had electric eyes on it, so that it would do the hoeing.
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
Just. . .
MA
Just lift up the beets, with a little bit of weeds around it.
EK
Yeah.
EK
And made things so much easier for the workers.
EK
Faster.
EK
Yeah.
EK
But the Kanegawa’s. . .
EK
What year was that?
EK
1971?
EK
Yeah, maybe.
EK
‘72.
EK
Yeah.
EK
Because I knew that my Dad, even, in the late sixties, he had, all, always brand new vehicles.
MA
Hmm.
EK
He had his trucks. He had a fleet. So Dad also, used to, in the wintertime, used to haul gravel for the highways department. And he would need big, big trucks to do that.
MA
So your Dad. His family settled in Skeena River. And where are they from in Japan? And where are your parents from? Your. . .
EK
Oh, Riichi’s family, it was from Tochigi.
MA
Tochigi?
EK
Tochigi-ken.
EK
Yup.
EK
I don’t know where that is.
EK
Near Tokyo isn’t it?
EK
Yeah, yeah. It’s not too far.
EK
And yours was. . .
MA
It’s north.
EK
My was from southern Japan. Wakayama.
MA
Of course, yeah. Because, lot of them. Ernie laughs. Lot of them went to. . .
EK
Yeah.
EK
Yeah, yeah.
EK
Yeah.
MA
Steveston because of the fishing. Let’s take a little break.
EK
Okay, would you like coffee? Tape is paused for a short break.
MA
And we’re back, for, the second half.
EK
Yeah.
MA
Laughs. Thank you very much for, your wonderful stories so far, Mrs. Koizumi. I wanted to take this time, before we finish, take advantage of the fact that we have three generations here. We have Kobe. And father Ernie. And mother, and Ernie’s mother Emiko. So, Kobe, is this the first time you’ve heard, these stories, or, to this extent, and, can you share some of your thoughts, feelings about what you’ve heard today?
KK
So definitely it’s the first time I’ve heard the story to this extent. I was pretty lucky. My Dad was pretty open about what happened during the internment. But it’s pretty interesting to see the extent that they were known. And what they had to put up with.
MA
Mmm.
KK
So yeah. It’s just really interesting.
MA
You’ve been actually pretty lucky too, to live in the same community, very close to your grandparents.
KK
Mmhmm.
MA
And until recently, your grandfather as well. Did he tell you stories?
KK
Um, no. When I was a kid, my grandpa. It was dementia, right?
EK
Mmhmm.
MA
Oh.
KK
So he suffered from dementia.
MA
Oh okay.
KK
So he wasn’t able to share many stories with me but definitely my grandma and I share a special bond.
MA
Wonderful, yes. Ah, and I see you’re doing a project. What is that? And then, and how does that connect to this?
KK
So, my project is about the consequences, events leading up to and different effects, that different situations and wars, internments, different really historical events had, on a person and the country itself. So I chose to do the Japanese Canadian internment because I haven’t learned anything about it, at school.
MA
Mmhmm.
KK
Or anything like it’s. But I am pretty aware of it with my Dad.
MA
I think what you learn, you may have learned from this story, and from the stories that you’ve heard before is the one that, I myself being Japanese Canadian, third generation, and growing up with these stories, from relatives and other families in the community and knowing how bad the internment was but the years afterwards the families Clears throat. and the generations have, the first and second generations, have strived so hard to make life much easier, and better for the third and fourth generations and, I think from listening to this story I think that you can definitely see how your family has been so resilient and so successful in a number of careers and in different places, in Emerson, in Campbell River as well.
01:05:33.000
01:05:33.000
MA
So, I think that’s something that you can be really proud of and that I think that we are, I am, very proud of when I hear about our stories, our family stories as well. Any comments on that? Mike and Natsuki chuckle.
KK
Yes, definitely it’s, really, really nice and it’s pretty crazy because, normally they’re like, the Japanese people are pretty humble, and they don’t talk about it very much.
MA
Mmhmm.
KK
They don’t complain. It’s behind them. But especially going through this story you can see the sacrifices that they made to, to create a better life.
MA
Thank-you. Can you comment on that? The shikata ga nai and we often hear, that attitude and that gambare and that persevering, going forward. Is that true? Is that what motivated you? Or is it. . . Non-verbal head shaking. There is very humble. Laughter. How about Ernie, can you talk to that?
EK
Oh, I think that yeah, when I grew up, it was really interesting because like I said like, I grew up in a white community in southern Manitoba, with less than a thousand people. But, my folks were, you know, pretty big employers so. . .
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
I don’t, I never gave it a thought a how we got there until after we moved to the coast then found out, holy cow, we’re a little bit different. Like I, I wasn’t just born in Emerson, Manitoba. My folks were, had a life before that. . .
MA
Yeah.
EK
That was taken away from them instantly.
MA
Yeah.
EK
And they never spoke to it. They didn’t. They never really, told us or they didn’t share much of the story with us. But, we had some customs that were. . .
MA
Yeah.
EK
Old, old style, B.C. customs, and, they always of course referenced once in a while their life in British Columbia and what it was like to , you know have salmon and things like the chazuke. . .
MA
Yeah, yeah.
EK
And herring roe on kelp and. . .
MA
Yeah.
EK
You know. How, we never had that in southern Manitoba. But to come back to British Columbia, and grow up and go to school here. It’s been really fascinating but, more than fascinating is the fact that knowing the Japanese Canadian history, from the pre-war to, and then you know them being so resilient.
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
And, unlike other, people or other nationalities, having, problems like during the Second World War we weren’t the only ones, there was some of the Polish, some of the German communities. But yeah, to have your parents go through that was phenomenal. But the culture, you know, I still remember growing up, we shared the Japanese Canadian lunches. . .
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
Um, the barbeques and we’d go to Winnipeg which is a larger centre and see all the Japanese families and how tight, they were.
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
It was really neat.
MA
Yeah.
EK
And I want to thank you for coming up and spending the day with us.
MA
Thank you.
KK
Yeah even now it is really, really interesting because it is so community based and you can see that by, like the Japanese communities having lunches every year and, and bonding through that in special way.
EK
Yeah.
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
Unique eh?
MA
So before I go I wanted to ask if you had any final words, that you would like to express, to us, to, to any listeners, who are listening to your story. Especially, Emiko, maybe a message to, to Kobe and your other grandchildren.
EK
Yeah, well you know Kobe and I. They’ve lived so close to me all the time. Eh that I’m very, very close with them and I’m just so happy and I’m so happy that you were able to listen in to this today.
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
Yeah and thank-you folks for, for coming, all that distance.
MA
It’s our pleasure.
EK
What can you leave with us Mom about, experiencing, you being, you’re gonna be one of the last I’m sure, that went through that stage and, tell us, tell us what it, the Japanese people, when you don’t remember the train ride. . .
EK
No.
EK
You know. You do remember the community that you grew up in but, what did you think about the fact that, our, your own government took you away from your. . .
EK
Yeah.
EK
Home.
EK
Well, you know we never really talked too much about it, you know. Yeah, uh. Yeah, so, I mean, it was kind of sad, and all that, but you know. We never really let it bother us too much.
MA
Mmhmm.
EK
And went ahead. Yeah.
EK
Sure is different than today when you can, see different factions or different people, groups complain about, you know, how they were mistreated.
EK
Yeah.
EK
And how much attention they get but yet there is absolutely zero, unless it comes out through your work.
MA
Mmmm.
EK
Right.
EK
Mmm.
EK
It’s amazing.
EK
Yeah. Dad, Dad never really talked too much about it either.
MA
No. Emiko laughs.
EK
No.
EK
You know.
EK
No. Maybe it’s forward thinking or. Yeah.
MA
Yeah, just by hearing his accomplishments is, he sounds like he just was. . .
EK
Go ahead.
MA
Just go forward. Ernie laughs. That’s like no looking back.
EK
No.
MA
He was ambitious.
EK
That’s exactly what he said, that you never look back, he said. Just go ahead.
MA
Yeah.
EK
You know. Do the best you can.
MA
It’s a really great attitude. Well thankyou very much everybody.
EK
Oh.
MA
Really appreciate it.
EK
Yeah, thank you.
MA
Thank you.
01:12:19.000

Metadata

Title

Emiko Koizumi and family, interviewed by Michael Abe and Natsuki Abe, 18 December 2019

Abstract

Emiko Koizumi, nee Nishibata, along with her son Ernie and grandson Kobe, discuss her life and family. Emiko speaks of her early life in Steveston – her parents, her summer jobs, when she first met her future husband. Emiko says that to keep the family together they travelled to Winnipeg (where she coincidently crossed paths with her future husband) before her family went to south to Emerson (and his north to Balmoral) to work on a sugar beet farm. Emiko speaks of the challenges of life in rural Manitoba and of spending the “off-season” working in Winnipeg. Her story continues when Riichi Koizumi moved to Emerson and they married. Emiko and Ernie talk about the family and their almost 30 years building a sugar beet sharecropper business that earned Riichi the moniker Sugar Beet King of Canada. They then talk about a major change in the mid-1970’s when the Koizumi’s moved to Campbell River, British Columbia and built up a successful boat rental and charter fishing business. Ernie mentions that for him, moving to BC made him realize that his parents both had a completely different life prior to their life in Manitoba that had been taken away from them instantly. All three generations reflect on the family’s success, the challenges, their Japanese/nikkei customs and culture.

Credits

Interviewer: Michael Abe
Interviewer: Natsuki Abe
Interviewee: Emiko Koizumi
Interviewee: Ernie Koizumi
Interviewee: Kobe Koizumi
Transcriber: Stacey Inouye
XML Encoder: Natsuki Abe
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Campbell River
Keywords: Steveston ; Sugar beets; Riichi Koizumi ; Winnipeg ; Emerson ; Manitoba ; BC ; Campbell River ; sharecropper; Sugar Beet King of Canada; Lucky Louie Boat Rentals; gambare; 1900-present; especially 1920s-1970s

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.