Peter Kurita, interviewed by Heather Read, 10 April 2015 (1 of 2)

Peter Kurita, interviewed by Heather Read, 10 April 2015 (1 of 2)

Abstract
Peter discusses memories of his childhood in Vancouver during the 1930s, memories of his experiences being interned in Slocan during the war, and his family’s move to Ontario afterwards. He also describes his later life, discussing his marriages, career and extensive travel experiences. Peter reflects on the internment and its lasting effects on both Japanese Canadians and Canadians more broadly several times throughout the interview; he notes that the cause was racism, describes being unhappy and untrusting of the Liberal Party for invoking the War Measures Act, and repeatedly describes how important it is for various ethnic groups in Canada to “assimilate.”
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Heather Read (HR)
So, this is Heather Read for Landscapes of Injustice, and I'm here with Peter Kurita in Cobourg, Ontario at his home and it is April...
HR
Tenth, thank you! April 10th 2015. So, Peter as I mentioned we are interested in stories of dispossession, but first I'd love to hear just more about your life. I know you wrote it out to me in an email, but it's always lovely to hear memories spoken. So can you tell me what you remember of your childhood?
MK
Yes I was born in Vancouver, grew up just after the Depression. So things were very tough, but you know, I don't remember my diaper being harsh. You know, when I was a kid you know it probably was but it very occurred to me. We lived a very good life. We were growing up in Vancouver and things were going very nicely. We were in, in, what we called, near the Japanese center where most of them were. The question now is, why did you stay in such a confined area? And it's just because we couldn't buy a house, in, you know the rest of the world, you know, for example in Kerrisdale, or something like that. Couldn't afford it. Everything was going fine. We had, I had many Japanese Canadian kids. The school I went to was Strathcona. And it had, in those days had about 1200 kids, which is a big, big elementary school. In fact we called it the largest elementary school in the British Empire, that's how big! However about 600 of them were Japanese Canadians, you see, so you know, so. Half the kids in my class were all Japanese Canadians, you see. Well, everything came to a blockade actually, or whatever you call it, a catastrophe, on December the 7th 1941. War was declared and we Japanese Canadian were immediately labelled enemy aliens. And, as such we lost all our legal rights and so on. It's rather ironic that up until then, up until December 7th 1941, we in Strathcona School were all divided into little groups and we did various things. For example for my group, we made little booties like this, you know for a little child and we decorated it, put pom poms on it and so on. We called that project B for B, “Bundles for Britain” and it really, we could see that, we could have these times during school sometime, and we would be called to do things and another group would be looking after packaging and another group and so on...
HR
And that's sending things back for the war?
MK
To send it to Britain, you see. So, we were very patriotic and so on and all of a sudden on December the 7th... we were designated enemy aliens and lost all our rights, you know really well even our human rights. Which is not, should not have happened you know. There are things like... I wrote down some. Like curfew, we were, there was a dusk to dawn curfew which in Vancouver is ridiculous. In the summer, this dusk to dawn, well, dawn is about four o'clock in the morning and dusk is 10 o'clock you know! It really was where as counter in the winter time it was very difficult because the sun sits at 4 o'clock. Anyways that was quite the thing. The worst thing that happened during this time was that the government both governments decided not to educate the Japanese Canadians. So from December 7th 1941 to June of that year we were allowed to go to school, but we were not allowed to go, to retain, to go to school in September of 1942. And that lasted for four years.
HR
Four years?
MK
I never saw a professional teacher from December 1942 to when I left the camp in 1946. And you know that's really the most terrible thing that-to me anyways because I became an educator-that to me that was terrible, you know, terrible.
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MK
And it was so easy to fix, education as you well may know under the education act, the British North American Act of 1867 education was a completely provincial matter. Federal, you know, federal could not do anything about it, so the volleyball came on and said “Look education is your problem, you know it's a provincial matter. You have to educate these kids,” and the provincial government said “No we're not going to do it because this whole evacuation is your business, so you look after.” “Well how can we look after them, we're not prepared to do any educating,” and the volley-balling went back and forth. The thing that bothered, really irks me is that the Dominion, the federal government could have completely.... said “Look you have to educate these kids because it says so in the British North American Act, and if you don't do it we're going to stop the transfer of payment” That's what Ottawa gives each province every year, you know, their share. But they couldn't do that because that would destroy the whole thing they were going to be. They were going to, these were the good 'ol Liberal party, they're the champion of the people. And so, they never did that, so the British, the department of education did nothing about educating me and all the other kids. Well, 5000 other kids like us, you see and that went on till 1946. And as I said I never saw a professional teacher. We saw a volunteer teachers. My sister, for example, who was a high school graduate taught school but she had no teaching experience whatsoever. You know they did have a summer school at one time, when I was in grade six and seven at that time. And then when I went to grade nine I went to a school that was run by the missionaries of the Anglican Church of Canada. So, they were good missionaries, well-educated and so on, but they were not professional teachers and so on. You know they did a good job, so you can imagine me, kind of, you know, going into Ontario. I went to Riverdale Collegiate, and in grade 10 our science lab we had baking soda. Yeah we had baking soda. And I come to Riverdale Collegiate and there's sink there and a whole, all kinds of chemicals, you know. You can imagine how much I had to study to catch up on the guys you know, the rest of us, unfortunately. I didn't do too bad. I wasn't a great scholar you know but I did quite well. At that time there were things like curfew, you could, oh I told you about the curfew...
HR
You did talk about the curfew.
MK
Oh, well something else that they did against us was censorship. Every letter, every parcel, every postcard had to be censored. Now, the cost you can imagine, you can imagine the cost! Some guy in the post office had to be very knowledgeable, could read “Smith? Oh that's not Japanese Canadian,” Jones, and so on. And “Kurita, oh that's a Japanese Canadian” so that letter that to be censored. Can you imagine the cost of that? You know that was never mentioned? I don't think anywhere, but the reason why I think it was so difficult for us was because in those days very few of us had telephones. So, if I wanted to meet a kid, you know, a friend of mine on the other side of town and say “Let's go to a show or a movie,” or something, we did it by post card.
HR
Really?
MK
We'd write a postcard! You know, it only cost three cents and we'd write a postcard that said “Hey Joe let's meet at the...” you know and so on. Of course, if my letter is going to be censored it goes to the Vancouver post office, goes to Ottawa to be censored and comes back again. Well it takes three weeks, six weeks before. So that kind of communication was quite out. We had to be registered. That meant finger prints and mug shot and so on.
HR
Even you as a child did you have to register?
MK
No sixteen year olds. The thing is though in 1947, which is a year after the war, two years after the war was over, I got a letter from the RCMP saying Peter Kurita you have to go down to... I forget the name of the street, Augusta Street or something to the RCMP office to get yourself registered. Very polite letter. I ignored it. The next letter was polite. The third letter wasn't polite as I was saying, the third letter was a threat. The fourth letter that I got I was sure that the next person to come into my door would be two RCMP constables, you know, in their full red and drag me down to the you know so... So in 1947, two years after the war I had to go down get mug shot taken and I had to get a registration. I was told that I was to keep that registration on my person at all times, you know. So that, that's what happened. Something else, oh well, we talked about the confiscation. Well people that had real estate they were all confiscated. Cars were all confiscated. And as I said along with cameras and things you know of that nature. Well then you probably know something about the evacuation of, what happened during the evacuation.
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HR
Can you tell me what happened to your family?
MK
Well, we weren't too badly out. We were in Vancouver. Anyone that lived up the coast or on Vancouver Island they were sent to Hastings Park. Hastings Park is the equivalent to the CNE here in Toronto. And they converted the horse barns and other places like cattle barns into, into living quarters, you know, with bunk beds here all around. And they were about the only privacy that they could get was to put blankets down the sides. Well, luckily we never had to go. My sister in law, my brother's wife she was in Victoria, and she was in Hastings Park for a while. Luckily, when the time came for us to go to the camps, we went to, we were sent to a place called Slocan... There was an old shack, well, a shack made a little bit bigger than this room. Anyway, the shack was divided into three rooms, and each room was, oh, probably 8 by 12 or something of that nature. These were not very large, and if you put two bunk beds that was about all the size that would go. So, there's a room here, a room here and there's a same size room in the middle and that was the kitchen, the dining room, the living room. The middle bit you see, it had one stove and one heating stove and a dry sink. No water you know. The water, just the sewage went into the tank, because the tank even had to hold the grub.
HR
So, where did your water come from?
MK
Sorry?
HR
Where did the water come from?
MK
Oh, there's well, the first water we had at the beginning, we had to go oh a good kilometer, I guess, to get a bucket of water. Eventually I came very close on a pipe within maybe a hundred feet of the house. So that wasn't too much, but still not indoor plumbing which we were used to. I laughed. There were three of these shacks and there was one outhouse, so there'd be, could be 24 people! 24, I'm sorry, eight people here, eight people here, eight here. 24 people would use one toilet.
HR
With one toilet!
MK
The thing is now, the elders used to laugh about it, because it was never crowded because in the summertime it stunk so high we never did stay too long in there. And in the wintertime it was so dang cold and we never stayed too long in there. So, you know it was okay, there was a communal bath and that was the way we had our bath.
HR
What would you do for food?
MK
Sorry?
HR
What did you do for food?
MK
Oh well, there were some jobs. My dad, for example, I think he cleaned chimneys when they got sense of that, and that was the way we were we fed ourselves. My sister had a job at a post office and another sister was one of the teachers. And I think they got paid 25 cents an hour or something like that. And when dad needed some we were able to, you know, buy a thing. We, from the second year on, we used to grow some of our food down the ground because we had a bit of a garden. Oh, maybe three times the size of this room, for our garden, so we were able to do that. The thing though, if you only had-like we were seven in our family so we got a whole house. So, the girls, three of my sisters stayed in one bedroom and mom and dad and my brother and I you know we're in the other. If you only had four in your family as a lot of family did, mother and father and two children, they go one room and you used the kitchen area communally. Can you imagine the concern that would cause, you know?
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MK
But of course, you know about all the evacuees, there were about 25,000 evacuees and all during that time there wasn't one crime committed. Not one major theft, not one. You know, nothing violent like that at all. We all got along quite well together, because you're sort of in the same boat and if we were to do some harm to somebody, you know, you're harming yourself almost, you know. So, when you think about a thousand people being forced out of their homes like this and still live rather peacefully. You know maybe that was our own fault. Maybe we should have couple murders, and so on, but it was quite the thing.
HR
You were quite young, like you would have been 12?
MK
I was 11.
HR
11, 12?
MK
11 to 16 I guess I would have been at that time.
HR
Did it feel to you at the time like you were being forced out? Because sometimes kids don't know...
MK
No, as a young kid you know, there's going on a train for the first time of my life was an adventure. Going to Slocan was an adventure, and so on, that was my feeling. I bet you my parents didn't feel that way. They must have been scared hell you know you know.
HR
: Did they talk about it with you?
MK
Not at great deal. Not a great deal, you know this got this Shikata ga nai, can't help it you know, can't help it. So, we can't help it, so we make the best of it. You go along, you know, so. So, eventually, well my oldest sister went to, came to Alma College at St. Thomas to study there. And she was a schoolgirl. She did whatever work that she had to do at the, you know, in lieu of her college fees and room and board. My sister came as a house girl, in some place and she came out East. And the rest of us stayed in Slocan till 1946. And we moved here. Now from there, 1946 I came to Toronto. And I was still in grade 11, so I did my grade 11, 12, 13. And after grade 13 I went to Normal School. It was called Normal School then, now it's called Teacher's College. But it was called normal school. The reason why it's called normal was because the curriculum was called the 'norm.'
HR
Oh that makes sense.
MK
Yeah, so the people that learned how to teach the 'norm' were in the Normal School so after a year there, I graduated from Normal school and I started to teach and I eventually worked on my degree from Queen's university. And then I went to Acadia University in Wolfeville, Nova Scotia.
HR
Really? Good for you!
MK
To do my Masters. Except they wouldn't give me my Masters because I didn't finish my thesis. They're nasty, I thought. Anyway, I taught school all my life, and oh I got married and you know, she had a degree from McMaster. And so we planned and said one day we're going to retire, this is 15 years in the future. But, we've got to think about it. So we went to a course in the University of Guelph. It's called a summer camp. It was just a one week course and we stayed at the university there and took a course on retiring. And you know one day they talk about the social aspect of retirement, the emotional aspect, the financial aspect and so on. You know, but we had a professor almost every day teaching, you know, something different every day. So we planned our retirement and so in 1981 or thereabouts, my wife, she said “I'd like to retire now.” She said “I've had such a good class.” She was a kindergarten teacher. She says, “I have such a good class, right now, and I have a good principle and I like the parents, I don't think it'll be any better next year. Can we retire?” “Oh no, no you can't we still have four more years to go yet!” So, we talked about it a bit, I talked to my financial advisor and so he said “Do this, you can do this,” and so on. Luckily the house that we bought together for $42,000 sold for $147,000. It was all paid for so that was all return money. So, that was, you know, that allowed us to retire, oh four years earlier then it should have. I took a bit of beating on my super annuation but I was able to overcome that and we built a house in a place called Warkworth. And....
HR
Where is that?
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MK
Warkworth is just north and east of us here. Very close to Campbellford, east of Peterborough, just straight north of Brighton. That area. Anyways, so we were very happy there but unfortunately my first wife died in 1950...'87. She had, much earlier she had a mastectomy, because, you know, fearing cancer and she seemed to overcome that alright and in 1985 it struck again. Cancer struck again. Breast cancer. And so she went through chemotherapy and the whole bit, she seemed to recover quite a bit and then two years later... we went to Japan the two years later. When we came back, she seemed to be okay, until you know the, the cancer struck again. So we went through all the chemotherapy and, I, if you know anyone who has gone through it, it's terrible. You wouldn't wish it on your worst enemy. Anyway, after taking the chemotherapy for quite a while she decided, she said “You know I don't think I'm getting any better with this, you know. Can we go and see our oncologist?” She was in Toronto, so we drove to Toronto and went to see made an appointment, went to see this guy and she said “If I quit taking chemotherapy, what would you give me?” So, he says “Well I don't really want you to, but I'd say six weeks.” She says “I'll take it!” She would rather have six weeks of no treatment then six weeks of, you know, at hopefully that she would become well. Well, he was true to his word, you know, six weeks she was gone. But I'll tell you the kind of spunk she had. I don't know, there's something called Hector Cath, a Hickman Catheter, I think it's called and her veins just collapsed so badly that they weren't able to put in an intravenous. And so this Hickman Catheter would be directly into her system you know, without having to go with a vein. And this was at the Campbellford Hospital and well while we were there our doctor came. And she knew that she wasn't, well didn't know why but she was really starving, because she wasn't getting any nutrients. So, the surgeon happened to be in the hospital at that time. So the three of us, our family doctor, Marion and I went to see this surgeon and talked about this Hickman Catheter. And she, and you know, he explained what it was and she said “Gee that's like having an umbilical cord for the rest of my life!” The doctor laughed and she said “Well I've never heard it described quite that way” but she says “Essentially you're correct you know, you're getting all your nutrients through the tube, through this cord.” So, she says “I don't want that.” She died the next day. So, she was that kind of a person.
HR
Very spirited person.
MK
Anyway, two years later, I remarried and my wife is, oh gee, I just got that news that she wants a separation. Anyways she's at a nursing home in Campbellford for her dementia was getting you know quite, quite bad, she took four cognitive tests all together and I guess she didn't do well on any of them. So, they, you know, they... the clinic that looks after this kind of entry you know, you have to go through them first. You see you go through all the hoops and bounces all that and so she, she went through that and so she's in this nursing home now.
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MK
What happened though because of her dementia, I guess I should be a bit more lenient, but she, she's blaming me for putting her in the nursing home and I had nothing, well practically nothing to do with it because it was the clinic and so on that you know. Oh, she saw her family doctor, geriatric doctor and two nurses from the clinic and you know, that was their recommendation and so they phoned one time and said “look there's an opening at this place in Campbellford. Would you take it?” You know just like that, just a room. Gee I don't know. We'll have to check things out. And she said “If I were to not take it what would happen?” He said, “well, it will be 12 weeks before you get into the system again and then you are on a waiting list, it could be two years.” Anyways so we took this one and she's, I guess she's not very happy, I got legal paper just today.
HR
Oh I'm sorry to hear that.
MK
So, it's sorta a bad situation for me anyways. So that's my life!
HR
What did you did you and Marion have any children?
MK
No, so as soon as she got married, soon after she had that the cancer and the doctor,said in fact, he recommended a hysterectomy immediately. No, no we were planning on it but you know, she was in fact I think she went off the pill, you know, for a couple years, I don't know, a few sessions and then this first diagnosis of cancer came, you know, rather suddenly. Because she, she went to see our family doctor, this was in Markham. We were living in Markham at the time and saw him and he said everything's fine and she went to a meeting. She was quite interested in cancer and did a lot of, and was a cancer captain and all that kind of stuff. And she went to a meeting and she said “You know at the meeting they talked about feeling any lumps in your breast,” and she said “I think I feel one!” And I said “You saw Dr. Scott just a month and a half ago,” and she said “Well I better go back and see him again!” So she did and he sent her right to a surgeon and the surgeon recommended a hysterectomy and not sorry a mastectomy right there and then so.
HR
That's very sad.
MK
Yeah. Now my second wife, we have, she has two children a boy and a girl, and five grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.
HR
Oh my goodness!
MK
See if I have a photo. pauses to fetch photograph. These are my great grandchildren. Shows Heather photograph
HR
Aren't they cute?
MK
Zachary is 16 now, she's what 12, she's about 9, 10.
HR
And you have you mentioned you have a large family? Your birth family of origin, there are six siblings?
MK
Yeah, I had no, no five siblings, six altogether in my family. There's my oldest sister, and she was the one that was killed in Japan. Which is a sad story, once again, because she wanted to be a teacher, but she couldn't be a teacher until those racist years. So how the heck she did it I don't know! She could read and write Japanese but never took a lesson on mathematics or geography or anything like that, but she decided she'd go to Japanese and entered a teachers college there and taught school and she was quite successful, so much so that really they really liked her and to this day on June the 29th the day she was killed they have a ceremony you know. That's, gosh, that's 17 years ago.
HR
Yeah, that is a wonderful tribute. And are your other brothers and sisters...
MK
Then my next sister is Yoshi and she's the one that wrote this book. And she has one, one son. And they have three children, all over the place. One is in Buffalo New York, the other one is in no, the oldest girl is in Edmonton, no sorry Calgary. And this, the youngest one, she takes a little bit after me. She went to India and she's now in New Zealand and she's going to Australia. Anyways, but working all the way through. That, my nephew, should be home by now, yeah should be home. They went to see her in New Zealand.
HR
Oh lovely.
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MK
So I told her because I've been to New Zealand before so I told her make sure you get to these places, anyway. Then my next sister is Kathleen and she's, she had two boys and a girl and they're all alive, well Keith the oldest is in Toronto or Scarborough. The second boy is in Wilberforce, way up north some place, and the girl is in a Toronto area or some place. My next sister is a is Joanna's grandmother, and she, they had three children, one the oldest girl is in London, Warren who is Joanna's father, they live in Dundas and the boy is a certainly unfortunate situation there too. He's in a home group home in Whitby. What happened with him his name is Calvin, Calvin got married in the summertime we all went he was married in Nova Scotia, very close to where I studied in Wolfeville. And he had a very good wedding. And he got I guess a cold or something or a flu and he went to the hospital and somehow he developed encephalitis. In the hospital!
HR
Yeah, there's a lot of infections you can pick up.
MK
And his brain sort of it went completely hay wire. He has no memory. He could come in here and say “Hi Uncle Peter” and then go outside and come back and you know, he'd come back and say “Hi Uncle Peter!” You know his memory is very, very short. So, that was, the girl you know, such a nice gal that he married to. So anyway. And then my brother has three girls, the oldest is a pharmacist, the next girl works for an accounting firm and the youngest is, has a PhD in psychology and is a psychiatrist in London. So, they're all doing very well.
HR
It's quite a big family!
MK
All but one, all but one all have a degree. They went to university somewhere along the line.
HR
Is your extended family very close? Do they get together often?
MK
Oh yeah ,yeah like at Christmas time, you know I have a picture at Christmas time we were all together. So yeah, yeah they're relatively close. One, Yoshi's son and wife couldn't come because they were coming to Sandusky. She's from Sandusky, Ohio and so they were going to have their family there, so she didn't come. My, my two nephews, in fact, he's the one in Wilberforce and his brother - I don't know for some reason they don't get along together. If he's there, he's not there. If he's there, he's not, well. Crazy situation, poor family knew we were so close to each other, then all of a sudden you had one aspect of the family almost estranged with each other it's....
HR
Well, thank you for sharing that.
MK
Okay, anything else you can think of?
HR
Definitely! There are a couple of little notes that I might dive back into your story, starting kind of going back to childhood and times, do you remember feeling any elements of racism when you were in Vancouver as a child?
MK
Not really, partly because there were so many so many Japanese Canadians there you see, when 50 or more percent of the population is Japanese Canadian, yeah there's no discrimination.
HR
That's true.
MK
I never felt it elsewhere like in Ontario, there might have been. I might have looked for a job some place and someone said “I'm not going to hire him, you know, he's a bloody Jap” but you know and so on. But luckily my first job, I was teaching just North of Toronto, and all street, white, WASPy kind of area, and somehow they appointed me as the teacher. And I frankly because the help that I got from my principle and colleagues, you know, I did, I guess I did very well so I kept on in that area. All my life I've taught you know the area North of Toronto.
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HR
What did you teach exactly?
MK
Ah elementary school. An elementary school teacher and after a while I became a principal and was a principal for the school. In those days a principal taught most of the time too so I was a teaching principal.
HR
Yeah, that's always, this is a side point but growing up it always seemed strange that there were these really sweet people who were running the school but I always wanted to be able take a class with them. Yeah, they seemed really nice. Not knowing you very well yet, but when we first started talking you shared your obvious passion for education and how it was a very sad thing that you were denied education. Do you think your experience in the internment led to your choice of career?
MK
Possibly, yeah. Yeah I would think, you know, I was still, you know I think, and I thought well maybe I'll go into some kind of a mathematics, into mathematics like, insurance type of you know kind of situation. I had a chance a Master from the normal school came to our high school and talked about you know talked about teaching as a career. And he organized if you knew anyone that was interested to go to a normal school and visit a teacher. And so I took that opportunity and went to see one of the teachers, and you know she let me dictate some words for spelling and you know that kind of struck me. Yeah I've enjoyed it ever since, yeah.
HR
Where were you in the birth of your family? Were you middle?
MK
I'm the last.
HR
You're the youngest? Okay.
MK
Yeah, yeah. But now only my brother and I are left. Yeah and my brother's, oh I don't know, he's not too well. It's such a sad story. I, Roy is 88, will be 88. I'm going to be 85, he's three years older than I am. And he has never been sick a day in his life, he's never spent a night, you know, in this life in the hospital and all the sudden he went to have an aneurism checked and somewhere along the lines something just didn't go right. And I don't know if it was because of it or because he already had it but his bowels stopped moving or working rather. So you know, I saw him at Humber River Hospital and I see him he's got the oxygen coming in, he's got about five intravenous lines coming in and I thought “Oh gosh Roy you've never been like this!” You know, I can't even remember him being sick you know like with a cold in his life. So it's really hard yeah. So this guy, my nephew from Wilberforce wants to go see him. So he's going to come from Wilberforce, meet me here and we're going to go together and see him. He's in a rehab hospital somewhere near, well near Don Jail. I don't know where it is but I know that area, so I'll be able to find it, yeah. Yeah Roy and I are very close, have been. In those days, in the '30s you know, any dad, any dad, not my dad only, but all dads were not pals with their children. He was the father and that was it. And so, it was Roy who taught me how to make a sling shot and how to make a whistle, how to do this, how to do that. He taught me how to ride a bicycle so on. And so he's not only a big brother, he was my mentor so I just hate to see him not well, you know. I know he's old but you know, so are we all.
HR
That was one of my next questions actually, so what one of our research purposes is the property and the objects and the losses that people would have experienced in the internment time. So can you describe a little bit more of what the interior of your family home looked like?
MK
Well there were, you know six of us, growing up together, so we were a very close family. We had been all my life, I contribute a lot of that to my mother. She, she was very interested in the family and you know us in particular and kept together and she's the kind of person who can call a family party because her cactus bloomed. Aside from that she could get the family together, so we had a lot of family gatherings that way, yeah. Not as much as we should nowadays but because we're so separated and so on. And then of course with four of my sisters gone, you know. Roy and I are the only two, well, wait one of his daughter's is not married so she'd be a Kurita.
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HR
Something else
MK
All the rest are you know. Yeah we were overall we were very close.
HR
And you mentioned you were renting your home?
MK
Yeah.
HR
Did you have a car?
MK
No, no cars, nope. That's why, you know, I did a lot of traveling in my lifetime, did a lot of travelling. And yesterday, just yesterday I was in, I go to six different nursing homes in and around in this area. And I do a travel log and, for example, I showed them pictures of South Africa yesterday. When I go on the trip I take maybe 400 pictures, but I only maybe show 80, that's all because that's about all they can stand. Anyway as a young kid and I told the people that, you know we couldn't afford two and a half cents to go on a streetcar, so we walked. Almost every place we went to, we walked, you know, because you couldn't afford two and a half cents. And I said at that time “You know someday I'm going to visit Niagara Falls.” Niagara Falls is on the other side of the continent, you know like that was a hundred, a hundred thousand miles away. “I'm going to see Victoria Falls!” Well, that's in South Africa, you know. “I'm going to see Iguazu Falls!” Hey that's in South America! Crazy to think I would see that as a 9, 10, 11 year old kid, you see. But in my lifetime I got to see all three of them!
HR
Did you really?
MK
Yup, yup.
HR
Wow! Peter gets up to answer his home telephone
HR
That's amazing, when did you do all the traveling?
MK
I taught school so a lot of my summers were free. I did a lot of summer work during summer to get my degree, so a lot of the summers were tied up. But once, especially after we got married, she being a teacher too, we had the summers off together, so we did a lot of traveling together. I've been to every continent, I've been to every I've been inside every legislative house in Canada. Not just see it, inside it, you know, to look around. Including the Yukon, I was inside the Yukon. I've been, yeah, I've been through 45 of the United States, I've been to Mexico, I've been to Costa Rica, the east side of South America and the west side of South America. I've been to the Antarctic.
HR
Have you really? Peter: Yeah, I've been to the Antarctic. I've been to all over Europe, in fact next month I go to England with folks and I did England quite extensively. I've gone all over Europe, I've been to India, Egypt, both sides of Africa and Japan of course and China and so on. Yeah I travelled a lot. And when I go for example South Africa, I would have taken 400 pictures, but I only shown 80 because that's all they could stand. But even at that you see half the people they're all eighties, nineties, and they fall asleep on me. But I don't let that worry me because what I think they enjoy is before I start I go shake hands with every person you know and say “How are you? Oh you look nice, oh I like your sweater!” And dadada, I have a little chit chat with every one of them and I think they enjoy that more than anything else. You know, two seconds, after they see my pictures, they say “Where did you go today?” “I dunno?” But, I can't let that worry me because I think they enjoy my company, rather than my pictures, but me, I say “Oh I remember that guy! Oh I remember that spot!” or “Oh yeah I remember that!” You know.
00:45:08.000
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HR
So how many places will you talk about when you do one of these?
MK
Oh just the one.
HR
Just the one?
MK
This one, next month, I'll be going to, I'll be taking them on a trip you know my trip to central India, uh, England! Places like Winchester, and Red Light District, York, Stratford on Avon, you know and so on and London to, you know, I'll do that. Another time I'll take them to Canterbury and go like Dover, Hastings, Brighton and all along the West Coast. Do Wales, another time to Scotland, another time to you know certain parts of England yeah, so yeah.
HR
Wow, what a, what a fascinating travel history you have.
MK
Yeah well I really enjoyed it. I'm still doing a little bit of it, slowed down a bit, but I last fall I went to Newfoundland, I've been to St. John's but never to Newfoundland.
HR
Hmm, just to the island?
MK
This time I did ah the whole bit. Yeah!
HR
What did you think? I used to live there!
MK
Did you?? Yeah like well we landed in Deer Lake and we went to Corner Brook and stayed there. Went up to Gros Morne and so on, went into Labrador even.
HR
Oh good for you!
MK
Yeah, yeah. But it was funny at Labrador the weather forecast for the next day was terrible and we were coming back that very you know the next day so our guide said “If we get stuck over there, we could be stuck there three days, and there's nothing to do for three days in Labrador. So I think maybe we should come back maybe that day.” We did Labrador and so on but we came back that day. Luckily we found a place to stay because we booked our rooms in Labrador but so we came back and you know the Twillinggate.....
Recording stops and is resumed shortly. Portion of story is missing.
Or Blacks and so on. For example there's not one Black, Black person on our curling team. You know we have about almost 100, well altogether about 400, just in the seniors centre near where I am. You think, oh maybe, you should have a handful, you know, there's one Japanese, you know, why aren't there three Black guys and one Native and you know, two Muslims or something. But it's too bad you know, and I think if we all assimilate then, you know. For example, if I were to curl with a guy that's a Native, I would get to know exactly what the Native problem is. I really don't know, I'm quite naive and I say you know if I were a Native living in Labrador, you know Davis Inlet, you know some place like that, and I see all the other kids inhaling gasoline or something the problem there, I'd get the heck out of there! And go live in Cobourg or Peterborough or some place. Away from that, you know. But they, and I can't quite understand why they have to don't want to do that you know. You know maybe I'm queer, I don't know.
HR
Can you reflect on why you're a big believer in assimilation? Why, can you talk more about why you're a big believer in assimilation, what sort of, what is that?
MK
Oh yeah. I doubt very much if the guys that I associate with in lawn bowling or even when I go to do my travel log you know in a nursing home. It's all quiet people there. I doubt very much that they see me as a complete foreigner, “He's yapping, he's quite different from us.” I think they you know because I do what I do, I think they feel as if I'm part of them you know. Whereas the Black community, particularly in the United States, indeed, I think they see themselves separate from the whole community. And so we get a report of this, the Fergusson Missouri a Black kid was shot by a White police man. And you know, the reading should be “Well, a policeman shot another, you know, a boy.” You know, but there's almost an emphasis on the White policeman killed a Black, you know, as if the White and Black had a lot to do with it, you know. I don't know.
00:50:00.000
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MK
I'd rather come to a world where it's accepted to say “A policeman shot another kid” you know and he shouldn't have done that, instead of the White policeman shot the Black. I don't know, I don't know. I'd like to see us, all of us you know be a lot more assimilated. I wish there were Muslims lived down our street and I could you know, talk to them. And I like to see Muslim woman coming to Canada and saying “Holy smokes, I see all these women here and they don't wear something like that, must be more comfortable in the summertime,” you know. I think maybe on that word and become assimilated to this world but I don't know somewhere along the - partly it's because of our multicultural sense - you guys stay as a Muslim, don't become Canadian, be a Muslim you know. I don't quite see that.
HR
Do you see yourself as a Japanese Canadian or do you see yourself as a Canadian?
MK
I see myself as more of a Canadian.
HR
Okay.
MK
Yeah yeah.
HR
So do you...
MK
But then you see if someone were to ask me about Japan, I bet you I know way more than the average Canadian. You ask me anything about Japan I'd bet you I could probably answer it you know. And I won't read or write it, but I can speak it. I could go to Japan and go around quite nicely without having any trouble. Course I could do that in Spain, because I have a little of Spanish, have a little bit of French, not much but enough to get along with, but I'd like to you know, I'd hope that like right here, I wish there were three Black families on this street and a Muslim and a Native, but we just don't see them.
HR
Not yet anyway. Parts of Canada.
MK
Yeah I hope it evolves into something of that nature, that there will be a mixture. If there's 10 percent Black people in Canada, I wish 10 percent were all over, you know. 10 percent in Cobourg, 10 percent in Peterborough, 10 percent in Kingston, you know, Belleville. But I don't know, doesn't seem to go that way.
HR
How are the rest of your family? Do other people in your family...
MK
Not as much as I do, for example all my all my sisters married another Japanese Canadian, my brothers married to a Japanese Canadian but I'm the only renegade I guess.
HR
So when you get together do you do things that are Japanese?
MK
Oh yeah! Oh I love sushi, yup yup yup and Japanese food and so on. We do that yeah, but you know at Christmastime the main dish is turkey and stuffing you know so yeah and there's a bit of sushi that somebody made and so on.
HR
Some a few people that I've interviewed explained how their cooking changed when they were in camp. There was one man who spoke of First Nations families that would come by and bring fresh salmon that they could buy and that some of the kind of Japanese foods had to evolve because they didn't have access to foods that they would have had access to in Vancouver. Did that change at all for your family? Did your way of eating change?
MK
Not really, not really. In little Tokyo, you know we could go to a store and get all the Japanese stuff that we wanted. So when came to Toronto, you know that we had to do a lot of adaptation. Or my mother did anyways.
HR
Can I one question I had for you was why did you decide to move to Toronto. Do you know why your parents wanted to move?
MK
I'm, not completely wanted to. We had to. We had to go East of the Rockies, it was a mandate by the government, because we couldn't go back to Vancouver until 1949, I guess, and so Vancouver was not an option. And your only time to get out of the camp, so go East. And as I said, my sister was in Ontario, so naturally we came to Ontario and she found it, you know found a place for us to stay, you know and that looked very well that way. So, Toronto became home and once it became home, it became permanently home. And I still see myself as a Torontonian rather than a Cobourgian.
HR
Did you, two questions. Do you remember what your parents found for work when they arrived here?
00:55:03.000
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MK
Yeah unfortunately, dad worked in a factory and I don't think he made a heck of a lot of money but he had to keep us going. I think overall we were quite frugal and we you know we don't waste money. To this day I'm like that. A lot of people say “Well why don't you have Blueberry or something,”
Interviewer note – I think he means Bluetooth
. I say “Why? I don't need that!” Oh, a lot of things. I don't send garbage out every, every week because it costs two dollars and fifty cents.
HR
Does it really cost that much?
MK
Yeah we gotta buy a sticker.
HR
Oh okay.
MK
And we've got to put the sticker on, it costs $2.50, maybe $2.75 now. You know, it costs money to do it, so I recycle as much as I can and then I garbage the rest of it. So on so, oh maybe every five weeks I take the garbage out, so it doesn't cost me a heck of a lot. But others I look around and say “Holy smokes, that guy, he's got three bags of garbage out! Oh that guy's got one bag oh, oh gosh!” You know so, not frugal but pretty close to being frugal. Yup, yup so I think and I've learned that from my mother because in Vancouver, dad worked in a printing shop and I remember one instance they didn't get paid that week because their the boss didn't have enough money you know.
HR
Oh dear.
MK
But mother, mother worked, she was a good sewer so she worked in a factory and she sewed clothes. Not quite a factory, factory but more like a dress making shop. She'd be given all the parts of the dress and it's up to her to make the dress up. You know and then that was her job so she did that you know.
HR
And did you rent an apartment still or did you...
MK
At the beginning we rented, we just had three rooms I think altogether and then.... landlord became a little bit nasty and so we decided that we would buy a house. Good God, I don't know where the money came from but I guess we had enough money for the down payment. Mind you the whole house cost a little over 5000 dollars.
HR
In Toronto.
MK
In Toronto. Back in '46. I was told that that house now had some renovation but sold for a million dollars. It's only 17 feet wide, no 16 feet wide, the land was 17 feet wide, the house was 16 feet wide.
HR
Where was the house?
MK
In Riverdale, Pape and Gerrard area.
HR
Yeah I live in Cabbagetown, so I'm right across the river. So how did that feel having a house?
MK
Oh well, it was like back in Vancouver, when we had our own house. We rented that one but where we were now, it was ours. But living in a house, it was older. One, two, three, six, eight rooms! Yeah the room that my brother and I slept in was very small, about a third of the size of this room. You know but it was it was fine, we got along quite nicely. And then ten years later, thereabouts, we moved to Willowdale, a much bigger house. Much bigger property, you know and so on. From there got married and went lived in Markham, and then moved to Warkworth. While at Warkworth, living out in the country is fine, but Marion my second wife she didn't like the winter driving so she said, “I can't stand the winter driving” so we looked for a house and we found this one. Actually!
MK
The original house like this was the original wall here and we built this section here.
HR
Oh what a lovely idea. Yeah.
MK
It worked out fine, we said “We don't want to spend too much money, haven't got too much money so we're going to have just a, you know solarium,” you know. “We're just going to have a pure foundation.” Well the builder that we got we liked him a great deal, said “Well Peter your foundation is nice but this room will get quite cold if it's just pure foundation,” you know. “Well let's put a just a, well what's the word?”
HR
Crawl space.
01:00:16.000
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MK
Crawl space! Yeah we call it a crawl space. “We'll put a crawl space!” Yeah. “Okay, fine a crawl space, yeah a crawl space will keep this much warmer!” “But what am I going to do with a crawl space?” “Well lets go for a full basement!” “Well that's going to cost you, well okay, okay, okay.” So, we go through that you see and then he looked at the design and he says “So I got a design, so you got a low ceiling, eight foot ceiling that's regular, so that area we could raise the roof to 11 feet.” He says “Yeah yeah, that's a good idea, yeah let's do that.” From 8 feet to 11 feet. He says “Well if you go up that high you've got to have more windows on top, so you have to have a transom all across.” “Hmm well, okay, okay, okay.” Every time he says okay, it costs money. The floor was the same thing, he says “Oh now we're just going to have cheap indoor-outdoor carpeting.” He says “Okay that'll be easy, it'll be pretty cheap.” He says “You know Peter, a wood floor would be very nice”.
HR
Okay.
MK
And the guy said, the guy that came to measure, “Yes so it'll be very nice, so we can put this dadada, this. You know what would be nice? A corner fireplace!” So we ended up with it. It was a comedy of errors really. But we...
HR
What a beautiful room, really!
MK
Yeah but it's a beautiful room. But we, you know I live here, we lived here most of the time. So if she said “well if it costs more money than we got” “as long as we live one day that's good enough”.
HR
Yeah, yeah, that's beautiful!
MK
So it's a lovely room yeah.
HR
A couple more questions that I have relate to memories of the internment and how you pass them on to future generations and if people from Joanna's generation - do they ask you about the internment?
MK
No not a great deal. I'll tell you what though, in my assimilation I bet you every guy in my curling club knows what I went through in the war. You know, you know.
HR
So you tell friends?
MK
Yeah, yeah. Well you know they talk about “Well where'd you come from? How come you're you in Ontario?” And so I tell them about this and I bet you everybody in my club knows, you know what I went through during the war. Yeah.
HR
Is that important for you to talk about?
MK
I think so, yeah, yeah, yeah.
HR
Why is that?
MK
I talk about it because I think it's important, you know. That they should know, you know a lot of them don't know. They say “Yeah? That happened to you guys?” You know and so on. Especially people in Eastern Canada, they didn't know. Because they weren't really directly involved, whereas people in British Columbia probably knew about it.
HR
Did you talk to your nieces and nephews about it?
MK
Not a great deal, not a great deal... unless they ask. You know they have their own lives and I don't see, you know. When you ask I don't think I ever sat down any of my nieces and nephews, and I'm not sure if their parents did. You know whether they talked to them, you know about war. Joanna's dad probably knows what we went through, but I doubt very much if he's passed it on to his four children.
HR
This might be a tricky question to answer but do you think there's a reason why the Warrens of the world didn't pass things down? Or is there?
MK
Sorry?
HR
I'm wondering why, why people, if you could reflect maybe on why Warren hasn't told his children about it very much? Like is there...
MK
Well of course, the Warrens of the world weren't really involved directly, their parents were you know. Like we were completely involved but I guess there's a lot of this attitude that let'slet bygones be bygones, that was over. It was unfortunate but that was it. I'll tell you to this day I'll never vote Liberal.
HR
Really?
MK
No, no. Because the whole thing was done under the Liberal party. The Liberal party which was the prime minister, all these things, all the things they did against us was not an act of parliament but what they called an Order of Council.
HR
Yes I'm learning about that.
01:04:55.000
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MK
And with the War Measures Act in place, the Prime Minister could do almost anything. He had more power than Hitler had because he could say “Okay all Japanese Canadians are enemy aliens.” That's it, there's nobody to say “Wait shouldn't we...” you know and so on. Nobody because it never went through parliament you see. You know confiscation, evacuation, you know, all these things. These were all done by order and council, they were never done by parliament. So, it wasn't Canada that did it, but it was the Liberal party that did it you see. Now that's the War Measures Act, that's a terrible thing, I think. But you know the next guy that used it was Pierre Trudeau, a Liberal. I'm very cynical when it comes to politics. I am very cynical with the Liberal party. And so if you're a Liberal, sorry.
HR
laughs Politics don't have a, don't be sorry you expressed whatever you needed to express and I mean I can see why you would be very cynical about it.
MK
Well I'm cynical about all politics, I don't trust Harper. I'm not sure I trust. If I'm going to vote, I voted Green party last, you know, partly because what their trying to do I think makes sense. We are so accustomed to advertising, and who wins the election here on Election Day? The guy who has the most signs saying “vote for Joe Smith, vote for Joe Smith.” People say “Oh you're Joe Smith you must be good” and so on. You know The Green Party and the NDP they don't have as much, they don't have that kind of money you know. My system would be no, no advertising, you cannot advertise. You can have debates, you can have forms and that type of thing, just before election you could have a booklet and each person would write in the booklet if you're elected this is what he or she is going to do. You know and if that person doesn't you say “Hey wait a minute on September 7th, you wrote...”
HR
That's a good system, yeah.
MK
But yeah. Don't get me on politics! I'm a very cynical person.
HR
What kind of a... That's okay. Kind of related to messages and marketing though, maybe not marketing but messages, thinking about the fact that this may end up becoming a part of a museum exhibit - if you can think of a visitor leaving that, what kind of a message would you want them to take home from learning about the internment and dispossession?
MK
Yeah, because so much of it was racism I think you know, it was completely racism that did it, I hope that people you know, reading a report or discussing it would say “Hey our problem was racism!” It was not security or anything of that nature, it was really racism. They said “We don't want the Japanese here” so they kicked them out and that's exactly what happened. And unfortunately the people went for it and the politicians have banked on that racism. And for example there's a case, I don't know how accurate it is but somewhat accurate. A politician reported to a newspaper that he saw he personally saw a Japanese farmer get a truckload of dynamite, now if anybody knew that what would they do? They'd go to the police right? But he went to the newspaper and said when it hit the newspaper the RCMP had investigated and turns out the farmer didn't buy dynamite he bought three sticks. Far cry from the whole thing. And well that news hit the back page of the newspaper, see it didn't hit the front page of another newspaper. Another situation way back I heard about a politician stating is that he personally saw a Japanese Canadian family signaling out to the Pacific ocean with lights from their, likely their attic. Should have gone to the RCMP or you know I saw RCMP because in all the Ontario and Quebec the RCMP does the police work so they should have gone to the RCMP but no went to the newspaper and said he personally saw them so the RCMP checked the house, the house was in a valley, nowhere near the ocean you know. So that was retracted but then on the back page...
01:10:36.000
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HR
But once the story's in the newspaper...
MK
Yeah but that's how the politicians used you know bad publicity, you know, to get themselves elected. So I hope that, you know, I think of, well there's a story in the paper about Hitler and that you know I betcha if Hitler went to the polls to be elected he'd have won hands down, you know...so.
HR
People will do...
MK
You know, democracy is great, but it isn't the greatest, far from it. There's a lot to be desired from racism you know. You think people like Nixon, he won the election from a grand, really a majority and look what kind of guy he was so, I don't know.
HR
You mentioned earlier that you didn't have many non-Japanese friends?
MK
In Vancouver yeah, and that's true but partly because there weren't too many kids around.
HR
So were you right on Powell Street?
MK
No, if Powell Street and the main area was here, we were two three blocks over here, blocks and over a bit so we were sorta on the outskirts of the major Japanese community.
HR
With all the travelling that you've done have you ever been back to Vancouver?
MK
Oh yeah, yeah I've been to Vancouver a couple times.
HR
Have you ever walked in the old...
MK
Oh sure yeah! Definitely yeah I've walked through. Oh and it was funny, I went to Strathcona School of course and I was driving to Hawkes Avenue where we lived and then braking because that used to take me 10 minutes to do that, from where we used to and all it took was 30 seconds from where. So, I said “Holy smokes, is that all?” So yeah, yeah it was fun. The first time, oh my mom, no my mom was already in Japan and we came home together and went through Vancouver and went to where our old house was and it's still standing. That was in '70... no '60...'61...'62 I guess. That house was standing. The next time I went there the house was gone.
HR
Oh.
MK
But nothing there, was a surprise. You thought the way backyard prices are that someone would have built a house on it, but they didn't. So you know, I know some of the houses in the Marpole area, they say “Oh I want to give them 10,000 for that house” you know no basement, just a pure oh gosh a wooden structure. You know, no furnace, oh gosh a million dollars. Can't under, well Toronto's getting that way too now.
HR
It is.
MK
Or got there already.
HR
Yes, I just got married recently and we've been talking about trying to buy a house and it's just so hard.
MK
What does your husband do?
HR
He's a medical physicist.
MK
Oh yeah.
HR
He works for Bayer. He's part of their research arm so he works on the medical research arm.
MK
Oh. Yeah, pretty hard if you've got to put down quarter of a million dollars for a down payment.
HR
Yeah, yeah, and the houses that are 400,000 dollars are not that nice, they need about 200,000 dollar worth of renovation.
MK
It must be awfully tough for young people to you know to buy a house like when you're just recently married. First thing was to buy a house and pay it off fast as you possibly can. So as I said my first wife and our house, we bought a house for $42 000. Oh gosh we paid it off, both of us were working, and we paid it off in five years. And the anniversary of the mortgage comes up and you can pay so much you know a bit more so we paid as much as we can and after five years it was paid off! So, yeah, yeah.
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HR
Good for you, I feel like I will never get the chance to do that.
MK
Well yeah but that 40 years and so we owed $30 000 at the end and somehow we managed to pay that off. You know, but it sure paid off in the end. And we sold the house for 130,000 you know tax free.
HR
All the travelling you got to do as a result. I guess my last curiosity was what was it like to go back to Japan or to go to Japan..
MK
I liked it, I'm very close to very, very... There's my sister has an article about that I think someplace. Yeah there were two, well three sets of writing. This is the simplest okay, that's the simplest. This is sort of a written kind of a writing and then there's the kanji or the character. To be, to be somewhat literate you have to, you have to remember about ten thousand words and if you can't read the characters you can't read the words you see. For example you know that says Kurita, you see, but you've got to know that word that's or if you write it out anybody can sound that out, but you can't sound out these. So you see to be somewhat literate you have to know ten thousand characters. Oh so you've got to be fairly smart you know.
HR
Did you ever go to language school?
MK
Yeah, yeah. The first five years of my life was in language school so we went to Strathcona from 9:00 to 3:30, then went almost just down the street from there to language school and spent an hour there so I am able to read and write that, the, the simplest. But beyond that I would have trouble.
HR
Was there a reason that you stopped going to language....
MK
Sorry?
HR
Why did you stop going to language school?
MK
Oh because it stopped December 7th, 1941, it stopped.
HR
When there was the schooling in the camp that you were at was there any Japanese language taught?
MK
Yeah there was some. I think I attended one or two but that's about all.
HR
But not structured
MK
No no not every day kind of thing.
HR
Can you, I wanted to write it down. Which camp did you go to?
MK
Sorry?
HR
Which camp were you...
MK
Oh Slocan, Slocan was the biggest of the camps. Actually there were four parts of Slocan. There was the town, mining town that was there and they converted some of the houses in town to you know to accommodate Japanese Canadians, and there were then there was Bay Farm that had let me see maybe five hundred homes you know there and then Popov was half the size of Bay Farm and then also a mile down the road there was another camp called Lemon Creek which was you know, oh several miles in those days, could have been a hundred miles.
HR
That's a long walk for you.
MK
But we still you know it was close by. Then up the lake was New Denver and Roseberry and on the other side of the lake way over was Kaslo. So those are some of the places, there Greenwood was there too and then they built a brand new one called Tashme which is just North of Hope. That was the biggest I guess of the lot, I figured, not as big as all of Slocan but I think by itself it was the biggest.
HR
Did you ever, were you able to travel between camps or did you have to stay?
MK
Very seldom, yeah the town well the school and everything was in town so that was less than a mile away. Popoff was less than a mile away, Lemon Creek that was seven miles so that was....
01:20:00.000
01:20:00.000
HR
Quite far...
MK
Distance as an 11, 12 year old kid. I don't remember ever going to Lemon Creek. My brother did but I don't think I ever did. Went to New Denver on a back of a truck once to go to a meet, a track meet in New Denver one time. New Denver was about 20 miles around, but a mountainous road. Apparently it's all fixed up now. Those days, it was quite a treacherous road, in fact my sister, my second, third, fourth sister was involved in a bus roll over on that road, she recovered nicely but gosh it must have been terrifying you know.
HR
Have you ever gone back to the internment sites?
MK
Oh yeah.
HR
What was that like?
MK
Oh well everything so changed all the houses are gone, although I came up my street and I could see you know probably where our house was there wasn't a septic tank there was only a hole in the ground that kept the water from the sink and that was still there. My brother and I made a root house and the house wasn't there but the hole was there. Yeah I grew up but all the houses were gone but I knew that that was Third Avenue that we were living on.
HR
Did you go back with your wife or by yourself?
MK
No, that time I was with my wife, my second wife.
HR
What made you want to go back?
MK
Well reminiscence, memory and so on that as just a part of a longer trip. Yeah I think that was a trip we went from Vancouver to Port Harding the North end of Vancouver Island, we took a ferry from Port Harding to Prince Rupert, took a ferry from Prince Rupert to Skagway and then car in the ferry, the car was with us all the time, so we did that then went up to Yukon then came straight into British Columbia and then went to Slocan that time. So...
HR
That sounds like a great trip, I actually I lived in Whitehorse for a year so I know exactly the Skagway route you're talking about yeah.
MK
That's what we went from Skagway right up to Whitehorse. Stayed at Whitehorse then along into Northern BC into Fort Nelson you know just like that. So yeah that was a good trip, I enjoyed that.
HR
What an adventurous life you've lived!
MK
Yeah I have I really have you know. I'm very glad that I did.
HR
Yeah, I just need you to briefly fill out the administrative form, and this is the consent form. So your name, and I can do most of the details. What's your birth date?
MK
November the 6th, 1930.
HR
And where were you born?
MK
Where? Vancouver.
HR
And you've had two wives. You live in Colbert now and you were a teacher for your whole career.
MK
Yup.
HR
And I guess your current occupation could be traveling photograph speaker ha ha
MK
Ha ha, no no, well I'm retired. But no, I'm not traveling as much as I used to. I'd like to go to Turkey, I've been to Istanbul but never all the way through Turkey so I'm saying to myself “If I can't afford this class then I'm not going!” Because you've probably flown before, you're like this for eight hours and you know, gosh traveling from Australia to Canada, oh gosh...
HR
Speaking of that I have a trip my husband is from New Zealand so we have a trip coming up to New Zealand.
MK
Go to New Zealand, I love New Zealand!
HR
Beautiful yes it's beautiful but the flight the flight I'm kind of dreading.
01:24:38.000
01:24:38.000
HR
███████
01:31:13.000
01:31:13.000
HR
So the form, the last forms that I have for you to fill out, this is the consent form. It just describes a little more about the project and some details, and these forms I can leave with you. This is the one I need you to sign and then I'll take away.
MK
Oh, I was going to print my name. Interviewee fills out forms
HR
And the audio recording.
MK
Well I wasn't video recorded.
HR
No, no.
MK
Sign this too?
HR
And there's one more signature. So it's a two-step process if you're okay with that, and this is essentially a copyright form, saying we can use the material.
MK
Okay?
HR
And sign that too. And so you would be interested in receiving information?
MK
Oh yeah. Yes, yes of course.
HR
Email is the best way to send things to you?
MK
Yeah probably! Yeah you have my email there so yeah email would be fast and direct. Yeah.
HR
There's a for sure we're going to work on something at the end of the summer at the Japanese Cultural Centre, we are, we'll be presenting at a conference at June so there might be either a paper or a video then. This whole cluster we're going to be interviewing people for three years so there's going to be lots of material generated yeah.
MK
Lots of material. Yeah lots of things you have to go through yeah.
HR
Yeah, but thank you very much for your time today.
MK
Sorry that you got lost.
HR
Your directions were lovely, I think I was thinking about what I was going to ask you and didn't notice the Tim Horton's is all. ███████
HR
And are you sure we can keep these? Do you have other copies?
MK
Yeah you can keep that, well you can certainly keep that, because this one just put it on your library or some place so you know if anyone asks “Do you have a Japanese book?” You can say “Yes yes I have a Japanese book” They do things backwards.
HR
And this is your sister who moved to Japan?
MK
Yes, yup.
HR
How wonderful! When did she write the book?
MK
Gosh does it say? Maybe three years, four years ago. She's been there a few years now. 1995 it says this copy, it's dedicated to her nieces and nephews, no I mean grandchildren. Diane lives in Calgary , Michael lives in oh Buffalo and Beth I don't know where last I heard she was in New Zealand, last I know.
HR
So Joanna helped me get in touch with Heather and Brian Oda, are you related to Heather and Brian Oda?
MK
Ah only, no no only my brother in law is related to Brian.
HR
Yeah sorting out the family tree, I think I've also been in touch with Jeanine. Hack. I think I spelled it.
MK
Yeah Jeanine, Jeanine wrote a forward or something like that.
HR
And what is your relation to Jeanine?
MK
Jeanine is my niece. Jeanine would be Joann's great aunt. Or grand, I'm the great grand uncle with emphasis on great.
HR
You are great! For sure, oh great there's a family tree. I'll take a quick look at that before I leave. ███████
01:42:13.000

Metadata

Title

Peter Kurita, interviewed by Heather Read, 10 April 2015 (1 of 2)

Abstract

Peter discusses memories of his childhood in Vancouver during the 1930s, memories of his experiences being interned in Slocan during the war, and his family’s move to Ontario afterwards. He also describes his later life, discussing his marriages, career and extensive travel experiences. Peter reflects on the internment and its lasting effects on both Japanese Canadians and Canadians more broadly several times throughout the interview; he notes that the cause was racism, describes being unhappy and untrusting of the Liberal Party for invoking the War Measures Act, and repeatedly describes how important it is for various ethnic groups in Canada to assimilate.

Credits

Interviewer: Heather Read
Interviewee: Peter Kurita
Transcriber: Erin Yaremko
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Peter’s home, Cobourg, Ontario
Keywords: teaching; Powell Street ; Strathcona School; Hastings Park ; Slocan ; internment life; education; travel; 1930s to present

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.