Tom Matsui, interviewed by Heather Read, 11 August 2015 (2 of 2)

Tom Matsui, interviewed by Heather Read, 11 August 2015 (2 of 2)

Abstract
In this interview, Tom Matsui talks about a portion of his photographic collection relating to Japantown and Lillooet. He also talks about his photographic collection that relates to the Strathcona and Japanese Language schools that existed in pre-war Vancouver. Heather shows him a map prepare by the GIS Cluster that shows Japantown in the 1930s and they talk about the map. It prompts memories from Tom of recreation in pre-war Vancouver, including stories about sports events and games played as a child. There is a powerful anecdote towards the end of the recording about his experience of racism in Vancouver, relating to his family’s bicycle shop; the same story was recorded in the first interview with Tom, but the sound quality is better here.
00:00:00.000
Heather Read (HR)
This is Heather Read on August 11 with Tom Matsui, again at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre and we're going to talk about some photographs and a map of Powell Street. Thanks for meeting with us again, Tom.
HR
So what's this first photo?
TM
That's my father and, when he went off to the Russo Japanese War. And I guess in those days, they never took photographs unless - ordinary people anyway. Whereas, my mother's side, her father was an officer in the Japanese army and he was well off, so he's got lots of photographs. But my father's photograph, this is the only one I have of his early life.
HR
Wow, that's a special treasure.
TM
Yep. So. sound of Tom shuffling through papers. Now this is the, because when the single people, single males came over, from Japan to work in Canada, there are no Japanese ladies. So, what they did was they sent back photos of themselves in Western clothes, ok? And studios actually had clothes, and of course, this is my father in the centre here. He looks very distinguished, right?
HR
He does look very distinguished.
TM
But, what it doesn't show is, down here, I had to cut it off, but, he borrowed the clothes, but they didn't have the shoes for him. So he was in his stocking feet. So.
HR
Do you mind if I take a picture of that? It's very... They look so serious. Did a wife come? Did your mother come from Japan?
TM
Well, here's another. Let's see. The second one. Now, a lot of the single men weren't that rich, so they got together as a group and split the cost. And this photo they sent back, they all have gold chains. You know the old watch, the one that flips open. They all have so called gold chains, apparently, They have watches. Many didn't have watches. My father did have one. This is, this is my father, and this is his third brother. But what they did was, they split the cost. And I straightened this out, but he was wearing a real rumpled suit. And I straightened it out so it looks rather neat. But these photographs were sent back to villages and towns where they lived. And so, most of its arranged marriages. And the girls family knew these people, from the family where they lived. So, they made arranged marriages. And os the brides were sent over. Uh, in my case, with my father, he went back, actually went back and married and then got all the paperwork done to bring her over. But there are stories where the brides have come over, and uh, they didn't want to marry the person the marriage was arranged, and they had shipboard romances, and laughs so they didn't marry. And there are cases of another sister being sent over laughs to fill the obligation. There's all kinds of stories.
HR
Wow. Heather takes photo
TM
About arranged marriages. My father was actually very successful, because he was a trained professional carpenter. Boy you're going to have a shadow there.
HR
I do have a shadow. If I can get my one shadow big enough. That'll do.
00:05:09.000
00:05:09.000 Heather takes photos
TM
This was a big house, because the first floor was our family house, and the second floor was separate, for his third brother and his wife. Which was my mother's sister. So their brother, two brothers, two sisters. So. They lived above and we lived below. And as I say, he owned a 1920 Model T Ford, so he had a garage built in the back. So, he did very well by 1923. He came in 1908 and by then he had a house, a car. Had a...
HR
House and a car by 1928.
TM
By 1923. And he came over in 1908. By any standards as an immigrant, and in those days of course in Japan, no English was taught. So when they came over here, I'm sure they didn't know anything about English. So he must have picked it up. Today, in Japan, English is taught. So it is in Switzerland where my daughter is. They're taught English in grade five. And there's a story there. The English teacher was English, and she was to explain English sometimes in German, and her German wasn't good. And my granddaughter would do all the translation for the rest of the class. And the teacher says, “How come you know so much English?” And she said, “Well my mother's Canadian, so...” Because when they were small, staying at home, she spoke nothing but English, but as soon as they went to school, they would start speaking German.
HR
Do you have memories of the - because you were 13 when you had to move. Do you have memories of the family house?
TM
15? Oh yea. We had French doors to the, to the living room. And - sound of Heather moving recording device closer to Tom - the children were no allowed to unlock the French doors. And so when the guest came to unlock the door, and there were, let me see, I'm the 5th one. My daughter, my sister wasn't born, but there's 5 boys. So in order to keep the place clean, my mother had it locked. Heather laughs And because we were a Japanese family and because my father was a carpenter. We had a Japanese bath in our house.
HR
Wow, what's a Japanese bath?
TM
A Japanese bath? Well, he built it. Well, it's a wooden box ok? And in the case of the simple one, which we had in Lillooet, we had a cedar box, about four foot square, and the bottom was galvanized steel, ok? And it was supported, it was built for us, by another ship carpenter. And it was supported by four automobile axles, supported the galvanized. And we built a stone wall, built a fire, and then we had a chimney out the back. But that was, uh, and of course the floating platform and then the stop there. So when you got in, you sank up to - you squatted.
HR
And you sink up to your neck.
TM
But in a Japanese bath, you wash first, before you get into the bath. Because the water's always supposed to be clean. That was the bath we had in Lillooet. Very simple. But the one we had that father built, was, he didn't want the, uh, the galvanized steel at the bottom. So what he did was he built a much bigger one, and he had a galvanized, a tube, for burning. And it went right through the bath and then the chimney went outside. And then he had a fence. So we didn't need a floating platform, because we built the fire inside this cylindrical firebox. So that's the one that we had in Vancouver. But in Lillooet, it was much smaller, and much cheaper. But that's the Japanese bath.
00:10:10.000
00:10:10.000
HR
Thank you, yea, it sounds beautiful. And your father sounds like he was a very creative person.
TM
Well, he was a trained carpenter, but he must have been very mechanically inclined, because he worked at Hastings Mill, and he became the millwright. Meaning he looked after the machinery, and he knew the manager. The manager knew him, and he used to make wooden toys for his children, the manager's. And my mother says he also made toys for the mayor who was a friend of the manager. And going through the history, Vancouver was not a city in 1908 when my father went there. It incorporated in 1909, and apparently this mill manager, who my father worked for, and another friend ran for mayor. And the other fellow won, the manager lost. But they were friends, apparently -
HR
It was ok.
TM
- so my mother used to talk about my father making toys for the mayor's children.
HR
That's a fascinating story.
TM
Yea, fascinating. And this is the store.
HR
Ah the bicycle store!
TM
I have another photograph of the store. Of where, the original man sold it to my father. But this is my brother. My father bought this store in 1929. And if I believe what was written by my mother, he bought it in February. Of course the Crash came in October. So, anyway, that was 1929. But unfortunately, after, after 1931, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. And it was well advanced. So my brother had to drop out from high school, age 17, to learn the business. And so when my father went to Japan in 1932 in February, hoping for a cure, which never happened - he actually died in April - there he was, not quite 18, running the whole business with my mother. And my mother had to look after 6 children, at age 40 -
HR
And a business. Wow.
TM
- can you imagine, eh? Heather laughs And this was the only income, fortunately. And both of them worked hard. So, by 1939, business picked up, because, you know when, near September 1939, World War Two started. As soon as war started, everybody's mobilized, and everybody's sent to work and so on, so the businesses picked up. Even before war was declared it was picking up, so, uh, unfortunately, for us, we expanded. And opened up a second store in South Vancouver, to look after the Japanese clientele there. Bad move, because a new business, always Heather moves recorder needs about, takes about four years to be established. You have to put in money. And I know it well because I was sent there every Saturday to work. I used to bicycle up there. So we expanded in 1939, and of course 1942, everything came to a halt because we were told to evacuate.
00:15:08.000
00:15:08.000
TM
So, the, what I feel very badly, is for these older, well the immigrants, first. Because they, like my father came in in 1908, and a lot of them worked hard, till 1942, establishing themselves. Businesses, buying houses, and so on. Buying cars. Then all of a sudden, all of that's seized. So, like my brother and my mother worked hard on the business, and all of a sudden, as I showed you before, that house was sold for 1500 and whatever, 70 dollars or something, with the 75 dollars broker's fee, and then it had to be split between, because it was built between the two brothers. And the store, well the stock, not very many bicycle businesses even today. So, the stock was confiscated, and that was sold for next to nothing. My mother never told me how much. The car, we had got the car, in 1936, it was 1942. They assessed it at 100 dollars, plus, after they took all the service charges, it was worth nothing. And so, I felt sorry for my brother and my mother who worked so hard to support the family and they lost everything. Whereas, the younger ones, like myself, and my younger sister, we came to Toronto, and finished off our schooling. So we didn't, uh, feel the loss as much, because we didn't have anything when we were younger. Whereas the older people, the Isseis, the immigrants that came, they lost everything. Whereas we got a new start. So. The people that lost out were the people like my older brother.
HR
Yea, do you know if they ever did any, applied to any commissions or tried to get any compensation?
TM
Well, we got the Redress. That's it. That's it. Now a lot of the strawberry farms that I worked in Haney and Surrey - that's a suburb of Toro, of Vancouver now - and if they had 20 acres, or 30 acres, they, that'd be worth millions of dollars. They never got it back. It was just sold. And the irony of it is that those farms were seized by the Veteran's land act. And they were given to the World War Two veterans. And there's stories of World War One Japanese Canadian veterans who lost their, their farm. And there's, if you go into the Internet, there is one soldier, that appealed to his commanding officer in World War One, and he went to bat for him. And he's the only one in history that got his farm back. The rest were seized, and were given back to World War Two veterans. You seize it from World War One veteran, and give it to World War Two veteran. A sad story.
HR
It is a sad story.
TM
Well, and this, this is the other story here, is that my brother was in World, I mean, in UBC. And he was in second year UBC when Pearl Harbour started. Since 1939 all able male were enrolled in officer's training at the University during the war time. As soon as Japan attacked Pearl Harbour, all the Japanese Canadians were discharged. And, uh -
HR
I don't think I knew that, that's terrible.
TM
And, my niece, his daughter, still has the discharge paper, and she has that in the UBC, when they gave the honorary degrees, she has that beside his photo, of discharge. Honourable discharge. What is this I have here? This one's still in here. Here's this.
00:20:16.000
00:20:16.000
HR
Oh the bicycles!
TM
The bicycles. This is the Providence, Daily Province. Oh, no, its in the public library, but I'm sure it's the Daily Province that did that. It's a reproduction of a photograph. Of the, uh -
HR
Of the bicycle shop.
TM
Of the bicycle shop. Heather takes photo
TM
So, he's taking inventory. And this was all turned in to the Custodian. Who, according to Geneva convention, you can sell alien, enemy alien assets. But there's nothing in the books that says you can sell citizen, Canadian citizen's property. There is no convention for that. But they got around that conveniently by designating us, I guess, as aliens. So, that's how we lost our, all our land and...
HR
And your beautiful bicycle shop. Did all your brother's have to work in the bicycle shop?
TM
The oldest two worked there. I was the only other one that did work. The first job I had was fixing flat tires. And learning how to fix flat tires, and then why not learn more about it. Anyway. So this, now, the story is, you hear the version that this is what they call kanemochi mura meaning “rich man's evacuation centre.” Because, we evacuated from the 90, 100 mile zone, at our own expense. Paid our own fare. Paid our luggage. And we built our own house. At our expense, and we lived at our expense. So, the government had nothing, no expense whatsoever. So, the other so called poor people went to the internment camp. And the reason my mother, I think, did that, is because my next brother, which was the fourth brother, he graduated from Fairview High School in Commerce, but he was 17. And, and, and he would have turned 18 in October. The evacuation was in February through June. And soon as he turned 18, he would have been sent to a road camp, or something like that. Forced labor. And she didn't want that. So, the two older brothers didn't want to go to a road camp, or to, we investigated going to Alberta, to a beet farm, as a whole unit. The whole family. But my brother's decided that they are not cut out to be beet farmers, sugar beet farmers. They decided they would rather come out East. So, they didn't go to a road camp, they decided to come out East. But they had to go, and show they were in order. They had to go to the tobacco farm, and work one summer. So the two older brothers who went to the tobacco farm, the third one who was in the second year university, he decided to come out East, and he took summer school at Queens. Hoping to get in in the fall. But it turned out that McGill, Queen's and Toronto, the three big universities, denied entrance to Japanese Canadians, because we were aliens. And fortunately for him, he had applied to the University of Manitoba, and they accepted him. And the irony of the fact is that, uh, Winnipeg, the Battalion at Hong Kong that was captured by the Japanese. Half were French Canadians, and half were the, were from the Winnipeg area. And so, if there were discrimination, they would, they would have been the ones that would.
HR
They should have been...
00:25:10.000
00:25:10.000
TM
But they accepted the Japanese Canadians. Whereas these three big universities, had denied entrance. And they never, never apologized fro that discrimination. Whereas UBC has. But not these three. Not even today.
HR
Yea, I mean, that's, I don't think its widely known that they did that discrimination.
TM
No.
HR
It doesn't surprise me though, given their histories as schools. They're, that would have been a lot of the government ministers and things.
TM
And it opened up in 1946. Fortunately, I graduated from Jarvis in 1946. I was able to get in when they opened up.
HR
Yea, that is terrible.
TM
And here is the famous our house. And we used Fraser River water, which was pumped up about twice a week to irrigate the farm. And we stored the Fraser River water in these barrels. And this is the filter I, I made. laughs.
HR
So you and your brothers would have built this house, right?
TM
No I built the house. My, my brother was finishing up grade 12. Graduating from Fairview High School in Commerce, so I was sent out. I didn't really build it, it was a community effort. And it was supervised by, by a boat builder. A wooden Japanese boat builder. And everybody helped nailing and so on. But the hardest part was actually building these, building the roof truss. Other than that, we just built the walls and flipped it up. So I learned how to do carpentry. laughs.
HR
Yea, you did. Very quickly too.
TM
And I've shown you before, this is a picture of our garden. And of course we tried to grow our own food to cut down on the expenses.
HR
Yea. Was it good growing?
TM
Uh, this is semi desert at Lilloet. Sagebrush country.
HR
Mmm. That's why you needed so much irrigation.
TM
So, if you ever fly over BC, and you fly over the, the Fraser River Valley, or the Okanagan, so forth. The semi desert, and you see a strip of farmland that's green beside the river. Other than that, its desert. Semi desert. But it does grow. And grow well. As you can see in the other photo. These photos. So you can see how well it was growing.
HR
I guess once you get the water in, ...
TM
Yea. And these are the mountains behind. So when the sun shone, it was well over 30 degrees. And when, it was in the Fraser Valley, eh? So we had mountains on both sides. So as soon as the sun went down behind the mountain, it was about a 10 degree drop right away.
HR
Wow.
TM
There's the one! pulling out a photo Heather and Tom have talked about before. Both laugh.
HR
Your mum and the giant gourds! Heather takes a photo
TM
And this is my famous outhouse. Invented. laughs. Well you see, I worked two summers, picking strawberries. And I had to stand the old outhouses, which are really smelly. So I said, “I'm not going to have a smelly outhouse. I'm going to put a vent in there.”
HR
Did it help?
00:30:00.000
00:30:00.000
TM
Plus the fact that we had a can of lyme in there. Yea, it worked well. There's the chicken here. We grew our, we were, across a river. Several miles away from, from the, Lillooet, ok? So, what happened was, when we first went there, we were not welcome into town. Actually the RCMP, we had to cross the river, there was a suspension bridge over there. And the RCMP officer stood there and made sure that we didn't cross the river. But we had to have supplies, so the, the two general stores divided the market, the new Japanese market, and one came on Monday, and the other one came on Friday. One for the week and one for the weekend. So. So they used to come. And then, actually, the ice was broken by one of the Asahi players. We used to play softballl every night in the summer. And so, he challenged the town and the RCMP officer, I think, he helped to organize this town team. And then they had a friendly match and broke the ice. And of course, the Japanese people actually uh, really helped the town because, uh, half the people in the Japanese village came from Haney. They were farmers, ok? And they, one of the major persons had been into tomato farming. Ok? So he had contacts in Vancouver where there were tomato products. So he started to grow tomatoes, and he shipped them to Vancouver. And the market grew. And so he got the mayor and the councillor and the other farmers to grow tomatoes. And the business got so good that they built a cannery. And of course they were there til 1949 because they weren't allowed to go back. But when '49 came, he went back. I do't know what happened to the business. I think it just died. I wasn't there, because I was only there for a year and a half. But I looked up the Lillooet and my friend, who was a Haney farmer, the main farmer's son, he went back. And he went into hot house tomato. And he grew poinsettias, too. So, when I went back to Vancouver, I went to see him. And he was back doing hot house, and tomato farming. So he was very successful. Anyway. I think the Lillooet people got left out after the Japanese left. So he put in all the photograph an the story about the cannery, and, yea, tomato farming.
HR
That would have, that would have been a huge benefit to the community.
TM
So, I think Lillooet benefitted from having the Japanese being there. It developed commerce there. Because there was 300 people extra buying things. And starting new industries. And then the people in Lillooet were lucky because a Japanese doctor came. They didn't have a doctor. They didn't have a dentist. There was a dentist, a Japanese dentist in bridge river. And I had to go in there to get my teeth fixed. But we had a doctor in town. And he stayed there. Thirty years? And he retired doctoring there. And his house now is a museum.
HR
Oh, that's Doctor Miyazaki.
TM
Miyazaki, yea. So, the town actually benefitted by the Japanese being there. So. sound of tables moving in background, and Tom rifling through papers
00:35:00.000
00:35:00.000
TM
This is the Fraser River went down. The level went down quite a bit. And there was an arm, around a little island. And this part was pretty warm. So this is where the kids swam. And they made their own little diving board. These are the photos that are not available in the ghost towns. These are activities. These were the activities that, that I took. Whereas, I don't see these kind of photos from the other internment camp. You see these photos.
HR
Yea, the shacks.
TM
Of course, we were responsible for everything. So the main thing was we had to have firewood for the winter. Because it got to be -40.
HR
Mary is your younger sister?
TM
Yea. And because our funds were running low and there was, there was an opportunity to go pick apples in the Okanagan sound of Heather taking a photo.
HR
That's you!
TM
That's me! Heather laughs This is the galvanized, the galvanized form that fits over here. And its like this, and the bottom is canvas. And its got a drawstring on it, and you tie it up, and you fill it up. You can hold about a bushel of apple in there. And then you got down, but you didn't want to bruise the apple. You had to get in very close to the box, and let it open. And the farmers want to make sure, you know the apple stem? They should be on there. You don't like to see an apple without a stem. And this was at, you could see this eh? It's an A frame, and this is the step. and this is the third leg.
HR
To keep it stable.
TM
And so, really unstable. Heather laughs And so when you got up to the top, you've only got that much, and you've got a lot of weight. He fell over once. Luckily he went over this way, and he landed on his foot and rolled over, so he wasn't injured. We never made too much money. They said you can pick a hundred boxes and, in BC its boxes. It's like a bushel of apples. They said you can pick a hundred boxes of apples in a day. We tried hard. You really can pick apples at the bottom fast, but once you start to move the ladders, you slow down to a crawl. So we were lucky to get 60. And this is just a sample.
HR
Of the censor.
TM
Even, you can see the, its a postcard. It didn't matter whether it was a postcard or a letter. They were opened up. The ones that my wife got from her father, they were -
HR
Torn open, and...
TM
Yea, they were cut out. So of course, this was the story of evacuation in September 1942. Uh, people wanted a school for the children. And of course, the Provincial government said “No, we're not responsible for your education. The Federal government will do, it for security reasons. They're responsible.” And the Federal government said “Oh, no education is a Provincial responsibility. You provide it.” Nothing. So of course the Japanese people took it upon themselves, and they built a, you might call it a two room, but it was one large building for the public school kids.
00:40:10.000
00:40:10.000
TM
And he was a high school graduate and she was a high school graduate, and they were the so called teachers, using a correspondence course. But in '43, by '43, they had, in the internment camp, Miss Hide Hyodo. She was one and the only Japanese Canadian schoolteacher. And she got through the cracks. She was, she lived in South Vancouver, where there weren't too many Japanese. And she slipped through and got into Normal School, and got her teacher's license. After which, the government closed it off, and there were no more. She was the one and only teacher. Only one. And she became the supervisor of educating the Japanese Canadians in the internment camp. And travelled all over setting up the curriculum. And so she came to Lillooet to...
HR
Would you have gone to school, or were you too old?
TM
No, I took correspondence for grade eleven, but my heart wasn't in it. I didn't. I did some, but I never finished it. So when I came to Toronto, I got into grade eleven, but on condition. Because I had not finished, uh, grade ten. I had left in May, about a month and a half before school ended. And I only took some of the grade eleven courses by correspondence. So when I came here, it was November - so it was September, October, and mid November. So I missed two and a half months of school. And they said “No, you've got to go back to grade ten.” And I said “No,” I didn't. I'd better work on grade eleven stuff. And fortunately, the school teacher, the grade eleven schoolteacher said “Ok, well, let's take a chance,” he said. If he passes the Christmas exam, I could stay in grade eleven. Fortunately, I got through! laughs. And so, I didn't, I lost a year, not doing anything, but I didn't want to lose a second year. But I was lucky I didn't lose another year. Now, by 19, this is '44 ok? '42 there was nothing. We did our school. Built our school. '43 the government, Provincial government, starts to accept the fact that they had to provide education. And by 1944 my sister finished grade eight in Lillooet. And they finally opened up the city high school, and so she was able to get into.
HR
Oh, she's at the city, the Lillooet high school.
TM
The city high school.
HR
Ok. Hmm.
TM
So she was finally allowed to go in there.
HR
That's wonderful.
TM
That's why the picture's there, because, you know there's a story behind every picture. Here's another, there's another Japanese girl right in behind her.
HR
It's a tiny class.
TM
Well, the town, I think we almost doubled the population of the town. But then of course this school takes the surrounding area, you see? Tom looks through photos. Now, Lillooet is I think about 3000. You've seen that one before.
HR
Yea, the registration card.
TM
And this is the brother's finally got together in 1944, in Toronto. These two were in the tobacco farm. He was the university. We were in Lillooet. So.
HR
Had you been keeping in touch with your brothers who were away? Did you write letters to each other.
00:44:52.000
00:44:52.000
TM
Oh yea, they had to get permission from the BC Security Commission so that the two younger ones like us could come into Toronto. Because we had to register with the Mounted Police before we left, and when we got here, we had to report. And the story, the funny story is that I turned 16 in Lillooet. And this registration card, this, had to have the photograph. And you had to have a thumbprint. Well, they had no facilities in that little town for that. So, I didn't have one. So I came to Toronto, and they found out. The RCMP had all kinds of records for every Japanese, and found out that I didn't have one. Apparently the RCMP officer came during the week, and I was working part time, after school, so I was never around during the working day. I went to school, and then I was at work. So finally, he comes on a Saturday morning. And this is, it was funny. I was living on a third floor furnished room. Meaning, it had a double bed for my older brother and myself, and a beat up old dresser, and that was the furnished room. And the washroom was second floor and shared with the other couple of roomers. Anyway, so, this RCMP officer comes during Saturday morning. And the Ukrainian owner is making wine, and you could smell it up and down the house. He's bottling wine. And there's a knock on the door, and there's this RCMP officer standing there, and I laughed. Because I'm sure he was scared stiff. But, he asked if I was there, and I was there, and I had to come down. He marched me over and I was living on Grange Avenue, right near the art gallery. Anyway, in Beverly Street, there used to be an RCMP headquarters. It was only a couple of blocks to walk. So, he, this tall 6 foot RCMP officer marched me up there laughs. Thumbprint, photograph and everything else. I had to get that, but I still laugh at the owner when he was making wine.
TM
So, there's all kinds of stories. Oh, I've got two of those. Tom looks through papers. Now these are the four, well, four young people that were at Jarvis. He's passed away. She's passed away. She's married to the architect that designed Momiji. So. I've got doubles over here speaking about photographs.
HR
I think before people come for lunch, I want to show you the map, because it takes up space. sounds of Heather unfurling large map
TM
Is that the revised one, or is it a new one? Old one?
HR
It's an old map. It's Powell Street from 1930s.
TM
Yup. Campbell Avenue, ok. Paper sounds
TM
Main Street, ok. This is Alexander Street. Main Street. Railway Street. Now here is the American Can Company. This was the Japanese School, ok? And this, at that time, was an empty lot.
HR
Oh wow, ok!
TM
And this was where all the hobos used to hang out, and they used a Sterno can, and they squeezed a Sterno can for alcohol. Anyway this American Can Company of course was busy during the week making can, but, weekends they were closed. And this street was very quiet. And the Japanese Canadians, young ones, would play roller hockey down here. So, that was one of the entertainments in places. Ok?
00:50:11.000
00:50:11.000
HR
So you played roller hockey in your youth?
TM
No, I didn't laughs. I didn't. I played rugger. Ok, here is Main Street, Alexander Street. Down here is the CN docks. Now we were at 112 Main Street.
HR
The bicycle shop! It says bicycle repairs! Yea. Bicycles and repairs.
TM
Yea, and then this was the garage at the back alley. So this is where we lived. Above 1, where 112.
HR
It's tricky, the diagonal numbers are actually the ones, so 112 is right there.
TM
Ok, 112 is the bicycle shop. The, the house was at 612, 617, Patterson Waterworks pause.
HR
So it was 612 Powell?
TM
612... pause.
HR
It's so tricky. I think it might be back here.
TM
Where is Jackson? Ok, Jackson, Princess, Heatley, ok. Powell Street.
HR
There's 613 there. It's a fire insurance map, so if there wasn't insurance in a building, I think that maybe it isn't shown. But you were 612 Powell Street right?
TM
613?
HR
Maybe it's on the other side of the street actually.
TM
No, we were on the South side.
HR
8, 6, 12.
TM
Now, 612. That's a famous building. laughs. That was the uh pause what do you call it pause when the sailors came in, that's where they headed for Heather laughs. And we were directly behind, they were directly behind.
HR
That's strange for such a detailed map to not have your house.
TM
Oh, no, 613 is right. 612 was the... 613. We were the odd, this was the even. 612 was the famous one. All the kids in the Japanese school knew about 612. Oh yea.
HR
Would you ever go to Oppenheimer Park?
TM
Well, see, we lived on Main Street. And we walked through here, and we'd cut diagonally across, went up here, and this is Hastings. And the next block over was Cordova. And right here was the uh, on the Cordova side was Strathcona. So I had to walk there, and we used to go across here. And then the famous Vancouver fog - you walked across there every day. But when the fog was there, you ended up this way, or this way or this way.
HR
Oh funny!
TM
And you'd say “Where are we?” Heather laughs So, but the main, uh, main stores were, Japanese stores were located all along here.
00:55:00.000
00:55:00.000
HR
So, where you'd get Japanese food and dishes and so on.
TM
Oh yea, yea. On Dunleavy. Dunleavy, this is Powell Drug here. Drugs. And one of the fellows at, at Momiji said he used to deliver stuff to 612 Powell, er, Alexander Street. And one of the famous ones was here, was Japanese what?
HR
Japanese boarding house.
TM
Boarding house. Anyway. Ernie's ice cream. He started here, but he moved over here. And he was, I think he started around '39. '39, '38. He was one of the first Niseis to start his own business. All these other ones were, you know, established by the Isseis. You know, like, famous one is, would be pause where is... Fuji Chop Suy should be around here. And then the fish stores, and Maikawa department stores and so on. They were over here. And at the back, also there were what they call tofu manufacturers, in the back.
HR
Oh wow! So it's Powell Street, and then there's an alley...
TM
This is an alleyway.
HR
Ok, and tofu got made in the alleyway.
TM
Yea, there was a tofu maker here, and a tofu maker there, and a tofu maker on Gore somewhere over here. And there were sendai makers. Now you see here, we had the Imperial Hotel, and next to it was the judo.
HR
Wow.
TM
And over here was the Japanese United Church.
HR
Did your family go to church?
TM
Yea. Well you see here, the story here, right here is the Japanese United Church. pause. And it doesn't say here, I think it was this one here, was a Catholic Church. And not a real church, but it was -
HR
Like in a house.
TM
No, it was in a hall. The kindergarten, like you saw my picture of the Japanese United Church kindergarten. I went there. Those youngsters, that went to the Catholic Church, they turned Catholic. And over here, see this is the Japanese Church, that's the Anglican Church. So there was three kindergartens, here, here and here gesturing to map. Those who went to Anglican, became Anglican. So the three main ones. Oh, there was another kindergarten at the Buddhist Church but its not shown here.
HR
Not on the map.
TM
And across down here was the CN docks, ok? And this was the overhead walk. Well, there was an over, actually, a big, the street went up and then into the CN dock. Which is up high and the CN ships, up and going to the coast, would dock there. And it was high because it went over the railroad tracks. And during the '30s, the young men from the Prairies, they would come in in the fall, because during the '30s, it was the Great Depression. There was no work. And of course the Prairies is cold, whereas Vancouver is mild. So they would come in, and we used to call them hobos. And they would have their stick, and their knapsack -
HR
Stick and the bag...
01:00:02.000
01:00:02.000
TM
With all their belongings. And they would be riding the freight trains. And we would run over the CN dock and watch these people come in. And then we used to use the sled. Because this was overhead, and then there was a walkway that went down, and we used to use a sled down there. But we had to be careful because of traffic. We had to bail out before the street. Oh, motorworks. Machine shop. Now, over here, it doesn't show. Gore Avenue? Yea, this was the Maikawa -
HR
Auto workers?
TM
It's Maikawa, auto work. And this is a gas station in here. And this little place was a tobacco shop run by one of my classmates mother. This little thing.
HR
Little tiny thing, on Alexander there.
TM
Yup.
TM
Yup, and this was cold storage. Every once in awhile there would be an ammonia leak.
HR
Oh dear.
TM
And down here was the dock. Gore Avenue dock. We used to go fishing off it. And over here was the fishery, where they'd go out in the water and process salmon that was caught. And they would dump the fish heads and the guts into the water, so there was a lot of crab. So we would catch crab by making a home made. We would take a barrel, a staked barrel ring, and make string across there, and nets. And then we'd try and get a fish head from the cannery, and we'd tie it on the thing, and put stone and then drop it down. There were a lot of crab anyway, because they were feeding off the stuff they would dump. And we would haul in the crab.
HR
And then you'd take it home. Would you try to sell it, or was it just for...?
TM
Oh, we didn't eat it. We did it for fun. For fun.
HR
Just catching it laughs.
TM
This is the centre of, of the summer pointing to Oppenheimer Park. When we were young, if a person had a bat, and somebody had a softball, we had a softball game. If somebody had a soccer ball, one soccer ball, oh...
HR
Whole community would go to Oppenheimer Park?
TM
Oh, yea, free for all. We used to play all kinds of knife games.
HR
What's a knife game?
TM
Ok, ok. Alright. We would have a big circle, and let's say there's four people. And then, we would try and throw a knife, to see it stick. And one by one we eliminate til the last person is the winner. So now we've got this circle, and there are four of us. And there's four on what we call the land. And so, what we do is we throw, and if the knife stuck in the ground, we'd cut that land off from the centre. And that belonged to you. And then, you can go to the next one, and throw like that pats table to demonstrate. And the loser is when the land became so narrow that you cannot stand on your feet sideways, you're out. Heather laughs. And then we used to play what we call a stick game. Don't forget this is the Depression years ok? You get a broom handle, ok? And you cut pause one about 18 inches long, ok? And put a point on it. And then you get the next one, with about 6 inches long and put a point. And then you take the big stick and you hit the point. The thing would flip up. And if you hit once, from there, you take the big stick, lengthwise, and count. If you hit it twice, then you take the little one, the one you hit, and you count back to where you were. And that counts as points.
01:05:00.000
01:05:00.000
TM
If you hit it three times, and you use the little one and go sideways. And the more points you got, the better. And then we used to have a knife game that we used to play - this way, this way, and drop like this. Drop like this Tom motions with his hands, demonstrating how to play the knife game. Chin, here, top of the head. We, we did everything. And we used to what we'd call, I guess, it's a Chinese game. We used to call it Longo songo. You know a shuttlecock? When you hit is with the side of the foot, going up? And you keep hitting it until you lost it.
HR
Until it falls to the ground?
TM
Yea. And so the, instead of shuttlecocks, we didn't have shuttlecocks. So, we used to sneak washers, and we used to make the feathers -
HR
The little feathers. TOM We didn't have any money, you know?
HR
Sounds like it was a creative time.
TM
This was a gymnasium, and this, this provided pause basketball. So the Japanese basketball league played here, at this United Church. At the Japanese Hall, there was only room for one badminton court. So we played badminton there. And because there was only one court, the graduates of the class rented the Strathcona gym and played badminton. So those were a lot of the - and this was the centre of the Japanese community. You'll see in some of the other ones where the graduates of the school, ok, after grade ten you graduated and you became, a kai, a graduate class. And they would put on plays and musicals and so on, to entertain the community. The hall was too small, so they had to run it for two days. My brother was, the oldest brother was one of the, the key members.
HR
Do you remember where friends, where your friends lived? Or other family members?
TM
Well, friend, we had pause... 613, 613 ok. pause as Tom looks at map. So, I grew up around here, so some of my friends would be here. But a lot of the friends would be over here too.
HR
Ok, just up from that.
TM
Yea, so you had friends from public school and also from the Japanese school. This is more, uh, Cordova Street was more residential.
HR
Powell Street, yea, Powell Street has a lot of businesses.
TM
All businesses, yea. pause
TM
And the famous one was, where is the one, over pause. Oh there's the hardware. Hardware store. That was my older brother's friend's father ran that. Confectionary, restaurant. One of these places was the pause barber. I can't remember. There was a recreational club.
HR
Ah.
TM
Gambling. laughs. And he, because he was well known to the police and politician, he was named a coordinator for evacuation. And of course, a lot of the people didn't trust him at all. But because he was well known to the politician, I'm sure the police...
HR
Yea, that's true.
01:10:01.000
01:10:01.000
TM
What else? Well, over here, let me see, Dunleavy. Ok. Dunleavy, this was Hastings Mill, where my father worked.
HR
Ok!
TM
Alexander Street was named after the manager of the plant here. Now, in 1908, the city was well, way over here, where it wasn't a city yet. It was a town. Alexander Street, Alexander Street, they came from the mill and they walked along Alexander Street, to Gastown Tavern. And this was the path. 'Course when he came in 1908, this was still, uh forest, and they logged it. And this, as they say, was the path to the tavern. And in 1909, it became a city. And by 1929, the city had moved up.
HR
Wow. sounds of workers in the background setting up an event at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre
TM
And Hastings Mill was a community in itself. Well over 300 people worked there, and they had houses for families, dormitories for single men. They had a school, a general store. It was a town by itself, because it was isolated from the town. So by the time, by 1929 it was, it was developed. And so this land was more valuable, so they closed it down in 1929. Before the Great Depression.
HR
What a lot of change your father saw!
TM
Oh, well I came here in 1943.
HR
What a lot of change you have seen.
TM
There was only, Toronto was only 750,000.
HR
Yea.
TM
Streetcars had two - a conductor and a driver. And he rang the bell, ding ding Heather laughs, to stop or whatever. So, I don't know what else you want to ask about this.
HR
Well, I can see its time for lunch, why don't we take a pause?
TM
Yup. Heather rolls up map
TM
...school was the centre of social activity. Heather moves recorder. Because, of course, we weren't accepted by white community. And so most of the activities centred around the Japanese Language School.
HR
So you went to Strathcona and the Japanese Language School?
TM
Oh yea, right after. Like, here, this was the cast of a musical, ok? And, in the, they Japanese community, they held it for two days.
HR
Are you in the photo?
TM
Yes, just in there. That's me.
HR
Ah both laugh. So, can you explain the person standing beside you?
TM
Oh, the one with the blackface?
HR
Yea laughs.
TM
Oh, he's a character. He's in Japan now, but he's, we had a - there's one, two, three, and I forget the fourth one. We had a jitterbug routine and he's supposed to be the girl.
HR
Ok.
TM
The central figure is, this is my brother. He was, he was one of the, he was another one. These people were instrumental in, in putting on plays. And this, this time it was a musical. So you can see the Hawaiian...
HR
Yea!
TM
It was a musical. And not only did they put on plays, but here's my brother putting on a play.
HR
Oh wow. Look at the set too!
TM
This is my brother. They were, they were the centre of the activity.
01:15:05.000
01:15:05.000
HR
Would they have been done in English or in Japanese?
TM
Oh, this would be done in Japanese.
HR
Ok. pause, Tom looks at photos
TM
Here's another one that they had. They played soldier. There's my brother again.
HR
And everybody signed the photo?
TM
Hmm?
HR
And people have signed the photo?
TM
Yea. Now, here's a fellow. He was a baritone, ok. He couldn't get any job singing. So, he actually went back to Japan.
HR
Wow.
TM
And became an opera star. And after the war he came back. This is the same guy. sound of tables moving
TM
So, as I said, at the point in the '30s, we weren't accepted into the professional rank. Like, you couldn't become an engineer or an accountant or, like one fellow finished his mining engineering. But in those days you had to have practical experience before you could get your license. But no mine would hire him, so he never got his license. Even in 1950 when I graduated from U of T, I had to have 6 months of machine shop experience before I got my degree. So that's why I went to Massey Harris and got my machine shop experience. So here he is, he's back from the Japan, and they put on Madame Butterfly in Toronto. So, if you wanted to get ahead in the old days, ok, in the professional rank, a lot of the young people went back to Japan. And of course, to do that, they had to have, the Japanese language. And secondly if you couldn't find a job, and if you had to work for the merchants in Japantown, of course you had to deal with the Japanese ladies. So you had to have Japanese language. So, if you became doctor, UBC actually didn't have a medical school. It only had premed. And then after that you went to McGill, or the people that became doctors, they went to the States, and did their internship there. And then they came back, but they weren't accepted into the hospitals. So they had to, to uh, do their practice in Japantown. looks through photos Now pause. Not this. So what we did was we went to Strathcona Public Schoo, and right after we would walk down and walk down and go to Japanese Language School afterwards. For an hour and a half. This one is pause...
HR
Do you remember Japanese? Like, do you still, can you speak it a little bit?
TM
Oh, yea, I can speak it, because, well, my parents were Japanese, so you spoke Japanese. And then afterwards, of course, I went to Montreal, and then I was in Kingston for 31 years. No Japanese there, so...
HR
I feel like that about French that I learned in school, that I can still understand it a little bit, but if I have to write it or speak it, it kind of comes out in a big mess.
TM
Well, I'll tell you, if you, if a French people, person, comes to Quebec, it's totally different.
HR
Yea, that's true.
TM
What we learn is Parisian French, ok? And of course Switzerland, of course the Southern part, is French. Towards France. And so, we thought, “Oh, we don't understand German, but at least we studied French in high school.” So, we thought, ok, we'll try our high school French. Well, the Swiss French is totally different! We couldn't understand them.
01:20:13.000
01:20:13.000
TM
And even the German is different, because the Swiss German, when they say thank you, they say “Danke Schoen.” But the Swiss German's don't say that. It's “Merci, merci.”
HR
Really! Interesting!
TM
Well, they don't use, there's all kinds of difference in language everywhere. We thought we could speak French, and so on. We ended up, ended up speaking English. To those that knew English. Our French was totally inadequate. Here is the, as I say, here is the qualities, that after grade ten, you became a graduate of the Japanese school, and then, you became, you started taking part in the activities. sounds of tables moving throughout. You played badminton, or you took part in the social things. You know. Boy my files are getting battered.
HR
Well loved.
TM
And you know, even today, the the people that went to the Japanese Language School, they get together. And have a reunion. They're getting less and less because, my graduating class is now 88, 89. So there are not many remaining laughs. So the reunions are getting less and less.
HR
What do you talk about at the reunions?
TM
Oh, old times. And the first thing they always say, at the meeting, is what camp were you at? What internment camp? And that...
TM
Now, this is the first, the Strathcona, Lillooet, Lillooet looking through photos. I know I've got the school ones here, and I've got the Lillooet together. sounds of Tom looking through photos. This is the Japanese name for school. sounds of Tom looking through photos. Ok, Vancouver school in '37. So this must be schooling. opens folder. So here we go. This is going by way back when, when of course, I was talking about the various churches running the, the uh, kindergarten. The reason is, with the Issei mothers, staying at home, with the little kids, just like my daughter in Switzerland, she spoke English to the kids. Well, the Japanese mother spoke nothing but Japanese to the kids til they were ready for school. So, the churches recognized that there was a need to train the children to speak English. So they started the kindergarten. And here you see, this is my oldest brother. This is 1920.
HR
Wow.
TM
And these ladies, this one I think was a missionary. A lot of them were missionaries that came back and they knew Japanese.
HR
Oh wow.
TM
So, this is one of the early ones, because my brother was born in 1914. So.
HR
What a fantastic photograph.
TM
And I've tried to get as many as possible. Here a kinder, all kindergarten. Mostly United Church. And this one is, is one of the people that are living in Momiji. 1930.
01:25:12.000
01:25:12.000
TM
So this is my fourth brother. 1931. flipping photographs. So this is where we went to learn English before we went to Strathcona Public School. 1932, who's in here?
HR
What year would you have been here?
TM
Well, I'm somewhere in here. both laugh
HR
Eventually.
TM
So, so...
HR
Oh, there's your name! Heather takes photo
TM
This is a very poor photo. Second row, third from right. Second row, third... there, that's me. Haha! That's very poor, very poor photo.
HR
It's hard with old photos.
TM
The other ones were good. I don't know why mine was so terrible. Now this one, I got from some other person, but its an Anglican Church. A priest. But, I do not know anything about it. I couldn't get anybody to...
HR
Yea.
TM
So this one is... 1934.
HR
I love the little graduation hats!
TM
By this time, they'd got little hats. Yea. '34. Now, what would my sister have, my sister was born in 1930, and she would graduate in 1935 or '36. '35.
HR
Maybe this one?
TM
By this time, they got their hats, eh?
HR
Yea. So when you collect, so some of these ones where you don't know the people, you ask neighbours and friends at Momiji if they have photos?
TM
Oh yea, oh yea. I get everybody to, to try and identify these people. pause
TM
A lot of these we have names in the, a list, because of other things, but I don't recognize... Grade four. Grade four. Oh yea, this is an old one. '29. I know her. Because, she's an older sister of one of my friends.
HR
So your classes at Strathcona had mixed Japanese Canadian and non-Japanese Canadian?
TM
Well, it was in the, in the heart of Japantown, and the heart of Chinatown, so, there were a lot of, well, basically, as I said, by the time I went, it was 60, over 60% Japanese Canadian. Probably about 25% Chinese, and then there were a lot of Italian and Jewish people in there. It was a poorer section of, of the town. shuffling paper
HR
Wow, that's a big class.
TM
1933. By this time, this is the sister of my friend, and I recognize her, and I recognize him and so on. And this is the husband of one of the ladies that have been in Momiji. So I recognize some of the faces. But by this time, gradually, the Japanese population is starting to increase.
HR
Yea, you can tell.
TM
You can tell by the photographs that the, uh, Japanese population is increasing. Here's a grade four class. What have I got in here in grade four? pause
01:30:03.000
01:30:03.000
HR
Were there ever any racial issues at the school?
TM
If there was a racial issue at the school, there was none, because we were the majority laughs. So, there wasn't any problem. Right? This, I got this from from one of the residents. And he's got his. That's the fellow that's in the, in the, he's 90... about 94 now. So, you can tell, 1934. It was still a small class, eh? But as you can see, gradually increasing in the Oriental.
TM
This is my sister's class. This is my sister there. But again, it's by this time, it's over 60%.
HR
inaudible, takes photograph
TM
So.
HR
I'll have to crop my shadow out of all of these photos.
TM
laughs I've been trying to collect all the pictures I can of Strathcona. In this one, I think George that comes here, he's in here somewhere. I think it's his class. Whether that's him or not... This one is grade seven, 1937, so they're older than I am. Oh, no, that's him. That's him. That's him coming. This class is about a year or two older than I am.
HR
Did the teachers, when the war broke out, do you remember did the teachers explain things to you at all? Did they ever talk about it much?
TM
No, but... as I say it wasn't, when the news broke out, on Sunday morning, they had a newspaper. “Extra, extra,” that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbour. We knew from, at least I knew from all the discrimination that we had, like I said, I don't know if I told you or not, but I was first exposed to, to discrimination when we had the store. And every Halloween, the so-called Georgia Street gang, a white gang would come down Main Street, and they'd pass through Chinatown, doing vandalism. And my older brothers were always ready to protect the store. They would turn off all the lights. Lock the place up, and they'd be armed with baseball bats that'd protect the place. And the younger ones, they made sure that we were upstairs. So from very early, I knew that, that we had discrimination. So when Pearl Harbour started, I knew that we were in trouble. I knew, because, strictly from my brothers.
HR
Yea.
TM
'38. Oh, this is my brother. Next older brother. This is the graduating, grade eight graduating class. So by this time, yea, probably reaching 60% Japanese Canadians. pause
TM
This is the principal. And, there's a picture of him visiting the Japanese Language School. And so the two principals, the Japanese Language principal and the Strathcona principal were very friendly, because 60%... laughs
HR
They had lots of shared students.
01:35:00.000
01:35:00.000
TM
I went to school after school. So, anyway.
HR
Those are long days for...
TM
Oh yea, oh yea.
HR
Young people.
TM
'39. So, whenever, whenever I meet people at Momiji I ask them, what year did you graduate from Japanese Language School. They tell me and then I can tell them I have photographs of Strathcona also. And this is 1940. 1940. That's my class. Ok, 1940. Where am I? Oh, you can hardly see me. That's me. laughs.
HR
Oh, you're tiny! laughs
TM
So, that's a long time ago. You never pause you never know. 1940. shuffles paper. This is an old one, oh 1941, this is maybe my sister in this one. Who is it in here? But I've been collecting as much as I can of the pre-war.
HR
How long have you been collecting?
TM
Hmm?
HR
How long have you been collecting?
TM
Oh, this?
HR
Since you retired, or...?
TM
Oh this, these I started when I started with the, in the 2010, when I started the archiving.
HR
Hmm.
TM
1942, this is the last class. They must have taken this photo early. And one of the girls who volunteer here, is in here. But I don't see her. This is the last class. And you know, when, when the uh, teachers here are talking about class sizes, you know in the old days? We had over 30, even up to 40 students per teacher. And you can, can you imagine that they had to write report cards by hand. Not by computer. So, they had lots of work when they had 40, a class of 40. And you can... shuffles paper. Oh I have it in the other one. I got a list of the students graduating in grade eight from, from Vancouver. '39. '40, and '41, and I was counting how many people were in a grade. And, uh, when I went in those days, eh? They didn't have this, every child shall progress at their own speed, kind of thing. It was still like that in, no in Switzerland, it's all graded. The same thing. We had grade one, our class grade eight division one, which is the smart one. Divison two. If you were division four or five, you knew you were the dummy class. Of course, now they don't want to have that distinction, so you don't have that. But in Switzerland, they still do. They stream them in pause partway in high school... or in grade eight or something, they stream them. Ones that go to higher education, one that goes to trade or... They still have distinct... Well this is Britannia grade ten. Now because we didn't have very good opportunities to advance in the professional ranks, you can see where the Japanese population drops.
HR
Pretty substantially.
TM
Ok. Very few, these are Japanese. He's Japanese, he's Japanese. But you can see it drops off where, in public school it's 60%, now you see it drop? Here I am in grade nine. I'm there. But as you can see, see, there are a lot more Occidentals. He's Italian laughs.
01:40:21.000
01:40:21.000
HR
Was there discrimination in high school?
TM
Well pause. In a way I guess there was, but if you played sports, like, when I went, my brother, my third brother went to university. He played rugger, ok? And when I went to grade nine, the coach, the same coach that coached my brother, approached me and said “Are you, you're name's Matsui, are you the brother of Dick?” I said “Yea.” “Ok, you turn out for the rugby team.” Sports, yea, sports made a level, a level...
HR
Levelled things off for people. TOM Yea. sounds of crowd having lunch in background
TM
But, as I said, I really don't have too many high school pictures, because as I say, this is grade ten. But as you can see, by this time, he's Chinese, he's Japanese, I'm, I'm there. There's this Japanese girl. There's hardly any Japanese girls going into academics. Because we were, this class in Britannia, led to going into university. Other than that, other people went to Vancouver Technical School for being an auto mechanic and so on. An electrician. If you went to, like my other brother, Fairview High School Commerce; my second brother went to Grandview High School Commerce. You're going to be a bookkeeper, that level. But university level? There's hardly too many Japanese. But there's one.
HR
One.
TM
Two, three, four.
HR
That is quite a change from elementary school.
TM
Four. This is Chinese. So, so the percentage going to high school, started at 60%, down to about 10 to 15%. That's because people knew that there wasn't too much of an advantage to getting a university degree, because you can't get a job. That's my second oldest brother back in 1924.
HR
laughs. He looks worried!
TM
This one is funny, because I had to, I had to look through the, through the computer and finally had to read it. And I found out it was... gesturing to the sign at the base of the school photo.
HR
Oh, you mean adjust the colour?
TM
Yea, found out it was grade one, grade one, and this is my brother. Third brother. And I found out it was 1927 in here. But by this time, 1927, there's quite a few Japanese Canadians in here. But as you say, you can see the drastic drop between public school and high school. This one's way back in 1928. This was Strathcona. So, 1928, that's my brother, ok? You could see there's hard - very few Japanese Canadians here. Back in 1928. But by that time, by the time I got to graduate in 1940...
HR
It was quite a bit different, for sure.
01:44:58.000
01:44:58.000
TM
My oldest brother, if he was alive, he'd be 100 and something anyway, but when he started school, there weren't that many of them. So, you can do a study of a Japanese in Vancouver, these photographs, if you count the number of Japanese Canadians in here, you'll find a gradual increase in the population. The school population. They're not much in order, but... This one I didn't know whether it was, what year it was. I had to guess at the...
TM
This one is 1935, there's my third brother. The population is quite small too, that at that school. So, this shows a lot of the history of the public school system, in a number of Japanese Canadian, uh, students.
HR
Yea, definitely. It's a fascinating archive that you've got.
TM
Oh yea. Now here's, here's a strange one, ok? See all these, and see him? The story behind, because, this guy was the star shortstop for the Asahis. Now he came to Canada when he was about 13 or so. By 16, he was playing the Asahi because he was a good shortstop. But, he didn't know English.
HR
Ah. So he had to go to school.
TM
So, he was stuck in with a class. Grade five class. And he's about 13. So he's way taller. both laugh. But there's a reason for that, and he's the star shortstop. He became the star shortstop. And he's the fellow that relocated to Lillooet, and he's the one that started the softball team.
HR
Oh!
TM
And he's the one that challenged the RCMP officer to come up with a competing town team, and that's how we broke the ice. He was, he was instrumental. He's still living. I think he's one of the last ones of the famous Asahi baseball team.
HR
Do you remember his name?
TM
Ah, it's, um... Heather takes photo. I can get it from the book.
HR
Ok.
TM
So, I, it's, there's always a story behind the photos. It's interesting, if you know the background both laugh. This is grade six. I don't know anybody in here. This is one of the late ones from... pause. He was the principal for a long, long time. 1939, grade eight. So it's a year before, before us. But there's only one class in this one. paper shuffling
TM
There's some fascinating stories.
HR
Yea! I'm lucky to have you as a guide.
TM
Grade seven. Who do I know in there? pause. This is a small class. I don't know who's in here? Must be my brother here. pause. He towers over laughs. '36. My brother would be... six... born in... talks softly to himself. I guess he'd be 12 or so. But... Now here is a picture of the high school of commerce, grade nine. Now, my brother's in there.
01:50:11.000
01:50:11.000
TM
But as you can see, there are some Japanese girls in here. Not many. And as far as boys are concerned, he's, that's Japanese and that's Japanese. But as you can see, even in high school, in the Commerce you don't have too many Japanese Canadians. So you can see that the, uh, what's it called? School population in high school drops very drastically from the public school. That's simply because there's no...
HR
Why go to high school if there's no...?
TM
And this is my brother graduating. So he's graduating, and he's graduating. Where are the girls? Two, three. Four, five. But there's only two males, graduating from Commerce, in 1942. He was, he was lucky because he was allowed to graduate. Whereas the evacuation started in, I left in May.
HR
He got to stay a little bit to finish?
TM
He was able to stay a little bit longer, and because my mother had to close up the shop, she came to Lillooet in August, I think. But there are you see, in high school, the graduating class, not many. This was the photo of Jarvis. Here's the three evacuees from, from BC. This is the girl, the evacuee from Britain. pause. And there's the mixture of, the, we came from the poor section, and they're, like these fellows came from Rosedale. Jarvis had a situation where north of us was Rosedale, south of us was the wrong side of the tracks laughs. Now this one is Jarvis, and I think my sister's in there. But again, in her class pause, talks to himself softly... she's the only Japanese Canadian in this... So... at least we know it's 1945. So you can see that, the difference now, Vancouver education, at least she went to Lillooet for grade, she started in grade nine, and then she-halfway through-she moved to Toronto. So she continued grade nine here. This one, oh this is my sister's. Front row, eighth from left. That's my sister. This one's not very good either referring to photo quality.
HR
I'm just going to check the time for you.
TM
Yea. Well. Ok. Let's, what other...?
HR
You said you needed to leave at 2?
TM
Yea.
01:54:49.000
01:54:49.000
HR
inaudible, Tom shuffles through photos
TM
As I say, I've been trying to collect all these official documents of the evacuation. These orders, actual orders.
HR
Do you find, do lots of people save those? Is it easy to collect things like that?
TM
One was very interesting. The father got this evacuation order to go to Sandon. I suspect that he was mad, and he, he must have ripped that order in three pieces. But he didn't throw it away, he put it in an envelope. And then, his daughter saved it for the next sixty years or so. And she finally said, she's got to, she gave it to me and I had to piece it together. To make it order, any sense of it.
HR
That is an interesting thing to rip it up and then still save it.
TM
So she gave it to me, so I put it back together, and used the photo album to take out the rip. And I gave her back the full. “You gave it to me,” I say, “but this is more useful to me as a whole piece,” so...
HR
I guess my last question for you, we have researchers who are able to look at what happened to various properties. Would it be of interest to you at all, we could do a little bit of digging to see what happened to the bicycle store. Would that be of interest?
TM
Oh, sure. I, as I say, it's, it's being put into the archives, but I do have that one letter showing how much the house was sold. That's the only piece I have. So.
HR
Then, definitely, I'll ask the rest of the team. The reason we have that map is that researchers are specifically looking at houses within that area. So there'd be lots of information.
TM
Yea, we know that was sold pointing to photo of house.
HR
It's a shame, it's such a beautiful house.
TM
And according to another record it, the lot was bought for something like 1125 dollars. And the house was sold for 1500 total.
HR
I think in your last, the last time we spoke, you said your son went back to try and see it, and its gone now?
TM
It's gone now. It's gone.
HR
Is there anything in its place, or just an empty lot?
TM
Oh there's a new building in its place. And I say, he was taking a look, and he was trying to take a photograph, and the fellow who actually was working in the building said, asked him “What are you taking a photo of?” He says “It used to be my father's uh, home. It's now gone.” So he says “Oh! In that case,” he says “come on! I'll show you the building.” So, he actually saw the building. The fellow let him in.
HR
That's pretty special.
TM
So...
HR
Thank you very much! Yea, we'll turn this off and let you get going.
01:58:28.000

Metadata

Title

Tom Matsui, interviewed by Heather Read, 11 August 2015 (2 of 2)

Abstract

In this interview, Tom Matsui talks about a portion of his photographic collection relating to Japantown and Lillooet. He also talks about his photographic collection that relates to the Strathcona and Japanese Language schools that existed in pre-war Vancouver. Heather shows him a map prepare by the GIS Cluster that shows Japantown in the 1930s and they talk about the map. It prompts memories from Tom of recreation in pre-war Vancouver, including stories about sports events and games played as a child. There is a powerful anecdote towards the end of the recording about his experience of racism in Vancouver, relating to his family’s bicycle shop; the same story was recorded in the first interview with Tom, but the sound quality is better here.

Credits

Interviewer: Heather Read
Interviewee: Tom Matsui
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Toronto, ON
Keywords: Lillooet ; Japantown ; Vancouver ; Strathcona; Main Street; Powell Street ; map; baseball; school; education; family; 1930s - 1950s

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.