Sam Matsuo, interviewed by Erin Yaremko, 11 February 2016

Sam Matsuo, interviewed by Erin Yaremko, 11 February 2016

Abstract
Sam begins the interview describing his earliest childhood memories of growing up during the Great Depression. He speaks about how his family reacted to the outbreak of the war as well as the various neighbours and close friends that they missed. He tries to remember what happened to the Chevrolet that his family used to leave the community after the war began. Sam then moves on to recall his experiences of racism in school as a child and also reflects on any stories that his parents might have told him about their experience in the internment camps. Sam concludes the interview with a message to future Canadians.
00:00:00.000
Erin Yaremko (EY)
Today is February 11th, 2016 and I am here in Winnipeg Manitoba. I am with Sam Matsuo and we are here for Landscapes of Injustice. Sam would you like to begin by discussing your childhood?
Sam Matsuo (SM)
Sure. I was born on July 3rd, 1930 during the depression era. Our family consisted of my father, mother, my older brother Fred, and sister Marianne (Added:Midori), myself, my younger brother Bob. In the early years my dad had to seek employment any kind of job so he had to go to Sooke (?) BC to work for ten cents an hour and as time went on he became a lumber grater (grader) (?) . At the lumber mill called Hillcrest lumber company. And up to the time of uh, the war we were in Hillcrest, BC which was five miles away from Duncan. And when the war broke out in 1942, I think we were one of the first families to leave our community and we just loaded up our old Chevrolet and took what we can, what we could put on the car and left for Mount Lehman, BC in the Fraser Valley where my dad's relative lived and there we stayed for a month. During that month we ... we didn't do any work but I remember going fishing with my dad to Fraser River and I can remember this one particular incident where we went out to the river to fish and all we caught was these fish with whiskers. What do you call them?
EY
Catfish?
SM
Catfish! Yeah! And I remember eating a ton of pineapples, and I think I ate the whole tin myself and after a while I got awfully sick and threw up so ever since that time Is till eat pineapple and ... So we stayed there for a month and I can't recall exactly when that time came for us to evacuate but in those, this was after the decision was made by the government of Canada that we had a choice of either going to Manitoba to work on the sugar beet or to go to a concentration camp. And you know we decided we would stay as a unit, stay as a family so we decided on sugar beet work. My wife's parents they resisted some of the movements the government were doing so he was just sent to concentration camp together with a lot of the German people in that camp.
00:04:51.000
00:04:51.000
SM
And uh ... well as it ended up they were split up their family eventually went to Greenwood, BC all in an interior a lot of the other Japanese ended up in Slocan, Casmere Tashmee and all that, interior BC. But we came out to board the train I forgot where we got on the train whether it was Mission, BC or some and then headed out East in these dirty coaches which they brought out from mothball somewhere and throughout the prairies we went out and ended up in Winnipeg. They're at the CN, CP station on Higgans avenue. And our family at the time, my brother was about oh let's see now ... yeah he was 16, my sister was 17, I was oh let's see let me get my math straight 14. Well I at the time I was 12 years old and my youngest brother was 10 years old so we ended up at the immigration hall on Higgans Avenue and there we slept on the floors there. And the farmers would come in to pick the families to work on their field. Our family we didn't have any infants so we were an ideal family to be picked and the farmer called Karl Shaulk picked us so we were not there very long. We almost a day over night and then we ... loaded whatever we had onto the small trailer that they had in, I can still remember this car it was an old oh 1929 Nash and we headed out to Petersfield and there we stayed in the one half of Karl Shaulk's home. Which was very small it was just a little bungalow. And he lived on one side and we lived on the other side. So in this house there was, we cooked, little couch, living room and one small bedroom and an attic. Three my brothers and I slept in the on the attic which we had to climb a latter to get to it and it was not an actual what you call a room cause it was just an attic. There we had our bed, you know we slept there, I think my sister slept on the couch in the living room and there was another bedroom, small bedroom. So we had wooden stoves, and so forth and outdoor facility and by the way that first year we came out it was very cold for spring at the time when we came out and I think it was somewhere close to minus 40. And you don't really enjoy going to an outdoor facility at that temperature. But anyways that was so, well in the spring it was time to seed you know for sugar beets and well I think by the time they put the seeds in it would be in the late spring.
00:09:44.000
00:09:44.000
SM
And then it involved thinning out of the sugar beet, you know you had to keep it a part because they all grow like radishes on there so you have to space it out so the beets will have a proper space to grow. And then after the howing then you just wait for it to grow. And during that rush through the summer there were other things to do. You know we worked on the grain field after, you know what they also say the grain you know? At Petersfield we there were farmers I can still remember and the land is divided into sections, a mile, a mile. Well 6, 40 acres and I can still remember the people living in there right by highway nine. There was the Hackings and then there was the Hortons and then another Hacking which was a brother and then the McPharlins, then the Shaulks you know there was also the Caulks and Dalhmins. And during you know when we first arrived in Petersfield a lot of the people had never seen Japanese. And and one farmer told Shaulk that “you better watch these Japs”, you know “and they'll come, you watch them at night because they'll come with a knife and could stab you” which was you know, but that was one thing but after we started working on the field we worked during the summer when the grain field, like after the grain was cut we had to stoke it. It's not like what it is today where you go in with expensive combines and do all the operation at one time you had to go get the grain cut and then the bind would go and make it into shaves and then so then later on the floor ... you had to put it into stooks. Well my mother and my younger brother and myself did a lot of stoking. My older brother was all worked and during the time of harvest he could have a team of horses. He had the best team of horses, I can still remember the horses, were real dark, black horses we called Dick and Anne and they were the most powerful horses that you know pulled the load of shaves and the thrashing machine. You know because to the thrashing machine and then you have to put the shaves onto this machines so that each shief will go and cut the twine so to spread the ... spread it all out so that it could be shakin' up and the seeds dropped out and eventually that would go through an auger and into the grainery. I somehow had the job of stuffing the grainery trying to shove the whenever the grain came in it was getting filled up, you had to shove it towards in so that more grain would come in. And that was not a pleasant job you know as you get towards later on in the day the grainery is getting full and you're getting in restrictive space.
00:15:09.000
00:15:09.000
SM
And well one incident, was this my dad used to have this old pair of they were not a very good team of horses, one called Prince and Shorty. And shorty was a white lazy horse and you know with the loaded wagon you come alongside the binder because the binder is running belt it's running, and he swished his tail and his tail got caught in the gears and it stalled the machine. So consequently you know his tail was a little bit shorter but you know the horse hair is very tough. But anyway that was one of the things I remember and but after we worked on the for the different farms you know worked on the farm. Other farmers wanted us to come and work for them so their perception of us changed completely. You know they were hard honest workers so could you come and work for us? And so everything kind of changed you know, like the Downwings are they have four I guess four boys I dunno if you remember the series Bonanza it was a Western you know in the introduction in the whole they had that music and the four horses come along. Well they were something like that because the father's horse and they were galloping along and so forth. And it was almost like that, they were good people and you know everyone shared the duties of harvesting, this one farmer had equipment and they would go around to different famers to harvest their grains. This one particular day you know when you have a heavy crop of wheat, that becomes very demanding job because it's heavy with oats is a lot lighter and barley is a little bit heavier then oats. But after this one day, after a hard days work towards the sunset everybody, all the workers who worked on there were just tuckered right out but my brother was 16 at the time he was not very tall, short but after you know you'd go and have your supper but he was fresh as dais, like he didn't look as if he worked a whole day and they were just simply stunned that a little guy like that could withstand all this labour. So they ended up calling him mighty mouse and so that's one thing that you know I always remember. And but these other Downwings boys hefty guys, oh the eldest one was named. What the heck was his name? Downwing boy anyways like he couldn't talk without putting a swear word in every second word. I don't know if I should say this but laughs but can I say it? Like he would talk like this he would say “I was in Van fuckin' couver” laughs. But he had to put that word in between the city that's the way he talked. And so you know you would think he's a tough guy but real nice guy.
00:20:28.000
00:20:28.000
SM
And let's see, well then eventually I think the school board demanded that we go to school. So when you're 12 and 10 years old and not going to school you're not really thinking about the future or anything like that but anyway we had to go to school but the school was in the town of Petersfield which was about three miles from about where we lived. We had to walk down highway nine and during the winter when you have these North winds blowing it was very cold. Anyway we went there and I because I started part way through the program you know this is the part of school I didn't start from the beginning and they had Shakespeare, Midsummer night's dream I didn't know anything about Shakespeare because I hadn't taken anything. And KI remember getting my marks and I had a six laughs which is better than zero I guess. Anyway so, you know I think I went to school there in grade, I guess it was grade ... I think it was grade seven or eight or something because we were there from 1942 to ... well till the war ended. And in 1945 I think it was. Well and during the time we were there you had the government had the commissioner operate out of Winnipeg and every Japanese couldn't leave the municipality you know if we lived in Petersfield well if you wanted to move to another municipality you had to get written permission to go. Which is kind of impractical because when you are getting some hay and things you're in one municipality to another or so I don't think we ever got that permission because it was kind silly. I don't think and one night the Shaulks took us to Winnipeg beach you know at the time they had a board walk and Ferris wheel and things like that so we went there but I don't think we got permission from the reclamation we just went the.. So we stayed up until the war ended, during that time you know I was 12 years old and so let's see, now I'm 13 or whatever it was and I didn't have a driver's license but the farmer had no model crank which you had to crank but we had to go from one field to another. I didn't have a driver's license but my dad would crank the motel T and get us started and I'd drive it you know part down the highway nine and then down mud roads and so you know when you're on that time there's a lot of things to do like my mother made ... we picked berries like chokecherries, and cranberries and gooseberries and made jellies. And you know the cranberry made some wonderful Jellies. I know so we then we I think around you know the around the Petersfield we liked Petersfield in a way but it was, it was uh because we got to know the people. We didn't communicate too much but each one was fine. Like if you like if you like Netley Creek ran through Petersfield and one may not know but where that creek starts is it started in the property of a farm we called Palmers. There was a spring there, natural spring that ooze out of the water so it eventually flowed down, down the creek and form Netley Creek which the highway nine goes over.
00:26:40.000
00:26:40.000
SM
Goes over. And uh you know that water was pure cold water. Now eventually we, 1945 it was time because the war was over and things changed a bit. So we moved to Selkirk, very close to the mental hospital of the time there. We rented a small home from the chap named Shed who owned this house which was on Manitoba Avenue in Selkirk. And there you know that it was a house because in those days 1945 we had a wooden stove in the living room, to heat the home and we had all these kitchen stove which you had to put either coal or wood in to cook. Still the outside was, so there you have to cut the wood or cord for the stove. And we went to school I started I think ... 45 ... I think that I started in grade eight I think it was grade eight in the central school there. And then eventually went out to Selkirk collegiate. My brothers and sisters were ahead of me in class because they were old. Well my sister actually was one of the smarter students at the college and they were other girls who were very smart too, they were there for you know her friends. But the principle was not exactly you know he favored the other students. Liked the marks they would get. She would get good marks but not as good as the other you know smart kids. So but that being what it was and then my brothers started going to what the heck ... oh yeah at the time my dad was uh ...travelling from Winnipeg I mean Selkirk to Winnipeg to work.
00:30:28.000
00:30:28.000
SM
And uh we stayed there for a couple of years, I'm not quite sure of I gotta look up the dates. I'm just talking here so I'm just kinda guessing but it's close enough that Selkirk but we then we had a baseball team you know I was the youngest I was 15 at the time and my brother was he was four years old. So we played on the baseball team. And uh we had a coach there called Crutchy Morrison. And we competed you know some of the teams we had, some of them were good hockey players like Paul Mee ... Paul Meager he played junior hockey in Barrie, Ontario and then eventually made it to the Montreal Canadians and there were other players that played in the Pacific coast league you know hockey so forth and uh and we competed against the team in Winnipeg. And well we didn't obviously win the pan am but we you know I played a little bit of hockey there, tried playing goal and so forth but I didn't have all the proper equipment. But I wasn't really that interested in playing hockey at the time so I went up to grade nine in Selkirk and you know took Latin and all that sort of thing. Which Latin didn't really interest me, and it so I finished grade nine there and then we moved to Winnipeg. I think our first place we lived we lived in the upstairs of a home in college avenue which was close to the Catholic where we had folklorama that St. Joseph so there. And we stayed there for a while and I think from there we moved to Harriot Street just South of William. And then from there we moved to a little bigger place on Ailkens just off of Dufferin. And bought, then I was going to school at Daniel Mac, which you know you have to walk over the bridge at the time it was called Salter bridge and since that time it was called Slawrebchuk. And walk over the bridge during the winter and you know that was a long walk up to Daniel Mac and I so I went there grade 10 and 11. And well I was not a brilliant student, like my younger brother didn't study at all but he was very very bright. I wasn't bad. So never saw him study but anyways we after graduating from Daniel Mac in grade 11, that summer we moved from Ailkens to Albertson which was half a block away from Daniel Mac. So you know it was just you can just wake up, sleep in then get to school so that was it. I finished grade 11 and then it was and then I took some art lessons at night school.
00:35:50.000
00:35:50.000
SM
And I got a job at a place called Wiggans systems which is a direct mail house. And there I started for a for 14 dollars and 15 cents a month. And then you know I was doing a little bit of drawing things and things like that. Paystubs and then my next raise came to 17.50 and the next one was 22.50 and so forth and eventually Wiggans we moved to and then he became we move to Water Street. Where that would be actually where you know where the Goldeyes play baseball? You get Water Street and that? There was a low one storey building there, and it's not longer there but there. So I was at there I was at Wiggans system for a total about seven years and then then there was a friend of mine who worked for another he used to I worked for him at Wiggans system naturally and he also changed his career and he was the art director at the became art director of Cofeel Brown at the advertising agency. So he asked me to come work for them so after seven years I left Wiggans and went to Cofeel Brown's there for uh I don't know how long I was there probably anywhere from five, six, seven years. And then from there I was making 325 dollars a month and then you know I met my wife and so forth and we got married. 325 today doesn't go very far, but anyway at that time everything is kind relative your cost of living was a little bit lower. And then it was time to move on again, then I went to because there was a company called Gibson Swenson and they offered me I think it was 500 dollars a month so I said “oh wow” so that's where I went. Stayed there you know because there we moved the business moved to Portage East and so forth.
00:39:32.000
00:39:32.000
SM
And because at the time there was Gibson Swenson and another chap came in. He was the one he was advertising AGG type of guy which eventually to make a long story short became Foster advertising too and Gibson Swenson kind of migrated and it eventually just became Foster advertising. And then you know the office moved around Donald Street and eventually to Osborne street right by the Red Cross. Osborne and Broadway there. So worked there for about seven years or so, at Foster I was there for about 30 some odd years. And that's and Foster yeah Foster because the advertising agency there were a lot of changes in the bigger companies were buying the smaller companies but Foster was based you know their head office in Toronto. But the other agency you know bought Foster and so forth and a lot of changes took place. Then I eventually the same, I took a package to retire through my, pensions and things like that. And then I retired from Foster and then I had to do something and then Jake Marks here took, he started the business Foster Marks and started his own business up on Smith Street. So he asked me so I worked part time I think I worked three days a week, on a part time basis. And after I think I was with him for a couple of years but then I retired completely so ... From there my you know the grand kids are all growing up now and I'm retired and since that I've been doing actually nothing but every day just goes by like that it's busy doing something. It's so you know all my, so life I got no complaints with life you know you have the usual problems that you face just like anyone else. You know all my grandkids are all growing up, you know I have a daughter in Victoria, my oldest one now my grandkids out there are now ... Jason is oh he's going onto 33 I think yup. And now he was and he's doing very well, he graduated got his CA degree in.. he worked for Price Waterhouse in Vancouver and so forth then they went to New York on Wall Street and he qas there for two years. When he went there he just wanted to get some experience but New York it's a 24 hour city and everything is so expensive. He was at the Greenwich Village close to there and his rent was I think he only had about 500 square feet on the fourth floor. No elevator, no air-conditioning, had to walk up four flights and he's paying about 2200 a month.
00:45:09.000
00:45:09.000
SM
What and to get that apartment he had to pay more for whatever, something of a fees and all these kind of things so he stayed there for two two years. Now he had enough of New York at the time for now. He got some experience and then he's back in Vancouver with Methanides the big gas company. So you know they're a worldwide company so he's doing fine. He bought a condo in Vancouver which the price is you know it's probably one of the most expensive in real estate at least in Canada and and then then my Shaun the second one he does his own thing on the internet. Oh he initially he wrote a book on teenage body building and published it and what not in the book form but the internet so people can buy it so he sold that and so forth. Then he got into health foods and things that didn't go very well but uh ... but he could be as long as one has a ipad or a laptop he can do his business from all over the world. So he spent oh he just came back form ... he went to Australia to Melbourne. He didn't know, but one day he was walking down the street and a couple of guys there and because he had his picture in what he does is on this sort of thing they noticed and he was just stunned that you know from the other side of the world that somebody would notice him. So he was there for three months, he just wanted something away from home just to see how things go. So he had enough of Melbourne at the time, he came back. Oh this is just recently oh he came back and then he went with my other grandson, my grandson here had to Thailand. They both spent three weeks out there but you know that seems like he's spending a lot of money not doing but he takes his laptop and he's so he can do his business do part time work. Doesn't matter where he is. Maybe I'm going along too much.
EY
I do have a couple questions. And we're already on the topic of family but maybe going back, were your parents originally born in Canada ...
SM
No ...
EY
Maybe talk about that a bit.
SM
No they were born in Japan, my dad come from Chushoo and a place called Kumomoto and my mother comes from the same prefecture. Boy he was in Canada working he came to Canada, he was working then he went back to Japan to get married. And my mother at the time was only 16, they got married and came to BC British Columbia and lived in Whiterock, BC. So uh and they well ... and well they're from Whiterock and then initially we ended up in the lumber mill from Hillcrest, right in there. So, and then the war broke out and so forth. So ...
00:50:35.000
00:50:35.000
EY
Can you describe your family home in ... on Vancouver island?
SM
On Vancouver Island, they were actually not a home build like today you know today you have all these insulations and fancy furniture and everything else right? But those homes are not, because it was almost like a temporary home in a way because you slopped together wood and foundation and stuff and boards and there was no insulation on the walls. You put up all these boards you know two by four studs and some of the inside would be open because in British Columbia it's not as bad as Winnipeg right. Winnipeg if you don't have if you have just no insulation you're going to freeze to death. But basically those homes were just banged together, you know you had a roof and some siding on it, but nothing fancy inside. And you know there were no basements and so forth, and uh the homes were nothing fancy every home was like that because you got the lumber from the company and so forth.
EY
Where did you attend school on the island?
SM
Well there was a school ... when we first started our like our first language was Japanese right? There was a small school called Mount Premont school. Which contained from grade one to I think grade I forgot what grade grade nine I guess. Because it was basically a one room school because there weren't that many kids so in the school there were east Indian kids, Japanese, all mixes of you know who ever lived there. And I could remember my first teacher her name was miss Clegg. She taught the older grades and there was another teacher named Mr. Yard who taught up to grade nine I guess it was and you know from there you just had to go to Duncan for further education. Yeah, so I I think I was what did I go up to, I was still in that Mount Premont school till the war broke out.
EY
Did you attend Japanese language school?
SM
Uhhh, yeah! At the when we were going to school you know after, school would be finished around I guess we'll call about four o clock we would. After we got home we went to Japanese school in another you know we had a kinda another building a hall, where people could gather for different occasions and that's where the Japanese they taught Japanese from one to seven or whatever it was. So I went up to grade four, you know but today you know like I can hardly remember how to write the alphabet, Katagana, you know I gotta think. Because if you don't use the language for such a long time it's just kind forget but you once you start talking it's kinda comes back to you but you wonder what the heck was it you gotta think and basically if I was to talk to someone from Japan here, I would be very reluctant to tell 'em you know. So my Japanese or I guess for that matter for anyone who speaks and is here and not using the language probably would be in there same situation. But my my younger brother, amazing how he's learned on his own. Because he was with the board of grain commissioner and working on all these different grain and he had to deal with the people in Japan so he was kinda self-taught. I don't know if he's still, I guess he can still do it but it's uh not me. Yeah.
00:56:31.000
00:56:31.000
EY
Did you have any non-Japanese Canadian friends when you were going to school on the island?
SM
In where in Winnipeg?
EY
No before you left, Vancouver Island?
SM
Oh we had bunch of friends, well we were only 10 and 11 but since we left there I had no particular contact you know initially many years ago we saw some friends but since then you know it's I've had no contact with them.
EY
When I interviewed your sister she mentioned the Dickson family that lived near you on Vancouver Island ...
SM
Who's that?
EY
Adam Dickson, your father's friend. Do you remember anything about the family?
SM
Dickson? Did I say Dickson?
EY
No your sister had mentioned it in an interview.
SM
Oh! Dickson, Dickson ...I wonder who that was because the families we knew in in Hillcrest was one street. I think the Hewitts and I just can't remember the name Dickson I guess she would ... ... because you know at Hillcrest there was one street there were the school was and a way Main Street were all these people like ... I can't I can't, Treyer I think one of them was Treyer on the corner and so forth but I can't remember the name ...
EY
Can you describe whether you were aware of racism when you were small and in school back on Vancouver Island?
SM
Ah, no because we didn't ... because we were in a small community where we rarely go out right? I mean we'd go outside of Hillcrest and Duncan and a little bit on the island. We didn't have much communication with the other people there or others but I can't you know when you when you're adult and worked on a job you can probably notice all that but when you're this big and not really into the community I can't I can't remember being you know the only time I I remember well after we moved to Winnipeg. Or after this is after the war was over and when we were going to school in Selkirk.
01:00:18.000
01:00:18.000
SM
And I couldn't remember one kid, called me a Jap and that strangely enough he was an aboriginal laughs. But that was the only time and after that it was fine everything was because a lot of them actually you know don't know being called Jap they don't know if it's a bad word or not because it's just like calling a Chinese Chink and aboriginals red skin and you know it's kind of same thing right? Because I think to a Japanese when you're called J A P it's very ... you feel it. You can ask anyone but that doesn't happen anymore right unless people really don't know what the heck it means and their just, I can remember I think the most recent incident is the member of parliament you know the what's his name he was in the elected he was the PC member for ... he was a quadriplegic he used that word and I think he apologized but I think Art Miki and they were a little upset. So I think since that time I think it he apologized and ...
EY
Going back to your life on Vancouver Island and the time when you had to leave, were there any individuals specifically that you remember? Whether they were family or neighbors, do you remember missing any of those individuals when you were forced to leave?
SM
Well we left I mean we had family I can remember all the different families, but you know all I can say is you know like everything was in a panic right? Things were going to happen and so forth because we were the first ones to leave and we just said goodbye and left so you know I can I know the families that were there but but other than that you know you say goodbye and left and then most almost all of them I haven't seen them since. Oh today they won't be alive.
EY
When you were in the process of leaving, were there any items that you made sure to grab to take with you? Any toys at that age, any blankets, dishes?
SM
Well ...
EY
This can be for your parents as well, if you remember them taking any items.
SM
Uh I can't remember anything that I took, but I think if I we ... my dad used to do some carpentry and I think I got some of the tools that he had. Some of the you know the old fashion drills and I think if I remember correctly he made a little table you know about this high with little about three drawers and on the side of it just like the typical Japanese carving like the fur trees you know you draw like that it was all cut out.
01:05:12.000
01:05:12.000
SM
I think, I think we brought that and we took it with us because when we were in Petersfield he had that and this farmer that we lived in was the brother of one of the and he was admiring it and he says “wow that's the best carving I've seen!”, you know it's so I don't know what happened to that its long gone but other than your own clothing and things I can't recall any special items that I grabbed.
EY
you had mentioned the old Chevrolet that you packed up when you were leaving, where did the Chevrolet go when you had to go onto the train?
SM
Yeah. I think we just left it at Mount Lehman because one of the things, because you couldn't sell it nobody would buy it ... because the people who had strawberry farms or people fisherman who had boats like my wife's parents, my wife's father had a taxi business he had a fleet of two car you know and those two taxis was just left it was never compensated for. Just like the fishing boats and the strawberry farms and so forth because I think all the fishing boats were sold in an auction and so. Other than years later when Brian Mulroney was the prime minister there was Art Miki fought really hard for the redress money right? And eventually we you know we got compensated for that. Which compared to like the people who had fishing boats and the more expensive the more money involved the compensation wasn't very much for those who had nothing like we didn't have very much so that was okay you know.
EY
Can you tell me any stories you remember of what would have happened to different people's properties when they were forced to leave?
SM
Well I don't know no I don't, what I know is what I read. You know, in the internet whatever stories that the people have said so ... I know that ... a lot of them who had that weren't happy at all but because you know like when it happened I think the government was in a panic they didn't know exactly what to do all they thought of was let's get these Japanese out of the coast line which you know let's put them hundred miles inland which was just Hope, BC that was about a hundred miles from the coast line so everybody had to be East of Hope. And that's where all of the all of these little towns like Kaslo and all those places. You know they put up shacks and you know almost like a temporary settlement in a way.
01:09:48.000
01:09:48.000
EY
Has, have your parents had your parents passed on any stories to you about how they felt during the internment?
SM
Uhhh. Well I dunno any particular stories other than the one you know what happened to everybody. I you know I'm just trying to think but I can't recall any particular things that they talked about to us, but so ... You know in retrospect respect what had happened I think everybody has learned a lesson. Today if you're to talk about all the things that happened whether it was Japanese, Germans or Syrians or whatever ... you know it's not right but in the case of Japanese, Japanese situation in a way it was kind of a blessing in disguise. Because the Japanese I think tended to be in a small community by themselves and they don't they didn't get out into the different communities to intermingle and I think a lot of them had the impression that we're going to come here make some money and then go back to Japan. And but ... having said all of that I think what had happened is like if I was still in didn't nothing happened I was still in in BC in Hillcrest I don't know what I would be. I could have been a lumberjack and that goes for I think anyone because since they moved or evacuated you know to whether it's Alberta or Winnipeg or Toronto then I think the scope widened that people you know went to university, got education, became lawyers, became accountants, became doctors. So in a way it turned out you know putting all of the grief and everything aside the final analysis I think in a way it worked out okay because I wouldn't have been here talking to you. You know I don't know what I would have been I could have been just a bum, but as it turned out I went into advertising and became art director and all of that sort of thing so. In a way you get a little mad but then you say “what the heck, let's just get on with life after, it wasn't right but”. And that goes for anything, discrimination today in Canada against the aboriginals or the coloured in the US or Syrians or whatever there's no it's not justice it's it should be you know it's gotta be a better they gotta do better then what their situation is today. So I dunno the more I think about it I don't hold any grudge, it's because I think if you compare the countries and where you wanna live I think Canada is still one of the best places to live.
01:15:01.000
01:15:01.000
SM
Because even for I'm a Japanese but I don't think I wanna live in Japan because people from Japan come over here they've had all kinda of traditions you know the army traditions that go with it. And they're happy to come over here there's a lot more freedom. And you know they'd be any country is a certain country you got all these customs that you're not always exactly you don't exactly agree with right? So I think you, I think Canada's a pretty nice place to live despite the problems that we have.
EY
Well I just have one more question. If you could pass on a message to future Canadians about your experience and about what you've learned from your life, what would that be?
SM
Well let's see, I think first I'm I haven't gathered any previous thoughts about it but I think nothing is given to you you gotta work for it. You know people often blame something or somebody else or whatever for their short comings and I think you gotta get beyond that ... and look forward to every day with some kind of a hope. It's, also I don't know I haven't thought about this and to put it into proper words but you know you I think you gotta earn what you've what your credits to be where you wanna be. So I guess I dunno if that answered your question but but I think see I don't agree with all these like look at all the watch the US elections. I mean it's a circus it's a you got Donald Trump on one end and then you have Bernie Sanders on the other so you got an extreme of complete opposites. Bernie Sanders wants to give people free education, raise taxes but you're gonna get Medicare all free and you got the end of the emissions into the atmosphere I dunno where he's gonna get all the money from you know he says raising the taxes will take care but it won't on the other hand you got Donald Trump I dunno what he is he's a business man in real estate so he doesn't have any laughs any idea of what the world situation is. I mean with him it's just bulldoze through just like a real estate cause in real estate you're only dealing with a state or city you're not dealing with the whole world and I'm afraid that if Trump gets in it's just what the world would perceive the US to be. You know “make America great again” idea, that's what you know because the Yankees generally feel everything their way you know and they're a very protective you're a protectionist. You know even with dealing with Canada, it's you got the soft wood industry well that we're gonna put a deal on it or beef or grain or anything else if it's not favoring them they want to change it right. So I dunno it's kinda ...
EY
Well that was great, thank you for allowing us to interview you.
SM
Well I don't know, I hope I put something that some information.
EY
Of course, well thank you.
01:20:34.000

Metadata

Title

Sam Matsuo, interviewed by Erin Yaremko, 11 February 2016

Abstract

Sam begins the interview describing his earliest childhood memories of growing up during the Great Depression. He speaks about how his family reacted to the outbreak of the war as well as the various neighbours and close friends that they missed. He tries to remember what happened to the Chevrolet that his family used to leave the community after the war began. Sam then moves on to recall his experiences of racism in school as a child and also reflects on any stories that his parents might have told him about their experience in the internment camps. Sam concludes the interview with a message to future Canadians.

Credits

Interviewer: Erin Yaremko
Interviewee: Sam Matsuo
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: MJCCC, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Keywords: Japanese; Canadian; Ancestry; Japan ; Tokyo ; British Columbia ; Canada ; Steveston ; Cannery; Fishing; Secretary; Work; Racism; 1900-2015

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.