Kate Nightingale, interviewed by Rebeca Salas, 21 May 2016

Kate Nightingale, interviewed by Rebeca Salas, 21 May 2016

Abstract
Kate Nightinglae, describes the connection between two families: Her father’s family (MacPhail) and the Yatabe family before, after and during the war. The families were neighbours at the corner of 12th and Yew, near Arbutus, Vancouver, BC. She explains how she learned about the history and friendship of the two families through a photo, which was gifted by the Yatabe family to the MacPhail family during the uprooting of Japanese Canadians during WWII. She explains that she reunited the photo (painting) with the Yatabe family (Min Yatabe) in 2011. Kate gives many opinions about why the history of Japanese Canadians is important and wishes she had asked her family more questions about it when was younger. Many times Kate talks about how we are all interconnected in life.
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Rebeca Salas (RS)
Okay, this is Rebeca Salas from Landscapes of Injustice. I'm here with Kate Nightingale in Pitt Meadows on May 21, 2016. Alright. So, why don't we start with the earliest point of this family history?
Kate Nightingale (KN)
Okay. So, I'm Kathleen Nightingale. My maiden name was 'MacPhail.' My father and his family lived on Twelfth near Arbutus, Twelfth and Yew I believe, next door to the Yatabe family. And my earliest memory of this family, actually, is through a picture that was hanging on my grandparent's wall. When I was very, very young – maybe two, three – and I'd be playing on the floor, there was this picture on the wall and it was kind of spooky looking to me and really old-fashioned. I thought maybe it was a picture of the old country – Scotland – where my family was from, and I asked my grandmother about it and she said, “No, it belonged to a family that had lived next door named the Yatabes.” Anyway, so that was my earliest memory of the Yatabe family. And as I got older I learned more about them, and my dad actually was lifelong friends with Tom Yatabe and he was, I believe, a physicist working up in the Uranium City, Saskatchewan. He came to visit us and go to the Seattle World's Fair in 1961 and brought me a charm bracelet back. So, that was my first Yatabe that I met, and actually it was my the only one until fairly recently. Tom passed away a few years ago, but my dad and mom used to drive to Georgia, where he was a physicist down – I don't know, somewhere in Georgia, I can't remember where. They stayed in touch right until Tom died of leukemia and then my dad passed away in 2004. But anyway, to make a long story short. The picture! My dad passed away and cleaning out his house, that picture was sitting on their wall, in their living room, and I thought about it and thought about it, I took it home and put it on my wall, and one of my friends actually told me to just dump it. But, I didn't know what to do with it and I wondered if Tom's family might want it, and I actually went through my dad's stuff and found an address in Georgia and I wrote to Tom's widow and said, “I have a picture that was from the Yatabe's home before it was expropriated in 1941 by the government, and I think it needs to go back to the Yatabe's if they want it. I think it needs to find its way back.” And she didn't want it. She said, “There's an older brother named Min living in Toronto” and sent me his address, so Laughs. I wrote to him and I sent him a picture of the picture! And, a few months later I got a reply, “Yes, we've talked about it and we want the picture back.” So, I bubbled it up and I mailed it to them that Christmas, and, sadly enough, Joanne Yatabe – I don't know what her married name was – had just passed away from pancreatic cancer and it was her mostly that wanted the picture, and she had just passed away. So, it didn't get there quite in time for her to see it again, but Min, Min has it. Anyway, so we reconnected and Min actually, and his wife, came and stayed with me a couple years ago for the Diamond Jubilee, 2012. I picked them up at the via-rail station in Vancouver and we went right to the graveyard on Fraser and Thirty-third to visit. It was his first order of business was to visit his father's resting place, because his dad had died in 1938 or '39, and when the events of WWII happened, the mother and her kids had twenty-four hours to pack up. One suitcase they had to go to the PNE, and they were herded off to, I believe, New Denver or somewhere in the Kootenays, and Min told me, “Well, at least we were really lucky we didn't get sent out to the road camps”. I'm not sure what this is - if they were hard labour or what it was – I never found that out.
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KN
Um, and then their family, after the war, they headed east, they never came back here. My father, what he remembered of the Yatabes was old Mr. Yatabe, who passed away in '38 or '39, had worked on building the Nitobe Garden at UBC. Everybody's favourite place, right? He was a landscape gardener and had his own business but helped with that garden in UBC, and he'd come in from work and his wife would soap him down and then he'd sit in the tub and she'd scrub him. My dad thought that was really funny, because my dad was just a kid at the time, and every night, that man sat in his hot tub while his wife scrubbed him and scraped him and cut his nails and laughs washed his hair laughs. Yeah, so my dad thought that was really, really great, but yeah of course, 'My mom didn't do that', so. Everybody in the MacPhail family, I remember, was really, really upset about the events that happened. Hence, the picture always had a place on honour on their wall.
RS
So the MacPhail family is your family gestures to expand on topic. KATE My family. It was my grandmother and grandfather, Mary and Neil MacPhail. My father was Colin MacPhail, the oldest of their kids, and he was friends with Tom Yatabe right until the end of their lives so, yeah. Lifelong friends. Meeting Min was amazing. Min and Lydia Yatabe. It was great and having them at the house was an honour. I went to a Remembrance Day ceremony - the Japanese Memorial in Stanley Park – with them and then a lunch after, and it was great to be with the family that knew my family so many years ago.
RS
Who all attended that ceremony? KATE The ceremony? There was my aunt and uncle. My Uncle Donald, my Aunt Beverly, who were my dad's younger siblings, were there along with me. So, the three of us MacPhails went to that and then we had dinner later and they were able to reconnect a little bit. Min had some old photographs of my grandparents. He returned them to my aunt and uncle and so I got to see what my grandparents looked like when they were really young, and also my aunt had a picture – a plate – painted by Joanne Yatabe when she was a girl, and that got returned to Joanne's daughter in Sarasota, Florida, and I'm in contact with her, also, at Christmas time. I've never met her. Maybe someday. The mother, their mother, old Mrs. Yatabe, the Yatabe children's mom, she died in, unfortunately, in a fire, in I believe the early '80s in Toronto.
RS
So, on this property, the children were friends with each other? KATE Yes. Yeah!
RS
What was that, sort of, dynamic like?
KN
They came in and went out of each other's house like you did in those days. My Aunt Bev was friends with Joanne Yatabe, my dad was friends with Tom. Min really, really - sounds like he had a crush on, like another relative of the MacPhail's that lived there was quite beautiful, a red-head. I understand – I don't know if I'm allowed to say this – but, they think she was a madame later on in life downtown laughs. But one of the first things Min said to me was, “What ever happened to your Aunt Helen?”, he goes laughs, “She's beautiful!”
RS
Recently?
KN
Yeah! When I met him. “She was beautiful red-head,” he says, “everybody really liked her.” And, I wasn't sure, so I asked my uncle. He goes, “Well, she became on to become a madame,” but I don't know what happened to her, I didn't dig any further, I was kind of shocked laughs. Yeah, but the families came and went and Joanne Yatabe was very artistic, I understand, and that's why I'm hoping my aunt and uncle can talk to you about the daily comings and goings. I really wish my dad was around because you'd love to talk to him too. I wish I'd asked more questions when I was younger. I was always, sort of, very general in my questioning, I didn't, in those days you didn't question adults so closely because it was like you were being a busy body.
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KN
I really wish that I had kind of pushed and found out more about what they did. I know the Yatabes went to Kitsilano High School with my dad and the rest of them. My grandparents went there too, my grandmother for sure, because I saw her picture on the wall. They all went to Kits High and then the war came and then they got the 'Get out of town' thing.
RS
So, later in time now that you're sort of asking questions and you've, you know, looked into this history and this event...did you ever ask your aunt or uncle about what that day was like? Do they remember much about that day?
KN
Well, you know, I don't see my aunt and uncle very much because the MacPhail family, was unfortunately, wasn't a family that stayed close. I was really close with my mother's family and her relatives and I still see my cousins, I see my relatives on my mom's side all the time. With my dad's family, after my grandpa died in 1967, the family disintegrated. It became a wedding and funeral family, unfortunately. Really unfortunately. Because, they're not bad people, my grandmother just didn't keep everybody together, and so I don't see them. Yeah, the last time I saw them was when the Yatabes visited. But, I thought it was important that I give you their names because they can remember, hopefully – because they're in their eighties now – the day-to-day routine. We – Min and Lydia and I – did drive by Twelfth and Yew. The houses have long gone. Which is also unfortunate because the house my dad born in, next door to the Yatabes, was the first cabin built west of Arbutus. And, one of the Scottish relatives that had come before the MacPhails came from Scotland, was a logger and that was his cabin, and then our family arrived and lived there, too. And my dad was born there and it got torn. Everything's getting torn down. So, the Yatabe's house was torn down, but I don't know when. But, we did stand on the corner where it used to be.
RS
Oh, wow. You went there?
KN
Right on the corner. It was the southeast corner of Twelfth and Yew. Yep.
RS
So, did your family describe what the neighbourhood looked like? So, was it that sort of cabin-style home mumbling...
KN
No, no. After that I know that the MacPhails owned quite a lot of property in that area, but they lost it during the '30s during The Depression. Because, I guess there was no work, so people couldn't pay the rent and they lost it to the taxes. Just the same way people lost their farms in the '30s, they couldn't pay their taxes and land was taken from them for that reason. Everybody loses their property for some reason or the other sometimes. My family lost theirs to the inability to pay the property tax, the Yatabes lost theirs for a different reason. There's almost like a parallel... of loss, really. So, everybody lost their place.
RS
Hm. So, you were mentioning that you wished you asked more questions when you were younger. Is that...it sounds like you took it upon yourself to, sort of, discover this family history and reconnect with the Yatabe family...
KN
Yeah. Yes.
RS
So, did your father and your family, they just didn't talk about it as you were growing up...or?
KN
Um... I know that my father, and I remember my grandmother, I remember their emotional reaction talking about it, and that's why I noted it. Because, it was upsetting to them, what happened. It was a terrible injustice and they conveyed it, not so much in words, but in body language and their facial expressions. You could tell it was very, very – after all those decades – it upset them still.
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KN
I know that Min Yatabe said that my grandparents, he remembered them very, very well and spoke of them well. He says, “Your grandparents were wonderful and wouldn't back down at the fact that this was wrong,” what was happening to them. So, I'm really proud that my grandparents were choosing the right to stand up against the common reaction to anyone who wasn't white in those days. They stood up and said, “No, what's happening is wrong,” and you know, “these are our neighbours, our friends, and, they're Canadians.” laughs. They were Canadians! They didn't even speak Japanese laughs. Min said that he got sent overseas after the war, for some kind of - he was in the army, right? He joined as soon as he could, as soon as he was allowed to - got sent there, along with the other Japanese guys, kids, young guys, and they couldn't even speak Japanese! They were sent over there to spy in some form, or do something. That's how Canadian they were. They spoke as much Japanese as I do, which is, like, about five words. So laughs, the irony of it, eh!
RS
So, they went to school together. So, I'm assuming the Yatabe family, at least the kids at the time, they were born in Canada?
KN
Yeah. Min and his older brother – whose name I can't remember now – were at UBC studying engineering. I believe Tom would have been still in high school, along with my dad. Joanne was a little younger and there was another sister in there, but I don't know where she fits in the birth order, and I know she's also passed way, I think, now. She was, I think she had a form of dementia. She either had just passed away or was getting ready to when I saw the Yatabes. And I don't know what her name is, either. Because, don't forget, I only knew of Tom. I didn't really know anything about the rest of them until I started with this picture stuff. But, I have a picture of Tom. I'm going to send you a copy of it. I've got a letter sent to my father, that for some reason my dad kept it, and then I kept it, too. I can also get you Tom's widow's address, if you want it, if you need more information on what he might have told his wife all those years ago. But yeah, all of them ended up in Ontario, so...
RS
That's where the family went.
KN
Yeah, they never came back to the coast.
RS
Did you ever find out what happened to the property? Did it just go to another family... or?
KN
You know what, I'm not sure. I would love to go, actually, to the Vancouver Museum and go through their archives and find out.
RS
So, when you reunited with them in the Stanley Park ceremony there, they never, they didn't talk about what happened to their property knew – you never sort of exchanged that...
KN
I never thought about asking that. Because that, I think I would have been scared to ask that anyway. Because to me, even a generation after all of that happened, I'm horrified by it to this day, that that could have possibly have happened. I wouldn't have wanted to say, “So, what ever happened to your house?” laughs.
RS
No, of course!
KN
But, I really would like to know! Yeah, good question. Yeah, I don't know if they had a big yard sale of properties. Even the airport in Pitt Meadows, here, that was an orchard, according to the McMyns.
RS
Right.
KN
I don't know who got the land that they took. I mean, imagine how much of it that they got, and all the belongings. Yeah. Twenty-four hours, they had. To pack one bag. A mother, a widow. A widow and her kids. Yeah. And I didn't find out what life was like for him in the internment camp. The only time I've seen those, is, actually I took a bus to Reno once. I saw - they still have them in Northern California – they said, “oh these are, we're passing the internment camps where the Japanese were sent during the war” – and they were just long, chicken barns, almost. They were awful. But, they were still standing. I have no idea if there's anything left of the ones in the Kootenays. I think they might have used them for Doukhobors in the '60s, actually, I think. If I remember right.
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RS
They went to - the Yatabes - they went to Playland, where Playland is now, like the PNE, sort of the Hastings Park, area. That's where they went?
KN
Yeah. And then, I don't know, I guess they got put on to a train or, I know that that's where they went and then they were sent east.
RS
They stayed in Ontario.
KN
Yeah, yeah. And they never came back.
RS
So you mentioned that – you were talking about Pitt Meadows, which was a site of, you know, property loss as well – that you know a little bit about the history here. So, you were talking about the Pitt Meadows airport actually used to be a Japanese-Canadian-owned orchard, is that correct?
KN
Yes. Yeah, according to the McMyns, you know, there's a road named after them, too. Yeah he said that was...yeah. And then, down Advent Road, I believe it's the Mormon Church of Latterday Saints Church, it used to be a Buddhist, according to him.
RS
A Buddhist Temple?
KN
Yeah, yeah. So, to have temples here and in Maple Ridge, there would have had to have been a substantial population. I wish I knew what other properties they might have owned, but then again, maybe the McMyns can tell you more – and Leslie Norman. But for the Yatabes, I wish I had more to tell you, um...I would love to go back in time with the brain I have now, so I could properly find, you know, investigate these matters. But, I kind of treasure the memory of, I kind of remember becoming aware of that picture on the wall, I would have only been a baby, really. That...I wonder why I kept staring at it, I was drawn to it, almost. Most usually, kids don't look at that stuff, at least mine didn't. And I just couldn't stop looking at it. There was something, I think maybe now the vibe on it, I don't know. And asking my grandmother about it, too, so...
RS
So, sorry, how old were you when you, sort of, I guess inquired into what the picture was all about?
KN
When I was two years old, my mom had my brother and I was sent to stay with my grandparents, and I believe it was then, so I would have been two.
RS
Wow.
KN
Yeah, like really, really young. I would have been on the floor playing with something, and looking up and just looking at it, looking at it, and always looking at it. And I asked my grandmother, I wanted to know if it was Scotland because it was a gloomy picture. It really wasn't a nice picture laughs, but there it was on the wall. I think that's probably why it intrigued me, because it was almost out of place in their house. Like an odd thing. But there was something about it that was spooky to me. It really was. I remember how I felt. And I remember really clearly, that day. So...I'm lucky, I remember way back. I remember being in a crib, right? I'm just lucky to have a memory that goes back a long way. So, I can remember some odd, funny things. And that's one of them.
RS
Were there any special stories about this, you know, story of property? You know, 'Back in Vancouver...' Were there any special stories that came up through the family at all? Or...I know your uncle was, he was talking about which kids used to play with each other, and I think that's something that he remembers.
KN
Yeah, I wonder who he played with. Because the birth order in our family was this: My father, Colin, was born in 1930; and then my Aunt Beverly, was born, I believe, in 1933; my Uncle John Donald MacPhail was born in '34; and then there was another son, Neil, born, I think, around 1940, and he's passed away also, now, so he wouldn't remember anyway, that one. So, however, my dad was friends with Tom, Min and his brother were older, Joanne played with Beverly. I don't know who would have been playing with my Uncle Donald laughs.
RS
I believe, he was mentioning, that he remembers the girls were playing with the girls and the boys were playing with the boys.
KN
Yeah, they probably all just played together. And there's Min, remembering an aunt with red hair who came from the old country also, that became a madame. So, yeah, I'd kind of like to know that part of it. They didn't talk about - it's funny how in those days they didn't talk about, they didn't story tell - they didn't say, “Oh, when I was young blah blah blah,” like we do.
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KN
They just didn't do it in those days. I've heard other people in my generation say that about their parents, too. They just didn't talk about life experiences or places, places they'd lived or thing they remembered. They just didn't do that.
RS
It seems very important to you, though.
KN
It is. I tell my kids everything. My impressions. I tell them a lot because I don't want them to have the big blanks like I do. And this is a good example of it. That was part of our history, and nobody, the gory details have vanished. And they shouldn't. I know it was important for my family to remember that, what happened, I don't think they knew that to do with it. And they, it was uncomfortable, so they didn't talk about it. But, they didn't let it vanish completely. That picture always hung on a wall. It hung on a wall in Vancouver, then White Rock, then at my parent's home at Dunbar and Thirty-third, and then it went to Fanny Bay, and then it came to Pitt Meadows. So, it's hung on five walls. Always. It didn't get shoved away somewhere. So, I think, I give my family credit for that. Because, it meant something to them, it meant something to me. Otherwise, it would have been just another old, ugly old picture and I might have tossed it. So, they got it back because my family cared about it and they cared about what happened. And I'm also really proud that my dad and Tom stayed in touch their whole life. Yeah, my dad went to Georgia and he came to Fanny bay. Yeah...and they were two, sort of - they looked old to me then, they would've been younger than I am now - they just looked like a couple of old geezers and I thought, “Look at these old guys hanging out together still” laughs, and now I'm probably ten years older than they were, the last time they saw each other laughs!
RS
Laughs Life's funny like that, hey?
KN
It is. Yeah, but I was always glad, I think it's always nice when people have a lifelong friend. It's important to have that. But, I wish I could have more to tell you, and that's all that I have to tell you about it.
RS
It must have been very moving for you, though, to... I mean, you were saying, when the families were reunited and you had dinner and that kind of stuff... what did that feel like to...?
KN
It was awesome. It was, first of all, nice for me to be with my aunt and uncle, not at a wedding or a funeral laughs. Like a social thing. It was nice to be with a man who had known my grandparents in the '20s and '30s and '40s, like, almost a hundred years ago, and who also spoke well of them. Yeah, it was really great, I'll never forget it. Yeah, we had dinner and it was fun, and I got some juicy family history, myself.
RS
laughs
KN
I'll have to sit down with him before he starts forgetting everything, write it down also for my kids. But, you know, my kids aren't interested, but when they're my age they will be. You don't get interested in that stuff until you're older and you become sentimental.
RS
Mhm, mhm.
KN
Yeah, it's too bad someone like you hadn't connected with a project like this thirty years ago, when there was more people around that had the stories. But, it's better late than never.
RS
I agree.
KN
And it was really, really an honour to go and see the resting place of Min's father in Vancouver at the graveyard. There was a Japanese section with Buddhist monuments around and that. So, yeah it was great to go there and see that.
RS
Do you find you're learning more about the Japanese Canadian community now through, you know, this history – really, it's a history of two families – your family and the Yatabe family?
KN
Yeah!
RS
Now you're learning more, it sounds like! What sort of learning of, obviously about the community in Pitt Meadows and also in Vancouver, did you learn much about? Other than the exact properties of your family and the Yatabe family...did you learn much about what the neighbourhood was like and what the communities were like?
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KN
Yeah. Well, you know, before my dad passed away, I did. He used to come over...my dad was a bit of a hermit, he became hermit-like after my mom passed away. But, he would come to my house, like for, at first it was twelve hours for Christmas. He'd come Christmas Eve and leave Christmas morning. And then every year, he'd kind of come for a few hours longer laughs, and so I got talking to him before he died, and I was trying to get more out of him about the neighbourhood. And they lived across from Cannought Park and Kitsilano High School. And he said, “You know, that in the flu epidemic,” I believe in 1918 and 1919, “there's people buried in the park...that's where they dumped all the flu bodies of the influenza victims.” Yeah, that's a resting place. I don't know if they dug them up later and interred them properly, but my dad said they were buried there in Cannought Park in Kistilano. And I did go digging to try to find out more about that. I can't find any information, it's just what my dad told me.
RS
Hm. So you didn't know what kinds of people... he didn't know what kind of people or ethnic groups were there?
KN
Well, I know my grandpa's sister was only eighteen, and it took the young ones, right? And she was one of them. I don't know if she got buried in Cannought Park or she got a proper resting place. Probably she did. They probably would have buried her properly, probably on Fraser and Thirty-third. That was the city cemetery, until they ran out of room and they built other cemeteries around the Lower Mainland, and then they started cremating, too. But, there might be bodies buried in Cannought Park across from where the Yatabes lived laughs!
RS
Wow.
KN
Yeah! If you got to the Vancouver Museum, try to find out more about the flu epidemic and see who's under there. And if they're still there. I think it's worth knowing, things like that. I mean it's another place. The kids play football there! I mean who would know...I mean that's sort of creepy. And there's no markers. But, I don't know if it was temporary. I can't see them laying people in there and going and digging them up later. You know what I mean? But, I don't think my grandpa's sister would be there, and I don't know who or how many.
RS
Hm, hm. I think that it kind of comes back to your point about why it's important to remember and, sort of, talk about these things, because the landscapes changes. We were talking about this earlier, in saying, like you were talking about in Pitt Meadows and how the landscape has really changed. And how in Maple Ridge there used to be temples and orchards and that kind of thing. In your, sort of, sleuthing laughs, is there anything else you found it about the community?
KN
Yeah, some juicy stuff? No, I have a, I did buy a book called The History of Pitt Meadows, that was written by Edith McDermott!
RS
Of the elementary school?
KN
Of the school. It was named after her. She painstakingly – I should have brought it for you – she painstakingly, over the years, compiled a history of Pitt Meadows and I was just looking at the stupid thing in my bookshelf. And I should have brought it with me and let you have a look at it. But, you know what Leslie Norman probably has copies for sale. It would be worth it for you to have one.
RS
Hm. Did you notice if there was anything about the Japanese Canadian community in there at all?
KN
No, because I haven't opened that, like, I bought twenty years ago. I went through it then because I was interested in the community, but actually I should have grabbed and taken a look to see if there was anything in there about the Japanese. If there isn't it should be, and I don't know why, Edith McDermott, she put all that energy into the history of Pitt Meadows, why she wouldn't mention the events of the war, because it certainly should be in there. But those guys at Big Valley, hopefully they can tell you even more about the actual things here.
RS
The McMyns.
KN
The McMyns.
RS
The McMyn family of the orchard.
KN
Yeah! Because he was the one that told me, when they were putting our furnace in. I started digging into him, because he's my age and you speak more freely to people your own age. But, my biggest regret is that I didn't ask more questions, and that also, I wasn't more curious when I was young. I was generally curious, not deeply like I am now. Like now, you want to know the feelings, 'how did it impact you financially, emotionally, physically?', every way you want to know, like what did you eat for breakfast back then. I wish I'd asked these questions laughs.
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RS
I think there's still some room, to ask. Talk to your aunts and uncles. They seemed to have passed some information on to you. Have you talked to them, been in touch recently about this? About the Japanese Canadian story?
KN
No, no, not at all. Not since that dinner, I haven't seen them. Yeah, I know, it's too bad the family had drifted like that. But it started as soon as my grandpa died, the family had drifted right away. He was the anchor. And that's another thing that had impressed me, the Yatabes, they stuck together. Right. Through. Life. They stuck together. And that comparison has impacted me, that they went through...I don't know, maybe they stuck together because of what they went through... maybe that kind of thing makes a family stick together. Whereas the MacPhails, everybody, kind of, had their own successes and they just kind of drifted apart because maybe they didn't feel they had to be together. And maybe, what happened through the war kept the Yatabes together to this day. That's impressive! No, no fighting, nothing. Just, they stayed together. And they migrated east together, too, so, yeah. That's quite something.
RS
So, are there any, sort of, other lingering thoughts or anything else you wanted to share today? Or anything about this family history that's been passed on to you?
KN
Well, I think the first thing that I would obviously say is let something like this never happen again. To people. To our neighbours. To other people. It doesn't matter where they're from genetically. That kind of thing, no more of that should ever happen. And you know what, we like to think that it won't happen again, I say you always have to be on your guard for mob mentalities, because you see it with the Muslim community now. I know a woman I know is Sikh, she got, she says she's been shoved off buses. So, you know what, that's in this day and age. You know, we still have to watch for that. Yeah, in '41 it was the Japanese, now, they're always after somebody, there's always someone at the bottom. Or, who we perceive to be at the bottom...homeless people...any of them, that's the lesson I've taken from this. That's the impact it's had on me and my family.
RS
Hm.
KN
Yeah, never again. My husband and I we were just talking, my husband he's just been freaked out about the rise of fascism again and how people just grab on to it. And, he says “I'm so scared of that, and we're creating, by losing our places, we're creating a vacuum for a big reaction, and it won't be a good one.” Someone will... it'll get taken out on somebody. I don't know who. But, yeah, by not keeping our places and our identity – the loss of places we've talked about – there is a vacuum created for another problem. Of some sort, like what happened to them. I think it and my husband thinks it. Maybe not in our lifetime, but it'll happen again. Something. So, I'm really glad that you're keeping this alive, too. The next generation is interested. That's important, too. And that picture, yeah... and you'll see what I mean when you see it. I'll email a copy to you.
RS
That's great.
KN
You'll kind of go, 'Ugh!' gestures uneasy facial expression, it's kind of like a dark Rembrandt-y look, right? Like, it must have been painted by somebody Dutch laughs, because it has that look about it. It's windmill, but its gloomy. Yeah, beyond gloomy, so...I mean if it scared a two-year-old, imagine...
00:40:15.000
00:40:15.000
RS
Hm. Did the Yatabe family comment on, sort of the – I'm sorry if I missed this or didn't write it down – but, about the meaning of the photo or what it was about? Or, is that still a mystery?
KN
No! They remembered it being on their parents wall. I don't think they even know where it came from. It was just on their living room wall and then it went next door to my grandparent's living room wall.
RS
Wow.
KN
Yeah! Yeah, and know what, there's nothing Japanese about it, I don't know if they got it for a wedding gift or if they picked it up at a yard sale, or where the heck it came from. I'd like to know that, that's a good question. Yeah, like, where did they get it?
RS
Yeah, and I guess maybe in the end, at least the impression that I'm getting, is that it was just a special possession of the family that had to come back to them. Just what you were talking about.
KN
It was something of theirs, because if they left with a suitcase they didn't have any stuff with them. It would have been toothbrushes and clothing, maybe a wedding photo or something. You know, you don't have room when you have twenty-four hours. And that was the other thing, I thought, you know, this might be the only thing from their parent's home that exists now. I was pretty sure that that might be the case. Even though, even though it's not a picture that either one of us would probably ever want to have, it's still all they had and yeah... who knows what they'll do with it. I'd be curious to see what their kids and grandkids do with it. Yeah.
RS
And you will have had a part in that, which is very special.
KN
Yeah for some reason that picture has been the glue between the families. I'm really glad they did that because if they hadn't done that, I would never have...I would never have met them or cared about them. I would have just heard that these were Japanese Canadians that lost their house and moved away. That's all that it would have been to me. And it means something way more now because I'm thinking back and wishing I knew more, thinking back and trying to picture where they lived, picturing kids playing together, a woman scrubbing her husband down, and picturing him in the Nitobe Gardens. A favourite place of mine, funny enough. I didn't know that until Min told me. I love going to the Nitobe Garden. And then even then, the irony of them, of him being sent to Japan laughs with army. None of them spoke Japanese anyway, it was... the ignorance was mind blowing, really laughs.
RS
Right. It was as different for them as it was for you when you went to Japan, you said.
KN
It would be like the government sending me to Scotland because my family was Gaelic speaking when they came laughs. I can remember, I think, one word of Gaelic that's stuck in my mind. I would be like them sending me to the Hebrides saying, “Okay, listen, listen carefully and see what intel you can pick up”. But gestures she is interjecting, “Oh, wait a minute, you've got to teach me Gaelic first! laughs It was the same, they had to teach him Japanese laughs. But he did blend, I guess.
RS
Right.
KN
That was the main thing. Yeah. He had a twinkle in his eye when he told me that. I mean, we did laugh about that.
RS
Oh, really?
KN
Yeah, we both thought it was really funny. Yeah. And I like being around older people, too. He was around, I think, ninety, when he was out for the 2012 ceremony. Yeah, he looked so good in his uniform.
RS
Wow.
KN
Yeah, so all...all done up. It was really nice. It has been a really good experience for me. Out of, out of all that sorrow, it's touched lives.
RS
It's an amazing story of two families.
KN
Yeah. It's simple. Not much stuff but, yeah, there's a lot of feeling in it. Isn't there?
RS
Mhm, there is.
KN
I remember when I took it to the post office and I had it all really, really well packaged up and, um, I told them the story. And they - up at the post office there in Maple Ridge up on the highway near 207th – and I quickly told them, to them, and they were, “Oh that's such a, so it's affected, this has really affected a lot of people!”, hearing this. They said, “That's so nice! That's amazing! After all these years the picture's finding its way back to them!”
00:45:21.000
00:45:21.000
RS
So you have, in terms of the mementos, you have a picture of the picture?
KN
Yes.
RS
Right?
KN
Yeah.
RS
Is it...did you have anything else? I thought you...
KN
Well, when my aunt came to meet us for dinner she brought a hand-painted plate that had been painted by Joanne Yatabe as a girl. She had given it to my grandma. And my grandma kept it in her china cabinet right until she died. So, it had a place of honour. I kind of remember the plate being in her china cabinet, but it was just all china and, and frou-frou type stuff, so I didn't care about what was in there. The picture interested me more because it had a feeling to it. But my grandma's china cabinet...I kind of remember that plate, but, no. But, it found its way to Sarasota, Florida to Joanne Yatabe's daughter and she was so happy to have something from her mom.
RS
Wow.
KN
From her mother's childhood. Yeah, and her mom and mine – Joanne Yatabe and my mom – both died of pancreatic cancer, so we had that kind of in common, too, because it's not often you meet people that have had that. I mean, it's becoming more prevalent now, but, yeah. So, we had that to talk about. We sent emails for a while, sent cards at Christmas. But I've never met her, don't even know what she looks like laughs. They're in the aerospace industry, her husband's an engineer and I think their kids are being groomed for that also. I think they have a company and their contracted to the US military, so. Oh yeah, the Yatabe's seem to be quite engineering-minded. Yeah, all of them. I think all the boys became...they went off to get their degrees in science, so.
RS
And the girls?
KN
Oh, I don't think that they went on to university or anything. I think they may have just married like the girls did in those days. But the boys all did science degrees. Which I thought...which is impressive to me. Min was a Chemical Engineer, Tom a Physicist, and I don't know...the other brother is in engineering but I don't know which branch of engineering he was in.
RS
Sounds like you learned a lot about the family, and then, maybe they learned about you as well, especially through these objects with which you guys connected through. You learned a lot about each other so that's quite amazing.
KN
Yeah, yeah! I know. And then my uncle, so he went on to UBC and became, he's a Professor Emeritus. He did a Bachelor of Arts at UBC in Russian Literature for some reason. I did get to ask him about, because knew - I didn't know what his first degree was – he's got a PhD from McGill. I said, “So, what was your first degree at UBC?”. He goes, “Well, it was in lit – you know, Bachelor of Arts in...” and I said, “English?” and he said, “No, no. Russian.” And I said, “Really?!” because actually I've got a book coming that's called Master of Margarita. I like Russian literature, also. Funny enough, like, talking about familial traits. He said, “No, why would you read miserable things in English when you can be really miserable reading the Russian stuff!”
RS
Laughs
KN
For some reason, he had an esoteric mind back in the '50s. I said, “Well how did you end up being a fish scientist? laughs And he goes, “My last year I had to take a science to get my degree.” He did some sort of fish biology and loved it and went on to get his Master's and then his PhD, and so he was a fish scientist. Ichthyologist I think they're called, or Ichthyologist. And then he came back to UBC to work as a prof until he retired. And yeah, so I got to catch up with him on some family stuff, too. I'd like to see them again and ask some more.
RS
Hm.
KN
But again, you know what, that generation, sometimes they think you're nosey when you're too pushy. It's funny how the differences in manners between the generations, right? I much prefer the openness now.
00:50:07.000
00:50:07.000
RS
We appreciate your openness, too laughs.
KN
Laughs
RS
You're sharing a lot about the history of the two families. Yeah! It's amazing.
KN
I'm so happy to have this opportunity to sit and talk and tell somebody about it that, really, is interested. Because sometimes people aren't. They're interested in a quick way, like the ladies at the post office were, but that's all. I mean, they haven't seen the picture, they don't know the people, so it's not going to mean much to them. But, I'm glad the Yatabe's family history – what we can find of it and remember of it – is going to be put down on paper and remembered. It won't set things right, but...it helps for future generations, that the story isn't forgotten. So, what you're doing is really, really important. And I thank you for being interested in it, too.
RS
Well, we thank you for sharing your story. Really appreciate it. And if you don't have anything else for today Kate gestures and mumurs 'No', we thank you and, you know, will be in touch as well.
KN
Yeah and if you do get to speak to my Uncle Donald and my Aunt Bev, I'm really interested in hearing anything more of this. You know you can always email me the copy of what the outcome is of the...I'd love to have a copy of their family history to keep with my copy of the picture. Because my kids are aware of this now and that's something I want to pass on to them. And, actually, if I'm in Vancouver in the next few weeks, I'll take a picture of the corner where they used to live, just to send it to you, just so you have it. You know, just so there's a visual of that corner, at least of what it looks like now. Like talk about loss, you know, “Well, this used to have a cabin, and a family home, and now it's condos and a garage” or something like that. Yeah, but too bad, I wish I had a picture of...I don't know what the houses look like, I've never seen a photo of them. In those days people didn't really have cameras. I remember my parents got a camera around 1960 with a flash and everything, but I think back in the '30s and '40s that was something – an extra – people didn't have. It's too bad.
RS
Right.
KN
I'd love to see the pictures of it. Oh! And one more thing I remember about Min that I wanted to tell you quickly.
RS
Sure.
KN
Vancouver used to have very, very bad fog. Remember in those days they did have coal furnaces, kind of like London, lots of heavy coal use. So, of course with coal, comes fog in a coastal city. He said one of his jobs as a boy was, he'd light a torch and when cars came over the Granville Street Bridge or the Burrard Street Bridge, they'd give him a dime or something and he would walk ahead of the car with a torch and lead them through the fog in Vancouver.
RS
Really? That was a like a side job?
KN
Yeah! Min did that as a boy. You know, maybe when he was ten or something.
RS
Wow.
KN
Isn't that neat?
RS
Yes.
KN
Laughs Can you picture it now? Walking up the middle of Burrard Street or Granville with a torch... I don't know what it was, if by torch he meant a flashlight, a lamp, or a real...
RS
A literal torch.
KN
Like the Olympic torch. I don't know what type of torch he meant. I should have asked that. I was just picturing a kid in the fog in Vancouver leading a car safely to wherever they were going...down Fourth or Broadway or whatever it was. It's amazing, eh? Vancouver...that's something that should be in the Vancouver Museum, too. If kids were doing that, really. Along with the possible grave site at Connaught Park.
RS
Hm. I wonder if that was a common thing.
KN
Yeah!
RS
For the kids in the neighbourhood to do?
KN
Yeah. Yeah, I don't know. I never heard such a thing, you know.
00:55:02.000
00:55:02.000
RS
He shared that with you when you saw him?
KN
When I saw him, yeah. I don't even know how that one came up. Probably we were talking about all the traffic, and how it would have been so nice and quiet in those days. And yeah, he mentioned that, he says, “Yeah, we'd get five cents, or a nickel, or a dime.” Which was a lot of money, actually, in those days if you're a kid. Because I remember taking a bus on Dunbar Street around when I was a preschooler, and it was five cents to take the bus and it was seven cents for my mom. I remember one of the kids in the neighbourhood found money at the bus stop. He found like, twenty-two cents or something, and I was like, gestures and imitates a gasp “oh my god!” And for years I dreamed about finding money at a bus stop, too laughs. Because to me when I was five or six, hearing someone found that much money at the bus stop was like finding, like, a thousand dollars in loonies laughs.
RS
So special, oh my good – did Min share much about his childhood when you met?
KN
He said...I remember he had one story...there were some woods near Arbutus and Twelfth. Because in those days there were pockets of bush all over Vancouver, and even when I was growing up there still was. He was scared to go through the woods because there were some mean girls that used to go there and smoke. They were 'fast'. I guess that was the word they used in those days. If his mom sent him to the red and white store he couldn't cut through the woods because those mean girls were smoking and they'd never fail to insult him. But I didn't dare ask him what they would call him because in those days you know how people were so awful. But yeah, he said he was scared to go through because of the mean girls. So, that was part of his childhood, too. He thought it was kind of funny and because he thought it was funny, I thought it was funny. Obviously, he kept very level. He's very level and strangely lacking in bitterness over what's happened in his life.
RS
Hm.
KN
Losing their dad and then that...they're not bitter. These people have a big capacity for forgiveness, or they're made out of solid steel. I don't know what. But, there's no feeling sorry for themselves, no whining, they're matter of fact about the events. Like...they talk about it the same way that we would say “oh, I'm going to go down to the store and get some bread,” they're just...yeah, even about it. It's amazing. The lack of anger and hate. I actually don't know what to make of it.
RS
Interesting.
KN
Yeah...I don't know. Have they processed it? Was it there, but it's been processed? Were they used to being treated badly so they just accepted it? I don't know. I'd like to find that out.
RS
Hm. He sounds like a well-humoured, spirit guy.
KN
Oh! Yeah the guy has some mischief in his eyes. He's got a sparkle. There really, yeah. Tom, I remember being quiet but I remember the intelligence in his face. And that he was really quiet. But Min, yeah he had some P and V in him, for sure. You could see it in his eyes still. But no bitterness. Like Mary and Tosh, I met them briefly, and I don't know about her husband, but I think Mary was from Salt Spring Island. And I think she seemed more impacted by what had happened than Min Yatabe was. I think she was from a fishing family...but being a female, too, right? We're more emotional sometimes.
RS
What was the exactly the way that you connected, when you saw Mary and Tosh Kitigawa? Was that through the...
KN
Yeah, that was through the day that we went to the Memorial and met them at the luncheon afterwards at the Yacht Club down in Stanley Park. I picked Min and Lydia up, they were staying at the Holiday Inn on Broadway near VGH, I drove them to Stanley Park, dropped them off, I parked, and then we went to the ceremony, and then we walked over through the field down the Yacht Club for the lunch. And that's where I met them.
01:00:01.000
01:00:01.000
RS
And you heard a little bit about their story as well then?
KN
Yeah. A little bit about what had happened. I don't think anyone else was there connected to the Yatabes. There might have been. I think Min, also, UBC gave him an honorary degree because he'd been pulled out of school. And I think UBC has also been very good, I think they have also recognized what happened to the Japanese Canadian students that were pulled out of their education and sent away. I think they...that's another resource for you, actually. Find out what UBC made for, in terms of reparations, for the situation.
RS
Right.
KN
Yeah, because he did get an honorary degree. He did finish...I don't know where he...I think he might have finished in Ontario with his education. But UBC did honour them. Which I thought was really good.
RS
Mhm. Mary sort of mentioned that your family supported the Yatabe family in the... I think she said in the war time to the present. Is she mainly referring to connecting with the photo and the fact that the families were friends?
KN
I think because they were friends and that my dad's always stayed in touch with Tom. I think Tom's name was 'Tomei', maybe. We always knew him as Tommy, but I think the Japanese T-o-m-e-i might be...and like Min is 'Minoru'. Their sister, I don't know what her Japanese name is or...if she just got an anglicized version of it, or what. With regards to their name. And I can't quite remember the dad's name at the graveyard either. I'd have to think about it.
RS
So the support was a support of friendship and a...
KN
Of friendship and a link, yeah. They stayed in touch. They didn't just cut that connection because they got sent away. They stayed in touch and I believe after the war, when Min and his older brother joined the Canadian Forces, they did...they came in their uniforms and visited my grandparents on Twelfth Avenue, yeah. They were young men by then. Because really, they were just boys, older teens, maybe, when they were sent away and came back as young men a few years later.
RS
But they stayed in touch.
KN
I think Min... to get out of New Denver, I think he had to sneak on to a train or he hitchhiked. There was some unusual way he got out of the Kootenays. Don't forget in those days it took a week to get from Edmonton to Vancouver because the Highway 1 maybe wasn't, wasn't what it is now laughs. I know my friend's parents said it took a long time to get anywhere in those days around BC. A lot of gravel road, I think through Manning Park even was gravel. So, yeah, for him to get out of – after the war ended – to leave there, he had to hitchhike or walk for two days...there was some unusual aspect to the story of how he left there. I'll have to ask him. I should phone him and ask him.
RS
Do you talk to him often over the phone?
KN
I haven't talked, but I get a card from them every year, I haven't talked to him in about a year. So I'll phone him.
RS
Like a Christmas card...or?
KN
Yeah! Yeah, they send me a picture every year.
RS
Oh, that's great!
KN
Yeah! And last time I talked to him on the phone, my husband was having a hernia operation, and then son had to have it, and then my husband's spine went, and then I lost my job. So, my own events in my life have created a bit of an interruption. But, because I'm working for the railway now, in two weeks, I have a rail pass and I can just jump on a train and go anywhere. So, as soon as I'm laid off work I'm going to be heading that way and I can go see them in Toronto. Funny enough, I had picked them up at the Via-Rail Station. Ironically. And then, I'll be getting to Toronto the same... laughs. So, there's that funny loop again. Yeah. I'm not going to fly if I can take a train. I'll have a window and see the country go by. I'm really looking forward to it. I'm laid off in October and I'm going to get on the train!
RS
And maintain your connections!
01:05:00.000
01:05:00.000
KN
Yeah. I'll go to Toronto and they can meet me at the train station! Both laughing
KN
I know! It's kind of neat, isn't it?
RS
Yeah, mhm.
KN
Yeah, it is. I can hardly wait to see them again, but they're getting older and I'm thinking “Oh no...” Just like the picture didn't quite make it for Joanne Yatabe to see, it was a few months late getting it to her...and she had...well, pancreatic cancer takes them quick, though...but the same for Min and Lydia. I want to see them again. I do. It's almost like a necessity to see them one more time. At least.
RS
Well, I wish you the best with that. I hope it's a good experience for you.
KN
Yeah, and I'll round up stuff and get it to you as I find it. You don't know what I also might find what's in my dad's stuff. Because I've got that one letter, the picture of Tom with the big fish...I'll see what else I can find.
RS
Sure.
KN
And if my aunt and uncle can dig up a picture of the home, their homes...yeah, see if they have anything from their stuff.
RS
Sure, sure. What was the letter? What was the letter...?
KN
The letter was just - it was on graph paper...and it was in impossibly, like the...tiny, like tiny...you'll see it...impossibly neat, only an engineer, honestly – on graph paper, would write a couple pages of a letter and fill it right up. And, yeah, it was just a letter, “Hi, sorry I haven't written in a while, here's what I'm up to...” and I think it arrived with the picture of him with that fish. So, that's going back to around 1961 again.
RS
So, this was Tom to your father?
KN
Yup. And I got a picture of Tom on my parent's sun deck at Fanny Bay with my dad. That would have been around 2000, maybe?
RS
Okay. We would appreciate seeing that.
KN
Yeah, so anything Yatabe-oriented that I can find, I'll make sure you get a copy of it.
RS
Sure, sure.
KN
And I know my IPhone takes really nice pictures, so everything will be clear and I can email it, get it emailed.
RS
Thank you so much, thank you so much – and thank you for talking today!
KN
Laughs
RS
No, I really appreciate it! You have a lot to share and it's really great to hear the history.
KN
Oh, well thank you for the coffee and thank you for listening. I really want to hear more about this. What you end up with. Please stay in touch with me. I'll send you the stuff and you'll have my email as well. But, yeah I really...especially a young gal from Pitt Meadows...who would've thunk it? You standing on the podium at Plant Ice.
RS
Laughs
KN
And here we are. So, even we have a connection! It's really amazing how people...people are really connected...somehow. I'll just tell you something really quick to illustrate that. In 1979, I had been overseas, because I had been able to work there because my grandparents were from the UK. So, I was working in Britain, and then I made my way down to Israel to work on a Kibbutz because I know I could have room and board and I didn't mind working for my keep. So, made my way down to Israel and my first day there I met a Canadian girl, and she traveled with us the rest of the way there and that, and she was really the only Canadian I met in the Middle East when I was there. Because I was also in Cypress. And she was from Toronto and she lived across the street from the only other person I knew from Toronto. She knew their family very well. It's really weird how that goes, you know? The only Canadian girl I met traveling, and she knew the only other person I knew from Toronto. They grew up together. It's just...yeah, you have to watch what you say when you travel, even!
RS
Laughs
KN
I can just hear myself, “Oh I work with this stupid girl named blah, blah, blah, and she's...”, and I'm sure she'd go, “Listen, I know her!” You have to watch what you say and how you act because we are all interconnected very closely.
RS
Yeah, we're all connected.
KN
It's almost like karma or something. I don't know what you call it. Coincidences, right?
RS
Mhm.
KN
And, you know what, if I make it Toronto, and I make it to see them and they're still with us, hoping gestures fingers crossed, we can get a picture. I'll get somebody, I'll flag down a passerby to take a picture of us at the train station and send that to you, too.
RS
That would be great.
KN
Yeah. Because that's almost like the loop, right? The Via-rail, them coming, and me going there.
RS
Mhm. Thank you, thank you. I'm just going to shut this off here...
01:10:17.000

Metadata

Title

Kate Nightingale, interviewed by Rebeca Salas, 21 May 2016

Abstract

Kate Nightinglae, describes the connection between two families: Her father’s family (MacPhail) and the Yatabe family before, after and during the war. The families were neighbours at the corner of 12th and Yew, near Arbutus, Vancouver, BC. She explains how she learned about the history and friendship of the two families through a photo, which was gifted by the Yatabe family to the MacPhail family during the uprooting of Japanese Canadians during WWII. She explains that she reunited the photo (painting) with the Yatabe family (Min Yatabe) in 2011. Kate gives many opinions about why the history of Japanese Canadians is important and wishes she had asked her family more questions about it when was younger. Many times Kate talks about how we are all interconnected in life.

Credits

Interviewer: Rebeca Salas
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Pitt Meadows
Keywords: Vancouver ; Twelfth; Arbutus ; Yew; Family friends; Lifelong friends; Connection; Family picture (painting); MacPhail; Yatabe; New Denver ; Kootenays; Toronto ; 1920-2016, WWII.

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.