Roy Sassa, interviewed by Joshua Labove, 29 October 2015

Roy Sassa, interviewed by Joshua Labove, 29 October 2015

Abstract
Roy recalls his earliest childhood memories growing up in poverty, moving from British Columbia to various part of Alberta, and working on the sugar beet farms in that province. He describes who his parents were, what they enjoyed, and what they did to earn a living. Roy also talks about the land and tea set that his parents lost during the period of internment and dispossession. He remembers how his sisters were unable to play with their friends as non-Japanese Canadian parents prohibited all interaction. Near the end of the interview Roy speaks about the Redress movement and how his peers reacted to the event.
00:00:00.000
Labove Joshua (LJ)
It is September 29th, 2015. I'm Josh Labove in Lethbridge Alberta with Roy Sassa. So Roy, why don't we start with your earliest memories? What do you remember of your childhood? Sounds of someone doing dishes
Roy Sassa (RS)
Well, the child I remember is poverty, outdoor toilets, houses with no insulation, very very cold. That's what I can really remember, is the poverty and the food that was very scarce and that's about it. Sounds of someone doing dishes
LJ
So where was this?
RS
Well, we first moved to Stirling, Alberta. We were put into a grain storage bin ...
LJ
I guess I should back up. Where were you born?
RS
I was born in Port Mann, British Columbia.
LJ
What was life like in Port Mann?
RS
Sounds of someone doing dishes I can't remember that. Well, it was Surrey where my mom and dad cleared the land and built a home. I can't remember any of it but the only thing I do remember is when we were at the train station and my sisters were crying and that's about all I can remember of that trip from British Columbia to Lethbridge, Alberta.
LJ
How many sisters do you have?
RS
I have five sisters.
LJ
Oh, boy. Big family.
RS
Yup.
LJ
So it was a long trip out here, by train?
RS
Oh, I would imagine because in '53 I went to Abbotsford as an air cadet and it was a long trip on the train.
LJ
So you came out to Lethbridge and you said it was a life of poverty. What do you remember, what were you doing out here? Sugar beets?
RS
Yes. My mom, dad, and my sisters did the sugar beets and I just tagged along and got in their way.
LJ
Were you a natural farmer?
RS
No, my mom and dad were quite particular about gardening and making the land ... growing things right to the fence line and there wasn't a weed anywhere, as I can remember, after we moved to Raymond from Stirling.
LJ
Phone rings When you moved to Raymond was it still sugar beets?
RS
Oh, yes. It was sugar beets for many years.
LJ
What does a sugar beet taste like? I don't know if I even ...
RS
I don't know how you can explain it. It was crisp and sort of sweet but that's all I can remember of it, it's like any other vegetable.
LJ
You said your folks had a big plot in what would today be Surrey.
RS
Yes, and on King George Highway. There's a big shopping mall on the land is what I understand. I've never been back so, yeah.
LJ
When you boarded the train to come out to Lethbridge do you remember your parents telling you to pack or things to ...
RS
No, I don't remember anything.
LJ
When you got out here ...
RS
I really can't remember about how the farmers were picking the family they wanted. You'd probably get into a big truck in the back with very little luggage that we had and then I can't even remember going to Stirling except for the grain bin that we lived in. I can remember that that winter a five gallon bucket of water in the middle of the floor was frozen solid. You could imagine how cold it was.
LJ
That was probably a first for you.
RS
Yeah, and nobody wanted to sleep against the wall because all it was is a shiplap and mom would mix flower and then I would rip out the catalogue and dad would paste it onto the cracks of the wall to keep the breeze out. That's how it was.
00:05:13.000
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LJ
It was windy.
RS
The wind was coming right through, and no insulation. Yeah, it was a tough go.
LJ
Did you have this moment where you thought “I don't know how but I've got to get out of here. I don't know what I'm going to do but I've got to ...”
RS
Not for a while yet. I mean, I started school and there's a lot of discrimination and we were called names and nobody trusted us.
LJ
This is in Raymond?
RS
Yeah.
LJ
Raymond was a tough go?
RS
Yeah, but of what I understand from the history the people treated the Japanese people very well and as a matter of fact they said that the Buddhist church, that is now a historical site, one of the church members went to Salt Lake and said “we would like to sell this church to the Japanese people.” The hierarchies in Salt Lake said “no, you can't sell it to the Japanese people.” But finally after the third trip he convinced them that they should sell it to the Japanese people and I think they bought it on the term that they were able to afford to buy this building and now it's a historical site. I think there are a lot of places, grocery stores, they would carry us until we got paid. I think after a while they trusted us that we weren't going to sabotage and blow the place up and things like that.
LJ
When you first go to Raymond, it was tough?
RS
Oh, yes. It was tough all along and then we moved to Welling just files miles to the west of Raymond and then we did sugar beets out there for I don't know how many years. And then we moved and mom and dad bought a house at the east end of town. They had a one acre lot so they grew vegetables and then he did the market gardening. He went around the neighbourhood and sold it to make an income. He was a carpenter so he was able to get jobs making the spillways at the Saint Marie River at the canal and that kind of job he was able to get. It would be the gardening that he would do at night time and then go around selling it. So, that's all I can remember.
LJ
How long did you stay in Raymond? I know you eventually picked up and headed to Taber.
RS
Yes, in 1961 I moved to Taber with my brother in law and we opened up a service station. He was a licensed mechanic and so I started my apprenticeship in Raymond. I think I was a first year and then when we moved to Taber I went to ... all the schooling was at Sait in Calgary and that's where I went to school. Second year was eight weeks and third year was eight weeks and fourth year was six weeks. That's where I got my license.
LJ
So you settled in Taber?
RS
Yes, and we were there for thirty-six years and that's where I met Pat.
LJ
So how was Taber compared to Raymond? Was it easier?
RS
Oh, there was no problem. We were both Japanese running the service station and we had lots of customers. I think because of us being honest and we had all the school teachers, the nurses, the women, and older senior people ... I can remember getting a lot of Hungarian people, the first generation they could speak very good English, and they wouldn't take time to communicate with them. What I couldn't understand is we would motion and get that kind of communication going. That's how I treated the people and we had an okay business going.
00:10:24.000
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LJ
And you met Pat at the service station.
RS
Yes laughs.
LJ
I heard she had a flashy car.
RS
Yeah laughs.
LJ
Your folks were still in Raymond then?
RS
At that time and on weekends I would go to Raymond and go visit them and after a while dad was in the hospital and I would go visit him at the hospital once a week. When he got transferred to the, well it's the Galt Museum now, it was what would you call it ... whatever. Anyways, that's where he died. That's one of the things that I kind of regret is that I didn't do enough with my dad. He'd love fishing so he would ride his bike, probably three miles south of Raymond, to a canal where he would go fishing and then he'd forget about the time of the day and it gets dark. The Buddarite Colony would be right across the canal and they would pick him up with his bike and bring him home. That's the only regret I had was that I didn't spend enough time with him in his latter years.
LJ
Did your parents ever, years after the war was over, talk about ...
RS
Not very much. I remember my mom and dad telling me that “you're in Canada. You've got to speak English” and therefore my Japanese is very poor. I didn't go to Japanese school and I learned what they were speaking because they spoke Japanese at home and I picked up what I could and what I couldn't get them to understand with my Japanese I would tell them in English and they had a little bit of an idea of what I was saying. That's the way we communicated.
LJ
Yeah, but not much?
RS
Nope.
LJ
Did they ever seem upset or angry about the land they had lost, the life they had lost in BC?
RS
I don't remember. Nope. I think they did the best they could for what they got and were able to do. My mom was very arthritic and I can remember helping dad do the washing and hanging the clothes out on his clothes line and going shopping. Yeah, so I got the good gene from both of them. My dad was diabetic, I'm diabetic. My mom was arthritic and I got arthritis.
LJ
How about when you moved to Taber and opened up the service station, do you remember going home and telling the folks that you had opened up the service station in Taber?
RS
I think I did. I don't remember.
LJ
Did they have any career hopes for you. Were they pushing education, or ...
RS
No, no. What I would have liked to have done is, I was in air cadets from an early age until sixteen and what I thought I would like to do is go into the air force but I'm the only son. Somebody had to look after mom and dad so I stayed close to home.
LJ
What was it about air cadets that you ...
RS
Well, discipline and all the things that we did and flying and marching and going to Abbotsford to summer camps and Clair Solace where the air force was stationed. That's where they had all the Harvard aircrafts that they were training and we would go there for a summer outing with all the Albertan air cadets there.
LJ
Is that where you pass them on highway two, you pass the museum there, there's some sort of air cadets or air force ...
00:15:09.000
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RS
That's Nanton. Yes. It's further south.
LJ
I do remember going there ...
RS
It's one hour from here.
LJ
So you would go out to Abbotsford in the summer time?
RS
Yeah, that was really good. Lots of fun. As a matter of fact, I asked my dad whereabouts the farm was so he drew a lot with the home, where the different trees were, where Queen Elizabeth high school was. My sisters had a real close friend, a Caucasian girl, and she'd come to the air force base to pick me up and took me out for the weekend. She took me to these places and I looked at my dad's drawing and there was nothing that was similar to it. The house was gone and then I don't know what happened but as I understand it now there's a big shopping mall there.
LJ
When was the last time you were back in BC? Did you get back there a little bit or ...
RS
Probably ten years ago. That night we visited and went out to Victoria, yeah.
LJ
It's changed quite a bit and, of course, when you were going out to Abbotsford in air cadets you were still pretty young.
RS
I think in the last trip I was sixty.
LJ
So within ten years of you all leaving Surrey, your family's farmland and homeland was gone?
RS
Gone.
LJ
It's pretty quick.
RS
Yeah, this is why my question is what happened to that land, who got the land, and how did he get the title to it when it was my mom and dad's land. They said that all the possessions were going back so you just take whatever you need to take in one suitcase each and then all the valuable things that they had brought from Japan ... gone.
LJ
Tea sets ...
RS
Oh, yeah. All the beautiful China, Japanese wears, and kimonos and things like that.
LJ
Did you parents pack it in a box or try to hide it?
RS
I would imagine they would have packed it but they had to leave everything there. Yeah, it's a pretty sad situation.
LJ
Yeah, it's ...
RS
Well, war is never a good thing. Everybody suffers, I think.
LJ
I think that's fair. What about your sisters? Did they ever talk about things that they left behind or ...
RS
Nope, but all they could talk about is the friends they had left and they couldn't understand why we were leaving because all of a sudden the parents would say that you couldn't play with those Japanese people. All of a sudden we were evacuated out of there and we had to be, at least, one hundred miles off the coast. The majority of the people, I think, went to Kaslo, Castlegar, and through the interior into the camps. We went out there four or five years ago on a ghost town tour and seen how they lived and it was no worse than what we had out here in Alberta.
LJ
Yeah, it was really tough out there. Did your folks tell you where you were going or do you just remember “we're getting off the coast”?
00:20:06.000
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RS
I don't remember any of it.
LJ
Woke up in Southern Alberta ... ROY Yup.
LJ
But you've made a life here now.
RS
Oh, yes. It's been good, I mean, we've got a lovely home that's paid for and everything is paid for and we get three square meals a day and we've got two grandchildren. What more can you ask? I mean, my health isn't the greatest but there's a lot of people worse off than me so ... Yeah.
LJ
Zooming ahead, do you remember the redress movement getting started and anything around redress or getting active around that?
RS
I can't remember when redress started but then once they were getting ahead there's probably half a dozen people who were really pushing it. They would have town hall meetings and we would attend to that and a lot of people were bitter, I mean, it's an insult to them. There were older fellas, they would be probably ten, fifteen years older than me as an infant and they were bitter. I mean, how can you just give us 20,000 dollars? They owned farms, they owned fishing boats and they just left them out in the water and the wind would come up and blow them over and, oh, terrible mess. And what they did with their tractors and new trucks and cars they took away from them. They were bitter. But me, I don't remember any of that. I have a lot of Caucasian friends, yup laughs.
LJ
When the redress money came, what was your feeling?
RS
A lot of people spent it and I invested it and that helped retirement. A lot of people just blew it like people winning the lottery. A lot of people just blew it and never thought of the future. This is the way I was brought up, I guess, and you just think of the future. I don't know.
LJ
Your parents brought you up to always think ahead?
RS
Yeah, always the future and be kind to people. Yup.
LJ
They were born in Canada?
RS
Nope, southern island of Kyushu.
LJ
When did they come over to Canada?
RS
Early nineteen hundreds, yeah.
LJ
Farming?
RS
You mean when they came here?
LJ
Yeah, when they came to the city.
RS
I think he worked mostly in the sawmills, oh yeah, and then market gardening out there; asparagus, raspberries, you know, the vegetables that they grow out there. Yeah.
LJ
So your dad was a fairly busy guy, sound like?
RS
Had to feed six of us.
LJ
Yeah, and I don't suspect there was a lot of time for fun but ...
RS
The latter years when I was starting to play baseball on Sundays ... he never did own a car, so we'd always get a ride from somebody. We were in the Southern Alberta Sugar Beet League and this is all the Japanese teams from Magrath, Raymond, Picture Butte, Cloverdale, Taber, Barnwell and we had a league going and yeah that was the fun time for him laughs.
00:25:20.000
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LJ
And that was the fun time for you, too?
RS
Yup. In the winter time he used to go play pool and he was good at that and he made a few bucks to help with the everyday living.
LJ
You were a baseball guy?
RS
Yeah.
LJ
Did you have a favourite position?
RS
Left field, second base.
LJ
What would you do in the winter? You'd play baseball in the spring and summer, I guess, right?
RS
Not a heck of a lot. It would be too cold. I never could afford a pair of skates, yeah. Oh, maybe in the latter part of the teenage ... I was able to get a pair of skates, yup, go to an outside rink and take half of the time shoveling the snow off the ice and then everybody else would show up and ... laughs.
LJ
So, baseball was pretty big?
RS
Yeah, matter of fact I put my baseball uniform to the Galt Museum.
LJ
Oh yeah?
RS
Yeah.
LJ
I'll have to go check that out.
RS
I think it's on display.
LJ
That's pretty neat. So, they were fielding teams from all across the region right?
RS
Yup, it was lots of fun.
LJ
That was your getaway from farming and all the other difficulties of the time?
RS
Yup.
LJ
What did your sisters get up to? What were they doing?
RS
Mostly doing house work, yeah. Once they were able to come into Lethbridge ... It was a few years that we were not allowed into the city so after that they got hired into the upper-class people and did their house work.
LJ
Do you remember when you were first allowed into Lethbridge?
RS
I can't remember the year but it took us all day to get here and the whole way from Raymond wasn't just a twenty minute drive, it was hours because there's one creek that we had to go across and you had to put boards into the creek to get over it. There's no bridge.
LJ
You had to think carefully about coming in.
RS
Oh yea. I don't know, we got here once or twice or three times a year. That was an outing because my mom and dad has never known what vacation is, never. The one time I told mom that, after dad had passed away, I said “let's go on a little holiday. We'll go to Banff or somewhere” and she says “no, it costs too much money.” I said, “don't worry about it. We'll look after it and we'll take you” and she would not go.
LJ
No?
RS
No. They don't know any different.
LJ
What was it like taking your first vacation? You didn't have them growing up.
RS
I had a friend that, we went to air cadets together, and he got a flying scholarship so he went as an aeronautical engineer. He went to school in Calgary and then he went to Montreal to Canada Air to build airplanes and he would come home on a vacation and it would take him two days to drive home. He would spend a few days with his mom and then he'd come over and pick me up and then we went to Waterton. We borrowed a tent from somebody and a sleeping bag and we'd go to Waterton and have a holiday laughs.
00:30:16.000
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LJ
Fun.
RS
Oh, yeah.
LJ
Sounds like the kind of thing that would make your mother nervous. Was your mom the type of mom to get nervous about you running around or getting into trouble or ...
RS
I don't think so. She might have but, I mean, what trouble can you get into when you've got no money. That's one thing we didn't do, steal. We just got by with what mom and dad had. When I first got a job and started my apprenticeship program, the bookkeeper at the dealership, I asked him to set me up on a ledger and every penny that I made was in this column and everything that I spent on utilities, taxes, groceries, any miscellaneous items I had a log and I would keep record of it. Once, when I filed income tax the government wanted proof that I did this. Well, I was very fortunate to have all this documented and I was able to show the auditor and there were no questions asked. This is why I like to keep lots of good records for seven years and destroy the other ones. Yeah, life was not easy but we had a good time. We were younger and they would make fun of me. I can remember in Welling, no toys. I found a chunk of two by four and my dad was a carpenter so I would cut a slot at the back half of the two by four and then I would put them on the side and nail them on and then two pieces of wood on the front and a bulldozer. That's my tractor, Caterpillar, you know, you did things like that because now the grandkids have got one hundred fifty-dollar Lego sets and they get that four times a year and things like that. I used the shingle nails for the controls laughs. Them were the good old days. I mean, you had to make fun.
LJ
What about friends? Did you have a lot of friends?
RS
Oh yeah. All kinds of friends. One was a doctor's son, one was a banker's son, uh, it didn't matter and he accepted me so, yeah. Some of the kids, now thinking back, there was one kid who was a bully. He was bigger than the rest of us. So, one day at noon I was getting back to class and I hear this big bang and one of my friends takes Judo and when I ran into the room, here was this big kid laying on top of the desk and my friend had a choke hold on him. Then there was no more bullying. Yeah, it was pretty good. We had Chinese friends. African-Canadians, there weren't any at that time that I remember and Aboriginal kids, I don't think I've ever seen one in school but every other nationality Danes, the Scottish, the English, the Hungarians, Germans, we were all friends, I thought.
00:35:24.000
00:35:24.000
LJ
In Taber?
RS
No, in Raymond, going to school.
LJ
Was there ever any racism though? Did you feel ...
RS
Yes, some of the kids called us names but you can't take it to heart. You can't let it bother you because you don't want to get stressed out.
LJ
Did you have to watch out for your sisters? I know as a brother I sometimes felt that way.
RS
No, they were much older than me.
LJ
So they were on their own?
RS
Yeah.
LJ
Were they watching after you?
RS
Not really. Nope. As soon as the beet harvest was done they'd all move to the city and start working. The thing is, education, I can't remember what grades they were when they left British Columbia and I don't remember them going to school after coming out here. Therefore, there's no secretarial jobs, no school teaching jobs and my second oldest sister married a farmer and they moved up to the Brooks area and the third sister married another farmer, a very wealthy farmer. These are all the people they turned to in Alberta. One sister worked for a person that owned the Raymond Mercantile and they went south for the winter so they took her along and she met a guy down there and he was, what would you call it, intelligence, in the Second World War. They got married and she lives ... her and I are the only ones alive and she lives in San Hose.
LJ
Wow, she's far away.
RS
Yeah.
LJ
So you're the last of the group out here in Alberta.
RS
Yeah, they're all gone. All diabetes related complications. That's what took them.
LJ
Did you ever think about moving back to BC at any point in your life? When did you know that Southern Alberta was home?
RS
Most of the years are spent here so I don't remember anything about British Columbia.
LJ
So this became home pretty quickly.
RS
Yeah.
LJ
I was saying to Pat, before, it seems like a lot of folks in Lethbridge they may leave for a while but they always come back. So what do you think it is about Lethbridge that folks come back for?
RS
Well, you don't know any different, at least for me. This is where I was raised and ...
LJ
So you went to work in Taber on the service station and that was a change from working on a farm.
RS
Well, really, I wasn't much of a farmer. Mom and dad did all the gardening so all I did was go to school and help them weed a little bit and that's about it.
LJ
So you were better at service station attendant? So what's that like? What's the work of a service station attendant like?
00:40:10.000
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RS
Well, it was long hours. I would get up at six thirty and be at work at seven and open up shop and get things all ready for the day and start repairing vehicles. Make out the recorders, you're the service writer, and you're the mechanic laughs, and gas jockey but we usually hired a young school fellow to tend the pumps. Yup.
LJ
You don't see that much anymore, people pumping the gas for you.
RS
Nope, very few places and that's where most of the women go because one thing they don't know is how to get the pumps working to put it in the gas tank or it's smelly and they don't want to get stinky.
LJ
So how long did you ... you were are the service station for a while.
RS
1961 to '90, it was about thirty years.
LJ
And at that time you had gotten married and ...
RS
Yeah, had a couple boys and built a home. Yeah.
LJ
And then you made some career shifts again.
RS
Yeah, and then I went into sales. After I sold everything out of the service station I went and worked for a famous ... Noble Blades. Doctor Noble built a blade that didn't bring up the dirt, it just sliced the roots. Wind erosion, that was very very bad in the early thirties, the dirty thirties, the winds would blow and it would be so full of dust that you couldn't even see a head of you, like a snow storm. So, I worked there for a couple years and a sales job came up at the Chevrolet dealership and I gave them two weeks notice and then as soon as I started at the dealership they closed the retail division in Taber so I was quite fortunate that I had already moved and had another job. I stayed there for fifteen years or so and dad wanted to move to Lethbridge and so he says “let's go” and I think that's the time our mother passed away. We had nothing holding us in Taber so we moved to Lethbrdige.
LJ
You've done a lot of different things over the course of your life. All sorts of careers. So when it came time to give career advice to your sons what did you draw on? Did you draw on being the service station owner, the car salesman, the farmer ...
RS
None of the above. They knew what they wanted to do and we tried to guide them but Kevin, the younger one, worked at Safeway and paid for his education that way. The older one, he just didn't know what he wanted to do so he worked in retail for a few years and then he went into oil and he traveled up into the oil fields and kept the pumps going. He did that for the longest time.
00:45:24.000
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LJ
They're all relatively close, right? One is in Taber and one is in Lethbridge?
RS
Yup.
LJ
That must be nice especially now that you've got grandchildren.
RS
Yeah, we see them ... grandma at the beginning would always babysit the grandchildren so we had seen a lot of them and we still do.
LJ
Do you ever think about how their childhoods are different than yours or ...
RS
Oh, absolutely. There is no comparison. They don't know the value of nothing. They get everything handed to them. It's just mind boggling how they can get money like that spent on them. I mean, the mother will buy them these iPads or iPhones or iWhatever they're probably four, five hundred dollars each and it's nothing for them to have one or two of them in their pockets and it's ... If there's ever a crunch I don't think they'll ever survive. We've got a ten by ten garden there that she grows carrots and potatoes and a few vegetables and tomatoes right against the house and I think her and I could survive. So, if you need protein you'd grow beans and have tofu and make that kind of stuff and I don't think we'd ever starve but those people now, it's scary. I don't know what's going to happen, but, I don't know if they'll ever see it.
LJ
I hope not.
RS
For their sake, yeah.
LJ
Yeah, I mean it sounds like you learned survival skills that you carry with you still.
RS
Yeah, I try to tell my grandson “don't even leave a kernel of rice in your rice bowl because half of it's wasted.” It just bothers me to no end. But now he's getting better and better and better and now the bowl is getting cleaner all the time and I just stare at him. Yup. The children nowadays, I don't know.
LJ
Was that a thing when you were growing up with your folks, you knew you had to clear your plate?
RS
Mom always told me “never to leave a kernel of rice. Don't be wasteful.” So it's very difficult for me to see people throwing things away. You go to a restaurant and you the people even have the plate and, yeah. But, that's their business. They're paying for it, but me, I clean my platter right clean and if nobody is watching I'll lick the plate laughs.
LJ
If no one's watching, yeah.
RS
Yeah. That can't be done in a restaurant so ...
LJ
No, not politely probably, yeah.
RS
So other than that, life has been great. I think that hardship helps people, I think. I don't know what's going to become of these people who have everything given to them and put on a silver platter for them, I don't know.
LJ
So it sounds like you feel almost pretty fortunate and lucky.
RS
Very fortunate. I've had a good life. Getting all these surgeries done and not costing too much money, yeah, I think we've been very fortunate.
00:50:09.000
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LJ
Yeah, I know it's always tempting to look at what other people have or what it's like somewhere else. But you never never felt that way?
RS
On the street there are a bunch of Lexus and Audis and things like that. We have a 2000 Pontiac Montana and a 2010 little Vibe made by Toyota, good enough. A lot of people drive these fancy cars but I don't know.
LJ
Yeah.
RS
Yeah, I think that we're going to have to live or we will probably live for another few years and we've got to make our money stretch. We don't want to be on a poverty line and soup kitchens. That's one of the things that my nieces husband said that “you people come to this part of the country and you were just about on the breadline. Now you're on the other side of the counter cooking for the street people.” That's what we do is go there and volunteer at the soup kitchen.
LJ
You volunteer at the soup kitchen?
RS
Yes.
LJ
How long have you been doing that?
RS
Oh, I don't know, five years, more? We all take turns and a group of ten go in there and do the cooking. A lot of times we take the rice cooker and make rice and stew and those people just go crazy over it. When they see us their eyes brighten up and, yeah. Most of the people just make sandwiches and soup but we make stir-fries and they sometimes get hamburgers brought in from the meat market so we make stir-fries and cut up vegetables. A lot of the people there don't know anything else but soup and sandwich I guess.
LJ
Do you commiserate with them? Do you know where they're coming from in some respects? Like, your niece's husband said “you were once on the breadlines, now you're serving them on the breadlines.”
RS
Yeah, he says that how we have changed and that never look back and never have no regrets I don't know. It's nice to help out people in need, I guess.
LJ
Do you any regrets? No regrets?
RS
Live in poverty but we were fed. It might be the same oatmeal and things like that all the time and potatoes and no gravy but I survived. We'd go to the theatres and watch plays and watch the playgoers, things like that. I mean, I'd like to go to some of the stuff that's at the university but the parking is so bad that it's such a long walk. I just can't walk that far. So if it's at the Yates Center I can walk up a ramp and I can go through the side door and go right to the level of the seats. I make sure that I get a seat close to that level instead of climbing stairs and it works out fine. So we go up quite often. One of the musicals, yeah.
LJ
So life is good?
RS
Oh, absolutely. Life is great. Two grandkids, two of our own sons, yeah.
LJ
Great, well thank you very much for chatting with me.
RS
Oh, I'm sorry that it wasn't very good.
LJ
No, it was your story which was exactly what I wanted to hear.
RS
Well, thank you. Thanks Josh.
00:55:35.000

Metadata

Title

Roy Sassa, interviewed by Joshua Labove, 29 October 2015

Abstract

Roy recalls his earliest childhood memories growing up in poverty, moving from British Columbia to various part of Alberta, and working on the sugar beet farms in that province. He describes who his parents were, what they enjoyed, and what they did to earn a living. Roy also talks about the land and tea set that his parents lost during the period of internment and dispossession. He remembers how his sisters were unable to play with their friends as non-Japanese Canadian parents prohibited all interaction. Near the end of the interview Roy speaks about the Redress movement and how his peers reacted to the event.

Credits

Interviewer: Joshua Labove
Interviewee: Roy Sassa
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Lethbridge, Alberta
Keywords: AlAlbertaberta; Sugar Beet Farm; Raymond ; Welling; Buddhist Church; Salt Lake; Discrimination; Port Mann; Stirling; Kaslo ; Castlegar; Baseball; Galt Museum; 1930s – 1990s

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.