Harold Steves, interviewed by Kyla Fitzgerald, 01 September 2016

Harold Steves, interviewed by Kyla Fitzgerald, 01 September 2016

Abstract
In this interview Harold Steves shares letters his family received from Japanese Canadians during the internment era. He reflects on his family’s connection with Japanese Canadians in Steveston, in particular the family of the principal of the Japanese language school in Steveston. Harold notes how many Japanese Canadians contacted his aunt, Ida Steeves, asking for assistance during internment and incarceration. Through his family’s letters, Harold reveals the deep roots Japanese Canadians had in Steveston as Japanese Canadians helped change the environment and became essential parts of the community. Harold emphasizes his family’s long history in Steveston and ties this to early Japanese-Canadian settlers, who settled in Steveston in the same period. Harold focuses on how his family worked closely with Japanese Canadians in Steveston, either as colleagues at the Japanese language school or through community efforts such as farming or home care. Harold notes his feelings of loss during the forced uprooting as his friends were taken from Steveston. Harold further notes how his mother and father cared for the property of Japanese Canadians and how his Aunt Ida Steeves attempted to send supplies and pieces of property to interned and incarcerated Japanese Canadians.
00:00:00.000
Harold Steves (HS)
And even when it's been handed down word of mouth, generally there's some basis for what's being said.
HS
I mean I'm repeating what I heard my father say Laughs. I heard him say very clearly and it affected my entire life. The shock of what happened, so anyway the letters.
KF
So, how was this process were you, looks like, these are the ones that your wife transcribed, which is amazing.
HS
Yeah, that's right. Now I didn't give you a copies of the originals, except for the first one.
KF
That's fine.
HS
But if you want the original copies, I've got it here.
KF
I can photograph those so you don't have to ... so they don't have to leave your house at all.
HS
Yeah. well I've got a copy machine here that can copy evverything. So aything you want actual copies of, I can copy. Or I can even scan them. Anyway that first one, that is Fumio Okano, he was the principal of the Japanese school and he lived at the corner Steveston Highway and 7th Avenue, just the kiddy corner from us.
KF
Wow, so really close.
HS
And, he was our nearest neighbour and it was his daughter Fumiko that I played with as a child before the war, so that's his letter to, yeah to it says Fumio Kajiro. What's interesting it it was a prisoner-of-war mail and that's why I made you a copy of it to show it because the, ... it said that none of them were prisoners-of-war but it's oral history in our family that he was actually arrested, he and two others were declared prisoners-of-war, at least in the initial stages.
KF
Yes, you can see that on the envelope there.
HS
And it's on the envelope and I think that may run contrary to what some have said, in terms of history, that they were just relocated. And my recollection of the stories of him was that he was kept in as a prisoner for a long time, and I don't know what happened to him at the end. But he says in here, he's been tossed around to different camps , different climates and conditions, and he may be sent back to Japan, he may be coming back after the war, but he never came back. But his wife and Fumiko came back, so I'm not sure what happened to him.
KF
Right, and they stayed, they stayed in Alberta. They didn't,
HS
Right, he was in internment camp 101. Now, from when he wrote this letter, so that might be, I don't know where that was.
KF
Might be an indication of,
HS
Yeah, maybe an indication. So that was a letter he wrote to my dad.
KF
Nice.
HS
And the next one, I just,
KF
Oh, Lum Poy (?) !
HS
Yeah, Lum Poy, now, Lum Poy lived on 7th Avenue, oh pardon me, at the time of Kajiros lived at the corner of 7th and Steveston Highway, Lum Poy lived right across the street on Steveston Highway so he was next door neighbour to Kajiros. Our family didn't live here, we lived in a house on that side of Kajiro's. So Kajiro and Lum Poy were our nearest neighbours. And when Lum Poy actually sold his property I was looking after his house for him, he hadn't moved all his stuff out, and he moved away. He eventually never did move his stuff out, so I rescued Laughs. some of the letters that he had and this is one of them. Because he had a suitcase full of letters that he'd kept over the decades. And there again, that one's from Mrs. Kajiro.
KF
Right? So his wife?
HS
And she, she was a teacher at the Japanese school as well, so he was the principal, she was a teacher. I don't remember him too well but I remember her real well because I played with her daughter.
KF
Yeah, which she mentions here.
Reading from the letter.
“Fumiko says she just loves this place, many of her friends are here, shes going to school everyday.”
HS
Yeah, see this is at Kaslo, so, but there again they're separated from her husband.
KF
Mhm, because this last letter is October 30, 1942,
HS
Right, so he's still,
KF
So this is earlier and this is later, oh, okay.
HS
Right, and he's still prisoner-of-war.
KF
Mhm.
HS
Which is interesting, it's interesting in here in this letter she says “I guess the strawberries are out now and everyone are busy picking them. Steveston is dead now and I was sure right about that.” Basically Pots and pans or cupboards closing in the background. it became a ghost town and then they put a plea out across Canada for people to come and go out fishing to catch the fish. And they withdrew the provincial police or the provincial police were in cahoots or something from Steveston and it became nicknamed little Chicago because of, a lot of undesirable people moved in to go fishing. Laughs. So it wasn't dead after that.
00:05:04.000
00:05:04.000 Pause with microphone feedback.
HS
Now I'm not sure, I think she was rude to Lum Poy because he was the neighbour. You'll find in one of the other letters she wrote to us because my father was looking after their house. Weird. I looked after Lum Poy's house thirty years later, but my fatther was looking after the Kajiros' house. I remember as a little kid going over and he had all the windows boarded up and people would pry the boards off and were going in stealing stuff. And so eventually he brought a lot of the stuff home, and some of it's itemized in one of the letters.
KF
It says the bread costs 9 cents a loaf?
HS
Yeah,
KF
Is that, I don't know pricing back in the day.
HS
Things were pretty cheap. The, ... yeah, when I was interviewed for the Chinese history, because I worked for Lum Poy when I was twelve years-old, and I got 20 cents an hour, so Laughs.
KF
Oh, really! What did you do for Lum Poy?
HS
Actually, um I picked cucumbers and potatoes, and I remember planting cabbages and things like, it was more farm work and, basically every kid in Steveston, nobody had much money, so all the kids worked when, from about twelve years-old on. So I worked when I was twelve, thirteen, and fourteen. And later in the summer when I was fourteen years-old I lied about my age and got a job at the cannery. Laughs.
KF
Oh really? Laughs.
HS
You couldn't start working at the canneries until you were fifteen. But for the, ... noboddy thought of it was child labour. It's just the families needed the money and so we all worked in the farm fields, and there was all young kids working for Lum Poy. But I've, no idea about the price of a loaf of bread, but 20 cents an hour for wages gives you an idea that bread didn't cost much.
KF
But Lum Poy's property then, how large was it?
HS
He had 35 acres.
KF
Whispers. 35
HS
Yeah.
KF
Oh my god.
HS
And, I'm not sure whether any of it had been former, land formally owned by Japanese people or not, but he did end up owning a store on Muncton Street that belonged to a Japanese family. And we always called in Lum Poy's store. In fact the interview I did earlier this week with Alan Sekai (?) we were talking about Lum Poy's store because after the Japanese came back after world war two, they started judo again for the kids. My friends were all Japanese, so I went to judo with them. And the Steveston Community Society Centre didn't exist. They had the judo in Lum Poy's store, Laughs. so and that's all I know he used it for. So, I think it was from one of the Japanese families, and either he was looking after it or he ended up owning it. But it was an empty store for decades - not for decades, but for a number of years. And it was used by the Steveston Judo Club for their first judo facility. Every time that they had judo, they had the mats and they laid them all out on the floor of the store and did judo. So, he was quite closely involved with the Japanese community. I found references to Lum Poy's in some army references that, during world war two, this was a military area and we had an army camp on our farm and Lum Poy was referred to as a oriental alien, I guess, that they weren't sure if they could trust. Laughs throughout the last sentence. Because he was Asian. Now, China was supposedly on our side, but it didn't matter: it was the colour of your skin that counted. Pause. So that's Lum Poy, and the next one is, I think Ida Steeves, that's my great aunt.
KF
And that's written by E.G. Yamamoto-san.
HS
Yeah, and so this is a different family, and Ida Steeves lived at 434 Steveston highway, something like that. And the house is still there, there it is, it's been restored. I think it is 434-1 Steveston Highway today, and she had a separate farm. She was my great aunt, my grand father's sister.
KF
Okay.
HS
And she had a separate farm from the rest of them. and she was leasing her farm out, her husband got killed. He was a stage coach driver in the older days when they ran stages via horse to Vancouver and he got killed in a storm when tree fell on him when he was driving his stage coach down Granville Street. And so she lived with her son and daughter and they grew up there. The son got killed in world war one. And then she just lived there with her daughter and a sister who never married. But they rented out the farm to the Japanese farmers, so the Japanese farmers owned land and some rented land. And the rented land was mostly from our family in this area. So, this is from the Yamamoto's and it doesn't say very much other than they're doing fine.
00:10:18.000
00:10:18.000
HS
And, Laughs. the rolling hills are quite a change that they're in Alberta.
KF
Yeah, but it's a different tone from the last letter. Like this one, we are on strange country.
HS
Exactly. Yeah, thhey don't say much other than that it is quite a change. Papers can be heard ruffling. And, this one is a, it seems to be a different Yamamoto. That one was from Alberta,
KF
Greenwood.
HS
And this one was from the same date from Greenwood and there the Japanese Catholic Mission, again this is to my great aunt. So,
KF
Oh, I like this. “Did our gladiolas already bloom?” Laughs.
HS
Yeah, that's right. They're some what nostalgic. And, but here again they obviously had a house near Ida Steeves house on Steveston Highway.
KF
Oh, yeah.
HS
Or even on the farm. I don't know. And I don't know who Sumi Yoshida was, but obviously he was a neighbour. No Ida Steeves was one of the ones who helped found the Japanese hospital and the Japanese school. Way back in the 1890's. And her daughter Edith actually taught at the Japanese school. So, that's why they had such a very close relationship.
KF
Oh, I see.
HS
And, I've got photographs of the Japanese school with Edith in it. As one of the teachers teaching English. “And, please take good care of our house,” so it must have been nearby, “Did you get a letter from Sakae Yurino. We got from her mother and her aunt. Please take care of our house,” again, Laughs. “Take care of yourself.” So they're obviously concerned about what was happening to their home. Unfortunately what was happening to the homes that my father was looking after was they were being broken into and stuff stolen. Papers ruffle.
KF
Oh, so this one has an itemized list. Here we go.
HS
Yeah, this is to my mother now. Oh, you'll notice the ones to Ida Steeves I spelled with two 'e's. She spelled it differently.
KF
Oh!
HS
So the ones that,
KF
Oh, good to know.
HS
Yeah, so the ones with two 'e's are Ida Steeves. Actually what happened there: the Steves family had two spellings and Ida, my great aunt, actually married a Steeves who had two 'e's and so it was an intermarriage, distant relations.
KF
I see.
HS
But she added an 'e' to her name when she got married.
KF
Oh, okay. Nice!
HS
So that's how you can tell the difference. Okay, this was to my mother and this is from Mrs. Kaj- Struggles to pronounce the name.
KF
Kajira.
HS
It should be Kajiro.
KF
Oh, okay.
HS
Okay, it should be an 'o'. And, this was what they had in the house across the street. Um, she's at Tashme. Where was the other letter? Was the other one from Tashme?
KF
No, I thought it was, Papers ruffling. Ottawa.
HS
And this is F. Kajiro,
KF
Kaslo With emphasis. was the,
HS
Kaslo.
KF
Yeah.
HS
June 26,
KF
And this one is November 27, so this is several months after.
HS
Yeah, interesting. And she says that Mrs. S, it should be Kajiro. Okay, anyway, it's the same people, anyway.
KF
So, looks like she says “At the present we will stay in Tashme. I would like you to sell my furniture and I'd very much appreciate if you will do all our best to sell them.”
HS
Unfortunately, my mother was not very successful in selling them. She sold some but most of it she bought. She said “I am in badly need of the money.” And of course that's all people had. “You can have the ink writer and the thing to out oil in it.” I have no idea what the ink writer was. Kyla laughs.
KF
God look at these prices though. “Sofa: $30; Dining Room Set: $40; Pause. 8 Chairs: $5.”
HS
Yeah, now the chairs, my mother bought.
KF
Are those the ones - you still have them, right?
HS
We still have them. Laughs.
KF
Yeah, Laughs.
HS
That's it, but I think everything else got, either got sold or destroyed.
00:15:08.000
00:15:08.000
KF
So afterwards then did your mother - do you know if your mother took the money and sent it directly to Mrs. Kajiro?
HS
Yeah, that's what happened. And you'll notice - oh here it is. Note from Aus. A. Harris “Okay for Mrs Steves to buy anything she wants and move the balance to auction.” So maybe it went to auction. I have no idea.
KF
I see. Okay.
HS
And done it that way, but she bought, my mother bought the chairs. And then that's, Austin Harris was the Custodian of Enemy Alien Property and he's one of the ones I suspect may have been on the original, original committee.
KF
Oh, okay.
HS
They named a school after him. When the school was closed, they decided not to name another school after him. Harold and Kyla both laugh.
KF
That's awkward. Okay so this is next year, June 30, 1943.
HS
Yeah. “Fumiko is enjoying herself playing outdoors. The schools on holidays.” Okay, here, “I often hear from my husband and he is 100% perfect in good conditions.” So there it is a year later he's still in a concentration camp of some sort.
KF
right.
HS
So she's still at Tashme.
KF
Yeah, and then she's saying “I'm asking you to do me another favour,” Pause. “what I want you to do for me is about the tree that grows in front and back and side of my house. My husband wrote to me and he wants me to tell you to cut the root of the tree. For the tree is growing bigger and I think it will spoil the house.”
HS
Right, and I think that that's a, I guess he was concerned that it could up heave the foundation or something like that from this large tree. So I imagine my father probably would have gone and either cut the roots or trimmed the tree down. Anyway, then she says “As people say we'll be able to go to Japan, so we have lots of hopes now. I feel awful to leave BC without saying goodbye to you but that can't be helped. If I have to sail off to Japan now, it's a long time or a short time until I can see you again. I've got a feeling some day some where we'll be able to meet again, so at present let's keep ourselves healthy and wait for our happy reunion.” Did I tell you about their trip to Japan?
KF
No, you just told me a little bit about the, being on the boat was quite traumatic.
HS
Yeah, that's all I know because they came back when - Mrs. Kajiro and Fumiko came back and visited us after the war. A person in the background can be heard using a faucet. That's when I was here when they told my parents about the trip to Japan and how horrendous it was that people were committing suicide by jumping over to be and gobbled up by sharks. I mean pretty Laughs. grim stuff. And that's all I know about it. But, they did come back. And, Fumiko eventually married Steve Fukushima, and he became attached to the Japanese Consulate in Alberta. I don't know if I told you that or not.
KF
Right and you've been trying to track them down.
HS
Right, and still can't track them down.
KF
Still trying to sell furniture even a year later.
HS
Right. “I will also tell Mr. King about this, but in the mean time please try and sell them, would you? I hope you'll understand my present situation and I'm hoping you can do this favour.” I imagine they're all caught up by the Custodian cause he said that in his letter that my mother has to give 'em to him to sell by auction. Again, I don't know what happened there.
KF
Growing their own gardens.
HS
And, Mr. King, I am not sure who that was, there was a Mrs. King, who was on the school board when I was a child, but I don't know who he was. Dishes clattering can be heard in the background. Oh, unless, no, there was a middle page Mumbles.
KF
Okay, so here's one from that person, Urano.
HS
Now, that was again a double 'e' Steeves.
KF
To your great aunt, yeah.
HS
And, Urano's, okay, he's obviously in Alberta working at sugar beets. Because that's what they would in Lethbridge and places like that is Coledale. Must be the sugar beet growing area. “And we are going to a nearby farm for a stooking.” So a stooking would be,
KF
What is stooking?
HS
Basically in those days they still harvest oats with a horse drawn binder that cut the oats and left it in bundles, tied with a string, and then they had to go out in the field manually and pick up these sheathes of oats and stand them up to dry. So that would be stooking.
00:20:13.000
00:20:13.000
HS
And it was very, very tiresome work and when it was hot. And he said, “Someday's it gets cold and they get hail.” Again its the gladiolas blooming right now, I am thinking of it because Steveston always had blooming flowers and the Steves family was noted for growing gladiolas. So both my great aunt and our family they, actually grew gladiolas for sale in Vancouver. They sold flowers as part of the farm business so everybody knew about the gladiolas. And one of the buildings on our farm here today was called the gladiolas house, where we use to dry the bulbs.
KF
Oh, nice. So what's a, it was a well-known thing.
HS
Yeah, that's right. So everyone imagines the gladiolas. Laughs.
KF
Oh, no wonder!
HS
The other thing that they don't mention, was that the Japanese people grew a yellow flag iris every garden had yellow flag irises. And, I guess, I'm not sure, I guess they grow irises in Japan, I think the yellow flag iris came from the UK originally, but anyway every house had a wooden tub, in fact we've got one out on the front porch one of the remaining wooden tubs I think. It held what do you call it, oil, Japanese,
KF
Let's see, camilia flower oil?
HS
I'm not sure. I think anyway it was a wooden container and whatever it was had in it, the container was drained of the oil or whatever it was they had in it. They used to put soil in and put the irises in. And they'd put them in these tubs out in the ditches in front of the houses because they wanted themselves. But the tub contained the irises. And after the Japanese evacuation, these wooden tubs had actually rotted away and the irises grew on the canals and they spread out into the marshes. And now the whole lower Fraser Valley, if you go out into the dyke beyond our place, you'll find the yellow flag irises growing as a reminder of the Japanese evacuation. So, that's one of my favourite flowers.
KF
Oh, that's neat.
HS
Yeah. Anyway that was, the Japanese grew irises, our family grew gladiolas. So this must be one of the children: “I passed grade nine and I'm going to school this fall will you please send the parcel seeds such as cabbage, carrots, etc. which is in the northeast corner of the fartherest room.” So they must have been saving their own carrot seed and cabbage seed when they were here in Steveston and they want to plant them in Alberta.
KF
Now what does this mean? “Please tie new string if possible.” The very bottom. “And it shall be paid by us.”
HS
I don't know.
KF
“Please send us a box enclosing which I mentioned and then,” Kyla's voice trails off. “Mr. Morakle is there.” Maybe for the parcel and then they can use the string.
HS
Yeah, no idea. “Please tie new string. We'll pay the freight.” Laughs. Maybe they needed string? I don't know. And they wanted a box of clothing. Apparently they wrote to Mr. Morakle. I remember the name Morakle, bbut I don't remember who it was. Obviously it was somebody who was supporting the Japanese people as well .So she wanted seeds and she wanted some of the clothing from the house. Again, I don't know where that particular house was. My great aunt Ida owned a strip of land that ran from Steveston Highway, I think, all the way down to Williams Road. So it could have been a house down on William's road or it could have been a house on Steveston Highway. And,
KF
This one says “War Time Letters.” Sounds interesting.
HS
Yeah, again, to great aunt Ida, double 'e', this ones from Yamamotos and another Fumiko. Again asking how the crop is, “vegetables don't grow too well in Greenwood.” Which is true. Laughs. And, of course, again, both the previous letter and this family would have been probably renting farm land off of my great aunt Ida.
KF
Okay.
HS
Cause she didn't farm it. She rented it all out to Japanese farmers. And so,
00:25:07.000
00:25:07.000
KF
Mr. Hall is taking good care of our horse,
HS
Yeah, so I'm not sure who Mr. Hall is except that one of my aunts at that time was married to a Hall, and they eventually separated. So, that might, my, um, one of my direct aunts was Jessy Hall, she actually taught at the Japanese school, before the war as well. So, that may be him. But I don't know.
KF
Sounds like Fumikui Yamamoto's still quite young though because she goes “I was going to send this letter sooner but I was too busy playing. And the time goes faster than you expect.”
HS
And what happened, you'll find that the Kajiro letters, they wrote them, but the other letters their children wrote them. So, it's largely cause the parents weren't that fluent at writing English.
KF
Right.
HS
BUt, the children wrote the letters. But the Kajiros of course were teachers and were very fluent in English and spoke English and wrote English as good as anybody. Yeah, not much fruit in Greenwood, and not much vegetables from the sounds of it.
KF
But it sounds like, you know, it says here in the very beginning “Thank you very much for the books and the pattern.” So your great aunt, was sending items to some of these families.
HS
Oh, yeah. No they, basically they, my great aunt was so involved in the Japanese community before the war that she was directly involved and meted to these families that so she was directly involved in assisting them all the way through that time. And there's other letters in here, one of them had some equipment my aunt was looking at and, yeah, “Thank you for the things you have sent me.” Pause. “We are now going to school. I hope to pass this year.” Laughs.
KF
I like that. I think that's great. That's so, that is such a great example of just being a kid you know. “I just hope I can pass this year.” Laughs.
HS
Yeah, that's right. Laughs. Now, the next one is printed by Mrs. Kajiro, so this is the original.
KF
Okay.
HS
“To whom it concerns, this is to certify that Mrs. H.L. Steves has full charge of my property, including house and contents, with the exception of the strawberries and piece of land adjoining same now in use of the army, during my absence.” So, I'm not sure Lum Poy probably had the strawberries, I would imagine, but, um, and that's,
KF
June 5,
HS
1942,
KF
That was a little bit, earlier.
HS
So that's earlier, that's yeah that would be before they left.I guess that's, now I don't have these in any order, I guess that would be,
KF
So this one, where,
HS
When they are still here, so this was before they left. June 5 at Steveston BC, June 26 it's Kaslo. Now, I wonder when they left. Because, like I told in our previous interview. I remember going down with my mother and Mrs. Kajiro and Fumiko, going to the tram when they were evacuated and it may have been, that may have been the day they went, I don't know.
KF
Yeah, possibly. Because June 26 they were in Kaslo, so that's only 20 days. Because the other letter that Mrs Kajiro sent to your mother with the itemized list that's several months after, November.
HS
That's right. Now, I don't know how much land they had. I think they had, well I know they had about 2 acres, and their house was one lot south of Steveston Highway, it wasn't right on the corner. And Lum Poy had, the land Lum Poy had belonged to my family as well. They were, he was leasing and had built his house on our family land, and it was one and a half acres, and it's right where the Co-op is today, across the street. And then there was a lane and then there was Kajiro's house and the Co-op that, the Co-op across the street is on what was Lum Poy farm and the Kajiros's land that became one parcel in the 50's or something like that.
00:30:06.000
00:30:06.000
HS
And it was assembled by a developer, that, they built the Co-op and so I assume that the strawberry patch they're talking about would have been, the house would have been fronting on 7th avenue and they would have had maybe an ace and a half of strawberries, right behind where Lum Poy lived, and then he had a use of the 35 acres that was immediately to the south of Kajiro's house. Now, whether he owned it at that time or nto I don't know.
KF
Okay,
HS
So, that's that one. And the next one is to Lum Poy, and that's June the 26, so that would be about the same date. Next they wrote to my mother, I think, let me just see here. Oh no, I'm getting it mixed up.
KF
So the Lum Poy letter is the 26 of June
HS
Yeah, the 26 of June,
KF
Kajiro sent a letter to your family in November,
HS
Right. Okay, what's the next one in here?
KF
The next one I have is “Dear Mrs. Steves” from K. Yoshida and it's a hand written letter.
HS
Okay, let me just find that one.
KF
From New Denver!
HS
Oh, yeah. Here we are. Okay, that's again a double 'e' Steeves, so that's the same family that's written one or two of the other letters. Again, this one is just feeling misplaced or displaced. “Just wanted to say hi, ... we can never forget our gratitude towards you and all you have ... underwent,” Kyla seems to pick up from the same letter.
KF
“During the time we were in Steveston.”
HS
“We would very much like to see you again some time in the future.” They were basically in New Denver in 1947 thinking of home.
KF
Yeah, it is certainly years later.
HS
Okay, this one, the next one is interesting. This is, was on our land and this is to my dad. Except they spelled the same wrong “Harold Steeves” Laughs. it should have one 'e'. And he was Harold Steves Senior, and it's from the department of, the Office of the Custodian of Japanese Evacuation
the Office of the Custodian of Enemy Property
. I don't know who Duet
French pronunciation.
is or Duet
English pronunciation
, think a pair or couple. But it says “Will you please advise us what is the position with regard to the house owned by the above, which we understand was built on land owned by you.” Kadeyama house was at the corner of Steveston Highway and 2nd Avenue on the north side and we owned, it was an 8 acre field that Kadeyama leased from my dad. And I don't know the circumstances but my dad allowed him build a house on our field and he had a house and he had a, and he was a fisherman. And he had a boat building shed beside the house and the whole 8 acres was planted as strawberries, except one corner where the house was and he built a boat, he was building boats in the winter time. And they had the strawberry fields in the summer time. And when I was a kid the house, we didn't need the house, but we planted the field in oats and we use to store the grain int eh house and eventually it was torn down. But, anyway he writes in there, “What's in regard to the house,” are the Custodian of Japanese Properties “we believe that the barn owned by this evacuee was demolished and all the chattels from the house were removed by our our protection department early in the year.” Laughs. Protection department. “1945. To facilitate your promp reply we enclose a stamp and addressed envelope.” Well, actually the barn was not demmolished and the house remained, I got a photogrpah somewhere, of the Siggerson fmaily, whihc were an Icelandic family that were boat builders in Manitoba at Lake Winnipegosis, I think. They were boat builders and they saw the opprtunity to build boats and they rented the house for a few years and they built boats in the boat shop and the after the Siggerson's moved out and went elsewhere then the house became a granary.
00:35:29.000
00:35:29.000
HS
For our farm and then the barn and the house were eventually torn down but anyway , what is interesting is my recollection is that they made my father pay for the house. Laughs. That, even though it was on our property that they attached a certain amount of money for it and for us to keep the house we had to pay the Custodian of Alien Property for the house, I don't know how much it was, but I remember that was a sore point with the family. I got an apple tree the last thing that remained from the house was an apple tree and it survived until about ten years ago and before it was cut down I took some signs that I got an apple tree. It just had apples this year for the first time. In fact it's got apples on it today from the took cutting from the apple tree that the Kadeyama's hadd planted in front of their house. “Kindly advise, Mr. Harris.” he was the local custodian,
KF
Right. That's an interesting letter. So they knew, I mean, they were quite on top of it in terms of, even though it was your property they knew the different houses within your property.
HS
That's right. So basically there was two or three families that had houses on my great aunt Ida's property and Kadeyama's had a house on our property. But, yeah, anyway my recollection is my dad had to pay them some money for the house. Anyway I'm not sure what else I've got here. We got lots of other letters. This one is from Rintaro Hayashi, he was the one of the leaders of the japanese community, and I haven't checked this one over yet. And he just passed away a few years ago. Again, the usual, Laughs. “We really hope to see you again.” And he actually came back and was a leader of the japanese community for decades after the war and a very close friend of my father.
KF
“ Thanks very much for your kindly Christmas and New Years message. I wish to see you again. Kindly regard from, Lemon Creek, wow! These letters really show the movement or at least the different areas that people were living in.
HS
Yeah, that's right. Anyway, any of these that you want me to make copies of I can.
KF
Oh, great!
HS
I haven't looked at the rest of these. I looked at those last night, but we'll just go through these.
KF
Sure.
HS
Let's see. Yamamoto, from Greewood, to Ida B. Steeves.
KF
I have to say it's so amazing that these envelopes, they don't look that old, they're still in pretty good condition.
HS
Yeah! The stamp, the green mark, post mark. And this one is just a Christmas card.
KF
Oh, nice.
HS
That's all just a Merry Christmas.
KF
Is it something written inside, if you open up all the way?
HS
Oh, let's see. Oh, there is! “This is not a real letter but I want to give you a best regards from us. we also want to say Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! From Mrs. M. Yamamoto and family.” So she wrote a personal note inside the card.
KF
That's nice.
HS
Just make a note of any of these you want to copy.
KF
Sure. Yeah, I definitely will. And that one was Greenwood, right?
HS
Yeah, that was.
KF
Yeah,
HS
Yeah, Greenwood, yeah. Yeah, we've got to keep track of where all these people were: Laughs. Lemon Creek, Greenwood, Kaslo, Tashme. Okay, that one's just an envelope. There's no, Pause. “From Greenwood.” No letter in it. Pause. Oh, okay, this one was the envelope, there must be a letter some place, from E. Teranishi, Greenwood, October 27, 1946. It is written in pencil on the back.
00:40:00.000
00:40:00.000
KF
Oh, yeah.
HS
So, I don't know if the letter is here or not. Oh, just another envelope from Rintaro Hayashi, but nothing in it. Coaldale, Alberta. Okay, I think these are envelopes for some of the letters.
KF
From the letters, yeah.
HS
Yeah, that's what it is. Yeah, pass by sense, there another Coaldale, which is a Christmas card. Just a Merry Christmas and no message.
KF
It's nice even though to see these cards being sent over. I would imagine getting cards when you are away somewhere, that you are not familiar with, it's comforting to get these.
HS
Oh, yeah. Another one from Rintaro Hayashi, Yoshida from New Denver, again nothing within the envelope. So that's that file.
KF
Great!
HS
And this file we've never transcribed anyting in it.
KF
So this is the second file of letters.
HS
Okay, this is interesting, what is this one? This is to a Japanese person and this is Chinese person, Lucy Lin, so I guess that's not related, but they're in Athalmer, B.C, which is to one of my aunts, so I am not sure what all is in this file. Pause. Okay, these may not be from Japanese people. Sure, I looked through this one.
KF
The penmanship is so nice.
HS
Oh, yeah.
KF
People don't write like that anymore.
HS
Yeah, no these are just other letters, these aren't
KF
Family letters.
HS
These are family letters.
KF
Yeah.
HS
Yep, I'll just check to make sure. There aren't any, Hall. Brain Hall. That was her husband. So that probably was the person that had the horse would have been Brian Hall. Pause, and papers rustling. Yeah, I guess that's it. Cause all rest of the letters here are family letters. So I think I've given you copies of all the,
KF
Yeah, no that's we want them. I am just so astounded by how great a shape your letters are in. They're all, there's no tattered corners.
HS
No, that's right. Both Kyla and Harold laugh.
KF
They're all so beautifully kept.
HS
Yeah, it was interesting that my mother saved her letters and my great aunt Ida saved her letters and Lum Poy saved his letters. I guess that's how important they all attached to it.
KF
It's funny that you mention that. So I was back in Japan this summer visiting my grandfather and he has this metal cabinet safe thing in our family house, and he said to my mother, this summer when we were visiting him, he goes, “You can have whatever's in that cabinet.” And, so my great grandfather was a literature and philosophy professor in Japan, so he use to write everything by hand and then correspond with these different scholars and authors and anways, so my mother opens up this cabinet, and it's like the size of one of your shelves here, and it's just filled to the brim with letters like these.
HS
Wow.
KF
And, I guess, when my great grandfather passed away there were antique dealers who came to the house to see if they could take any of my great grandfather's personal items and auction them off because of some of the work that he had done. Anyways, my grandfather told, lied to them and said like “No, there's nothing in the house.” And then hid the letters in this metal cabinet.
HS
Oh, I'll be damned!
KF
So, my mother opened them up and there are envelopes, like these folders and then manila envelopes of just hand written letters by him and then correspondence between famous Japanese authors so my mother took them back. She is trying to take chunks at a time, but they are perfect condition.
00:45:22.000
00:45:22.000
HS
Yeah, not it's great when the actually, even though they don't say directly that much, they tell, you can tell the feelings that's in all these letters.
KF
Oh, so much!
HS
People are just so missing their home and their friends. And they just want to write it down and say “We miss you, and we want to come back.” Yeah, anyway that's it. I think I've copied all the ones that are pertinent, because the others are just a couple of Christmas cards.
KF
Yeah, no, thank you. Papers rustling.
HS
Yeah, no that's it.
KF
Do you know how many, like these families that your aunt, great aunt spoke with or wrote to and then the families that your mother corresponded with, do you know how many, did any come back to Steveston?
HS
I've never tracked them down. The only ones that I've tried to track down was Fumiko and she did come back, but for a while and then went back to Alberta and was the last, what she had told me was that she was, when Steve retired, that she was going to move back, and they didn't. And, I've had no contact since.
KF
She was actually planning to come back to Steveston?
HS
Yeah, that's what she said. They wanted, and he wanted to. He was from Steveston as well. But, I don't know if I told you, his name wasn't Steve, but he was called Steve because he was from Steveston. Laughs.
KF
That's funny.
HS
So, he went by Steve, but , yeah, I've got his card somewhere. I gave it to the Japanese Consulate to see if they could track him done but they were unable to do so. So, she'd be, oh in her mid-eighties now if she's still living. And, but, so they may not be still living, it is hard to say.
KF
It would be so neat if you could track them down, especially, I think you mentioned last time, she had a lot of information about the school right.
HS
Oh, yeah, and she was older than so she would know what her mother and father were doing in the school, and the fact that we restored the office, she would know that, I'm quite sure that the Steveston Japanese building that we've restored at the museum site, it had two offices and we know one was the office for the hospital and I'm quite sure the other one was the office for the school because there is, in the school plans, it doesn't show any place where there was an office, so my guess is that his office was in that building, and it had two front doors. So they were separate offices directly from the outside. And the building was situated right in the middle of the property between the Japanese hospital and the Japanese school. So, I suspect that was his office, and I was hoping to find her so I could at least verify that much, but, I think we can assume that. Have you been down and seen the Japanese hospital office?
KF
I haven't seen inside. I've only been, I know where it is.
HS
They've got a nice display set up in it now.
KF
Do they?
HS
Yeah, so you might want to,
KF
I have to check it out.
HS
Check it out. And you just go through the main entrance to the Steveston post office and then go through to the back room.
KF
Yeah, I saw the, the connector that they installed on the side when I was going past. So I saw that portion.
HS
Right, yeah. So they've got some nice display set up, the Japanese community, in it. And it's open during the day.
KF
Who runs it? Is it,
HS
City of Richmond.
KF
City of Richmond.
HS
The City of Richmond and Tourism Richmond. Tourism Richmond runs the front section of the building which is the Steveston post office and they operate the post office there and I think the city has a staff person in the back room. But, anyway, the design is such that they don't need a person in the back room. That's why they got that covered walkway between, so they don't need somebody back there, but I think there is a staff person there for the city.
KF
Oh, okay. Neat.
HS
But, and they've recently put in a new Japanese garden, that was just put in recently.
00:50:09.000
00:50:09.000
HS
So the idea being that, it will tell the history and I don't think they planted any yellow flag irises. Laughs.
KF
They should make sure of that. Laughs.
HS
They should make sure of that. Continues laughing.
KF
See if you can get in one of those bins or barrels, that would be neat.
HS
Soy sauce, I think that's what it is,
KF
Was it?
HS
I think that's what it said. I'm not sure.
KF
Okay,
HS
I've got one on the front porch with the plants in it. But, I'll show you on the way out.
KF
I don't think we touched on this last time but are there people who talk about it now, like have you ever talked about it, what happened in the past, with people currently, and what their opinions are or what their thoughts are? I mean you mentioned the debate with that one gentlemen about how,
HS
Yeah,
KF
He felt it was justified are there any other present day opinions?
HS
That's no, no. No no no, basically it's something that just was never talked about very much, and I don't know how the radio show got the two of us into a debate on it quite honestly looking back now because at that time I guess it wasn't that long after the war and some people thought it was justified. But, nobody would admit to it today, so it's a bit of history that's really hard to uncover. And, but that's what I was telling Alan Sakai last week, I'd just love to know who these people were that did this to all of us. Because, as you can see from our family, our family was equally upr-, while our family was looking after the properties, but they're such close friends that they were farming in our fields and neighbours and friends and we all grew up together and it was, the feelings were mutual. We'd lost all of our friends and neighbours, and so,
KF
well and your aunt, your great aunt, was sending items, like I didn't realize your great aunt was sending items to these families.
HS
Yeah, oh yeah. Actually I recall, there must be another letter somewhere cause, or maybe it's what she told me about because I know that one of the families even, I had a small tractor stored and they asked her if she would manage it. One of these tractors had a motor on it , a gas motor, and you had handles and you could have a plow and discs and work the fields. And one of those families asked her if she would actually take that tractor in and ship it to them by freight, so Laughs. So that they could actually, where ever it was, they were going to farm some land, instead of having to dig the land, they wanted the little hand pushed tractor. And, if it isn't in a letter some place, it must have been one of the things that she told us because she, when I was quite young, she used to tell us all the stories of what happened during the war and long before. So, but we never, I don't know which family, now some of these family names are familiar and they are in this community but I'd have to stay and go through the phone book and say “Are you related to so and so?” to find out who they are, but some of them, well, Hayashi, his son Tad Hayashi was a friend of mine and he worked at the canneries for years. So that family is still around, but, and he, actually, he wrote, I think, he wrote a book or wrote a lot of material about before the war. I don't think he wrote anything after the war. But the Hayashi family might be one to track down.
KF
Okay.
HS
I think, well it's all been a long time, but yeah it's Tad, and I don't know where he lives, haven't seen or heard of him for years, so that would be the only family that is, that I know of that came back. And, Pause. from this group that wrote the letters.
KF
You had mentioned a name in the last, the last time we met. I can't remember the last name, but his first name is Jerry, I believe. And you had said he was,
HS
Oh, Jerry Miller.
KF
Jerry Miller. Is he still around?
HS
Unfortunately he passed,
KF
Okay, he passed away.
HS
No, he passed away.
KF
Okay.
HS
Yeah, he actually even spoke Japanese.
KF
Yeah, you mentioned that.
HS
One person you might want to talk to is, again, his memories, he's about two or three years younger than me, so he wouldn't remember the same things I got, is Joe Bauer.
KF
Joe Bauer.
HS
Yep, he also speaks Japanese. And, what was interesting there is, Bauer is German, and they never came down on of people of German descent at all. Just the Japanese, which is quite interesting.
00:55:23.000
00:55:23.000
HS
But, Joe was a very sympathetic, and I assume his father was, too, to the Japanese community, so Joe might be one to talk to,
KF
Okay.
HS
And just thinking in terms of the Japanese community, who would still know about these events.
KF
I ended up interviewing your good friend,
HS
Jim Kajima?
KF
Not Jim, well I've already interviewed Mr. Kojima, but
HS
Moe Yesaki?
KF
Moe Yesaki, he's cousins,
HS
Oh, okay,
KF
Yeah, cause they do judo with my father,
HS
Oh is that right?
KF
Yeah,
HS
Oh, fantastic!
KF
So, my dad, my dad said “Oh, you should talk to this family cause they're on the grading board together.” And then, so I came over several months ago, and then Isao, who I was talking to, he's like “You should talk to my cousin, he'd be really good for this stuff.” And I said, “Oh, what's your cousins name?” He said, “Moe Yesaki.” And I'm like, “Oh, that's who? Harold laughs. You know it's funny cause Mr. Steves mentioned that I should.” He's like “Oh yeah well that's my cousin. We'll talk later.” Harold laughs. And I thought “Oh that's so funny. Small community.”
HS
Yeah, that's it. Unfortunately, it's my generation that are the ones that are left now. That's the big problem, so but those my friends all were evacuated, so they weren't here Laughs. when, and they were up there or where ever they were and writing letters for their parents, probably, back home, but so our memories are quite different so that is quite interesting when you have a discussion from what happened from those of us that were here and those of us that were there.
KF
Yeah, the war time experience would have been quite different.
HS
Quite different. Yeah,
KF
Well thank you for making copies of these letters though. I think, I think, you know, like you said there's not a lot that's said but the sentiment,
HS
Yeah, that's right.
KF
Within each letter you can really feel, the sense of, you know, of loss and just even the little things about Steveston like the flowers and the gladiolas.
HS
Exactly, and I think I must have another letter some where I am sure to my aunt, my great aunt, because I know about this whole story about this tractor, I'll try and I'll either find it in a letter or it may be in some notes that she got, that she did a bit of oral history stuff. So, I'll try and track that down because it was interesting.
KF
Now what made, what made Kathy decide to transcribe all of these because it takes some time.
HS
I know. Yeah.
KF
Yeah,
HS
Kathy are you there? She was there a minute ago.
KF
Yeah, Kyla and Harold both laugh.
HS
I'm not sure.
KF
Hi
To Kathy.
HS
Got a question for you.
Kathy Steves (KS)
Okay, I'll just wash my hands. Kyla and Harold laugh. Kathy can be heard walking to wash her hands.
HS
After they were transcribed, some of the letters went to the national museum in Ottawa.
KF
Oh, did they really?
HS
Yeah, a fellow named Duncan Stacy came and,
To Kathy.
She was just asking what got you to take all the time to transcribe all these letters, I don't know if you remember what you
KS
What?
HS
When you typed up all these letters, had to read all the hand writing,
KS
Yeah,
HS
She was wondering what reason at the time did you do it for?
KS
I was doing all your family letters eventually to write a book about them, but,
HS
Oh yeah,
KF
I see.
KS
Never got that done.
HS
Yeah.
KF
I was just gonna, I'm just so amazed and thankful because I know transcribing letters, especially with the type of penmanship it can be quite difficult to read.
KS
It's just easier to read once they're typed up.
KF
I know! Laughs.
KS
Yeah,
KF
It's easier to skim and
HS
And the writing is the old fashioned pens that had quite,
KS
Yeah,
HS
Hard
KF
Yeah!
HS
Hard ink pens, they don't come out very clear. Laughs.
KF
No. No. So I was just saying you know, it's so nice that you have these copies. It's nice to have the originals but also to have a back up copy, right?
KS
Yeah.
KF
So
HS
Anyway, we want,
KS
You have to keep the originals.
HS
If you want copies of the originals I just gave you the one because it said “Prisoner of War” on it.
KF
No, I think that's a really interesting one. No, I think just the, I mean, I think the fact that, the work that Kathy has done, like it's so useful for us and will definitely be put to good use.
01:00:09.000
01:00:09.000
KF
I just wanted to say thank you because it makes the work for us a little bit easier to through. Kyla and Harold laugh.
HS
One question, there is either a letter missing or it's in Aunt Ida's memoirs, but I recall one of the families that farmed on her property had a hand tractor of some sort. Do you remember this one?
KS
Hand,
HS
And either, yeah, one of these prowler tractors they had, they have you walk behind and for plowing and discing your land, some kind of tractor.
KS
Aunt Ida's.
HS
And they asked aunt Idea to ship it by freight to the Okanagan or some place and I am not sure if it was in the memoirs that you transcribed or if it was the letters, some place, but it's not here.
KS
I don't recall it in the memoirs, we can look.
HS
Yeah, I don't know. Do you know if there's anything in the memoirs about the Japanese evacuation even?
KS
No, not much at all.
HS
It may show up but, us we'll look for it.
KF
Yeah, no, no rush.
HS
Yeah, cause maybe I just remember her telling me about it. I don't know. Laughs.
KF
Yeah. So you've, but you've been, you've transcribed a lot of family letters then? You started this project just keep track of it,
KS
Yeah, it all started way before this. In the 1890's,
KF
Oh, really?
KS
And the 1910's, yeah.
KF
Wow!
HS
And what happened as well, my great aunt Ida, when I was 12 years old she lived in this house in Steveston where all these properties were and I was going to school, Richmond High School and we went by tram at Bramskin station at Steveston Highway and Railway Avenue and I'd walk up, take the tram to school, and walk home. And every Tuesday she had her next door neighbour, Rita Sheverton, who was, became a very active historian come over to her house and I would go in after school, I'd get off the tram and sit there while she told me stories and Rita took it down in short hand. And, when our great aunt Ida died we had this great pile of stuff in short hand in early 1900's Pittman shorthand. Kathy had to learn this stuff to transcribe it Kyla and Harold laugh. because there wasn't even the modern day shorthand.
KF
Yeah, that's quite a project to take on.
HS
So she had to learn shorthand from 1900 to,
KS
I guess so.
HS
Something like that to transcribe it
KF
Where do you even get that type of information to learn shorthand like that?
KS
Old books.
KF
Old books? Yeah.
HS
And so she and what aunt Ida was doing she told me she wanted to pass on the oral history of our family and I was the one she had chosen to give it to Laughs. but she made sure that a lot of it got written down by ringing the next door neighbour to come down to take notes. And so some of the things that was taken in notes, we've got and some of the stories she told aren't in it, but I when I read the notes I remember all the things she said.
KF
Right.
HS
So that's so in terms of this family and their tractor it may be in the notes, it may be I don't know but I remember, apparently
KS
The back card index sent?
HS
Oh, okay yeah. But I know there is a reference somewhere that she shipped a tractor to Greenwood or some place like that.
KF
So it's always been really important for your family then I guess to document the history.
HS
Oh, yeah.
KF
But all types of the family history.
HS
Well basically the family well we had our anniversary in July of 250 years in Canada. So, that's in that a lot of that came the family is from New Brunswick and they actually had a researcher, 30 or 40 years ago, before my aunt died came out and interview her because she was about 96 when she passed away. And she was one of the ones through oral history told the family back east their own roots. Laughs. They've since tracked it all down. But basically that's the way people passed on information, pre-1950 was somebody passing it on from generation to generation, orally. So,
KF
Now are you and Kathy the same way do you guys try and
KS
People have various truths and that probably doesn't include the war.
HS
Yeah. Pause. No we've been actually, putting, still finding newspaper clippings and articles with the history in it, In fact I;ve been buying stuff on Ebay, I just bought some for 12 bucks two weeks ago out of some magazine from 1942 telling about the coastal defences because we had an army camp here. I just got this a couple of weeks ago. You can find these things on Ebay now. They take old papers and magazines and tear them a part and sell them to people who are researching history. We picked up three or four different things on the fishing industry and stuff like that.
KF
Oh, wow.
HS
On Ebay in recent days.
01:05:15.000
01:05:15.000
HS
Okay, Pause.
KS
Yeah, I don't think there is anything in the 40's Harold laughs.
HS
Okay, here's one of the reminisces that Ida told to me and what was taken down as short hand: “Steveston in the early days, Japanese for the first ten years there weren't many people,” this would be Japanese peoples, “they began to come out by 18-” oh no it's not Japanese, there were no people at all “for the first ten years there weren't many people in this area; the Steves family came in 1877. They began to come out by 1888,” so the , in fact the first cannery camp was established, the Phoenix Cannery, was established around 1888. And, one of my great uncles went and worked there. “The Japanese came here around 1890. A few were here before 1885, but not many.” Manzo Nagano came in 1877, the same year my great grandfather came. And they both went fishing. “Japanese came up to the farm to buy vegetables. There were also a lot of Kanaka
According to a google search, Kanaka refers to South Pacific islanders employed in British Colonies.
and some Australians. And a number were run away sailors.”
Kyla and Harold both laugh. “There was a typhoid epidemic among the early Japanese who came here because they drank the river water. Poor sanitation spread the disease. The only fat people Mrs. Steeves saw were the Chinese merchants at Hong Wo's.” So that's a reminisces. And of course the reference to fat people is that basically both the Caucasians and the Japanese, the cannery people, they weren't well-off and so, they worked very hard. So there weren't many fat people.
KF
Yeah, when you're working, you know when you're on your feet all the time, yeah. Wow.
HS
Okay. Here's another note. “Japanese Hospital.” Pause. OKay this is after the war. “Opened as army and navy and AF unit canteen and club in 1945, before, prior to taking over this property the army and navy had sold bottled beer upstairs in a building on the north west corner of second avenue on Moncton Street. An early days butcher shop, then a fish and chips shop when the club was upstairs. First president of the club was William Rennison, Royal Bank Manager. Interest to this premises was by an outside stairway to Moncton Street. The family of Mr. Fujisawa, his wife and daughters, Lily and Mary, had occupied this home for many years. Mr. Fujisawa,” I don't know if I'm pronouncing this right: F-U-J-I-S-A-W-A. is that Fujisawa? “Was the only druggist.”
KF
“Fujisawa,” yep.
HS
Fujisawa, “The only druggist in Steveston. The hospital building burned down December 20th, 1956.”
KF
Wow.
HS
“The club operations were suspended, except for necessary business meetings until a new premises on the same site opened on December 10th, 1959. They have since been enlarged to include billiards and shuffle board.” And of course, now it's been demolished, and there's a senior's housing development there.
KF
Yeah, okay.
HS
So, the Fujisawa druggist was at the corner of Moncton and Second. Pause. On the North West corner or Moncton and Second, and that was where the Army Navy was before they took over the hospital site.
KF
Wow.
HS
Okay. “Mrs. Gordon Kadota reporting, 1966, a doctor Ishiwara,” I-S-H-I-W-A-R-A, “dentist of Vancouver knows a great deal about the early history. Mrs. Kadota has a book published in 1960 relating the complete history of the Japanese United Church in Canada from 1892 to 1959 in Japanese. Reverend Shimizu was one of the editors.” Now I don't know anything about that. She thinks there were Japanese people at the Acme Cannery before they came to Steveston, and also that there was a sort of home or boarding house there and a small hospital.
01:10:24.000
01:10:24.000
HS
I think the Acme Cannery may have been in Seattle but I'm not sure. “In 1892, Reverend Kawabi became a Christian in San Francisco and began mission work and English classes.” Papers shuffling. “Reverend Matsui had a church at 2855 Eastfords. Call AL 50626 Office.” This must have been at the time this was written 50 years ago. “Mr. Matsui wrote his thesis from which Dr. Reynolds drew materials. He has photos of the hospital built in 1890.” Hm, these are some research things that should be looked at.
KF
I was going to say these are little tid bits of neat information.
HS
Yeah, I'd better copy this.
KS
There is another Japanese one that she has written there.
HS
Oh, “Acme Cannery, Ms. Anno, was a Japanese woman who looked after the dry goods section of Walker's Emporium.” I didn't know that. “She had her own store at number 1 road and Moncton Street later on. She was very nice with children.” Ms. Anno, this, she was one of the most prominent Japanese leaders in Steveston.
KF
Okay,
HS
In the early 1900's and I've got photographs of her taken in about 1914 or 15, and she owned the store at the corner of number 1 and Moncton Street, on the south west corner.
KF
Is that A-N-O?
HS
Um, A-N-N-O. Ms. Anno.
KF
Oh, okay.
HS
Anyway, if you want to follow this up, I'll just photocopy these, these for you.
KF
Yeah! Yeah, they are neat little tid bits of information that your great aunt kept.
HS
No these were written 40 or 50 years ago. But, when I was about 12 years old. I mean good grief. 60 years ago. Yeah.
KF
That's fun.
HS
Yeah, I'll photocopy those for you. That's from her reminisces. Still haven't got the reference of the tractor that she shipped to the interior, but,
KF
Oh, that's okay.
HS
It may show up.
KF
No, but thank you for the letters. And sitting down again. It's,
HS
And I haven't looked at these for a long time. I'm going to have to follow some of these ones up. Because that tells us there's some books and stuff out there we don't know about. It mentions Dr. Reynolds. Dr. Reynolds wrote a history of the Steveston United Church, which we've got a copy of. But, Mr. Matsui wrote a thesis that pre-dates that. Now that would probably be at the, UBC, at the, there's a church where they teach religion. I'm not sure what it's called, partly, or at least there was, I'm not sure if they're still there or not. But there was a religious section of the church, of the university, and so that probably should be in,
KF
They have an archive; they must have that thesis.
HS
Yeah, there might be a file there. Yeah. You'll have to check that one out because Pause. that might give us some information, too. Which is different from what your project is, but it's certainly interesting to follow those things up.
KS
Yeah, what exactly is your project?
KF
So, we, the project's main home is at the University of Victoria, and one of the professors there received a large grant to study the dispossession of Japanese Canadians during the second world war. So, mostly we look at what people lost, what was sold by the Custodian of Enemy Alien Property, what they took with them when they went to the internment camps, and the things that they've passed on to their families. So, our focus is a bit more on the property aspect within the larger context of the uprooting and internment, but we have about, I think, maybe 4 or 5 different research groups that focus on different aspects on the concept of property with regard to Japanese-Canadian internment. So we have a legal history clsuter, which focuses on solely on the legal cases, we have a GIS Mapping cluster, so they do all the digital mapping. So they are working on a digital map of Steveston, and what they want to do is start making digital maps that will show the different layers of property. So if you click 1920's it will show you what Steveston looked like then, and then they'll add another layer and create almost like a 3-d map.
01:15:20.000
01:15:20.000
KF
There's like a government records and they do most of the archival research in Ottawa. So they send someone to Ottawa every year to go through to get photos of all the documents, pretty much. And then, I'm in the oral history cluster so I get to go out and meet people and interview their memories and stories, so I got Mr. Steves's contact through Mr. Jim Kojima. And Mr. Jim Kojima does judo with my father, so, I;ve been doing a lot of work in Steveston just through the network of people here. So it's been,
HS
Jim has been keeping me busy Kyla laughs. because it was Jim who set up the meeting with me and Alan Sakai last week.
KF
Oh, did he? Yeah. Both Harold and Kyla laugh.
HS
He was writing a book on judo and I was involved. This has nothing to do with your project, but I was on the Steveston Community Society Board around 1968 and all these things, I mean it goes back a hundred years. But the progression is after the war all my friends became, were Japanese. They were before the war and they were after the war. And so I took judo for a year and gave up, but I took boxing instead and got a busted nose instead. But anyway, the, I ended up on the Steveston Community Centre Board and we decided we wanted to build a special building for judo and kendo. And I was on the committee to choose what kind of building should we build. And, actually this applies, the, did I tell you this last week?
KF
You mentioned a little bit about the community centre.
HS
Yeah, and anyway what happened, and this was what Alan Sakai wanted to know about, was the vote. Like Ms. Izaguchi and I very good friends but we had a very strong difference of opinion on the martial arts centre. And so we put the, the Japanese community was putting up a large amount of money to build this. They had money I think, but I may be wrong, it may have been money that was given to the Japanese community from the sale of the Japanese hospital school to the army and navy during the war. They did have some money went into a fund, so, to the Japanese Fishermen's Benevolence Association, so I'm not sure if it was money from the original benevolence association went to the martial arts centre or whether that money went to the community society earlier, I'm not sure. But there was some a fund that they put up into the community. But anyway they were going to build a martial arts centre. We had a proposal call and we, it came down to two proposals. One proposal for a beautiful A-frame building designed by a Japanese architect and the other for a traditional Japanese martial arts centre designed by Arnold Petzoldt, an Austrian, who lived in Japan and was,
KF
Okay.
HS
And, all the white guys on the committee supported the Japanese architecture and all the Japanese people supported the A-frame. And like Ms. Izaguchi's comment to me, we debated it, and my side won. That Lanky was saying “Well, we don't want to be seen. We saw what happened in world war two. We don't want it to happen again. We just want to be left alone.”
KF
“We just want to blend in.”
HS
“We want to blend in.” And I said, and our group said, “No, we want you to be seen. We want to tell the world what happened. We want to make sure that it never happens again, and the best way is to tell the story is by building a building of Japanese architecture.” And, Lanky was very proud of the building after we overruled, after we out voted him.
KF
It's a nice building, yeah. It's a great facility.
HS
So that's a, that's the story. And of course issue is what happened to the Japanese hospital and school when, it tells a bit of the story of when the dates, when it was turned over to the club. And I don't know if I told you the story about the house. But the house that is now a part of the Steveston museum, as I mentioned earlier, was the office of the school and of the hospital and I think the school in between the two buildings. And, when the army and navy took the hospital and school site over in 1945, they moved the house over to one corner of the property, or the office, and they converted it to a house. And somebody lived in it and the person who lived in it was the president of the army navy or the manager of the army navy at the time when they built a new facility. And, I guess 10 or 15 years ago, I'm not sure how many years ago it was now, the daughter of the army and navy president that restored the office into a house was still living there and she contacted me to see if we could save the house.
01:20:10.000
01:20:10.000
HS
And so that's how we ended up, when we went there and looked at it, we thought it was house, and she says “No, this was the office.” And we found that it has two front doors, and the old photographs showed that they, actually the house had one front door, where the photograph showed the office had two front doors and then we discovered that one of the doors had been totally closed in. And it was, we were able to verify that it was actually the office building. So, we then negotiated with the modern day army and navy to keep the building on site and they wanted to build a senior centre. It wasn't economic to keep, to put it in one corner, so they agreed to move the building. And we put it up, at the Steveston museum site. But that's the story there, so how we actually managed to save that piece of the history, but it's interesting that the, that was part of the Custodian's sale to the, they effectively sold the Japanese hospital and school to the army. The people that effectively evacuated them.
KF
Right.
HS
But, annyway,
KF
Funny how it comes around.
HS
Yeah, that's it exactly, so, but anyway I'll copy these for you.
KF
Yeah.
HS
If I find anything else, I'll send you an email.
KF
Please, yeah. And I'll give you an update on that Victoria City Archive's file.
HS
Yeah.
KF
See what I can find.
HS
Yeah, cause that gives, that'll give you some I just told about the file in Victoria that you've got some of the stuff upstairs. Do you know where it would be?
KF
Oh, you don't have to find it. If-
HS
The letters from 1890 or 1900.
KS
No.
HS
It was when Herbert Steves was,
KS
I know roughly where it'd be, but I can't find it just instantly.
KF
Oh, don't,
HS
Anyway, well we'll check so we might find a couple copies of letters that tell about it.
KF
Yeah, and I'll definitely pop into the city archive.
KS
-Hopefully Japanese stuff.
HS
Well, it, basically what happened was that they complained that our family was allowing Japanese and Chinese kids to go to the schools in one or two of the letters. Kat Oh,
HS
And I don't know if I've got copies of them because I didn't copy everything that was in the archives. But, I know that that was, and you gotta go through hundreds of letters to find them, but
KF
That's wild.
HS
But, they, that was the complaint that they'd written. And some how it ended up in this file with this lawyer. But,
KF
Great! No, thank you so much for sitting down with me. Thanks for sitting down too Kathy
HS
Anyway, I'll copy this for you right now. It will just take me a minute.
KF
I'll turn this off.
01:23:01.000

Metadata

Title

Harold Steves, interviewed by Kyla Fitzgerald, 01 September 2016

Abstract

In this interview Harold Steves shares letters his family received from Japanese Canadians during the internment era. He reflects on his family’s connection with Japanese Canadians in Steveston, in particular the family of the principal of the Japanese language school in Steveston. Harold notes how many Japanese Canadians contacted his aunt, Ida Steeves, asking for assistance during internment and incarceration. Through his family’s letters, Harold reveals the deep roots Japanese Canadians had in Steveston as Japanese Canadians helped change the environment and became essential parts of the community. Harold emphasizes his family’s long history in Steveston and ties this to early Japanese-Canadian settlers, who settled in Steveston in the same period. Harold focuses on how his family worked closely with Japanese Canadians in Steveston, either as colleagues at the Japanese language school or through community efforts such as farming or home care. Harold notes his feelings of loss during the forced uprooting as his friends were taken from Steveston. Harold further notes how his mother and father cared for the property of Japanese Canadians and how his Aunt Ida Steeves attempted to send supplies and pieces of property to interned and incarcerated Japanese Canadians.

Credits

Interviewer: Kyla Fitzgerald
Interviewee: Harold Steves
Interviewee: Kathy Steves
Transcriber: Nathaniel Hayes
XML Encoder: Nathaniel Hayes
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Steveston, British Columbia
Keywords: Steveston ; Family; Environment; hospital; UBC ; Steveston Community Centre ; Steveston Martial Arts Centre ; school; settler; principal; flower; letter; Steves; Steeves; army; navy; support; bystander; 1870s – 1980s

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.