George Takashima, interviewed by Josh Labove, 01 October 2015

George Takashima, interviewed by Josh Labove, 01 October 2015

Abstract
George begins the interview with his earliest childhood memories. He describes what life was like during the war and the friends he had lost due to being labeled an ‘enemy alien.’ He then explains his experience in the internment camps and how Japanese Canadians received their education there. George also mentions the non-Japanese Canadian groups who helped interned Japanese Canadians complete their elementary and high school level education. He states that the community in Greenwood, BC were the first in Canada to receive Japanese Canadians with open arms. George then moves on to reflect on the various opinions both Japanese and non-Japanese Canadians held with regards to the war. He outlines his journey to becoming an educator, principal, and assistant superintendent in the education system. Near the end of the interview George discusses the importance of Canadian citizenship and volunteerism.
00:00:00.000
Labove Joshua (LJ)
It is October 1st, 2015. I'm Josh Labove in Lethbridge Alberta with Dr. George Takashima. So, pastor George, maybe we can just start with some of your earliest memories. Where did you grow up? Where were you born? What was childhood like?
George Takashima (GT)
I was born in Vancouver BC and at the age of three my parents moved to Toronto. His company sent him to Toronto, so we were in Toronto for three years. Now, in Toronto, there was just a very small group of Japanese people living there and we never really got to know too many of them. The one family that my father got to know very well was a Mr. Kurata. He had come to North Ameica to the United States from Japan and then to Toronto and he was one of the curators at the Royal Ontario Museum. He had one son, Lucian, who was a teenager and babysat me when we lived in Toronto. He later went on to university and became a lawyer and so on and so forth. The three years that we lived in Toronto I was not of Kindergarten age so I had all kinds of free time and I was a launderer. I didn't have any friends, so to speak, not that I can remember. So I used to do a lot of wandering and in the eastern part of Toronto by the Don Valley Parkway and spent a lot of time at the zoo which was located in the area just south of Bloor and Danforth. And then in 1940 we moved back to Vancouver and that's when I started kindergarten and then I was ... somewhere along the way I did grades one and two when the war broke out. We were not allowed to go to school and so, again, I was floating around. It's pretty hard because, you know, some of the kids I got to know who I considered friends were no longer friends. They kind of turned against me and I have a hunch when I reflect on it. It probably was not the kids as much as their parents saying “hey, don't play with him because he's an enemy.” In the summer of 1942 we were sent to New Denver and that's where I spent four years in New Denver and did my schooling there. In November of 1946 we moved from New Denver and ended up in London, Ontario. My grade three, or my grade two to grade three was kind of wishy-washy and my grade seven was wishy-washy because I spent two months in New Denver grade seven and then when I moved to Fingal which was sort of the holding tank for the Japanese Canadians in Southwestern Ontario to give the parents a chance to see where they wanted to settle. So the fathers were often on the road going to Leamington, Chatham, Windsor, the Niagara Peninsula, and then in May we finally settled in London, Ontario. I started grade seven there in spite of the fact that my grade seven was kind of, you know, hit and miss.
00:05:07.000
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GT
The principal called my dad and I one day in early June and said “we want to put George into grade nine. He has the ability to handle grade nine work.” My dad said no and he gave his reasons. I was angry with him at first but I was okay afterwards. I understood why my dad did what he did. So I went through grade eight and spent all my high school years in one high school in London, graduated from there, yup. So that's my formative years.
LJ
There's a lot of moving in there.
GT
Lot of moving, yeah.
LJ
Do you remember packing up or being told you were going to New Denver?
GT
No, not really. I just went with the flow.
LJ
Do you remember the flow? Do you remember the going to New Denver?
GT
You see, we were never in Hastings Park. We managed to stay out of Hastings Park so we moved around a bit from one friend's house to another friend's house and so on. Yeah, I remember getting on the train and going to New Denver. We went through Nelson and ended up in Slocan City and then I remember ... I think we were on a bus. That part I can't remember but we ended up in New Denver and we had a house waiting for us. My father was already there ahead of time. So we had a house, a small house, just one family. The size of the house would be maybe four hundred square feet? Yeah, it was a small house.
LJ
How many were ... How many of you were in your family? Did you have ...
GT
Just the three of us: my dad, mom, and me. Yeah, the three of us.
LJ
What was life like when you went to school? What else was going on?
GT
In New Denver?
LJ
Yeah.
GT
I think for the kids, certainly in my age, we had a lot of fun. I guess at the beginning of our life in New Denver I had never seen so many Japanese kids around because wherever we lived, prior to moving, prior to the outbreak of war, we never lived in Japan-town and certainly in Toronto they had no Japan-town. I was used to living among Caucasians. So when we got to New Denver then I realized “hey, we've got a whole new ballgame here.” I guess it took a bit of time for me to adjust to the ways of the Japanese because, as I said, I didn't live in Japan-town. I didn't live where there were other Japanese people in the neighborhood so it was a whole new ballgame for me. A lot of the kids spoke Japanese. They were not necessarily good Japanese so I found out because I would copy them and then I would use those words at home and my dad and mom would say “hey, that's not a nice term” or ... okay, so. As time went on we got along and I got along with the kids and we had a lot of fun. I managed to have two or three close friends, buddy buddies, and usually they were kids who had no siblings because I had no siblings. Any of the friends I had were like me, no siblings, so we got along. We managed to do all kinds of things.
00:10:07.000
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GT
Of course, we also played with other kids who had siblings and in the winter we would do ... There was a group for boys at the Presbyterian church and the guy there taught us woodcraft and one of the things we learned to make were sleds and bobsleds. We would take it to the local machine shop and the guy there would put steel runners on and, because there were plenty of hills, we could do sledding and bobsledding or, you know, homemade bobsleds. Then we could do other winter sports. I don't recall skating but I recall hockey and the sense of running back and forth with a puck. We had winter boots on and so on. In the downtown sector where the Caucasians lived, there was a weekly movie so we used to go to the movies every Friday night or Saturday night. In the summer we had all kinds of activities because New Denver was right by Slocan Lake. That lake was a beautiful lake, cold but clean water. We used to make rafts and go rafting. We would try our hand at fishing. I don't think there were ... As far as I'm concerned there were no fish in the lake but, you know, we didn't know that. There was a carpenter's creek that ran between the town site and the orchard. The orchard is where the shacks were built and where most of the Japanese people lived. So the carpenter creek flowed into Slocan Lake. It came from the east. It came from another community called Sandon which was a booming mining town which shut down in the early 1900s. We would go to one or two abandoned mines. The buildings were still there then. We used to look around there and play in the abandoned mining places. We used to go and hunt rabbits and we would take them home and build rabbit pens only to discover that they could escape quite easily but we had a lot of fun with the rabbits. There were all kinds of rabbits in Harris Ranch and Nelson Ranch. Yeah, sometimes we would go with our mothers and do mushroom picking and fiddleheads. Fiddleheads were good energy food and we would do a lot of mountain climbing, fairly big mountains. So, those were some of the activities.
LJ
You kept busy.
GT
Pardon?
LJ
You kept busy.
GT
Yeah, we always made fun for ourselves. We never had store bought toys. So everything we did, we did making use of what was in the environment. We even had ... We used to climb up trees and make tree houses or we would go up and make a platform and jump down into a pile of branches and leaves. The height would be, about, let's say twenty-five feet. So for a little kid a twenty-five feet jump is pretty scary but, you know, as we developed confidence we would build the platform higher and higher. So, yeah, that was always a fun thing.
00:15:30.000
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LJ
You mentioned that you'd go pick mushrooms, sometimes fiddleheads.
GT
Yeah.
LJ
So what kind of food was ... What were some of the meals that your mom would have been making?
GT
Well, everybody had a garden and we had no refrigerator. So, what many people did was to dig deep into the ground to keep the food cool. We ate a lot of fish. These were fish that were brought in. We had two grocery stores which were just hanging in there when we arrived. All of a sudden, overnight, they both prospered so they figured out from us what kind of food we liked and they tried to accommodate us by ordering supplies. So we had a lot of fish. Rice was a staple product and the two grocery stores were able to bring in rice from the west coast. So, basically, it was a Japanese style meal: rice, miso soup, a fish, vegetables. As I said, in the summer the soil was so rich that you could grow some beautiful vegetables. They would be prepared and put into the homemade cooler down below the ground.
LJ
Winter would have been tougher though.
GT
Pardon?
LJ
Winter would have been tougher.
GT
Yeah, winter would have been tougher but when it came to winter you would not have veggies in there unless the vegetables were already prepared ahead of time and canned in which case you could freeze them. For the most part, the gardens would be good from the end of June right through to even November, you know, it was warm enough yet. When it came to December, January, February, March unless you had canned vegetables you pretty well relied on the grocery stores.
LJ
You would have needed some good winter clothes to ...
GT
The bible in the ghost towns and certainly in New Denver were the Eaton and Simpson catalogues. There was a lot of mail order for clothing and other stuff. So just about every house had at least one, if not two, catalogues. The two grocery stores they sort of expanded to include some clothes but nothing ... Like, they would have a lot of work clothes. Blue jeans were, as far as I know, there were no such things as blue jeans, I don't think, but there were other kinds of work pants.
LJ
Were there richer families and poorer families? Folks that could order from the Eaton's catalogue more freely than others? Did you have a sense that there were some of your friends that had more access to stuff or ...
GT
If they had the money. Yeah, if they had the money, yeah, certainly.
LJ
Yeah.
GT
Because the bank, I think if I recall correctly, something in the back of my mind says that the government froze the banks but I'm not sure on that. That part I'm not sure but I know that people had money because all able-bodied men had jobs. They would be picked up in the morning, I'm talking about New Denver now, and they would be working at logging camps which was on the way to Nakusp.
00:20:29.000
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GT
There's a place called Hill and that's where the trees were knocked down and made into logs and so on. So a goodly number of men were hired to work in the lumber camps in forestry and others had other jobs around the area like hospital attendants, garbage pickup, you know, that kind of stuff. So most of the ... And then the younger women, mostly Canadian born women, a goodly number would have jobs at the stores. Not only the two grocery stores but also the pharmacy and I can remember one lady who opened up a barber shop and then one or two were employed by the banks. There were the Bank of Montreal and, I think, there was another bank of some kind in New Denver. Some were employed by the hotels. So, yeah.
LJ
You were young enough to not be working at that time.
GT
No. Well, yeah, I would not be working.
LJ
But your dad was working?
GT
He was a physiotherapist by training and physiotherapy at that time was relatively unknown. He would be working at the hospital, sort of a paramedic.
LJ
Did that afford him good hours? Was he able to come home?
GT
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, yeah. All of them were ... Even the guys that were working in the logging camps would be working from, say, seven until five. They would be home by six o'clock. Oh, yeah, no problem. And five days a week.
LJ
So he was working at a hospital?
GT
Yeah, there was a hospital there with two medical doctors.
LJ
Two doctors.
GT
Yeah. One was Japanese the other was a retired doctor who was called back into service, Doctor Francis. So there's Doctor Francis and then Doctor ... I can't remember his name. Yeah, there was a Japanese ... and then there was also an optometrist, Doctor Narusad. He later went to Treo, BC and that's where he remained for the rest of his life and practiced optometry.
LJ
Outfitting folks with glasses?
GT
Hm?
LJ
Outfitting folks with glasses?
GT
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
LJ
You didn't need any?
GT
Hm?
LJ
Did you need any glasses?
GT
No.
LJ
Lucky.
GT
laughs.
LJ
So it sounds like it was a bustling community in some ways.
GT
Yeah, it was and, as I've said, for kids, for the guys, it was a lot of fun. Now, many of the girls were more sensitive to their parents. They knew that this was not a good thing. They knew that there was a lot of injustice being done. Now the word injustice was not in our vocabulary at that time but the girls were more sensitive to it. They too had fun. There was no education and the government said “we're not going to provide any education for the Japs. They don't deserve it. They don't need it.”
00:25:18.000
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GT
And so on, so forth. It was the outside forces, Caucasian forces, church groups, the old CCF party, the one prior to the NDP, they were the ones who championed the cause that “education is a must” and finally the provincial government succumbed to the pressure from the community, from the Caucasian community. They said “okay, we'll provide education grades one to eight” but they did not provide teachers. So the teachers we had in all eight internment camps were non-teachers. They may have had ... Most of them will have graduated from high school. Some may have had university training but all of these people had to take a crash program, six weeks teacher training. There happened to be two Japanese Canadians who were qualified teachers from the prewar days. So they were kind of the supervisors and then the Department of Education provided other people to do instructing and so on. After the six weeks they would go to their various assignments in the different internment camps. The following summer they would be back again for more teacher training. So, every summer there was teacher training for six weeks. These were the people who manned the classrooms. Obviously, obviously, they had done a good job because after the war when we spread out across the country and we went into the mainstream schools we were rated high or, in many instances, we could skip you a grade. So that said something. When it came to high school the government said no. So the churches picked up, the Roman Catholic Church, the Presbyterians, the United. In New Denver we had two high schools. One was run by the Roman Catholic sisters and the other was run by the United Church. They provided trained teachers and they took space wherever they could find space and that's where the high school kids got their education.
LJ
Was New Denver some of the first exposure ... Was religion important to you as a kid before New Denver?
GT
Oh, yeah. Most of them were Buddhists. I grew up in the United Church as a kid. So when they were moving people to the internment camps they tried to move them according to their religion. For example, in Kaslo, most of the people there were United Church people or Anglican or Protestants. In New Denver we had a large group of Buddhists but we also had non-Buddhists in New Denver. Every community had Buddhists and non-Buddhists. The first community, now this is interesting, the first community to accept Japanese with open arms was Greenwood, BC. The mayor and the people welcomed the Japanese. Now, they didn't have ... That was a town that was declining in population and so in Greenwood they didn't build any shacks. What they did was to get any existing buildings that were vacant and they used those buildings for housing the internees. They went to the town high school and public school. They were fully integrated with the town's people, kids, okay. The Roman Catholic provided a high school there. There were sisters there and there are stories written and told about how the Roman Catholic sisters provided high school education to the Japanese. So Greenwood was a very welcoming ... It's the only one that was welcoming.
00:30:12.000
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LJ
By inverse then what was New Denver like?
GT
New Denver, the town part, it was a dying community and they had never seen a Jap before and, you know, to be all of a sudden flooded by over 1000 Japanese, which is more than double the population of the Caucasians, there was a lot of suspicion and fear. There's no doubt about it. The town of New Denver had a BC Provincial Police but we also had RCMP. RCMP would be at every internment camp. It didn't take long for the people to realize and, certainly for the merchants, they saw this as an opportunity to reverse their misfortune and start to make money. They hired young Japanese ... Well, the English speaking girls to be clerks and all that. Through them they, the merchants, learned that “hey, these are good, honest people. There's nothing to be afraid of.” So the merchants did a lot to calm the fears that the people had in the downtown area. It didn't take long before they felt comfortable. We went to the movies together. Right next door to the movies was an ice cream parlor with a jukebox and Caucasian kids gathered there and so did the Japanese kids. There was never a problem. In the downtown area there is a field and one of the things the Japanese, especially the older teens and young twenties, they're known for baseball. Baseball became a weekend sport and even the Caucasians came to watch and they were amazed at the caliber of the players.
LJ
Did you play?
GT
No, I was young. See, we're talking about kids who are ...
LJ
Older.
GT
Yeah, sixteen, eighteen, and up.
LJ
Did your parents, did they mind if you socialized with Caucasian kids? Did they have an opinion on that?
GT
No, because I was used to that before the war years but then I didn't really get to know too many Caucasian kids because, as I said, I had three or four close friends and they were all kids who had no siblings. There was one who had a sibling but he was my age and his older sister would be about almost ten years older than him, you know, that type of thing. So as far as we were concerned he was the only kid in the family type of thing. There were about five or six Japanese families who occupied vacant buildings in the town site.
LJ
Occupied vacant buildings in the town, to what end? What were they doing in that ... They were living in them or ...
GT
Yeah, living in them, houses, vacant houses. Yeah.
LJ
Okay, so after New Denver you headed out back to Ontario again.
GT
Yeah, even before the war ended the people were given a mandate who either repatriate to Japan or you go east of the Rockies because the Japanese were not allowed back to the west coast. They could not go within the first 100 mile limit, okay. So most of the internees ... Well, it did cause a split in many families. The older kids did not want to go to Japan. The parents wanted to so the parents would take their young children with them to Japan and the older kids, teenagers and up, would remain and go east either to finish their schooling or get a job or, you know. So that's what happened.
00:35:15.000
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LJ
But you didn't go to Japan.
GT
No, no.
LJ
You went to Ontario.
GT
Yeah, we went to Fingal which was the collection center and then from there to London.
LJ
Did you parents, you were young at this time still ...
GT
Yeah, I was eleven years old when we moved to, twelve years old, when we moved to Ontario.
LJ
Did your parents tell you what was going on or do you just remember, sort of, one day saying ...
GT
No, they never really said ... I knew there was a war going on, that much I knew. I knew that ... Well, you know, you kind of have to be careful among the Japanese because some of the Japanese were still, like the old folks were still loyal to Japan whereas the younger folks were born here. They know nothing about Japan and they would be anti-Japan. That caused a lot of friction among the family members, too. In our case, in my case, it didn't because my parents were pro-Canadian and they knew that the war was wrong. They knew that Japan was at fault and there were families that thought that way too but not that many that I know of.
LJ
But you had to, sort of, keep that opinion to yourself a little bit.
GT
Yeah, yeah, because you could get beaten up if you said the wrong thing. I saw that happening, kids getting beaten up and I would ask why, what's going on there, why is he being beaten up? So they would tell me and, okay.
LJ
So you get out to Ontario, you're in seventh grade now?
GT
Yeah, I finished grade seven in London, Ontario and the principal's recommending I go into grade nine. My dad said no and so I took grade eight and then I did grade nine to thirteen. Ontario, like BC, had the thirteenth grade.
LJ
Now, I've got to imagine at this time you're getting out to Ontario by rail.
GT
Yup.
LJ
So you would have passed through all the vast prairie lands including where we're sitting right now. What was ...
GT
Yeah, as a matter of fact the train came through Lethbridge and Medicine Hat but it was in the wintertime, coldest places.
LJ
Yeah, it didn't look too appealing in the wintertime. So, many folks would have gotten off the train though in Lethbridge, I suspect.
GT
We were on a regular train. We were about the only Japanese on that train.
LJ
Oh, okay.
GT
This is in November 1946 so there's no troop train as such. Like, in 1942 special trains were formed to carry all the internees into the internment camps. But, no, after the war you're left on your own and you took the regular train.
LJ
You took the train out passed all this land and settled in ...
GT
But that was in winter so you saw all the snow. That was my second trip, though. Don't forget. Before the war years I had made a trip to Toronto and back so this is my second trip.
LJ
Yeah, so you're seeing it again.
GT
Yeah, not that I remembered everything. I didn't.
LJ
Well, the first time you were quite young.
GT
Yeah, but I do remember, for example, in Medicine Hat we were ... The train, I think the train was there for almost twelve hours. I remember there were two families. There was another family of three: mother, father, and their son who was much older than me. He was twenty-five, twenty-six. So the two families, we went to one movie, went back to the station they said “no, not for another four hours.” So we went to a second movie and then we had meals in the restaurant. That's how we spent the day in Medicine Hat and then finally the train left. My parents and I got off in Winnipeg. The other family stayed on and they ended up in Montreal but we stayed in Winnipeg overnight because my dad wanted to do some business or whatever and then we caught the next train and headed east.
00:40:44.000
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LJ
That's a long trip.
GT
Yeah, yeah.
LJ
It's still a long trip.
GT
At that time it would be a coal burning engine so you're getting all this smoke and so on.
LJ
So you stayed in one place for an unusually long time in your childhood from grade seven to grade thirteen in one place.
GT
Yeah, that would be 1947 to 1955, yeah. No, 1954.
LJ
After grade ... What was high school like? It sounds like you were a good student. You had that going for you.
GT
High school was pretty hard. Five hundred students in London Central Collegiate. 1948, you know, 1949 that's still pretty close to the end of the war so when I was in grade eight I made some good friends except that while we were going into grade nine they went to other high schools and I ended up going to London Central but there was one kid from the same public school as there. He and I got along. To this very day we're still friends. We communicate with each other but it was hard. By grade short pause ... Like I learned to ignore people. That's one of the things ... I don't know how I picked that up. I knew there were a lot of nasty remarks but I just turned a deaf ear. I joined the Army Cadet Core in grade nine, stayed with it for five years, and went to military camps, you know, cadet camps and all that. I managed to get a summer job. Even after I came out of grade eight I was walking down Dundas Street which is the main street in London and there was a sign in a drug store that said “delivery boy wanted.” So I walked in and got hired to deliver. Now, get this. You had to provide your own bicycle, of course. I had to deliver prescription medicine to various, you know, wherever, collect the money, and take it back to the drug store. That's 1948. No way did that ever happen today. No way would it even happen thirty years ago but in 1948 here I am, thirteen years old, going on fourteen, with a bicycle, carrying precious medicine, delivering it, collecting the money, taking it back. Amazing. I never thought about that until just a few years ago when I was thinking about all the jobs I had, you know. That was one that ... I only got paid eight dollars a week and I had to work Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I would work morning and evening and then Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday I worked the afternoon. Every other Sunday I had to work from one to five or whatever. So that's eighteen ... It's about thirty to thirty-four hours a week. Thirty hours every other week and thirty-four hours every other week when I had that Sunday attached.
00:45:08.000
00:45:08.000
GT
There was another kid who was also a delivery boy. There were two of us working two shifts. Throughout high school I had jobs with Canada Bread, Wonder Bread. In grade ten or eleven I was the dough boy. I would go in at ten o'clock at night or eleven o'clock at night and I would make dough, put them in the big container, put it into the hot house where they let the dough rise. That was my job, fifty cents an hour. Then one summer I worked in Silverwood Dairy in the cooler. The ice cream would be packaged and they would come down the roller. I would have to pick it up and make it into different piles and then there were four semi-trailers. Those semi-trailers were not like what you have today. They are much smaller but you have to place the order, fill the order, and, yeah.
LJ
Did you get to keep any ice cream?
GT
Hm?
LJ
Did you get to keep any ice cream? Take any ice cream home?
GT
No, no, no, because they're already packaged. They came in barrels and they came in what we call bricks. I have never seen them ... Well, yeah, there's bricks today but ... And these were all packaged in the ... The bricks were four to a package and then the barrels, of course ... You're working in the freezer so every so often you have to get out to kind of warm up and get back in. It's a good job. It was sixty-seven and a half cents an hour, overtime, time and a half, on national holidays double time. I used to get a lot of overtime because somebody had to go away or wanted to take the day off or whatever so I would volunteer to cover. So often times I would put in double shifts. Yeah, it was okay. I made ... In those days sixty-seven and a half cents was big bucks, you know, early '50s.
LJ
So you ...
GT
And then I also went to military camps. I was also in the reserve army at the age of fifteen.
LJ
Yeah, so tell me about that. The reserve army, I mean, was that like ... I'm thinking that's the army where you'd be called up, potentially, as a reservist, no?
GT
Yup. Well, in those days we were the ... I belonged to the Canadian Fusiliers. It was a machinegun regiment. We were the auxiliary to the second battalion RCRs. Their headquarters was at Wolseley Barracks in London, Ontario. We were the affiliated to the second battalion. The army cadet core I belonged to was sponsored by the Canadian Fusiliers. That's the connection and that's why, at the age of fifteen going on sixteen, however they did it, I was in the reserve army.
LJ
Did you have to learn to use a machinegun?
GT
Oh, yeah, machinegun, Bren gun, Sten gun, learn how to drive the Bren gun carrier, took part in the tri-services weekend which was 1000 army, navy, air force, near south of Chatham, Ontario by lake Erie. The navy had what they call fair miles and there were about five of them. London had one, and Windsor had one, Hamilton had one, Toronto had one, not sure where the fifth one came in from but, anyway, yeah.
00:50:16.000
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LJ
I might be thinking about my mom here but I know she wouldn't be too thrilled with me playing around with machineguns. How did your folks feel about you joining up in the reserve army?
GT
As long as I kept up with my studies, yup.
LJ
No problem that it was the Canadian Army?
GT
Nope.
LJ
Yeah.
GT
Because I was Canadian born, Canadian citizen, my parents were very pro-Canadian, so, yeah. No problems.
LJ
School came first, though?
GT
Yeah, because my dad said “if your marks go down you're getting out” laughs.
LJ
Apparently they didn't go down.
GT
Pardon?
LJ
I'm guessing that your grades didn't ...
GT
Yeah, but I eventually dropped out. When I moved to Sivaco for my first teaching job I had to go home. When I moved to Winnipeg there was no equivalent. In Winnipeg they had an armored core, an artillery. There's no way that I could fit into those because I was an infantry and meant I would have to start over again. So whatever background qualifications I had, it would not tie in with the other unit. I would have to start over.
LJ
So, after grade thirteen in London and all these many jobs and activities where did you head next? Where was your next ...
GT
I did the first year of a five year accountancy course. I didn't like it and the only reason why I did that was because my guidance counselor said “you're suited for this because your mathematics are excellent.” Well, you know, I was naïve. I didn't know much. I worked for a book store. It started out just before, about two weeks before, school opening and I was in grade twelve or thirteen. Yeah, I was in grade twelve. They wanted students to come in and help prepare for school; books and all of that. After all that was over the manager came over and said “George I want to speak to you.” He says “I've watched you work and at times I thought you might get a heart attack.” But anyways he says “how would you like a part-time job.” So I took it. I worked for the book store even after my first year of teaching in Sivaco. When I went back for the summer I went to the book store and worked. Yeah, so ... Anyways, after the one year of accountancy, I didn't like it and the girl that I was going out with at that time said “why don't you come to teachers college? Tuition is free. They provide you with books. There's no cost.” You know why that was?
LJ
No.
GT
There was a tremendous shortage of teachers. Right after the war kids are booming, you know, no teachers. So for the first few years they provided free tuition, free books. They even set up a two year program in Ontario so that somebody coming out of grade twelve, instead of going to grade thirteen, could take the first year in teachers college and then the second year. Their second year would be our first year from grade thirteen. So I did that and then I taught in Sivaco for one year and then I moved to Winnipeg and enrolled at the United College which is now the University of Winnipeg.
LJ
Pretty close to downtown Winnipeg.
GT
Yeah, right downtown. Yeah, right downtown. It's a huge campus today compared to when I went there. When I went there, there was just that whole brick building and then the building beside it which was theology on the second floor, library on the first floor.
00:55:14.000
00:55:14.000
GT
That was it. Right behind it was another building where all the women residents lived and then there was a common eating area for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because on the top floor of the main building was Graham Hall. That was for the male students.
LJ
That was a, like a dining hall?
GT
Pardon?
LJ
That was like a dining and residents hall, Graham?
GT
No, that was just a residence. We went to the women's building to have dinner, have our meals.
LJ
How did you like Winnipeg? How did Winnipeg suit you after ...
GT
It was okay. Yeah. Wherever I go it doesn't bother me. I taught school. I ran out of money so I had to, after one year, I just went back and taught school. I did all my university work in night school, summer school, because I didn't have the money to put myself through and in those days there were no such thing as student loans, you know, so I had to go and work.
LJ
So you went to work at ...
GT
I went to teach ...
LJ
In Winnipeg?
GT
Yeah, yeah, in Transcona. Yeah and then went to night school and summer school.
LJ
It's a tough slog.
GT
It was fun. It was fun because there are a lot of people doing that. A lot of teachers who were ... they had done the one year teacher training and then they decided they wanted to further their education. So I was in the company of the finest, you know, we were more, let's say we were more worldly than the regular students who went from high school right into university. We were older, we had money, and we had maturity.
LJ
Yeah.
GT
Yeah, so, yeah.
LJ
And you stayed in Winnipeg for a little while?
GT
No, no. We stayed there until 1963. Peggy and I got married in 1963 and then in the summer of 1964 we moved to Pinawa, Manitoba. It was the atomic energy center, brand new. It had opened in 1963 and so I moved there in 1964 to teach school. Now, get this. There were, I think, maybe I'll say 100 students grades nine to twelve, nineteen teachers. I had a class of one. You see, in atomic energy when they want to get somebody the guy would say “well, look, I have a son or I have a daughter and they need to have this course.” Well, it just so happened there was a family by the name of Gold and they had a daughter who was taking Latin. “Can you offer Latin to my daughter?” So the head man at the atomic energy would come to the school and say “we need somebody to teach Latin.” Well, it so happened that I had four years of high school Latin and two years of university Greek. The principal knew that. He says “George, you're going to be teaching Latin” and I said “Me teach? I haven't touched Latin since high school days!” So anyways, I tutored her for grades nine, no, grades ten, eleven, and then I said “Margery, in grade twelve I cannot carry you but we'll get correspondents and we'll work the correspondence and I'll work with you on the correspondence because I don't feel comfortable teaching the course right off the curriculum. I need to have the correspondence.” She agreed to that, the parents agreed to that. I used to get razzed, you know, because the other teachers would say “one! Oh, man, is that ever easy.” I said “hey, that may sound easy but, Latin?” I said. Yeah, so ... The largest group I had was nineteen and that was in grade eleven American history.
01:00:27.000
01:00:27.000
LJ
American history?
GT
Yeah, in grade eleven in Manitoba.
LJ
American history in Manitoba?
GT
Yup.
LJ
Not Canadian history?
GT
Nope. There was American history and we taught Canadian history. Now, I may have ... No, Canadian history was grade twelve, American history was grade eleven. I'm trying to think what grade ... Grade ten was kind of a general geography type of stuff. I never taught grade ten so I don't know but I taught American history because I remember one winter I had parent volunteers and I took all nineteen students to Winnipeg to see Gone with the Wind. Gone with the wind? Yeah. When we came out it was snowing like blazes. It turned out I was the only guy who managed to get back to Pinawa but normally it's an hour and a half drive, seventy miles or so. It took me almost four hours to get there but I got there and the others just stayed in Winnipeg and they were stranded for two days and here I am with ... I had a Volkswagen so I only had three students with me and we made it. We got to Bulseger and I said “you know, it doesn't look too bad. Let's go for it.” So we did it.
LJ
White knuckle driving?
GT
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, but there was nobody else crazy enough to be on the highway so, you know. There were places where I didn't know the size of the highway and the, you know, but it was okay. It was dark but it was okay. There are different sign posts that I could follow and I knew that I had some friends living along the highway that I could get to if needed. If I needed to do that but ... I was caught on that venture. Mind you the parents of the three kids I had in the car they were just surprised. They shook their head. I said “you know I got your kids home safe and sound.” They couldn't say anything.
LJ
No, yeah. So you stayed in Manitoba for a little while?
GT
Yeah and then after Pinawa I went up to The Pas, Manitoba in northern Manitoba. Pinawa was the last of my classrooms. After that, for the next twenty-four teaching years I was in administration. I went to The Pas to be a principal of an elementary school and I was in one elementary school with eighteen rooms. I got shifted to another elementary school which was twenty-four classrooms. I was there for one year and I got kicked out and ended up being the assistant superintendent of schools.
LJ
What do you mean you got kicked out?
GT
Hm?
LJ
What do you mean you got kicked out?
GT
Well they said “we don't want you in the principalship anymore. We want you at the head office.” So I was the assistant ...
LJ
So you got a promotion.
GT
Yeah, I was assistant superintendent with responsibilities for curriculum development. Yeah, so that's what I did because history was my major. So the other night when you asked me about how I knew all this about Japanese, you know, it's because history's my major and I majored in Canadian, American, and British histories. I noticed in the Canadian and even in the American, not much is said about the war years.
LJ
No, no.
01:05:06.000
01:05:06.000
GT
So that's what triggered an interest in ... I did a university program, like I taught a university program, Canadian studies and at that time the apologies, yeah, there were no apologies made but the three major issues were the same whether the apologies were made and that was the Chinese head tax and the Japanese internment and the Aboriginals and the residential schools. When I went to Sioux Lookout, my first year, I taught in a residential school so I studied more about that and I realized there were a lot of questions. There wasn't much written about residential schools so I had to go hunting and luckily I had four or five good friends who were Verna Kirkness and there's another one. They were aboriginals and educators. A guy named Andrew Kirkness who was with the Department of Indian Affairs but he was also Aboriginal and I got to know them quite well and they would tell me stories and then I realized “hey, these stories were never told.” I remember saying to Verna, “how come? How come we haven't heard this in the schools? How come ...” And when I was up in The Pas that was an integrated school system but ... and that's why I was hired to be the assistant superintendent because responsibilities for curriculum development was trying to figure out how to ... I hate to use the word integrated. I can't think of another word. Anyway, how do you get the Native students in tune with the major students, with the Canadian students. How do you get them so that they're on board with the rest, okay? I was experimenting and I decided you can't really get them on board through curriculum, like through a common curriculum, that you need to have a special type of curriculum that spoke to where these kids were and work it from there. It meant the classroom teacher would have to do more work. So? That's what they're paid to do. So this is what you have to do if you want your Aboriginal kids to kind of fit in on the mainstream with the others. You can't just throw them in there and expect them to pick up. These are the things they need in order to make it easier for them to get into the mainstream.
LJ
It's pretty progressive for the time. I mean, there was still a lot of folks who probably weren't on board with you then.
GT
Yeah, I think ... Well, the veteran teachers would be but the new ... Wait a minute that's not right. The young teachers would be, they would be keen and would want to know. The older teachers, the ones that have been there for years and years and years, “well, you know we tried that but ...” Or, you know, they had a very negative attitude but the younger ones were more progressive and would be willing to try different things. So this was something I worked with some of the younger ones who came on staff and some of them had supervisory jobs so I would work with them and get something going.
01:10:06.000
01:10:06.000
LJ
Beyond the Aboriginal story was the Japanese Canadian story something that you were working into the curriculum?
GT
No, at that time I didn't know much about the Japanese Canadians until I moved here in 1993 when I was assigned to the Japanese United Church. That's when I started to open up. It got me thinking about my roots.
LJ
A lot of kids missed learning about Japanese Canadian in school.
GT
You bet. Yeah. A lot of Japanese kids, never mind the Caucasian kids, the Japanese kids ... You speak to a lot of the adults and they, you know, “I never knew anything about this because my parents never talked about it.” You know? I think ... You must have interviewed a few people who would have that where parents never said anything.
LJ
Oh, yeah we've had a lot but, you know, one of the things that also amazes me is how much I've learned about a part of Canadian history that I'm ashamed to admit I didn't really know much about.
GT
Mhm. It's not your fault because, see, right now I know that in Vancouver the Nikkei teachers ... As a matter of fact I think they have a curriculum in the high school now. Yeah, they have, whether it's widespread throughout the province I don't know but the other provinces were still a pocket here maybe a pocket there but in terms of the entire provincial curriculum it's not in there and that's what we want to work toward is to develop a curriculum that can be implemented right across Canada. You go to the Maritimes, it's amazing the number of people that don't know anything about the life and times of the Japanese. It's all new to them. Even in rural areas of Ontario and Quebec and the north it's a hit and miss whether they knew anything about or heard anything about or learned anything about the Japanese Canadians.
LJ
But some would say “let sleeping dogs lie.”
GT
Oh yeah, well even Japanese people say that. Oh, yeah. My comeback on that is it's part of our history. It's a history that cannot be ignored. It has to be written and must be taught in that it can be something that can occur again and again and again. We need to understand and, you know, we're right in the, right now as we speak in the elections, democracy. Some of the crap that's out there. Even Bill-51, what are the implications of Bill-51? You have to dig and when you dig you realize “hey, there's a lot of implications here which affect the human rights of individuals and of groups.” Even today on T.V, you know, the removal of citizenship. On what basis do you remove a person's citizenship? So there's a lot of issues there and this is why I said, you know, whether we're talking about the Truth and Reconciliation or the Chinese head tax or the Japanese internment, they need to be taught in such a way that people understand.
LJ
We're getting there I think, I hope.
01:15:00.000
01:15:00.000
GT
Yeah, it's a long struggle. It's a long struggle.
LJ
Yeah.
GT
And as I've said at the Victoria meeting, you know we were talking about this and I said “you have to keep in mind that we have new immigrants coming into our country every day. They don't know the story of the Japanese Canadians or the Japanese Americans and so you need to keep teaching and yeah”
LJ
Apparently there was a new poll out today that says that immigrants have a rosier picture of Canada than those that were born and raised here.
GT
That's right, yeah. I think, I think ... Peggy and I worked when we lived in Toronto for the one year back seven, eight years ago we were with an alliance club and the alliance club we were with always sent somebody at the citizenship court in Mississauga and there would be something like 124 new citizens being sworn in and the alliance club would be there with the judge and then after it was over they would provide the lunch, the alliance would. One of the things that I learned, I knew this but hearing it ... For them, for each individual, that Canadian citizenship is valued. It's important. It means something. Those who are born in this country, they take citizenship for granted. They don't ... See, in this respect, I kind of admire the Americans. Sure, we're not flag wavers and all that but the flag still means something as part of who I am as an American citizen. When we sing our national anthem, okay, those words mean something whereas in the Canadian scene when the Canadian national anthem is played you very rarely hear people singing. Not like the Americans, they sing and the flag is a very important symbol. As I get older I realize how important that flag is and what it symbolizes for the American people. Like our Canadian flag, for those who travel abroad, the Canadian flag means something that for the average Canadian ...
LJ
It's just a flag?
GT
Yeah, it doesn't mean anything. That's the kind of attitude that I think is wrong. We need to ... I think part of it is that we do not teach citizenship. Years ago, when i was growing up, we had a course on Canadian citizenship every year. You kind of knew as you were going through elementary school, what it meant to be a Canadian citizen but all that has gone by the way side. We don't teach that anymore.
LJ
I'm wondering where we would find what it means to be a Canadian citizen today. Where would we get that information from if we don't get it from flags and songs?
GT
Well, we don't. We don't. This is kind of lacking in the school curriculum. I studied some of the American curriculum and there is always a course on American citizenship, what it means to be an American. Sometimes we make fun of the Americans but I think they've got something that we lack in our country.
01:20:09.000
01:20:09.000
GT
Certainly we know more about Americans than they do of us because we're exposed to the American media whether it's television or the newspapers or, you know, we know far more about the life and times of the American nation than they do of us.
LJ
But for all this I'm not interviewing you today in Santa Fe, New Mexico or Houston, Texas.
GT
Mhm.
LJ
You stuck it out north of the 49th parallel.
GT
Mhm.
LJ
So for all of that what keeps you here?
GT
Because this is my country. I'm proud of my country. I think we have institutions that are very open and welcoming of newcomers. We have a freedom of expression without having to be knocked down. We have governments that by and large provides us with many, many opportunities. Yeah, there's many, many things but there's always room for improvement. There's always room for making our land stronger.
LJ
Spoken like a school administrator.
GT
Yeah, so be it laughs.
LJ
Always room for improvement.
GT
Yup.
LJ
So you've seen a lot of this country and after a long time venturing all over the place, settled in Lethbridge, Alberta. As you noted to me this is the longest time you spent in any one place.
GT
Yup.
LJ
How did that come to be and how did you beat back the travel bug to stay in Lethbridge as long as you have?
GT
My job. I worked until July the 1st of 2012. I enjoyed my work. Now, Peggy was born and raised in Manitoba. She's a prairie girl. I said I'd like to move into BC but she says “no, I cannot live with mountains. It's a destination.” So Lethbridge is an ideal place. If I need my fix on mountains I can jump in the car and within an hour and a half I'm in the mountains. Peggy enjoys that, too.
LJ
Yeah, BC folks need their fix of the mountains.
GT
Mhm.
LJ
But you've spent so much time in Ontario and Manitoba I wonder if an affinity for flatland grew on you.
GT
No, I'm good wherever I am. I lived in ... I was born in Vancouver but, basically ... I've lived in London which, at that time, was 75,000. I lived in Sioux Lookout which is only about 3000, 4000. I've lived in Winnipeg which, at that time, was about half a million. I lived in Lethbridge. When we first came here it was under 70,000 and it's grown to considerably better. I lived in Toronto for one year. I lived in Winnipeg also which had a population of 1200 or less. I lived in The Pas which had a population of 5000. I lived in Yorkton, Saskatchewan which had a population of 16,000. So size doesn't matter to us. It's what we make of ourselves when we move into a new community. Do we get to know people quickly, and do we join in the community activities and that's what keeps you going.
01:25:20.000
01:25:20.000
LJ
You got going in Lethbridge though. I mean, you got really busy when you moved here.
GT
Yeah, yeah, but ... And working for the church, yeah. I joined the Japanese Cultural Association and the alliance club kept me going, the Lethbridge Twinning Society. Yeah, and different groups. Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden in terms of speaking engagements, yeah.
LJ
That's a neat place, the garden.
GT
Yeah, it is.
LJ
I love that it's there. I really wish that I would have had the chance to talk to Doctor Hirunaka because I think that it would be fascinating to know more about the push to develop that place.
GT
Yeah.
LJ
But I think it's wonderful that Lethbridge has it.
GT
Yeah. There's a group of visionary characters, Bob Hirunaka being one of them. Hiraku Iwai, he passed away last year, maybe two years ago in Saskatoon but he was here and he was part of the original planning committee. Yeah, these guys were visionary folks. They did not engage in mediocrity. Japanese gardens, if they were going to have it it's got to be done properly. So this Japanese garden there is one of the top in North America. There's over 350 Japanese gardens but this one is in the upper quarter. I think it's the second, someone said it was the second to the Nitobe Gardens at the UBC.
LJ
Yeah that's the one that comes to mind.
GT
Yeah, Nitobe Gardens and that was named after Doctor Nitobe who happens to come from Towada City which is our sister city in the Twinning Society. When we went to Towada there was a Nitobe museum with all the artifacts and the writings and other things, photographs of the Nitobes.
LJ
He spent some of his last days in Banff, Doctor Nitobe, and then I think he passed away in BC. He was the Japanese delegate to the 1933 meeting in Banff Springs.
GT
Yeah, yeah.
LJ
No, yeah, it's a pretty incredible garden. I guess it would have been here when you first got here?
GT
I'm sorry?
LJ
The garden would have been here when you first got here.
GT
Oh, yeah, it was built in 1967 it observes its fiftieth anniversary two years from now.
LJ
So when you got here do you remember the first time you went to the garden?
GT
Well, we were at the gardens even before we got here. We were visiting. We were still living in Yorkton, Saskatchewan and we were traveling throughout and we happened to pass through Lethbridge and we visited the Japanese gardens because we have a photograph of our three kids who are still pretty young so, obviously, we were here. So it wasn't a first time thing. It would be my second or third time, yeah.
LJ
So a lot of things keep you busy now but I'm thinking back for a second. I guess it probably would have been ... Well, you wouldn't have been in Lethbridge yet when redress was going on.
01:30:00.000
01:30:00.000
GT
No. When redress was going on I was in Brandon, Manitoba or no I was in Yorkton, Saskatchewan and making my move to Brandon. I didn't really pay much attention to redress. It was only in Brandon around 1990 or 1991 when they were looking right across the country to see who had not received redress and they noticed that I hadn't. I remember them coming to me and saying “why aren't you?” and I said “well, I don't know. I never really paid attention to it.” I got a check for it but ...
LJ
Do you remember getting the check in the mail?
GT
Hm?
LJ
Do you remember getting the check in the mail? GEORGE Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, and then I just donated $1000 to an institution in Winnipeg and then I banked the rest.
LJ
Someone showed me, they saved the check stub from the redress check but did you have any mixed feelings about getting that money?
GT
Yeah, I thought to myself “yeah, I qualify for it but really I didn't do anything. I didn't lose anything, so to speak, compared to my parents. So they should be the ones ...” but then they're gone so, yeah. There was a bit of a guilt but ... I suppose that's why I donated 1000 back to an institution in Winnipeg to sort of help alleviate that guilt, you know? There are individuals here who didn't want it but they got it and they donated the entire check to, say, the Chinook Regional Hospital or to some other things going around the city or, yeah. Some people just donated the whole check to a community enterprise.
LJ
Yeah, I would think there would be people who wouldn't want anything to do with those checks.
GT
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
LJ
It's hard to put a price on ...
GT
That's right, yeah.
LJ
So a few years after redress, now you're living in Lethbridge and that's when you really start to get tapped into the Japanese Canadian community?
GT
Well, yeah with the church. Even though it was English speaking, all of the people in my congregation were Japanese with the exception of one family. Of course, over the years many of them have passed on and during my time, I was there for thirteen years, I brought in a lot of people but with the exception of one couple all of the others were Caucasians. They knew me because I was a consultant for the South Alberta Presbytery which meant I had to visit every congregation and pastoral charge from the Saskatchewan border to the BC border south of Brooks. We had about twenty-four, twenty-five pastoral charges translated into twenty-four, twenty-five communities. So people knew of me and I had the smallest building of the four United Churches and in Lethbridge when country folks moved in here they tried the other congregations but they felt it was too big and they didn't get to know people and people were not friendly or welcoming so they came over to my church to see what it was like because they knew me and many of them stayed. I had more, like if you go to that church today, with the exception of maybe six, all the others are Caucasians and they average thirty members or thirty people in the congregation each Sunday. It's a small building. It was a Hungarian hall which the people bought and they made it into their church building.
01:35:04.000
01:35:04.000
LJ
You would have been driving around a lot. You would have been covering a lot of territory then from Saskatchewan to BC up to Brooks down to Milk River.
GT
Yup, yup, Cardston. I retired from Cardston, Magrath in 2012 on July the 1st. That's when I retired. I was pastor of Cardston, Magrath for three years and before that I was up in Lamont for two and a half years and before that I was in Toronto office for a year and then before that I was thirteen years in the Japanese church here.
LJ
It's almost like ... You had a very successful career in schools. You had a whole life teaching and as a school administrator and then a whole second career as a pastor.
GT
And hospital chaplain, yeah.
LJ
Did one prepare you for the other? Did being a school administrator ready you to be a pastor?
GT
Yup. The concept of leadership is such that I could flow into any kind of situation. I'm very quiet. Basically, I am. When I go to a meeting I don't open my mouth. I keep my mouth shut and it troubles some people because they know me as one who can talk a lot but when I'm at a meeting I clam up. I only say when I think I need to say something relevant otherwise I don't. One of the things I also ... Like I'm not much for church governance. I don't care for church governance but if something has been said why repeat it? People like to hear themselves talk so they say the same thing that was said before but maybe in different words but the idea is the same. That to me is a waste of time. When I was president of the Alberta Conference of the United Church they met every year. I was one of the very, very few conference presidents that completed the business of the church before adjourned. Most often the business never got completed and a motion would be made that the rest of the business be handled by the executive at their next meeting. One of the things I'd do, and people said this to me, is that I cut people off because if I think they're saying the same thing that was said. I let two speakers speak and if it's repeat I'd just cut it right off. I would say “unless somebody has something new, if you don't have any new information somebody please make a motion to adopt or accept or reject whatever.” We'd move on to the next. We got a couple of letters from the people who were at the conference stating that they liked how I ran the meeting because everything got done and they didn't have to go home wondering “okay, I wonder what's going to happen here.” It's been done and dealt with.
LJ
Where do you think you developed that sense of efficiency?
GT
Through the military. The military reserve army, even cadets. You know, no nonsense. State the facts. I liked that laughs. There's different kinds of leadership. There's the autocratic type which is more the military type and then you have sort of a democratic which, obviously, is you know but then you also have a pseudo-democratic type leadership and then you have a laissez-faire and I kind of think that a lot of people in the leadership role are in laissez-faire mode so time is wasted.
01:40:00.000
01:40:00.000
GT
Something that could be completed in ninety minutes it goes on for another hour and two hours, you know. I also learned that as an administrator, too. Time is important. Time is important not just to me but to the administrator. When I was superintendent I had principals meetings once every two weeks and we started on time and ended on time and you have an agenda before you had the opportunity to add things if you wanted to before the meeting started. So when the actual meeting is started you don't add new items. You have to leave it to the next one so you just deal with what's on the agenda. Bang, bang, bang.
LJ
Tough operation.
GT
Well, I had very good mentors. I had very good mentors and that's how ... I would say this one guy Dave Downey was a superintendent in Winnipeg and I said ... I sat down with him, you know, and when I was still fairly new I knew his brother, Dave's brother, who was in Sioux Lookout, hospital administrator of an Indian Affairs hospital. So he introduced me to his brother Dave and ... So one time I sat down with him, we talked, and he taught me a lot about the workings of the superintendency and yeah. So I learned from people and then I adapt if the situation I'm in is a bit different from others. I'll adapt but I'll keep the key ingredients of that other person, you know, and implement it into my leadership style or whatever.
LJ
Well, I guess in closing, or maybe in a last question here, I'm thinking about the Japanese Canadian community today in Lethbridge. How do you think things have changed even in the twenty some odd years that you've been here?
GT
Well, I think we don't have ... After 1988, after redress, the organization kind of went into ... It became dormant until I got on board and then we decided we would have a book project and that got us going and then in 2001 we changed the name from LDJCA, which was basically a political group, to NCS which reflected what we were about which was basically cultural things: dance, Taiko drumming, you know, things like that. In the mean time you have all these different interest groups like there's a bonsai committee group, bonsai you know, and there's a judo club and there's the karate club and there's the minyo dancers. The Buddhist church has a lot of things going and because the majority of the people here are Buddhist, non-Buddhists, for the most part ... Well, we don't have a building. So if we say “let's take the opportunity given to us and use the temple” but oh, no, the Buddhists won't do that. They don't want to go to the temple. Marlene would be an exception. I would be an exception and maybe two or three others but the majority don't. Everybody, I think, I think people they follow their interest groups. They have their own circle of friends and they do things, you know, there's a karaoke club. Last night there were some singers. There's a karaoke club that meets at the Buddhist church or somewhere else and there are, in that group, there are non-Buddhists in that group. That one guy that was sitting behind me, small guy, who sang in Japanese he's a non-Buddhist. As a matter of fact he's active in the United Church in Raymond.
01:45:00.000
01:45:00.000
GT
So the karaoke group are made up of members of Buddhist and non-Buddhist. Even the dancing group, there were at one time non-Buddhists in there, too. A lot of people, like the Japanese people in the United Church when I first came, when I talked about the Japanese organization, none of them were involved with the exception of two. Even to this day those who are still survivors, they may have friends among the Buddhist, you know, they may have Buddhist friends but as a group they don't want to have anything to do with the temple or, you know. Another thing, too, a lot of people are involved in community organizations. Like Reiko Takeyasu, she's very involved in Toastmasters, for years and years, but she's also active in the Buddhist church. You know, different people are involved in agricultural things. Potato growers are involved in the Potato Grower's Association and, you know, things like that. Yeah, so they've got their own interests. Diane Minamide she's got her ... She was part of the Lethbridge Twinning Society but when she became a member of the board of the Japanese garden she dropped out of the Twinning Society. A lot of people won't take on too many things. They're not as crazy as I am, like I try to cut down and instead I'm adding on laughs. I've got about half a dozen things still. One time I had over a dozen. There was an editorial that was given in The Pas where it talks about going to one meeting and doing my thing and running off to another and doing my thing and going to a third meeting, you know, which was silly but that's the way it turned out.
LJ
But you must like it that way, I mean you've been ...
GT
Oh, yeah, I like it, yeah, but it's crazy though. It's crazy. I could multitask.
LJ
You have to.
GT
Yeah, I could multitask. I was good at multitasking. The other thing I was good at was delegating.
LJ
You have to be good at that, too.
GT
And people don't believe me. I said “the easiest thing that you can do is to be the president of an organization.” I said “a real leader who takes on a president's role will know how to assign people.” If you've got an executive, every member must have a job or else why be on the executive? So learn to delegate, know your people, know who has what skills and talents, and assign them. That way you're freed. That's what I do.
LJ
Wisdom for life.
GT
Yeah, I've done that many times. It works and then I get all the credit laughs but then I have to say “well, look guys, it's not me. It's all these other people who ...”
LJ
Who make you look good.
GT
Eh?
LJ
Who make you look good.
GT
Yeah. Like this afternoon we had a senior's distinction award ceremony and there were about thirty of us. I was one of the nominees and then there were five people who got the top awards from among the nominees but you know as Peggy said there's hundreds out there, volunteers who are, and seniors, who are doing fantastic work.
LJ
In the city, for sure.
01:49:45.000
01:49:45.000
GT
Yeah, yeah. So if any seniors, you know when people are asking what do I do with my life one of the things we'd say is volunteer. We both have a very good friend in Calgary and she was an educator. She retired. We visited her and her husband. It floored me when she said, you know, “I could never volunteer.” “Why?” “Because I expect to be paid for all that work I would do.” I said “that's not what volunteering is about.” What you're doing is you're sharing your skills and your talents with others. You don't do it for pay but she could never see that. Bright gal, she was a PhD candidate. She worked towards a PhD and she dropped out because her work was too demanding as a consultant and as an administrator for the Calgary Board of Education. I lambasted her, you know, I said “you had a year and a half to go, why didn't you take a leave of absence and finish your studies?” I mean today she says she regrets she never did. She says I wish I didn't have, you know. Yeah, life is fun. I never get bored.
LJ
Well, thank you very much for the opportunity to chat with you this evening.
GT
Thank you. I don't know if I talked about what you wanted me to talk about, anyway.
LJ
Oh, I think you gave me plenty to listen to, hear, and appreciate. You offered some great reflections on Lethbridge and on a life well-lived. So it's been a pleasure to listen to.
GT
I think, you know, um, if we have a lot of professionals among the Japanese whether they were born here before the war or after the war years I think they all, to the best of my knowledge, all of them loved what they are doing and they would give 200 percent of themselves to their task. One of the reasons for that is the Japanese people are known for hard work. We're not ... Well, the younger ones of course are more overly Canadian. They're Canadianized whereas, yeah I'm Canadianized but I still have values from the past that I carry with me and one is ... Well, I'll give you an example. When I was the assistant superintendent in The Pas, Harold Grundy was a Caucasian farm boy. He grew up on a farm. He did his undergrad degree in agriculture and then he went into education but he and I, we were a good team. We would work sixty hours a week, seventy hours a week. We had a school that burnt down and we had to build a new school but we would work away with the architect and we would do shuffling of students so that we could accommodate all of the students in the remaining school buildings we had. So it meant double shifts and staffing, you know. We were not forty hours a week person. If we had to go fifty hours or we had to go sixty hours so be it, but we loved our jobs. That was important because I've talked to teachers, they didn't like their jobs. I said “I could see that. Maybe you need to get out of teaching and look at something else that is more suited to your temperament and interests”.
LJ
You wouldn't have been a very good accountant.
GT
No, I would not. I couldn't stand it. I couldn't stand working with numbers and being on your own pretty well, you know. Even if you were a first year student you were on your own much of the time. I didn't care for that. So anyway, that's neither here nor there but ...
LJ
Well, thank you. It was a pleasure.
GT
Thank you.
01:55:25.000

Metadata

Title

George Takashima, interviewed by Josh Labove, 01 October 2015

Abstract

George begins the interview with his earliest childhood memories. He describes what life was like during the war and the friends he had lost due to being labeled an ‘enemy alien.’ He then explains his experience in the internment camps and how Japanese Canadians received their education there. George also mentions the non-Japanese Canadian groups who helped interned Japanese Canadians complete their elementary and high school level education. He states that the community in Greenwood, BC were the first in Canada to receive Japanese Canadians with open arms. George then moves on to reflect on the various opinions both Japanese and non-Japanese Canadians held with regards to the war. He outlines his journey to becoming an educator, principal, and assistant superintendent in the education system. Near the end of the interview George discusses the importance of Canadian citizenship and volunteerism.

Credits

Interviewer: Josh Labove
Interviewee: George Takashima
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Lethbridge, Alberta
Keywords: New Denver ; Hastings Park ; Windsor; Slocan City ; Carpenter’s Creek; Sandon ; Nakusp; Logging camp; Eaton’s Catalogue; CCF party ; NDP ; Department of Education; Roman Catholic; Presbyterian; United Church; Buddhist; Kaslo ; Greenwood ; RCMP ; Fingal; Ontario ; Medicine hat; Army Cadet; Silverwood Dairy; Wonder Bread; Canadian Fusiliers; Reserve Army; Lake Erie; University of Winnipeg ; Teachers College; Apology; Residential Schools; Aboriginal; Japanese United Church; Pinawa; Manitoba ; Andrew and Verna Kirkness; Department of Indian Affairs; The Pas; Doctor Nitobe; Banff ; Nitobe Gardens; Bob Hirunaka; Hiraku Iwai; Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden; 1900s – 2000s

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.