Wilson Wilfred, interviewed by Erin Yaremko, 02 May 2016 (1 of 2)

Wilson Wilfred, interviewed by Erin Yaremko, 02 May 2016 (1 of 2)

Abstract
Wilfred begins the interview describing his career as a fisherman and boat builder in the Steveston area. He talks about a Japanese-Canadian boat building family and what he remembers of them and their experiences during the period of internment and dispossession. Wilfred describes the Japanese-Canadian community in the area after the war in the 1960s. He tells a story about an incident where he unsuccessfully attempted to help a Japanese-Canadian fisherman save his boat from being destroyed by the strong tides of the sea. Wilfred remembers his father’s friend, a Japanese Canadian who fought for Canada during the First World War and how he was not sent to an internment camp due to his military service. Near the end of the interview Wilfred reflects on how his father felt about the internment and dispossession of Japanese Canadians.
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Erin Yaremko (EY)
I am Erin here for Landscapes of Injustice with Wilfred Wilson and you could tell us anything that comes to mind of stories, anything recent especially.
Wilfred Wilson (WW)
Okay, well my father, my family is a lot from the Ladner (?) side. My dad moved his boat to Steveston here in 1960 and was there the rest of his career. When I started my career I tied up at Atagis and that was in ’72 that I started on my own. I ran a company boat the first year and bought my own boat in ’73, paid that off, built my own in ’78, which I still have, the original engine still. It’s traveled the coast from Alaska to the American border. I gillnet salmon and herring. I grew up at Pacific Coast Camp but better known to the fishing community as the Atagis because they were the boat builders in the area; three brothers: Harry, the elder Bill, the middle, and Ken Atagis was the youngest. They were master boat builders. Any elder will tell you that they were true craftsmanship. To be able to go into where they were building boats was, for a youngster, was like walking back in time seeing all this edge of grain, first growth cedar drying that they used for their boatbuilding. It was stored there for quite a long period of time to dry out. It was all stacked along the walls and that was one’s first impression when you walked into the building was to see all this, row upon row of planks stacked there. They were building every year, building every winter. They fished as well. Ken Atagi called his boat Celesta and that was the internment camp that he spent time at and then he named his boat after which is in the Shuswap area. I don’t know if his brothers were there or not as well. I would assume they were during the war and then when they came back they started boat building. Ken told me a story of his dad who was a master boat builder as well building a boat for himself not using any corking for the planking for the hall. That is truly a remarkable feat that somebody could do that. Ken stated his dad did it because he wanted to see if he could do it. It was a self, what’s the word I’m looking for, it was a self-motivated feat that he was striving to do. My uncle Wally bought one of their boats and he named that the Delta Pride. It’s still in existence. A nephew of my uncle is the owner and he’s just now put it into a dry dock and it looks like he’s going to rebuild it, it appears. When Uncle Wally sold that boat that the Atagis built he built a fiberglass boat, pardon me, and that would have been in 1970. Nope, pardon me, ’75. So when I first bought my boat. No, I do have it wrong, 1972 I bought my own boat and my uncle’s came up for sale at the same time and he wouldn’t sell it to me and he said there was a bit of rot on one bulkhead and so he said he wouldn’t sell it to a family member and he ended up selling it to Barry because Barry pleaded so to actually get it. There was something wrong with that wood the fact that it rotted out so soon because that was unheard of and that but for whatever reason but it’s still alive today. So that’s now, what, going on a fifty year old boat, wood boat. To go back to going in. When you walked into their boatyard there was a smell.
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WW
The smell of cedar is truly something one remembers forever, that aroma of the yard where they worked. It truly was like going back in time for a young kid to be able to go into that environment and be accepted. The Japanese that I grew up with at Atagis at Pacific Coast Camp were truly honorable men. They were, um, a unique generation that I don’t know we see the same sense of community, the same sense of honesty amongst all those people there was truly incredible. When I built my boat in ’78 it was late in being delivered. I was putting some incredibly long hours in to try and get out for that season. I went home one day and I realized I had left my wallet at the boat. I went back. I left it on the deck and I get there and the wallet’s gone. I look inside and somebody had picked it up and put it inside of this new boat I’m building and closed the door and everything was there. That’s just the way that community was, you know, to have that sense there. I also will mention, now, there was a general store there called Hung Wo’s in that same vicinity. I believe he was of Chinese descent. A very astute businessman. He had a general store that was in need, at the time. It was a good business and for a kid to go into that because of the candy he had an all around store. It was a treat to go in there. Dad and everybody would head there for their afternoon coffee. In the heat of the year you go there for a pop and an ice cream and whatever and that. All the fishermen sit and gather there. Hung Wo had a property in the very center of what the Weston family, when they developed Steveston Road from Two Road to One Road south of Moncton to the river Weston family owned all that and developed it to its present state. Hung Wo owned a rather large part from the middle there that he farmed and he kept a significant asking price and they wouldn’t match it so then time goes by and they’re amassing more and more and eventually all of that area there, a mile of real estate save for Hung Wo’s. He kept raising the price of what he was asking for that and then he had passed on and his sister was the one that was handling things and she got her asking price for that real estate there for the Weston family to build on it. A story I will share of Harry Atagi, my boat I built in ’78, as I’ve stated, I was putting in some long hours. I had a lot of help from friends. The very first day that the engine was fired up I’m in heaven. I’m getting close to the end of a goal. There was an aluminum hull that I had built with a Volvo Penta engine in it and it was fired up that day by a Penta mechanic. He departs, we went for a cruise, a few buddies and myself, came back, and I was unloading some of the excess equipment and I backed up and the engine stalled. This is day one and I hit Harry Atagi's boat with a corner of my boat and I took out about a ten inch piece of the guard and these men’s boats were mint. They’re absolutely like new. So this was late in the day. There’s nobody present. So I finish up my day, I go home, and I come back the next day and I go to Harry and I told him what I had done. That I hit his boat and that a ten, eleven inch piece of wood that I removed is on the guard designed for that very thing, as a bumper. Without another word Harry’s gone down to his boat. So I carried on with my day and was still building my boat and so the next day I go to Harry and because he had repaired his boat.
00:10:04.000
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WW
I go to Harry and I apologize because I didn’t have the opportunity the day before and I offered to pay and I’m pretty humble because I know what their boats mean to them. He said “No, Wilfred, that’s okay.” He goes, “We know you’re going through some long days, you know, in the building of your boat.” And he goes, “We know that it just was started up.” And he goes, “Things like that happen with a brand new application, new boat.” And he goes, “No, you don’t have to pay, Wilfred.” This is something I’ll always remember. He goes, “Wilfred, your dad did a good job.” He was paying me a compliment in his own way. It’s something I’ll remember forever to have that respect for each other where, you know, that he felt that way about for the fact that he didn’t hold any animosity or hard feelings toward me. I went and looked at his repair job and, as usual, it was a masterful job. That’s one of my more fonder memories of being around them. That would be about it for the Atagis at the present time, I think. Yeah. I used to, I still do, I have a passion for hunting. I would go across to Shady Island at Atagi's there for night flight and do my hunting there some days for ducks, pheasants as well on the island. Those were a lot different times. It’s closed now. You can’t even go there. In the day there. Yeah, can you stop for a moment? Tape is paused.
WW
I have a story about Ray Hamata. He had built his own boat called the South Seas and he had tied up at Atagi's. This was, possibly, thirty years ago. We were, in those days our fishing ended at eight a.m. in the mornings. It started and ended at eight a.m. The tide had gone bad. It had started running hard on us. I was going to quit and I was just below Steveston coming back into Steveston here and I’d seen Ray who was in his late seventies, possibly, at that time. He’s still actively fishing. He was running back up river and he fell asleep just at the bend, we call it, just below Steveston and he ran his boat up on the jetty. Now, I had a deckhand by the name of Kevin that year and I ran over to lend assistance and Ray’s boat was so old it was quite waterlogged. It was wood and the fact that I mention the waterlog is because it wasn’t floating very high, at all. When I got along there was not much of it visible. The trawling poll and the stern rollers, he was standing on the bow trying to get a line onto the bow-cleat and because of his age I was concerned. The tide is running hard and there’s not a lot of room for error in that situation. I evaluated it and I’m trying to get Ray to come onboard my boat and he wouldn’t until I got a towline on it. So realizing that was the case I said to Kevin, I go “Kevin you’re going to have to jump on there. It’s the only way Ray will get off of there. I’m worried about him having a heart attack or something.” Once he understood what we were going to do he took my hand and I pulled him on my boat. Kevin got on board and the bow-cleat is underwater so he’s trying to get a towline onto that and we drifted apart. I realized Kevin doesn’t have a lifejacket on so I went and got one, came back out with it, and I called to him. When he’d seen me with a lifejacket he had a bit of panic set in. He’d become very concerned so I threw the lifejacket to him. It took him a bit to get it zipped up. I called to him, I go “Calm down. Get it zipped up.” He got the towline on. We started towing and the tide is building in its velocity and I had a fairly powerful engine and I’m worrying about ripping the bow-cleat right off of Ray’s boat.
00:15:00.000
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WW
So we get it off of the jetty. The current is sweeping us out and Ken Atagi came along. He’s standing by and saying to Ray, “Ray, I don’t want to give it full power here. I’m worried about ripping that bow tow post off.” I could see we were getting swept down, what we call twelve-can. I said, “You know, Ray, we’ve got a problem here.” “Just give it” he said. So I bump my power up. Bill Atagi came along, threw a line to my deckhand who tied it onto the bow of my boat and then Bill was towing as well as myself. Low and behold the South Sea went around, hit twelve-can, and the current was so strong literally the whole can disappeared. The boat, can, everything just disappeared for quite a while. The top of the can came up bobbing away there and I’ll always remember Ray, he never said a word the whole time. When the boat wrapped around the can-way and disappeared all he said was “God damn.” The other thing I can remember, we were trying to get power there and Bill Atagi’s tow rope broke and I’m looking at him because we’re in alignment and it looked like the tow rope had hit him and he got knocked down. So now I’m worried. I’m connected to the South Sea and I didn’t know if Bill was knocked out or what the deal was. He did get up. His hat was crooked, his glasses were crooked, but he waved that he was alright. So there’s nothing more I could do. I let go of the line. Ray got onto Bill’s boat and that was the beginning of a new style of fishing. Lyle Sparrel called me and he said “There’s somebody making a flyer along the jetty down at the mouth. You better come and look” he says. Normally we would have been going in at that stage of the tide. What this individual is doing sitting more or less parallel to the jetty and scraping fish off of there and it’s quite a dangerous location to be doing that. So we fished there and this isn’t our very first time at it and fished until closing time. I go in and I deliver and I come in to Atagi's to tie up. I didn’t see Ray there. He was standing there and he’s in grief. He built that boat. It meant a lot to him to lose that. It really did. He had aspirations to refloat it and it ended up ... They got it off the can buoy and it ended up, same thing again, I wasn’t there but it was a current issue. They ended up losing it at the mouth of the Fraser and he went back again and he couldn’t locate it. It must’ve broken up but I’ll go back to when I was tying up. On the day of it initially happening I tie up mine. I come in for a landing, I haven’t even got a line on it yet, Ray walked over and he put a case of beer and a bottle of crown royal in the window and he goes “Thank you, Wilfred.” And he walked away. It was a gesture that was, uh, significant for me because I knew where he was and his mindset and the fact that he would just remember that was significant to make that gesture to me.
EY
So you, um, who was Ray?
WW
Ray Hamata?
EY
Yeah, you mentioned he was a fisher. Do you know his background story?
WW
Well, his son’s still fishing. His name is Sugar. I don’t know his real name even. He’s always been called Sugar. He would have been an interned individual. Sugar’s a bit older than me. It’s conceivable that he could have been interned. I don’t know but Ray would have been for sure; Ray Hamata. Sugar’s boat name is Magic Maker. Beyond that I don’t know a lot of history. We were in each other’s lives every day at Atagi boatyard, well, Pacific Coast Camp but as far as socializing, we didn’t. You know, maybe lunch together but that would be it. Yeah. Another one comes to mind, may I? There was a restaurant at Paramount there in Steveston and Pearl ran that restaurant. I have a few stories about her but we walked in there one day with my dad and myself for coffee in the beginning of the day.
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WW
There were thirty guys in there or whatever and all of a sudden, total silence. These are all fishermen. It’s quite rare when you have total silence with fishermen. Somebody said “Roy, you’re supposed to be dead.” My dad said “Not the last time I looked.” What it was is they were all commiserating about the fact that Roy E. Wilson ... My dad’s name was Roy Earl Wilson, he signed his name with his middle initial because there were problems in the fishing industry. He cautioned me to always put my middle initial in because there’s other Wilsons. There is a Wilfred Wilson in camp wherever and there was another Roy Wilson on the coast. So anyway they had this newspaper out and a Roy E. Wilson had been killed in a hunting accident. So when we walked in the door that was the reason for the silence. It was just amazing. So, yeah, that’s um, but Pearl was a fixture in the Steveston area there for quite a while. Her hearing was phenomenal. You could have fifty guys in there for lunch and there were two of them, a cook and her. Her hearing was so good when she went by you’d let her know what you wanted. She would hear you. I had a friend of mine that fished for a few years, an uncle of mine, I’d take him there for breakfast. I’d tell Grant, I go, “You have to be quick. You place your order, Pearl will hear you.” So as she’s going by he stutters imitating Grant and he’s trying to get his word out and she kind of stopped. I go, “Grant, you just blurt out what you want.” She goes by again and Grant muttered under his breath something about her and Pearl was already at the entrance to the kitchen. She stopped and it wasn’t the pleasantry that he uttered and she heard him. She turned and gave him this glare and I go “Grant, you’re going to be lucky if you get served.” Eventually, she served us. While we were sitting and eventually she said to Grant and us “What did you want?” She stopped. So this is our kind of gathering place for fishermen, at Pearl’s. One more thing about her. I’d go in one day late. She would shut down at three o’clock. I’d go in at two thirty and I’d say “Pearl ...” I was young and I was eating a lot and I was going in there for breakfast and I started out where I’d say “I want an extra egg.” And then the next time “I want extra bacon.” This kept building in my portions and then one day I walk in and she goes “Wilfred, you just get double of everything” she says. The reason I mention going in there in the afternoon, I go in one day and the board is down which means the pre-cooked luncheons are gone. I say “I’ll have a roast beef sandwich, Pearl. Please.” She goes “No, you won’t, Will.” She came out with this huge mound of food and it was what was left over from the lunch menu. That was my treat over the years. I would go in late and she would, because I got to know her over a lifetime, she was very generous with me for my portions, being a young lad growing up with a big appetite. I can walk in she’ll go “Sorry, we’re sold out today. You’re out of luck. You’re going to have to have that roast beef sandwich.” She was always there for me for quite a few decades kind of thing. That’s my last one about Pearl.
EY
Do you know Pearl’s story? Do you know her ...
WW
No, just that she was ... No, sorry. I don’t. Other than just I see her on a daily, well, not a daily basis but quite regularly. After she retired I ran into her at Lansdowne Shopping Mall and she was so out of character. I’d seen her for decades in that white smock that she had. She’d come up and said hi to me and I was utterly thrown. I didn’t recognize her without her white smock on. So we had a brief little chat at that time but, no, I’m sorry, I don’t know anything more of her other than she was very efficient in running her restaurant there.
EY
Do you know her background of where her family would have come from?
WW
No, no. Some of the older guys may ...
EY
Was she of European, or Asian, or ...
WW
I would say she would have been of European descent. Yeah.
EY
Okay.
WW
I think that’s about it for now unless something else comes to mind.
EY
Are there any stories that you remember your father telling you of the Japanese community?
00:24:54.000
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WW
Well, he felt it was an injustice. He felt it was wrong about them being interned. There was one man that he was friends with. He had a boat called the BC Maru. He had fought for Canada in the First World War. He was of Japanese descent. They tried interning him during the Second World War and once it was proven that he had fought for Canada in the First World War they couldn’t intern him. He was the only Japanese person that I knew of that still actively fished during the Second World War. I don’t remember his name. He was an elder when I was young. Another one comes to mind now. My dad received his draft notice and at that time I’m pretty sure he said the draft station was at Little Mountain. He was to report there to go overseas for the war effort. He went to BC Packers and he said “I want you to sell my boat. I’m going overseas.” They said “Nope, we’ll get you classified as essential to the war effort. You bring your books from the previous five years fishing, take that into the recruiting station, and we’ll have the paperwork processed for you to be classified as essential.” From that, my dad had to fish twelve months of the year and it actually was lucrative for him because, at that time, he was fishing dogfish in the winter months and vitamin E was derived from the livers and was essential for the men overseas to have those vitamins. The boats were pretty small in the day and they weren’t the best for comfort. My dad ended up developing rheumatoid arthritis and that laid him out for two years. In my own way I think my dad did pay a price for doing the work because he wouldn’t have been fishing as hard as he was where he had to fish twelve months of the year. So, um, yeah. Something else had come to mind, too, but it’s gone now during that story. Anyway, yeah.
EY
So you mentioned your father was very close knit to the fishing community.
WW
Was what, sorry?
EY
He was very connected to the fishing community.
WW
Yeah, we still are a pretty tight knit group on land. There’s a saying “When the lines are untied the friendships cease and the friendships don’t commence again until the lines are tied up again.” There’s some very aggressive guys and that’s where that came from. My grandfather was fishing for BC Packers and this is prior to 1929 because there was another company, Nelson Brothers I believe it was, was trying to lure my grandfather away. BC Packers caught drift of that and they offered him ten acres on Westham Island with three houses on it for $250 with the commitment that he would fish for them for the rest of his life and on a handshake he did. He fished for them his entire life. On a significant note, I did not know this, but they kept records of production and my grandfather had a career lifetime production record that got broken by another Wilson by the name of Fred and his son told me that it’s over ten years ago now that Fred broke grandpa’s record but he goes “Your grandfather’s record will always stand because a bulk of that was by hand from the sail rowing days whereas my dad’s, the bulk of it was from engines and a drum.” So he said, “You know, your grandpa’s record will stay intact. Now Fred has established another one in the fishing industry.” So, yeah, grandpa, like I said, on a handshake. I like that aspect of it because in today’s world there’s not much commerce done with a handshake but it was and he did honor that.
EY
So, earlier, you did mention that your father was against the interning of different Japanese ...
WW
Yeah, because when you’re around those men throughout one’s life you develop a respect. He didn’t feel that they were going to be a threat and Canada certainly did think that so the effort they went through to establish themselves in the community, everything was taken away, literally everything.
00:30:08.000
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WW
There were some individuals who became quite wealthy from those assets that were seized. I don’t have a lot of knowledge on that but I know that it was stated that, yeah, a lot of that got resold and those individuals pocketed that themselves. They didn’t get anything and, to my knowledge, when they were interned and I think when they came back I don’t think they got anything either. All through their own personal hard work they did so well as far as contributing to Canada’s economy and society. That’s about it on that. Anyway, I think I’m about done here for the day here now, so.
EY
Well, thank you again. This has been an interview with Wilfred Wilson in Steveston. Thank you. Tape is paused.
WW
I fished the Skeena River for around thirty years. One of the most productive spots was called the Glory Hole. It’s on the chart. It’s called Gregory Point. There’s some rocks on the tip of this island and there’s a channel that runs along the island. It creates a big back and that’s where the fish stack and there. It’s such a highly desired spot. I was in there one day in the number one spot and the net I had had ten weight corks on it and then every eleventh cork was orange. The reason I stated that was, you’re in the back kiddy there and everybody else was still rowing by with the current and you’re stationary there where I was and a spring salmon hit that was taking down ten weight corks, two orange, and more weight on each side of that which is a lot of flotation. It showed itself three times and it was immense. I had a deckhand that was relatively green and I stated to him I said, “We’re going to get that fish. We’re going to pick up ...” I’m using a sockeye net which is very fine mesh and it’s not designed to hold spring salmon. It appeared to be tiring out and, like I said, I’d seen it three times and so I had a rather long gaff hook on top of the cabin. I got it down, I sharpened it up. I said, “When we pick here we’re going to open the door up for somebody else to take our spot and that’s not what we desire here so we’re going to see where the lineup is above us, we’ll wait until they’re not locals and they’re not as entirely knowledgeable about the opportunity.” When I open the door up somebody could take this spot from me. So when there is four guys that came in the lineup that I knew weren’t all that efficient I said, “Okay, we’re going to go and we’re going to go fast here now and we’re going to get that fish.” It was relatively close to the boat and I had quite a few sockeye, say fifty or sixty to remove first, get to the spot where the spring was and it was gone. Set back out again. Nobody got my set and Ozzy was this man’s name that was with me and he goes “Wilfred, we’ve had sets with over five, six hundred sockeye” and he goes “I can’t believe how excited you got over one fish.” I go, “Ozzy, that just wasn’t any fish. That was probably the biggest fish of my career.” I said, “That thing may have pushed a hundred pounds, eighty plus for sure.” That was something that I was hoping to get but he goes “Perhaps it’ll make it to spawn here again. So it’s not a total loss.” Yeah, it was a thrill to see it. It really was.
EY
So that was a, um, was that a regular fishing spot for a lot of different groups?
WW
Yes, it’s highly sought after and called the Glory Hole for a reason. There was some awful big production coming out of there. That bar at the mouth of the Fraser River, I’ve seen this in books, it’s actually called Wilson bar. It’s Kennedy Island bar on the chart but there used to be so many of us there that they called it Wilson bar. An individual showed me that in a navigational book. There was something else in the courier about it, it was, um, hm, I can’t recall there.
00:35:00.000
00:35:00.000
EY
Was this the spot your father also fished during his time?
WW
Yeah, my father and grandfather. Yeah, slack water is generally a preferred set for there. There’s an eleven minute window. Three men can get in on that to stop in the prime spots and it generally was my family. When I was older I used to get number two set quite often. The elder got first and another cousin got the third spot. Oh, I know what it was. So we were fishing there for generations so we have it pretty fine-tuned. In one opening three zodiac came out from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and they boarded us and they asked, this is forty minutes into the opening, and they asked if they can go look into our hatches, my hatches. I said “Go ahead.” There’s no fish in there. I had a few on the floor and I’m picking up my first set. “How many have you got?” I said, “I don’t know. I got fifty, sixty fish.” He goes, “It’s pretty early in the opening.” What it was was they were checking to make sure that we weren’t poaching ahead of time is what it was. So he thought they were going to find fish in the hatch that would have been from before the opening. So he was interrupting my work so I started removing fish. I had to tow my net to miss the Glory Hole off. He divulges that they were suspect that we were poaching. I go, “Look around here. Who do you see here? There are very few guys here. This is a dangerous part of the tide and you’re interfering with my work.” He goes, “You’ve got an awful lot of fish so early in the opening.” I go, “Look at me. I’m pouring in sweat here. You think there’s a reason for this?” I go, “I’m in hustle mode here. I have to get out of here and you’re interfering. Look at my net.” As I’m towing and I’ve got a lot of it elevated out of the water and there’s fish throughout it. I go, “Look at that. There’s a reason why we’re getting production here. This is a very good spot. Let me repeat myself. You’re interfering here.” So he jumped back into the zode and he goes, we’ve now put this to rest in my mind, and he goes “We have no more concern about your guys’ production. We won’t bother you anymore.” That’s what he said, right. In a way it was a backhanded compliment is what they were giving us kind of thing, right? Yeah.
EY
And was this, um, RCMP or conservation type ...
WW
DFO enforcement. Department of Fisheries and Oceans enforcement guys. So they got the most brass in the DFO. They were doing their job. They look at the tallies on the weekend and they see who’s been most productive. Questions get asked why that is so they had to go and try to verify for their own peace of mind, I guess, what was what and that. Then again, it’s a very productive spot and, I think at that time, there was only four or five of us fishing there. Sometimes there can be a lot of guys but in that particular circumstance there wasn’t because of the currents at that time. But I really should be ...
EY
I was just going to ask quickly, how long has the DFO been in service? Is it only the last thirty years or has it been in service for sixty or seventy?
WW
No, all my career and my dad’s as well. It’s been for generations. Another one comes to mind. Mouth of the Fraser River there’s a killer whale we call Blackfish. When they go by they’d scare the salmon into the shallows. It was early in the year. Spring salmon only present. The fish go up onto the sand boards of the Fraser so that’s common knowledge so the guys will run into the shallows to set their net. I’m fishing with my dad at the time and we got an immense amount of crabs. Over a hundred crabs. We’re in very shallow water and you can only be there for so long. So we’re moving these crabs and along comes this DFO personnel checking for licenses and my dad’s wallet had receipts and licenses from years past. He hadn’t a habit of emptying it very often. They had boarded to ask for our fishing licenses. Dad couldn’t find his. He found three previous years’ personal fishing licenses but he couldn’t find the present year. I was thirteen. The DFO guy asked me for mine. I said, “Well, I’m not of age and I’m not sixteen yet. I don’t need a personal fishing license.” So meanwhile I kept working and my dad kept looking. He had all this paper on the side looking for the present year’s license. Then the DFO guy asked me “Well, let me see your driver’s license.” I said, “Well, I told you, I’m not sixteen.” So I kept working there and all this and it was quite a while before my dad found his license, produces it. This fellow leaves and the next boat he goes to we knew him, Terry Bennett, and he says to him, he goes “You see that boat over there. There’s two men on there. One man with no license, he does all the work, the guy with the license does no work.” laughs. So Terry, of course, had to come over and tell us this story. Yeah, it was, uh, and I guess maybe I might have been a little bit big for my size at thirteen which is why he thought I should’ve had a personal fishing license. But, yeah, so that’s the story of the DFO.
EY
Do you remember your father telling you stories about interactions between the DFO and any Japanese or Japanese Canadians that were fishing?
WW
No, not so much that. They ruled with an iron fist, the DFO. It didn’t matter who you were. If you’re on a line pushing it because those lines were there for a reason and certain stages of the tide it’s productive to be there and it’s a thrill. You can’t imagine the jostling that goes on. I guess they have it on TV a little bit but to see the guys putting gear in the water at incredible speeds and bumping into each other and everything like that. So, no, we were all equal in the eyes of the DFO is really what it was. You’re just doing your own thing. Yup, but I think I should be going now. I’ve got to go and do that ...
EY
Well, thank you again.
00:41:57.000

Metadata

Title

Wilson Wilfred, interviewed by Erin Yaremko, 02 May 2016 (1 of 2)

Abstract

Wilfred begins the interview describing his career as a fisherman and boat builder in the Steveston area. He talks about a Japanese-Canadian boat building family and what he remembers of them and their experiences during the period of internment and dispossession. Wilfred describes the Japanese-Canadian community in the area after the war in the 1960s. He tells a story about an incident where he unsuccessfully attempted to help a Japanese-Canadian fisherman save his boat from being destroyed by the strong tides of the sea. Wilfred remembers his father’s friend, a Japanese Canadian who fought for Canada during the First World War and how he was not sent to an internment camp due to his military service. Near the end of the interview Wilfred reflects on how his father felt about the internment and dispossession of Japanese Canadians.

Credits

Interviewer: Erin Yaremko
Interviewee: Wilson Wilfred
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting:
Keywords: Steveston ; Shuswap ; Celista Internment Camp; Boat Building; Fishing; Chinese; Shady Island; First World War; Military Service; Draft; Little Mountain.; 1920s – 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.