Hastings Park Stories

Ellen Crows

There were a lot of different kind of logistics that had to happen to move all these people. So they just took women and children first. They put my mum on the first boat and at this time it was March 1942, so I was three months old she said that she was so traumatized by the fact that she had to leave my dad and be by herself with this little baby that on the boat ride from Tofino to Port Alberni she got seasick. She had a terrible fever. She stopped lactating and couldn't feed me anymore. So apparently I howled all the way from Port Alberni until the truck took us to Hastings Park. In that time - 36 hours - I had nothing to eat and by the time I got to Hastings Park I was in dire straits. And of course, so was my mother. When they got to Hastings Park, they discovered that it was basically a livestock barn and she couldn't even put her suitcase on the floor of the barn because it was covered with horse doo doo, cow doo doo, etc. So they put them up on the, I guess there was some bleacher area, so they put them up there.   READ MORE

Ruby Fukumoto

December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbour was attacked. I was 16 years old in grade eleven, attending Victoria high school and living with my family in Victoria BC. I don’t really remember what my feelings were at the time, it’s all a 69 years ago you know, perhaps a feeling of disbelief. Later in April 1942, we all who were of Japanese descent were told that we had to leave our homes with only a week's notice to get ready. We could only take what we could carry. And that was on April 22, 1942, that fateful day. It must have been very hard for all the parents, especially the people who had their own business, homes, etc. Being Japanese, nobody really had feelings of protesting and took it in their stride. I think most of us felt it would only be a temporary thing and that we would be able to return sometime later. READ MORE

Jean Shigeko Kitagawa

My time at Hastings Park was a very difficult period. It was such a crude place, cold. Eating in a mess hall with thousands of people, with tin cups and bowls, I felt like a convict. The food was strange too and I got sick of it. Lots of people had diarrhea, athletes’ foot and contagious diseases spread easily. There were ten shower stalls (for 1,500 women) and they had no curtains. There was no privacy. It was embarrassing and humiliating.  READ MORE

Mary Kitagawa

My father was a Japanese National. He did try to get naturalization papers, but at that time it was almost impossible… There were about four or five other men who were nationals on the island. So on that day my father was snatched from us. I remember my father when he saw that truck coming in, he lined us up in order of our birth and shook each of our hands and said "be good, help mother" and so on and so forth, all the way down and then he walked out. So you know, we were running after him. And I'm sure at the time, every cell in my mother's body must have been exploding with pain, but she's a very strong person, even if she was very little. We followed dad out to the truck, it was a pick-up truck, and we saw him try to get onto the back of the pickup truck, but then, instead of being allowed to get on the truck himself, this RCMP officer just shoved him onto the pickup truck, and we saw him flying flat on his stomach. Then dad got back up on his knees, because we all ran towards the truck when this happened, and then he said "it's ok, it's ok" and he was smiling as best as he could. Then he got up, and he was standing, holding on to the cab of the truck and then the RCMP officer just gunned the motor and we saw him flying back again. We ran after the truck, we were waving and waving and waving and I guess we were waving because we thought as long as we're waving and he's waving back we'll stay connected somehow, but then he kind of disappeared into a void.  READ MORE

Yoshio Johnny Madokoro

Trolling out of Tofino in 1941 was good. The war in Europe meant that prices were high. We were making good money; I think the average Co-op member was making $4,000, which was big money in those days. Mary and I had the two young boys and life seemed very good. My mother, Ine, was healthy and she helped to look after the children and the garden. My brother Thomas turned out to be a natural born fisherman and he was consistently high boat in the Co-op. It was a wonderful year where everything seemed possible. December 7, 1941 changed all that. Japan attacked Pearl Harbour and all our limitless possibilities crashed in a whirlwind of newsflashes, rumours and innuendo. Our tranquil little world was turned upside down because Japan had declared war on the United States. I firmly believe that we Japanese Canadians were swept up by this struggle between these two nations and we were helpless as the world we knew disappeared forever…   READ MORE

Harold Miwa

Around February of 1942, there was a knock on the door and some men, some Mounties I guess, they took my father away... Not just my father, but a lot of the fathers. We didn’t know where he was. We found out where my father was eventually, because he wrote a letter. And he was way up in BC/Alberta border, up north somewhere in the road camp.... So in the meantime, we moved to Hastings Park. It was all the Japanese from Paldi, from Duncan, from Chemainus, all that area (on Vancouver Island). We all went on the same boat and went to Hastings Park. Maybe there were about 15 families I guess.  READ MORE

Lil Nagahara

I can remember just a very few things about when we had to move because I was only 8½. I think the most vivid memory of having to leave home was having to depart from our family pet. Because we had a big German Shepherd dog as a family pet and we couldn’t find anyone to look after him. And we had to move, so I guess my main recollection was this truck coming and our dog, his name was Flash, was barking away as the truck pulled away. That was one of the first memories of when we had to move. We were only allowed to take one suitcase per person and my mother had packed that and we were sent to Hastings Park. Now as an 8½ year old this was really, really strange because I came from quite a big house. My father was a landscape gardener so he had this big house. And then we were suddenly moved to Hastings Park where there were just army cots all lined up in this building. I think it was called the “F building” and we were all females. We were separated from our parents and our brothers, they were in another building, and these beds were just cots, were just side by side.  READ MORE

Frances Kuniko Nakagawa

After ten days in Hastings Park, many men, mostly from Vancouver Island including my brothers, husband and friends from Tofino, were sent to a road camp in Schreiber, Ontario. A plaque was placed to commemorate this event a few years ago in Schreiber. My one pleasure during this period was to receive letters from the men, but they were heavily censored and took ages to arrive. A permit from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was required if one wanted to go out to the city. Friends and relatives from Steveston and Vancouver came to see us with obento, but they could not enter the exhibition grounds and we could only meet with the fence between us. READ MORE

Roberta Nasu

I remember going on the Union Steam ship to Vancouver. Once we got to Hastings Park I remember the curtains or blankets, and we had bunk beds. There was just my brother and I and my sisters, but I can't remember too much, because my older brother, he was 19 so he would have gone with my dad, right? We had the orange boxes for a bedside table. Actually I think I had a lot of fun at Hastings Park. I remember running around amongst all the bunks and these ladies running after us and, you know, getting after us. I learned how to knit when I was in Hastings Park. Mrs. Okuda taught me. All I did was knit these heelless socks, because all you had to do was knit like a tube and then just tie off the ends and it was a sock. And then finally somebody came to my rescue and showed me how to make heels. I think her name was Mrs. Kunemoto. I remember doing it in the grassy part of that area, outside on a bench. READ MORE

Mary Ohara

We were taken to the Ganges Harbour and from there got on the steamship and then headed out to Vancouver and then we got on a bus. We stopped at Hastings Park - Dad and my older brother were dropped off at the Agrodome Building and my sister, Mom, me and my two younger brothers were taken to the barn. Men were still putting straw into the bags to make our mattress and when we walked in the place was still a mess. The place was still scattered with debris and there was no toilet for a while. Then they put an apple box in front of the animal drinking trough and you had to go and squat over the box. My sister and I giggled so much that we nearly fell in there. And there was no privacy, just a single curtain. READ MORE

Mae Oikawa

In Hastings Park there was a plaque with the names of everyone who stayed there. I don’t know if that plaque is still there. It shouldn’t be taken off. It should still be there. It had my name, Edna’s, George’s…. It should show who stayed in Hastings Park. I would never want to see any people, it doesn’t matter their race, to go through what we went through. We didn’t throw a bomb at anyone. We didn’t kill anyone. We were Canadians. We were born in Canada. I would never want to see this happen to any other people. READ MORE

Utaye Shimasaki

The place was really big and all the rows looked exactly the same, so eventually they came and put letters on the bunks. So now we can laugh about that, I guess. I guess there about 3000 of us in there. It was a really big building, but yeah it smelled. And at night! There always so much noise! It would never quiet down... Really Hastings Park was just terrible at the start. By and by they got their act together and the place became livable. For instance, at first the toilet was just one long trough with water running at one end. So one person would use it at a time and there were terrible lines. So we complained and eventually they built stalls, but it was things like that that made me think the government couldn’t do anything right. READ MORE

Dr Henry Shimizu

During the summer the young people activities were baseball and softball. We were allowed to leave the park about once a week - this involved registration at the main gate and then confirming when we returned. Papa’s partner Nishikaze, and our families stayed in the park until September, 6 months. Harry Nishikaze and I on several occasions would leave the park to go down to Powell Street. We each received 25 cents for lunch while we wandered around Japan Town. Papa thought that this whole episode of “removal” of all Japanese including Canadian born and Naturalized Canadians had been a terrible mistake and the Government would realize this fact and allow us to return home. Thus, he continued to sit tight in Hastings Park as long as possible. Finally, in early September he agreed to go to New Denver to help build the houses for the internment camp. I was not aware there was a TB Hospital in Hastings Park. We arrived in New Denver about the beginning of October. Houses were being built for the Internment Camp and at the same time construction of a Chronic Care Hospital was started by the lakeshore. This TB hospital was completed by the summer of 1943 and chronic care patients who were left in hospital along the west coast of BC were transferred to New Denver. READ MORE

Tom I. Tagami

By far the saddest part of Hastings Park was seeing women with three or four children and about a six-month old baby strapped to their backs, stuck in the smelly old livestock buildings, trying to dry diapers in the rainy weather. Their husbands were stuck in the road camps in the Rockies, so the onus was on them to do things themselves. However, over time, Hastings Park was getting filled up. The authorities decided to recall the married men from the road camps, and sent them to ghost towns to help the carpenters build tar paper shacks and renovate the old hotels, so that the families in Hastings Park could be moved away from the coast. Once approval came through for families to live together as a group in the internment camps, the BC Security Commission needed loggers to cut wood and carpenters to build shacks to accommodate the people stuck in Hastings Park. My older brother and I decided to venture out to parts unknown and signed up with about three hundred married and single men to go to Slocan City. We left Vancouver on June 29, 1942 and arrived in Slocan City on a hot 100-degree day on July 1. READ MORE

Kaz Takahashi

We all had to go on a boat… and when we landed in Hastings Park, I think the most significant thing was the smell, and the people! I was curious to know about all these young people who had come from all over… That was fun for me, but my mom, along with other women, must have had quite a shock to find that they had to stay within these four walls, or their beds, you know. We had two sets of beds and linens, a little space to sort of eat if we want to eat something there, but it would always be on the bunk beds, but the separation was using anything that they can cover themselves. We were not allowed to take much in the way of clothing or, material things, only things we could carry, is about all I can remember. Everyone had colourful things, you know, to distinguish which stall was theirs, otherwise you might go into the wrong spot! The mattresses! Mine was so lumpy. Ohh I really complained about that. I think we all complained about them and they were itchy because the straw would stick up. READ MORE

Mitsuko Shirley Teramoto

Many memories: of playing under the shade of the pear tree, the salty tang of Bennett’s Beach as we splashed along the shore, feeding the chickens and milking the cow, the happy grunt of the pig in the sty, father’s salmon catch, the sound of the axe splitting firewood, the boys fishing, Emiko’s broken leg, seeing our faces reflected from the many sealed jars of bright pink salmon, the wool from the island sheep drying in the sun, cousin Sumiko baking the island dungo cookies, the companionship of the cousins and friends, new clothes to wear on New Year’s Day, and the three-day marathon session by the grown-ups playing “gaji” (hana fude)! READ MORE

Haruno Tokawa

Haruno Tokawa was born February 22, 1919 at 472 Cordova Street East (2nd house on the SW corner of Cordova at Jackson Avenue). Mrs. T. Tateishi was the nurse in attendance. Haruno’s parents, Inosuke Tokawa and Tsurur Yokoyama, her brothers and sisters, and grandmother Tsuna Shimizu all lived in the house, which was shared with the Reverend and Mrs. Goro Kaburagi. Reverend Kaburagi was a famous pioneer, involved in starting many Japanese Canadian institutions around Japantown. He was a BC Court Interpreter with similar stature to Alexander Cumyow in the Vancouver Chinese Canadian community.  READ MORE

Kei Tsumura

We were in the horse stall in Hastings Park. I enjoyed it as a kid because I thought it was fun, right. So I’d jump out on top of the two story bed and I’d jump out and I could see all the other people in their beds, right, I enjoyed that. But Hastings Park itself was… First time I remember eating, we all lined up with tin plates to get mush. And I remember the sound of the mush hitting the tin bowl, ‘ggglichh’. That was it, and I was kind of in shock, you know. But my mother she really had, you know you have some impressions of your life, those impressions from when you were a kid you always remember, you could never forget; and that was my mother taking me out, dragging me out to eat. You know, we were in enclosed barbed-wire and my mother lifting the barbed-wire, it’s night, and taking me out and letting me underneath and me escaping underneath. She came after me, and because it’s Hastings Park in Vancouver, we went across the street and there’s a Chinese restaurant there. My mother ordered a bowl of noodles and we shared the noodles together, it was food. And I thought, god either my mother is crazy or brave, you know. Later years I thought, I never forgot that. She took me back again, and we waited for the guards to go by. As soon as the guards went by, she took me under, grabbed the fence [and lifted it up]. I thought she was a pretty great woman doing this, you know it really impressed me with her courage.  READ MORE

Tosh Uyeda

(When we were at Hastings Park) we didn’t have any snow in Vancouver so I can’t even tell you what season it was. But it was all during the summer and I think into the late fall. And then I think we were shipped out in the early spring I believe. I would say it smelled like a barn… Very thin mattresses were provided and they gave us the grey blankets that people I guess still call the horse blankets. I think a lot of people kept it because that’s all they had. You know when they are moved from their homes we weren’t able to take very much, just what you can carry. So we had really very little if any bedding and such, you know. So we just used whatever they provided.  READ MORE