My parents were Shotaro (Tom) and Kimiko Shimizu. My father came to Prince Rupert, BC in 1909. He had first emigrated from Japan to the USA, Seattle in 1907. After working for the railways in the States he said he heard that he can become a citizen in Canada, so he decided to move to Prince Rupert. He had lived with his family in Nara, Japan, and being the second son, he felt he had to seek his fortune elsewhere. He and his friend George Nishikaze, started a restaurant and hotel in Prince Rupert – the Dominion Hotel and Restaurant on Third Ave., the main street in the town, in 1917. In 1915, He had returned to Japan and married and returned to Prince Rupert to raise a family. In 1918, his wife and one year old son returned to Japan to have her second child born in Japan. Unfortunately, she died while in Japan during the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918. His son stayed in Japan to be raised by his grandparents. In 1922, he became a naturalized Canadian. In 1926, he returned to Japan and married my mother. My half-brother stayed with his grandparents to complete his schooling (he later returned to Canada in 1936, after graduating from his high school). I was born in 1928, my sister Grace in 1929, Eva in 1935 and Kaien my younger brother in 1937. During the 1930s, despite the “Depression”, the hotel and restaurant prospered. With WWll in 1939, the New Dominion Hotel and Restaurant” boomed” with the influx of workers as Prince Rupert became a shipbuilding center for freighters and corvettes.
My father was never religious but went to Anglican Missionary Church with my mother who was much closer to the Anglican Church as she studied at an Anglican Mission in Osaka learning secretarial work. All of us (children) were baptized Anglican at the Mission Church in Prince Rupert. Like many Japanese people my parents still observed many Buddhist and Shinto practices.
My parents spoke Japanese in the home and we ate Japanese/Western food (Yoshoku). There was a strong Japanese cultural/mind-set with the family and tradition was important. My mother was well trained in Japanese culture although my father was less so.
Life in Hastings Park
Following the “Order in Council” of February 26, 1942, we were told we would be removed from Prince Rupert on March 23, 1942. My Father and older brother, Shoji, were sent earlier to work camps in the interior of BC. We were taken by truck with our suitcase luggage, my mother and four children with many other Japanese people to the CN Railway station in Prince Rupert. Over 600 Japanese people boarded the train, which had about 15 cars. Several of my grade 7 schoolmates and my teacher were at to station to see me off, there were many people from the general community that came to the station that day. It was a somber day with light rain. We had to leave most of our possessions, most of our clothes, our furniture, our toys, our books. I believe the allotment was – 100 lbs./adult, 75 lbs/youths and 50 lbs/child. My mother had to leave most of her china and utensil – we were allowed to take about 150 lbs of food, utensils and chinaware, blankets, sheets pillows and towels as house-ware items. Unfortunately most of our family memorabilia had to be stored in our hotel and left behind. The train took us to Prince George and the countryside was covered with a heavy blanket of snow. We stopped for water , I think and we opened the doors between the cars and found huge stacks of ice under the cars as well as icicles hanging from the roof-edges of the cars. We were fed stew from the dining car in the middle of the train and slept on the Pullman seats with blankets that my mother had brought. The train ride was about 24 to 36 hours we arrived into Vancouver the next day and I believe we entered Hastings Park in the late afternoon. Hastings Park was surrounded by a chain-link, 8-foot fence, there were several gates and there was train access with tracks for exhibition cargo. It was an ideal manning depot and therefore used to round-up all the Japanese people who lived outside greater Vancouver. We could be herded into the park with little trouble, just like the Nazis were doing with people in Europe at that time (how ironic).
Hastings Park was an Exhibition site as well as an entertainment area with numerous buildings for live-stock, hockey rink, auditorium, exhibition buildings and an extensive midway area. The midway had the “Big Dipper”, the largest carnival ride in Canada, a permanent structure made of wood and steel. There were numerous “high-low” dips and one which fell over 100 feet!
After arriving into the park, we were directed to one of the low buildings with long tables and benches, this was the mess-hall. We were fed soup and “baloney” sandwiches. Some though it was great food! But I didn’t since sandwiches were for workmen, and living in a restaurant I was familiar with all types of sandwiches. Another building had been converted into a public toilet and wash-up – divided into men/women. One of the large exhibition halls became a huge dormitory with hundreds of upper/bottom bunk beds, and was for adult men. For families, the animal stock pavilion was used, since it had individual stalls. The stalls had been cursory hosed with water and still smelled of feces and animals. The families had to rewash all the stalls and remove all traces of feces and maggots. After much cleansing we put up blankets or sheets for privacy. Each stall had one or two bunk beds and tables and chairs. The animal stalls became our home. The symbolism of the stall (stable) becoming a home is an interesting picture. I could not live with my siblings because I was 13 years old and was delegated to the Mens’ Forum dormitory. There were washrooms in many of the pavilions so that one did not rely only on the large public washroom. At first there was no school but after one or so months the hockey rink with the spectators benches was divided into sections for classes from grades one to twelve. Teachers were hired to try and teach, despite the inconvenience of all the classes being in one large space.
Our daily routine was breakfast at the mess hall then school – lunch in the mess hall and then school. Supper was in the mess hall – the food was adequate, it was rice, sandwiches, Japanese style stew, curry etc… many of the cooks were Japanese but was managed by the BC Security Commission (white). All the guards were commissionaires veteran from the first WW. They were overseen by the BCSC. and the RCMP. The Army was not involved except early on when the BCSC was being organized. This was different from the USA, where the Army took on the removal, and guarding of the Japanese-American internees.
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.
My father’s reliance on Tom Shoyama’s editorial in the New Canadian in which he believed in “British Fair Play” influenced his assessment of the “Removal”. Unfortunately. He was not aware of the “weirdness” of Prime Minister Mackenzie King and the “evilness” of some members of his Government.
Excerpt of an interview from May 2013. Full interview at www.nikkeimuseum.org