Kei Tsumura

During the war, we evacuated from Prince Rupert – it seemed like overnight, to Vancouver, Hastings Park – horse stall. You know, in a horse stall where they kept the horses. It was a racing park for horses and that’s where we ended up. They sent my father to a road camp somewhere and we didn’t know where he was, and my brothers were sent away because they were older. I was just a kid eh, and I didn’t care. It’s just that the pathetic part was watching my mother go through all this, and my sisters of course were bothered and they were very, very sad. I had never seen them sad before in my life, really sad, you know.

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.

My father was away in the road camp and she didn’t know where he was. I think the worst part was seeing my sisters and mother huddled together crying, because all the boys were gone. Except me, but I was the youngest and just a kid enjoying myself, running around. That was sad, and those are the little points that I remember. I also recall the trip down from Prince Rupert to Hastings Park. It was cold, very cold winter time, and I remember the train stopping. We were, the family, were sitting there and two boys – two young men, jumped up onto the train, and they came up and they knew my sister. [They said], “Hey, where are you going?” My sister said, “Well, we are going to jail.” They said, “Well what for?” [My sister said], “We are Japanese Canadians and they’re jailing [us].” They couldn’t believe it, eh. They were non-Japanese. They were shocked, you know. This was another thing that caught my imagination and I thought, it must be something extraordinary that is happening. My older brothers and my sisters, they must have gone through a lot. A break up of friendships at that age, and school, and the future was bleak, and everything. As far as my parents go, all their dreams of property shattered and their business was taken away, and my mother’s hopes were dashed, I guess. But to me, I was just a kid. I was enjoying it and it didn’t penetrate me until later, as I grew older and had children.”

Interview courtesy of the Sedai Project –