Roberta Nasu

My dad’s name was Tatsuishi Yoneda, my mother was Haruko Yoneda and I think my dad came in 1906 to Victoria.  In 1942, I was ten, in grade 4. My family ran a dry cleaning shop in Courtenay. We left in May.

Before we left, I remember we had a garage sale. I was a voracious reader, I used to read all the time – and I had to sell this book, it was 50 cents and it just broke my heart. I can’t remember what the name of the book was, but I remember we had to. There was a Kodak camera, a box camera, but then the Mounties took that away.

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.

There was a small grocery store there by Renfrew Street. We would stand near the fence and people would go and buy stuff. Some people were able to leave.  I remember being mostly outside. It was probably quite a nice time of the year, right? May, June, July.

In this baggage storage area, we used to have big brown duffel bags. Once, my mother lost her diamond ring and we had to go look for it in this area, but she found it.

We were there from May to September. I got mumps at the end of August. On September 1st, my dad died here in Hastings Park. He had a gall bladder attack. I guess he was in hospital, and then they took him to Vancouver General and by the time they operated on him, I guess he was so weak that he died on the table. I remember going to the funeral, it was at the Vancouver Buddhist temple near Powell Street. It was like a huge parade – I still have a photo of it but I don’t like to look at it.

About the food at Hastings Park… We used to get rice and black cod and a salad, not every day, but this really sticks in my mind because, in the salad we used to have really look carefully, because we used to find these little baby slugs. Black cod now is a luxury, but at that time it was cheap. To this day actually some people from my generation, they don’t like buffets because they remember in their minds about lining up for the food. My brother in law especially, he just doesn’t like buffets. We did get a pass sometimes and went to this Japanese restaurant on Powell Street.

I remember the men playing baseball, tossing the ball around and we used to have some sort of music. My brother had an accordion, you know, one of these big things. I think I was on my own, running free. I was quite independent. More or less, I have fond memories of Hastings Park – I don’t think it was a traumatic time for me. Now I really feel for my poor mother. She had two young kids and no money. It must have been really bad for her.

When we left Hastings Park, we went to Minto Mines. We took the ferry or steamship to Squamish, then we had to get a bus from Bridge River. The only way we got there is because of Mr. Iwasa and his family from Cumberland. We were good friends with them.
Excerpt of an interview with Roberta Nasu, née Heroku Yoneda, completed April 12th, 2013 – the complete interview is available at