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THE RECOLLECTIONS OF FATHER TIM NAKAYAMA
(Father Nakayama, Joy's older brother, is retired from the Anglican Church ministry. After serving from 1956-66 in the Diocese of Calgary, he served 25 years at St. Peter's, a Japanese American congregation in Seattle. In retirement he went to All Souls', Okinawa, for English language ministry from 1991-1997 annd then to an exclusively Japanese language ministry among 3 congregations in Aomori, NE Japan for 2 years, returning in August 2000 to live in Seattle. )
We moved to the Marpole house at 1450 64th Ave. W., (between Granville and Cartier Streets) in the mid-1930's from the church apartment above the kindergarten adjacent to the newly-built Church of the Ascension at1701 3rd Ave., in the Kitsilano.area close to the southwest end of Granville Bridge over False Creek.
The building of the Church of the Ascension had just been completed, debt-free, by the Japanese members. I believe I was completing kindergarten at the church and getting ready to be a pupil in Grade One at David Lloyd George School. Joy was a new-born.
Some of my memories are rather vivid because of two traumas that occurred in my young life an illness that delayed my beginning in Grade One, and then our evacuation/relocation experience during and after the war years. Traumas tend to make our memories vivid time, place, and details seem to be more fully retained than normal.
We moved to Marpole and I went for the first time to the public elementary school David Lloyd George. About 10 days after I began, I began to limp. A careful series of examinations of me included the whole family because initially the doctor suspected tuberculosis. In those days TB was dreaded and was infectious. To everyone's relief, TB was ruled out, and my right hip was seen as being affected by Legge-Perthes disease a softening of the hip, which, if left untreated, would result in my continuing to limp and become unable to walk. I was put in a body cast from the tip of my toes to the top of my neck for 5 ½ months. I remember being brought outside to lie on a collapsible metal spring bed on sunny days near the cherry and other fruit trees in the back yard.
When I was finally better, I began using crutches to walk all over again, and I learned how to navigate up and down the stairs. Because of this illness I was never too robust, and tended to stick close to home. For hours I amused myself in the living room winding up the upright "Victor's 'His Master's Voice' " Gramophone, listening to the mechanically amplified sound emanating from the horn located below the old 78 r.p.m. turntable where I played the bakelite records of Japanese koto music (on Polydor labels), as well as famous European tenors, violin solos, and orchestral selections. When I got bored, I would play, rotating the platters and scratching the labels with dulled needles!
A Mason & Riesch "Henry Herbert" upright grand piano was another piece of musical furniture. Joy and I learned to play on it, thanks to lessons we received from a piano teacher, Alice V. Pye, who retired and came to Vancouver from Toronto. She came to play the piano for the Sunday School at the Church of the Ascension. One day she talked to my father, who was the Priest of the Church, saying, "I want to do something for God and the Church. Will you let me teach your children how to play the piano?" Through her generous offer we began receiving lessons. We took the bus and streetcar to go every Saturday morning to her apartment in Kerrisdale to receive lessons. One day, we must not have been very attentive, and in an unguarded moment she said to us that in the depth of the depression in Toronto she taught piano charging tuition of $10.00 for half a lesson! Even for the small children that we were, that statement caused us henceforth not to take her for granted. As I look back and remember the detailed way Miss Pye taught us for example, how to form the shape of our hands, and strike all the keys evenly even with the clumsy thumb and weak pinky, how to listen to the music and vary expressing by varying the tempo as well as intensities of sound by the gentle, even, firm touch of the fingers on the keys she was an exceptional teacher. (Joy, uses me as the model for Stephen, in "Obasan" Joy seems to have an image of me as one who she believed had musical talent which was cut short by the war).
The other upright piece of furniture was a radio, a little smaller than the gramophone. I remember listening regularly to an evening program that ended with a prayer: "Lord, support us all the day long of this troublous life, until the shadows come, the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, grant us safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last."
At the time war was declared I remember seeing the adults hovering around that radio, listening intently to reports and bulletins, discussing and saying, "It will be 25 years before the truth is told." Reparations took 46 years.
In the year before the war began, our grandfather Yataro Yao, our mother's father, came on the "Yahata Maru" from Japan to visit us and stayed for six months. He was the only grandparent we ever knew. He stayed with us in the house on 64th Avenue. He did not understand English but would go walking for miles and miles from the house. We were less anxious every time he came back home 'safe and sound'!
The kitchen stove was fueled by sawdust. A hopper at the left end of the stove dropped the sawdust particles into the stove and the flame could be seen through a side grate. Grandpa would smoke one cigarette each day, and I would look on with fascination as he balanced me on his knee as we both warmed ourselves by that hopper. The sawdust- whose degree of dampness affected the rate and evenness of burning, was kept in the weather-tight garage at the back near the lane.
In the back yard, Grandpa built a fire, and with great care lightly charred many bamboo poles to prevent them from decomposing. With them he built a fence along the east side of the property.
I don't know if Japanese "mikan" oranges are still imported and come individually wrapped in firm orange tissue-like paper. One day Grandpa got a lacquered bowl, fastened the orange paper onto the bowl with an elastic band. He placed a small mound of "nuka" (Japanese rice bran), lit a flame at the top of the mound, keeping the fire away from the paper. Some dark brown oil precipitated out of the burning bran and dripped through the tissue into the bowl. Using a small empty medicine bottle that had once contained tincture of iodine, he filled it with the oil he had produced. For years we had an anti-irritant that eased the itchiness of athlete's foot!
Another project he undertook was to make "miso" out of a mash of soy beans in a large wooden tub with lid. It took several months to ferment and mature. The war relocation prevented us from being in Vancouver long enough to taste and used that miso.
Grandpa was invited by Dad to stay on in Canada, but the reason he gave was that there were more grandchildren over there. The day came for his departure. He left on the last sailing of the Yahata Maru. We went one weekend to see the ship docked in Burrard Inlet. Joy and I were not allowed to see Grandpa off because our parents regarded that our schooling must not be interrupted. Their way of showing to us the importance of education was pressed home by such decisions.
On a Saturday, I with other friends was visiting a classmate whose father gave me a glass of milk. The following Monday morning, as I entered the soccer field in the northwest corner of the schoolyard, the classmate I had been visiting two days before, turned to me and said, "You dirty, yellow Jap!" That was my introduction to Canada's declaration of war.
For several months those of us who had been chosen to be members of the public school-sponsored Vancouver Boys' Choir, had been practicing every week in Kerrisdale. We were entered in a competition with the famous Vancouver Elgar Choir. The time was rapidly approaching when the concert would be held. My head dropped in disappointment when I heard the date and time for the program it was to be in the evening hours and the curfew imposed on people of Japanese race would prevent my attending. The teachers, realizing this, consulted among themselves, and in careful words expressed their regret and disappointment to me, and all the choir members.
All of us were "registered". Then the Japanese people were herded into Hastings Park (succeeded by the present-day PNE grounds), and the majority were sent to hastily prepared (some incomplete) "relocation camps", and designated areas for "self-support" communities in the B.C. interior. There were no barbed wire fences as those surrounding the military camps in the USA, but there were stated mileage limitations restricting movement in the deep forested mountains many areas being gold/silver- mining "ghost towns.".
It must have been decided that our removal from along the Western Coastal 100-mile zone would be permanent, because while we were in "camp", all our property was sold by the government's "Custodian of Enemy Alien Property".
The Anglican Church, Diocese of New Westminster, must have come to the same conclusion, because the new Church of the Ascension, kindergarten building and property were sold to a pharmaceutical firm. All the buildings including the new Church were razed, to be no more. A place for the cure of souls became the location of a medicine factory. Holy Cross Mission opposite the Powell Grounds east of Main Street, near Hastings, was also sold, becoming an apartment building of a private owner.
We were finally allowed to return from 1949. The people lacked resources, were weary of further resettlement and the majority remained where they were now living. So those who returned were fewer in number and gathering them together was a painstaking word-of-mouth process.
A note on the photographs
Internees were not allowed to have cameras
in the camps. The taking of photographs was
to be authorized and supervised by the RCMP.
Some ingenious internees made their own
cameras and recorded scenes the RCMP would
never want in the history books. Some of the
non-Japanese who volunteered or worked at the
camps also took photographs out of friendship.
And, of course, there are iunforgettable images
by artists like Kazuo Nakamura and Shizuye
Takashima. Few people, however, were able to
celebrate their family milestones in photographs:
it was a time without wedding and baby pictures,
not that anyone took time from the struggles of
life to notice. It's more the younger people who
wish, as they tell their children about relatives they
never met, they could pull out he customary photos
and show them.