I Know We'll Meet Again - Transcripts

Correspondence and the forced dispersal of Japanese Canadians

Yoshio Nakamura

Magrath, AB on 1942-1948

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: c/o A. O. Peterson,
Letter 1
: Box 173, Magrath, Alberta
: Dear Joan,
: Here I am again. I hope that I am not bothering you too much; "You know Final Exams and all that." I'm awfully sorry I did not answer yours of the 1st of this month, any to quick. You know me "The lazy good-for nothing I guess." Well to start off with I enjoyed your letter very very much. I really did.
: The real reason I could not write any sooner was because I hurt my right hand. I was helping my boss pile up some scrap iron he had around his big farm when an old iron plow fell across the back of my ooh! knuckles?? (how do you spell it?) metacarpals and carpals. The Boss thought it was broken but I said it didn't hurt much (not much oh yes!) You know how it is when a person is around when you get hurt. Well, we finished in about 1 1/2 hrs. I got off from work so I had my hand plastered and bandaged for a couple of days. I took it off on 14th "yesterday", and boy was it swollen up.
: It's still a bit swollen but I can write now. I'm always writing about my own sorrows etc so don't mind me.
: We had snow last night. Imagine! 3 inches of snow in the middle of May. And icicles and ice... Gosh! I was surprised enough when we had snow twice in April. And talk about mud. Oh! It's just mud anyway. Even on the No. 5 Alberta Highway it's just about 6 inches mud. Then when you get in the side roads its a foot thick. (I mean it's very muddy). Cars cannot run on the roads when it rains.
: How's B.C.? To-day as I was listening to CBC about 8.30 to 9 P.M. (7:30-8:00 PM your way) I heard the announcer say "As I look across the Inlet from the " " Hotel (I forgot the hotel I could see the colorful Hillsides, the spring or was it early summer, atmosphere is in our surroundings in Western B.C." Something to that effect anyway. It sure reminded me of Surrey. Gee! I was hoping that he would go on but he started on some talk about the Blind being trained for defense work such as serving on Canteen trucks etc. I sure miss the funnies! We take the Lethbridge Herald a corny paper that comes whenever it feels like coming. It's supposed to be a daily paper.
: It has no news of B.C. so we are arranging to have the Sun or Province paper sent to us from an Agent in Raymond or Magrath. Oh! yes. Thanks for that paper clipping. It sure was thoughtful of you to do so.
: Say if you ever hear from Yoshiyuki or Albert or any of those boys who went to a different place from myself, will you please send me their addresses? I sent a letter to Mr. Matheson and Miss Nordberg, but I didn't hear from them since. Gosh! I'm just about going to be disappointed. I'll wait a few more days to get an answer, and if I don't, then I really will be disappointed. I've been waiting since May 1st.
: I spent my birthday in Alberta (at home). It was the 11th day of May. I never dreamt that I would be spending or rather have my birthday celebration in Alberta, of all places. Oh! the weather was awful. The road muddy. Then when it cleared a bit, my brother and his friend and I decided to go to Lethbridge 25-30 miles away, but oh! darn the rain, no car could go because of the mud, so I stayed home and read a book, I mean some Saturday Evening Posts.
: There's lots of gophers here. Hundreds of them.
: The boss' son (6 ft?) and I went to shoot some to-day. We shot quite a number. Cruel aren't we.
: I must close now, my hand still aches a bit. I'll write some more of nothing, but please ask Anne, Betty, Margaret and [...?] to write to me so I can get their addresses and answer them. Please!
: So long.
: Yours Sincerely,
: Yosh Nakamura
: P.S. If you can't make heads or tales of this scrawl, just burn it.
: Box 173, Magrath, Alta
Letter 2
: July 20/43.
: Dear Gang-
: I guess it's useless to start apologizing and making excuses for not writing these past centuries. I must have had a touch of laziness again. Well, may I begin to tell you all or nearly all that happened since I last wrote? O.K.? Swell.
: To begin with the last time I wrote was in March wasn't it? or was it before that. About that time we were all practising to put on a concert or "Club Review" as we called it, on the end of March.
: You know, something like the big concert we had in Q.E.? only it wasn't half so good.
: The surprising part of it was that they never had such a concert like this before in Magrath. We had a packed house both times. (We put it on 2 nights.) It was the greatest success Magrath has ever put on. School inspectors and other school teachers etc. commented on it very highly. They has such things as dancing displays, plays (short) tumbling (I gave them a sample of Q.E. tumbling) with 3 other boys; the school band (5 piece)
: songs by the glee club and a few other items. There was a dance after each performance (I mean at the end of each night.). That concert was the talk of the town for a month.
: We had pictures taken etc. I got hold of me print of myself on top of a pyramid and had it autographed by the other fellows I'll get hold of another and send it over. We had fun doing it too.
: All the time in between, we played badminton.
: A week after the concert we had Easter exams. Pretty fair tests. Only some dopey girls (excuse me) cheated and got caught. Boy, was there a row over it.
: Easter holidays came and I went to herd sheep about 60-70 miles from here. My boss has a couple of thousand head of sheep there. There were 3 of us boys and 2 men working there. It was lambing season so we were very busy. My boss couldn't get anybody to take my place so I had to stay away from school all May. I really was a shepherd of the hills then. I had to watch and take care of 1500 head of ewes and little lambs. The last week I was there I had to take the herd a few miles away from the other sheep so that they do not mix. I had to stay all by myself for a week.
: I had to cook by myself. I never saw a human being for 4 days. wow! what misery! Since it was better to leave the sheep outside of the corral, I had to watch them longer. The darn sheep head for all over the places as soon as it gets light and I do not stop till dark. I watched them all day and bring them back at night. I watch them till about 9-9:30 P.M. In the morning I have to get up between 4.30 A.M. and 5 A.M., catch a bite to eat and put some oranges etc. in my pocket for a mid-morning bite and off I go. I'll tell you now that I'll never do that again. I went there expecting to be home in 1 week but I had to stay 22 days! My boss sure was glad cause I stayed for him. If it was some grumpy old guy I might have left but he's been very good to us so I stayed for him. While I was there I found lots of pieces of petrified wood. If you'd like to see some I'll send some over. Let me know eh? I turned a combination of geologist and a herder. I found a number of pieces of petrified wood. Big and small; from 1 oz. to 15 lbs.
: So much for that. When I came home I found that the beets were awaiting me. Well for
: nearly a month I thinned beets ugh! what a job but was it a relief when we finished in June, about the 24th.
: I went back to school just before this and found out that I was recommended in all subjects. They said that I cannot receive my Senior Matric this year 'cause the credits are rather on the low side. That is, they took away so much that I'll have to go back another year. Same with Tom Tsukishima. I'm thinking of going back next year.
: Say, thanks for sending me the Q.E. Vue Joan, it sure was swell. To tell you the utmost truth I just about felt like crying when I read about the graduation and to think that I would have been there too. Gosh! I sure had a swell time while I attended good old, I mean new Q.E. Gosh! but I've finally lost hope of getting that Q.E. pin which I was supposed to have won. I wrote to "Stinky" but no response. I guess he decided that it was just a waste to send it to me eh?
: What are you all doing nowadays? Having fun? I hope so.
: Nearly everyday except Sundays and 1st of July, I've been working out on the prairies. Wow! is it ever hot! We hayed
: for a week in the blazing heat. It was 114° F at 6 P.M. so you can guess how hot it was at 1 or 2 P.M. Sweat just pours down in streams and water just flows nearly continuously down the hatch. I guess we drink a gallon or two of water each day. I've been mowing and raking hay these last few days and we start to hay again on Thursday.
: On the 24th of July a holiday for Magrath (It's birthday) us Evacuees play ball against the Local boys. We have formed a team and have practised every Sunday for about a month. We have fun tho'. Last Sunday after ball practise we had a wiener roast beside a canal and enjoyed it very much. The brains of a working boy drains and wanes fast so I'll close now before I lose all of my precious knowledge juice.
: So long-
: As ever
: Yoshio
: P.S. Hoping against hope that you were able to read the ink lines.
: Box 173, Magrath, Alta.
Letter 3
: June, 26, 1944.
: Dear Joan;
: I do not know how to thank you for that swell pin. You do not know how I felt when I touched it and looked at for a long time. That pin alone brought back the memories that I have cherished for so long. It reminded me of Q.H.S. and of the students that were in it and are in it now. It brought me back to the time I shook hands with you on that last day at school. Gosh, but I wish I could live those years over again. I feel like a soldier away on a foreign shore fighting in battles, and thinking the peaceful hours spent before the tragic occurance. Thank you an awful lot Joan, for the pin. I won't forget it.
: Yipe! hold it Joan, don't talk about the 21st year yet. I feel pretty much like an old man now. On the 21st day I mean birthday I'm going to have a real nice party, something that I can remember. If we are still here at that time I'll send you some of the original cake.
: I hope you got recommended. Say what am I saying about hoping, I know you did get recommended. How did the Graduation ceremony turn out? Gee, but I bet it was swell. I sort of missed mine didn't I.
: Sports day, ----- that's one thing I really miss. Down here they do not go in for track very much. On the first of July they said there is going to be some sports programs but I do not know the particulars since
: I have not been in town for 24 days. Can you imagine that, I really am a hermit now.
: I'm glad to hear that the Blue house won cause that was the last house I was in.
: I received a letter from Betty the other day too. Her and Margie are teachers now. What are you going to be after grade 12 Joan? Are you going to be a teacher? Are you going to a Secretarial school?
: Betty says that she is going to Manitoba. She'll be able to see Anne for about a month then wouldn't she.
: Gosh, but it's raining cats and dogs. We seem to have rain everyother day. THe other day we had a real humdinger of a cloudburst. I've never seen rain come down in such a torrent in all my life. It sure was a sight.
: I'm beginning to sound like a diary now so I'll close till next time.
: Thanks again for that lovely pin. I like it very much. I will try to show you my appreciation soon. Until then I remain-
: As Ever,
: Jan. 3, 1945,
Letter 4
: Dear Joan -
: To-day is the 3rd of January. oh yes! May I wish you a Happy New Year? Did you have a White Xmas? I had a pretty nice Xmas–and New Years too.
: To-day is Wednesday and a half holiday in the afternoon at the store. I've been working in the store for over a month now and I like it very much.
: Gosh but I've been going to parties and shows and games so much that I have never slept earlier than 2:30 A.M. each night. Last night was the last one, I hope. We had a grand time at the parties though.
: Gosh! Joan, I'm sorry I did not send the parcel sooner. I have to go to work by 8 A.M. and after work at 6, I come home do bit of this and that; have supper and off we go.
: How are you getting along in school now. How does it feel to be a senior–the Undergrads. Gee! everytime I think of the school I sure sit and dream of what I might have done in the last year.
: I was going to write some more of the story? wasn't I. Well, here I start again on the 2nd half of the 1st Chapt.
: "The 7th of dec. was on a Sunday. On Monday I went to school wondering how I was going to go through the whole day as if nothing had happened and wondering
: how the teacher and other students would [red text: ?] react toward me. Most of my worries were over that 1st period. The bell rang for the 1st period and quietly we all went to the assigned rooms for Algebra. Our principal taught us that subject. When he came in I could see that he was under some sort of a strain, probably, I thought, as I was. When he got to the desk he looked toward me and said, jokingly. "How did the basketball game turn out?" Knowing that our high school team lost to another high school about 20 miles away; that last Friday evening. He asked me a few more questions and I answered with a laugh as best I could. I knew then that he was trying to ease the tension caused by this suddenly erupted chaos. Words cannot express what those few words did to me and others [red text: who] that were in the same [red text: position] boat as I was. The lesson went over in the usual pattern. For at least a month I went through lessons in a semi-strained way.
: After that life at school was swell for awhile. The reason why I say "For a while," is [red text: that] because in March all the boys like myself "the Japanese-Canadians" were called into a counselling room and were told that we were barred from further participation in the high school army cadet corps. In all my school career that was my first and worst heart-breaking experience. There were thirty of us in that room wondering why we were called here. We laughed and joked till the principal came in and conveyed to us the ill-news. You should have seen the expression on their faces; dumbfounded; and looked as if they were all asking the same question "Why do they have to do this to us?" Then sadly with bowed heads we silently listened. I couldn't imagine such an order coming from a ministry of Education. The Cadet Corps was one subject in the curriculum I loved very much. I liked that branch so much that I studied all the notes that were given me. We drilled and practised quite a lot. The Battalion was divided into units consisting of the First Aid Corps, Signal Corps, and Officer training Corp. All those wishing to become officers and noncoms
: were given tests based on what we had learned so far. Out of the cadets who wrote the exams five corporals were picked, of [red text: whom] which I was one. Later we became candidates for officers training. We studied map reading and other subjects which were essential. The whole course was very interesting. I can say very easily that the rest of the boys like myself liked that very much. The action of barring us from participation in the cadet corps put a brand on us in a way. When the rest of the students would be having corps practise we would be doing other things less interesting. Even if it was supposed to be interesting one [red text: could] cannot expect us to like it. Around about this time studying became less and less important to me and to a lot of others like myself. Long before the Easter holiday I hardly ever took my books home and did not prepare my lessons. The time came one April afternoon when we were told that we were going to Alberta. This was the sixteenth day of April 1942."
: Well Joan, I'll leave it at that for now. I still have a lot of mistakes and everything wrong with the grammar and punctuation and etc. so you'll have to sort of put it together like a puzzle. If you have time, Joan, I'd like very much if you would re-read the 1st and this last part and sort of fix it up; and tell me where I should fill in more and etc. Will you please? I do not intend this to be a story or an essay–I'd like to sort of have it like a long letter to a friend.
: This last Friday I met Sonny and Mae in Raymond for the first time in 3 years. Gee! but I was sure glad to see them; I mey Ally too. He came to see me yesterday again and we went to a show and talked after till after midnight.
: By the way Joan, where do Betty and Margie teach? Do you know their address. I sent a card to May Webb but as yet I have no answer. I heard that Dot Kan is still stationed in Calgary so I may see her. I sure wish I could see you, Betty and Margie soon. We may not recognize each other first but after all 3 years or more is a long time. Remember when Betty went past Calgary? Well, I never got the letter in time to know she was going past Calgary and did not know what time and date she'd pass so I couldn't go to Calgary. Gosh! but I sure wished I knew what date and time. I'll write again soon Joan so untill then solong
: As ever
: Yosh
: P.S. Send me some snaps of yourself Joan. Will you please?
: Magrath, Alta.
Letter 5
: Sept. 19/45
: Dear Joan;
: I am really at a loss as to how I should apologize for the long silence. I have to apologize to a number of other people too, cause I did not write for so long. e.g. Masao, May Ohama, May Webb, Bob Inouye, Dott Kan etc.
: This summer we had to work such long hours and nearly all the Sundays. We worked from 12 to 14 hours a day in the busy times. Now we work between 10 to 12 hours. All summer I only had 2 Sundays off. I really loathe to work on Sabbath day, but it was work that had to be done—irrigating. I am glad, so very glad, that we have finished with it now. After we finish
: topping the beets I’ll be happier still.
: Had I really wanted to write and made myself write, I could have done so, but in the hot sweltering heat when one works for so long it just drives the energy from your body and after you have supper at anytime between 7.30 and 9 P.M.—sleep and rest is all you think off.
: I really should have written long ago but another reason is plain laziness. Shall I come back and start writing a letter? Okay.
: First of all, how are you Joan? I hope you are in the best of health. Are you going to normal school now? I am still working on the Farm. I do not know if I will work in the store this winter or not.
: Yesterday I went to the dentist in Lethbridge and suffered from 11 AM till after 3 PM. I did not have dinner so I got a bite to eat & ran to the bus terminal to catch the bus. Since yesterday morning we have had snow and later rain till this morning. The sun is out now for a change.
: On Sunday we played a baseball game against a Raymond team and won 8—0. I got hit on the nose when I slid into a base. It’s healing now. On the end of August I had my Summer holidays and I went up to Waterton Lakes again. I had a grant time fishing, boating and biking. Gee! Joan, it’s really wonderful to be there for a few days. Even tho’ it’s only once a year.
: The air is fresh and so—well it seems to be free of dust.
: What have you been doing all summer Joan? Have you seen Betty and Margaret lately?
: Over a month ago I wrote to a Lieutenant C. Thomas ‘cause he’s the one that was recruiting us Niseis for the Can. Army. He was supposed to come to Alta but he did not so I wrote to him over a month ago telling him that I wished to volunteer in the Army Intelligence Corps. I have been awaiting answer a long time not receiving a reply, I wrote again after hearing that they needed Niseis for the army. I still have no answer yet.
: Since V.J. day I gave up hope but when I read that Japanese-Canadians are still needed for Intelligence I wrote a second time and as yet no answer. Even tho’ the war is finished now, I may be of use if they do accept me. For years now I have been waiting for the war to end, but now that it has ended I am at a loss as to what to do. It seems I have a war to fight from now. A sight that does not need physical energy but mental. Our fight for our freedom as Canadians. We have to fight to make up our minds where we should move to. At present we are not allowed to move to B.C.
: As far as we know now we are free to move to points East from the 15th of November. Even if we do move east on the 15th we are subject to relocation again. It’s all so funny, so complicated. If I were just a lone ranger I would not worry so much but as it is I am a member of a family of 6. So far we have no decided on any place to move. I think we will be on this farm till next fall anyway as far as we know now.
: Gee, Joan, I’d give anything to go back to a place near Westminster. I wonder
: how it is back there. I’ll bet the Maple leaves are red, yellow brown and all colours; Leaves falling down everytime a breeze comes blowing.
: I wish that I was in the East when I first moved—then I might have been in the army intelligence and would have been to Vancouver for advanced training.
: Some more of the Japanese-Canadians who have finished their basic training in Ontario have gone to Vancouver on Sept 5 for advanced training—Gee! Joan it makes me almost cry right now—the time is 9:15 and the radio is just bringing forth
: the swellest song “Home Sweet Home.” All the verses too. Golly—it makes a guy feel pretty lonely after not having a real home for 3 ½ years.
: I’m sorry I ran off the subject. Thanks very much for the Q.E. Vue. It was swell. I was really interested on the two views on the Japanese question. One boy really spoke from a democratic point of view and the other from the general point of view of people who are more or less leaning towards the “expulsion league.” If you can—I’d like to write a friendly letter to both—I’d like to have their addresses. I have a few copies of the pamphlets
: Showing what (1)—The Japanese-Americans did for the war effort. (2) Japanese-Canadians—This pamphlet was written by a Mr. Norman. It answers a lot of questions that are in the minds of the general public. At present I have not any but I’ll get some and send you a copy of each. I want to send a copy to each of those two boys. I think those two boys will appreciate getting true facts on a question they themselves did not know very well. Although what they both wrote, there was a lot of truth in it, yet there were other things that were not.
: A lot of the people such as doctors, Bishops, and well-to-do farmers do not favor us or take our side (and I think that they are really swell) but they do express the democratic point of view, which Canada is following or is supposed to be in regards to the Japanese Canadians.
: I, like hundreds of other Canadian born boys, am officially a citizen of Canada for which I was willing to serve as she wanted me to. I have done nothing bad, yet I am treated as I am.
: I am hoping that some day, justice and true democracy will come to me.
: Racial prejudice and discrimination are two things that are certainly not a part of democracy.
: President Roosevelt made that clear in one of his later speeches. He is my ideal of “Democracy.” He was very fair but stern to the enemy, he was fair and equal to all Americans—be they Negros, Japanese, Chinese or Caucasians. I think that he was the greatest man ever to watch over a nation. Abraham Lincoln ranks with him for he was the father of Democracy.
: There I went off again. The hanky I am enclosing is a souvenir of Waterton Lakes Park. I’ll send some pictures soon.
: Once again I am sorry that I did not write to you more sooner. Please forgive my not writing. Hoping that I will hear from you sometime. I am
: As ever
: Yosh.
: P.S. The program that is on right now certainly is bringing a lot of swell songs.
: P.S. The radio is playing “I dream of you”. I do really, and of the rest of the old gang. Some day, even tho’ we be almost strangers, I will visit that way.
: General Delivery.
Letter 6
: Magrath, Alta.
: July 27/48.
: Dear Joan,
: After a century of silence, here I am once more. Miracles do happen don't they.
: How are you Joan? are you getting tanned on the beaches–those wonderful salt-water beaches? I can almost smell the sea now.
: Joan–it's really difficult for me to write a letter nowadays because I have never written one for years,–well, almost a year. It's been quite a while since I wrote you last (and how) and a lot has happened around here lately too.
: For example, I am now AC2, Nakamura R.C.A.F. as of July 20. I had been trying to get in for some time and finally after I sent my report cards, references etc
: I received a telegram of my acceptance as photographer! I went to Calgary and had to write 5 exams and had a medical. After 2 days on July 20th I was sworn in. And now I am on my way to Trenton Ontario on August 17th. I get 12 weeks basic training there and then I go to Rockcliffe Ontario to train as a photographer.
: I was hoping that I could go out to the Coast on my holidays but that will have to wait.
: You may be wondering why I joined R.C.A.F. Well Joan, I just couldn't see any future for myself in working in a store, or working in Alta. I know that I will be able to study and kept our of mischief
: in the Air Force. I hope that it will do me a lot of good so that I may be able to do something with myself later on.
: By the way, do you see Betty? I am enclosing a pic of myself for you and Betty. Could you give it to Betty? I shall write to her next time.
: Last week end I went to Waterton Lakes and spend a couple of days there. It was really swell to get among the trees and hills. I went to the Canyon Church Camp, a camp sponsored by the United Church. We went for hikes, swimming, fishing, climbing and at night we had
: dances, skits and sing songs. I had a merry time. I'll have to close for now; it's getting past the wee hours. Will you write and let me know how you and the rest of the gang are doing? Bye for now.
: As ever,
: Yosh.