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Page last updated November 10, 2021
© Michael Kluckner
I have produced a graphic novel – Toshiko – about this period.
Go to Correspondence about
Japanese-Canadian families in the Shuswap
The Kumajiro Konishi cabin, on the TransCanada highway between Carlin and Tappen, looking west toward the Skimikin Valley, in 2003. It is, I think, the last of the buildings occupied by Japanese-Canadian families in the Shuswap area during the wartime and postwar years of internment and settlement restrictions.
Written in 2003:
Some families managed to rent old farmhouses; Mieko Kawase’s, for example, rented a big white two-storey place called the Sanderson house. All of them have apparently been demolished, fallen victim to the passing of the decades since the war years, and there appears to be no one surviving who can recall clearly which houses were rented by whom. A long-surviving enclave was the cabins of a group of families, all related by marriage to the Nagata family of Mayne Island, which settled in the immediate vicinity of the Calhoun farm along what was the TransCanada highway (now Calhoun Road) within a kilometre of the Carlin community hall. The last of those cabins, and the Calhoun farm buildings themselves, were demolished in the 1990s. There is today a cluster of shacks on the edge of the old farm which have the look of the board-and-batten cabins of the war years, but the consensus is they were skidded onto the property years later. Indeed, there appears to be only one building, the cabin on the Konishi property on the TransCanada highway, that has survived since the internment time.
The Nagatas and Konishis, with two Fukuhara families related by marriage, banded together under the leadership of Kumazo Nagata (brother-in-law of Kumajiro Konishi), who had been in charge of the Japanese businesses on Mayne Island, and obtained permission in June, 1942, to head off by train from Vancouver to the Chase area. They were dropped off with all their possessions at the Squilax siding, near the Squilax General Store, a place where they could obtain offcuts for shelter-building from a nearby sawmill. Kathy Fukuhara Upton, who was born at Skimikin later that year, recalls her parents saying there were eleven families on the train. Other names I’ve heard include Kawase, Nakamura, Fukusaka (“on McArthur’s Ranch”), Sumi and Sakon—Shig Sakon was a labourer on the Calhoun farm, apparently arriving later than the others and staying the longest; he apparently was recently beaten badly by some local hoodlums who believed he had been burying money in his yard, and is now in declining health in Salmon Arm. There were other Japanese families, including the Tanemuras, already living in the Salmon Arm area before the evacuation.
The Nagatas, Fukuharas, Hayashis, Konishis and Sumis all built tarpaper shacks in Skimikin Valley. "Those nights that the coyotes howled were nights to be remembered!" wrote Hatsue Konishi Yoshida. Early that summer, she recalls, they were in great demand as harvesters on the local farms; she describes a family from Sorrento coming in an old Model T to pick them up for work picking strawberries and raspberries. But as summer turned to fall and winter, there was no employment, and they were hungry and freezing. With his wife Fumiko having given birth to their second child, Kathy, George Fukuhara set out on foot to visit every farm in the uplands between Squilax and Tappen, searching for work, and narrowly escaped permanent frostbite damage to his feet. Eventually, in a narrow valley along which the TransCanada highway ran between Carlin and Tappen, he found a farmer who was willing to help them.
Henry Calhoun’s father had homesteaded the narrow, winding valley bottom – an old stream course – in 1895. By the 1930s, the Calhouns had a large wholesale vegetable operation, market-gardening for nearby residents and growing produce for packing plants in the Okanagan and the Vernon Army Camp. His operation was apparently quite advanced for its time, with machines for washing vegetables such as carrots; it was big enough that the Canadian Pacific Railway, whose mainline crossed the end of the valley a few hundred metres from the Calhoun farmhouse, put in a siding where the vegetables could be easily loaded. By the winter of 1943, when he invited the Japanese families to disassemble their cabins and move them using his wagon to his property, his son Harold was taking over the operation of the farm. The Nagatas and Fukuharas clustered around a small barn just north of Calhoun’s house, while nephew Ei Nagata and his wife lived further down the road. The Konishis rented a log house on the other side of the hill, connected to the others by a narrow path through the forest.
Update 2019: Fiko Konishi died at the age of 84 on January 9, 2019. His sister Setsuko Iwasaki died on October 29, 2009. Thanks to niece Sandi for notifying me about Fiko.
The Konishis in front of the log cabin they rented from 1943-1946, photographed by Kumajiro Konishi. This building burned to the ground about 1952, killing three of its occupants. Back, left to right: Mrs. E. Hayashi, Mrs. Chiyoko Konishi, Fiko Konishi, Mrs. Fumiko Fukuhara with daughter Kathy. Front: Mie-chan Hayashi, David Fukuhara, Haruyo Hayashi and Jenji Konishi. The Hayashis were visiting from Chase.
Fumiko Fukuhara with two of her children on the Calhoun farm, c. 1943. Photo by George Fukuhara
A photo by George Fukuhara, probably in the winter of 1942-3, of the Skimikin Valley where the families first tried to settle.
Fukuhara and Hayashi children in Grindrod after the war.
The Calhoun farmhouse, 1996. Photo by Sian Upton
The Minamimayes' barn, with house behind, in 1996. Photo by Sian Upton
Eisan Nagata is a nephew of Kumazo Nagata.
All photos courtesy of Kathy Upton
The Minamimaye cabin in 1991. Photo by Allan Wilson
At the beginning of the internment, the Minamimayes (old friends of the Nagatas and the Konishis from the same village in Japan) were split up, with the grandparents and a granddaughter going with a number of other families to Notch Hill, near Tappen, while the parents and three other children were sent to work in the sugar-beet fields of Alberta. The family reunited at Notch Hill in 1944 and built this cabin on the Calhoun Farm later that year.
Note from George Minamimaye (2005): You are correct that Jim Minamimaye was a brother-in-law of Ei Nagata. Jim was also my brother-in-law. Jim worked at the Capilano suspension bridge after the war, not before the war.
|Notes/photos from George Minamimaye: Minamimaye family, taken in 1935 at the home of Yoichi and Taru Minamimaye (my grandfather and grandmother) at 7225 Blenheim Street, Vancouver, B.C. From the left Jim and Hideichi Minamimaye (relatives), Rei, Jessie (Kimiye), Yoichi, Taru, George (Joji), Sae, Joe (Shoichi), Ryuichi, Syd Adachi (relative).|
||The attached photo is the Minamimaye family taken outside the family home at the Calhoun farm about 1945. Front row from the left Sae (my mother), Taru (grandmother), Ryuichi (father). Back row from left George (Joji), Rei, Jessie (Kimiye), Joe (Shoichi) - the four children.|
||The Calhoun family, about 1940.
Henry and Hilda seated; their children Joyce, Harold and Alice
standing. Harold and Joyce remained unmarried, while Alice
married and moved away to points unknown.
Note from Jeannie (Othen) Niedersteiner, 2009: I am the grand-daughter of Henry Calhoun, who invited the Japanese families to move onto his property and am the daughter of Alice who 'married and moved away to points unknown'. My mother is now 93 and resides in a nursing home in Calgary.
(Provenance: Rob Rutten of Country Store Antiques in Barriere bought a filing cabinet in the Calhoun estate sale in Kamloops about 10 years ago. It contained some papers and photographs, including this one. Through historical society contacts in Tappen, Allan Wilson identified the family members. Included in the filing cabinet was correspondence between Henry Calhoun and the B.C. Security Commission, requesting permission for the Japanese-Canadian families to settle on Calhoun's farm, and inquiring unsuccessfully about the possibilities of leasing land to them. Rob Rutten sold the letters to a stamp/antique dealer in Victoria; their location is now unknown. Postscript: 5 weeks after I located this photo and purchased it, Country Store Antiques was completely destroyed in the huge Barriere-Louis Creek fire of August, 2003. What a pity.]
| From 1943 until 1952
Hatsue Konishi worked on the Calhoun farm, while her younger
sister Setsuko kept house for Henry and Hilda Calhoun during the
summers. Kiyono and Kumazo Nagata stayed on in their cabin until
about 1949, then moved into a new house they and son John built in
Gleneden, where they lived until repatriating to Japan in 1953.
John Nagata developed a sawmill of his own at White Lake, married
Miyuki Yoshida of Chase and remained in Gleneden to raise his
family. George and Fumiko Fukuhara moved to Grindrod after the war
to work in the sawmill; later, he became the foreman at the Chase
sawmill, renowned for his skill as a log scaler, then returned to
the coast in the 1960s so their five children could have better
educational opportunities. As for the Calhouns, they continued
vegetable farming until at least the late 1950s, losing in 1954
the highway traffic that used to go down their road when the
alignment was straightened to its current one directly from Carlin
to Tappen. And Charlie Nakamura had a large sawmill in Salmon Arm
West called Salmon Arm Timber, which apparently went bankrupt
The Konishis came closest to repeating their Mayne Island experience. From 1943 to 1946 they stayed in the log house east of Calhoun’s, then moved onto the next property south (three of the tenants who later moved into the log house died in a fire there). Soon, they were growing 6 1/2 acres of strawberries and had built greenhouses for tomatoes. In the 1950’s or early 1960’s, they were able to build a modest, modern bungalow, stucco above pink horizontal board siding, in front of the cabin they occupied in 1947 – the one sketched above that I think is the last survivor of the buildings from the war years – which is now (2003) home to their son Fiko. His cousin’s granddaughter described it as “a small, nondescript kind of house surrounded by trees and garden, but its smallness and obscurity just underlines the Nikkei wish to blend in.” Fiko spent his career with Clearwater Timber Products, then retired about ten years ago to the family property. The greenhouses are long-since demolished. His older sisters Hatsue and Setsuko live in Kamloops. Jenji Konishi, the youngest of the four children, is a retired professional forester living on Vancouver Island.
* * *
From Guillermina Coronado Davila, Guadalajara, Mexico, 2021:
From Ria O’Brien, 2020: I'm Ria O'Brien (formerly
Cameron), my grandfather was Fiko Konishi. Unfortunately the
property was sold when my grandfather became too ill to look
after it, and the old cabin's roof collapsed shortly before, and
the new owners removed the whole thing.
From Sandi Arts, 2019: I am the granddaughter of Kumajiro Konishi (daughter of Jenji). Here is a photo from a couple of years ago of the cabin you painted.