Return to main Vanishing B.C. page Return to home page

Page last updated May 3, 2015

©Michael Kluckner

I have produced a graphic novel – Toshiko – about this period.

Sketched 2001

Wong's Market, as it is now called, is one of the survivors of a generation of grocery stores that dotted the city, usually along the streetcar lines. Built on Main Street at 44th in 1910, it is a nondescript two-story woodframe structure, now covered in stucco but once sheathed with brick (on the north and the front) and horizontal board siding (on the south side). Downstairs is a surprisingly narrow store space, while upstairs is living quarters for the proprietors. It was the first building on that part of Main, erected once BC Electric extended the streetcar line south from 33rd to Marine Drive. Originally called the Reeve & Harding General Store, it was soon renamed Blyth's Cash Grocery and provisioned by Kelly-Douglas and Company (evidenced by the Nabob billboard on the side of the photo below).
Late in the 1930s a Japanese-Canadian family, the Fukuharas, bought the store. George Kisaburo Fukuhara was the son of a cabinet maker who worked in bamboo in a factory on East Hastings Street. Born in 1908 in Vancouver, he knew a lot of the city's history and according to his granddaughter Sian Reiko Upton "spent his youth photographing it with a camera." In 1937, having bought the store the previous year, he married Fumiko Nagata, the daughter of a Mayne Island family. She was a talented seamstress but apparently only made clothes part time for friends, devoting herself to raising her family. They worked hard and over the next few years paid off the mortgage.

In the early months of 1942, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, they lost it all.

Fumiko Fukuhara with her newborn son David on 44th Avenue just west of Main, about 1939

George Fukuhara inside his store, Blyth's Cash Market, about 1939. He took the picture himself, using a timer.

That January, in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbour, the federal and provincial governments moved swiftly to rid the coast of its Japanese-Canadian residents, stripping them of their rights and turning them into "enemy aliens." Hastings Park, the site of the annual fall exhibition and the race track, became the coordinating point for their dispatch and internment. Probably the Fukuharas were not detained initially, but were allowed, as was the case with other local people, to remain in their homes under curfew. However, they were soon forced into Hastings Park where they reunited with their relatives, the Nagatas and the Konishis, who had been taken from Mayne Island in April. Kumajiro Nagata, the extended family's "elder" who had been in charge of the Japanese businesses on Mayne Island, made the decision that they would strike off on their own, like the Japanese Canadians who went to the self-sustaining villages in the Interior (see below). Perhaps using the sponsorship of an old associate named Charlie Nakamura, originally from Telegraph Cove, who had established a railway-tie mill in Salmon Arm, they obtained permission from the BC Security Commission to set out in June for Skimikin, near Squilax in the Shuswap area.

The story continues there.

"En route to work camp near Jasper," photo taken February 25, 1942 by Jack Lindsay. City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1184-12

"Vehicles confiscated at Hastings Park", photo taken March 3, 1942 by Jack Lindsay. City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1184-86

(Left) the store and the house beside it, since demolished, which may have operated as a butcher store for a while. Photographer probably George Fukuhara. (Above) Fumiko Fukuhara and her son David walking on Granville Street in downtown Vancouver about 1941, taken by an unknown street photographer, probably Foncie Pulice.

All photos courtesy of Kathy Upton

Contact me

Return to Vanishing B.C. main page

Artwork and text ©Michael Kluckner, 2001, 2002