Midge Ayukawa About the Day She Was Sent to Internment

Midge Ayukawa (1930-2014) grew up on the 700 block of East Georgia St., in the centre of Strathcona. Midge and her family were interned in Lemon Creek, Slocan Valley. She was the first woman in Canada to obtain a Masters Degree in Science. Read Midge’s obituary HERE.

The 700 block of East Georgia Street in the 1960s
Image credit: Copyright City of Vancouver

My father was taken first, then my oldest brother, my younger brother, my fifteen-year old brother and my mother. We had less than 24 hours’ notice to pack up and go. My mother was a stubborn old thing and she had made arrangements with the local junkman to buy some of things she had.

At the last minute, she said to my fifteen-year old brother: “Put a box around that kitchen stove.” He said “What for?” She said “I’m taking it.” He said “No, you can’t take it.” She replied “Oh, you just watch me! I’m taking it.” So we were the only ones in the camp that had a decent stove.

The worst part was when we sold my piano. My mother had been working and saving her money, and every month she walked down to J. W. Kelly Piano Company on Seymour, where they sold musical instruments. It was a second-hand one that she had bought. When we sold the piano and they loaded it on the truck of whoever it was that bought it, my mother wept.  The amount of money she owed on that piano was exactly what she got for it.

To her, it was a sad day. For me, I was tired practicing and practicing and practicing—I was glad, but I wouldn’t tell her that. I can see now it upset my mother so much.

Japanese evacuees saying good bye (1942)
Image credit: Jack Lindsay, public domain

Vancouver is very different from the way it used to be. We used to play on the streets. I remember roller skating down Hawks Avenue, but it was wide open. Only the odd car went by, which is not the way it is now. My mother used to just let us out in the street. When the gun went at 9 o’clock, that’s when we had to high-tail it home. We weren’t expected to come home before then.

I think people are more accepting now. There are a lot of mixed marriages, although not as many as there are in Toronto or Ottawa. Probably because my children grew up back east, none of my them are married to Japanese. They don’t get a chance to meet them, and even if they did, they’d think they’re strange. In the west there’s a little bit more of the Japanese getting married to other Japanese. We’re becoming a mixture of somewhere between yellow and brown. I believe is going to happen throughout Canada, which I think is good. In my day, it was impossible. I remember my parents breaking up my brother who was in love with a white girl at that time. Both sides broke them up. I remember I’d say to my mother: “Your daughter is going to be married to a white man, what do you think?” “Oh, I don’t know, the same,” she said. I told her “You sure didn’t didn’t tell me that.” She said “Well, times are different.

Story edited by Jade McGregor

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