The Man Cave
The garage contents are for those who wish to know a little more of the Koizumi family history. By the time most of you will find this information useful, I may be long gone and you will be discussing the disposition of the articles.
The initial purpose of this small collection was to identify to our children, what an interesting era we were raised in and some items that were brought forward and kept as family heirlooms.
Also, there is an attitude amongst many today that we have become a disposable society and articles from the past have little or no value. This will be your opportunity to see what you might think are of value.
This entry is dated October 23, 2017. It was a plan that was hatched over 50 years ago. It took until retirement to actually bring all the pieces together and many years of packing, storing and caring just so a generation who knows a lot about the Internet, Google and little about living, could see and touch some of their history.
The history presented here will hopefully spawn some imagination and appreciation for the past. Your family’s past—
I never knew my grandfather Yojiro Koizumi. (1873 – 1938) Yojiro ‘s parents had two sons and he was the younger of the two. In feudal Japan, the oldest son was given the bulk of the family estate and the responsibilities of maintaining the family’s well being. And so, your great grandfather had little future in Japan.
Japan was slow to accept the outside world prior to the turn of the century. After the First World War, the Japanese government allowed more access to Japan by outsiders or came into more direct contact with other countries due to the desire to expand trade and form alliances.
Yojiro may have been the recipient of a new age in Japan and all the information that became available or he may have wanted to distance himself from military duty or just satisfy his need to travel and explore new surroundings. We do not know the true motivation for his decision to leave Japan. His home was in Tochigi-ken, north of Tokyo. Yojiro Koizumi came to Canada in 1902 and became a Canadian citizen in 1918. He would have been 29 years old when he stepped off the ship in Canada.
A short story
Tochigi-ken is a long ways from the ocean and we all wonder if the story of his stealing silver coins from his mother to buy passage to Canada was actually true. This was a story I heard from uncle Bob and uncle Ted over the years.
It is believed that Yojiro landed in Nanaimo BC and later found his way to Vancouver. All had small Japanese communities developing so he would be able to converse and get his bearings in a new country.
In Vancouver, he found a way to survive in a new world and became a fisherman like many of his brethren. But this work was for a cannery and not as an independent on the Fraser River. He and many other Japanese immigrants leased a single sail rowboat, gillnet and supplies from the cannery and found their way to canneries along the coast.
Claxton is now a ghost town, but it was located south of Prince Rupert BC, outside the mouth of the Skeena River. This was the village where Yojiro would start his life as a fisherman and set his first roots in Canada.
A short story
Claxton was named after Fred J Claxton of Victoria BC. He was not the first to settle in Claxton but put a name to the location. Claxton was originally set up to attract wealthy people to enjoy the hot springs that is located nearby. Others came in to build a cannery and sawmill to support local efforts and capitalize on the fishery. Claxton was eight miles from the mouth of the Skeena River while other canneries were located in the confines of the river like Port Essington. The village of Claxton was completely abandoned in 1944.
In the heyday of net fishing, Claxton was considered the best place on the Skeena River to fish.
Hitching a ride
The Japanese fishermen would get a tow from a company supply ship, as it made its way north from Vancouver. Fishermen would untie their boats from the tow and drop off at their assigned canneries.
You will find the history of the Japanese fishermen from this era in this collection. You will see pictures of the boats and the steamers that I have mentioned and be able to read the stories.
The book is called Nikkei Fishermen on the BC Coast.
Those trips up and down the coastline had to be a very harrowing experience for new Japanese Canadians to make, with no means of communication, navigation, or weather reports. The village of Claxton was 530 miles north of Vancouver just so you understand the amount of ocean that had to be traversed behind a cargo ship.
Your great grandfather lived on this rowboat for the fishing season and in rented company housing for the balance of the year. During the fishing season Yojiro would have cooked rice and fish on a small stove in the bow of the boat; set and pulled nets by understanding the tides and delivered fish daily to the plant. Later, he was able to progress to a similar boat with a one-cylinder diesel engine to power him around, but mostly it was by oars and understanding currents.
The fishermen were literally slaves to the cannery and often worked all season to come home with little or no money for the family. They had to pay rent on the boat, nets and company supplied food and housing.
How Yojiro Koizumi survived and raised a family is a testament to his will to risk everything to succeed and hopefully this drive is not lost in the future generations of our family.
I believe Grandma Take Koizumi and the uncles told me the average price per fish (Sockeye) was less than five cents each during this time. Large runs of salmon would deflate the price of salmon to mere pennies per boatload and I was told it was hardly worth the effort to take the catch to the cannery
In this collection you will find some of Yojiro Koizumi’s commercial fishing licenses and two for a deckhand. When you read them you will see your great grandfather’s signature in written English.
You will also note how discriminatory the government officials were by today’s standards, as they describe your great grandfather as a Jap fisherman. These documents also tell you that BC had a highly regulated fishing industry at the turn of the century.
Yojiro fished for Williams Bros. Cannery based out of Claxton BC. You can find more information on Google; just type in history of Williams Bros. Cannery, Claxton BC.
Great grandmother Take Koizumi (1893 – 1972) TAH – KAY
Your great grandmother’s maiden name was Motegi.
Great grandmother was a widow with one son when she met your great grandfather, Yojiro. Great grandmother Koizumi’s first husband’s family name was Minezaki.
Your great grandfather returned to Japan to find a wife in 1919. There he was introduced to a picture bride, Take Minezaki, a widowed woman with one son.
A short story
Again I refer to feudal Japan. A widowed woman who had a child was pretty much on her own for life and not a likely prospect to wed again. Your great grandmother was courted and as the story goes, by this young man who carried a gold pocket watch. Great grandfather Yojiro must have been quite a salesperson. Take was twenty years his junior, a young woman of 26 when they met.
This alignment of stars brought the two together.
The pocket watch exists today but does not have a chain. James Koizumi has been charged with the care of this family heirloom, his great grandfather’s pocket watch.
There is added information here. The watch was built by Rockford Watch Co. They were produced from 1873- 1915. This is not one of the jeweled movements and we can only guess at the age without having a watchmaker take it apart and get the serial numbers. The watch still works and research says the watch is highly collectible.
Great grandmother, Take Koizumi, came from a wealthy family and educated in private schools. Her family had property, a water driven gristmill, servants and prominence in the community. She was well educated although I am not sure if she had a profession.
Take Koizumi’s first husband as described by your great uncle Bob as a professional, possibly an Engineer and they had one son. (There is still a Minezaki manufacturing company in Tochigi-ken which intrigues me)
Her immediate family (Motegi) business was the operation of a rice mill where they removed the hulls off rice and barley, and ground rice to make flour. This was a very profitable business during this time and much of the family fortune was derived from this business.
Your great grandmother Take Koizumi told me that when the rice crops were poor, the family survived by adding barley to the rice.
I have asked Yoshimi Motegi if he knows the name of the river where the mill was located and if it still exists today. I would like to try and find the general area where it was located and look it up on Google maps. This would also bring our Canadian family closer to your great grandmother’s ancestral home
You can read more about this woman and how she must have struggled in her new Canadian home. She was pampered by every standard in Japan and was thrown into a life of back breaking labour and in constant learning to survive. Because of her pampered upbringing in Japan, she never had to do manual labour and many household chores had to be learned.
Part of the family survival was her side business of hand washing, drying and folding single men’s clothes for 5 cents a load.
The book you need to read is called Who was Who, Japanese Pioneers in Delta and Surrey. The book is respectfully held in this collection and it describes what many Japanese immigrants had to do to survive in a new land.
A short story
“According to your great grandmother”
Take Koizumi’s family history can be traced back to a direct relative who was a Samurai during the Tokugawa Shogunate. There must have been quite a bit of treachery in those days. Each “shogun” had many samurai protecting him and his family from would be assassins or other peers who wished to encroach on the power and prestige of the Shogun.
Many castles had multiple levels of defense but all of them have wood boardwalks to move men and arms quickly into position to fend off attacks. The Japanese craftsmen often made the boardwalks to purposely squeak or creak when weight was applied.
The most famous of these castles is found in Kyoto. The story of the Nightingale boardwalk is as amazing today as when it was built. It still functions as designed today and is a major tourist attraction.
When a person walked on the boardwalk, a samurai knew exactly where the intruder was by the noise made by the loose board. In the case of the Nightingale boardwalk, the sound was that of a Japanese Thrush.
As the story goes, your great grandmother Koizumi’s relative was awakened by the noise of a creaking board. He threw a spear through his door with the rice paper panels and impaled an assassin on the opposite side.
This is a story I listened to many times as a young person, having my mother help with the English translation when I was unsure of the translation.
***We are missing a very small mouse that was made of cast iron. Should anyone in the family know the whereabouts of this ornament, please identify it to others. The mouse that we are looking for was the Motegi family stamp (Seal). Uncle Ted remembers it well but we haven’t found it.
We are also looking for the Koizumi family crest and Seal.
There is a possibility that both replicas can be found in Japan but no guarantee of authenticy. Both came to Canada with your great grand parents***
Yoshimi Motegi is researching the family tamp (Seal) s.
Yoshimi has purchased the family seal for Koizumi and Motegi. I wanted to honour your great grandmother Koizumi by having something directly relating to her family in our collection.
It was early 1919, when Yojiro Koizumi returned to Japan to find a wife. There were a number of protectionist immigration laws enforced in Canada at this time involving the Japanese and all oriental races. Canada put an embargo on Japanese immigration to 450 souls per year, so your great grandfather would need his citizenship papers to leave Canada and return with Take and be or not be included in the 450 count.
Yojiro’s citizenship / naturalization papers are in this collection. He immigrated in 1902 and received his naturalization papers in 1918. I will ensure that document will be handled with care and identified for all to see.
Great grandfather and great grandmother left Yokohama Japan and landed in Victoria BC. in 1919. Great grandmother left her first son with family in Japan before immigrating to Canada.
Take Koizumi’s original son died in Japan sometime before the Second World. None of her Canadian born children met their half brother and now we have little connection to our first family in Japan.
I often wonder what the Koizumi family did in Tochigi-ken. I have heard stories from uncle Ted that may have touched on this subject but just nothing has yet to be confirmed. I hope to research this further.
When Japan lost the Second World War, US General Douglas McArthur decided to remove the feudal system in Japan. In doing so, the Motegi family and Koizumi family lost everything to a common pool and was subsequently re-divided amongst the Japanese.
We have only one aged Motegi living in Japan at this time. Yoshimi Motegi is your great grandmother’s nephew and will be over eighty years old today. He is also the only English-speaking relative I know of living in Japan. Yoshimi Motegi is the youngest child of your great grandmothers’ youngest brother.
I feel that he is still our best chance to learn more about your great grandmothers’ family history.
I have re-connected with Yoshimi. We do have a bit of a language barrier and I may ask a friend to write him in Japanese. This might help get information quicker as he has to use a dictionary to decipher my words and meaning.
Yoshimi has told me that the Koizumi family came from a farming environment, vast landholdings.
Your great grandmother and my dad told me a story many times. A person walking from the Koizumi home in Tochigi-ken could walk all day and be within 7 kilometers of Tokyo before stepping off Koizumi property.
Great grandfather Yojiro’s father was a local village mayor and employed many, many tenant farmers to work his properties.
Uncle Ted tells me that his father’s older brother was a drinker and playboy, but sobered up when your great grandfather came back to Japan to find a wife.
I have also asked Yoshimi if he remembers anyone in the Koizumi family engaged in silkworm farming.
When my dad, Riichi was eight years old, his mother Take Koizumi made the decision to move the family south from Claxton to the lower mainland, so the boys could get an education. I believe this was 1928 when the family moved.
Your great uncle Bob would have been two and your great uncle Ted would have been five.
A short story
All the boys; Riichi, Ted and Bob have their births registered in Claxton. Due to the remoteness of Claxton, or the ineptness of a Commissioner of Oaths, grandfather Riichi’s birth certificate was dated the wrong year when registered with the federal government. This created a number of problems in later years when he signed up for Old Age Pension, CCP and death certificate etc.
The Move To Delta
The five-acre homestead was located in what is now Delta BC and in a small community known as Strawberry Hill. Today the Kennedy Heights shopping center sits atop much of their original property.
Your great grandmother and her three sons travelled to Vancouver on the SS Cardena. Regular steamship visits to the deep harbour at Claxton was established in 1916, so it is possible that the family did not have to pick up passage on the ship in Prince Rupert.
In later years, the SS Cardena was towed ashore at Sayward on Vancouver Island and rests on the harbour jetty as a rusting hulk.
I am sure your great grandparents spoke to other Japanese in and around Claxton before embarking on this journey. The Strawberry Hill area may have held Japanese people from Tochigi –ken or distant friends from their days in Claxton.
The family moved to Strawberry Hill, which at the time was undeveloped and in the middle of the bush. Yojiro continued to fish into the Great Depression while your great grandmother raised the boys in Delta. They raised strawberries, cherries, fruits and chickens to survive plus Take’s laundry services.
Many of our family have never seen a grub hoe and know nothing of the back breaking labour it took to swing and use a grub hoe and axe to clear rocks and stumps just to plant a few strawberries or fruit trees. My dad kept a grub hoe in his shop in Emerson and I believe he never feared hard work because of it.
It was in those years after 1928 that my dad and uncle Teiji (Ted) would tell me of his father home coming in the fall. He had walked from Vancouver through the bush to their property in Delta only to tell his wife and family he had made no money fishing and could not afford a bus ticket. The Great Depression was soon upon the family. Your great grandmother put an end to his unprofitable venture and he then stayed at home, working on the homestead until his passing.
My father was 18 when my grandfather passed in 1938. My dad was already working at a sawmill from the time he was sixteen. The loss of Yojiro Koizumi left Take and her boys to work the farm and fend for themselves. This would be one year before the onset of the Second World War.
Not much time to prepare for what would become another life changing event.
A short story
I often wondered how our family ended up in Strawberry Hill instead of Vancouver or Steveston. I will add other family names to this collection and their relationship to the Koizumi family if any.
I have a suspicion that some families from Strawberry Hill would have come to Manitoba during the evacuation and stayed together during the war years.
I also wondered how the family fell into farming strawberries. I remember how diligent your great grandmother was around flowers and our family garden.
I followed up with the convenience of Google! Tochigi – ken is a farming / manufacturing area and one of their notable crops is raising strawberries. I think I found one of the links to our family’s survival.
A short story
I have been able to secure a number of original documents that my father had placed in a suitcase prior to evacuation. This suitcase travelled with Take’s family from the time of the evacuation of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War till today.
In this little suitcase, it became fully apparent to me that Riichi and the family were going back to Strawberry Hill at the end of the war.
I have since been to one library and two museums to make certain that these papers will be opened, properly digitized and preserved.
I do not know the extent of the documentation as I have only seen a few pieces. Once digitized, I will ensure the pieces are properly catalogued and the originals preserved for our extended families.
There is a small opportunity here as well. Should the paperwork be reasonably complete, the archivist at the Galt museum (Lethbridge Ab.) has suggested that the originals be offered to the Nikkei National Museum in Burnaby or the Nikkei Historical Research group at the University of Lethbridge, for safe keeping and for viewing.
This potential opportunity has already been discussed with my mother and two Koizumi uncles. I truly hope family members will review these artifacts, once digitized and keep them as an important part of our family heritage.
This detail was completed in January of 2018. The documents are now being catalogued by the Nikkei National Museum in Burnaby BC.
You are now at a time where you will have met the three sons of Yojiro and Take Koizumi. The youngest of you and those who come later will be looking to you for some family insights. I hope you, who read this history; will take the opportunity as elders, to provide the young ones with some family background information.
Your grandfather Riichi (1920 – 2014)
Possibly the least educated of the family with a grade six education. He was forced to go to work in a sawmill at 16 to support the family. He was tutored by a neighbor, Mr. Yukawa in carpentry and was most noteworthy for the large chicken coops he built on sloping, rocky soil without a transit or a crane. Uncle Ted told me some of the buildings were long and wide. I can’t confirm the dimensions, but looking at the wartime documents, I see a total of five chicken coops, some over 60’ in length; all hand trimmed sawn lumber and hand nailed.
There should be a picture of Riichi in his youth sitting in the entrance of one of his chicken coops. With him is the family dog Rover. (There is another story or two here as well)
Your grandfather built a garage on the property in Strawberry Hill when he was only16 was still standing and in use in 1980. Your grandfather was noted for his skills as a carpenter, a saw filer and later on as a sugar beet grower and innovator.
His first car was a 1926 Essex but his pride and joy I believe was a used 1929 Graham Paige that he lost when the chattels were sold by the government prior to the end of the war.
I have not read all the wartime documents but I know there are mention of the buildings on the Strawberry Hill property and the dimensions. This will verify great uncle Ted’s memory of the carpentry Riichi was known for.
A short story
When the Koizumi family was instructed to leave their home in Strawberry Hill, your grandfather Riichi asked his mother- where should we go?
If you read some history of the evacuation, you will note there are many places in the interior and the prairies where these displaced people could go. They had 24 hours to make up their mind in a 48 – hour window. Take Koizumi told Riichi that she was never past the mountains to the east so she could not help make a decision. The priority was to keep the young family intact.
My father, in his wisdom said to his mother; well it is a free trip, so lets go as far as we can. And they ended up in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (True story)
A farmer, named Sidney Main met them at the train station and took the entire family to a little village northeast of Winnipeg, Balmoral Mb. Here the Koizumi family would spend the remaining war years and beyond before they were allowed to move freely in Canada. Our family is in agreement that they were more than fortunate to have been billeted on Sidney Main’s farm.
I met Mr. and Mrs. Main as a young person and still remember his Scottish brogue. They became lifelong friends. They had one son, Charlie. I believe he was uncle Bob’s age.
A short story
In later years, Riichi Koizumi was interviewed for a book that described the Manitoba sugar beet industry and how he was personally involved. That book is held in the collection here as well. During the interviews, Riichi (my father) made an off hand remark about the evacuation and stated it was the best thing that had happened to him. Otherwise he felt he would have remained at the sawmill till he retired.
I was sitting at the kitchen table the day this fateful statement was made. Now I can see the family traits passed from grandfather to father and then to me. Always something to say, regardless of the outcome!
The book was published and in one paragraph, was his statement about the “best move” ever. This caught the eye of the Japanese community; people who had lost everything, people who were homesteaders, First World War veterans, etc. They did not take this statement well and he was an outcast from the Japanese community in Manitoba for two long years.
At any rate, the evacuation sent Japanese inland as labour and in all cases, at the mercy of their benefactors’ and the Canadian government.
It was not until 1949 the Japanese Canadians were given back their civil liberties and allowed to move freely in Canada. However the stigma of being Japanese was forever etched in the Canadian mindset.
I might also add that prior too and throughout the war years, no Japanese person was ever caught doing any subversive activities against their country of choice, Canada.
Propaganda is alive and well
On the opposite side of this spectrum, the Canadian government made many gestures to Canadian Japanese to return to Japan at the end of the war.
In our family documents you will see a six-page letter that was mailed to Japanese Canadians that outlines all the arrangements that the Canadian government would provide those who repatriated to Japan.
One such person who decided to return to Japan at the request of his mother was my mother’s first cousin Sam Shinde.
Sam Shinde found work in a local garage owned by Don Beckstead in Emerson Mb. Mr. Beckstead owned an Esso garage in Emerson Mb. where Sam worked and soon a personal friendship evolved with Sam and the entire Beckstead family.
According to Donald’s middle son, Garfield, his father begged Sam to stay in Canada because everyone knew Japan was in ruins. Sam Shinde was drawn back to Japan by your Canadian government’s repatriation propaganda and his desire to help his mother recover a Japanese soldier’s pension belonging to Mr. Shinde SR.
Sam Shinde and his extended family returned to Japan. Soon after, he fell ill in Japan and died of malnutrition.
As a visitor to this story, one might Google for information about the Yellow Peril 1947 / 1948. It all fits with a history we need never forget.
During this debate in Parliament, the BC Caucasian fishermen, the BC provincial government and federal government representatives debated with other MP’s in the federal government to restrict all Japanese Canadians to west of the Rocky Mountains and into Ontario.
It was not until 1949 that Japanese Canadians were able to move freely in Canada.
Your mother’s parents, Stanley (1920 – 1993) and Sally Kanegawa (1923 – 2014) were not so lucky. Stanley, Mary, Richard and the grandparents were billeted with a farmer living in Shaughnessy, Alberta. They had a very difficult time and I believe forever changed their outlook on life. This is yet another story to be told.
In the Koizumi family collection, there are all the original documents relating to the evacuation of the Koizumi family from BC to Manitoba. In the collection, you will read where the Canadian government promised the Japanese that they would get their properties back at the end of the war. However, the Canadian government chose to relinquish their promise and give the properties to returned service men or renters.
This move left our family without a Canadian history and without a home or fallback position. You can follow up by visiting the Nikkei National Museum / Collections and reading a number of similar submissions.
Some of the close friends of the Koizumi family were billeted on farms in Emerson Manitoba. These were people who may have lived in the Strawberry Hill area or worked in the canneries along the Fraser River who were known too or close to the Koizumi family.
A short story
The Nishibata family was billeted with the Woods family in Emerson Mb. There are so many stories of hardship during this time but this is just one of them.
There was no well or water available where your grandmother and her family lived. The Woods family was like many Canadians in their lack of knowledge and distrust of Japanese Canadians.
They had a water pump in their home but would not allow the Nishibata family the opportunity to use the facility. The Nishibatas had to walk to the Red River with pails to scoop water for drinking and washing.
You might not think this was a hardship, but your great grandfather Nishibata was crippled. He and other members of the family would walk the quarter mile to the river and return with water.
I don’t think any of the younger generation could comprehend or appreciate that this chore was done almost daily in summer heat and winter cold. Trying to make your way through a bush trail, down a steep riverbank, chop ice and return with your valuable cargo is a far cry from going to the tap and turning on the faucet.
It did get better in the following years and the Wood’s family became life long friends of the Nishibata and Koizumi families.
Your grandmother Emiko
Riichi had visited the Nishibata family earlier during the war years and was re-uniting with a lady friend. Riichi and Emiko Nishibata had met years earlier in Steveston. Riichi was looking to settle down and he had his eye on the prize. Riichi and Emiko married in 1947 and he chose to raise their family in Emerson.
Becoming a Sharecropper
The Japanese people in Emerson were tired of working for their farmer hosts. They decided to band together and rent land to grow sugar beets if Riichi would support them. This is how he got into the sugar beet industry.
Riichi rented beet contracts owned by other farmers and managed the crops on a crop share basis. I believe till the end of his farming days, his deal was a 1/3 – 2/3 crop share split between himself and the landowner.
Walter Forrester held the first contract that my father worked. In later years, he would add Gordon Smith, Bob Pow, (who was married to Jean Woods) Alec and Ian Milne, Cyril Haynes and Walter and William Remus to his resume plus hold his own contract.
As time would go on, the Japanese families relocated back to BC or Toronto and Winnipeg and our family remained in Emerson until 1977.
Your grandfather specialized in growing sugar beets. He was forced to become more efficient because he had no other income to rely on. Riichi went on to be recognized by the Sugar Beet Growers Association of Manitoba and by American Crystal Sugar growers in Minnesota and North Dakota.
He left Manitoba with the balance of his family two years before the factory closed. During this time, he became the largest sugar beet grower in Canada.
More about Riichi
Years later I got to witness his skill with a swede saw and saw filer. The swede saw is still in the family as well as a picture of him standing with it. The swede saw is held in care of with my brother Tom. I failed to buy his saw files at the farm auction so they are lost forever- but I still remember the stained canvas bag with the leather cinch, all the files and tools to level the teeth and set the teeth for maximum performance.
A short story
The town of Emerson was going to build sewage lagoons and dad had the contract with Mr. Al Treichel to cut and remove the trees on the land designated for this project. They sold a lot of the wood to others for firewood and that is pretty much how they paid themselves. There were no reliable gas chainsaws at the time that liked -35 degree weather. Much of the hardwood timber was cut by hand into 16” pieces and sold in the round. Dad cut the logs by hand while Al pulled the logs to the landing.
Today there are the two settling ponds that were once covered with cottonwood, ash and elm trees.
Just like Dryden during the war years, dad and Al moved the logs, cut and stacked them. It was actually quite a feat and I remember to this day how cold the work was. But from fall to next spring they cut, stacked and sold wood until the work was complete.
For you who never heard of a cord of wood, it is a pile of wood four feet wide by four feet high by eight feet in length.
If ever you visit Emerson, you can drive along the dyke and view the area cleared for the settling ponds. This was no easy feat.
Your great uncle Ted (Teiji)
Uncle Ted was the middle son. When he was old enough, he went to Dryden Ontario in the winters to cut pulpwood with my dad. He often said how my dad was able to sharpen the swede saw so he was done quicker than everyone else and how he took the time to sharpen other workers tools. Many Japanese went into the bush to cut pulpwood for the winter to support their families during the war years. The workers were paid a fixed sum for every cord of wood they cut and stacked for their employer.
Please try and envision bending over and hand sawing a frozen pine tree, limbing it with an axe, cutting into eight-foot lengths and man handling the pieces to make a cord of wood, all by yourself.
Great uncle Ted found the bull work too heavy for his small body and somehow found his way to the Great Lakes and signed on to a private yacht as deckhand and then helmsman. He spent four years going from the Great Lakes to Florida and surrounding islands. This came to and end when Mr. Johnson sold the converted navy corvette yacht.
The new owner failed to employ a river pilot on the maiden voyage after sale and the yacht hit a rock bar and sank. The boat was called the HMS EDMAR, after Edward and Margaret Johnson, who owned a large sawmill in Thunder Bay.
A short story
The name Thunder Bay came about after the amalgamation of Ft William and Port Arthur.
Uncle Ted returned to Winnipeg where he went to work in a wood fabrication shop. He travelled across Canada installing counters and displays for the Woolworth and Metropolitan stores and other major retail outlets. His employer then put him in charge of the fabrication shop. When the owner passed and his son took over, the business failed and uncle Ted went job hunting again.
He went to work for Winnipeg Supply as a salesperson. There he ended his working career.
It was the time that he worked at the wood working shop that he took your great grandmother to live with him. He nursed her in her failing years and to this day I always go to visit her resting place (and your great grandfather) in Chapel Lawn Cemetery in Winnipeg.
Your great uncle Bob (Kunio)
Uncle Bob was always a family favorite and the youngest of the three boys. Uncle Bob finished school and went on to MIT in Winnipeg. He became a draftsperson and worked for InterCity Gas Company for his entire working career. His son Rob actually took over many of his duties in Leduc Ab. Inter City Gas no longer exists but I believe it is called AltaGas. Uncle Bob and aunt Reiko lived in Winnipeg, Portage La Prairie and Leduc. There is a mention of uncle Bob in the collections section of this history. Uncle Bob was widowed and lives in a senior’s complex in Leduc.
We have a number of wonderful conversations as I put this history together and another family piece called Stories from Strawberry Hill.
His favorite activities are watching Rob and Michelle’s kids grow up and participate in numerous sports.
I want to thank my uncles Bob, Ted and Yoshimi Motegi for helping me put together this part of our family history.