From Vancouver's Powell St. to Toronto: Kay Mende’s Remarkable Life

Katsuyo "Kay" Mende, a Canadian-Nisei, was born in Vancouver, B.C. on July 3, 1926. She wrote an account of her childhood and adolescence in Vancouver, British Columbia and paints a vivid picture of the plight of many Japanese-Canadian families during pre-World War II Canada and the injustices of the internment years. Her story is a testament to the courage and strength that she, her family, and her community summoned to overcome the oppression of those times.

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Part 6: Reunions, Redress, & Retirement

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In the eighties and nineties, there were many reunions for the war years’ relocation centres and pre-war Japanese School classes. At one of the earlier Lemon Creek Reunions, we four Usami sisters were bold enough to perform on stage a dance with original choreography by Hayako-san, our instructor in pre-war days - “Tabigasa-Dochu”. Years later at another reunion, we four did “Shanghai-Dayori”, another creation of Hayako-san.

There were many Japanese School reunions. The first one I was involved in was for the three final official classes of ’39 Keiyu, ’40 …


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Part 5: Establishing a JC Community in Toronto

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The usual everyday happenings were of reacquainting with old friends, making new ones, attending dances on Fridays which were held at Labour Lyceum, a Ukrainian hall, on Spadina Avenue in the midst of a Chinese population. There were church concerts, picnics, social get-togethers, etc.

Looking for a better job after the Seguins was not easily accomplished. After a few interviews, I was able to find employment in an office as a stenographer where I was able to utilize my training in the business course. That is when I found out that my English education was inadequate. …


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Part 4: Life in Lemon Creek Internment Camp

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The life in Lemon Creek settled down to mundane everyday life. There was no running water in the individual homes. The pipes ran outside the houses, the faucets in the sink from the network of pipes were meant to serve every five or so homes. The people would not stand for this system. With winter coming, people just helped themselves to enough material to pipe in water into their own homes. Dad did the same to ours. This made life easier for the people not having to lug pails of water into their homes.

The people …


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Part 3: Life before the war and upheaval to Lemon Creek

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The only pleasure Frank used to have during these hard times was going fishing down Gore Avenue to make a few pennies selling the catch – a bucketful of “shiner perch” - to Japanese restaurants. “Tengu” was one of them, owners of which were grandparents of my current good friend, Pat. Frank used to scrape barnacles off posts protruding from the water down at the wharf, inside of which were worms that made the best bait. I remember the times he had asked us girls to go down to the docks early and scrape the barnacles …


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Part 2: A Japanese Canadian Nisei Education

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The following are my siblings:

  • Shigeru (Frank): b. 1924. He worked for the Dept. of Education, married Ruth Sasaki, divorced; Married Toshiko Otsuka, both deceased.
  • Katsuyo (Kay): myself. b.1926. She married Ron Mende (deceased).
  • Ayako (Betty): b.1930. She married Stony Nagata (deceased), lived in Richmond Hill
  • Sachiko (Shirley): b. 1932 (deceased). She married Bob Takagi (deceased) and lived in Willowdale.
  • Kinuko (Mary): b.1936. She lives in Toronto.
  • Kenneth (Kenji): b.1940. He lives in House of Wellness, Brampton (care- assisted home).

       Two infantile deaths:

  • Masaru (first born – 1923): died 1925 - diphtheria
  • Mitsue …



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