Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Henry Shimizu Interview
Narrator: Henry Shimizu
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: July 25 & 26, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-shenry-01-0035

<Begin Segment 35>

TI: So in this place, New Denver, they actually had a local community.

HS: They had a local community. Small, it was like a village. Probably a hundred, hundred and fifty people total in that whole area that were still living there, but they were the leftovers of the gold, not the gold rush, but the mining rush that had gone on. They called it New Denver because they thought it was going to be like Denver in Colorado. But it didn't come to pass. Of course, everything, after World War I, by the end of World War I, everything had collapsed. That whole mining venture had collapsed, and these places were just being abandoned. New Denver even had an opera house. (...) There was an opera house there, and a hotel -- that was important that you have a hotel if you were going to have administrative people coming there to look at things over, and you had to have some place for them to stay. (...)

TI: Well, I'm curious, so they go to these ghost towns, so probably, even though there are buildings there, are kind of run down.

HS: Yes.

TI: So someone has to go in there and sort of fix them up?

HS: Oh, you had to go in there to look to see how good they were. They've been there for, by 1942, it was at least, they were, some of those buildings were over fifty years old because they had been built in the late 1800s. The place had been booming in the 1890s, but by, by 19-, 1914, 1915, things were starting to just, the whole thing was collapsed, and people were just moving out in droves. And eventually, all the other ones like Sandon was abandoned except for one person, Kaslo had been reduced to a small group of white people living there, New Denver had this little village, but they had all the amenities there. They had all the different infrastructure for carrying on commerce there. Slocan City, which was twenty miles south, at the end, at the very southern end of Lake Slocan, which was quite a, the lake was about, oh, it was about... it would be about, in those days it would be something like, in the neighborhood of about fifty kilometers long. And so it was there, but it was a little railroad station there, and they had a little railroad station and that's about it. Maybe a few other people living around. So they went, they went through to New Denver, looked at that place, and then went down through to, to Slocan City, and here there were a whole bunch of old, derelict buildings. They all had to be fixed up, because they were, like fifty years old, (...) neglected...

TI: So who was, who was fixing up the buildings?

HS: That's the, people like my father. All these, all these men that had been sent...

TI: Okay, so let me understand this. So like in April, Tom Shoyama with this realtor are going around scouting out, they find these ghost towns, and then they start then sending essentially Japanese men to go fix them up, cleaning them up.

HS: Yeah. They had to figure out what was going to be done.

TI: So that's where the men were going, into...

HS: That's where my father went after they, they realized that this was something they could do. So he went to New Denver to help, but he, there's that term ganbari, you know, you're gonna sit tight as much as possible, strike or whatever you want to call it. They were, you weren't going to move until you were absolutely sure that this was what had to be done. And so they did go to, my father did go to New Denver, but he was, he made sure that we were assigned to go to New Denver before he decided he would go. And twenty miles south was Slocan City, which, and that's, by the way, that's the area that David Suzuki went to, his family. And beyond that, further south there, were three more, three more camps that were set up south of Slocan City, that was a place called Bay Farm, and the next one was called Popoff, probably for a farmer by the name of Popoff who owned the land, that they either rented it or bought it. And then they, and the place called Lemon Creek, which is still there. Lemon Creek is still there, but none of the houses are, are left behind. But these places were scouted out by, like I say -- they didn't want to let people know that these are the places that were, that they wanted to send us to. They probably had to negotiate with these people. And finally, the farmer, that farmland, Bay Farm and Popoff and Lemon Creek, the people that owned the land in those areas probably negotiated -- I'm not sure how they did it, but they finally allowed the B.C. Security Commission to put the camps in those areas. And then, of course, there were a number of other places where, which there was, there was a lot of, there was a good number of Vancouverites, Japanese people from Vancouver, who were willing to pay for their own upkeep to move out, and were willing to relocate themselves.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.