Interview: Fumiko Greenaway
Fumiko Greenaway was a key part of the restructuring of The Bulletin in the mid eighties. First Office Manager and then Managing Editor, she along with Tamio Wakayama and Sumio Koike, helped reshape The Bulletin. She is perhaps best remembered by many readers as editor of the Community Kitchen. I spoke with Fumiko, my mother, at her home in Nelson.
When you stepped in there, what was the state of things, of the Bulletin?
Well, I started at the time when the sanseis were getting ready to do something about Redress. Why that started was because the American sanseis were going at it very strongly, and they had iseis and nisies coming forward to talk about their experience. And some of them went to a session, I suppose it was in Seattle, and they said, well, why can’t we do that in Canada? It was Mayumi Takasaki who came to me, we lived in the same co-op on Union Street, and she said, “Why don’t you come to one of our meetings?” I didn’t know what they meant by Redress and all that, and so I thought, well, why not? I went to a meeting, I think it was at Randy Enomoto’s place, and there was a group of other people, Linda Hoffman and Roy Miki, Rick Shiomi, and others. And so we got talking about our own experience, and that kind of got us started, and so we had to start planning what strategy that we were going to have to go through to get to the government. And I think someone said, well, the first thing you have to do is go to the JCCA, because that’s the main Japanese Canadian political arm, right?
And then we went to the board of directors and said we want to do something about this Redress for Japanese Canadians, and they said, no, we don’t want to touch it. Okay? So that’s where things got a little bit difficult. We heard that the JCCA was going to have their Annual General Meeting, and so we phoned around to everybody, and said, you’ve got to go to this JCCA meeting and put your vote in. I suppose you could call it a bloodless coup, we voted the old board out and voted a new board in. And so that’s when things started moving. I don’t know who was on the board of JCCA after that, but I’m sure Charlie Kadota must have been one of them.
From there, we had a meeting at Charlie’s house, a group of us, and somebody said, oh, there’s The Bulletin, we can use it to reach the rest of the Japanese population. So the older office workers didn’t want to stay, they resigned from their position of looking after the office and volunteering. That left the office empty, so some of us volunteered. I think I volunteered to look after the office and keep the books and that sort of thing, and also take part in The Bulletin. So that’s when The Bulletin, the new Bulletin, started.
And so we thought, well, who else can help put The Bulletin together? And I guess Tamio Wakayama said he’d participate, and we had to have somebody to do the Japanese part, and someone suggested Sumio Koiki, who had come over from Japan. He could speak English, and he could also translate from English to Japanese. He also had a Japanese computer, because before that, somebody had to do the writing of Japanese by hand.
When you took over was it still being run on the Gastetner machine?
Yes, yes. It was a clunky old machine. And they had volunteers come to staple it all together. They got a couple of Bostitch heavy duty, which became obsolete after a bit, but all these volunteers had to put it together.
I think at that time I had just finished working for Intermedia Press and the software store, so I was quite excited about working on The Bulletin, because I had just learned typesetting and layout work and all that stuff, so that was exciting, planning the pages, the layout, and Tamio was keen on it. I think he had worked on a publication back east. I think he was involved, or he was right there, in the middle of the civil rights movement in the States.
He got to know a lot of good photographers and he learned photography from these guys. So he knew about layouts and things like that. And so did Sumio, of course, who was able to sort of tie in with the English part. One of the problems with the English part is we had this huge Xerox machine computer, which is probably one of the original computers. It cost an arm and a leg, and took discs that were, what, eight inch discs? Floppies. It was terrible. And then all the membership was typed into that machine and kept on a special disc, saved on a special disc, and from that disc we printed out labels on this clunky old printer.
Our office was on the ground floor of the Japanese Language School on Alexander Street, and one of the most awful things was when the lights failed and everything broke down, the computer went off, and there’s nothing more awful than the lights to go out and the computer to shut down, because you lose everything, right? So once or twice that happened when the volunteers of the school were cooking manju and they overloaded the circuits. Anyway, that’s one of the headaches. It was pretty primitive, I guess, compared to now.
Anyway, so that was a process. And printing out of the labels was quite tedious, too. I don’t know how you do it now.
It’s done on a laser printer. Just press a button, and it goes shoo shoo shoo . . .
And ours went katunk, katunk, katunk . . . And then another difficulty we had, we had a break in at the Language School. Somebody broke into the office and left papers strewn all over the place. We had very little petty cash anyway, so they didn’t get anything. But they got the brand new Japanese computer. That Japanese computer was a donation from a company in Japan who sent it to us, it was a most up-to-date machine.
So it got stolen, and we thought, oh no, we have to go to press soon, you know. And what are we going to do? And so Tamio put an ad in The Province, I think, saying if anyone knows anything about this Japanese computer., please contact us. And somebody did phone up and said that he knows where it could be, so if we come down to a place in Gastown, a pub, I won’t name it, that the bartender will somehow try to find out who got the machine. So we went one evening around midnight down to this grungy dive, which is really grungy. If you’ve ever seen Star Wars, and remember that bar scene . . .
The alien bar scene?
Well, it looked like there were a bunch of aliens in this dark, dim place, all swigging beer. And we went to the bartender, and he said he happened to know who has it, but it will cost you 200 bucks to get it back. And Tamio said, okay, but he wants to see if it’s still in good shape, because he wasn’t going to pay for something that they wrecked. And in fact they were willing to give it up for 200 bucks because they couldn’t do anything with the Japanese, right? So, okay, so Tamio and I went back to the office, and I think I phoned the insurance company and said, what can you do about this? And they said, well, it’s better to pay $200, because of the deductible. So I said to the bartender, who shall I make it out to? He said, oh, just make it out to this hotel, or this bar, and we’ll make sure it gets to the person.
Wow—it makes my life seem boring!
Well, we got hold of the computer, took it back, so that was fine. But Tamio wrote a very good story about that. It was quite an adventure.
It seems like The Bulletin really opened up at this time.
We thought we’d try to make it interesting by interviewing people, and. There were a lot of social events, and what was going on, and I think there might have been a Community Kitchen, recipes, just little tidbits and things. It would only mean things to people living in Vancouver, so we made it in such a way that it was, I suppose, readable right across Canada, and we were trying to send it, The Bulletin, off to anybody with a Japanese name. I would look up names in the telephone book to see who we could send it to. That’s before even getting paid for the membership. Then of course by mistake, by ignorance, I sent some off to some Finnish people. Well, have you ever looked at their last names? And then one person said “We’re Finnish!” So that dropped off ten or so readers.
I had volunteers come in, and one woman was an Armenian, she wanted to volunteer, so she came and she helped record all these memberships for me. We had a card at that time, an index card to do memberships. Some of them went way, way back. I don’t know what ever happened to those cards. Probably they got discarded. Anyway, she helped me clean up the office. There was a lot of old, old, old stuff. Some of them were pretty good for archives, but other than that they were just taking up space.
What changed later was when the small computers came out, smaller PCs, and PageMaker, which did all the page layout and everything.
I’m interested in the shift in editorial direction, because when the new group took over the board and The Bulletin, that was when the Redress movement was getting started, and that was the whole reason behind the so-called takeover. So how was that reflected in the actual Bulletin itself?
Whatever was pertinent to the Redress movement, and talking to people about their experience of internment.
And who was doing that? Who was doing the writing?
I’m not sure. I think Tamio may have been doing that. And Roy Miki, he would give us a whole bunch of pieces about the movement. And that was to get it out into the community, the whole reason for going after Redress, and talking about the meetings. Because we had to get as many niseis over to what we were doing, so a lot of meetings were held, summary meetings were held at Roy Miki’s house, and we got in people like Charlie and his wife, Randy Enomoto, people like that, were giving articles and things.
And do you think it had an impact?
I believe it did, because it seemed like when big rallies were held or meetings in big auditoriums, it was just packed with people, which was quite surprising.
There must have been coverage in the mainstream media too?
I think so. I wasn’t reading the mainstream papers, but I think there was a lot of talk on the radios, because I used to get nasty phone calls at the office until I smartened up, and I just hung up on people. They were really nasty. Mainly elderly, seems like elderly men. Veterans of Hong Kong, or something like that, maybe.
What was your part in all of this, aside from managing the office?
Well, for me, because I was a stranger in that community, I wasn’t quite sure about what should go into The Bulletin, but I think the layout I was concerned about, you know, having a nice clear index and a masthead, and copying other magazines for their magazine style. And we had to have, oh, various groups be involved in The Bulletin, not just the JCCA. And that’s where I brought in Tonari Gumi. I felt they should be a monthly newsletter, instead of them writing their own little newsletter, it should be made available to the general population, because not many people knew what Tonari Gumi meant.
So you started this whole thing of providing space for the different groups?
Yeah. I just went ahead and did it. And Tatsuo Kage, it was done in Japanese, was writing for the new immigrants.
You were an outsider in a lot of ways . . .
Oh, I was very much an outsider.
Do you think that gave you a different perspective?
I don’t know. Being Japanese, being a nisei, is very cautious, as Tod will tell you.
Anyway, I don’t know what else I can say. Oh, I thought Community Kitchen did very, well, it became very poplar, actually, and that made me work twice as hard trying to keep up with all the recipes!
You’re still a legend. People tell me they’ve clipped out your recipes from and kept them all these years.
I wish I did too!