How I Found in Canada My Land of Opportunity

No. II—John Carsorso and K. Iwashita

JOHN NELSON January 15 1925

How I Found in Canada My Land of Opportunity

No. II—John Carsorso and K. Iwashita

JOHN NELSON January 15 1925

How I Found in Canada My Land of Opportunity


No. II—John Carsorso and K. Iwashita

ACTUAL case studies in immigration do not always bear out theories based on the tabulation of figures by officials, or the deductions of experts. Last year a proposal in the Canadian parliament that only immigrants with money should be permitted entry, was wrecked through the action of member after member who stood up and declared that he had come to this continent without a dollar. The same awkward intrusion of fact, offsetting fine spun opinion, had similar results in the legislative bodies at Washington.

Life histories are always valuable; in a study of immigration matters, particularly so. It is not often that they are found side by side in such a striking way as at Kelowna.

Kelowna is a little orchard city lying midway down the seventy-mile stretch of Okanagan Lake in British Columbia.

It is a Canadian town with an English atmosphere. Many of its people have hyphens in their names ‘and family trees in their records. Among them are distinguished soldiers, and retired legislators, men of wealth and women of culture. They have wonderful tennis courts and golf links, a club, and, before the war, power boats and yachts on the lake. Afternoon tea is a social rite. All the best known London magazines are on the table at the club. English mail litters the secretaries of the private homes.

But on this Canadian community with its superimposed English tone, two foreigners have left an impress of a marked kind. One is an Italian,The other a Japanese. One is old, the other young. One has long been recognized under Canadian law as a Canadian citizen with all the privileges and rights of the native born. The other is denied such recognition. Both are law abiding, both popular. Óne is a devotee of the ancient faith with which the name of Rome is forever associated. The other is an enthusiastic Methodist. Each exercises a large influence on the life of the community. The number of compatriots of each is limited, and their activities are under the constant scrutiny of a comparatively small neighborhood. How these two men—European and Asiatic— react to their environment, while cut off from contact with large bodies of their countrymen, is an interesting study in racial adaptability.

John Carsorso—Son of Italy

'T'HERE was only one white settler in the Kelowna valley, when, in 1862, John Carsorso came wearily down the passes of the Coast range of mountains, and dropped his pack at the door of the Mission of Oblate Fathers to the Okanagon Indians. In New Westminster a Roman Catholic priest had told him of the Mission on Okanagon Lake. He had come up the valley of the Fraser to where its turbid

flood is joined by the clear waters of the Coquhalla. There he had left the larger river and struck up over the Hope

mountains, and down the

eastern slope until he saw gleaming below him the waters of Okanagon lake. Working round its base he came to the Mission and as a good son of the Church was there duly


Near the Mission he preempted some land. It was wet and overgrown with alder. All this had to be brushed and the

Making it Pay

roots taken out. Then six foot ditches had to be dug to drain and sweeten the land. It was gruelling work. But it had no terrors for Carsorso. He was a Milanese, an industrious North Italian peasant who gloried in a sense of ownership of the land from which he lived. These were his own acres, and on them radishes, potatoes, onions and lettuce grew rankly.

In the meantime his wife had joined him, and she was as good a “man” as was John. Then the children began to come—first a girl, obviously of little use in the rough work of the farm—and then in welcome and rapid succession eight boys. These held promise of reinforcements of labor. They had to be fed, of course, and so did the help which he now found it necessary to employ. But bacon was never wanting (for John had early recognized the value of pigs) and roasted wheat made a good substitute for coffee. And in September, Mission Creek, which flowed past his door, swarmed with rickanninnies —a small trout which were salted by the hundred for the larder.

But the children had also to be educated, and John, stimulated doubtless by the good Oblates, had distinct views on that subject. They must all learn English, and school was not near. So a cayuse was bought. It was needed on the farm, but it was also useful as a transport animal. Panniers were fitted on either side, and into these the children clambered, their little black heads silhouetted against the mouse grey hide of the pony. After school the cayuse carried vegetables to the nearby settlement, the children acting as distributors and riding home in the panniers in the same way as to school.

ONE of the sons began his career for the priesthood, studying for a year at Spokane. But their father’s activities now required the combined energies of the whole family. They had become the onion kings of the valley. During the war twenty acres were in onions and these sometimes brought $120 a ton. John’s herds had increased until his elder boys were the most expert cow-punchers in the community. He tried the experiment of letting a neighbor drive his cattle to Kamloops and market them. One such experience served. He began to slaughter on his own farm. Then he set up a retail shop in town. Soon he had a chilling plant, refrigerator, delicatessen counter, and all the accessories of a big city shop. The great Burns stores have remained secondary in Kelowna to the Carsorsos. As the owners of desirable farms became involved financially, their holdings were acquired until over 20,000 acres were owned and operated by the family in the valley, and on the bench lands which fall back from the city to the hills.

John Carsorso is now an old man. He no longer works. The thrifty wife, who until within a few years of her death led the gangs in the gardens, passed away some time ago. His sons carry on. Felix is the cowboy, and Louis the swineherd. Pete runs the farm. Joe and August look after the big meat emporium. The father keeps

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an experienced eye on things and now and then drops a word of epigrammatic wisdom.

Between his lot and the next a fence was being built. “Make it strong, Mr. Carruthers,” he said, “good fences make good neighbors.” The re-engagement of a manager for a co-operative concern in which he was interested was under consideration. The manager was popular and some of those present thought him indispensable. “But what if Mr. Blank should die?” was John’s single comment. It changed the decision of the meeting.

What is the attitude of this Italian-born citizen to his adopted country? His younger sons cannot be distinguished from the native born. They speak English perfectly. They have forgotten Italian. They follow political developments closely and are more interested than most Canadians in political events. They take their share of national duty. August went to the war with the Guns. He won the Military Medal. But he never mentions it unless questioned, and then with the deprecating remark, “They dished this out to me. It came up with the rations.”

Do they want to go back to Italy? John thought he would like to revisit the old land and talked much of it for years. In the lonesomeness following his wife's death he decided to go. The ci izens got up a banquet and many felicitous speeches were made. His services to Kelowna were extolled and expressions of regret at his departure went with a traveling bag as a token of regard. He got as far as New York and took a long look down from the Battery, past the Statue of Liberty to where the shining waters stretched far away toward Europe and Italy. He doubtless mused for some moments on

his old and sunny home there. Then to his ears came the thunder of hoofs on the dusty trails, and to his other senses the perfume of blossoming orchards, and the gleam of the lake through the peach trees. He took the first train back to Kelowna. He is there to stay.

Iwashia—Son of Nippon

K. IWASHITA has a store three blocks from that of Carsorso. He does not sell beef. He sells Oriental wares and fabrics. He has a farm as well, not far from the homestead of Carsorso. On it he grows peppers, onion, potatoes, tomatoes, egg plant, cantelopes and cucumbers. Japanese work it for him. So do Chinese. It is intensive cultivation. He makes money.

But Iwashita is concerned with more things than money. He looks like a mere lad. He came to the valley ih 1919 and attended the local High School. He learned good English there. But he knows French and German as well. And he is a student of other things. Flis great concern is the status of his countrymen on this continent.

He had to face a practical problem. For lie bought before the war forty acres of liât, fertile, but undeveloped land within the city limits. There he was growing fruit and vegetables when the war came. The valley sent all its eligible men to the front. Many did not come back. And those who did found much of the local industry had fallen into Oriental hands. There was a wave of resentment and a public meeting of protest. Iwashita didn’t dodge the issue. He went to the meeting. He got the liberty of the plat-

form. He told of what the Japanese had done in the war, and what they were doing in the valley on lands which no white man would till. The agitation died down. Iwashita stayed, and so did his countrymen.

He wants to stay in this country. So, he says, do ninety per cent, of his fellow countrymen. But he is uncomfortable over the treatment they receive. He doesn’t protest, but he wants to find a solution. He recognizes that the franchise cannot go to all his people. “We only ask wbat is fair,” he says. “We can’t ask the government to give us all the vote. We have not all the education. We do not all understand your customs. But those who are qualified should be given that right. My government would do almost anything even to stopping emigration entirely if thereby they could get fair treatment for the Japanese who are here.”

He would stop immigration to America entirely. The difficulties would then, he thinks, be removed. The picture bride trouble has been cut out. The birth rate menace he claims will cure itself. It is due not to special fecundity in the race but to the fact that almost all Japanese in this country are at the reproductive age. He thinks that with the practical stoppage of immigration the birth rate will fall fifty per cent, in the next five years.

Uncrowned King of the Colony

HE CO-OPERATES with his white friends. He helped to organize the 200 tomato growers of the valley. “Iwash-

ita is one of our best members,” said one white grower. “Iwashita is a good neighbor, one of the best I have,” said another.

He is the uncrowned king of the little colony of 300 Japanese. He adjudicates their disputes. There is a Japanese association for the whole valley, governed by a council of twelve—two from each district. They administer community affairs, without official sanction—an interesting development where a considerable group is excluded from the franchise and from a recognized place in local self-government. Iwashita is a Methodist, and much interested in the Japanese Methodist church with its dormitories, reading rooms, tennis courts, etc. One is not surprised that these things have helped to anchor his plans in Canada.

“It was not my intention originally,” he says in good English, “to reside here. My mind is changing; but on account of the unsatisfactory conditions and the prejudices against my countrymen my mind (and here he hesitated for the right word) —my mind vibrates.”

So there they are, side by side. Latin and Mongol, European and Asiatic. Both thrifty, law abiding, prosperous, deeply interested in this country, reluctant to return to their own. One an accepted citizen functioning actively in the affairs of the nation; the other still an alien and denied a status he is anxious to acquire and duties he is eager to discharge. A sharp distinction between the standard for the lad from Tokio and the man from Milan. Will it persist with their sons? .