Commentary – The search became the story

Pearl Lorentzen

My first regional commentary included my grandfather’s story about his fastest trip from Slave Lake to High Prairie. I wrote the article in March 2019 and the journey took place 50 years earlier in September 1969.

After five months, I’ve written over 200 articles. A few stories didn’t make it past the research stage. In one case, the story of the search became a story worth telling.

One of my dad’s memories of Slave Lake in the late 1960s and early 1970s is of Mr. Hoshizaki and his family at the Wagner weather station.

Hoshizaki was Japanese Canadian. As my dad remembered it, Hoshizaki’s brother was an ophthalmologist in Edmonton. My search for Hoshizaki spanned a few weeks with various leads and red herrings.

It turns out Hoshizaki isn’t a common Japanese name. A quick Google search revealed a few obituaries in Edmonton and Kelowna and a doctor in Edmonton. It is a town in Japan and there is a company that makes freezers and ice dispensers.

I studied Japanese for a while and attended a Japanese church in Edmonton. The Japanese community in Edmonton is not very large, so I sent out an e-mail to the church and the Japanese cultural centre. Within an hour, I had a response from a church member. He thought it might be Bill Hoshizaki, who died earlier that month, in Kelowna. His brother was an orthodontist.

Another person mentioned that her orthodontist was Dr. Hoshizaki. Bill passed away in 2013.

Orthodontist and ophthalmologist sound very similar, so I figured it was the right family. I also tried to research information on the weather station, which exists in living memory of teachers and others from that period, but was hard to find online. I found readings from the station, but no information on who manned it.

The station was open from January 1944 to December 1971.

Eventually, I looked at Facebook, and messaged people named Hoshizaki who were friends of people I knew. This revealed a great-nephew of Hoshizaki who got me in touch with his father. The father’s uncle, Norm Hoshizaki, was stationed at Wagner weather station from 1967-70. Although he was fairly young at the time, the father had foggy memories of visiting the station.

Unfortunately, Norm passed away and his kids were too young to remember the time in Widewater.

I was also not able to find any family pictures.

An article about Hoshizaki, one of the last people to man the Wagner weather station, wasn’t going to happen.

During and after the search, I found it interesting how often I’ve told the story of my search for Hoshizaki. While I wasn’t able to tell Hoshizaki’s story, I figured out his first name, and gained a story for myself.

This reminds me of the line from a country song, “Life’s a dance you learn as you go. Sometimes you lead. Sometimes you follow.”

Curiosity doesn’t always lead to the story a person expects, but there is value in following something as far as it leads.

Everyone tells stories, often about failures or near misses, instead of successes.

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