Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Masao Watanabe Interview
Narrator: Masao Watanabe
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 19, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-wmasao-01-0045

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TI: Okay. Let's jump ahead to when you were graduating from University of Washington. What, at that point, what did you want to do for a career? What thoughts did you have about a career?

MW: You know, a guy that age, I don't know how you figure, "I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna do that." But in my own particular case, I started takin' a lot of these government exams. 'Cause business was not all that fully reestablished in Seattle. And I thought, in my own personal view, I thought my best bet was to get into government service some way. 'Cause I know that we had a strong feeling, "They're not gonna kick us around." So I started takin' civil service exams. And I happened to take those exams -- I guess they called it Junior Professional Assistant, or something like that. It's a very general term to fit a lot of different agencies. And I kind of geared myself towards Customs for International Trade, and immigration, civil service, that kind of thing. And I know the examination I took qualified you for all of these, all of the above. And the first, one of the first calls I got was from customs service. And I'm not too sure what kinda grade I had, but I must have done pretty well. And I just grabbed the first thing I got.

TI: And these areas, like customs, were there very many Japanese Americans in these areas, or immigration, when you first started?

MW: How come you asked me that? Because... [laughs] one of the things we isolated were those agencies that were, that had locked doors to Orientals. And customs was at the top of the list. And it was not for spite or anything, but I applied -- or we, a bunch of us -- applied for some of these agencies that never had Orientals before.

TI: So did you think of yourself as sort of a trailblazer? Going into these places where they sort of had a...

MW: I guess you could call it that. But I was determined to break down doors.

TI: And do you think you were like that before the war, too? Or do you think that the war experience...

MW: No, I was a nice, mild boy. [Laughs]

TI: No, do you think the war experience helped you, though...

MW: I think so.

TI: gaining the confidence to...

MW: I think the confidence and the aggressiveness, I earned through the army. I just found out it just doesn't pay to be in the back seat and watch the world go by. The hell with it.

<End Segment 45> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.