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-01-0046

<Begin Segment 46>

TI: Well, in talking to you earlier, you did, obviously, very well in the area of customs. You progressed through Tacoma, and then later on became the director of the Blaine customs. And I guess one question is, when you arrived in Blaine, were there any practices that were in place that seemed sort of unfair, or that you wanted to change when you got there?

MW: Did we talk about this before? [Laughs]

TI: We talked a little about this, and so, I'm sort of, maybe I'm leading you on, but there were...

MW: Well, I, I tell you, the first thing that bothered me, was that I watched the inspectors give the Orientals a bad time as they came back from Canada. And instead of jumping right into it, I looked into why is this? I don't wanna make a long story out of it, but there was a time when, because Chinese were Communists, we had banned goods from Communist countries. And I think it kinda got the initial impetus from that. So that anything Oriental, they just stopped, right away. And it had gotten so bad, that the Orientals and Chinese from San Francisco were goin' up to Vancouver to get the supplies for their restaurants and their stores and things like that. And every time an inspector opened up the trunk of a Chinese or Oriental, sure enough, all kinds of undeclared goods. And that's how the, that practice got started, because of Communist China. And I thought, "Well, we've had enough of that." So I started some classes and told them the background of some of this stuff. And it improved tremendously. But they had a reason for doing what they did. I don't agree with some of the reasons, but it was understandable.

TI: So what kind of changes were made to try to make it more fair? Or...

MW: I put out a little booklet. And then my poor wife and I, we made a video of an Oriental that can hardly speak English coming through a line. And it was real corny, I think the point got across. And they showed it to some of the border ports.

TI: So you were just trying to make people more sensitive to what they were doing.

MW: Yeah.

TI: And how they were doing it.

MW: And why they were doing it. And it, I think it helped. But I would never show that video. It wasn't anything to be proud of. But I didn't like the one-sidedness of it.

<End Segment 46> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.