Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Walt Woodward Interview
Narrator: Walt Woodward
Interviewers: Donna Harui (primary), Mij Woodward (secondary)
Location: Bainbridge Island, Washington
Date: May 11, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-wwalt-01

<Begin Segment 1>

DH: I'm talking with Walt Woodward, who was the publisher, he and his wife, were the publisher of The Bainbridge Review from 1935 to 1963. And we're talking in his home on Bainbridge Island and today is May... 11th, 1998. Now before, before the war, I noticed that there were a lot of articles written about the Japanese American community on the island. Do you remember those stories? They were just part of the beat that you covered? Do you remember any of them, particularly? Elections of the JACL and... do you remember some of those stories that you were writing about the Japanese community before the war?

WW: Yes.

DH: Can you tell me about some of them? Did you have to go down and cover them yourself?

WW: You want to talk about the, what?

DH: Well, before...

MW: Well, about the Japanese American community, their, their... the stuff that they did. How did you cover those? Did you send a reporter down? Did you go yourself?

DH: Those are all...

MW: Did somebody report to you?

DH: Those are all people that you knew.

WW: I'm, I'm sorry.

DH: When Mr, Mr. Nagatani was elected the president of the JACL, those were all people that you knew and yet, those were just columns that you just, articles that you ran in the newspaper at that time, right?

WW: Yes.

DH: Do you remember that?

WW: Yes.

DH: Uh-huh, uh-huh. And then, I did notice and we couldn't remember this when we talked the last time, but you did do a special or a special report the day, the day after Pearl Harbor, I believe. And you had written a editorial then. And then, I noticed as I was going though some of the articles, that they, they started having the Japanese report their dynamite and guns were seized, and radios were seized. And you sort of get a sense that the Japanese, here on the island, were in some trouble and that's when you started writing some of the editorials.

WW: Yeah.

DH: Did you and Milly... how did you and Milly come to make a decision about what kind of editorials to write about those issues?

WW: Well, I... I pushed the envelope as far as I could.

DH: It says in one of these things that there were some rumors that the Japanese here on the island, had planted their strawberries in rows that pointed to Bremerton.

WW: Yeah. Oh, sure, sure. Yeah.

DH: Is that... those kinds of rumors, are those kinds of rumors the things that helped you to decide to write in support of the Japanese community here?


MW: Well, you didn't really ever answer the question I'm wondering about. How did you and Mom come to a decision, to take the stand that you did? Did you talk about it?

WW: Well, sure. We were the only ones that were talking that way.

MW: Yeah. [Laughs] But I'm just curious about how you and Mom, did you sit around in the dining room one day and...

WW: No.

MW: No.

WW: It kind of grew.

MW: [Laughs]

DH: It just kind of grew on you?

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

DH: In this one it says, "The time..." -- and this is an editorial you wrote, let's see, this is February of 1942. It says, "The time has come to hear out the truth of our words, written two months ago in an extra edition of The Review published the day after Hawaii was bombed." And then, you're writing about how... let's see, it was this Congressman, Henry McLemore...

WW: McLemore.

DH: McLemore... who said, "Personally, I hate the Japanese and that goes for all of them." And you said, "That he has the intelligence of a blind pig."

WW: Well, McLemore wrote for the, for the Daily Press.

DH: Uh-huh.

WW: Again, he's terribly biased.

DH: Uh-huh. Do you remember this editorial, do you remember how you took a stand to say that...

WW: [Laughs]

DH: were saying that, " Who will grow the fruits and vegetables, if the Japanese are evacuated?" "Who will grow the fruits and vegetables if the Japanese are evacuated?"

WW: Yes, I suppose, I suppose that's right.

DH: Uh-huh. And later on, in another editorial, it turned out that was true, that there was a shortage of, of produce. And you sort of wrote, 'I told you so', in (your) editorial.

WW: Oh, dear.

MW: [Laughs]

WW: Did I say that?

DH: [Laughs] How did you come to make these decisions? You said that you were the only ones.

WW: Yes. We pushed it as far as we could. What was your question again?

DH: How did you and Milly decide to support the Japanese community?

WW: I don't think we decided to support the Japanese community. We took the stand that it was all wrong to do anything else. So we... and... well.

DH: And you were the only ones on the West Coast to take that position.

WW: I beg your pardon?

DH: You were the only ones on the West Coast to take that position.

WW: There was a weekly newspaper in northern California, that wrote one editorial...

MW: Against the evacuation.

WW: ...what we were doing. And that... that was all there was to it. We...

DH: Because it was wrong, you said, " imprison American citizens."

WW: That's right.

DH: And you coined this phrase, "American Japanese."

WW: I beg your pardon, what?

DH: You were calling them "American Japanese."

MW: Instead of calling them "Japanese" you called them "American Japanese" because they were citizens.

WW: That's right. That's right. Otherwise it was just, "Japs" and we did not think very highly of that.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

DH: You said, when we talked last time, you remember the day that the army arrived here... on the ferry, to put up the Executive Order 9066. Can you tell me about that again? Describe what that day was like.

WW: Well, they, they marched off the ferry from Seattle and they were met by a Bainbridge Island group, a large group. And you could say to yourself, boy, here's where we have a war.

DH: Because here were the, the army soldiers and the Japanese community at the ferry dock?

WW: I beg your pardon?

DH: So the army and the Japanese community were right there at the ferry dock?

WW: That's right. And... the thing got instantly better when one of the spokesmen of the group on the island said, "Sir, we will be very glad to show you where to post your notices so that they will be seen. We, we know where, where they should be and we will be happy to go with you anytime you want to." And...

MW: That's a good story. I love that.

DH: Yeah.

MW: What was the reaction of the...?

WW: I beg your pardon?

MW: What was the reaction of the army guys when they did...

WW: When they, what?

MW: When they, the people from the island gave, said we'll show you. How did the army react?

WW: Oh, they were glad to get the help!

MW: Yeah.

DH: You said that the Japanese community won over that troop of soldiers.

WW: I don't, I don't...

DH: I remember you telling me that the Japanese community ran, kind of won over the hearts of those American soldiers.

WW: Won over the, what?

MW: Won over the hearts... of the soldiers.

WW: Oh, sure.

DH: They weren't, they weren't from here. The soldiers weren't from here, were they?

WW: No, they were from New Jersey. They talked out of the corner of their mouth and they talked about 'toity toyed' street. [Ed. note: Imitation of "thirty-third street"] [Laughs]

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

DH: And so then they were given, so then, the Japanese on Bainbridge Island were the first to be evacuated... they were the first group to be evacuated.

WW: That is correct.

DH: And so... the soldiers came and posted this, and they had eight days. And so you had, for eight days you covered islander citizens getting ready to be moved. Do you remember what that was like?

WW: Well, sure. They didn't know... oh, dear...

MW: They only had a short time to do a lot of stuff.

WW: That's right.

DH: There is an article where you went down and talked to John Nakata, Johnny Nakata, at the market.

WW: Yes.

DH: And you were helping, he was telling you what it was like to get ready, to have only those eight days.

WW: And... what?

MW: He was telling you what it was like to only have eight days.

WW: That's right.

MW: Yeah.

WW: That was not good.

DH: And you had written an editorial that appeared on the front page of The Review and it said "Not Enough Time."

WW: That's right.

DH: You didn't think that they were given enough time, to be moved.

WW: Oh heck, no. No. No. Yes, we decided that belonged on page one.

DH: That's a difficult decision. And because of that, then you started getting letters to the editor back... and some people calling you "Jap lovers"...

WW: That's right.

DH: And some people canceling their subscriptions.

WW: That's right.

DH: That must have been hard to face.

WW: Umm, yeah, well... sure, it was.

DH: But then, you were telling me a story about where... even though people were canceling their subscriptions, the orders for the newspaper at the drug store, increased...? Can you tell me about that? How did that go?

WW: That's just exactly how it went. We, we had subscription cancellations... and very shortly the owner of the drug store... called up and said, "Woody, I don't know what the hell is going on... but you know, you leave ten copies a week and we're supposed to sell them over the counter. We don't understand why...?"

MW: They needed more papers?

WW: Yes, yes, yes. "Send us more. In other words, maybe we're having ten copies sent to the drug store every week, let's have twenty copies."

MW: [Laughs]

DH: So even though people were canceling their subscriptions, they still needed the paper to find out what was going on on the island.

WW: Well, yes. Uh-huh.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

DH: Now during... when the order for evacuation came, you had Paul Ohtaki working for you, but he wasn't a reporter then. Can you tell me how Paul Ohtaki became a reporter for The Review?

WW: Yes.

DH: What was he doing first?

WW: Well, he was, he was our janitor. And... he would whistle... I've forgotten what he would whistle.

DH: And so you needed him to do some reporting for you, 'cause his family was being sent to Manzanar too.

WW: I beg your pardon?

DH: Paul was being sent to Manzanar, to the camp... Paul Ohtaki. He was the janitor...

WW: Well, when, when this thing was... when they were... oh, my.

DH: Take your time. I remember...

MW: You asked Paul to write, did you ask Paul to write... an article or letters from Manzanar?

WW: Yeah. They were evacuated... and... we wrote to Paul Ohtaki.

DH: And had him write you a letter back to The Review.

WW: Yeah.

DH: So, Paul's letters appear in The Review about once a week, what kind of... and it's information...

WW: Now wait, what?

DH: Paul Ohtaki's letters appear in The Review. That's how he became a...

WW: Ah, well...

DH: I remember you told him....

WW: He didn't... we contacted him and said we need... we don't want any fancy writing or... but we need to know what our neighbors are doing, wherever they are. And... I finally wrote to Paul and said, "You send us a letter once a week, telling what has happened to the group that's down there and if you don't do that, I'll break every bone in your body." [Laughs] So he got the message and he sent us until, I guess, they finally got him into the language school. The Japanese...

DH: Uh-huh. And so, I think he took... he took a job and left...

WW: I beg your pardon?

DH: He left... He got to leave the camp. And then, you had a couple of other people from camp, writing island news.

WW: Yes, yes. When Paul had to quit, or went off to do something, went to the language school... Sachicho, Sachiko? Nakata?

DH: Uh-huh.

WW: Yeah. Took over that job. And she did a dandy job.

DH: So every week The Review had the unique position of writing... keeping an article of what was going on in the camp, what kind of news... and the news was things like weddings and...

WW: That's right. Nothing exciting, just what was going on.

DH: Uh-huh, baseball scores...

WW: That's right.

DH: ...graduations...

WW: You betcha. You betcha.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

DH: You said that... oh, the day, the day that they were evacuated, that, we've seen video of the islanders...

WW: Now, wait. What?

DH: The day of the evacuation, we've seen the video of the pictures... of the islanders, the Japanese being trooped on to the ferry.

WW: Yes.

DH: And then, you were there in Seattle, when they were boarded onto the train.

WW: That's right.

DH: Can you remember, can you describe what that looked like?

WW: Well there were the... you know the overpass?

DH: On Alaskan Way.

WW: Yeah, you couldn't get any more people on that overpass, they were all there, looking down on us.

DH: And they put them on a train.

WW: And they put them on a train and... some of our kids... ran along side the train, until the train was going a pretty good clip and they couldn't keep up anymore. And this famous -- is that the right word for it? -- picture of the kids waving through the window...

DH: Uh-huh... the Hayashidas, uh-huh. And there were tears, tears on everyone's faces...

WW: Oh hell, yes.

DH: ...soldiers...

WW: The soldiers were the ones that were crying. They knew, finally, what they really were doing and it just got to 'em.

DH: It must have been a very emotional story to cover.

WW: It was, honey, it was... it was indeed.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

DH: And then you and Milly took the stand of continuing to speak out against the evacuation. And slowly I noticed that some of the Seattle press started to, and some Congressmen started to see your side of the story. Started to feel that, perhaps, the evacuation was wrong, for economic reasons...

WW: Right, right. But we were the only ones that were doing it. There was this, one... weekly newspaper in northern California that ran one editorial.

DH: But you took the stand through dozens of editorials. Did you, did you know that you were right... at the time?

WW: I beg your pardon?

DH: Did you feel that you were right at the time?

WW: Sure we did... sure we did.

DH: Near the end of the war, when they were talking about the some of the islanders finally being able to return here, then we have... then you started, there was, there was a movement to keep the Japanese off the island. And we were talking a little bit earlier, about Lambert Schuyler, can you tell us about that, tell us about him?

WW: Hmm?

DH: Tell me about him, Lambert Schuyler.

WW: What was his name? Robert?

DH: Lambert, I think.

WW: Lambert, Lambert Schuyler... yes.

DH: He was a piece of work.

WW: What?

DH: He was a real piece of work, wasn't he?

WW: Yes, yes he was.

DH: And you ran his, you ran his letter in the open forum and then you wrote a editorial against it. He was opposed to the Japanese returning here and...

WW: I beg your pardon?

DH: He was opposed to any Japanese ever returning here.

WW: That is right.

DH: Uh-huh, can you tell us about it?

WW: He said, "Put 'em on islands out in the Pacific."

DH: And then he organized a big meeting here. There was a big meeting, 200 people.

WW: Yes.

DH: Did you cover it?

WW: Yes.

DH: And you sent, you sent Milly to cover it, I thought.

WW: Well, yeah, Milly covered it originally. We thought, it was better if she did it than if I did it.

DH: Why is that?

WW: ...oh, my...

MW: Maybe not caused such a ruckus at the meeting, if Milly was there

WW: What...?

MW: Maybe there would have been a ruckus if you had been there, and Milly would have been less noticeable.

WW: That was the, exactly the reason we did it the way we did.

DH: You were getting to be quite well-known for your stand here.

WW: I beg your pardon, what?

DH: You were getting to be quite well known for your position, here on this island.

WW: Yeah, I guess so.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

DH: You said when we talked last time, that you remember getting a call from Moses Lake, from, from some islanders...

WW: Yes, I do.

DH: Can you tell me that again?

WW: It was...

DH: I think it might have been... George Shibayama?

WW: No.

MW: Mo Nakata?

WW: Nakata.

MW: Was Mo Nakata...

DH: I don't think the Nakatas were at Moses Lake.

MW: Oh...

DH: But it, but it could have, but who ever it was...

MW: He said it was the leader, one of the leaders of the Japanese...

DH: That's right. The last time you said it was Don Nakata, but I'm not sure...

WW: Don Nakata...

DH: I think he would have been too young, but I... but anyway, tell me, yeah, but tell it again.

MW: Even though we don't know who it was... [Laughs]

WW: What?

MW: Tell the story anyway. [Laughs]

DH: My family was at Moses Lake. And that's why I thought it was so interesting, because my family, the Haruis, and the Sekos and the Shibayamas were at Moses Lake.

WW: We got this call from... it was Don Nakata, wasn't it?

DH: Okay.

WW: Yeah.

DH: Maybe.

WW: And he got me on the phone. He was calling from Moses Lake. And I was happy to talk with him... he wanted to know whether, whether he should come back. My reply to him was, "I'll break every bone in your body if you don't."

DH: But they were worried whether it was safe to come back here.

WW: I beg your pardon, what?

DH: They were worried whether it was safe to come back here, because of the anti-Japanese sentiment?

WW: Well, no... he... he called from Moses Lake.

DH: Uh-huh.

MW: Was he afraid to come back to the island because there might be some kind of...

WW: Yes... he was, he was afraid. He had his family, but he knew he should come back. So, I took advantage of that. And I said, "I'll break every bone in your body if you don't come back!" [Laughs]

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

DH: Is there anything else that you want to add, anything else from this period?

WW: I'm sorry?

DH: Anything else that you remember from this time period that you want to share with us? Some stories... or some memories that you have?

WW: The picture...

MW: [Laughs]

WW: ...Gastineau channel, Douglas Island, and then down... beautiful downtown... [Laughs]

DH: Uh-huh.

WW: Juneau... and a bridge, which wasn't, didn't show in the picture... a bridge that went from nowhere to nowhere.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

DH: What is the question that you're most often asked about the subject? You've been interviewed about this so many times, what have people asked you most often about this?

MW: What have people asked you the most often about this subject of the...

WW: Gee...

DH: I think people in the, on the island, particularly, and in the greater Japanese community, see you as a real hero, for taking the stand against the evacuation of the Japanese. Did you, when you were writing those editorials, did you ever think that that would be so? That you would be famous, be a hero for this position, Walt?

WW: No, no, I did not.

DH: Why did you do it? Why were you writing that way?

WW: Huh?

DH: Why were you writing these editorials? You were the only one to take this position, it must have been a difficult position...

WW: Because it was the only thing to do. We got mad! [Laughs] When you get me mad, I finally say something. [Laughs] That was it.

DH: Uh-huh. You had said -- I had seen an editorial -- and you said, if it could happen to Japanese Americans, it could happen to German Americans or... "Schuyler" Americans, you had written.

MW: [Laughs]

WW: Right, right, right. That... that's what we wrote. [Laughs]

DH: Do you credit Milly...?

WW: I beg your...?

DH: Do you credit your wife with, with the position that you took, with having the strength to write those editorials?

WW: Why sure. We worked it out together.

DH: Did one of you have a stronger viewpoint about it than the other?

WW: I beg your pardon?

DH: Was, was Milly stronger about this viewpoint than you or about the same?

WW: I think... I was stronger. Milly didn't want to get into the... Milly was a modest woman, but she felt the way she did.

DH: I think we've taken enough of your time. Is there anything else that you want to add before we turn...?

WW: What?

DH: Anything else you want to add, before we turn this camera off?

WW: No, not that I know of. But I'll be happy to comment, if you know...

DH: I'm hoping that a lot of younger generations will see this interview and see this other information about the evacuation and this time period. Is there anything else that you would want kids to know about this sort of situation, or what they should learn out of this situation?

WW: My, I just feel very strongly that... we did what we should do. And even though we were the only ones, I felt we should do that. So did Milly.

DH: Are you surprised, now, that there have been reparations for the Japanese Americans, that, that the country's opinions have shifted over the years about the, the -- everyone agrees now, that it was wrong. Are you surprised that people's opinion have shifted?

WW: Am I what?

MW: That people's opinion have shifted. That now the public... ideas have shifted, have changed and come around to think that it was wrong. Are you surprised?

WW: Am I surprised?

MW: Yeah.

WW: Yeah!

MW: You are? [Laughs]

WW: I'm proud also that they did come, we did come around.

DH: Thank you, Walt, for talking with us.

WW: Well, I'm happy to do it... you're welcome.

DH: Thanks.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.